Friday, August 4, 2017

Fun With MMOs: TERA

I first became aware of TERA when reports surfaced about the so-called "panty run". You know, the YouTube videos that showed a female toon half bent over, running in such a way that you could see her panties quite easily. It was designed to titillate, and meant specifically for the male gaze to a degree I'd not seen in an MMO since Age of Conan.

ALL of Age of Conan.

For the longest time, I just simply wrote off TERA because of that video and how much it disturbed me. This was an MMO I'd be embarrassed to have the mini-Reds --or my wife-- find me playing, and if I did play TERA it would be really late at night or early in the morning, like Age of Conan.

So why review TERA at all? Like I said in the previous post, if I'm going to be asked my opinion, I need it to be an honest one, not just a knee jerk reaction to what I've seen via YouTube. And the longer TERA has hung around the MMO field, the longer my curiosity has grown. How has this MMO survived out there? Is it all strictly a young male fantasy, or something about Asian MMOs that I simply don't get? You'd think that if the male fantasy angle were the thing, then Age of Conan wouldn't be on life support. And I'll freely admit that I don't watch anime (at least anime newer than the original Speed Racer and Star Blazers), so there's likely a cultural component I'm missing.

So I decided that the only way to understand TERA was to actually get into the game, so I downloaded TERA, made sure it was late at night, and clicked "play".

The original TERA box cover artwork.
Because of the En Masse logo, this was
for North America consumption.
From Wikipedia.

TERA was developed by Bluehole Studios (now Bluehole Inc.), a South Korean video game company, and was published by NHN (South Korea), En Mass Entertainment (NA), and Gameforge (EU). It was released in South Korea in January 2011, which technically makes it older than Rift, but was released in North America and Europe in May 2012.

Unlike some other MMOs released at that time (Rift, GW2, and SWTOR), I don't recall TERA making a pitch to be the WoW killer that other development studios apparently dreamed of being. If anything, it was lumped into the same pile that Aion and other Asian MMOs occupied, and as a WoW player it really didn't attract my interest at all.** I knew next to nothing about the world, the story, and what the players were trying to accomplish outside of killing things, wearing outlandish clothing, and wielding obnoxiously gargantuan weapons. In fact, I'm still not clear on all of it, but here's what I've got so far.


Part I: Presentation and Background

TERA is an acronym which stands for The Exiled Realm of Arborea.

Based on what I've been able to glean from the game and the TERA Wikipedia, the world of Arborea was created by two Titans, Shara and Arun, who dreamed the world into existence. In TERA, the Titans aren't really the Greek type; if anything, they take the concept of dreaming the world into existence from the Indian deity Vishnu, but that's about it. The "exiled" part comes into play as a reference to Shara and Arun fleeing a previous realm and deciding to start over with a new world.***

After a period of who knows how long --during which the world of Arborea was formed and populated-- Argons invaded from another realm and eventually took over one of the four continents of Arborea, making it their base of operations. This is closer to the WoW Burning Legion or Horde as the Big Bad than the Middle-earth version of Melkor and his disruption of the Song, or even the WoW Old Gods (as the Old Gods were already on Azeroth when the Titans arrived).
Well now, THAT symbol just to the
left of center looks familiar.

The storyline in the introduction doesn't really go into this cosmology very much, which is closer to the sort of backstory you'd get in a movie than a video game. You get a "the world was created by Arun and Shara dreaming it into existence, and a great World Tree grew from purity on an island. People came to study the World Tree and hid the island from existence. But Evil forces invaded."

At that point, you get a few more basics:
  • The (more or less) world government is the Valkyon Federation (no other playable factions).
  • There's an order of scholars called the Mysterium, which is fairly independent.
  • Velika is the main seat of government.
  • There are quite a few races, but no single dominant race (such as Men in Middle-earth).
This all sounds pretty straightforward, but I occasionally saw references to the gods and other wars, which made me feel like I was missing out on some pretty important pieces of the TERA universe. Considering your character is an adult when you start playing, you'd figure that they'd have a better grasp on cosmology by now.

Again, thanks to the TERA Wikipedia, I was able to piece together that the original gods were dreamed into existence by Arun and Shara --these gods are closer to what we might find in both our mythologies as Titans and Olympian Gods-- and these gods were the creators of many of the fine details in Arborea.**** Like the Greek/Roman gods, these gods were able to marry and sire children --other gods-- and like any extended family they fell to squabbling. What eventually happened was called the Divine War and many gods were killed because of it. At the end, many gods died and their power diminished.

There are a lot of influences --both name and plotline-- from across a variety of mythologies (such as the god Balder as an echo of the Norse god Baldr). However, this explains the variety of races and how they kinda-sorta fit together into the Valkyon Federation.

As a player, you enter into a world that has some incursions going on, but in general is in a state similar to that of vanilla WoW or SWTOR, but with only a single faction to play.


Part II: Character Creation

Okay, how many people skipped the first part and jumped right into this one? Given TERA's reputation, I'd expect this number to be larger than zero. But much to my surprise, character creation in TERA is, well, not as detailed as you'd expect.

When you first login, you're requested to pick a server. For some strange reason, the "recommended" server is a PvP one, to which I laughed and said "Um, no." I picked one of the PvE servers and was then whooshed away (literally, a screencap doesn't do it justice) and presented with this screen:

I thought TERA had bright colors and
amazing (uplifting) scenery. This
feels like you've been wading through
the Barrow Downs or Duskwood.

Obviously, without any characters there's not a lot going on, but the music is definitely epic***** and you're encouraged to try the new Valkyrie class.

When you attempt to create a character, you get a more conventional screen like this one:
It seems that the game defaults a "New
Character" to the Valkyrie selection.
And yes, that is supposedly a Valkyrie.
No, her name is not Brunhilde.
And yes, the first thing I noticed was the amount of skin showing.

But right behind it was the gargantuan size of the weapons. If there's one truism in the game, it's that all the weapons are the same size, but only really fit the Baraka as they're much larger than the rest of the races of Arborea.

And the really tiny races such as the Elin look positively ridiculous next to the weaponry:
Okay, more on the Elin later. (Much more.)
As you can tell from these two slides, the male and female toons are covered much differently.
Same class and race...

...different starting costume.
With the exception of the Castanic males, the male toons are more thoroughly covered. However, you can tweak the starter outfit a bit in the options.
I didn't say it was always better, only that you can tweak it.

While you can change the face and the costume, there's not much else you can tweak. It's pretty much WoW's character selection screen, with a few more facial options. To be honest, a comparison with Blizzard isn't too far off the mark, given that male toons --Human males especially-- tend to have the oversized musculature in the limbs, and especially the arms and shoulders. And like WoW, the High Elf males (and to a lesser extent Castanic males) are slim, trim, and definitely have delicate facial features. Yes, the male Blood Elf jokes could fit in quite nicely with the male High Elf on TERA.
"I think I'll just sit here and
work on my ironic hipster look."
"Like hell you will. Get your ass up!"

I spent a few minutes playing around with presets and checking out the costumes, and especially on the female side you have to pick your poison. I ended up selecting a female High Elf Berserker, and the best clothed option to start with still had an exposed bikini bottom. In a strange case of WTF, the female casters had more clothing/coverage on them than the female melee players.

If you're looking for a toon that looks like you and you're not of Western European descent, you're out of luck. You can't change the skin tone, the body shape, or anything other than the face and some tattoos. Given that you can choose your toon's starting outfit, I began to suspect that fashion and sex appeal have a larger role to play here than on other MMOs.

Finishing the character creation process, you are returned to the character selection screen, which suddenly makes a lot more sense:
Doesn't matter whether they're
walking or strutting, they're making
a helluva entrance.
This is one item that I would absolutely love to see implemented in other MMOs. Your stable of toons walking/strutting through a landscape, all while an epic soundtrack is playing. And when you actually click on a toon and then hit "Play", this happens:
Again, something that pulls the player into the game. A simple thing, but it works. When I first saw it, I said "Woah. Why couldn't SWTOR do this? Or WoW, for that matter?"

Now, here are the two toons I created. One female High Elf Berserker:
Not a bad outfit, until you realize that she
is bare from the navel to the upper thighs.
I guess that's a Bikini Bottom +5 of Deflection
(sorry, D&D joke).

And one male Human Archer:
Believe it or not, that was the most
"exposed" costume option for a male archer.

Time to enter Arborea, and see what TERA has to offer.


Part III: Welcome to Arborea

As before with Rift, I'll try to be vague so as not to introduce spoilers.

Given that there's only one faction in TERA, I knew that there would be fewer starting zones than what I'm used to, but I was surprised to find that there was only one starting zone in the game. The only MMO I'd played that had only one starting zone was Age of Conan, and Tortage was designed to get you to L20, roughly where you'd be if you finished a starting zone plus a low level zone in most other MMOs. TERA is more like other MMOs in that their starting zone will get you to around L12 or so, while introducing you to the basics of the game and the story.

While waiting to enter the starting zone for the first time, TERA put keyboard layout on screen to assist me in finding my way around the keyboard. Great idea, but the load was so quick that I had to learn the old fashioned way: by entering into the keyboard mapping window to find things.
At least I got a screenshot.
The starting zone is introduced as an island isolated from the rest of Arborea (see Part I), and you can't leave the starting zone until you finish the storyline. And that storyline is fairly linear, with very few side quests. The quests that do exist are of the chain variety: you complete the first part to access the second part, and this continues until you get about 4-6 parts in and then the quest is complete.

But while you'd expect that TERA's intro storyline would be sexed up or something, it is very generic and straightforward. There's also a touch of both a military and a parental element to the story, which is pretty much the opposite of what you'd expect from a story about a Berserker wearing a bikini bottom#. As an example, there's one part to the intro storyline where you spend part of a day playing with a little girl and her stuffed animal; this wouldn't be that odd if it weren't for the fact that a) you're carrying an enormous weapon strapped to your back and b) if you're playing a female toon your body isn't exactly covered.
A drill sergeant would kick your ass if you
"stood" at attention like that.
While I won't give away any of the details to the story, things don't go well on the island and the mystical tree, and were it not for your heroics and the arrival of support from the Valkyon Federation, things would have gone very bad. In the end, you're recruited into the Valkyon Federation with the intent to go undercover, even though your heroics would ordinarily merit a lot of recognition.
Angst is had.

As the intro story concludes it provides a hook for an overarching personal story, yet your character is enough in the dark that I still have a lot of questions as to what is going on. It's pretty much where I was at when I first started playing WoW and was trying to make heads or tails of the Blood Elf intro and low level zones. I kept wondering just what the Scourge were, and why on earth were all these undead about. The major difference between WoW and TERA from an intro story line, however, is that you can go to WoW's website and find tons and tons of backstory to the point where you're drowning in it. TERA's website has barely a smidge of what Wrath Era WoW had, and while you'd expect there to be less lore at TERA's website --since the Warcraft franchise has been around forever-- TERA has been around for several years and should have more backstory readily available.


Part IV: Exploring Arborea

Again, I'll try to be vague here so as not to give away much of the story.

As a new recruit to the Valkyon Federation, you are flown via Pegasus to main city of Velika, and then are supposed to report into the Vanguard office. You're then given a dressing down by the commander, given your marching orders, and then sent on to your first assignment in the first low level zone. Before you have to leave, however, you can spend time wandering around Velika, which is a beautiful city. Of course, it's also where people hang out and duel, chat, and do normal MMO things.
Through the Stargate! Whoops, wrong franchise.

Welcome to Velika, City of Wheels
and obligatory fantasyland metropolis.

Unlike other regular MMOs, TERA is very much a linear experience. I have found afterward that the linearity to quests is actually a design decision, which not only includes introducing the starter zone island as the new intro zone but removal of the story quests from one entire portion of the low level zone, the Fey Forest. You can show up and wander around in that area to try to find NPCs with side quests, as they are still present, but you can't help but notice that there was an interesting story that was removed. In an ironic twist, while the Fey Forest kept their side quests, the other parts of the low level zone dropped their side quests. Again, design decision to streamline the questing experience.

There is one compensation for the linearity of the main questline, and that's the so-called Vanguard Quests. These quests are event quests tailored for your level. If you do three in a day you get a nice bonus of money, XP, and/or gear, and if you do 15 in a week you get a larger bonus of the same. The Vanguard Quests keep you either at level or slightly above level while working your way through the zone. I'm not sure how this will work at higher levels, but it works at lower levels.

The linearity to TERA is also exposed by the lack of being able to wander all over the map. If you're used to looking at an MMO region and saying "I'm going to just wander over to the northeast today", there's no way to simply point your toon in a NE direction and start going. the zones in TERA are very much limited by virtual walls that confine you and push you in the direction the devs believe the story should go. It's kind of like Nar Shadda (SWTOR) or Moria (LOTRO) or Felwood (WoW), but pretty much everywhere##. What makes it feel worse is that you have a pop up map on screen that show the locations of everything by way of the pathways it takes to get from one place to the other. No shortcuts, you have to take the path.

That said, the visuals throughout Arborea are amazing.
No, it's not Darnassus.

Statue of a goddess in Velika.

Another statue in Velika.

Coming in for a landing.

One item I found very interesting was that the enemies in Arborea aren't afraid to move around the battlefield, retreat, and then lunge back in to strike. This takes some getting used to, as some enemies in other MMOs tend to be fairly static, but this is more true to form to TERA's combat design, which is more of a Wildstar free flowing action based (or what I'd call gamepad based) combat system. For a non-console game player such as myself, this has actually been the hardest part of playing TERA. Outside of Neverwinter, I'm not used to having an MMO where you use keys to move around the world and use the mouse to attack. I'm sure you could customize your keymappings to mimic a traditional MMO, but I don't think I want to try because of the risk of unintended side effects.

And a final note that you don't need to train in any of the crafting skills, you just go ahead and try them out. That, my friends, is a breath of fresh air to an MMO crafting system that frequently limits you to just a profession or three and you just have to live with it.
Harvesting a node...

...and yay, I did it! (Yes, each toon gives
a "woo hoo!" emote for this.)


Part V: Perceptions of Arborea

I remember when Brandi Chastain celebrated after the US Women's National Team won the 1999 Women's World Cup in a penalty kick shootout:

That reaction spawned a bit of controversy from prudish people who hollered "OMG A SPORTS BRA!!" but had no problems what women wear in beach volleyball matches.

"Hey, that's a vital piece of uniform equipment!"
said the purveyors of double standards.
Playing TERA is a bit like that.

It's hard to get riled up about how uniforms look in WoW or Rift when you've got MMOs like TERA around. My female Berserker is currently wearing "armor" that consists of a leather skirt so skimpy that if you saw it on a Roman Centurion you'd think you were watching a scene from Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I.###

And it's not just the NPCs and the players who have skimpy outfits, the baddies have them too.
A pair of Devas in the low level zone.
Yes, that was underboob at the level
that would get you on Njessi's Fashion
Wall of Shame.

After having leveled a female High Elf, I realized that I had to at least play some other female toons through the intro zone just to get a feel for whether they were different than the one I took through the entire low level zone. So I created a Human Sorcerer and a Castanic Valkyrie --no, they don't look like the mythological Norse warrior-- and got myself to Velika on each of them. I can say with quite a bit of confidence that the female High Elf is the most classically feminine of the lot, giant axe or no. While that may not be saying much, it really does have an impact in how you perceive the toon you're playing.
Human, Human, High Elf, and High Elf.

For example, when I was playing around with the outfits you can purchase in the cash shop, I spied a row of buttons that you can click and see how your toon looks performing different tasks while wearing the various cosmetic outfits. It sounded like a great idea, until I selected "walk" on my High Elf Berserker and watched a ridiculous amount of breast bounce.#### I have since discovered that the High Elves seem to have the worst bounce of the lot, while Humans and Castanics are, well, more normal.

I've since come to the conclusion that focusing on ridiculous armor and oversexed toons is missing the point about TERA. I'm not writing all this off as "Asian MMO style", but I do think that TERA's design goals are not the same as what we find in a more standard Western MMO. Here's what I think are TERA's primary goals:

  • Play a game that has a focus on fashion, not realism. To a certain extent, the game itself doesn't matter as much as presenting fashion options in the game's context. The developers know that the gear, particularly the female toon gear like high heels, make absolutely no sense. And that, to them, is a good thing.

From the normal... the "you're kidding, right?"... the ridiculous.

And males have their share of fashion statements
too, like this one that looks like WWE
wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage.

...and a beach swimsuit.
Um, nice.... shorts there.

  • Play a game that is overt in presenting male and female toons as a (primarily) male perception of an ideal. Yes, I'm aware that some women think of the male bodybuilder type as an ideal#####, but the TERA designers went for the classic male gaze look for both sexes, emphasizing masculinity on the (non-High Elf) male toons and femininity on the female toons. Even the walk/run the toons perform while out in the world exaggerates the femininity of the female High Elves by having their arms up high, running like they're trying to avoid stepping in mud rather than as a soldier on a deadly mission+. The standing still activity is the same way, as the High Elf female toons spend time brushing off imaginary specks of dirt from their costumes.

    And yes, the effeminate male High Elf trope is still a thing, in spite of the best attempts of Orlando Bloom and Hugo Weaving.
  • Play a game that re-imagines WoW from an Asian perspective. I say that not because of the "invasion from outsiders" trope, but the low level area I've gone through hit a lot of the same lines that you get playing through WoW's Alliance low level zones. There's an area that looks remarkably like Westfall and has NPCs that say things like "while the army is away, who is going to protect the breadbasket of the Federation?" There's also a zone like Darkshore where cultists and Devas (think succubus/incubus with a bit of a WoW-esque Satyr background) run rampant, and a zone similar to Wetlands (complete with mini-dragons).

    That's not to mean that TERA is WoW, but that TERA takes WoW's experience and puts their own twist on it. The combat system more closely resembles a console game rather than the traditional MMO, the crafting system is more wide open, and most importantly there is only one playable faction. Perhaps that says more about how WoW has influenced game design, but TERA does have a lot of nods in WoW's direction.
  • Play a game that gets you up and running quickly. Unlike games with a ton of options during player creation, TERA doesn't bother with that. It allows for some basic customization, but not much beyond that. TERA doesn't perform a gigantic info dump on the story, but rather shoves you right into things and you have to figure it out along the way. WoW does do a similar thing, but the intro narrations make no sense to a new player, and it essentially pushes newbies into the WoW website to find out more about the game. TERA is far more minimalist in its info on both the website and in the intro, with a "trust me" attitude that implies the story is not very important to the game.
  • The game emphasizes end-game PvP and Raid content. This is kind of a no-brainer given that EQ and WoW pretty much popularized the "end game is the true beginning of the game" philosophy, but TERA makes no apologies for this in their loading screens and help section. At the end of the low level zone, I'm about halfway to the level cap and I have to think that leveling won't exactly slow down its current pace, which means to me that they're trying to get people to level cap as quickly as possible.
TERA's focus on the metagame --the common thread behind the bullet points-- is important to understanding its appeal. People who like fashion and outrageous weaponry, an MMO easy to play and emphasizes end game, and an MMO that has characters "easy on the eyes" are going to want to play TERA. Bluehole knows its audience --for example, the classes added to the game after launch are all female-only-- and gives them what they want.
One of the bank areas in Velika.
Yes, that is a SWAT baseball cap on the
toon's head (located lower right).

Finally, I have to mention the Elin.

The Elin are a race of ancient nature spirits who take the form of furry-esque prepubescent girls. And if you can't see where this is going, I'd like to sell you some beachfront property in North Dakota.
Yeah, sure, this is a good idea. /sarcasm.
Yes, I get the Elin's backstory. And yes, I get that in the context of the game, that explanation makes sense. However, with a game such as TERA that is so obsessed with fashion and sex appeal that breaks the fourth wall, trying to wave away the Elin as merely following the game world context is being willfully ignorant, especially when you consider that Bluehole censored the outfits for Elin toons in the European and North American releases. When the development studio has to censor the costumes for an entire species in a video game --and this is an industry that has games with plenty of gratuitous violence, domestic violence, sex, and whatnot-- then you know you've got problems.

And believe me, the problems aren't prudishness here. The studio likely won't come out and say it, but they don't want their game to become a haven for predators++.

Here's the root of the issue: if you want to create ancient nature spirits with an innocent appearance, why use a design that basically invites these comparisons? Wildstar has done their version of nature spirits, the Aurin, and while they have a furry-esque look they also look like small adults. Hell, you don't even have to have the nature creatures look human, as WoW did with the Tauren. You could even have the nature spirits look treelike or plantlike, similar to Middle-earth's Ents (or Marvel's Groot).
An Aurin from Wildstar. Same level of furry, but
definitely not in the same category as the Elin.

But no, Bluehole went with the design the Elin have now, and they have to live with the impact of that choice.


Part VI: Miscellaneous Items

One thing you can't say is that TERA doesn't give female toons the short shrift in terms of gameplay opportunities. Judging on what I've observed in Gen Chat as well as online, all of the "new" classes to play in TERA --Valkyrie, Gunner, Brawler, Ninja, and Reaper-- are all female only. However, I don't think of this as necessarily a message of female empowerment but an acknowledgement that in TERA people want to play female toons more than male toons. Given what I've seen in the zones I've visited, I believe that the male toon is very much a rarity in Arborea.

Bluehole is bringing TERA to the PS4 and XBox One. From a technical standpoint this is completely doable, but I do wonder what the reception would be from console gamers. Then again, Star Trek Online, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Marvel Heroes have all made the jump, so I can see this happening. (Never gonna happen to LOTRO or WoW or SWTOR, however; too much of a difference between the console handheld and those keyboard-centric MMOs.)

There were plenty of times when I was fighting an enemy and I had flashbacks to watching the mini-Reds playing Breath of the Wild. The combat reminded me a lot of the latest Zelda release, but once combat ended I looked at my toon and that similarity vanished.

If I didn't know that TERA was an MMO before playing, getting random guild invites minutes into playing a new character was a constant reminder. In this respect, Rift does a superior job by automatically joining a new toon into a generic guild on character creation as a way to demonstrate the advantages of being in a guild. But for me, the unintended bonus is that I don't get random guild invites on Rift that I'd ordinarily have to block.

In conducting some research into where TERA came from, I came across references to Bluehole getting in legal trouble with NCSoft by poaching developers that had been working on Lineage III and subsequently incorporating elements of Lineage III into TERA. As is traditional with legal issues, the dispute was settled out of court.


Part VII: Final Thoughts

Looking back on this review, I realized I put in a ton of graphics, so I apologize for that. At the same time, I felt that I needed to present screenshots to back up my opinions about TERA.

TERA, like Rift, is an MMO that is not attached to an existing property, but that's about as far as the metagame similarities go. TERA veers off into a direction where the story isn't very important to the game as much as other factors (fashion, the big sexy, and big ass weapons). TERA is also very unapologetic in its design, and its fans love the game for that.

But at the same time, TERA feels, well, unpolished in spots. The quests feel like you're missing some pieces here and there, and occasionally a side quest chain will just end without a conclusion. The story also feels somewhat incomplete, that Bluehole spent not enough time at world building but instead favored fights and costuming.

Still, that wouldn't be necessarily a deal breaker for me. What does bother me, however, is how limited the options are to play a character the way you want to play. Game controls and combat aside, you're set pretty much on rails when creating a toon, and unless you want to spend extra money you're stuck with a default level of sexy costume for female toons. Even if you do spend some cash to add a costume, you're very limited in the level of non-sexy outfits to wear.

Given all that, it's not much of a surprise to say that maybe I'll play TERA from time to time, but it's not a game I want to hang around with a lot.

And that's not even considering the problem of the Elin.

If I were more on the fence about playing TERA, the Elin alone would be a deal breaker. Hell, the Elin are likely a deal breaker in a lot more situations than that.

That a sizable number of the TERA community seem far more upset that the Elin's costumes are even censored at all in the US and Europe is for me even creepier than the Elin themselves. If Bluehole does bring TERA to consoles this year, then I think the Elin will get a wee bit more unwelcome visibility than Bluehole expects.

*Yes, I don't wander away from the tried and true very much.

**Outside of the obvious part.

***Without the TERA Game Guide, I'd be totally lost on the world's cosmology.

****Like the different peoples within Arborea. Yeah, kind of important detail there.

*****Inon Zur was the original composer for the soundtrack, but since I can't seem to find the real name of this piece I don't know for certain. But it really does sound like something he'd write: intense, melodic, and memorable.

#Thankfully, you can ditch that bikini bottom fairly quickly. No, not THAT way! Sheesh, keep your mind out of the gutter!

##So far. I make no claims about whether things open up in the mid and upper level areas.

###You know, THAT scene. The one with Madeline Kahn selecting "escorts".

####I'm not going to delve deeper into this on this post, but I've seen differing theories as to why this sort of thing happens, from sexism to technical issues. The thing is, boob physics like this isn't limited to video games but can be found in anime too, so that implies to me that this sort of breast bounce is by design, not a technical issue. That said, the strut/walk that your characters make on the loading screen barely show any breast bounce at all, so I think that this specific example of breast bounce shows the game engine at its worst.

#####When my wife and I first watched The Scorpion King, my wife drooled over The Rock whenever he was on-screen. And she wasn't bothering to hide it, either, as his first appearance met with an "OOOOO!!" I don't think I ever got an "OOOOO!!" out of her, so I took notice.

+Of course, they're all in high heels, so from that perspective I guess the arms up high while running makes sense.

++I could almost see the Dateline NBC special episode of "To Catch a Predator" now.

EtA: Added a comma to fix a grammatical error.


  1. Is Final Fantasy XIV on your list? If I'm recalling correctly what I've read about that game, it also has a race of small, innocent-looking, child-like, somewhat furry-like folk -- the Lalafell. I'd be interested to see what you think about how the Lalafell compare to the Elin -- are they a better-done example of a similar idea, about the same, or worse?

    1. Kamalia, I didn't have FF XIV on the list when I was collecting MMOs to check out as it isn't truly a F2P game. (Budget, you know.) However, since FF XIV is now F2P up to L35, I think I should put it on the list.

      My biggest gripe about the Elin isn't that they exist, but that they're designed in such a way that they basically are predator bait. If Bluehole had simply not given the Elin anything resembling the oversexed outfits and/or tweaked the design, I'd not have any problems at all.

      When the oldest mini-Red and I talked about the game and I had it up, she wasn't thrilled about the oversexed outfits for female toons or the overt feminine behavior of the same, but when she saw the Elin --and in particular how the Elin toons were dressed-- she was disturbed.

    2. That totally makes sense. I'm certainly disturbed, too, by the screenshots you've shown.

  2. Definitely a new contender for longest post ever! :P

    The Lazy Peon did a levelling series on TERA, which I found quite amusing. But yeah, basically it came down to: everything looks crazy (at one point he was given a duck mount that had a rainbow afro and wore shoes and sunglasses), the combat is fun, but he thought the quests were a drag.

    1. The quests aren't really different than any other MMO quests, but there doesn't seem to be a big attempt to make them very coherent. Perhaps part of that is translation issues, but there really seem to be pieces missing to the story. Maybe the devs could get away with this with a property such as Star Wars, but definitely not with a completely new world/environment.

    2. On second thought, I don't think the devs would get away with this with Star Wars or LotR. It'd turn out more like the Star Wars Christmas Special than Knights of the Fallen Empire.

  3. A good review. However, it feels like you spent a disproportionate amount of time on the aesthetics of TERA, and not as much on the moment-to-moment gameplay. I think TERA does some really interesting and innovate things in moment-to-moment gameplay. It's sort of a shame that it's overshadowed by the aesthetics.

    In particular, I strongly recommend you play a Lancer. TERA's Lancer class remains one of the standout classes in any MMO I've played. The perfect, ideal tank class.

    Finally, about the Elin thing, at this point I've just come to accept it as a cultural difference between East Asian cultures and the West. Here is a really good article talking about it in a different context:

    1. I was intentionally examining the game from more of an aesthetics viewpoint, as I felt that unless there was something colossally bad (such as poor lag in combat) or something totally unworkable that the game was likely to be fine by now. And yes, the combat is perfectly fine, fast, and fun. I found out that even an Archer can handle getting hit in close in combat, which surprised me given the typical glass cannon of their design in other MMOs.

      And thanks for that article; it helps out a lot about the divide, because it explains how in Japan there are two distinct concepts that are covered by a single one in Europe and the Western Hemisphere. I don't think I'll comment more on that due to the sensitive nature of the topic, but I also think that Bluehole had an opportunity to not create these problems in the first place yet chose to develop the Elin this way regardless. For me, it's a Chevy Nova type of lesson for a corporation.

      (Back in the 60s/70s, GM tried to sell the Chevy Nova in Latin America, and couldn't understand why it wasn't selling. It never occurred to GM that Nova = New Star in Greek also meant Nova = No va = "It doesn't go" in Spanish.)