Big Ass Monsters - An Interview with TERA's Brian Knox

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After
a hands on with href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/2339"> style="font-style: italic;">TERA
at GDC, Ten Ton Hammer followed up with En Masse the next week at PAX
East to talk a bit more about the AI, UI and the big-ass monsters they
saw. Senior Producer Brian Knox and PR Director Matt Atwood filled us
in.





Ten
Ton Hammer:
At GDC, we took a
look at the AI, the clean user interface...



Brian
Knox:
And the big-ass
monsters!



Ten
Ton Hammer:
And the big-ass
monsters! So how do you convey that heroic epic feel with these big-ass
monsters?



Knox:
I think a lot of it is the environment that surrounds you. Making sure
that the monster fits into the scale. You see a lot of games where the
texturing might not be right, which throws the scaling off. We put a
lot of work into texturing making sure that the scaling is appropriate.
When he takes that giant swing at you, you have to physically dodge out
of the way. It conveys how big and massive he is. I’m just
not standing next to his leg and hitting him. I think it helps reminds
players of just how big this guy is and he really can dodge a slash.



Ten
Ton Hammer:
That was one of
the cool things playing it, you can literally roll between the
guy’s legs.



Knox:
Yeah. That’s a good move. Rolling between his legs, then
popping up and hitting him with your sword.



Part of it too is the cinematic setup. We have to remember that you
can’t make it too long. You get that little setup and you
know that you’re going to see something.



Ten
Ton Hammer:
Let's talk UI.
What made you opt to go with a minimalistic UI?



Knox:
Most of the design elements in the UI are to focus on the center of the
screen, on the fight. Well, how do we do that? We can’t have
a whack-a-mole on the side or else nobody is going to be looking at the
screen. Your focus should be on the center of the screen, and
we’ve done that.


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Ten
Ton Hammer:
But there are
elements in a UI that you still need. How do you prioritize
what’s going to go on there?



Knox:
It depends upon the situation. When you’re in a battle, there
are a few key things you need to know. You need to know the
monster’s health, you need to know your health, and
we’re going to make sure that the UI is appropriate for you.
We put the health meters above the monster as well to keep it simple.



But, when you’re in town, out comes the UI-- all the stuff
you need, like the items…all the crafting stuff.
It’s all there. You just don’t need it when
you’re in battle. You need to kill or be killed, right?



Ten
Ton Hammer:
We noticed
healers play a bit differently in style="font-style: italic;">TERA.
How complicated is it going to be for somebody to pick up playing a
healer?



Knox:
We’re really trying to ease people in, especially the
healers, focusing first on: how do I move in the game, what are the
tells that a monster does, making sure that you interact with the
environment, and then adding skills slowly.



A lot of people don’t like to play healers, but just the fact
that there’s just more action and fun being a healer in style="font-style: italic;">TERA,
I suspect that class is going to raise in popularity.


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Ten
Ton Hammer:
Will we see the
holy trinity of tank, healer, and DPS?



Knox:
There are some encounters where, yes, you’ll want that tank
and that healer. There are going to be some other encounters where
three or so ranged guys bouncing the guy around, and you’re
just dodging to get out of the way, healers aren’t going to
be much help. It’s kind of encounter based. Some of our
encounters are designed the trinity, some are designed for a couple of
guys, and some are designed for solo players. We try to bring people
different mixtures, so there’s always something there for you
to do.


" style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman";"> style="font-style: italic;">As for bringing a Korean
game over here, oh yeah there are some challenges. The
allure for me was that this was going to be done right. I want a build
that is really going to focus on the market, make sure that
they’re getting things right.

- Brian Knox"

Ten
Ton Hammer:
How would you
rate the level of difficulty in combat? Is it for the more advanced
player?



Knox:
I think that it’s a natural feel. I think that
that’s one of the biggest differences between East and West.
I think in the East, it’s a lot more difficult for them to
wrap their heads around the combat. They don’t have all the
console games. They don’t play all the style="font-style: italic;">God of Wars
or the Fables.
Our guys? We play those all the time. When we hook style="font-style: italic;">TERA
up to a controller, it all makes sense. It works.



People online aren’t much different. The ease of combat and
understanding how to do it is not that hard. But the skill player with
the player is really going to set people apart. If you’re
good in TERA,
you’re going to be a lot better than somebody else. The skill
level is really a central part.



A great example of that is actually our warrior. Are they DPS? They
have two swords and they can dodge. No, they are tanks. If you have two
people with super-equal skill, you’ll be a little better
because you’re not taking any damage, but it’s a
much harder class to play. It balances out. We’re letting
skill determine the outcome of battles.


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Matt
Atwood:
Another thing to that
is the crafting system. One of our VPs who normally hates crafting, has
spent so much time crafting that he got addicted to it. For me, because
it is skill based, you’re going to be looking for any little
edge you can get, and it makes it fun. It makes a difference.



Knox:
What I think that’s cool is when you’re playing a
game like WoW and you’re getting into a party, the first
thing you do is you right-click and look up their GearScore [now href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/playerscore">PlayerScore ].
You add it up and you go, “This guy’s
good.”



That’s not going to cut it in style="font-style: italic;">TERA.
You’re going to have know this based on their reputation.
Especially when you go into a high-end encounter, you’re not
going to want to bring some bozo in just because he has a good sword.
You’re going to have to know if that guy is any good.
You’ll know quickly. They’re going to be hitting
their dodges; they’ll be controlling the formations in the
battle making sure that the aggros are on the right spot. Your score is
not going to matter.



Gear Score is a little addicting to raise, right? But it
doesn’t always tell the tale, even more so in style="font-style: italic;">TERA.






Ten
Ton Hammer:
But
you’re still going to have the ability to min/max?



Knox:
Yes. Items and RPG levels will make a difference. But when
you’re talking two people together, they’ll be
light years apart in terms of skill.



Ten
Ton Hammer:
Are you going to
have any kind of leaderboards?



Knox:
Actually, we’re working on that with our battleground system.
The ranking system is worked into the political system. The higher
you’re ranked on a battlefield, then you’re going
to be able to run for office in the political system. You’ll
actually be able to rule territory. It’s not all PvP focus in
the political system, there’s a lot of social focus. I think
that it’s a 50/50 split. There are some votes earned from the
battleground and some votes earned from social and popular. So you have
to go out there and make a name for yourself if you’re a
bad-ass.


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Ten
Ton Hammer:
When is launch?



Atwood:
This year. We just launched in Korea. We took a look at the challenge
between the two markets. We have a good advantage here because people
here love action games and it feels really good. We’re
starting to show the depth. These guys know the challenges. We have
two-way conversations with the development team in Korea. I think
you’re going to see a game that is going to feel very right
for the player. That’s why we’re not going to say a
specific date. It’s kind of like 'we will sell no wine before
it's time.' We’re going to get it right, because we have one
chance at launching it.


" style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman";"> style="font-style: italic;">One of our VPs who
normally hates crafting, has spent so much time crafting that he got
addicted to it. For me, because it is skill based, you’re
going to be looking for any little edge you can get, and it makes it
fun. It makes a difference.

- Matt Atwood"

Ten
Ton Hammer:
Do you feel that
you’re taking on a pretty big challenge here due to the fact
that it was developed in Korea and it requires a certain level of skill
from the players as well? Is it too niche?



Knox:
I think action is pretty universal, and when you’re playing style="font-style: italic;">TERA,
it is action based and people are going to be fine with that.
I’m not concerned about that as that’s a huge plus
for our market. So I’m not too worried about selling that.



As for bringing a Korean game over here, oh yeah there are some
challenges. I mean, it hasn’t been done well. The allure for
me was that this was going to be done right. I want a build that is
really going to focus on the market, make sure that they’re
getting things right. It’s actually been fun because I have
these ideas, we’ll talk and have feedback go back and forth,
and they’ll go, “That’s awesome! We want
to put that in ours too!”



We started talking about different versions: the western version, the
Korean version, and all players were, “our version has to be
different.” Well, actually they're implementing a lot of our
feedback right into their version anyway. We’re getting
closer together. There’s going to be differences between the
two versions, but it’s been great working with developers.
It’s been the best experience of my career.


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Atwood:
How many teams can you look at from any territory where
you’re going to have that kind of freedom? They’re
going to say "we want a producer. We want staff in the US. We want an
entire writing team in the US, not just somebody slapping on
translation. Develop the story; make those quests more realistic and
more alive for your market for what your people want."



Knox:
The biggest thing is our writing team. We’ve got seven
people. One of our lead writers, David Noonan, is actually developing a
story for the future. He’s awesome; he’s worked at style="font-style: italic;">D&D
and a bunch of other games before so he’s got a lot of
confidence. This tends to be one of the weaknesses in the Korean
market. You’ll see a lot of games with great polished
graphics and mechanics, but the storyline isn't so well done.



We have that in our team. We’re able to develop, not just our
game, but the Korean Game. Some of the zones are fully created by our
staff here. They go through and write the entire story for the entire
zone.



And, as a little tease, we got some cool things coming up for the combo
system that we’re adding to and developing. That’s
basic implementation. You’re going to see some cool stuff in
the next few months.


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Ten
Ton Hammer:
How complicated
are the combos getting?



Knox:
We're going to be giving more freedom to the users, and it’s
going to be some cool stuff. We can’t talk about it, but
it’s cool stuff.



Combos can be different too because they speed up the animation at
times, which means you’ll be able to get onto your next move
faster. It’s not just a 20% damage boost--you’re
going to get through swinging that sword faster, which means you can
turn around as your next move or get out of the way faster.





Our thanks to Brian Knox and Matt Atwood for the interview. style="font-style: italic;">TERA
will be released later this year in the North American market and keep
checking Ten Ton Hammer for the latest style="font-style: italic;">TERA
updates, new, and interviews.


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our TERA: Rising Game Page.

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