Items play a vital role in any MMORPG. They are one of the carrots that is dangled in front of players as they move around from mission to mission. They are the outward manifestations of our characters, they serve as trophies that decorate our characters (and our vault spaces). They show where our characters have been and what they have accomplished.
While in Virginia at the EA Mythic studio, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Justin Webb, the Item Strike Force Lead (the WAR dev team is divided into smaller strike teams who focus on specific elements of the game). It was Justin’s job to tell the gathered reporters about the game’s trophy system where the items don’t just decorate our characters in terms of armor, helmets and pants, but instead literally decorate our characters with the spoils of war.
Justin told us that the team wanted to break up the look of the different classes so that everyone in the world doesn’t look like a bizarre carbon copy of everyone else and instead of just offering a bunch of different costume choices, they’ve taken it one step further by allowing players to wear more of what they own. They also want to give players a chance to look and feel “bad-ass”. Justin likened it to seeing veterans marching in a parade. They’re all wearing a few medals on their chests that tell us that they did something great or brave, but then one guy walks past and his chest is literally a big block of medals. When you see that guy, you immediately know that he’s a bad-ass.
In order to highlight this feature, Justin showed us a Witch Hunter character. Looking dapper in his funky tall hat and gothic -inspired garb, this toon was also decked out with visible holy water, stakes (damned vampires), daggers and more. These decorations are moveable and can be placed in any one of the character’s trophy nodes (pre-determined places on the character that can hold a trophy).
While there are fifteen different slots that can accommodate trophies, players will be limited in the number that they can wear at any one time. The higher in level a character gets, the more trophy slots he / she has available until it maxes out at five at level forty.
Knowing how the system works is one thing. Knowing how to gather the most interesting trophies is another. While we have only seen mundane items so far (items like stakes, reliquaries and the like), we are told that there will be a myriad of ways to get new trophies. They will drop normally, they will be a part of Public Quest loot, they will drop with specific kills and we are told that there will be crafting trophies as well.
Before we leave the subject of the trophy system, it is important to point out that while trophies look cool (they actually do add something unique to the character), they have no statistical value whatsoever. This was a conscious choice by the EA Mythic team, as they want to encourage as much visual diversity as possible. Adding stats to the items would defeat that purpose as players would inevitably choose the same trophies to display: the ones with the highest stats.
Other Visual Stuff
Other Visual Stuff
We’ve already talked a little bit about how items can change the look of your character in terms of the trophy system, but what about more mundane ways of making your character stand out from the rest?
Warhammer has always been a franchise that relied heavily upon characters looking different from one another. So much so that in the table top game, miniatures are purchased blank and without color. It is up to the individual player to decide on the colors. While Warhammer Online doesn’t go quite that far, players will have the ability to dye their armor and clothes and will have easy access to the dyes that will let them customize their look.
Most dye colors will be easily available from vendors, but the “cooler colors” will have to be crafted. Dyeable items will have two distinct tint masks (meaning that you can use two different colors), giving a large number of possible color combinations.
While we didn’t get to play with this feature ourselves, Justin did play us a video of armor being dyed. I was surprised at how different a single piece of armor could look with a change to the colors.
In the end, it seems as though EA Mythic has put a great deal of thought into the way that the characters in their game are going to look. Their primary goal is to have silhouettes that allow players to immediately identify the career of any given character. This means that if you strip everything away: the detail, the color, etc. and leave only a shadow, I will know that the Witch Hunter is a Witch Hunter, the Sorceress is a Sorceress and so on. When you put all of that detail back in though, the team hopes to be able to provide an experience where each of those identical silhouettes becomes a different and distinct character and from what I’ve seen so far, it looks like they’re succeeding.