This weekend I had a chance to sit down and chat with TERA’s Sr. Producer Matt Denomme and take a look at the latest content to be added to the free to play MMORPG in the Lost Isle update on October 13th.
Magicman (MM): Speaking about the Lost Isle update as a whole, it’s a bit unusual in that it isn’t focused on new endgame content like previous TERA updates. What made the team want to focus on not only pre-endgame content but all beginning game content with this update?
Matt Denomme (MD): Whenever we release an update, even a small one, it’s done with the entire play experience— beginning-to-endgame—in mind. And while any publisher can deliver “maintenance mode” updates centered on high level play, a responsible publisher also has to think about the bigger picture. What are new players (and existing players) going to see when they make a character? How long is it going to take to level that character up? And what’s the best way to get people engaged with everything the game has to offer? The best MMO experiences are deep ones, and we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about areas where players might not be getting everything out of TERA that we want them to. It’s why we’re doing things like the Returning Hero system, to help players who may have left the game for a while to get back into the action as painlessly as possible.
MM: Ok, honestly, “Newbie Island” took a ton of flack back in beta and while it was reworked a bit prior to launch it still had, shall we say, a less than stellar reception. What makes 3 years after launch the right time to go back and totally rework the starting experience in TERA?
MD: We’ve known for a while that the MMO market is changing, and today’s brand-new gamers are looking for a different experience than ones who cut their teeth on the first generations of online games. Our success on Steam certainly proves that TERA appeals to a very broad audience, and we were already in the final stages of designing Stepstone Isle based on our previous observations when the numbers came in.
MM: We know the island itself and the leveling curve have changed, right? What else has changed and what experience does it provide now that the team thought was previously missing?
MD: Stepstone Isle allows players to experience a new, more personal story, without holding players up as “Chosen Ones.” It introduces some of the larger conflicts of TERA immediately without a lot of baggage or distractions, while at the same time getting them acquainted with their character’s abilities.
MM: Even before the new Stepstone Isle though, players will notice changes to the character creation and selection screens. Why these changes?
MD: For exactly the reason we touched on above. Today’s players want responsive, adaptive games, and TERA’s new starting menu and character creation system provide that kind of experience. The ability to watch your character change in front of your eyes based on your choices is critical, as is having your characters displayed the way you want them, when you want them.
MM: The Gridiron Academy is a level 40-64 version of the existing level 65 Gridiron battleground. Are there any differences between the two maps or is this just a different “level queue” option for the same map?
MD: The differences are the opposition you’ll face and the reasons you’re facing them. Having a very fun, very popular experience restricted to only level 65 characters is neither fun nor popular, if you’re not high-enough level to enjoy them. And learning to swim in the deep end of the pool doesn’t always work out if the other kids are pelting you with rocks. Gridiron Academy is a way to introduce battlegrounds and active PvP sooner, and to more people. Plus, it’s always a good idea to give players more options for more things to do while they’re leveling.
MM: The “Returning Hero” tab is a fantastic idea that many MMORPGs should implement. Tell us the details.
MD: We all know that life happens, and sometimes we need to step away from a game we love. In MMOs, these breaks mean you fall behind in leveling and gear, and might need a bit of time to remember how this system or that works…and that assumes it hasn’t been updated and improved since the last time you played. Returning Hero is a way to get you back into True Action Combat action as fast as possible, with a minimum of fuss. For players who have characters level 58-65 and haven’t played for a month or more, one character per server can receive a care package of new gear to get them back up to speed. There’s also a help menu available for the first three days of your return with tips on skills and
new game features.
MM: Did this come from player feedback directly? It seems like something that would be a feature players called for and the devs listened.
MD: Running a successful MMO takes a combination of data analysis, practical experience, and a whole lot of listening. Like with Stepstone Isle above, we’re always trying to deliver the best possible play experience to our customers, and this is one of many changes we’re making to do so.
MM: Kyra’s Pop-Up Potion Shack returns for this Halloween. Any differences in the Halloween events themselves for this year?
MD: The Eldritch Academy’s “candy defense” event is back, with updated rewards (including catalysts for Kyra’s Pop-Up Potion Shack). The Potion Shack is getting a Halloween-themed makeover, along with the new ways to get catalysts. We’re also introducing Halloween Headhunts, in which the entire community has to kill a certain number of mobs before time runs out…with the reward being catalysts for all players. And to keep the Potion Shack fresh, we’ll be cycling the prizes—including Halloween themed cosmetic items—each week throughout the event, from Thursday, October 15 to Thursday, November 5.
Our thanks to Matt for taking some time out to chat with us and stay tuned for an exclusive MMOBomb and En Masse Entertainment giveaway!