TERA’s Santa Clause: Slightly Creepier Than Yours

Father Tonka visits the TERA servers once a year, to hand out presents, provide photo opportunites, and apparently, to watch the world burn.

I have come for your souls…

If demonic Santa’s are not your thing, you can buy some Snowbelle wraps for your virtual girlfriend, or give an expensive lottery box (~$25) to your buddy and get a Santa suit kickback.

Joking and price aside, I do like the incentive to give gifts to friends. That must be great fun for those with an in game guild or just some buddies playing along. I just wish it were a little cheaper, I’d send a little something to the person who helped me out with some things in game a few weeks ago.

My First TERA Disappoint

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

TERA is doing their Fall Carnival/Halloween Event right now, and it looks pretty cool. A daily mission where you break up the “Banquet of Blood” – a Vampire party. A group instance of defending a candy mound from a ridiculously evil “Its the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!” And, for those who are into that sort of thing, even a Halloween Costume Party!

I guess the answer is N.
I guess the answer is N.

The problem is the location. Flight points in TERA are unlocked not by having to visit the Flight Master, but by your character level, something I have applauded as a positive change to the usual. But it also means that I can’t get to the event locations, because I’m of a high enough level. I could run there, the old fashion way, having the nifty founder’s mount with a good bit of speed on it. But that’s not the only restriction…

If this event is anything like the last two (and a brief jaunt through the official forums confirms it is), then the daily carnival quests I described above are limited to high level characters – as in, my 20-something can’t even get the quest. No quest means no candy, no candy means no goodies from the Halloween vendor. And while it used to be that the gameworld itself was rigged to drop you some stuff no matter where you were, that no longer seems to be the case, so I literally have no way to get candy. None.

Back to leveling with you peon! Only those who have maxed level get to participate in the fun!

Which seems odd from a game design standpoint, but okay. Just means that instead of logging into TERA everyday to get candy (I really wanted the pet ghost, Boo), I will just do my usual leveling night here and there and keep logging into other games. Lost opportunity guys, lost opportunity.

Cute little feller, ain't he?
Cute little feller, ain’t he?

I could always buy some costumes from the store I guess…

…for $20?! I could almost buy my own horse for that.

Nevermind. I am disappoint.

The Noobie’s Guide to TERA

So if my post yesterday got you curious and you’d like to take a few tentative steps into the world of TERA, I wanted to write a few words of wisdom for you today.

1) Picking a Race

If you want to play a male character and want to avoid awkward clothing choices, you are fine everywhere except Castanics and a few of the High Elf light armor pieces. If you want to play a female, the choices are a bit trickier.

Amani is hands down the easiest, because they are the most “inhuman” and thus even the most revealing pieces are really just showing off what amounts to stone. But if that’s not your cup of tea, you still have some options. If you plan on going with a light armor class (Sorcerer, Priest, Mystic), the High Elf is probably your best bet. While the character models have overly large uh, assets, the armor choices tend to be more modest and classy – longer hem lengths and so on. If you want a medium armor class, humans are probably your best bet. Despite some really egregiously bad fashion outfits, a goodly number of them (especially endgame) are rather awesome.


If you want a heavy armor class…well, as annoying as they can be, the Elin are probably your best bet here. Every other female heavy armor set for the other classes is some variation on the chainmail bikini. That’s not to say you can’t find exceptions, or make your own.

TERA has a fantastic template/remodel system in place. You can visit an NPC and for a fee move the appearance of one armor set or weapon to another. Even better, if you don’t possess one you like, there is a template shop that sells the appearance of almost every set you could wear for a reasonable price. So you should be able to find something. And even the most scantily clad race class combo usually has some fun outfits that aren’t over the top. Even the Castanic light armor babes:


The TD;DR here is that Humans are the fantasy standard, Castanics are your emo/hipsters, Amani/Baraka are your BAMF‘s, Popori/Elin are your cute/furry, and High Elfs are your high fashion/high society types. Their outfits and emotes will reflect these trends.

2) Picking a Class

Pick what you want, but please please please be aware of the difficulty ratings on the class selection screen. They are there for a reason. Please know that there is no class you cannot have fun with and no class you cannot master. None of this is rocket science. But some classes do require a little more supervision and a little more time to get the hang of.

For example, the Warrior class spends a lot of time on the move in the philosophy of “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” – you are not going to stand in front of a mob and just pound on him, unlike other MMO’s Warrior classes. If you are curious, TERA provides a complete list of each classes skills on their Game Guide on the main website (for example, here is the one on the Warrior). These guides are great and really give you some insight into how the class plays.

If you are a tank, your choices are Lancer (traditional tank) or Warrior (evasion tank). If you want to heal, you can go Priest (traditional healer) or Mystic. The Mystic is very different in that while it has direct heals, it also has some interesting mechanics. For example, it can drop healing orbs on the battlefield for its teammates to pick up as needed. For example a good mystic teammate might drop an orb right behind the mob so their warrior tank can snag on as he does his evasion roll. This “fire and forget” style healing is matched with some “fire and forget” dps in the form of pets, so you have some great potential – but at the cost of a more difficult class to play.

On the DPS front, you have your ranged options – Sorcerer and Archer, and your melee options – Berserker and Slayer. The Warrior also doubles as a solid melee DPS choice, if giant two handed weapons are not your thing.

3) The Starter Island

The Isle of Dawn has been streamlined from the games launch. Gone is the confusing flashback opening where you play a level 30 version of yourself on the initial invasion of the island, in fact it looks like that has been written out of the narrative altogether. I mention it only because if you are an explorer type, you will notice that about half the starter island is depopulated. There are tents, gathering hubs, and even clearly marked quest items on the ground but its a ghost town.

Um..guys?  Hello?!  ...Everyone is lost but me.
Um..guys? Hello?! …Everyone is lost but me.

If you just follow the quests and narrative given now though, you won’t even encounter those ghost areas. The island will take only an hour or so to complete, and you will end up in the capital city at level 11 with clear instructions on where to head next. None of the mobs on the starter island will aggro on you. They will pop the alert icon (an exclamation mark, and they will turn and face) which will get you prepped for mob life in the main game, but none of them will then aggro after that alert phase and start attacking you first. (ETA: Except maybe the boss treeman you fight early on, I can’t remember at the moment).

The island doesn’t take long to move around, and you will get a free mount at level 11. But if you want, you can spend $5 on Amazon and get the Quick Start Bundle, which has some nice one use buff potions and a mount that you can use right away. Also you may want to check and see what goodies you have been given. Hit the Alt or Esc keys and then the box looking icon to the right. There you can open the ingame store or check item claim. I had a bunch of items in there I didn’t know about when I started and I don’t know if they were gifts because I had an account before the F2P transition or what. Its worth a looksy either way.

The storyline of the game is explained in cutscenes that occur at the beginning and end of the island time. But if you want the short version – this island has sprung up for some unknown reason and is being tamed and investigated. For some it might hold clues to the real conflict at hand – the Argons. It is against this invasion that the races of TERA have united (mostly) and you have been conscripted into. But before taking on the enemy on the frontlines to the west, unblooded recruits like you are being tested by troubles that have popped up on the home front. Explore the island and its mysteries, report to the capital, and then get your next assignment – uncovering the source of the unrest and fey attacks on the forests north of the capital and its centerpiece, Lumbertown. Is there a link between the island, these attacks, and the Argon invasion? That’s for you and your friends to uncover.

4) Gathering and Crafting

If you are into crafting, start gathering now. You won’t really be able to craft until you hit the capital, but its good to start now. Even if you don’t craft, start gathering. Gathering actually grants you one of three random buffs that increases you speed, stamina, or healing. And these stack multiple times. In other words, TERA actually compensates you for the time to take to stop and gather resources. Wild idea, I know, and I love it.

You can gather everything and craft everything. There is no limit on learned skills, the only limit is the time you wish to put into crafting. Thank you TERA!

5) Into the Big Bad World

Before you leave the capital, make sure you check in with the inventory expansion guy. He will give you the first one for free, and the second one is only 15 silver, which will be very affordable even just off the starter island.

Once you are in the big bad world, be aware that mobs will come fast and hard, and its entirely possible in dodging and moving you will aggro a second one. Keep moving and use those class abilities to their fullest. You should have several healing potions from starting gift crates, use them early and often. If you don’t have any, craft or buy some. Bombs are nice as well, use them to supplement your DPS or AOE attacks.

Play around with those skill chains and don’t be afraid to switch them up based on the tactics of the mobs you encounter.

And always remember to use campfires and bonfires to get the full stamina boost for your character – why would you not go into combat with a 20%+ buff to your HP and MP? And while you are there, don’t forget to throw a charm or two into the fire for those additional buffs as well.

And finally, if you need anything, give me a yell. I’m not on every night, but I’m happy to help if I am on. Since I tend to play a variety of characters, just shoot me an email (see the About Me page) or a tweet (@Harbinger_Zero) with your character name and my awesome phone (which is always with me) will buzz with a notification. And I will track you down and help you in any way I can!

Good luck and good hunting.

Overcoming Objectification

So when I was decided to do the TERA open beta, the last thing on my mind was character models. But as it turned out, that was what was on a lot of other people’s minds, in particular when combined with the open beta of Diablo III and its own related character model eyebrow raising.


Having read a good ten or so articles commenting on the subject, I’d like to weigh in on a few points that others have made, and then give my own two cents, with a bit of background on myself. Which will ultimately be a great lead in to the 20 days of “getting-to-know-you blogging” that I’ve decided to do.


First up, Donne over at Red Raiders decides that this is serious business, and goes so far as to pull out the APA’s definition:


The American Psychological Association (APA) defines sexualization as occurring under one or more of these four conditions:

  • “a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;
  • “a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or
  • “sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.”


So, here’s the problem. None of these can be applied to anyone’s characters. Without exception, in regards to the first one, a character will be valued for their skills and gameplay at every place in the game. Characters can be beautiful from the head up as well – look at this screenshot of my character from TERA, who I happened to think is beautiful:



If you agree that there is beauty on this model, or even *your* model, from the head up, then guess what? You’ve also just eliminated the second point from contention because the physical attractiveness has nothing to do with being sexy.   The third one is not applicable to a computer character, and in fact it is physically impossible to use the character in that capacity. The last point is also moot, since nothing is being imposed on a person. So, by definition, there is no sexualization going on in any MMO or even any video game, period. That’s not to say people still don’t have opinions on this, but it does mean there is no legal or ethical grounds for getting companies to change.


Second, Spinks, who I would like to give a nice H/T to for providing a succinct list of the greatest hits of this conversation, would appear to be in line with what Donne is saying above. I will note the line that gave me a chuckle though:


Note: Fanservice has minimal artistic integrity, by definition.


I love how we used the TV Tropes humor website for evidence of why these characters can not be considered in any way artistic. On those grounds, I think I will start advising my college friends to use Cracked as a reference for their next history paper.


And then we have Zubon, over at Kill Ten Rats, who, like many others, has delivered great humor to me by failing to provide adequate equivalency in his argument about false equivalency. This goes back to problems that many people have with creating valid analogies, by the way. Zubon argues (on something that is something of an old hobby horse I take it), that male models are not being implemented with the same ideal of sexiness that female models are, and blames this on the skewed sampling of an audience that leaves out a portion of the very population that would give the best input on how to make that a level playing field.  All while arguing that a level playing field would drive everyone away by making them intensely uncomfortable, citing the excellent LMFAO video as an example. There’s just a teensy problem with that though, and that is the basic information that said video has 230 million hits and has helped catapult the song into a #1 spot, while generating revenue that would make and MMO developer jealous.  The bigger problem beyond that teensy one is that the LMFAO video gives you no insight into the equivalency argument since it is played for laughs. Unless you think that TERA/Diablo III/whoever else is developing their character models for laughs.


Do you see now the false equivalency being used to sell the false equivalency argument? If so, you understand why I found the article humorous.


Then of course we have Flosch giving us all some great advice that I hardily endorse: get over it.



TL;DR Final Comments:  Or Why Should I Just Get Over It?


I grew up on the beach. I spent a lot of time in the sand, and I’ve seen all body types and all swimsuit types. And the end result is that I just don’t care. You see, after awhile, you get past the shock value of the g-string or the old dude in the speedo, and when that happens, far from objectifying the person, you start to see everything else about them.  The way to get past the objectification of women and an excessive reliance on sexuality in place of relational attributes and connections is not to shelter people.  Its to expose them to it so that they can normalize their reaction to it.


The end result is that those of us who are beach bums that spend time in the sand and surf, half naked with each other, tend to not give a rip.


I do understand the concerns over objectifying women, but I’m not sure what evidence can be presented to take this beyond the realm of personal fears. By the arguments I’ve seen in the video game context, I and everyone else who grew up on those beautiful beaches should be raving sex fiends, along with everyone who grew up in a school without a dress code.


And perhaps the biggest point and perspective I can provide is this: the viewpoints and issues our society has around sexuality are are so disjointed and fragmented, I’m not sure any one coherent ethics of sexuality could be agreed upon in general, and without that, you are never going to have leverage or impetus for a design philosophy that does not include sexual appeal in the arsenal.

TERA Online Review

My “Review” of TERA Online (or at least, its Open Beta).  Yes, I use the quote marks as usual.  I am not sure one can review an MMO based on one weekend of play, so please take my comments with a box of salt.

However, you should know that this commentary comes with no previous bias.  I have not been following TERA at all, and I didn’t make the connection that this was the game with all the commercials from that MMA guy until after the fact.  I just got an email with an invitation to the open beta, and I am always down for that.  Its also worth noting that the political system is supposedly a big part of this game, but it was not open for the beta and I know next to nothing about it, so it is not covered here at all.  So without further ado, in the usual format, my “review”.

The character models tend to be oversexed, but its also hard to deny the level of detail involved here, or just how beautiful the models are.

The Good

A New Spin on Old Ideas:  The first thing I have to say is that I was thrilled with the class selection.  Having a healing class that was pet driven (Mystic) and whose heals actually geographically deployed powerups was a lot of fun for a guy who is used to just sending in his pet to attack and then nuking the hell out of one target.  I also spent about half my time playing around with the Warrior class to see how melee really worked.  It brought back some fond memories of the Devil May Cry series (particularly when I gave the Slayer class a whirl).   I enjoyed that the warrior class tended to be a giant hat tip to Musashi, with a spiritual tint to the abilities and removal from its usual role of “tank.”   There is definitely a skill and learning curve to be tended too, particularly for melee classes.   Solo play with the Mystic was for the most part a breeze, with the warrior it was for the most part a challenge.  Eventually you will get the hang of dodging and ducking – but here is the great part – you may master the basic moves, but the opponents keep changing, and so do their tactics.  So each new quest and quest area will also bring with it renewed attention to how you play your class.  The skill chain you set up that worked great with this guy may not be useful at all for that guy.  Whack-a-mole this game is not!  Which leads me too…

Action Combat:  I can see where the idea that this is the first true action MMO could come from.  All of your gameplay and strategy are forced to be fluid and ultimately three dimensional.  Healing takes on a whole new challenge when you have to be actively viewing your intended ally.  Many of the skills have components that are location based in a whole new way.  Its like growing up playing wargames on squares and hexes and then diving into the world of miniatures for the first time, where the only measure of distance is with a ruler and relative to the units actual location.  Same thing here.  There is the usual cone and AOE and so on, but the battle no long involves orienting oneself around a North-South pole of tank and mob.  Standing still will get you dead in a hurry.  Skills are important, but skill chains (which are conveniently activated player customizable) generate interesting tactics of their own.    And then there are the mobs, which come in big, medium, and small variety.  Its not unusual to have to face one or two normal sized mobs with a squad of smaller mobs in tow, both of which may be using different strategies.   This is where group combat really shines, allowing groups to tackle challenges and quests in a way that really does make the game better in a way beyond artificially tweaking the xp curve with, say, the size of the group.

Player friendly.  I talked with one person over the weekend, another MMO player, who was surprised I was even playing TERA.  The words “Korean grind-fest” were used.  If that is the reputation or rumor about TERA, it is unfounded.  The leveling time I encountered was part with most other  games I’ve played, like TOR and WoW and so on.  It may feel longer since it involves doing something other than mindlessly hitting the same five buttons in order over and over while chatting with your friends about the latest Jennifer Love Hewiit show over VOIP.  Call me crazy, but that’s a good thing in my book.   I am a casual MMO gamer in the sense of time invested, not in the sense that I want all my games to play out like the latest Zynga Facebook monstrosity.  Beyond that – lets talk about other things, like the fact that you not only have the usual “port home” skill on a timer, but a common mob drob is a “safe haven scroll” that drops you back at the nearest quest hub, and stacks in your inventory.  Or that flight points are unlocked by level and storyline, and not by whether or not you slogged cross-continent to get there.  Or that you get your first mount, with a 140% speed increase, for free, when you finish the introductory island (level 10-12).  Or that crafting and harvesting are not limited artificially but open to whatever you want to pursue.  Or that you can mark quest mobs on your map and on their nameplate so you can find them with no fuss, even that one boss guy you just got vague directions too.  Or that you not only have healing potions, but regeneration motes that drop from mobs, healing you and cutting down on down time between combats.  Or that campfires can be used (or build anywhere) that raise your stamina – boosting your basic levels of HP and MP up to 30% – and that those fires can have buffs added to them to just about every other statistic.  And that is above and beyond the usual doubling rate for “Rest XP.”  Quite honestly, I’m not sure what more they could have done to make the game *more* convenient.

Beautiful.  Yes, I’ll talk more about the overly sexy toons in a nother section.  But in general, the graphics on TERA are easily the best I’ve ever seen in an MMO.  And they are optimized to the hilt.  I can’t run TOR on anything other than minimal settings, and even then my PvP FPS is about 8.  Yet I have a computer that should be running that game easily.   Meanwhile, in TERA, my computer which doesn’t clear the recommended specs, can run it with great settings and amazing detail.    I played even in the middle of some dense player formations and never slowed down once.

Attention to detail is one of TERA's most admirable successes. Note that my female character is riding side saddle!

The Bad

Keyboard vs. Controller.   While I played just fine on a keyboard, coming up with some pretty interesting ways to chain skills and use my class to the fullest, I still can’t see how you would play a character at max level, with some 20+ unique skills to draw on, without a controller.  And that alone may be the only obstacle a lot of MMO players will find that turns them away.   Granted, most of us have a 360 or PS3 also floating in our house, and the items to connect the controller to our PC run a measly $10 (or sometimes less), the idea of playing with a controller may just seem to be foreign.  In fact, the whole action combat system itself calls for a change in they way people think about and approach MMO’s.    That may be the ultimate death knell of this game, or what resigns it to a niche location.   And let me say that while I understand this, it does not in fact bother me in the least.  My first MMO, EQOA (May It Rest In Peace) I played with both a keyboard *and* a controller…at the same time!   Its one of the few times I have utilized macros to the hilt, chaining warnings of adds and low health with roots and aggro decreases with glee.  In fact, while this will be a barrier to the general populace of MMO gaming, its got me wondering in truth if its not just what the doctor ordered for the genre.

Kill Stealing is Back!  Without a traditional targeting system, you run into some unique problems.  Like kill-stealing, which used to be dead.  Several times on the weekend I tossed off a basic ranged attack, only to see someone come blurring into the mob in a melee charge.   And then I knew I could walk away.  Because no matter what happened next, the AI was going to react (intelligently I might add) to the threat in front of it…and I was going to get the credit for that kill.   Tagging of the mob is active, but its hard to tell who is sizing up a battle when you don’t see a toon 20m away staring down said mob because they have them targeted.   Also, because the aggro system works a bit differently than Yellow/Red (with a rage mechanic and creatures that actively react to your presence, even when you are not acting threatening), this can happen entirely by accident.  And that’s not even taking into account what happens when you love playing a Sorcerer but can’t aim your fireballs worth a flying poo and you end up tagging some mob you had no intention of crossing wands with.  You can tell TERA has tried to address this somewhat because all the skill ranges are lower than the typical 30m you find in other MMO’s.  My standard magic missile attack for my Mystic had a range of about 18m, and that was my longest.    But I’m not sure that’s a solid solution to the problem.  I think it might be time to rethink the tagging process and how that works, at least for TERA.

The Ugly

The Character Models.  Yes, they are way too sexy.  You know things are bad when you breathe a sigh of relief that at least the outfits of the race that looks like 10 year old girls is *mostly* decent, if  a bit too much purple leopard print and 1960’s era Playboy Bunny outfits can be considered decent.  So in this case, decent is more relative to the fact that the opening outfit for female Elf/Castanic leather armor wearers looks like something out of a Wicked Weasel swimwear catalog (And no, I’m not going to link to it, and you should be fully prepared for what assails you should you decide to go looking for it, lol).   And it doesn’t get noticeably better when you get to metal armor either, with half the outfits looking like a full-lingerie version of the Everlast Chastity Belt from Men in Tights.   And speaking of men in tights…the boys be showing some skin too.  I couldn’t find a single male Elven/Castanic outfit that wasn’t bear chested.  Usually with a fur coat or some bondage equipment thrown on for good measure.   Stick in a few pandas to appeal to the WoW crowd, and you’re off!

Variety is the Spice of Life.  And you won’t find any in your gear or outfits.  When you create a character you get to preview how they would look in four different outfits of the armor type you wear (the first of the four is the actual starting outfit), and as far as I can tell from looking around at all the characters in the starting island and capital city – that may be the only four armor models available period.   And of course you are stuck with the one weapon your class is allowed to wield.  God forbid an Archer should have a sword or dagger for close in work, or a priest should ever wield a scepter instead of a staff.  But then, this tends to be an industry standard these days, so its more of a gripe than a deal breaker.  Now there is one notable exception to this…

While the storyline isn't as deep as, say TOR's, it is more in depth, and presented in greater detail, than a standard MMO like Rift's is. Not the conversation level camera lock in here to highlight that this is a storyline quest.

The Tilt

Glyphs and Crystals.  Even if you don’t have a lot of variety in your looks or available weapons, thanks to these two little gems (pun intended) you have a staggering amount of control over the statistics and ways you can influence your skill and weapons respectively.  Glyphs are like a more flexible and precise AA system – allowing you to add duration or power or crits or even extending the abilities of a particular skill.   Crystals have lots of very precise statistical benefits you can plug (and unplug at will) into your gear.  Not only can you put in something to boost your crit, you can have a standard boost, or sacrifice some utility for a bigger boost – say, a higher crit percentage than the normal crystal boost if it only works when your opponent is knocked down.  A straight up MP regen boost – or a bigger one limited to blows you land when behind your target?  These are great little ways to boost your ability to build and plan your character, without tying you down into one particular skill tree or even a handful of particular builds.

I had fun.  Ultimately, this is my biggest tilt in favor of the game.  I came into it knowing nothing other than it was an eastern import that was an “action mmo” and may require me to use a controller.   I ended up playing it almost exclusively over the weekend, despite the opening of the test server once again for WoT, and despite having a night when I could have played TOR instead.  I had fun to the point where I have TERA bookmarked on Amazon and am seriously considering purchasing it and paying the sub fee.   I can’t think of any recommendation greater than that to give you.


If you don’t think you will enjoy TERA, skip it…its pretty obvious what it is, and if that doesn’t appeal to you, don’t bother.  If however, it sounds interesting to you, if you want something a little more involved than the standard MMO, something a little different, then this may just be the shot of caffeine you’ve been looking for to wake up your MMO life.