TERA Dev Diary: Action MMO Combat & Keyboard/Controller Benefits
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.
Written by Stefan Ramirez, Associate Producer:
The first time I played TERA I was immediately sucked in by the action combat. After years of playing traditional MMO’s there was a bit of confusion at first, but it quickly triggered my console instincts and I turned it around...FAST. My confusion wasn’t because of the way the combat played, but how it really didn’t hit my expectations for typical MMO combat...it EXCEEDED them with fast paced, action-oriented combat that reminded me of playing my Xbox at home. It’s that experience with TERA’s combat that we’ve all shared here at En Masse Entertainment at some point or another, and it’s that feeling that made us think, “Hmm, what if I plugged in a controller?” That was the tipping point, and before we knew it, we didn’t just have an idea, but we had a full blown feature that we wanted to present to the dev team.
The dev team is great, but were they going to listen to a bunch of cowboys tell them this game would be awesome with a controller? While I’d like to think yes, we decided to get a little more feedback. The timing was perfect that it happened to be around our first big event in North America: the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. What better place to give it a try?
So, at last year’s GDC we decided to bring controllers to the booth experience and have players sit side by side with the keyboard and mouse setups. We were excited, and maybe a bit nervous, to see how people would react. Would people even try the controller? Controllers are natural for a first person shooter, a sports game, a racing game, but not an MMO. The show floor opened, and before we knew it, there were people all around us trying TERA for the first time. It was great seeing people smile as they dove in to the game; they were catching on, and finally seeing what the combat was like. Players didn’t hesitate to grab the controllers, and they were having fun.
We were very excited to see that people wanted this. TERA’s combat is something that can be played on both the keyboard and mouse, AND controller equally. It’s fun, fast, and just plain feels right. Let’s get this ball rolling...
The dev team was great from the start and knew that when they created TERA it wouldn’t have typical combat found in other MMOs. They tried out the controller and shared the same feelings we had. They were behind the controller 100%. This was a joint effort from there on out, but where would we start?
We knew the game played well by plugging the controller in and simply mapping out what button would correspond with which skill, but the dev team wanted to create a unique and fully supported experience, which allowed us to put on our design hats and get to work.
We tested against countless key mappings and played tons of different console games to gather ideas on what worked best. We sent a preliminary idea to the dev team and continued to make tweaks along the way. TERA made it easy, but you’d be surprised how many times you second guess the little things when you have a large audience in mind.
Next question: What controllers would we support? We had differing opinions in the office but I feel like we made the right decision, and decided to support all controllers. Our goal is to make any controller you plug into your PC work, and to allow for a fully customized experience that you can change to your liking. Once we had that settled, it was time to put the controller question on a bigger stage. We held our second focus group test back in April of 2010 and asked several questions of our community about the controller:
What type of controller did they use? What key mappings worked best? What class did they find most fun with the controller and why? Which one least and why? What features would they like to see?
We took the players feedback from our focus group test, aggregated it, and made even more tweaks. At times it felt like we were adding more than we thought was possible, but with all of the great ideas, we came up with a solid list of ways to make the controller experience even better.
Sometime after the focus group tests, I headed to the Blue Hole Studio offices in Korea with our Senior Producer Brian Knox, to discuss many of the things we had gathered from our feedback, including input on the controller. We had a chance to tour the office, and we were pumped to find out the agenda included a stop by the programmer’s desk who was coding the controller, to see how things were progressing. It wasn’t too hard to spot his desk, he had controllers all over the place, some still in the box, and others scattered on top and around his work space. I was happy to see he was testing with multiple products. The programmer was excited to show us what he had done and to discuss some of the hurdles and small successes he had experienced.
Then we got to play it with the latest build. This was really taking shape, and I was blown away with how much they were able to do and how the little things were being accounted for. Even things we hadn’t thought of, like...well maybe I won’t spoil that …
After that trip, we felt really good about our decision to pitch the controller to the dev team and couldn’t wait for people to play it. We just got the most recent build of TERA in our office and started playing with all of the latest changes. Does the controller stack up? Well, let’s just say, that when I look around the office I see people using controllers and people using keyboards and mice alongside each other. Does this squash the debates between PC vs Console, the Keyboard and Mouse vs the Controller...maybe not, but a part of me thinks that this could just help blur that line a little more. I hope that by adding controller support we are able to make people happy, and allow them to play TERA the way they want to.
Previous TERA Developer Diaries: The Monsters of TERA - Exclusive Pictures Developer Diary 1 - "Playing is Believing - A TERA Story" TERA’s Path to Creating Compelling Characters TERA's Emotional Rewards Through Storytelling TERA's Locations as Characters