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BioWare Mythic
MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 09/18/08)  | Pub:Electronic Arts
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WAR: Jeff Hickman Interview Part Two - Communication, Scenarios and More

MMORPG.com Managing Editor Jon Wood sat down last week with Mythic Entertainment's Jeff Hickman to talk a little bit more about WAR. In this second part of the interview, Jeff and Jon talk about communication in-game, scenarios and more.

Jon's Question:

Have you thought about using a voice service in scenarios (and elsewhere) in the game?

Jeff's Answer:

“The answer to your question is yes,” he said, “there has been a lot of thought about it. We were walking down the road firmly about two years ago of putting voice into our game and we stepped back from that because as we started to analyze what it would mean for our game and the problems that could come from that, we actually backtracked.”

“That doesn’t mean we won’t do it,” he continued. “We do talk about it. It’s something that has a lot of interest to me, but I’m not sure if we’re ever going to do it, we’ll just have to see.” He went on to tell me not to worry, that it’s on his list of things to do.

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Jon's Question:

How are you planning to address communication issues in both scenarios and open world RvR play?

When asking the question, I referenced the Battlefield series which makes use of quick-choice orders and phrases that help in communication).

Jeff's Answer:

Jeff told me that putting in RvR Strategic Messaging or Strategic Commands is something that they’ve been thinking about. He actually told me that this idea is higher up on his list of things to do (which he told me are actually on a white board in his office) than the voice chat that we talked about previously.

“We talk about a lot of different ways of doing that, whether we give it to everybody or we give it to warband leaders, or you earn it and have to unlock it. We talk about all sorts of different stuff. We talk about things like quick chat options like you’re talking about. We talk about being able to place waypoints on your map so other players can see them… We talk about a lot of things.”

“Will we ever do that? I don’t know. I think it’s pretty important for our game, seeing as how it’s centered around RvR and communication in RvR is just hard sometimes. It’s so frantic and there are so many people out there.”

“So,” he said to conclude the question, “the answer to your question is yes. It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s just not one of those things that made it in.”

Jon's Question:

Turning to PQs: I find that even on a high population server, I’ll often come across PQs that are empty. Is there any thought to how that is going to be resolved, if at all?

Jeff's Answer:

“We’ve been talking about this since we invented PQs two years ago. The way I look at it is that our implementation of PQs is truly a new invention for MMOs and as we invented them, we looked at them and said, ‘ok we think this is the right way’. No one has done this before, we’re not building off of something someone else has done and so we’re kind of experimenting.”

“I think we did a really great experiment,” he continued. “I think it really is awesome and foundational to the game. I can tell you a number of things: We watch them very closely. We can modify PQs… In fact, we’ve already done modifications to PQs just before we went live to make sure they were rewarding enough to the number of players that were going to go through them. We’ll modify them if the population gets too low. We talk about things like if there’s no one around… We talk about all this stuff.”

“We never actually intended for PQs to be hugely populated and overrun with people. We actually intended them to be destination points as much as places you can wander into. It’s like: you walk into a chapter. There are three PQs. In general, during peak play times, you go into a chapter, there’s going to be people in one of those PQs.”

“What we found,” he continued, “in Dark Age of Camelot and Ultima Online (these are games that are old, old, old games) there are still people in the low level areas. New people, people re-rolling, people coming through the game, so for months and years to come, we will have a constant stream of players rolling and going up through the ranks. What you’ll find is that you go into an area and there’ll be some people there… multiple people generally, doing PQs. Yes, some of the time you’re going to run into a PQ and there won’t be anyone there. Run to another one.”

“That’s one of the reasons we put the open grouping system in; so you can immediately from a chapter hub pull open your open party window, see who’s in PQs and get to that PQ so you can hook up with other people right away.”

“The game,” he said, “is about community, the game is about guilds, the game is about friends. PQs are an opportunity for you to decide you’re going to go to a destination.”

“I see people picking at that [the original question], and I understand, I know exactly where you’re coming from and it’s not that I disagree. I just think that there are a lot of different ways to experience PQs. It’s like; Why did we make the first stage of PQs so easy? Why did we do that? Because we intended it to be there for solo players. We never intended the solo player to be able to go all the way though from stage one to stage three in a PQ. The loot chest at the end of the PQ is a special reward. The standard reward is your influence reward.”

“Having said all of that,” he continued by way of conclusion, “of course we’re looking at this. In the future we’ve talked about advanced types of PQs that do different things depending on how many people are there and that kind of stuff, but we’ll see how that comes out in the future?

Jon's Question:

Are you finding that there are a large number of players who aren’t understanding that there are types of advancement (influence, renown, etc) that go beyond simple leveling from rank to rank?

Jeff's Answer:

By way of answering this question, Jeff told me that this, like any new game, is going to take players a while to learn. As people move through they game, they’re learning this and he expects that as the game begins to age, it will all become just natural to the players.

Jeff gave me the example of how Ranking vs. Renown Ranking plays into armor sets. This has resulted in players complaining that RvR Renown gear is too weak. When the team went to investigate this issue closely, they noticed that there was a bit of a mis-interpretation of the design.

The renown gear isn’t meant to be the strongest equipment in the game (as many of those players were supposing). It’s there to make sure that players who advance solely through RvR and don’t do quests have access to gear that is similar to what a PvE player would get.

That being said, at the top of each tier in the game there is an RvR armor set of those players that just haven’t really been discovered yet. This armor is actually the most powerful stuff you can get for the tier.

In Tier One, for example, it’s a pair of boots and a breastplate. The boots, it seems, drop from enemy players in open world RvR areas, while the breastplate drops from Battlefield Objective sergeants. Putting those together gives you the best set in Tier One.

In Teir Two, boots drop from enemy players, gloves are bought from a Renown Merchant and breastplates drop from Keep Lords.

Jeff told me that in the end, this really comes down to players not yet having discovered en masse that these things exist (in fact, knowing this, it actually somewhat addresses the issue of fewer people participating in open world RvR thinking that the rewards aren’t great enough).

Jon's Question:

In scenario play, do you plan to make it more clear as to how players specifically gain renown points during scenarios and how points are gained toward the 500 win point?

Jeff's Answer:

“In general there are two ways that you earn renown. You earn it from killing enemy players or participating in kills, and you earn it from healing. The renown is gained, whether from killing people or healing people, is shared within your group (a certain split of it) so participating with your group earns you renown. It really is that straightforward.”

In PvE, Jeff told me, they lock the Mob (whoever tags it gets the XP) in RvR, not so much.

In terms of gaining points toward the win in scenarios, they are different in every scenario. In almost every scenario, killing enemy payers earns you points. They are then modified by other things (flags, murder balls, etc).

Jeff and I also talked a little bit about the idea of making the specific objectives a little bit more clear. While right now, you can look at a small overview of the way that a scenario works, it doesn’t cover the specifics and players are often left wondering about how specifically their points are earned. Jeff told me that while they hadn’t thought about doing that in the past, it’s something that they were going to look into.

Jon's Question:

What do you say to people who say that WAR is “graphically inferior?”

Jeff's Answer:

“The art style on our game, and the things that we chose to do, we chose on purpose, and we chose for a number of different reasons. Some have to do with how Warhammer looks. Games Workshop looks like this and we had to. It’s not that we didn’t want to, it’s what Warhammer is.”

We talked about those folks out there who say that the game doesn’t look “real” enough. Jeff told me that that wasn’t what they were going for. They were going for a fantasy look.

“If you don’t like it,” he said in an honest and genuine sounding tone of voice (and not in the snarky tone that the words COULD be interpreted in, “then sorry, you don’t like it. Go play a photo-realistic game.”

“Other decisions,” he said, going back to the original question,“ had to do with the number of polygons we wanted to have on the screen. This was a big deal for us. We think about RvR in everything that we do. When we start thinking about putting a hundred players or two hundred players on the screen at the same time, we have to think a lot about that stuff.”

Moving on to yet another aspect of the question:

“Our priority was performance, RvR, and giving you a good look. We know that you can turn on Anti-Aliasing and AF on your video card and I know that a lot of people don’t want to do that. They want to leave it application sensitive and so we’re looking into that. We’re looking at being able to turn it on and off within the product itself, but I think the game looks great.”

He also told me that they are also looking at making gamma a choice in-game.

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