Massively Interview: TERA's Patrick Sun on free-to-play

TERA Combat
Action-MMO TERA officially went free-to-play last week, and with the transition came a number of questions regarding payment tiers, transition plans, and En Masse's vision for the future of the game. Will TERA turn into a "pay-to-win" graveyard, or will it be another shining example of how to do free-to-play just right?

We sat down with associate producer Patrick Sun to find out.

Massively: TERA's F2P conversion was originally planned only for South Korea and Japan. Why the wait for Western subscribers?

Patrick Sun, Associate Producer: Actually, it was a global discussion that was agreed on before any announcements were made. We wanted to announce TERA: Rising as soon as possible, but we had to be 100% sure we were able to transition the game in a timely manner. NHN in Korea and Japan utilizes a different platform than we do at En Masse, as well as at GameForge, which is why it was quicker for them to switch over -- hence their earlier announcement. We've had to transition many components from a subscription-based platform from the game, billing system, forums, etc., and we didn't want to make the formal announcement until we had more of our system in place and were confident of our launch date.

Some of our readers have expressed annoyance with tiered F2P systems in the past, even cheering when other F2P games have all but eliminated the tiers in favor of a much more simple system. What made the tiered system the right call for TERA?

I don't think it's necessarily the tiered approach that frustrates users but rather what the tiers consist of. The tier system felt right for what we were trying to accomplish with our transition for TERA: Rising, which was to do right by our original subscribers (our Founder tier), make TERA free with no restrictions on content (our Standard tier), and to give the option of paying for conveniences (our Elite tier).

TERA free-to-play
What's the philosophy behind the F2P at play in TERA -- is the aim to get people to subscribe or to spend money piecemeal on luxuries like extra character and bank slots?

The philosophy behind our transition for TERA has been to add on to what the game already offers instead of restricting existing content for pure financial gain. In TERA: Rising, we are very proud to say that no content is gated to standard players. We've been very transparent with our players on the changes we are making and what we will charge for. Hopefully our approach is well received as we've been pleased with how the response has been so far.

Is it possible for a Standard, non-Elite player to purchase her way into a higher cap on certain features, like more brokerage postings or a lower brokerage fees?

Yes, our Elite status option allows a Standard player to pay for conveniences such as having five times the amount of brokerage postings at one time and completely waiving any brokerage registration fees.

"Our commitment and dedication towards our service of TERA: Rising will remain as consistent as the first day we launched." -Patrick Sun

What does the team believe makes TERA stand out from the rest of the free-to-play games on the market? In other words, with all these F2P games, why play TERA over something else?

Obviously I'm a bit biased, but I still believe that TERA has the best MMO combat and graphics on the market today, regardless of the business model behind the game. Additionally, while we have shifted the game away from a subscription-based model, our commitment and dedication toward our service of TERA: Rising will remain as consistent as the first day we launched. We are dedicated to our community, and that includes providing incentives, updates, and new content to the game. And now that it offers more of a flexible business model, you don't have to just take my word for it, as anyone can go try it out.

TERA's Huge Axes
Beyond the F2P conversion, what new content and surprises are in store for TERA players? How does the development team see the game evolving over the next few months?

We're focusing on making sure the transition is as smooth as possible, with an emphasis on creating new content that can involve our rapidly growing pool of players in a fun and engaging way. For instance, we're currently working on incorporating our largest battleground yet, one that includes both PvP and PvE elements. It's going to be pretty massive and should make for some epic battles. In addition, we'll be getting bigger raid dungeons, new BAMs to kill, and a continuous stream of new in-game content that we'll give more info on in the coming months. We've seen a nice upswing with our player count, which is great for us.

Thank you for your time.

When readers want the scoop on a launch or a patch (or even a brewing fiasco), Massively goes right to the source to interview the developers themselves. Be they John Smedley or Chris Roberts or anyone in between, we ask the devs the hard questions. Of course, whether they tell us the truth or not is up to them!
This article was originally published on Massively.