Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Adam Gershowitz, the Combat and Careers strike team lead over at EA Mythic’s Warhammer Online. During the interview, we talked about the classes in Warhammer (known as Careers) and what went into the overall design process in bringing them to life.
The Warhammer Online careers system has gone through an evolution since the game was announced, moving from an extremely complex system when the game was first announced, to the complex and interesting but ultimately more understandable system that we have today and will see at launch.
There are 24 careers in total: four for each of the six races in the game. This in and of itself is a unique decision. More traditional MMOs like World of Warcraft don’t tie their classes to their races. A Paladin, for example, is a Paladin regardless of what race he / she may belong to. Not that there’s anything wrong with that system, but Warhammer takes careers in the opposite direction. If you’re a Bright Wizard, you’re Empire. If you’re an Ironbreaker, you’re a Dwarf.
That isn’t to say that each of the 24 classes is completely unique. Most, if not all, of the careers have a parallel on the opposing side (Order and Destruction). Still, each has its own personality and flavor.
“[Other MMOs] can do the whole Knight, Paladin, Rogue, Mage, format,” Gershowitz said. “When you get down to it, in Warhammer, those things do exist but they exist in a different fashion.”
The Careers in Warhammer, I was told, were designed with three major ideas in mind:
First, the game’s careers had to not only be reflective of the plethora of Warhammer universe lore, but they had to personify it.
“We have a very rich and vast IP,” he said, “we always want Careers that are Iconic and represent that Lore. That means no matter how cool the concept, if it’s not WARHAMMER, it’s not in the game.”
“This,” he continued, “is the primary reason why each Career is a unique experience, while other MMO’s can homogenize classes across multiple races, WAR follows the time honored Warhammer tradition so each Race has its own unique identity and does things its own way. For example you’ll never see a Dwarf Wizard b/c dwarfs don’t believe in sissy nancy pants magic. Nor would you ever see a Human wizard manipulating more then one type of magic, because their minds would melt and they would become gibbering pawns of the chaos gods if they tried to.”
Gibbering minds aside, the importance of roles and the ability for every player to understand what their career’s role is is the second of the three major ideas that governed the career design:
“Each Career fills a set role in a well defined RPG theme. These archetypes define the overall design of a career and how it operates. Tanks – Heavy Armor, Defensive Melee. Melee DPS – Lightly Armored High Damage Melee. Ranged DPS – Lightly armored ranged attackers, Healers – Group support specialists. As you can imagine there is a lot of room for designers to be creative within these broad archetypes but we use them to make sure that two careers of the same archetype can fulfill the same role even if they go about getting the job done differently.”
The third major idea was that there be something for everyone in the mix. They wanted to make sure that players who wanted to play the more traditional MMO characters would have the opportunity to do so, but they also wanted to make sure that there were “a number of more unique designs that are new twists on traditional roles in MMOs” so that players who wanted to could experience something new and unique.
Now that we’ve scratched the surface of the thought process behind the careers design in EA Mythic’s Warhammer Online, we can move on to talk about what that means for the game and go into more detail about the choices that were made and their impact what we will be playing when Warhammer hits shelves this fall.
For now though, if you’re interested to see just how unique Warhammer Online’s classes really are, you can check out one of our previously published Warhammer Online Class profiles: