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MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 09/18/08)  | Pub:Electronic Arts
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Warhammer Online: A Talk about 1.1 Open RvR

MMORPG.com Managing Editor Jon Wood had the chance recently to sit down and speak with the folks from Mythic Entertainment about yesterday's update 1.1 and specifically about the changes that were made to the Open RvR system. In this interview, the team discusses the changes, ORvR vs. scenarios, their intentions for feature balance and more.

Patch 1.1a, the biggest update to Mythic Entertainment’s Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning since the game’s launch back in September, has made a number of additions to the game, including: the introduction of two of the four classes that didn’t make the cut at the game’s original launch, new open RvR rewards, scaled difficulty public quests, and quite a bit more.

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Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to sit down with a number of developers from WAR to talk about the changes to the game. In Part one of the interview, we talked about the changes to open field RvR.

“We’re very confident that this will be an even better version of Warhammer Online, Post 1.1,” said Associate Producer Josh Drescher when asked how 1.1 would impact the game. “We’re very excited about the positive response that we’ve been getting.”

The first thing that I wanted to address in an interview about 1.1 was the addition of influence, another form of reward, into the Open RvR system. For those who might not be familiar with the game, WAR is built on the premise of, well, a war between two factions. One of the core designs of the game revolves around RvR lakes; areas of the game where players on opposing factions can fight one another in an open environment (rather than in instanced PvP “game” scenarios).

Since launch, the game has had difficulty attracting players into those areas en masse and as intended, with player preferring to play scenarios or PvE. The developers, we were told, have found that Open RvR players (or would-be open RvR players) complained about not being able to earn the same level of loot that players earn in scenarios or PQs, for example.

“What we wanted to put in,” said Brian Wheeler, a Designer on the project, “was a method of keeping up with those guys and making sure that the RvR players weren’t left out when it came to itemization. Players who just want to kill other players, we want to make sure that they are still getting geared out well at the same time.”

“What we’re adding with RvR influence into the RvR campaign,” added Jeff Skalski, a Producer on the game, “is one small step toward a lot of the major changes we’re going to be making over the upcoming patches. We’re really trying to make sure that players have clear goals and clear rewards and they understand what they can get when they go into open field RvR.”

So, how do the rewards work? Is it just like in public quests?

“The rewards work a little bit differently from regular chapter influence,” answered Adam Gershowitz, “because we’re basically spanning ten levels of player rewards, because it’s a whole tier, what we did when we went back and itemized it, we made a basic, advanced and elite reward but we did it a little differently. Now, for RvR influence, you have a couple more choices that you had [in PQ influence rewards]… We have two sets of rewards at each point. One that is geared more toward a casual RvR player and one with higher renown rank restrictions.”

So, what comes out is the fact that in each tier, I can choose my reward and if I don’t have a high renown rank, I get a blue reward while a higher renown rank will reward you more greatly with a purple item. Oh, and from what I saw last night, the basic reward doesn’t seem to be simply potion or crystal based.

The actual reward is different based on which pairing you are playing in, while the level of the reward stays the same. In other words, it doesn’t force you to stay in one pairing to earn your rewards.

Are you hoping that these new rewards will help to draw more players into Open RvR on a longer term basis than the previous events (ORvR PQ and “kill 15 enemy players” task)?

“Those were different ways of testing what the players’ interests were and different way and options we have of drawing them into the lake,” said Skalski. “We are continuing to look at other ideas, to think outside of the box. What it really comes down to is that we need to have better predictability and convenience for players to really draw them into the lakes. That’s why players just love hitting that button and going into scenarios. We’re definitely battling our own creation, but we want to make sure that the rewards that players can get out of open field RvR are just as rewarding and as exciting as doing any of the other content in the game, so I think you’ll be hearing a lot about additional features and systems that we’ll be adding into the live game.”

At this point, Drescher added the fact that the game, because it has so many different forms of gameplay (ORvR, scenarios, PvE, etc), it becomes a kind of balancing act where you have to return to all of the systems and make sure that they are “vibrant and fresh” and provide incentives for players to enjoy all of the content. He was also quick to point out that sometimes, it’s hard to keep everything at the level you’d like, all the time.

“Philosophically,” he said, “we believe that the right way to encourage players to focus their attention on something we feel is being under-utilized is to incentivise that part of the game. You give them a reason to want to be there that isn’t punishing them by making it less effective to play in a scenario or do quests. You always want to be giving them a positive reason to be engaging the different parts of the game. We understood that you’re always going to have to be making changes to something that is as exciting and unpredictable as the RvR experience. No matter how much attention you pay to those systems prior to launch, there is no way to fully predict how your game is going to behave in the wild after launch. So we were completely prepared in terms of the structure of the team and the ideas that we had in the queue to respond to whatever way that content breakdown happened to go after launch and as it happens, the scenarios were wildly successful and the Open RvR content, while very enjoyable and something players were really into, we felt that it was not getting the attention that it deserved for the quality of experience that it potentially offered.”

Some people feel that scenarios are drawing people away from open RvR. Why haven’t you guys tried reducing scenarios instead of trying to bring more incentives to Open RvR?

The answer that I got to this question revolved around the idea of nerfing or not nerfing the systems. They didn’t want to nerf the scenario system, because that’s going to cause a problem for people who enjoy that particular play style. It’s much better to give as many high-quality options as possible.

Skalski jumped in at that point and said: “Another thing we’re doing is looking into why players love the scenarios so much and trying to figure out what elements of that we can introduce into open field RvR that won’t break the real core experience of ORvR.”

They want to preserve the mystery of not knowing what you’re going to run into when you enter ORvR (20vs 20, 40 vs 40, 10 vs 3, etc) while at the same time providing some predictability in terms of what you’re going to get.

“There are basically two reasons why scenarios are popular, “added Drescher, “and they are two distinct populations of people: You have the people who, for personal reasons, prefer that style of gaming. For those people, we don’t want to take away a part of the game that they enjoy on a fundamental level. If I’m the kind of person who only has half an hour to play each night, I might not feel as attracted to a keep siege that could last an hour or more. I might want to play a couple of scenarios and then go about my business at home. The other group of people, and this is really the group that we’re attempting to target, are the people that under different circumstances, would love to spend more time in open RvR but they are feeling some kind of systemic pressure that drives them into scenarios. Primarily, that comes down to rewards. They feel that the amount of effort and time that you’re putting into it, if you spend an hour in scenarios versus an hour of defending a keep, you’re going to get better loot, better experience, etc. going into the scenarios, so they go into the scenarios. That is why we feel that is was very important to make changes to open field RvR… that made it feel like ‘if I’ve got an hour of gameplay available to be tonight, I am just as likely to be rewarded for playing Open RvR as I am if I play an hour of scenarios.”

“There may come a time,” he continued, “where we decide to do a server that has no scenarios or limited scenarios (we’re not thinking about doing that right now), but we certainly wouldn’t make an across the board change where we go ‘That’s it, we’re taking away scenarios because you people are playing the game the wrong way’. There IS no wrong way to play our game. We want players to feel like everything is equally rewarding, and everything is equally engaging. It’s up to them to choose the right place to go for them at that time and we feel that if we can add that sense of parity, that sense of fairness, that players will disperse themselves through the different content we have in the game in a way that makes more sense.”

It really is difficult to say how these changes will end up affecting the overall game and how ORvR is seen by the players over the long term. That being said, I logged on last night with my T2 character on the Ironfist server to see the changes for myself and ended up walking into a large scale ORvR battle, the likes of which I hadn’t seen in quite some time. So, at least in the short term (and possibly for longer as folks strive to earn those rewards), ORvR seems to have gained the boost that Mythic was looking for.

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