E3 2009: The Five: Heroes of Telara
What's this about? Trion World Network brings you a massively-multiplayer online fantasy world that you've seen a dozen times before. No one ever went broke serving the boring palate of the average gamer, but Trion hopes that it can distinguish itself with new ways to interact with the world in Heroes of Telara.
1. The developers promise that you will feel like a hero. Quests are less likely to be about gathering 10 squirrel tails and more likely to ask you to put out fires, slay giant monsters, and stop squads of villains. All that matters for Trion is that you feel heroic, and that the world responds to you accordingly. Anyone who helps complete a quest -- no matter how small their task -- will get this reward.
2. Part of the plan is what Trion calls dynamic quests. Quests will be computer-generated and based on world conditions. Failure to save a town from a monster means that the town will need to be rebuilt, presumably so monsters can attack it again in the future. I'm not sure that "dynamic" is the word Trion is looking for, since the quests will repeat and the world has a default state. But it's a neat idea.
3. Trion is billing the game as massively social, because the gaming world needed another term. There is a single player server, so you will never be separated from friends and acquaintances. With one world, Telara may be closer to EVE Online than World of Warcraft, but some form of instancing will keep things organized. The point is to make it easy to grab friends and go. No word on if or how Telara will take advantage of new social media.
4. The erasure of class restrictions is another nod toward social gaming. Your character can assume any of the base classes at any time. So if your new party needs a mage, you turn into a mage and go forth. If a new party member has a higher-level mage, you can then convert to a fighter or rogue. Each base class has a number of subclasses you can discover, too. This makes it possible to see everything that Telara has to offer, without always starting from scratch.
5. No loading screens either. The world is portrayed as one seamless map. You can see far into the distance and anticipate how the conditions will change as you move from fields to caves to deserts. It's a small thing, but it should contribute to your immersion into Trion's new world full of new lore.
The Crispy Forecast: The highways of gaming are littered with the detritus of failed big-budget MMOs. Heroes of Telara looks more Guild Wars sized to have a better chance of succeeding without challenging World of Warcraft. But there are still too many open questions about what limits will be imposed on players. If I can do and see everything, will I ever really feel like part of a team? And if there's no team, am I really being massively social? You can bend and break the MMO model in a thousand different ways; Trion hopes it has chosen the right tweaks.
This preview is based on a developer-driven demo of the game at E3 2009.