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GDC Interview With Mark Jacobs

In the final hours of the Game Developers Conference, Garrett Fuller and Jon Wood had the opportunity to sit down with EA Mythic VP Mark Jacobs to talk about Warhammer Online and EA Mythic as a whole.

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On the final day of the Game Developers Conference, Mark Jacobs sat down with us for a chat about EA Mythic, the MMO Industry, and of course Warhammer Online. Mark is definitely a veteran of the MMO design world. He has been through it all. Starting with MUDs and moving on into Dark Age of Camelot, Mark has had some great success with MMO games. In the past year Mythic has been turned into EA Mythic and the company continues to develop one of the most anticipated MMOs on the market, Warhammer Online.

My first question to Mark was about Warhammer and why EA Mythic decided to go with a two faction system as opposed to the three faction system that had worked so well in DAOC. Basically it came down to a sense of popularity and balance. Developers did not believe that the Greenskins would be as popular as some of the other races played and would suffer from a lack of population. This issue is a gamble with any game that takes the multiple faction route. So in the interest of balance and creating an even population the developers decided to go with the two faction system for Warhammer.

Speaking of those factions, we asked Mark what was on the plate as far as upcoming material in Warhammer Online. Mark did say that we would see the Elves (High and Dark) when they were ready. The company wants to be sure to present the races and classes to the public with some polish on them and not just throw information out there. Keep in mind that a development lifecycle, especially for an MMO, can be ever changing and chaotic (no pun intended).

This of course led us to the expansion question. Mark gave us some information but was honest about the expectations. Currently, EA Mythic is not working on an expansion for Warhammer Online. Keep in mind that the game is still far from launch and getting the game out the door remains the main focus. That being said, Mark did say that he knows exactly which races we can expect to see as a part of the expansion when it comes out (he did ask me for my best guess, but simply smiled and would not give up the info). The point is, if EA Mythic can deliver Warhammer on time, hopefully we will see the first expansion on time as well.

Finishing up our conversation about Warhammer Online, Mark had mentioned Games Workshop's original game design with Climax. The old version of the game did not really present Warhammer in a way that took the IP into a different setting. It is not easy to translate a table-top war game into an MMO. When Games Workshop was ready to begin thinking about putting an MMO out there again, Mythic was definitely on the same page and the combination has worked well ever since. Also in regards to the constant comparison between Warhammer Online and World of Warcraft, Mark said he simply does not buy into the idea at all. They are two different games and that is where it ends.

We did ask Mark some questions regarding the relationship with EA. Mark's primary goal for EA Mythic is to "blaze a trail for EA through MMOs." There are many IPs that can be looked at or used to create new MMOs. Not only IPs from the EA library, but also on the original front as well. Mark believes that original IPs have a strong chance of success in the MMO market because they will bring something new to the table. A question about the game Imperator which Mythic had been developing in the past did come up in the conversation. Mark says that he thinks of the game as postponed and hopes that it will see the light of day at some point. The EA relationship allows Mythic to continue working on games with new resources. From what Mark had said, creative freedom remains part of the relationship and allows the company to work on what it does best.

In regards to the MMO industry overall, Mark pointed out the inevitable growth of the market. It is very easy to see that more and more people will subscribe to MMOs in the future. However he does say that there will be failures in the MMO market as well. With the competition growing rapidly, there will be some games that never see launch. Talking to Mark Jacobs is like talking to a battle field general that has seen it all. He is very realistic in his expectations of MMO games, but he also knows how the market works and how to develop games that run well for players. We would like to thank Mark for sitting down with us at the end of a very busy week.

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