Playing is Believing: A TERA story

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GameZone has partnered up with En Masse Entertainment to provide to you an exclusive behind the scenes look at the upcoming MMORPG TERA. Each and every month you can expect to find the latest installment that delves into the development, creation, writing, art, design and much more up until the launch in 2011.

By Brian Knox, Senior Producer, En Masse Entertainment

In November of 2009 I was lucky enough to start my first day at Bluehole Studio (we had not become En Masse Entertainment yet). Since then, many people have asked me why I joined this team, and my answer has never changed: I tried the game. And that has become our mantra here at En Masse where TERA is concerned: let them play the game.

At GDC, the first convention we attended, our booth had game kiosks on the outside, and VIP demos on a plasma inside. To be honest, the people who watched the demo looked interested, but there was some doubt there, too. There are tons of games out there, and they asked, "Why TERA?"

The people who actually took the time to play TERA had a different story. They walked away understanding "why TERA," and what made our game so special. You can talk about action combat all day long, but in the end, the word action is used to describe just about every game on the market. TERA is different. Playing is believing, and those who played TERA, got it.

As we wrapped up GDC, we went into brainstorming mode. What can we do better for E3? GDC was a fantastic event—we received a lot of great publicity—but E3 is the big leagues, and we needed to bring our “A” game.

I sat down with my production team to talk demos. We knew the outside, hands-on demo was working well, but how could we improve the inside presentation? It became clear that we had to get the people inside the booth playing the game. Seeing it on the screen just wasn’t giving them that visceral feeling we all knew so well. If they were going to walk away with the answer to "why TERA," they needed to get their hands dirty.

That’s when Associate Producer Stefan Ramirez and Producer Sam Kim went to work. They worked tirelessly to craft a five-man party experience that would steep players in TERA in the brief 30-minute demo window. The results were amazing! In contrast to the vague curiosity we saw at GDC, our VIP demo at E3 blew people away. They cheered, high-fived, tossed headphones into the air—it was a true TERA experience that got people excited and showed off what we were about. Giving a demo of an MMO is very challenging. Trying to get that "massive" part onto a show floor — or the "online" part, for that matter — isn’t easy.

The content we had revealed up to that point had progressed from character creation at GDC to exploring a remote island and encountering a party boss monster named Marduk. We realized we hadn’t shown any dungeons yet, so GamesCom was our first look at a dungeon crawl for TERA. We set up a smaller party, a group of three, and ventured into a dungeon. Once again the hands-on, "playing is believing" strategy allowed us to create a memorable experience for the GamesCom attendees. Videos, however beautiful, just don’t give you the immersion that the keyboard and mouse, or controller, does.

Around this time, our fans become rabid for information. "Enough with the action gameplay — I want to know more about the RPG details!" they screamed. "More, more, more!" This is good to hear, from my perspective, so at Comic Con Stefan gave a presentation on two specific systems: achievements and glyphs. These systems are just the beginning when it comes to TERA’s depth.

For PAX, we had another challenge: we wanted to show the game's depth and action at the same time. We tied this demo experience to a story of five hardened adventurers who had fought through the world and found themselves at the apex of their journey: the Cultists’ Refuge. We talked about mounts, enchanting items, and the crafting system, and then embarked upon an instanced dungeon culminating with two huge boss fights. Not everyone survived these encounters; in fact, we kept score and 20 parties succeeded where eight failed!

Growing En Masse and TERA has been an adventure all in itself these past few months, and we continue to hear the chants of MORE, MORE, MORE! There will be more — lots more! We want to make sure we are presenting the facts without the fluff. We want you to know and experience TERA as it really is, and not what we dream it could be. This is very important to us; we want to make sure to deliver on our promises. We aren’t trying for the one night stand to get a box sale. We want that long-term relationship where we can grow together as a community.

So stay tuned, and you’ll see more and more information about TERA. We have plenty in store, from battlegrounds to the political system, from more combat depth to further exploration of the story. We’re looking forward to sharing all of it with you in the very near future.

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GameZone Staff
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