Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Mark Davis and Steve Perkins from EA Mythic's Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Mark is a Deputy Content Director on the project, and Steve is serving as a Director.
During the interview, we talked about a number of different things. Today, in this article, I am going to talk about some of the questions that I asked about the game, many of which came directly from our forums here at MMORPG.com. In the next part of this article, I am going to look at the starting zones and quests for the Dwarfs and the Greenskins.
The first few questions that I asked were asked for clarification, starting with the exact license that they have. We all know and can see the influences that the miniatures game is having on WAR, but I was curious as to whether the license extended beyond that, to all of the Warhammer (excluding 40K) IP.
"It's kind of like Batman..." said Mark, and you know that any answer that starts with a phrase like, 'it's kind of like Batman' is going to be good, "You know there was Batman the Animated Series, there was Batman the movie, there was a Batman comic book, and all of those different versions kind of had the same kind of core thing. There's always the butler, there's always the batmobile... Each version is slightly different, kind of tailored to your needs. The TV version was comical, while the movie version was very dark, so what we're doing with the Warhammer IP is we're tailoring it specifically for an MMO, so there will be aspects that will be just like you might remember in the pen and paper IP, but really what we've done is we've adapted the IP to fit an MMO."
Essentially what Mark as saying, albeit more colorfully that this, is that the team at EA mythic is drawing from all of the various incarnations of Warhammer, which, in the end, totals up to over 25 years worth of material.
"Having the [Warhammer] IP," said Steve, "gives Mark and his team the freedom to pull any of the content together: the greatest locations, the greatest battles, and we can do whatever we can to make this the best Warhammer MMO possible."
To that end, I know that there are a number of members of our forums here at MMORPG.com who are fans of the pen and paper incarnation of Warhammer, and were concerned that the table top miniatures game was getting all of the love. When I asked about Black Industries, and whether or not they were participating in the development process, the answer surprised me:
"We have had really great support from them. Actually, Kate Flack, who's really big over there... she's been over here several times. We've had one-on-one conversations with her. We're in close contact with them to make sure that we're staying true to the IP and getting lots of creative input from them as well."
Recently, it was announced that the Beta Sign-Ups for War had already reached the 200,000 mark, so I decided to find out a little it about how many people would be getting in and when.
"Right now," I was told, "we're in a friends and family / trusted tester phase, a very small group. As the summer progresses, we will be inviting more and more people in. We're not saying the sky's the limit, but we are looking to have a large number of people into our beta before it launches."
They have also stated that "The more you participate in our community, the better your chances are of getting into the beta."
As to how long Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning will be in Closed Beta:
"We'll be in closed beta, probably for this entire year".
Beta phases, especially early beta phases, often result in a great deal of feedback and suggestions being offered to the developers, so I asked how that feedback has been, and how they will be affecting the final product.
"We've had some really good feedback." Mark said, "We're paying close attention to the message boards. It's been largely positive, which has been reassuring, there's lots of little things we've been taking note of. We have plenty of meetings based on that, and we're taking those questions and feedback into consideration."
"Yeah," replied Steve, "it's nice to see things like our Public Quest System which we're really proud of because it's an innovation that we've brought to this genre and it's being really well received. Big kudos to Mark and his team. You get in there and people are just having an absolute blast with that new quest system."
"It's a social aspect of the game. It also makes you feel like you're a part of an army. You know, most quests just send you on your way and are very selfish: you're doing it by yourself, the rewards are self, and it doesn't really benefit anyone but you. In this case, these are giant, multi-stage quests that are really for the benefit of the whole are. Your participation really determines your reward. We look at it really as the RvR component of our PvE system. It makes you feel like you're part of a realm, like you're part of an army, and that's how it should be in PvE."
The WoW Clone Issue
Ever since the first information started to come out about Warhammer Online, there have been people calling the game a WoW clone. The art style of the two games alone led some to this conclusion. In terms of the art style, Warhammer Online is staying true to the original look of the Warhammer Universe which, as was stated earlier, dates back 25 years, well before Warcraft, making that form of "cloning" impossible.
That being said, there is far more to the whole cloning issue than just the look, so I decided to ask Mark and Steve what sets this game apart from MMOs like WoW.
We've already talked a little bit about the Public Quest System, which is an innovative idea that allows teamwork without grouping. From my perspective, having had a chance to try this feature out during a hands-on demo a while back, I can say that I've never seen anything quite like it in any MMO that I've played.
Beyond that, the big thing that was mentioned was the RvR combat and the way that it is handled in WAR:
"The biggest thing is our RvR combat. I've played a lot of MMOs, and at the end of the day, when I logged out, I didn't have to worry about anything changing. In WAR, when I log out, I have to wonder what will happen what tomorrow if I'm not there to protect my city. If I log out at night, when I log in the next morning, I might find my capital city sacked, or my ally's capital city sacked... Maybe I'll log in the next day and find that we've totally sacked [the enemy]."
Then, there's the Tome of Knowledge. The Tome of Knowledge is an in-game book that your character has access to. It is constantly updated with new information and accomplishments:
Says Steve, "It's everything from an encyclopedia, to a bestiary, to a quest tracker, you can unlock things, there's a mini-game. All kinds of things are being built into it. It is incredibly robust, and all of the information you've ever wanted in the game will be there."
"And it's also a record of your player's life." Mark continued, "After you've been playing for a few months, you can look back at this thing, you built this Tome of Knowledge, and crafted it to your own play style. You can look back at all of the things you've done and what you've accomplished and sort of have a record of your character."
We were about to move on to a new topic, when Steve piped up with one last thing to say on the subject:
"One more thing we're really proud of, touching on mark's RvR system (mentioned above) of the mechanics we're building into that. Skirmishes that have been around since the days of UO, the battlefield objectives are a nice tweak, the scenarios are something that we feel we're innovating the idea of instanced combat, bringing something new to the genre there in a way that really hasn't been seen before, and then the whole idea of the campaign, the control of lands and actually sacking that city, that's some pretty cool stuff that no one's done. It's going to make for a great endgame experience. And that's really what RvR is. It's not the entire game, but we want to make sure that after you've been playing for a couple of months, you get some really satisfying stuff that's going to keep you playing for the next couple of years."
These are just a few of the ways that Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning differs from its predecessors like World of Warcraft. In the end, the games share some basic ideas, like leveling, art style, fantasy and the like, but are, in the end, quite different as games.
In the second part of this article, Mark and Steve tell me about the starting areas and quests that are available to the Dwarfs and the Greenskins.