TERA-forming: En Masse Entertainment

By Kieron Gillen on February 24th, 2010 at 12:00 pm.

News of MMO-malarkies breaks. A subsidiary of Bluehole Studio, En Masse Entertainment has been formed. Their aim is basically to select MMOs and make them most suitable for bringing to the western audiences. Hyper-localization! Its staff are alumnis of Blizzard Entertainment, Microsoft Corp., Electronic Arts Inc., ArenaNet and NCsoft, so they’ve certainly worked for some companies. RPS’ similar list would be “Its staff are alumni of that bar on campus, Walker’s Dad’s dentistry, some hop-farming and a big financial mag (which sacked him)”, so they certainly have us beat. Their first game will be – perhaps unsurprisingly – Bluehole’s TERA. We took the chance to talk to En Masse’ producer Brian Knox about what they’ll be up to, TERA and all things MMO…

[Oh - these are the core staff. The CEO Dr. Jae-Heon Yang (Ex-NCSoft), COO Patrick Wyatt (Ex-Blizzard, Arenanet Founder), Publishing VP Chris Lee (Marketting at Microsoft, NCSoft and EA) and Senior Producer Brian Knox (NC Soft Producer, Aoin). Who's the one on the right. Who we'll be talking to. Right now. Googling reveals that Patrick's on the left, Chris is on the second left which - through deductive skills - make Dr Yang the other chap. I'm Sherlock Holmes, me.]

RPS: Blizzard Entertainment, Microsoft Corp., Electronic Arts Inc., ArenaNet and NCsoft. That’s quite the spread of talent. How did everyone get together? Was it a case of a single individual recruiting, some gathering or… well, how did the band get together?

Brian Knox: In 2009, Bluehole Studio in Korea was looking to establish a Western publishing entity for its inaugural product, TERA. Bluehole sees the West as a crucial market for worldwide success, and they felt it more advantageous to invest in building a Western publishing entity than even self-publishing in their home territory.

The challenge in putting together a publishing entity that could handle that task is finding and securing a leadership team with the chops to realize the goals. After an extended search, the En Masse leadership team came together towards the end of 2009, with the purpose of bringing TERA to Western audiences. These are seasoned industry veterans with a track record of successful products, and the skills that can enable them to hit some exciting and ambitious targets.

RPS: Essentially, this seems to be about localising games in a way which means more than just translating them. What sort of things will you be focusing on? It strikes me as a tricky thing to actually pull off – the surface detail (Speed of XP gain, etc) is relatively easy, but the fundamentals are difficult to shift. Or am I totally wrong?

Brian Knox: The great thing about TERA is that it provides some excellent elements to build from–the game has all the elements of a great MMO. The fundamentals won’t need to shift in a significant way; much of the localization or “culturalisation” will have to do with the game’s story and the depth of experiences that players will have. The community’s input is very important to us, so we’ll be running focus tests and betas to gain feedback from Western audiences. We want to to be sure we’re on the right track to giving Western MMO gamers what they want from a next-generation MMO.

RPS: Why decide to start with TERA?

Brian Knox: We chose TERA because its groundbreaking combat system will appeal to a wider audience, and the level of influence the players will have over the game world is unprecedented. The building blocks of a great MMO are all there, and the refinements we’ll add will only enhance an already-great game.

RPS: And which attributes do you think will most have to be tweaked for the western audience?

Brian Knox: Much of our tweaking and refinement will focus on the story, on providing the highest quality writing and a culturally relevant narrative within the broader game. MMOs offer a new and interactive way to tell stories, and so far, most MMOs haven’t scratched the surface of the kinds of effects that players’ actions can have on the game itself. TERA won’t simply offer monsters to hack to death and complex dungeons to navigate–players’ actions will affect the world in much more significant ways.

RPS: What is your analysis of the current state of the MMO? I think many people feel as if we’ve been at an impasse for a couple of years. What’s the core direction?

Brian Knox: The impasse isn’t necessarily on the part of the games themselves–players have gotten used to certain experiences from MMOs, and are starting to ask “what next?”

MMO storytelling shouldn’t be limited to purchasing the next expansion that takes you where the designers want you to go; the designers and the players are part of a larger “conversation,” if you will, and we envision TERA offering a different kind of narrative experience that fills this need.

Additionally, MMOs need to be more accessible in order to remain viable. TERA’s groundbreaking combat system is designed to appeal to a broader audience–the kind of intense, engaging action-based combat players usually only see in action RPG games. This has the potential to introduce MMOs to those who may have stayed away in the past, and offer players used to console games an accessible MMO experience.

RPS: What are the qualities of the games you’re looking to translate? Do you have a checklist of qualities, or is it some other X-factor?

Brian Knox: Fundamentally, we believe that great game experiences and stories can be universal. This is what En Masse does: we start with a quality game, and allow our writers and producers to use their vast experiences to adapt and refine the game, making it culturally relevant, and attractive to Western audiences. The universal appeal lies in the original product; the refinements help ensure success. There’s no checklist per se; rather, we saw in TERA the opportunity to tell the story we want to tell and fill what we see as a major need within the MMO community.

While we’re very focused on TERA, we are building a multi-dimensional organization. En Masse’s strengths could easily be applied to games developed in either the East or West, as indicated by the franchises this group has worked on in the past. We haven’t signed our next project yet, but we have our eyes open for the next big opportunity.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

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27 Comments »

  1. Internet Friend says:

    even with all those words, I’m not sure that man said a single thing.

    • DrazharLn says:

      Amem to that. It looks like that guy fundamentally fails to understand what the audience here wants. I can only talk for myself, but I don’t want 2000 words of absolutely contentless marketing drivel.

      How is the combat ground breaking?
      How do you plan on changing the story?
      What previous projects are you talking about?

      That guy has completely failed to use this brilliant marketing opportunity granted to him by the Hivemind, I would not employ him as a spokesman.

    • Internet Friend says:

      Actually, come to think of it, the message here seems to be:
      “We have an ace team of MMO experts to bring this game to the west!”
      “But y’know, all we really had to do was spruce up the writing a bit. It was basically already done.”
      I wonder what all those dudes are doing all day.

    • DrazharLn says:

      Collecting paychecks?

    • geldonyetich says:

      To nitpick, I did find one thing he said to be auspicious of their true direciton:
      “We chose TERA because its groundbreaking combat system will appeal to a wider audience”

      As if the MMORPG market didn’t have enough appealing to a wider audience going on right now.

      Experience acknowledged, these guys are nonetheless off to a bad start with me.

  2. Mike says:

    That is a fantastic list of names to be working on one company. But I think it’ll take more than localisation to bring these MMOs across to the West, no? Even if they choose them carefully, there’s still a gulf to cross.

    Oh, and you should do a comic-book-style Origin Story for each of the RPS clan. Replete with trading cards.

    • l1ddl3monkey says:

      I see the list of names as less of a “fantastic” and more of a “there must be a shitload of cash to be made out of this”.

  3. CMaster says:

    Wow, way to not actually answer any questions other than “mostly we’re just rewriting the story”.

    Anyone know anything about TERA and able to give a quick summary of why we should care?

  4. Jim Rossignol says:

    As I understand it TERA is action RPGish, so there’s lots of hack and slash, also dodging.

    • CMaster says:

      Actiony in Diablo style clicking things until they die, with a few action skills?
      Or actiony as in Fable style 3rd person fighter + skills actiony?Edit: Based on the second or so of actual gameplay footage from the trailer on the offical site, it looks an aweful lot like WoW et al in gameplay. Except all player characters are wearing very, very skimpy bikinis

    • user@example.com says:

      Ooh, even the men?

      So is there a lifetime sub for this, or do I have to subscribe monthly?

  5. Gnarl says:

    Hmmm, guessing here, but Gillen, Walker, Meer and Rossignol for the jobs, in order obviously.

    And for behind the disguises in the picture, Meer, Rossignol, Gillen (a particularly fine job there) and Walker, from left to right.

    Oh, and interesting idea and good luck to these fine localisation gents.

  6. Bob says:

    Another bloke from Arenanet, is any of the original lot left lol

  7. Premium User Badge

    Sagan says:

    I instantly liked TERA when the website didn’t start off with a barely clad women. The trailer proved me wrong.

    Seriously, she is gyrating her hips to cast a spell? That is just sexist.

    Also focus groups make for boring results, so it is unlikely that I would play their games anyway.

    • Stromko says:

      It does make one wonder. World of Warcraft redefined success for an MMO, and probably has some of the least fetishised female characters on the market.

      Could just be a coincidence, but I could see reasons why those two details (success & respectable female AVs) could correlate. It’s hard to take a game seriously when there’s tits and ass everywhere, and it’s hard not to feel like a creep when you’re really into a game where there’s tits and ass everywhere.

      Of course, a lot of people are going to give a click-through to check out an MMO that advertises with lots and lots of T&A, trouble is they’re just not going to play it very long. It’s really just false advertising anyway– if MMOs were advertised honestly, SecondLife ads would be full of (often furry / transgendered) T&A, while regular MMOs would just be a bunch of colored (green, purple, gold, etc) words next to numbers that are perpetually rising.

    • snv says:

      Seriously, she is gyrating her hips to cast a spell? That is just sexist.
      Actually thats quite plausible i think.
      Scantly clad women gyrating their hips is very strong magic indeed.

  8. MartinNr5 says:

    This guy is channeling Mark Rein; talks a lot but says absolutely nothing.

    I fail to see how this game will make any impact at all.

  9. Magic H8 Ball says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    even with all those words, I’m not sure that man said a single thing.

    Well, to give him some credit, he didn’t use “immersive” even once.

    I find the whole idea odd and pointless, it’s not like there is a giant chasm between east and west when it comes to the way they make MMOs. Not after WoW at least.

    The only difference seems to be that all females in eastern MMOs need to wear miniskirts, with panty-shots quickly becoming the industry standard.

  10. utharda says:

    I too would like to play your game featuring groundbreaking action panty shots, endless click combat with no variety whatsoever, and button spam activatable item fest pvp. If it could also have hours and hours of mind numbing solo xp grinding in the middle levels, and very little purpose for grouping, that would be optimal.

    Wait, no I already played Aion.

    There really is a huge difference between eastern mmo’s that have come west, and wow going east. WoW is a pretty trivial game overall, I found it bland and fairly boring after about 9 months, but… Lineage I/II FFXI and AION were among the worst gaming experiences I’ve ever had.

  11. the wiseass says:

    As the Mythbusters have proven, you can polish a piece of turd but in the end it still stays a piece of turd…

  12. Web Cole says:

    Alec was a hop’s farmer?

  13. Lemon scented apocalypse says:

    Has anyone seen how asian-awesome the trailer is on the TERRA site? They really do have some imaginative creature designers in that part of the world.
    Though to be honest i couldent shake the nagging feeling that trailers lie.

  14. K.Boogle says:

    Isn’t this TERRA thing actually Lineage3? Remember when they stole the Lin3 code and ran off? This is what they’ve done with it.

    Remember [url=http://www.l2ouro.com/blog/lancamento-do-lineage-3-previsto-para-2011/]these[/url] pictures? Here’s one in particular:

    http://www.l2ouro.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/1212500952-lineage3_11.jpg

    And now a shot from Tera’s concept art:

    http://download.tera-online.com/uploadV1/art/476661253775400.jpg

    And also shown in this video at 0:45 :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZQNS5gpPG0

    This is the game made with stolen Lineage3 code. Bluehole is the studio they made after they left NCsoft. Apparently, the team that was working on Lin3 had one of their staff fired by NCsoft, and not wanting to deal with NCsoft’s appalling management anymore, they up and left. Together with what code they could grab. I’m surprised they are actually going to be working with NCsoft’s employees to localise this.

  15. kyrieee says:

    Whyyyyyyyyy do they keep putting out shit like this
    It has to stop soon

  16. Hybrid says:

    MMO? Yawn…

  17. Magic H8 Ball says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    I too would like to play your game featuring groundbreaking action panty shots, endless click combat with no variety whatsoever, and button spam activatable item fest pvp. If it could also have hours and hours of mind numbing solo xp grinding in the middle levels, and very little purpose for grouping, that would be optimal.

    Dforget about instances and tank/buff/dps class selection.

    Except the groundbreaking panty shots, how is that any different from WoW? I fail to see the difference between XP grinding and gear grinding, by the way. Grind is grind.