A Game for MMO-FOs - An Interview with TERA's Chris Hager

TERA fans are a bunch of MMO-FOs...at least that's what publisher En Masse Entertainment claims. What's a MMO-FO, and are you one? Read our interview with Producer Chris Hager to find out.

What happens when you build an MMO with an action-based combat system, create a hardcore manifesto, and add Bas Rutten? You get MMO-FO, a movement born out of TERA, the upcoming MMO from Blue Hole Studios and En Masse Entertainment. We talked with Chris Hager, Producer, to learn more about why Bas Rutten is pwning LARPers in the name of skill-based gaming.

We've noticed MMO-FO, a movement to start breaking away from the standard MMO mold. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Chris Hager: The MMO-FO idea came from TERA itself. Our True Action Combat system is unique to MMOs, and we were looking for a way to personify it. Our biggest challenge is describing action combat to people; itÂ’s really something you have to experience. The MMO-FO campaign is a visual way for people to experience it. Plus, who doesnÂ’t like seeing Bas Rutten throwing guys all over the place?

TERA Screenshot

Better hope two heads arenÂ’t actually better than one.

Specifically, what are the mechanics in current MMOs that may have grown a bit tired?

Chris Hager: Combat in MMOs has gotten pretty stale. Tab target, macro 1, watch cooldown, macro 2, auto-target next enemy, rinse, repeat. I know I fall into that rhythm when I play other MMOs, and I end up looking at the TV, playing with my kid, or watching the cool-down timers on skills instead of getting wrapped up in the game. TERAÂ’s action combat makes me pay attention because itÂ’s my skill, my reaction to attacks, my blocking, dodging, evasion, or running that helps me win (and occasionally die). IÂ’m totally engaged with the combat.

How is the MMO-FO drive being received so far? Lots of support? More or less than you expected?

Chris Hager: People love Bas, and making him part of this new TERA campaign has generated a ton of positive feedback. I think the videos really resonate with people because itÂ’s showing action combat in a way thatÂ’s both visual and visceral; exactly what TERAÂ’s combat is! Bas does with actions what words canÂ’t always do.

How do you plan on evolving the genre with TERA?

Chris Hager: TERA is redefining combat for MMOs. We hope others will notice that weÂ’re taking something thatÂ’s been the same for the past decade, and innovating on it to make a more enjoyable, engaging system for players. We live in a world where the speeds created by fiber optic, cable, and broadband are the norm, so we donÂ’t need to be defined by game systems or practices that we created in the late 90s to deal with 90s limitations.

Do you feel that a greatly changed combat system may limit your audience?

Chris Hager: There will be people whoÂ’ll prefer the old style of MMO combat because thatÂ’s what they know, and thatÂ’s what theyÂ’re used to. ThereÂ’s also opportunity to grow the MMO audience by appealing to console gamers who didnÂ’t like the old MMO combat, so weÂ’ve added controller support. We think our action combat system will appeal to a broad market, and that when most people get in and try it for the first time, theyÂ’ll wake up and take note of how exciting and how physical MMO combat can be.

TERA Screenshot

”Go for the kneecaps!”

Can a system like this be both challenging but easy enough to pick up?

Chris Hager: We realize that people will need to become comfortable with the combat before we throw them really challenging content. The game was designed to build in a learning curve for getting used to our system, and then add depth as players progress. TheyÂ’ll definitely need to feel comfortable by the time they meet their first Big-Ass Monster (BAM).

How likely do you think it is that action combat will soon become the norm?

Chris Hager: True Action Combat is the evolution of MMO combat. Personally I think itÂ’s awesome. While I donÂ’t think every MMO will (or even can) incorporate this kind of combat system, I really hope some of the newer games currently in development will think more outside the box to keep combat (the vast majority of any MMO playerÂ’s time spent in game) fresh and engaging.

Does the idea of action combat intrigue you? Check out our Hands-On First Look at TERA as we experienced it in its first closed beta weekend to find out more.

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