E3 2018: En Masse on TERA’s lootboxes, console port, PvE vs. PvP, and the June 26 Gunner class launch
No? Oh, well, that’s probably for the best, as En Masse Senior Product Manager Matt Denomme told me that he isn’t personally familiar with any “specific plans” to bring TERA M to the west, at least as published by En Masse. However, Denomme did do a lot of work with the console port, so during our E3 meetup, we talked about TERA‘s six years of life, lootboxes, the vanarch system (RIP), and more.
Denomme admits that TERA’s console launch was a lot of work. There’s some relief that the game’s been out in the wild, but the team knows there are some issues and nasty bugs to tackle, like Velika City on Xbox not running well. The update that’s bringing the Gunner launch should have a lot of those bug fixes and optimizations. Denomme couldn’t tell me the specific date for that update during our discussion, but we’ve since learned it’ll launch on June 26th!
In addition to porting over the Gunner, the next update does bring the console version within about six months of the current western version of the game. Rough console and PC update equality has no ETA, but consoles will always trail behind a bit, not just because of the way console content gets OKed on various platforms, but because of the UI and game optimization changes from PC. This is Bluehole’s first console game, so both teams are learning how to do this together.
For long-term players, that may come as a surprise, as the game launched with controller support. However, Bluehole hadn’t initially made the game with controllers in mind. En Masse, knowing the western market, made the original controller mapping, sent it to Bluehole, and the rest is history. That has made porting the game over a bit easier, especially since TERA is already an action-based game, which appeals more to the console crowd.
As with other good ports, Bluehole and En Masse know that some console adaptations may move over to the PC versions. Quality-of-life tweaks, like items arranged in the inventory on consoles are logically sorted, which would be nice to bring back to PC.
On PC, the game’s age is an asset. It’s been tested and developed and balanced, and it’s found a steady audience. For console, En Masse hasn’t really been promoting the game’s age as a positive attribute. However, En Masse feels there’s demand for MMOs on console. We just saw Black Desert hit Xbox’s conference, though as a member of the audience, I didn’t feel it made a big splash. The fact that the TERA is action-oriented certainly helps it, though, especially as beyond a few titles (like DC Universe Online), few action MMO titles have lasted this long, developed this amount of content, and keep going even today. Especially console MMOs.
There are certainly differences between the platforms, as you’d expect. Console gamers don’t hit the En Masse website as often as PC gamers. One way to try to tackle that beyond using console tools like the game’s title page, the company says, is to get console players to tie themselves to an overall En Masse account and grant some rewards for doing that. Expect some account linking options in July.
Other differences are small, like community favorite classes and races, but one big difference Denomme noted was that the dungeon completion rate on consoles is lower on PC. Part of that may be the new audience. I wonder if console players aren’t used to dungeon crawl MMO mentality yet, but Denomme feels console players will sort themselves out in tie. However, something that the team has thought of are the controller limitations, so some balance changes may be on the way for console players.
Two things initially attracted me to TERA: big monsters and a political system supporting PvP. Only one of those remains standing today, and sadly Denomme hasn’t heard anything about the Vanarch system making a grand return. PvP in general has apparently been hard to balance out, especially a player system that involves voting, point rankings, and controlling virtual territory. While Denomme understands that the issue may have been with the developer’s ability to balance these factors, there’s also recognition that players, especially in the west, prefer PvE.
In fact, PvP in general “has been put on the backburner” compared to before. There’s still stuff in the works, so don’t despair PvP fans (unless you’ve been holding out for Vanarch 2.0, in which case, I’m sorry to disappoint). Bluehole has noticed the PvE preference among its players and factors that into its development plans. That’s why the team is focusing elsewhere, like on PvE leaderboards.
This kind of support not only helps to foster an overall competitive spirit among the general community, but also rewards and acknowledges communities that are into high-level gameplay. En Masse knows stats like, say, dungeon completion rates and speed records are interesting to some players, and Denomme would like to get more of that, maybe on their website. There are no immediate plans for this, but it may be more of a long-term goal.
Supposedly, this is also why fans were upset with the February lootbox reveal. Denomme says that lootboxes are sometimes experimental, like the one that gave random amounts of money. He feels people were worried that about perceived pay-to-win invading their game space, so making the boxes more of an event thing while doing free gold events in addition maybe feels more acceptable. That being said, the team is paying attention to current legal battles over lootboxes and wants to ensure that monetization doesn’t rely on that model alone. There should be fewer RNG components on future products, which is good, since there should be some events coming on the horizon.
Towards the future
Once the launch of the Gunner is over and done with, the Ninja will be on deck (expect release teasers coming soon) before summer ends. [Update: En Masse reached out to us after publication to clarify this part of the interview in regard to console vs. PC. “The gunner update will not bring the current console version within six months of the current PC build,” a studio rep told us. “A future build update, following the release of Ninja later this summer, is targeting to upgrade the current console version such that it is approximately six months back from the current PC version. There is no specific target release date for this update at this time.”]
And yes, the summer event is around the corner, and swimsuits will be back (but not just in lockboxes).
We’ve talked a lot about console, but for PC fans, the summer update in Korea is coming soon, which means a fall release for the west. Korea’s winter update will be quite big and is expected for the west in early 2019. No idea when console should be seeing these updates, but we’ll announce more as we learn about it.
Fiinally, collabs. Remember the Attack on Titan collaboration? It naturally came about because Bluehole is an eastern company and is actively looking for local IPs to collaborate with, and as TERA fans also are fans of eastern IPs, it’s quite natural for the companies to do. In the future, Denomme hopes for more comprehensive collabs with deeper online content, beyond aesthetics.
We’d like to thank Denomme for making time to sit down with during E3 2018.