TERA remains on our list of highlighted games here at MMORPG.com and while expectations remain high, they still have some serious hurdles to overcome. One hurdle is the Western perception of Eastern style game play. Many players feel like games developed in Asia can be grindy, pointless farming-style games that deliver a subpar experience. With games being developed so quickly and studios cranking out MMOs blindingly fast it is easy to have a lot of them appear to be similar in nature. Companies spend a lot in bringing these games over to the North American market. Some do very well. Others suffer from their design and fail to meet Western expectations. Will TERA have to struggle with this issue?
First, as a game, TERA is proving itself to be a full fledged MMO. It offers some great classes, a rich history and lore, and excellent game play based on the demos we have seen. The demos we ran through at shows were run as instanced dungeons. This was a great experience and based on this alone, I can state that the game did not feel like a grind. Also, the game play is very fast paced and action packed. If they stay true to this design then making the advancement "grindy" is very counter productive. Also in these demos, the loot was very generous when bosses were beaten and every player got some great items for their class. The loot factor is important because it was not a kill ten rats to get ten rat tails. At least that is our percetion from the demos so far.
In terms of design, the game has an Eastern look and feel, but the developers have made it much more Western friendly than most games of its type. While anime continues to be huge here and games have taken on a level of Eastern artwork for players, TERA is the first of these games that has a strong Western influence in its design. I have spoken about this before. I feel strongly that the Eastern and Western audiences are very different in terms of style and what appeals to them on an artwork level. I like the races in TERA. Yet some of them do look like anime babes while others are very Western. So in terms of design, I think the game plays both sides of the Pacific Ocean very well.
The area were TERA could fall short is in the design of the outer world. The player who goes off to kill mobs will likely find a grind. Let’s be honest here: All players who do that in any MMO find it grinding. There has not been much talk in TERA about the quest or storyline systems. Hopefully these will be intricate and make character advancement feel like fun and not just mindless killing. Until we see good examples of how this will work we won’t know.
The big thing with TERA is that devs have said it will be subscription based. This is a bold statement these days and, unlike most Eastern games, they will not be relying on an item mall. Even as an old school idea, there is plenty of room for grind here as well. I think it comes down to mindset and how the developers view MMO gameplay. What are their influences in making the game and what philosophies do they follow? TERA has been in development for awhile and Eastern games that are quick out of the gate typically suffer from a grinding design. Perhaps TERA will be taking a different approach.
In the end, one of the things the team at En Masse should do is face the grind perception up front and talk about how the game is not a grind. Show players where they have adopted a different approach and that the game will appeal to a Western audience. We are all looking forward to TERA and hope the game does not fall into a grind stereotype or perception when it launches.