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GDC 2012 Hands-On Preview

Michael Bitton Posted:
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En Masse Entertainment’s upcoming action MMO, TERA, has been in closed beta for a little while now and is fast approaching its May 1st launch date. With that in mind, we decided to stop by the En Masse Entertainment's booth at this year’s Game Developers Conference to see what the developers were up to on the run up to launch and even get a bit of hands on time with the ‘all action,  no faction’ MMO.

En Masse producer Chris Hager and associate producer Stefan Ramirez first walked us through some of the things the team has been working on over the past year in order to improve TERA for the North American launch of the game. En Masse has utilized a wide array of testing methods in order to gather the feedback necessary to drive many of these improvements, including the recent string of closed beta events. Some of these improvements may show up in upcoming beta events on the run-up to launch, while others will make it in when the game officially launches in May.

We’ll break down some of the highlights into a list in the interest of convenience (everyone loves lists!)

  • New Achievements system: Rewards players with titles and special items for unlocking certain achievements.
  • Rested Experience: Players will earn rested experience while resting in a town or city.
  • Broker System: Private stores are replaced by a new broker system, serving as the central hub for the player economy.
  • New Quests: En Masse employs their own North American writing team to refine existing quests as well as add entirely new quests.
  • Daily Quests and Reputation System: Players can do daily quests and earn reputation with six different factions towards a variety of rewards.
  • Leveling Curve Adjustments: Through feedback and datamining En Masse has identified areas of the game’s leveling track that needed to be adjusted in order to smooth out the experience.

  • Improved Grouping: En Masse has gone ahead and bumped up experience bonuses for grouping to encourage players to get together and adventure. Additionally, the developer has also added an instance finder functionality to allow players to queue up and get right into instanced PvE content where they will also find new bind-on-pickup gear. En Masse explained that the bind-on-pickup aspect was important as they wanted to be able to reward players with powerful items without breaking the in-game economy.
  • Nexus System: At endgame, dimensional portals from the Argon world will open up in end-level areas of the player world.  Players will be informed of these portal openings via system announcements on the server. The Nexus system will make use of a public quest system, so whether you’ve got only a couple of players or a full-sized raid group, all you need to do is simply enter the portal to get involved. Once inside, players will have to fight back hordes of Argon over the course of an hour. Players who beat back he Argon forces here will be rewarded with rare items, some of which are exclusive to the Nexus system content.
  • Improved Account Security:  En Masse is looking to ensure player accounts are secure by using a Steam Guard-esque system that will require players pass a unique check when logging into the game from a new PC.
  • Chrono Scrolls: A PLEX-like item that will be available in the in-game store. Chrono Scrolls grant 30 days of play time and can be sold or traded to players within the game. En Masse feels this feature is a win-win-win, as players with more money than time can acquire gold to purchase in-game goods by selling these Chrono Scrolls to other players who play the game non-stop. Of course, TERA also wins because it also helps curb gold farming.

  • PvP and PvE Server Types: En Masse will be offering players the choice of playing on PvE or PvP ruleset servers. They also noted that each ruleset will be custom tailored to better fit the types of players that play on them.
  • Currency Breakup: Gold will be split into gold, silver, and copper, which should be less confusing for players.
  • Controller Support: The developers feel that TERA lends itself well to being played on a controller, so they’ve added controller support. They also hope that this will attract console gamers who perhaps never tried an MMO before.
  • Racial Abilities and Perks: Each race will have a variety of unique skills to set themselves apart and incorporate the background lore of their respective races. It’s important to note that these abilities aren’t being designed in such a way that players will feel like they need to play classes as specific races in order to get the most out of them.
  • Instance Shuffle: The team has moved many of the existing instances into different level ranges in order to smooth out the experience. Endgame instances will also come in normal and hard modes.

As you can see, there’s a good amount of stuff coming to TERA in the near future, but at this point we were itching to play the actual game and the En Masse folks were glad to oblige. As part of our hands-on demo, we were treated to an endgame instance called the Temple of the Temerity. The Temple of Temerity is basically a survival dungeon. We were tasked with protecting a relic in the center of a room from hordes of monsters coming out of two adjacent rooms. The amount of monsters and difficulty of the monsters increases as the fight progresses, but players are also rewarded for surviving past certain monster kill thresholds. For example, at certain kill counts you’ll get a bit of a breather and the relic will be healed some. You’ll also get a free revive at this point, so if you died just as the wave was ending you can pop back up right where you were. In addition, making it through certain points of the fight grants access to interactive environmental objects, such as exploding barrels or floor spikes, that will serve you well in clearing out attackers.

Surviving the entire 10 minute fight rewards the group with a treasure box filled with great loot. If you’re looking for a real challenge though, you’ll want to tackle the bosses in the adjacent rooms while also attempting to protect the relic from the enemy hordes. We didn’t do this during the demo, but according to En Masse the rewards for this are commensurate with the challenge involved.

For my part, I played a Berserker alongside the TERA developers. The fight appeared to require a good deal of coordination, especially when the environmental objects are introduced. Having a player focus on making timely use of the barrels and floor spikes is crucial to ensuring the enemy doesn’t reach the relic. As a Berserker, I used a number of AOE moves to churn through the enemies while fighting on the floor spikes. This really made fairly short work of the monsters, but I wouldn’t be able to do this if the rest of the guys weren’t supporting me with great healing, threat management and solid timing of the spikes and barrels. It was an altogether pretty fun experience and there are sure to be some nailbiter moments as you approach the various kill milestones and things get hairier than expected.

TERA is currently available for pre-order and is set for a May 1st launch. Be sure to check back at MMORPG.com for all your TERA coverage!


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB