TERA exclusive concept art dev diary

Editor’s Note: I’ve already made public my affection for TERA’s real-time action gameplay and museum-worthy art design, but there’s also a third layer to the ambitious game yet to be covered. In the following GamesBeat-exclusive developer diary, David Noonan gives an intimate look into what it takes to craft the story to a 500-hour-long game originating from Korea. I hope you enjoy the read and the exclusive art publisher En Masse Entertainment has provided! ~Sebastian

TERA: A Writer’s Labor of Love

by David Noonan, Writing Team Manager

[vb_gallery id=426658]

From VentureBeat
Get faster turnaround on creative, more testing, smarter improvements and better results. Learn how to apply agile marketing to your team at VB’s Agile Marketing Roadshow in SF.

Like most gigs in this industry, writing for a massively multiplayer online game (MMO) like TERA is a labor of love. And that timeworn phrase sets the boundaries for my work. When I sit down at my desk each morning, fingers poised over the keyboard, I never really know whether the day will be mostly “labor” or mostly “love.”

Today is mostly labor. I spent my morning going through TERA’s 4,238 quest files, checking recent updates from my counterparts in Korea against bug fixes from our team here in Seattle. I have hundreds of little red icons, and until I click on one, I don’t know what I’m going to get. Maybe it’s just the matter of an extra space at the end of a line, or maybe it’s a completely redesigned quest line.

Click…click…click…the music in my headphones gets louder, and I desperately try to stay focused. The file management required to make a game when the team is divided by an ocean, two languages, and eight time zones is mind-boggling. It’s necessary, but make no mistake: it’s labor.

But there’s lots of love, too. One of my favorite things to do is log onto the quality assurance (QA) server late at night from a darkened room, turn the run speed up on my character, and just explore the world on fast-forward. Over countless builds and iterations, I’ve seen some amazing sights. One day I found a southern ocean autographed by the designer in hundred-mile-long initials. Way to sign your work! (No, it’s not there anymore.) Another time, we had a zone where every non-player character (NPC) had a castanic female body, but the head of another race. That was much creepier than you’d think.

I also love every groaner of a pun in a quest title. I love the character arc for Fraya, a commander you meet about halfway through the game. I love little bits of dialogue in the cinematics, like when Jelena tells the white-haired Elleon: “You look pale—even for you.” I love naming hundreds of swords, axes, and other weapons. I love all those little world-building moments.

Most of all, I love the size of TERA’s “story hole” (the space for narrative in the game). For me, every game is a story-driven RPG. I hold imaginary post-game interviews after I’ve played a console sports game. When I play Risk, I imagine the speech the president gives before he attacks Kamchatka. TERA is a chance to indulge that urge every day when I (and my coffee cup) arrive at En Masse.

For me, TERA will always be that mixture of labor and love. I try to convince myself that the two elements are separate, but every once in a while, I’ll realize that “labor” and “love” are two sides of the same coin. A few weeks ago, my daughter peered over my shoulder at TERA on my laptop. “Daddy, are you working or playing?” she asked.

Darned if I know, kiddo. Darned if I know.

If you’d like to know more about TERA, check out our massive gallery and classes breakdown. You may also be interested in our exclusive Pre-Mortem series