I recently got a chance to sit down with Warhammer Online Producer Carrie Gouskos to discuss WAR’s upcoming 1.3.5 patch that will be making some major changes to the game’s RvR campaign, among other things.
First on the agenda was the centerpiece of 1.3.5: the 100% RvR city sieges. Carrie explained that the whole idea of the city sieges was that they were meant to be an epic conclusion to the game’s RvR campaign, and serve to humiliate the other side for losing. The problem up to this point, however, was that the campaign essentially ended in a giant PvE raid, and the main goal of 1.3.5 was to address this issue.
City sieges are still a three stage process; however the stages are now interrelated, with how well (or poorly) your side does within a particular stage affecting the following stage. Another key benefit to the newly revamped city sieges is that the system now allows for many more people to experience the end game, as previously if one group of players screwed up in one of the many city siege instances it could essentially block all the other players of that side from experiencing the rest of the siege.
So, let’s talk about the stages:
The first stage sees the invaders enter the city and try to capture key strategic points; while the second stage has the defenders attempt to re-capture the points. If your realm only managed to capture one point in the first stage as the invaders, it’d be a pretty easy victory for the defenders in the following stage, especially since the defenders will have their warlords in tow to help them out, so this ties into what Carrie mentioned earlier about the results of one stage affecting the other.
The final stage is particularly interesting, as the Chaos and Empire kings are both fighting each other, and four players (one of each archetype) are randomly selected as their King’s champions and take part in the battle. The champions are then physically enlarged (almost comically, as you can see in the image below) and the real focus becomes basically a 4v4 between the two groups of players.
I asked Carrie how players have been receiving the city changes in the ongoing beta test of 1.3.5, and she explained that most of the feedback revolved around some typical issues, bugs and general confusion mainly, the latter of which highlighted what Carrie admitted as one of Mythic’s general weaknesses when implementing things into the game, and that is improperly explaining features to their players. They’ve worked to address all the aforementioned feedback, but the team’s key realizations so far has been that they had tuned the sieges improperly, discovering from feedback and playtesting that things were skewed way too much towards the defenders. This turned out to be a huge issues, as due to the way rewards are given out in the new system (to both winners and losers) players could simply allow their cities to be sacked in order to sit back and defend. As a result, Mythic has tweaked the sieges to give invaders a bit of an edge, which should encourage players to stay on the offensive and attack their opposing realm’s city.
I also briefly wanted to discuss the new combat highlighting feature with Carrie, as I had a number of concerns regarding color blind gamers. I’m not color blind myself, but the new (optional) feature, which promises to be helpful to many on a sometimes confusing battlefield, aids players by denoting when they (or others) are being healed or hit through the use of colored flashes. The flashes are red (for damage) and green (for healing), and anyone who is familiar with color blindness can see how this could be an issue. I was glad to hear from Carrie that the team has taken this into consideration as they continuously strive to make Warhammer Online friendly to color blind players (they’ve even received the “Most Accessible Mainstream Game of 2008” award from AbleGamers), but she did admit that there are no provisions, at least initially, to make the combat highlighting feature particularly friendly to color blind players. However, it is important to note that Carrie did mention that the feature passed a number of their internal color blind tests, and she believes the particular tint or brightness of the colors should make it obvious to color blind players what is going on.
Moving on, 1.3.5 also brings some important visual and design changes to WAR’s items. On the visual front, many of the game’s RvR items now have their own unique graphics, and the game’s dyes have also seen major improvements. Anyone who has played Dwarf or High Elf characters can probably think of a number of armor pieces they can’t dye, as the result can be absolutely hideous. 1.3.5 should alleviate many of these issues, though Carrie admits it will be an ongoing process and mostly the worst offenders are being addressed in 1.3.5.
Another key change to items in 1.3.5 is the decoupling of class restrictions from many of the game’s armor pieces, with the aim here being to help encourage more of an economy in the game. The changes will make a lot of the game’s gear a bit less exclusive so that players can give away or trade them with others instead of just pawning them off to the vendor since they can’t use it and can’t trade it. I was a bit confused when I initially read the patch notes on this, thinking that I’d be seeing Swordmasters running around in Knight of the Blazing Sun armor, but this is certainly not the case, as Carrie admitted that Games Workshop would “have our heads” for that. Instead, the now tradable armor would basically morph in appearance to fit the class of its wearer.