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Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Interviews: Press Conference: Paul Barnett and Jeff Hickman

By  on December 18, 2006

News Editor Garrett Fuller attended an EA Mythic Warhammer Press Conference

EA Mythic's Paul Barnett (Producer) and Jeff Hickman (Design Manager) answer questions at a telephone press conference.

Being only a call, this press conference was a little different. Fortunately, Paul Barnett and Jeff Hickman gave us a wealth of knowledge and insight into Warhammer Online. Trying to follow Jeff’s approach to the technical game mechanics and Paul’s wild eyed views on Warhammer creates quite a journey. If there ever was an Abbott and Costello of the MMO world it is certainly Paul and Jeff. We also have to thank Eddiemae Jukes of Kohnke Communications for hosting and managing the call. No easy task when these two get talking about Warhammer. So let’s get to the point, there’s a W.A.R. brewing and I am not talking about some dwarven keg of new ale, I am talking about battles, killing, RvR, PvP, and the ability to cut off your opponent’s head and stick it on your guild’s banner!

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Jeff Hickman is the Senior Producer of Warhammer Online at EA Mythic and the lead producer on the project. Many of the game play, interface, and mechanics questions were fielded by Jeff throughout the call. Paul Barnett is the Creative Director of W.A.R. and in his own words, “a waving monkey from the UK”. Paul is here to spout Warhammer lore until the “Americans make my game.” Paul was able to answer some great lore questions about the IP and how many elements will work into the game.

The call began with Jeff Hickman giving an overview on the game itself. In case you have been in an anti-MMO bubble for the last six months here is the breakdown. W.A.R. is set in the Warhammer Universe which was been around about twenty-five years. There are six player races people can choose from: Greenskins (orcs and goblins), Dwarves, Empire Humans (think medieval Germany), Chaos Humans (think crazed Vikings), High Elves, and Dark Elves. The game is basically a never ending struggle between these forces, each trying to destroy the other. It has monster hunting, questing, RvR (realm vs. realm combat) which incorporates the conquest for land and the sacking of each race’s major city. Paul’s addition to this overview was the “Iconic imagery” within the Warhammer IP. He defined RvR combat as the ability to, “rip people’s spines out in a friendly way.”

It seems that EA Mythic is trying to break some of the formulas which characterize the MMOs we are playing today. For example, RvR will begin right at the start of the game. A character can pick up and level simply by beating on other players. One of the things that Jeff spoke about was really trying to build realm pride for your race. This aspect was very evident in Dark Age of Camelot and EA Mythic hopes to continue it in W.A.R. Also there is a renowned system being put into the game so your reputation can rise as you get better at RvR.

Again the four levels of RvR combat were defined in: skirmishes, battlefields, scenarios, and campaigns. Skirmish areas will be their own zones and will allow players of near equal levels to go out and fight each other in them. Battlefields are objectives within the RvR zones that encourage fighting in that area, the example of taking and holding a tower was given. Basically these are the focal points of combat in the skirmish areas.

Scenarios are story points that match up teams in an instance and allow them to go fight it out. Each scenario has an objective, but that objective always has to do with fighting and killing other players, not capturing and carrying a flag or picking up and moving something through the zone. Much of this has all been heard before but they did say that all three of these would lead up to a campaign to take the opponent realm’s capitol city. That was defined as one of the main high level RvR encounters. Also, once attacked, the city can be looted by players to get some great gear. Even more so, the enemy king can be captured and taken home to be put in shackles. All well and good right, how about buying rotten tomatoes to throw at the enemy king while in chains and then posting the screen shot on the forum! Yes, Paul was happy to tell us about that part of the RvR game play. Jeff did mention that, “Capitals will be very difficult to keep for a long time”, so the realm that loses will eventually come back into balance.

When talking about PvE game play, Jeff really went into detail about the public quests. Basically W.A.R. is trying to get away from the NPC quest-driven content. In the case of public quests, if you enter a zone your quest log will automatically update allowing you to take part. An example of a public quest is gathering wood from a forest to build lobbas for the orcs. As more wood is gathered in the area, forest spirits (likely dryads) will rise to protect the zone. Now the players must fight the forest spirits. As they are killed eventually a Guardian of the Forest will arise to fight the players adding another level of the public quest in the zone. Another quest example given on the Chaos side was to collect body parts from foes you have slain and stuff them into the Hellcannons to shoot at your enemies. At the end of these public quests boss MOBS will appear to fight it out with players and drop some good loot. Point is anyone can jump in and take part in these quests and everyone gains from completing them. You do not have to be in a raid to do them.

When discussing the game mechanics of W.A.R., Paul said, “Epic imagery with really interesting things to do.”

Jeff reiterated that even if you can only log in for short time frames they want the game to be rewarding. One mechanic which is interesting comes under the RvR area. If a higher up player wants to jump in a gank lowbies, they simply will not be able too. The high level player can enter the low level RvR zone but his RvR flag will not be turned on. Therefore he will just stand there as a ghost and not be able to take part in the fighting. One of the words that both Paul and Jeff continued to mentions when it came to RvR game play was “skill.” They want to have player skill really be the difference in how characters win or lose RvR fights.

A question was asked about character customization and development. W.A.R. will allow players to customize the face and body of their characters from the beginning. Throughout the development of the character, there will be certain growth points where the character will change in appearance. Orcs will grow bigger, dwarf beards will grow longer etc. With twenty-four classes in the game, each one will have a unique look. The armor will be appropriate for the type of class you play but you can still mix and match pieces. The final icing on the cake of customization is the trophies that can be earned in RvR. You can add these to your character to really max out your individual look. Because there are no exact levels in the game, players will be able to know the strength of their foes by looking at them. Paul described it as, “Out drunk in town wondering who you should fight, if they look mean, they probably are mean.” Also, in regards to character, they will not cross abilities between races. In other words, an Empire Knight of the Blazing Sun tank class will have different attacks and abilities from a Dwarven Ironbreaker tank class.

When asked about the game world, here is a summary we got from the guys. There are thirty three zones: six capital cities, three major PvE dungeons, and one high level combination RvR/PvE dungeon (think Darkness Falls in DAoC). Every type of terrain is in the game except a desert, but the mention of jungles made me think that lizard men will make an appearance. Paul did also mention a Nurgle-based dungeon with a Great Unclean One at the end. Jeff said that there is lots of large monster content in which many players can help to bring the beast down, but they are trying to get away from raids which have become the norm in many MMOs now. It seems like EA Mythic is trying to get the realms to really work together rather than just in individual guilds. Also, you will not be able to play Order and Destruction on the same server.

I did ask the all important Chaos lore question: Why did they choose Tzeentch as the Chaos god for players? Paul basically said that it made the most sense. With Nurgle, everyone would end up fat and ugly. The Khorne players would just have to keep killing everything all the time. Slaanesh was left out because they did not want kids running around having naked characters with all types of piercings. So in the end, Tzeentch was the most viable Chaos god. Paul also said that the other three gods are represented in the game very heavily, just not as playable options for characters.

I know some of this content has been heard before, but much more in-depth answers were given about the lore and game play. We will certainly be bringing you more information about W.A.R. as development continues. With the RvR and an attempt to turn away from the regular MMO grind, W.A.R. seems to be moving along the right track. Please feel free to discuss the press conference on the forums and I will try to answer some specific questions when I can.

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