You might think that BioWare has the market cornered when it comes to story in upcoming MMORPGs. As we found out at PAX Prime 2010, however, TERA is also focusing on delivering an interactive narrative experience to complement its action combat gameplay. Our own Rubi Bayer managed to corner En Masse Entertainment lead writer David Noonan for a little one-on-one time regarding TERA's extensive storyline.
Noonan also dropped an interesting nugget or two regarding the state of the title's endgame. Read the full interview after the cut and be sure to check out our gallery below.
Massively: So tell me about the new areas --we got new areas in the demo, correct?
David Noonan: Yes, what you saw was the Cultist Refuge; you hit it about level 35 or so, and it's a place that is important to the plot of the game in a couple of different ways. The one you saw, you saw a monster that is actually not supposed to be there -- that's a big revelation for the players. That is called an Argon, and from the beginning of the game you know the Argon are this hostile force, but they're having this Stalingrad-style battle on a completely different continent. That's what the six races of TERA are banding together to do: stop the Argon. So, to see an Argon in the middle of these cultists (another group that you'd thought were taken care of this point), to see them with an Argon a thousand miles away from where they're supposed to be, it's like discovering that two horrible enemies are in cahoots, and that's a big deal.
After a run like the one you did in the demo, when you go back and report that you saw an Argon, that gets people's attention very quickly, and it's that motivation that propels you into the rest of the story.
So this is all one area that we saw?
Right. There's another, separate reason to go in there, that you didn't see in the demo. There are some interesting prisoners that you may recognize, you had no idea they were being kept there -- so there's another mission where you need to get those guys out. It's a little bit like saving Victor Laszlo in Casablanca. You know, Victor Laszlo is important and he needs to get back out.
How much can you tell me about who these guys are? We're going to get some secrets out of you.
[Laughs] Well, the Cult of Lok is a group that wants to bring the demon god Lok back to life. Everybody else agrees that that's a horrible idea, which is why they're a cult, but at the point you saw in the demo, it's called the Cultist Refuge because this is their last stand. This is their west wall -- you have defeated them, they start out much more powerful than you -- but you've been chipping away and doing different things to reduce their power, and what you saw was their last stand. You attained victory in the Cultist Refuge but it's a nuanced victory because you saw an Argon. You get some definite clues that there might be a conspiracy controlling the conspiracy.
How much will we continue to worry about this conspiracy as we progress?
One of the beauties of TERA is that, with hundreds of hours of gameplay and a cast of thousands, we've got plenty of room to tell a big story, and we're using that room. That [the Cultist Refuge described above] happens at level 35 or so, and we've got 25 more levels of storytelling to go, and that's before we get to endgame.
What will we see at endgame?
That's what's keeping us awake right now. [Laughs] We don't have a lot to say about endgame yet because we're still working on it, but it's the kind of thing where as we get closer to release, we're very keen to talk a lot about it. If the ideas we have come to fruition, its going to be a very special endgame.
Do you have a specific direction that you're looking at?
Several directions. One of the things to recognize is that variety is important. If you really like TERA, you're going to be spending most of your time in the endgame and we want to give you plenty to do.
Anything else about these new areas that we can cover?
The other things that are important with the new build that you saw is... in addition to the new areas, the UI has changed [and] we've really learned a lot from the focus groups that we did back in the spring. That got us scurrying to our white boards and drawing new things out; UI changes were based on that [so] we're doing more character customization based on that. There's the glyph system that lets you change parameters, and we'll have enchanting and a full panoply of crafting professions. The whole notion is that it's an action game, but it has the depth of an MMO -- you know it's like the action game you play with thousands of your closest friends.
Thanks very much.