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E3 2011: TERA – The Political System

Richard Cox Posted:
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So by now I’m sure you’ve all heard of TERA. The first ever true action MMO where players will actually have to dive and dodge, aim and position themselves properly in melee.  It supposedly breaks free from the traditional MMO mold and it’s all about the player’s skill and not gear or button mashing. I have to admit I’ve been skeptical for a while. I mean, this isn’t the first MMO to claim they’re changing the combat tedium and making it all good with sparkly double rainbow unicorns and such. But I had a chance to sit in on their presentation while at E3, and I have to say, I left pretty damned impressed.

The main feature discussed at E3 that hadn’t been talked about previously was the Political System. There have been a couple games in the past who have tried to work politics of some manner into their games, but nothing ever on this level. It adds a huge level of depth to player engagement. Through the political system, players will actually influence the world around them. What’s that? That’s what EVERY SINGLE MMO EVER MADE AS SAID? I know right? And yet, we’re all still sitting here waiting for one that will actually let us change the world in even the slightest way. Well, let me give you some examples of how you can change the world in TERA through the political system: you can raise and lower taxes on the shops in your region, you can enable or disable PK-ing in your region, and you can imprison players. Yes, you read that right… that naked person who won’t stop annoyingly dancing on top of the mailbox in the middle of town: throw them in jail! You can run events in your region, host tournaments, etc. There are all kinds of things that have an actual, direct impact on the world and other players in it. Your name will even be on the world map for everyone to see.

So how does one go about obtaining such a glorious position you ask? Well I’m glad you did, because I was just getting to that. There are actually two manners you can rise to the position of Vanarch: through the popular vote, and through PvP.  Either manner requires that you be maximum level though. The two examples they gave us were Landon and Xander. Landon is an elite healer on his server. He’s always nice and helpful. He’s the Guild Leader of the most helpful guild on the server. He’s constantly helping people finish quests, giving the newbies advice and help, randomly buffing people, etc.  He becomes quite popular on his server, and before you know it, people start mentioning that he should try for the Vanarch spot. So he starts campaigning. And when you campaign, there’s no limit on how you can go about it. If you want to take it outside of the game, to the forums, or even create your own website or Youtube channel for campaign videos and commercials, more power to you. The devs’ take on it is they’re giving you the tools to do it, then sitting back to see what you build with them.

So Landon campaigns, and since he’s helped so many people and everyone likes him, he wins the election in a landslide. And being the nice person that he is, Landon immediately starts giving back to the community. He lowers taxes in his region.  He opens specialty shops with discounted prices. He gives the income he’s getting from being Vanarch back to the less fortunate.

And then there’s Xander.

Xander is that guy who runs the super-elite PvP guild. All they do is hang out in the Battlegrounds. They have PvP down to an art and are just dominating everyone. Eventually they destroy everyone so much that they basically take control of the region by brute force. And Xander is the power hungry sort. It goes to his head and he goes crazy with it: raising taxes, enables PK in his region, imprisons anyone who utters the simplest complaint about his rule and just reigns with an iron fist in general. Now you may think this is the way to go. For starters, the taxes come into your pocket, so raising taxes is a quick way to become super wealthy. And you can throw anyone who doesn’t like it in prison; it’s a win-win. The problem is that you need to stay in power to continue enjoying all your new wealth, power and fame. And you need support to do that, and this comes in the form of recommendation points.

Landon is probably rolling in recommendation points, since everyone loves him. Xander on the other hand, not so much. He may have a bit from his guild, but in general, he’s not getting many from the community at large. But all is not lost; there is another option, because if there wasn’t, it would just be impossible to play the jerk. There are some pretty intense quests you can undertake to gain recommendation points. During the presentation they ran through one of these quests, which was to kill a big ole dragon named Sabranak.

Because of the devs’ approach of giving the tools and then just sitting back and watching what happens, this is a very player driven system; some of the first truly player driven content in the MMO sphere. No two elections are likely to be the same. It will be very interesting to see some of the more creative players out there trying to be elected who make political mudslinging commercials and such.

Melinda handled the hands-on part of the presentation and you can see her article here on the site as well, but I stuck around to watch her play, and I have to admit, I see where they’re coming from with all the “first truly action MMO” claims they’re making. The ranged classes have a crosshair and have to actually aim their spells/bows/etc. The game features collision detection, which will hugely impact combat. I also liked the “big numbers”, meaning the amounts, not how big of a font they used, for things like damage and healing and XP amounts. It felt very reminiscent of the Final Fantasy games where you’re hitting things for 8,453 damage and such. And rather than using UI aspects to indicate when a mob is about to use a special ability or has a buff on it or something, they’ve gone with a more visual cue route, which leaves your eyes focused on the combat/action in the center of the screen, rather than having to constantly glance off to the edges of the screen.

And if you thought the political system as described above wasn’t cool enough, as the presentation was ending, they dropped a not so subtle hint that we were just starting to scratch the surface by mentioning the Exarchs who control the whole continent… I can’t wait to hear more about that!

Keep reading to check out Melinda Haren's Hands On Look at TERA.

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Richard Cox