A Visit with Bluehole Developer Phantom

A Visit with Bluehole Developer Phantom

As part of our continuing series of behind-the-scenes interviews with members of our development groups, we talked to Dohoon Han—who goes by the nickname “Phantom”—from Bluehole’s development team, about battle design for TERA. Phantom is in charge of moderating the balance of new content that relates to combat. “That includes the various classes, battlegrounds, gear, and all the potions and other consumables that take fighting to the level of True Action Combat.” 

In his role as a game developer, Phantom has accrued quite a bit of experience, across multiple disciplines. “I have worked on new dungeons, battlegrounds, class balance, new gear…virtually everything that is connected to combat,” he explained. “I believe that this has not only helped me ‘level up’ as a developer, but it has put me in a position where I can give the players what they really want. They’ve given us a lot of support over the years, and this is the best way I know how to repay that support.” 

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Phantom knows a lot about how the fans feel about TERA—because he started off as a fan. “Before I joined Bluehole as an intern, I was a loyal TERA player,” he told us. “It was my first 3D MMORPG. I mostly played tank classes—perfectly blocking enemies’ attacks, waiting for my opening for a counterattack…that’s so much fun! My favorite was the berserker. In fact, my current main is an elin berserker. If you’re going to be a berserker, you have to be an elin!” Phantom says he’s leveled several characters up to 70 since the level cap update, and his goal is to get all of his characters to the new max level. 

His first assignment at Bluehole was to develop a new dungeon—specifically, Dreadspire, which gave Phantom a chance to do exactly what he’d hoped to do: “I was able to develop and adapt all these existing dungeon bosses for a new environment...to really improve their fun factor.” He says that while his team lead worked on challenges 9 and 10, he was tasked with developing challenges 1–8. “Our biggest challenge in adapting the bosses was to make them work in a more arena-like setting, rather than their original dungeon. There are a lot of terrain considerations that players tend not to think about—and we wanted to make sure the players never even noticed.” 

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After working on Dreadspire, Phantom shifted gears to help develop class balance patches—adjusting combat balance for new content. “I’m currently working on new applications utilizing physical and magical stats, plus new ideas for maximizing each class’s individual concept.” 

We were curious what the process is like for developing battle animations. “We create animations for each class differently,” Phantom explained. The process starts with examining the core concept of the class, which provides him and the other developers guidelines and inspiration for how to animate new combat maneuvers. “I actually watch a lot of martial arts videos and gameplay videos…and then I practice the moves and poses in the break room,” he said. “It can be embarrassing...but it really helps.” 

Phantom’s work often involves a significant amount of collaboration. “I work with a lot of other teams—especially the Art or Program teams, to make changes to classes; the Economic Balance team to create new gear; and the Content team to provide data for balancing new monsters.” 

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So what career advice would Phantom give to anyone looking to follow in his footsteps? “The biggest step on the way to becoming a game designer is to cultivate the ability to analyze details while playing games. If you can grasp a game’s damage-calculation formula, and understand ‘fun factor’ and how to read skill diagrams, you’re well on your way. Expand your perspective, and see games from the developer’s perspective.” 

  • What is your favorite word? 
    “Golden Balance.” 
  • What is your least favorite word? 
    “Broken Balance.” 
  •  What sound or noise do you love? 
    The sound of sizzling meat.
  • What sound or noise do you hate? 
    When there’s a problem in the Dev team room, an alarm sounds all day. 
    Now, I hum along and continue working. “Fire…!!!!”
  • What is your favorite curse word? 
    I don’t use curse words. I’m a good Phantom. 12…
  • What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? 
    If I continue working as a developer, I want to develop GvG Siege War. 
    If I had to change careers, I’d want to become a YouTuber and play many games. I want to create content to discuss new games from a game developer’s perspective, not a game player’s perspective.
  • What was the first video game you ever fell in love with? 
    Tekken from Namco Bandai was my favorite. I used to play the game often with my friends at the video arcade when I was a child. I still remember Hwoarang’s powerful kicks.
    I played the game a lot to be able to pull off those combo kicks. That’s the earliest one I can recall.