Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down to talk with Jeff Hickman, Executive producer of Mythic Entertainment’s Warhammer Online to talk about a number of announcements concerning, among other things, new classes, an appropriately violent Valentine’s Day event, a new dungeon, and something that Mythic is calling a “Live Expansion“. In this article, we will focus our efforts on the introduction of the two new careers:
Two New Careers
Looking back over the original design ideas for Warhammer Online, the developers had planned for each race to have four careers associated with it. Before launch though, we learned that four of those careers had been cut and would wait until they were completed before being implemented into the game. Those four careers were: Empire Knight of the Blazing Sun, Dark Elf Blackguard, Orc Choppa and Dwarf Hammerer.
Since launch, the fourths for both Empire and the Dark Elves have launched and been successfully integrated into the game. Today, we learned that the Greenskins and Dwarves will have their day in March, but there’s a bit of a catch. Instead of the Hammerer, Dwarf fans will be treated to another Melee DPS class, The Slayer.
I asked Jeff about the combat conventions for the two careers and he told me that in fact, the two classes are mirrors of one another in terms of their mechanics.
“They are Melee DPS guys, they’re close-in fighters, they’re both dual wielding classes and both of them are berserkers. They’re both raging lunatics on the battlefield in general and so when you look at both the Choppa and the Slayer they have a mechanic called Berzerk. (right now, we may change what we call that but it’s generally what you think it is). If you think of it like an RPM meter, it builds up in the green and goes into the red. As the Slayer and the Choppa go into combat this RPM / Berserk Meter just goes up really fast. As it goes up, it unlocks different abilities that burn the berzerk rage. As a player, you can decide to pop your berserk rage up and burn it off or about halfway up on the meter, you can go into the red. The red is ’true berzerk’, you literally go crazy and you start to do more and more damage but you’re also taking more damage. Your defenses go by the wayside and your offences come to the fore. It becomes a choice of play styles. Do you keep your berserk rage in the green and pop berzerk abilities constantly, or do you take it into the red, knowing that you’re going to be doing more damage at that point but that you’re going to be weaker in some cases.”
The Orc Choppa
The Orc Choppa made its first appearance in the game’s Beta Testing phase, but was deemed simply unfinished by the game’s developers and removed before launch. This had the interesting effect of leaving the Greenskin race, once assumed to be the most probable candidate for over-played race, with only one of its signature Orcs to represent the bloodthirsty ranks, supplemented by two still neat, but notably less dripping in cool golbin supporters. Many players, who had been looking forward to causing havoc with their Choppas, were disappointed by the news.
The addition of the damage-dealing Choppa will add a much-needed Melee DPS class to the Greenskin retinue.
“The Choppa was always our plan,” Hickman said. “It’s just a very cool feeling, very savage feeling kind of berserk Orc. Even in beta when we were playing him two years ago, he felt cool.”
So, what has changed between when the decision was made to not include the Choppa at launch and now?
“The biggest change, and it’s pretty large: We wanted to change him to make his mechanic better. The Choppa mechanic in beta was pretty raw and uncooked and we weren’t really satisfied with it. At the same time, we wanted to keep the feel of it. There was something about him and his fast attacks…. That was very appealing to a lot of players. We wanted to change one, but keep the other and I think we’ve achieved that. If you look at what we’ve done. We’ve brought him in line with how the Slayer plays so that’s mirrored a little bit. We’ve refined his mechanic so he feels really cool and we’ve been able to keep that really over the top, savage appearance… and I think he’s really going to be liked by the Destruction players.”
The Dwarf Slayer
There has been speculation about this decision for weeks now. Bloggers have been receiving strange gifts in the mail, with all signs pointing to the addition of the Slayer as the fourth Dwarf career.
For those not at all familiar with Warhammer Dwarf lore: A Dwarf Slayer is a dwarf who is somehow dishonoured and seeks a death in glorious battle. It’s not suicide per-se, as the Slayer will continually throw himself into battle after battle, doing his best to defeat each enemy, but ultimately seeking a glorious death in combat.
First, I asked how Mythic planned to deal with a career whose ultimate goal is honourable death in a game where, for all intents and purposes, characters never die. How does that convention translate?
“That is the ultimate bend of the lore,” he answered, “because technically in the game you can’t ever die. Now, if you want to look at one thing and say we said ‘We’re just going to ignore that’, just like we ignored other people not dying permanently because we just can’t help but do that. No one wants to die permanently.”
So, what happened to the Hammerer?
“We always talked about doing a slayer,” Hickman began, “and we had lots of difficulties and concerns about how we can meet the lore, what we could do. It was actually ultimately one of the things that caused us to pull back on the Hammerer. We were never really satisfied with what we had with the Hammerer. We always wanted him to be a Slayer but because of the issues we had, we just couldn’t do it. Once we pulled back and looked at it again… We said, ‘you know, we’ve got to approach this with Games Workshop again, we’ve got to look at the lore again, we’ve got to dig deep because it’s the right thing to do for the game.”
While they bent the rules a little bit with the lore, they feel that they have worked out a good way to implement it and worked ways around all of the other things.
These new classes are set to roll out some time in March after an event similar to the one that introduced the Knight and the Blackguard, allowing early access to those who earn it. The event is going to be called Bitter Rivals and will include a new Scenario: The Twisting Tower.