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BioWare Mythic
MMORPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 09/18/08)  | Pub:Electronic Arts
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Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Previews: First Look, Hands-On

By Dana Massey on April 04, 2006

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Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Preview (Page 2 of 5)

However, his time as a successful designer left him jaded.

“With the exception of Mythic, I find the computer games industry puerile, wasteful and like a petulant child,” he insisted, again without a hint of humor.

Out of retirement for the development cycle of Warhammer, Paul says he fully intends to return to the shadows and leave the industry entirely as soon as Mythic ships this product.

Mythic is a very structured company. There are cubicles, surrounded by offices. Many game studios employ a more open style, but not Mythic. Make no mistake, it is a business.

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Then comes Paul’s corner of the world. On the wall opposite his office are giant post-it notes – Paul is more confused why people have small ones – that outline his design philosophies for the game. The height chart for the game exists on a whiteboard in his office. There are books and toys everywhere.

To say that Barnett is unique is an understatement, but he brings that off-the-wall approach to the design of Warhammer.

“Genius is hiding your sources,” he claims. Then, perhaps undermining his own genius, he shows me his sources.

Retro-games are what makes Paul tick. One reason he’s disillusioned with the video game industry has been that technology has replaced good ideas. He uses a half-dozen different colored packages of post-it notes – the small ones this time – to demonstrate. He takes one, throws it on the desk. Grabs another, looks at it like it's something revolutionary and throws it on top.

After he’s built a pile he looks at it and tells me that is what the video game industry has become. They just throw technology after technology on the pile and call it innovation.

“Warhammer will be to MMOs what Half Life is to Quake,” he insisted. His belief is that the title they’re building will change the way we look at this genre. While not entirely new, he believes it will represent a massive leap forward.

Another example is the way he sees the MMORPG genre in general.

“MMOs are not computer games, they’re more like toy soldiers,” he explained. Monopoly is a packaged experience. You take it off the shelf, you play it, and you put it back. No one dreams about monopoly.

MMOs, to Barnett, are a hobby. They’re something you never truly put away.

"Immersion is what happens when you’re playing Half Life, your house burns down and you don’t know,” he continued. With Warhammer, he aims not for immersion – people know they’re sitting at a keyboard – but imagination.

“Imagination is what drives you,” he insists.

What is Warhammer?

“No one at Games Workshop understands Warhammer, so this is not an easy thing to do,” said Barnett as he attempted to explain to us what Warhammer is.

Paul sees Warhammer as a concept, “a cauldron of ideas”.

He then hit us with an analogy; one of his favorite things to do.

“Warhammer is Batman,” he said flatly.

Seeing confusion in the eyes of a group of American, Canadian and Japanese press, he sprung into action on his whiteboard – he insists Britain does not have technology and thus he must use a whiteboard – to drive this point home.

Like Batman, Warhammer has a core of ideas that never change. From this core of ideas, springs all sorts of variations. Warhammer is not like Lord of the Rings, which has a definite start and end, nor is it like Star Wars. It is an idea. The Batman TV show was nothing like the Tim Burton films, which were nothing like the recent movie. Does that mean any of them were not Batman? No! They’re simply just a variation of a few ideas.

“The important thing is each one honours the idea,” he notes.

When many people think of Warhammer, they think of a dark, depressing and evil world. Yet, when you look at Mythic’s version of it, you see a bright palette of colors. Why is this?

“We need good looking things that want to beat the snot out of each other, preferably forever,” says Designer Manager Paul Barnett in his off-beat British way.

Later on Producer Lance Robertson and Content Director Destin Bales would explain it in simpler terms.

“Midgard wore us down after six years,” quipped Bales before he and Robertson explained their philosophy.

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