Most MMOs out there, particularly with a fantasy setting in the RPG genre, tend to fall back on some very familiar trappings. While things have gotten a lot prettier over the years, there are still many conventions that date back to EverQuest in the way combat goes down. However, The Exiled Realm of Arborea (henceforth referred to as TERA) does things a little differently. The game's "real-time battle system" has players actively dodging attacks, making it much more dynamic than most MMOs. We sat down with Chris Lee, VP Publishing, En Masse Entertainment, to ask about how the combat system informed the marketing campaign, and particularly the MMO-FO ads.
[a]list: How did the idea for the MMO-FO campaign come about?
Chris Lee: From the very beginning we knew it was going to be a challenge to communicate—in words, videos, and otherwise—how different gameplay in TERA is from other MMOs. We knew that once people tried TERA, they would “get it” much faster, but it’s difficult to get everyone to try something new. We identified our challenge as needing to grab people by the collar and get through to them that combat in TERA was different and more fun than what they were used to. That was what we worked with our ad agency, Ayzenberg, to solve. Through that collaboration, we came up with the MMO-FO campaign, which we all felt resonated as it delivered a fun and memorable component to our overall marketing campaign for TERA. When we started talking about Bas Rutten as the embodiment of our action combat system, it felt like a natural fit. Bas has a charm and intensity that only a man with lethal fighting skills can project, and that felt like the perfect match for our game.
Bas Rutten: A true MMO-FO
[a]list: What's it been like working with the Ayzenberg Group on marketing for TERA?
Chris Lee: En Masse and Ayzenberg have had a great collaborative relationship. It really helps that our agency partners understand the audience, the competition, and the market trends as well as we do. It’s been efficient because we don’t need to explain the nuances of the MMO market and the direction of gaming culture to them. They get it because they specialize in game marketing, and they have been doing it for years.
[a]list: What's been the general focus with the advertising campaign for TERA?
Chris Lee: We have positioned TERA around its action combat system. We like to call it true action combat. And while that has been the spearhead and focus of our marketing efforts, we have supplemented that effort with information around the game’s lore, features, and endgame systems. There is a challenge in marketing a game that has literally hundreds of hours of gameplay in that you need to pick and choose which parts to feature because you can’t cover it all. However, anytime you are launching a new IP, you carry the additional task of introducing a number of aspects of the game that might be new to your audience. So it is a blessing that TERA has a distinct feature, action combat, that has allowed us to focus our efforts around a meaningful differentiator. In addition, TERA is such a beautiful game we’ve made sure to consistently deliver stellar assets that support the high production value of the game itself.
[a]list: So the real-time action is a huge focus then?
Chris Lee: The MMO industry as a whole has done little to improve an aspect of the genre that players spend more than half their time engaged in: combat. Gaming is about immersion, participation, skill, and fun—all things that TERA’s action combat system improves for MMO gamers. That is why we have chosen to focus on it.
TERA in action
[a]list: Do you believe that TERA will appeal to an audience of action gamers that might not typically be interested in MMOs?
Chris Lee: We have seen non-MMO players try TERA and jump on board. It’s easy to pick up and play even if you feel at home with a gamepad. For non-MMO gamers who like action RPGs, TERA is a great way to dive into a massive world with thousands of players and take on even bigger challenges. I love the idea that TERA might be a generation of gamers’ first MMO. But the reality is that TERA raises their expectations for what MMO combat should be.
[a]list: Talk to me about the importance of the storyline to the experience in TERA.
Chris Lee: TERA is an epic adventure that spans a variety of settings, characters, and enemies. The players’ situation changes dramatically from one moment to the next as they play through the game. We have always felt it was important to have a narrative throughout the game to carry the player along as well as to create shared experiences of success. Our writing team at En Masse has worked hand in hand with our development partners in Seoul to help shape the storyline in TERA to provide guidance throughout the adventure.
[a]list: How have the experiences gone so far in the beta testing for TERA?
Chris Lee: The closed beta tests have been an exciting time for us. After playing on limited-access internal test servers, it has been wonderful to jump into a vibrant environment full of unique and curious players. It has been a great opportunity for us to work out the last kinks in our processes, test our follow-through on our value of great support, and gather data and community feedback on what players like and want to see more of. It is the most exhilarating time for a new MMO, especially when you’ve got such a supportive community—which I’m really proud to say TERA has. As we head toward our May 1 launch date, we’ll continue to ramp up our efforts throughout our remaining beta periods, then transition into the open beta and our head start program, which is all really exciting for us.
[a]list: Chris, thanks.
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