MMORPG: It seems like it was just yesterday when we saw Wrath of Heroes unveiled at PAX Prime. Why the sudden announcement of the closure?
James Casey: It boils down to us having to make a hard decision about the project in light of our changing direction as a studio. Over the last year as we've had a chance to expand and experiment with Wrath of Heroes, we began a pivot to mobile as a studio. With this shift we looked at our resources, our plans, and our projects to achieve our transitions. As a result, we had to make the decision to retire Wrath of Heroes as a project while in Open Beta rather than push it forward. As I noted in the producer letter, Wrath of Heroes was a grand experiment and it had some very hardcore followers. It has a strong IP, a great community, and what I think is some outstanding three-way action in that space. But the studio is moving into new spaces and we had to make the hard call to close Wrath of Heroes.
MMORPG: Are there any plans for a sort of farewell session before WoH closes down?
James Casey: Absolutely, we are gung-ho about ensuring that everyone that plays WOH until the shutdown will get as much awesomeness as we can squeeze in. We have numerous heroes that were in the pipeline and we are going to just push them out, every week, multiples in some weeks, until the end. Some might not be completely polished, but we wanted the fans to see them and experience them while they can. We also went through and put all items on the store at dramatically marked down prices.
MMORPG: You mention Wrath of Heroes being an experiment with Warhammer in the F2P space... what are the top lessons you learned from that experiment?
James Casey: Wrath of Heroes was our first foray into a number of technologies. Everyone played on the same servers, so we could ensure you never worried about being unable to play with friends. We ran some of our service 'in the cloud', that ever-increasingly popular technology. :) We got to see how players responded to various cadences for Hero releases, for pricing, etc. The lessons we learned will help us in all of our current and future projects to ensure that we can anticipate and react to our players' concerns. My favorite times were being able to do our summer slam of Heroes and Friday Fight Fests. I wish I had had the time to continue that, but I am trying to set aside time to do some more of that before and leading up to the closure.
MMORPG: Why do you feel the game had a rough time catching on with audiences?
James Casey: I think that in general PvP games tend to be a little more niche. That and the fact that despite our best efforts, you still have people that will compare us to other MOBAs or even to our sister project, Age of Reckoning, leading people to have preconceptions about the game. I think though that the game really offered on what we set out to make, a fast frantic fight fest in the vein of MMO action combat. Last, but not least, we were a product in Open Beta, and despite the increasing use of this phase of development in gaming, that still limited our potential audience. We tried to ensure people that really it was more of a soft launch, but once again, there are pre-conceptions with terminology.
MMORPG: Of the ups and downs, what were your prized moments working on Wrath of Heroes, and what were your saddest moments? Outside of the decision to close it out. The highs and lows as it were.
James Casey: I alluded to this already, but the interaction with the Fans, whether at PAX or in game really were the best parts of the game. As an example, at PAX East, we had quite a number of people that had never heard of the game, played it, and came back repeatedly over the course of the show to play more. We made some friends that day and I loved chatting with all of them. I'm hard pressed to come up with something as a low point, as obviously the decision to close it overshadows anything there. To be quite honest, it was a great experience all around.
MMORPG: What did you learn from Wrath of Heroes that you think can be applied to Warhammer Online going forward?
James Casey: We learned a lot about how people reacted to new Heroes, their abilities, how they interacted and grouped that can help in ongoing discussion on balance, etc. We also got new assets and shared resources that helped us share things back and forth between the games. Overall though, it showed us that in any form, people love Warhammer and as long as we continue to embrace that, we can continue to improve the game.
MMORPG: What does this mean for the team on WoH? Will they still be working on WAR after the shutdown?
James Casey: In part of our shift to Mobile, we obviously will be shifting resources around to work on our current projects, like Ultima Forever, or some of our new projects and prototypes. Sadly I can't really give you any skinny on those at the moment, but rest assured, we will as soon as we can.
MMORPG: Is there anything else you want to tell the fans of Wrath of Heroes and Warhammer Online?
James Casey: I just want to say thank you to everyone that tried Wrath of Heroes over any part of our Beta processes. Whether the game was for you or not, your participation in the game was immensely helpful to us. I hope that all the fans and those that have played the game, even if they lapsed, get a chance to jump in, buy some cheap heroes and experience all the new stuff we slam in before we have to shut it down at the end of March. Once again, and I can't repeat this enough, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support.