It’s not all that often we see PC-quality MMORPGs make it to home consoles. There’s only been a handful that have made the jump, such as Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy XIV, and The Elder Scrolls Online. Matt Denomme, senior product manager at En Masse Entertainment working on TERA, recently had some time to discuss his experience working on TERA for console and gave us insight on some of the challenges his team faced, and the opportunities that arose from their work. Plus, we got some clarity on hot-button issues like crossplay and a potential Nintendo Switch version. Without further ado, let’s jump in!
Ed McGlone of Twinfinite: Only a few MMORPGs have been able to successfully navigate from PC to consoles, notably Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV. Did the success of those games motivate the team to develop TERA for consoles, or was there something else that had a greater impact on the decision to port TERA?
Matt Denomme, Senior Product Manager at En Masse Entertainment: From the first time we hooked a controller up to a test build, we knew TERA would be an excellent fit for consoles. So in many ways, it was the success of TERA and it’s action-focused MMORPG design that drove us to make the leap, though we won’t deny that we spent some time watching and playing other titles during the development process.
Twinfinite: What was the biggest challenge in bringing TERA to consoles? Were there any major differences between the development of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One versions of the game?
Denomme: TERA was designed very much as a PC game. While it supports gamepads on PC, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to interact with the full breadth of systems and interfaces in the PC version with a gamepad. Re-designing all of TERA’s systems and interfaces with a gamepad in mind was an enormous task and a significant design challenge for the team at Bluehole since it was their first time working on a game for consoles.
Twinfinite: Was PC crossplay with either the Xbox One or PS4 (we’re aware those two having crossplay together isn’t possible right now) something that the team ever considered? Was the exclusion based on not wanting to dramatically change the landscape of long-established servers?
Denomme: There was some talk when we first started, but it was quickly discarded when we made a commitment to producing the best possible TERA console experience. This led us to focus our development efforts on a specific version of the game, and generate console-specific features like a fully redesigned user interface with a radial menu and smart inventory to ease usability.
Twinfinite: Would a Nintendo Switch version of TERA be possible in theory or are there too many limitations, technical or otherwise? The first hardcore MMORPG to reach the console could be quite popular
Denomme: …In theory, it may be possible, and there is a definite opportunity there, but we don’t have plans for a Switch version at this time.
Twinfinite: TERA has been around for some years now, and is one of a handful of MMORPGs to have true, sustained, long-lasting success. However, over time, the older leveling and questing systems become dated in some games. Did you need to alter anything in-game to prepare for the influx of brand new level 1 players entering the game?
Denomme: We’d already made quite a few changes to the leveling curve and how we present content to new players, but in the run-up to our console release, the team took a hard look at what happens when players encounter the main TERA plot. To streamline the process (and ease congestion in early zones), we re-wrote and re-routed a few quests to get folks through the early levels and into high-threat, high-reward content as fast as possible.
In fact, we liked the changes so much, we rolled them into the PC version as well!
Twinfinite: Will there be any impact on updates / new content for the PC version of TERA with the addition of PS4 and Xbox One? What is the next set of content that console players can expect?
Denomme: The console versions of the game are developed by a separate team, so their development generally will not impact the PC version. For now, the PC version has the most current content, while the console version plays a bit of catch-up. Ultimately, our goal is to bring the two versions closer together, though adapting new systems from PC to the consoles in a way that makes sense and is intuitive to players sometimes makes that challenging.
For us, the choice is always quality over quantity, and even though we would love to have all versions of the game completely in sync, every platform has its own unique features, audience, and challenges, and we need to approach each one individually.
In the console version specifically, we’ve got a summer full of new content and events planned, so there should be no shortage of things for console players to engage with.
Twinfinite: What is the team most excited about what’s to come for TERA for both PC and consoles?
Denomme: Look to the skies! There’s a lot more going on overhead than you think.