Last week, thanks to a tip from an MMOBomber, we reported on the serious issues En Masse Entertainment was having with regards to its TERA community and its response to a wave of bans regarding third-party applications. We received responses from EME to some basic questions regarding the whole affair, but they only brought about more questions – and contact – from players challenging EME’s assertions.

After looking over that information, we can’t really fault EME for doing what it did, in the broadest sense. Even some of the people who created the tools that resulted in the bans agree that what they were doing was wrong, either in a technical sense (i.e., against the Terms of Service but benign) or in a more malicious sense (i.e., this totally breaks the game or is otherwise exploit-y).

The primary issues we’re having is with the timing of EME’s response to third-party programs and how that affected the community of TERA players, many of whom use such tools without any intention of unbalancing the game. What could have been a policy agreed upon by all players as best for the game instead turned into a PR mess due to hasty decision-making, poor communication, and a sudden shift to a “zero-tolerance” policy that contradicted previous statements by staff.

Policy shift

We weren’t given a name to go along with the responses from EME. Even after specifically asking for one, we were told to attribute them to “the TERA team at En Masse Entertainment.” So whether it was a certain community manager, executive producer, or whatever … we don’t know.

Our first question was about the bans themselves, and why they were enforced at this time. The response was:

“The use of third-party applications has always been a violation of the Terms of Use for TERA.”

True, that’s always been a part of the Terms of Use/Service (we’ll keep using ToS), as it is for every online game. Except not only were third-party programs not punished prior to April 26, they were actually endorsed by GMs. Here’s a GM explicitly saying DPS meters are fine:


And here’s an email exchange between a player (the one who initially informed us of this affair) and a GM, in which the player reports himself for using a third-party program and is given the nudge-nudge-wink-wink OK from the GM:


Granted, GMs are not full-time employees of EME, and their decisions can be overturned as the parent company sees fit. But it’s still easy to see why responses like this could be seen as explicit approval from EME regarding the use of such programs and why the sudden ban wave of April 26 seemed to come out of nowhere.

We asked EME to verify that this exchange was official and came from one of its employees; the company refused to comment.

Follow the money

Getting back to the question of “why now?” our EME source says that

“Recently, we detected that some players were using third-party applications in ways that unbalanced the game economy, which had a detrimental effect on the game experience for other TERA players.”

The exploit in question appears to be the creation of one “Memeboy,” who used an app to exploit the Emporium, TERA’s in-game store. Memeboy was able to access rewards of a higher tier than his loyalty tier – which is normally gained by completing certain tasks in game and by spending money in the Emporium.


Memeboy’s mistake appears to have been in bragging about his prowess in a public place, which he did on April 20. News of this hack clearly got back to En Masse Entertainment; six days later, the hammer fell. It might not have been a “distant executive” as I stated in my original story, but it was still a hasty, blunt-force decision made by someone with an eye on the bottom line.

What Memeboy did was clearly wrong. It directly subverted TERA’s rewards system and cost the game money. En Masse Entertainment was right to ban him, as well as anyone else using a similar exploit. You can’t blame EME for putting a stop to something like that.

However, as the previous chat logs show, running third-party programs in general was acceptable to EME, even despite technically being against the ToS. All such programs were explicitly permitted – in some cases, with explicit permission from GMs – for five years, but the moment such a program threatened the game’s income, everything was shut down as quickly as possible. That was the priority.

Alternate math

EME also indicated that fewer than a dozen players had been banned. As stated on the forums, the primary objective is to go after the players creating the third-party programs:

“But this isn’t mass player eradication. We’re investigating those who are egregiously modding and tampering with the client. In some cases players are very clearly guilty of hacking and interfering with the live service of the game, and those players will be banned without warning.“

Further language tells players that, essentially, just because you might be using something as innocent as a DPS meter doesn’t meant you still can’t still be banned for it. Perhaps EME has no way to detect people using DPS meters or it takes too many resources to do so or doesn’t want “mass player eradication” and the fallout that would come from it. Whatever the case, a policy that an authority doesn’t have the means or will to enforce is largely toothless.

EME also stated that nobody appealed their bans, as of the responses we received on May 4. That, too, appears to be false, as one player appealed his ban on April 29:



So where does all this leave TERA? Perhaps in a worse place than it was before the bans. Several of the third-party programmers acknowledged that their tools could be used for nefarious purposes. One of them, known as Bernkastel, even had a script that would auto-block attacks – a clear gameplay advantage – as well as alter your appearance on the client side only. In other words, you could deck yourself out in whatever fancy cash-shop gear you wanted, but only you would see the difference; other players would see your actual equipped gear. Even so, it would clearly be another case of taking money out of EME’s coffers.

However, Bernkastel didn’t make that script available, acknowledging that the auto-blocking part of it “was BS.” Now that he’s banned, however?


You can’t help but have a little sympathy for EME, particularly seeing that it is TERA’s publisher and not its actual developer; that duty belongs to Bluehole Studios. Does the publisher permit the programmers operating in a morally grey area to continue doing their thing and hope that nobody crosses the wrong line, as Memeboy did? Or do they bring the hammer down on the programmers, cleaning the game up momentarily but potentially opening themselves up to further, malicious attacks while also infuriating players simply looking to improve their experience?

The third option is, of course, to improve the game so that players don’t have to provide their own tools to reduce ping, track DPS, and so on. To the company’s credit, the communication on that front appears to be improving.

It may be a lesson learned too late. As Atlus discovered with its strict Persona 5 streaming rules, threatening your customers – as EME did in its initial post about the issue – is never, ever a good idea, PR-wise. The gag order EME tried to impose regarding the topic just made a bad situation even worse. You can’t threaten your players with bannings and then tell them to be quiet and accept it, especially when it’s effectively and suddenly reversing a policy that had been in place for five years.

While it’s only one source, take a look at how daily player numbers have dipped since the bans were announced on April 26:


Steam Charts shows a decrease of around 1,000 players in the weeks following the bans. If fewer than a dozen were banned, then that’s probably about 20% of players leaving the game voluntarily rather than having to get by without their tools. More might have stayed on while cleansing their clients of anything that could potentially get them banned.

If one-fifth of your players feel the need to “cheat” in your game, that’s a pretty big problem. It’s one that requires more than a quick banhammer and threatening forum post with a clickbait-y title to solve.

In the long run, too, it might not matter. Our of our sources tells us that “Most of the people I know to be banned don’t care. And just made another account on the EU version of the game.”

Again, we’ll re-iterate: En Masse Entertainment had the right to ban anyone it chose to, as spelled out in TERA’s Terms of Service. This is especially true with regards to players like Memeboy and Bernkastel. The issue lies in the application of those bans and the company’s initial narrative surrounding them, which contained some marked inconsistencies and inflammatory language that makes it hard to view its actions in a positive light.

It would have been better to come clean and admit from the start that violations of the ToS regarding third-party programs were allowed up to this point, and “that’s our mistake,” rather than the clearly false “we’ve always been tough on crime” stance that was put forward. (A stickier point would have been admitting that the reason they aren’t allowed now is less about improving player experience and more about immediate financial considerations – a point that wasn’t clarified until we did a little digging.) Announcing a “grace period” for players to clean up their clients – while still insta-banning the third-party programmers and egregious exploiters – might also have been a good idea, especially if there was no intent to really go after the DPS meter crowd. The net effect would likely have been less of a shock to the system for the player base as a whole and a greater approval rate regarding the “new” policy.

the author

Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

6 Readers Commented

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  1. Audientis on May 17, 2017

    I’d like to add my two cents, if I may.
    Neither the official NA TERA forums, the TERA Online Reddit, the TERA Online Discord server, nor Steam, are representative of the entirety of the current NA TERA playerbase.

    I (in 2014 — before Steam was an option), along with others, downloaded our NA TERA clients straight from the En Masse website and never linked our accounts with Steam — and have no intention to do so. Therefore, many people (myself included) play TERA on a regular, daily basis and are never counted among Steam’s statistics.

    As someone who often visits the forums, the Reddit page, and has joined the Discord server, without ever participating in any of them, I have noticed that there seems to be a small, recognizable set of mostly the same people who frequently post on the forums, in Discord, and on Reddit — especially recently regarding this particular topic. This small set of people should not be counted as representative of the majority of the NA TERA playerbase. Neither should their desire to use any type of third-party tools, meters, programs, and/or modifications be counted as a shared desire by the majority of the playerbase. Many others, like myself, do not add to these conversations — whether or not we actively read any, or all, of the posts. This post is a first for myself, and will probably be my last for the next couple of years.

    Policy always takes precedence over practice, regardless of whether someone inside a company says that you won’t get in trouble for not abiding by a particular policy. When questioning whether something is permitted, consulting the policy/terms of service is the only safe bet. This is true for any company or service. Should a company decide at any time that it will start enforcing a policy that should have been enforced from the beginning, they have full rights to do so at any time and without warning or notice, regardless of what any employee, representative, volunteer, or spokesman of the company has said at any point in time.

  2. sam on May 17, 2017

    actually, tera gained 6.2% population the month the bans were applied, next time do a little more research before making suck bold claims “20% of the population left”

  3. thnx on May 17, 2017

    Hey, thanks for publishing this. Although it’s not the whole story and only covers the ban issue, still something. At least the word is out there.

  4. KnowYourFacts on May 17, 2017

    Banning was the tip of the ice berg. There was so much more going on. Not sure why you mmosites stuck on the banning part. You should see the ignorance and incompetence the community managers have (specificially Sean Gibbons , i.e. Spacecats) and the neglect, snooty comments in serious normal game threads on forums, and just over all “not knowing their product” and lies including saying things working fine as dungeons crash all over and they recycle 4 year old content reskinned in both events and official content updates

  5. Derpina on May 17, 2017

    Again, there is a LOT missing here. IT IS NOT JUST BANNING. Banning was last straw.
    1) Recycled 4 year old content as events and updates (even last major content update was just repeated mechanics of same bosses, just different skin).

    2) Community managers acting like snobs and snooty comments in a non professional manner to ANY subject matter and a “I know better than you” tone when talking about game enhancements. And then being proven wrong (I had a dedicated guild leader that invests a lot and follows the korean dev team closely) call out space cats and space cats both stumbled live on stream with no respnse, and fumbled to hide the truth in forums so he bans and removes the thread or my guild leaders account. All this is caught on screen shots and videos, and our guild is top on sever atm, and allied with top other 3 (and we pretty much make up the most monetary invested and populated guilds). A classic argument was this horrible insta death spawn bubble in an event dungeon. We reported it with screens. Spacecats reomves thread, says everything working as is. We called him over to it, he got insta killed, and then blamed the players saying: “Some one obviously moved it here”…(impossible, it is a GM power that can avoid insta death, and move an event item)… Child like behavior.

    3) Back logged frustration toppped up with perma bans and lies about it. They said officially: “In wake of a wave of hackers 3rd party add ons banned”…no…There is no reason to hack this game, population so low PvP takes 2 hours to queue and is non existant…A hack there is useless…GAthering and crafting has been rendered useless in game all armor and potions now literally insta mailed to you or earned as a drop… Nothing is crafted traditionally.
    so what do you hack??? what add on can hack this game? It would have to be a PvE thing like…something that glitches out the boss to kill it easier…other than that…there is no mass hacking… What happened was that the dedicated fan base wanted to see damage meters, especially as new damage classes come out. They also waited 15 years for decent localization. Anyone plays knows what main velkia city lag is like. FPS drops to 3 frames for no reason…they found a 3rd party add on that corrects it….PERMA BANNED! No warning, nothing. And when you send a ticket and try and get help: Long to no reply and community manager malfunctions….so they are QUICK to ban and cry on line, but slow to do their job, and they hide behind ToS…

  6. Tio_Z on May 16, 2017

    Gotta say you were a bit too biased towards EME on some points. But to the point: EME was “smart” to do this now. Not sure how it could spread if a judicial decision that non-employee enforcers that have training and authority within the service counts as the company’s own voice, these players could legally ignore the ToS as the GMs allowed it.

    Overall: doesn’t matter if you are the developer or just the publisher, burden to take care of your product is on you, always. Don’t change your mind midway, keep your ground and don’t take it out on your CUSTOMERS (even free players are generating revenue to the company as the data is shared and sold to affiliates) when you make poor decisions. Own up to them.

    In earnest I hope the blowback gets harder so EME thinks back on it’s actions and improves as a company.