Interview with Producer Brian Knox
"Nothing great comes without a challenge."
The MMO landscape is awash with immigrants that migrate from one title to another, seeking that one game that resonates with them as players and that they can call home. When a new MMO releases, servers of established titles see a population drop and wait patiently for players to tire of the new release and return. It's a battle for customers, a war waged where content is paramount to holding an audience and dev teams bank (literally and figuratively) on return business.
So when a new 'kid' shows up, that newcomer better bring its 'A' game if it hopes to snare attention and hold its audience. After all, not only will it have to strut its stuff in the first few weeks (that notorious trial period players give new titles) of business, but it will have to fight the urges of players to go back to the familiar where their characters are slightly more 'uber' than the newb characters they generate in their first steps into the new world.
In some ways, dev teams of new titles have it easy. They can see the mistakes of past MMOs, break from traditions and improve upon existing, stock gameplay elements. But they also know that their window of opportunity is narrow and they have to come at players with some of the best elements they can muster right out of the gate.
When you look at a game like TERA, it seems the ingredients are in place for what could well be a compelling experience. En Masse Entertainment (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Korean MMO company Bluehole Studio), the Seattle-based group behind Westernized version of TERA, brings some A-level talent to the project, that much is certain. Industry vets from Blizzard, Microsoft, EA, ArenaNet, NCsoft and BioWare are all on the project. It seems apparent these folks know the market and understand what MMOers desire.
Add to that a brand new IP to work with and the elements are in place for an innovative game that could well meet the expectations of being a next-generation MMO experience. Ok, let's ditch the hyperbole and get down to some actual chat with producer Brian Knox. Knox was with NCsoft and worked his way up the ladder to be the producer on Aion before joining En Masse.
If anyone should know should know about the pitfalls most modern MMOs encounter and how to avoid them, Knox should. The first question tossed his way was what he sees as the most common traps MMOs fall into and how he hopes TERA will avoid them.
"I think the primary issues are too many promises and not enough singular focus," Knox said. "TERA was designed with the single development goal of keeping the player's attention in the center of the screen where the game takes place, rather than on the interface. All subsequent design has branched out from that idea, and we continually evaluate success based on this simple concept. MMOs are so large that sometimes you can lose focus and spread yourself too thin. For TERA we want to maintain this laser focus and put out a very well-defined, high-quality product."