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Jacobs Interview Part Two - Punkbuster, Capitol Cities and Careers

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Jacobs Interview Part Two - Punkbuster, Capitol Cities and Careers, Page Two

Capital Cities

Originally, the plan for Warhammer Online was for each of the races in the game (Greenskin, Chaos, Dark Elf, High Elf, Empire and Dwarf) to come fully equipped with a “living, breathing Capital City”. These cities not only serve in the game as quest and social hubs, but also play a pivotal role in the game’s Realm vs. Realm design. As the war rages on, the game’s capital cities will gain and lose in rank, opening and closing new content, dungeons (yup, right in the city) and the like.

MMORPG.com has learned that a decision has been made to reduce the number of Capital Cities at launch from six down to two. Altdorf (Empire) and Inevitable City (Chaos) will stand at launch as the Capitals not only of their race, but of their faction as well. “A number of months ago,” Jacobs began, “we sat down and looked at where we were with our Capital Cities and we looked at what we were doing with Altdorf and Inevitable, we looked at the Greenskin home, the Dwarf home and we went ‘there’s an awful lot to do here and there are some issues‘.” There was something missing. It wasn’t enough fun, it wasn’t interesting enough, it wasn’t “alive” enough.  From there, the team was faced with a choice. They could either keep going down that path, working on all six cities and trying to get them finished before launch or make the hard decision to shelve four of the cities until post-launch and make sure that Altdorf and Inevitable were as full and rich as their design had intended. Mythic chose the latter. “we decided to focus our energies on two capital cities; one for Order and one for Destruction, and make them fabulous, said Jacobs. “Not good, not great, but fabulous.” “We wanted to make our Capital Cities the best cities in any MMO. We think we’re doing that, but it came at a price and that price is that the other cities aren’t going in the game right now.” While he and the rest of the company do realize that this is going to frustrate some players, they also see three upsides to the decision: 1 Each city will now be polished as much as possible.  “These things,” he said, “are getting our full attention. They are a tremendous effort by the team on all levels.” 2. Capital cities are more than just “a place for people to hang out, buy stuff  and run around making Chuck Norris jokes,” says Jacobs. He went on to talk about the detailed nature of these cities and how, no matter how good you or your team is, you’re not going to get it 100% correct on your first time around. Starting with two cities will allow the team to learn from their mistakes so that when the other four are incorporated, they will be better and the devs won’t have made the same mistakes six times over. “Nobody gets it right the first time. Not WoW, not Camelot, not EverQuest. Everyone changes their game once it goes live. We have to expect the same thing will happen with cities.” 3  Players won’t be distracted or divided between cities and will be able to focus their collective efforts on a single target and a single defensible position. “By only starting with two, we can really focus the community, focus the player base, focus the guilds, the teams, that are all working to sack the city.” Mark went on to say that he feels that while it would have been nice for each race to have their own city, they believe that, for the above reasons, the decision is a net win for the players. The team, according to Jacobs, really believes that while they would have liked (and know that players would have liked) to have all cities fully functional, it is better to do it right twice, than wrong six times. Jacobs also talked about their other option, which would have been to delay the game on behalf of the Capital Cities. In the end, that wasn’t really an option as even delaying the game to accommodate the cities would have resulted in issues and in the end, wouldn’t have resolved the issues listed above. “Once something goes live,” he added, “it becomes much more difficult to change so you have to be more careful. You can‘t make as many sweeping changes and when you make changes you have to look at the impact on the existing player base. There are so many bad things that can happen post-launch when you make significant adjustments. By doing it this way, we don‘t have to worry about that. We can make the adjustments to the new cities and then rotate in those cities.” From there, I asked Mark whether it would be difficult for players who were not Empire or Chaos to access their side’s city. “No,” he answered quickly. “You’ve got to be able to get to all of the cities no matter which side you’re playing on, otherwise it would be a terrible thing for players.” So how are non-Empire or non-Chaos players going to feel an attachment to these cities? I asked. “Well, number one, it’s on your side,” Mark replied, “and two, you’re going to need to go there… We’re trying to put things in there to make all of the races happy when they get there, but that’s a little tougher to do. I think the biggest reason for attachment is that it will be to your benefit to be attached. One of the things we said from the beginning is that when you look at any other game that has RvR or something like RvR in it, players need to feel not just attached to whatever the target is, but it also has to be of benefit to them to defend it. In a lot of games, there is no benefit. It doesn’t matter what game you play, if there’s no reason for people to come defend the city, a lot of players won’t bother. We’re giving them reasons to defend the city, we’re giving them rewards for defending the city, we’re giving them quests, public quests, etc.” The bottom line here is that players will feel attachment through RvR and rewards as well as for lore reasons. Next, I asked whether there was a danger that with all of the players congregating in one area, lag and other performance issues might crop up. “It’s always a danger,” he said, “but we hope that whether it’s RvR or the way that we’ve laid out these cities that it won’t be an issue. If it is, then we’ll figure out something else to do. The nice thing is that in talking just PvE, these cities are big. We hope that with the design that performance in non-RvR will be just fine. So far, just fine. If we find out during Beta that it’s not fine, we can look at various things to make sure that the player still has a good experience.” The last question that I asked revolved around content and the concern that by eliminating four of the six cities, there would be a dip in the amount of content offered. The answer to that question was that this had been taken into account by the developers when the decision was made, and they are beefing up the amount of content offered in the two cities at least twofold (he didn’t have exact numbers in front of him during the interview, but was comfortable saying that). “Right now, for each city, we have 12 public quests and almost 100 quests that either lead to the city or within the city, or leading out of the city, plus three dungeons for each of the capital cities. That’s a fair amount of content and there wasn’t going to be that much in each city in the initial design.”  

Continued on Page Three

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Jon Wood