MMORPG: It’s been a long time since we last chatted, Keaven. How go things on WAR? The title seems to have settled in with a dedicated hardcore group of fans.
KEAVEN: Overall, things are going great! I have always personally felt WAR was destined to be for the dedicated hardcore group we have now. I couldn’t be happier that we have such a close, and active, group of players.
MMORPG: Let’s talk about some of the recent content updates. In January, the Fortresses returned to RVR. Let’s talk a bit about why they were gone in the first place, and what it took to get them back into the game.
KEAVEN: The number one reason Fortresses had to be removed before was lag. Huge concentrations of players would gather at a Fortress, and performance would drop – not only that, but the client would stop drawing random player avatars. We’ve had major upgrades since then, however; both hardware and software have been improved, and since it’s been something players have been asking for ever since they were removed, we felt we were in a good position to bring them back. With the addition of the Relics, and making the Fortresses Alliance-claimable, it has created a more dynamic Fortress battle than it was previously.
MMORPG: Why were the Scenario brackets changed back in June of last year, too? Reading up on recent patches, this one confused me. It’s been a while since I played, so I’m probably missing something.
KEAVEN: Brackets were changed to be based on Renown Rank (after Career Rank 15) as a response to the Renown Rank level cap increase. It became obvious that players at Career Rank 40 had vast power differences depending how high their RR was, and what gear those ranks opened to them. By breaking the scenario brackets into groups of Renown Ranks, we’ve been better able to keep the relative power gap between the lowest and highest players from being overwhelmingly extreme.
MMORPG: 1.4.7 launched in October, and you mentioned to me in passing that it was a rather unpopular patch. Why is this?
KEAVEN: Ah, the Crowd Control Standardization patch. There are a few causes to this. This patch was preceded by some lengthy forum discussions with players on Career Balance. I had promised 1.4.7 would be the Career Balance Patch they had been waiting years for. Despite my later explanation that, after exploring the state of all the careers and what would need to be done, and what resources I had available at the time, I was forced to pare down that patch to be CC focused, the common player-base sentiment was that I reneged on the promise of comprehensive Career Balance; a completely justified feeling, I think. I was pretty upset about it myself. Also, the changes made to CC affected some careers more than others (particularly the changes to Staggers), leaving many players feeling as though they got hit with the Nerf-Bat worse than others. At the beginning of the CC focus, I was upfront about my intentions; and even though I stated clearly my philosophy of, “Crowd Control should be a speed-bump in the fight, not something to make-or-break the fight,” most of the new, standardized, CC timers were lambasted for being so short as to make them useless to the point of not even being worth training.
MMORPG: Do you still ultimately think it was for the best in the long-term?
KEAVEN: While I know there are plenty of players who will disagree with me, yes, I do still believe it was the right thing to do. Crowd Control was one of the more annoying things about fighting in WAR (when you were the recipient of it, of course). Since the application of these changes, fighting has been far more dynamic, mobile, and unpredictable – exactly the outcome we had hoped for.
MMORPG: Back in December, you pulled off a unification of the many different kinds of RVR currencies in the game. What exactly went into this, and how has it been received?
KEAVEN: A lot of work went into this change. One of the biggest challenges was finding an appropriate exchange rate for existing currencies that was both fair, and didn’t leave people with the proverbial Buckets-of-Money. Once we had a workable exchange rate, and some new art for the new coin, we had to set it up as a valid form of alternate currency in the system, and then change the prices of those items priced with the old currencies, and re-categorize the stores to make shopping a bit more intuitive and easier on the player. Once this was all done, and released to the public, the impact was immediate. While there were a few grumbles here and there about exchange rates, the overall response was more positive that I could ever have expected. This was something the community had been asking for, for a long time, so it felt really good to see it work so well, and be received with such enthusiasm.
MMORPG: The next series of questions will be from my friend and die-hard Warhammer fan, Arden Bartlett. He’s been playing WAR for ages, and I figured he’d be a good source to get some other questions from. Take it away, Arden!
Arden Bartlett: Thanks! Nice to meet you, Keaven. Are you planning to implement/transfer any of the maps from WOH into WAR? What resources (beyond developers) have you brought over to the WAR team in the transition to closing down WOH?
KEAVEN: There are a few maps I would love to bring over (Love me some Settra and Garden of Morr), so in that sense, Yes. The major hurdle is Wrath maps were built for 3 team balance (in distances, run times, and whatnot). Looking at the maps available, WAR would have to have them re-sculpted to compensate for a duel-team system, or construct various scenario mechanics compatible with a random-location respawn system, like we did with Thanquol’s Incursion. While I don’t have anything concrete on the subject right now, it is something I am devoting attention to.
Arden: In regards to the Return of Ekrund...are these new live events going to open up any underused areas of WAR?
KEAVEN: I don’t want to create too much hype here, or encourage any theory-crafting (as that always leads to disappointment), but yes; The ‘A Stronghold Saga’ event series will make use of some underused areas, as well as open up at least two areas not seen by many (if any at all).
Arden: What is Mythic's goal for WAR in the next 6 months, or the year? What would you like to see come to the game? Both realistically, and not so much?
KEAVEN: In addition to the work needed to keep ‘A Stronghold Saga’ progressing on schedule, the next 6-12 months will see patches devoted to Career Balance. This is a hot-button issue with nearly all of our players, and is long overdue. We have already begun work on the first phase of these balance patches, and will be opening up the Public Test Server in the near future to get player feedback. I am very excited about this balance work; I know it will be impossible to make everyone happy, and not everyone will like some of the changes we make (as we experienced with the Crowd Control patch), but by keeping players informed throughout the process, and utilizing their feedback, and keeping communication open, I really feel we will end up in a much stronger place. For the future, I would love to repair some of the bridges we’ve unintentionally burned with the players, and see them come back to the battlefield. I would like to see some changes in the Campaign, to make things less predictable; possibly even have different types of Campaigns to run which switch with each successful push. I’ve had ongoing discussions with players over the lack of “sandboxiness” in WAR, and in what ways we could possibly add that feeling of freedom, while at the same time maintaining something of a regimented, directed battle feel as well.
Arden: What do you think the greatest challenge is with a game that is PVP-oriented? What would you like to tell people who have played the game in the past and gave up on it to convince them to give WAR another shot?
KEAVEN: For me, the number one problem with PvP-oriented games is Population. Unlike in PvE, there is no magic button we can press to create people on the battlefield. This is one of the myriad reasons communication with the player base is so important, and why I’ve been trying so hard to open, and keep open, lines of communication. The next block of months in WAR will be game-changing, if for no other reason than because of the work we’re doing with Career Balance, and player communication and contribution will be vital to these efforts.
MMORPG: Thanks, Arden! A couple more before we let you go Keaven. After the ups and downs of the past few years, what are your thoughts on where Warhammer: Age of Reckoning stands today? What would you have done differently at launch, knowing now what you know about the game and the players?
KEAVEN: I feel WAR is in an extremely strong place today. We’ve focusing development on issues near and dear to the hearts of players, such as the Bug-Fix Patch which addressed a bevy of player-submitted problems, errors, and bugs in the game; We’ve engaged the player base like never before, being proactive on the forums, and being more transparent in our work flow; and because of all this, we’re bringing change to the game that, not only has been asked for by players, but have had direct player input, creating a stronger sense of symbiosis between us and the players. We’re working together make WAR better than it has ever been.
If I had it to do all over again, and I was in a position to affect some influence, I would have to say three realms. Don’t get me wrong, I in no way believe 3-Realms is the “magic bullet” that would solve all of WAR’s balance issues. It would, however, add a player-correcting element that helps keep the battlefield engaging and dynamic. Even with all the other issues WAR may have had, that would have helped prevent players feeling they were painted into a corner, rage quitting, and subsequently emptying the battlefield of bodies (I will point back to the population issue from earlier). Along with that, I think having a leveling system that was more horizontal would have done wonders by adding varying levels of career complexity without increasing overall power level that much. And since we’re thinking wishfully here, I also would have had only minor PvE elements; we tried to do, and be, too much at launch, but what’s done, is done. Today, in the here and now, I’m very proud of the game, and feel very confident we have the player base on our side with the work we’ve been doing.
MMORPG: Mythic’s always been pretty insistent that WAR would never become a F2P game. But with the success of EA’s F2P conversion for SWTOR, do you think you’ll ever revisit that notion? Why or why not?
KEAVEN: The dreaded F2P question. I know there is an ever growing group of people clamoring for WAR to make the switch. Of course, as has been said before, it is something we’ve actively investigated, and we’ve never written it off as a possibility, but there are numerous elements to WAR which make F2P conversion quite the delicate topic. While I don’t know exactly what higher-up machinations are at play with something like this, I can say that I’ve worked on a few different proposals outlining different ways we could make inroads into F2P territory with as little collateral damage as possible. What becomes of those proposals, however, has yet to be seen.
MMORPG: Thanks much, Keaven. When can we expect to learn a bit more about the upcoming plans for WAR?
KEAVEN: I have been doing the bulk of my communications on the forums, in the Dev Discussions section of The Developer Roundtable – I would highly suggest bookmarking that page, and visiting often for news and updates. Currently, there are discussions on some of the first rounds of the Career Balance work we’ve been doing. Thanks a lot for taking the time to chat about WAR! I’m always eager to theorycraft about WAR, so any time you want to chat, don’t hesitate to drop on by!