Being Human - A TERA Race Reveal Q&A with David Noonan
Ten Ton Hammer: Traditionally, RPGs present humans as a jack-of-all-trades race at best, and an uninspired, plain vanilla, stat baseline race at worst. From the dev diary, it sounds like humans play an important role in the federation and world of TERA large, despite being adopters more than adapters.
How do you avoid making TERA's humans the embodiment of RPG mediocrity?
David Noonan: For starters, it’s important to be realistic. Humans are going to be the baseline as the breadth of human experience is so vast that even an MMORPG can’t contain it all. So we’re narrowing the focus on TERA’s humans, emphasizing their nomadic past and their present-day status as the people who are trying to hold a fractious federation together.
Ten Ton Hammer: Humans are typically the most played race in any given MMOG or RPG. That's in keeping with mainstream sci-fi and fantasy IPs, where the protagonist (from Luke Skywalker to Conan the Barbarian to Jean Luc Picard) is almost always human. We seem to be wired to want to play what we are. Do you feel compelled to build more content around the human race, given our predilection to roll human?
David Noonan: We don’t do human-only (or baraka-only, or elf-only) quests in TERA. What we do instead is a lot of content that explores the humans’ past and present-day situation (and likewise, that of the other races). If we do our jobs right, that should be interesting content whether you’re a human or not. As you level up in TERA, you’ll gain an appreciation—if not a complete understanding—of all seven races.
Ten Ton Hammer: Are humans an easier or harder race to write about, since your audience already knows a fair amount about being human?
David Noonan: Overall, I’d say they’re a bit easier for exactly that reason. You have that common ground, and you don’t have to reestablish humanness the way you have to establish amani-ness or castanic-ness. It’s a double-edged sword, however. As you write about humans, you have to take care that you don’t accidentally write something too close to a real-world human culture. You can’t create a human culture that lives alongside a river and builds immense triangular buildings, however, because of all the other associations with real-world Egypt.
Ten Ton Hammer: In keeping with the dev diary and the traditional versatility of the human race, is just about every class and advancement path open to humans?
"The human silhouette is probably closest to the elf silhouette—but that isn’t to say that the two are terribly close. Unlike a lot of MMORPGs, TERA’s human have a decidedly athletic build."
Ten Ton Hammer: According to the last dev diary, the Federation plays a key role in human destiny. The desire for cooperation is seemingly a key human strength - not just in TERA but in the real world as well. Cops beat criminals, for instance, because they can call in more support than criminals. Have you chosen to embody those social strengths in any tangible ways in the game, perhaps by group buffs and other leadership or guild advancement skills?
David Noonan: I can’t give away too much, but suffice it to say that humans have specific abilities that reflect their history, outlook, and aptitude. (Again, the same is true of the other races in the game.)
Ten Ton Hammer: Will humans have a wider variety of customization details (tattoos, scars, skin tones, hair styles, etc.) to up the variety level for TERA's most plain jane race?
David Noonan: I’d say that the humans and the poporis have the most variety in terms of their visual identity. The odds of your human looking like my human are slim, indeed—and that’s before you even get into differences in clothing, armor, or weapons.
Ten Ton Hammer: In PvP (and we don't know much about TERA PvP yet), knowing what race and class you’re facing is often a key to success. The action in TERA is pretty fast and furious. Assuming that humans have their pick of classes, will you attempt to differentiate different classes among humans by their sheer outline or "silhouette"?
David Noonan: The human silhouette is probably closest to the elf silhouette—but that isn’t to say that the two are terribly close. Unlike a lot of MMORPGs, TERA’s human have a decidedly athletic build. The men have significant muscle and bulk in their shoulders and torsos, and the women look more like Olympic athletes than runway models. The elves tend to be much leaner and slimmer. (Keep in mind that I’m describing the default, and players have the ability to customize their looks.)
In a fight, there’s an additional point of differentiation—the animations that accompany each attack. Humans run, dodge, and swing their swords differently than the other races. It’s a difference you pick up on an instinctive level after you’ve played TERA for a few hours, and it becomes second nature after that.
Ten Ton Hammer: Bonus round - Do most humans in TERA prefer cake or pie? And why?
David Noonan: I’d say pie. There’s something about cake that makes humans feel a little uneasy. Maybe it’s the layers (unfair separation!), maybe it’s the frosting that hides what’s underneath (show us what you’ve got!).
Ten Ton Hammer thanks David Noonan and the En Masse team for taking the time for this Q&A. The humans among us prefer pie, too.