The latest highly anticipated, massively multiplayer online role-playing game emerging from Seoul is the fantasy epic, Tera Online: The Exiled Realm of Arborea.
Developed by a team of 180 at Bluehole Studio, Tera Online stands out from the crowded MMORPG space thanks to its use of Unreal Engine 3 technology as well as the creative force behind this original game.
Bluehole Studio was formed in March 2007 by serial entrepreneur Byung-Gyu Chang and the producer, lead game designer, lead programmer and art director of NCsoft’s Lineage II, which also used Unreal Engine technology.
“Unreal Engine 3 is an excellent engine that a large majority of our developers had experience with through previous games,” said Sung-joong Lew, lead client programmer at Bluehole Studio.
“The Unreal Engine provides essential features like rendering expression and performance, as well as a variety of high-productivity development tools. In addition, the technology’s expandability is excellent.
One of the engine’s strong points is that features implemented during the development of Unreal Tournament 3 and Gears of War 2 have been automatically applied to Unreal Engine 3, allowing developers direct access to Epic’s latest technology.”
Bluehole’s technical art director Shin-hyoung Im said his team utilised Unreal Kismet and Unreal Matinee to create the game’s opening cinematics.
“We did our best to express the feel of character skins and various materials used in real costumes by utilising features such as diffuse, normal, specular and specular power provided by the Unreal Engine’s standard phong shader,” Im added.
“We tuned up the phong shader a little bit to make it express unique colour impressions for Tera Online.”
Like many MMORPGs, Tera Online will tap into the creative power of its players. Every playable character can be completely customised to take advantage of Unreal Engine 3 visuals.
“Unreal Engine 3 allowed our technology artists to edit materials freely so that various visual looks could be produced,” said Lew.
Similar to the deep and intuitive customisation of today’s best MMORPGs, Tera Online players can select face, hair, voice, clothing, weapons, gear and other options for each race. Additional features like skin color, hair color, tattoos, accessories and other cosmetic modifications are provided through material parameter adjustments.
Unreal Engine 3’s modularisation helped Bluehole add features needed for combat elements without difficulties. Im said that the engine’s well-formed development tools allowed the team to easily leverage additional resources as well.
Bluehole said it has been able to get the most out of Unreal Engine 3 technology thanks in part to the past experience of key team members, as well as help through the Unreal Development Network (UDN) and Epic Games Korea.
While Tera Online was created over the past three years in Seoul, the game was designed for the global MMORPG market from the outset, which was one of the reasons Unreal Engine 3 was used “The Korean MMO market is very competitive,” said Harns Kim, associate producer.
“The market anticipates emerging killer titles, with a focus on not just a few new elements but the overall quality of the games. We are developing Tera Online to the level where every such need is satisfied. From the early stage of development, we’ve targeted a global market for this new flagship franchise.”
Tera Online is the latest game to watch in a growing list of top-tier MMORPGs that run on UE3 technology.
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Mark Rein is vice president of Epic Games based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Since 1992 Mark has worked on Epic's licensing and publishing deals, business development, public relations, academic relations, marketing and business operations.