Last month we asked you for questions for the makers of Warhammer Online. The tone of the response made it obvious that many readers were concerned about where the company was taking the Warhammer world. Their responses should, at least somewhat, put those of you frustrated by what you've seen so far at ease. The makers of the upcoming MMOG from Mythic have responded with detail and good humour to the insightful queries you put to them. They were also considerate enough to label their responses, so you know exactly who has answered each question. So, please, read on for the responses from Mythic's Warhammer Online team.1.) What's in for the crafters? by Opportunist (166417)
I'm a crafter at heart, in fact, I play MMORPGs to craft gear. So what do we loonies get? How do you want to avoid the two pitfalls "Making it so easy that everyone is some sort of crafter (see WoW)" and "Making it so hard that you'd rather go with the once-in-a-lifetime-drop (see DAoC)"? Can I sustain myself crafting, or is it at best a hobby for people who have too much money already? Will crafted gear be, economically, be at least on par with drop-only gear? Oh, only one question. Ok: Is being a crafter a choice that can keep you entertained and sustained by itself?
Steve Marvin, Senior Design: I hate to disappoint Slashdot readers here (I'm one myself, albeit just a lurker), and I don't think for a second that I can get away with a song and dance with you guys, either. ;-) So I'll come straight out and admit that we're dodging this question. We just aren't talking about crafting yet beyond the promise that it will be present and fun. Ask us again in six months, and we will be ready to give you some juicy details.
2.) Why not a tabletop port? by randalx (659791)
When I first heard of Warhammer Online I had a slight hope that the designers were going to create an online version of the table top game, something akin to what Wizards of the Coast did with Magic The Gathering Online. That doesn't seem to be the case. Just the same, judging by the people I've talked to, this game would be of great interest to current and former battlegamers. I'd like to know, besides the Warhammer universe, why should this game appeal to a Warhammer battlegamer?
Steve Marvin, Senior Design: Why didn't we do a straight port? Well, as Paul (Paul Barnett, our Design Manager) likes to say, it's kind of like Batman. Batman comes in a multitude of flavors, from big screen to books, cartoons to games, action figures to a million other successful (and unsuccessful) incarnations. Each modifies the base concept to suit the market in which it will be operating, so as to appeal to the current fans, but just as important, to create new fans in a medium in which there were few or none previously. With luck, the new aspect will be a big success, and those new fans will go looking for the other flavors. We really like the folks at Games Workshop (they've been fantastic to work with), and we love the Warhammer universe, and so we hope our game can help expand interest in both.
But we work in the MMO medium. More specifically, MMORPG's. That means that a dominant characteristic of the tabletop experience has already been set aside: the impersonal aspect. Tabletop Warhammer is about the control of lots of individuals at a time by a single person. MMORPG's are about lots of individuals controlling one character at a time.
A better comparison would probably be to compare us to the Warhammer Fantasy Role Playing Game. There you do carry an individual through the Warhammer universe, acquiring power, wealth and experience. The unit types found on the tabletop are recreated in WFRP careers where possible, and new but IP-consistent careers are created to fill out the expectations of a robust FRP game. Of course, WFRP doesn't let you play the "bad guys", and we do.
But even that comparison breaks down, since we aren't a paper and dice game any more than we are a miniatures game. The fact is that we have taken everything that we liked best about the IP, combined it with what we like best about MMO's, and created something we think plays to the strengths of the IP, the genre, and our own strengths as a developer, especially player versus player (PvP) combat and its larger counterpart, Realm versus Realm (RvR). At its heart, RvR online play is the obvious and perfect way to recreate Warhammer as an MMORPG. War on a grand scale, carried out on the personal level.
And coming full circle, that's what the Warhammer tabletop player will enjoy about WAR. We have been working with the folks at GW not so much to make an MMO based on Warhammer, as to translate the core concepts of Warhammer into an MMO. Not as the trappings of it, but the essence of it. Certainly we have Ironbreakers and Squigs and Warrior Priests and Bright Wizards and runes and banners and choppas and Dwarfs and Orcs and Dark Elves and the Empire and Karaz-a-Karak and thousands of other things lifted directly from the source material. But that's the easy bit. We want fans of Warhammer to recognize the kinds of choices we've made as Warhammer choices. Epic, heroic conflict. The same principles of number and mood. The sense of endless struggle against (or for!) the encroaching darkness. Perhaps most of all, the humor and the sense of fun. When you get into WAR, you will recognize it as Warhammer. We're working very hard to get that right, and we hope you'll enjoy it as much as we do.
3.)Removing the grind by Bugmaster (227959)
What are you going to do in order to prevent the repetitive grind that most MMOs are [in]famous for? How many quests in your game follow ye olde template of "kill 20 goblins and bring me their noses... but a goblin only has a 30% chance to drop a nose"?
Destin Bales, Content Director: Time commitment will always be a factor in WAR just as it is in other successful MMO's. That is because the more time you are able to put into the game, the more you'll experience and see of the world, and the more fun you will have. However, I look to three key features within WAR to make time spent online exciting rather than repetitive:
1. Realm vs Realm (RvR) Game play. Warhammer Online allows you to level your character entirely through RvR game play, just as you can through PvE, if you choose to do so. You are able to earn experience, gain access to items and gather valuable coin through this form of PvP combat. This style of play is not only unpredictable, but ever-changing. The community dictates the pace ensuring that each battle is unique from the last.
We also have four different varieties of RvR combat and each offers a unique player experience. In Skirmishes, it's a random encounter with an opponent (or group of opponents!) that leads to battle in the game world. In Battlefields, you are fighting for control of a landmark or resource for the benefit of your army. It could be just you against twenty enemies or a more even fight, depending on the importance placed on the objective at that time by each army. In Scenarios, you'll be able to jump into a "fair" fight of balanced sides (augmented by NPC's if need be). Finally, in the Campaign, you'll be taking land and sacking cities in the RvR endgame.
2. Truckloads of Carrots: Warhammer Online's unique career advancement system awards players several times per rank, rather than once every (or every other) level. Gaining unique abilities, tactics, morale options and more all occur at various times within a single rank. This means that you are never far away from earning your next new enhancement for your character. Additionally, the Tome of Knowledge serves as a game-wide scavenger hunt in which most actions you complete in game will yield results that not only can affect your character but give you further insight into the wondrous inner workings of the Warhammer world and the story of the Age of Reckoning.
3. Content Variety: WAR provides players with many different ways to have fun while growing their characters online. Some examples include community driven, area-based public quests; our deep and enticing RvR game play; solo-able quests, Tome of Knowledge entry unlocking, crafting and more. As MMO's continue to evolve, developers discover new and compelling ways to ensure players are actively having a good time. WAR is filled to the brim with not only industry staples, but new things that I guarantee you've not seen before.
The answer to the second part of the question - "How many quests in your game follow ye olde template of 'kill 20 goblins and bring me their noses... but a goblin only has a 30% chance to drop a nose'?" - is simple: None! When we present players with a quest to gather goblin noses, you'll find that every goblin with a nose on his face is willing to part with it after death. From the first day that we began defining our quest design principles, we made it a priority to avoid this type of quest in WAR altogether. Furthermore, collection style quests make up a very small portion of the quests we have to offer. Our quests are all tied closely to the ongoing war, so most have you infiltrating an enemy compound, assassinating da big boss, or capturing a strategic location wot holds beer!
4.) What makes WAR special? / Why Is It For Me? by Gerad (86818) and eldavojohn (898314)
On a site like Slashdot, a lot of us are caught up in online RPG games and console wars. I read the overview of your game on your site but--like a lot of people--I'm not sold. What's unique about Warhammer Online, other than the universe that its set in? This could be anything, really: design philosophy, new innovations in game play, new technical accomplishments. It appears to have a lot of 'war' involved in it but is there any social aspects to your online game? Is there diplomacy in Warhammer? Put slightly more bluntly, tell me why I should chose Warhammer Online over World of Warcraft.
Josh Drescher, Associate Producer: Fundamentally, Warhammer Online is about real, meaningful conflict. When we say "war is everywhere," we mean it. From the earliest portions of the game straight on through to the high-end invasion campaigns, players will have the chance to take part in robust, meaningful PvP. The options that exist on the market at the moment really treat PvP like a dangerously "extreme" element of the MMO experience and go to great lengths to make it appeal only to a limited percentage of players. Part of this is out of necessity - poorly conceived PvP can be devastatingly off-putting to new players who set one foot out into the world and get murdered on the spot by griefers. So we see some games that restrict PvP to specialized servers or to high level characters in remote areas or that force players to queue up for an hour to go and play through "safe" content that exists outside of the persistent world entirely. It's no surprise that most MMO players eschew PvP for the traditionally more well-implemented PvE experience.
So, at its core, Warhammer Online seeks to address THAT problem. Our solution is what we call Realm vs. Realm content. Unlike our noble competitors, we really want to give players a reason to go out and experience the excitement of battling real, live players without restricting them to countless replays of the same "seize the windmill" content. When you create your character, you aren't just starting a solo journey in the Warhammer world. You're joining an ARMY. And that army is engaged in an epic conflict that can (and likely WILL) bring the war directly to your front door. That grand, enormous capital city you're running around in today could be a ruined tomb tomorrow if you and your fellows do not defend it tooth and nail. To do so, you'll be given the chance to push deeper and deeper into enemy territory until you finally reach THEIR capital, at which point you'll lay siege to it and - if successful - do things that... well, Slashdot is a FAMILY FRIENDLY place, so let's just say that you'll do terrible, terrible things to the huddled, whimpering survivors of the siege.
Now, you may be wondering how we're going to turn the average PvE-loving "kill ten squirrels and collect some magic daisies" player into a wild-eyed, combat-lusting RvR fanatic. Our game is laid out in such a way that players will have the chance to jump right into the fray if they so desire, but it also offers (through specific lines of quests) a chance for more cautious players to slowly get accustomed to the added danger and excitement of facing off against something other than NPC's. Some early quests will simply ask you to enter an RvR-flagged region of the world to hunt for a specific NPC or accomplish some task. Later, you'll be asked to enter an actual contested battlefield area and contribute to your army's efforts. Eventually, you'll be asked to go out and hunt down an actual player. By that point, we're confident that players will be enjoying themselves so much that they'll be 100% ready to go out and take part in the larger-scale RvR content in Warhammer Online.
In terms of socialization, it's this larger-scale RvR content that will drive much of it. Players will find themselves needing to monitor the advancement of the enemy at all times. To be successful, you'll have to do more than plan guild-only events day after day. Players will find it necessary to communicate and cooperate constantly in order to have a chance of surviving. This is because they will find themselves pressed into defending their homes, their friends and their neighbors at any moment and when things REALLY start to hit the fan, EVERYONE has a part to play. Newer characters will be able to get together and - as a group - take on a significantly more powerful enemy and WIN. A wall of tanks outside the city gates WILL be able to halt the advance of enemy forces. The days of "über guilds" ignoring everyone else and dominating the game are over.
As a quick final note, seeing the words "diplomacy" and "Warhammer" in the same sentence brought a smile to my face. If, by "diplomacy," you mean the pillaging, desecration and slaughter of your hated foes, their homes and their belongings, then yes, it's a VERY diplomatic game. If you meant it in any other way, then no, diplomacy isn't really part of the equation.
5.) EA by llchao (969631)
What game design, content, or production decisions (if any) have been affected by the EA take-over of Mythic?
Jeff Hickman, Senior Producer: Game Design, Content, Art and Production of the game were all well underway before the acquisition took place. Since then, we have received an immense amount of feedback on the game from within EA, and are using this feedback to make the game even better. In general though, they leave us to make the game and the decisions surrounding it. They acquired Mythic for it's MMO expertise, and they are letting us apply that expertise as we think best.
Overall, the purchase of Mythic by EA this year has been a great thing for us and for WAR. Don't get me wrong, there have been bumps along the way, but these are simply growing pains as we at Mythic get used to working within the EA organization. Overall, it has been a great experience and has only lead to positive things for WAR. We have more opportunity to ensure that our production quality is as high as it can possibly be, with a level of polish unprecedented on any Mythic title. To put it simply, EA has supplied us with increased resources, and we are applying those resources to WAR to make the best MMO ever. EA has not changed the focus for WAR in any regard. It has simply enabled us to make it better.
6.) End-Game by milspec74 (472052) and Gerad (86818)
Will the end-game of Warhammer Online focus on Player vs. Player/Realm vs. Realm style play, or be aimed more at the Player vs. Environment experience? As a follow up question, how do you plan on balancing the endgame experience of casual players vs. the endgame experience of hardcores?
Jeff Hickman, Senior Producer: WAR's "end-game" (though I hate to call it that, for there really is no "end"), is a mix of PvE and RvR. The focus is primarily on RvR and the never ending struggle between the Realm of Order and Realm of Destruction, but there is definitely high end PvE content to be had by those who desire it. This PvE content is various and spread throughout the world in quests, large-group boss encounters and massive dungeons that will test the wits and skills of any player or groups of players.
The entire game actually works this way, with a mix of PvE and RvR choices and possibilities throughout the world. Of course the thing that really sets WAR apart is the RvR campaign game, so we are focusing a massive amount of production time and assets on RvR Skirmish, Battlefields, Scenarios and Campaigns. Specifically the Campaign, City Sieges and Sacking is something that we see engaging and holding our players attention for years to come. Being able to capture enemy zones and drive your enemy before you to the gates of their own capital city is going to be such a great experience! But then top that off with the actual capture, looting and pillaging of the city itself, and we have a formula for amazing amounts of long term fun.
The "casual" versus "hardcore" question comes up in regards to everything that we do within the game, and we are developing the game with accessibility and fun built in for all types of players. We are making sure that if a player only has an hour to play, then they will be able to participate in either RvR or PvE or both, and have a rewarding experience doing so. We are also ensuring that there is a deep and compelling experience for those players who desire longer play sessions or who play more often. We are applying many different types of balancing measures to help with everything from population between the realms to how a casual gamer gets access to the best items in the game. No stone is being left unturned in our efforts to make WAR fun for all.
7.) User introduced art? by RingDev (879105)
One of the most entertaining aspects of Warhammer (IMO) next to strategy, planning, and decimating our enemies is the craft and care of the miniatures. And one of the enjoyable parts of playing MMOs is the mod community, whether sanctioned or not. With DAoC there was a definite progression between Mythic and the Mod community. What started out as a non-existent link slowly became a collaboration between Mythic and the modders. Mythic introduced a tool (or information about the tool) to allow modders to implement custom GUI solutions (an idea that has since been used widely in the MMO field). Are there currently any plans to have a similar system that would allow for the introduction of player contributed art to the game? Banners, skins, assorted textures, and the like? Such a system would allow players to not only take pride in their victories, but also in their craftsmanship.
Jeff Hickman, Senior Producer: Currently we do have plans for a fully functional and modifiable User Interface that we will be coordinating with the modding community to use. Our UI will be completely customizable and able to look and feel exactly as a player may want. In regards to other types of art within the game, we do not currently have any plans to allow players to modify the in-game art (characters, world, etc...).
8.) Nay-Sayers by Zonk (12082) Despite the obvious debt that the Warcraft setting owes to Warhammer (and D&D, and Tolkien) there have been several comparisons drawn between Warhammer Online and World of Warcraft. It's obvious that any modern fantasy MMOG will have similarities to what has come before; Everquest owes a great deal to MUDs, for example. That said, how would you respond to onlookers who look at your game, look at WoW, and say that you are trying to capitalize on the success of World of Warcraft by aping many elements of Blizzard's title?
Jeff Hickman, Senior Producer: Hmm, this is always a tough question to answer, mainly because the answer is so simple that people don't like it, but here goes: Look at how long Warhammer has been around (almost 25 years), and at the art, look and feel of our game. You will find that WAR is true to the look of WARHAMMER not any other game. If some other game wants to look like WARHAMMER, then that is their prerogative. What is important to us is that WE stay true to the Warhammer look, which we have.
As for game play elements and comparisons, the MMO industry is an ever evolving place and each game grows successively off of its predecessors. Each game raises the bar of what is "standard" in an MMO and what the players will expect. WAR includes many of what players today would call "expected features" - things like overall movement control, a fully fleshed out guild system or the inclusion of crafting, just to name a few. We especially want to make sure that there is a familiarity with controls, movement and other primary functions. Really, our biggest influence was our own game "Dark Age of Camelot". If you want a taste of how RvR and general game play will feel in WAR, compare us to DAoC, not anyone else. We choose to set ourselves apart with features like our deep and compelling RvR system and our Public Quest system. These are the types of things that will make our game shine.
9.) Mac/Linux versions by BMonger (68213)
Has any thought been given to Mac OS X and/or Linux versions of the game?
There are no plans for a MAC or Linux version of the game at this time.