On August 27th, 2019 developer Virtual Realms announced Warhammer: Odyssey a mobile MMORPG for Android and iOS. The initial announcement didn’t provide many details about the game. Luckily, here at MMORPG, we were able to interview the developer and gleaned some more information for gamers.
As a long time fan of the Warhammer Fantasy, I have many fond memories of visiting Games Workshop stores in the UK and late night tabletop battles with vast armies. When the announcement of a new Warhammer MMORPG released at the end of last month, I was equal parts thrilled and cautiously nervous.
So, when the opportunity arose to ask the developers, Virtual Realms who also created the 3D MMO Celtic Heroes, a series of interview questions and dive a bit deeper into the game, I was immediately interested. After a couple of days of furiously formulating far too many questions, I finally managed to narrow them down to something more manageable.
Below are the responses from James York, CO-Founder of Virtual Realms, on questions about development through to monetization.
MMORPG: First, thank you very much for the opportunity to ask questions about your upcoming MMO. I have been a fan of the Warhammer Fantasy setting for more than 20 years, and I am looking forward to finding out more about the game along with everyone else.
MMORPG: Why did the studio decide to focus on making a Mobile MMO?
James York: There are a few reasons. We’ve always been massive fans of the MMORPG genre going back to our time playing the likes of Everquest and Ultima Online. That said, the older we got the less time we could commit to playing, hence our shift towards mobile and the flexibility it offers. There were also practical reasons behind it. As a start up studio, long ago, we saw the incredible potential of mobile and the freedom it gave to play wherever you wanted instead of being stuck in front of a computer.
MMORPG: What did you find was the greatest technical challenge of translating/developing an MMO for mobile?
James York: There were numerous tehnical challenges to overcome around latency, performance, battery usage etc., although with new hardware and cellular speeds these are becoming less problematic. However, issues on the design side remain the same, such as the huge difference in play session lengths of mobile players. We need to make sure players can achieve something meaningful in very short play sessions whilst retaining the real MMORPG feel and ability to play for long periods per day. We’re also being very ambitious with the scale of our world, which has to be carefully balanced with the platform.
MMORPG: Are you finding it easier or more challenging the second time around?
James York: We have learned a lot over the years and our ambitions have grown exponentially, so we’re definitely pushing ourselves. The challenges now are completely different. The first time we didn’t even know if MMO’s on mobile were possible or if Apple would approve the idea (iPhone was new to the market) as there weren’t any on the store while we were developing our first MMO title.
MMORPG: Why the Warhammer Fantasy setting for your next mobile MMO?
James York: Warhammer Fantasy as an IP, for us, is the perfect setting for an MMO and it’s something very dear to many of us. It’s rare to find someone who hasn’t been exposed to it in some form as we were growing up - after school clubs, high street Games Workshop stores and the like. What I’ve always found is even if people don’t actively participate in the hobby anymore, for time reasons or any other of the many things that can change as life moves on, they do often stay in touch with the lore either through Black Library novels, the occasional White Dwarf or one of the many online communities. We wanted to develop something that we were passionate about and that could give a flexible option to people like us who wanted to engage with the Warhammer World in a flexible way.
MMORPG: Can you tell us more about the time period that the game will be set in?
James York: The game will be set around 8th Edition Fantasy. It’s a period of Warhammer that we feel represents the world in the most complete form and that which is most familiar to many people.
MMORPG: In the announcement it was mentioned that new content releases will explore new locations, do you also plan to advance the timeline as well?
James York: For us the timeline is a slightly malleable thing and we’ll for sure be advancing the narrative we create. We see this as a long term project so there will be plenty of opportunities to meet familiar faces from the lore and visit far flung lands. Warhammer lends itself to large scale war. However, we’re stepping away from that slightly to show the world where civilian life goes on and adventurers roam. The Gotrek and Felix series was a great source of inspiration for us in terms of the type of world we want to create.
MMORPG: At release will the classes be gender locked? If so, while it makes sense for the lore, will players be able to select their gender for certain classes at some point in the future?
James York: This is something we are looking into for the future.
MMORPG: Do you plan on adding additional classes along with future content releases?
James York: We will initially focus on the gameplay experience for the first 6 character classes and then we can evaluate if more are needed.
MMORPG: Any future thoughts or plans for classes based on evil races such as orcs, dark elves, or even the forces of Chaos?
James York: Nothing is planned at this stage Our main focus is to immerse players in a living, breathing Warhammer Fantasy world and so the setting we are creating suits certain classes/races more than others.
MMORPG: It has been noted elsewhere that this will be primarily a PvE open world game. Do you have plans for PvP? Will it be included at release? Can you tell us anything about those plans at this time?
James York: There will be PvP elements in the game including duelling. We’re also planning open world PvP areas. However, at launch, PvP isn’t a large focus for us.
MMORPG: Will there be any instanced content in the game, such as dungeons, or will it be all open world?
James York: Yes, we do intend to have instanced dungeons and raids in the future alongside open world raids and bosses.
MMORPG: In the announcement, it mentioned that players can get involved with the city of Marienburg’s legendary commerce, are there any special systems for this or is going to be a type of in game auction house?
James York: We have created a vast city area of Marienburg for players to immerse themselves in and explore, in which there will be an auction house. Players developing relationships with the trade guilds is another area we plan on expanding on.
MMORPG: What kind of antagonists can players expect to face at release in Warhammer: Odyssey?
James York: As the game expands more and more enemies and races will be encoutered. In Marienburg, for example, players will have to deal with civil unrest, thieves; guilds, cultists and the mysterious forces that are driving these troubles. Outside the city walls, enemies such as Beastmen roam the Drakwald and Dark Elf raiders threaten from the sea.
MMORPG: Will the game launch with multiple servers or use a megaserver?
James York: The game will use multiple servers. However, we plan to use a variety of server approaches to keep the world busy and full of players.
MMORPG: Can you talk about character advancement in the game? What will be the max level at release?
James York: Characters will have multiple avenues to explore, from XP and levels to new loot, currency, factions, crafting, pvp etc. The initial plan is for 50 levels at launch, however, this is subject to testing and beta feedback.
MMORPG: Will new content be paid expansions, free DLC or a mix of both? How often do you plan to release new content in a year?
James York: Free regular app updates, aiming for 3-4 updates per year of varying sizes.
This will also be augmented by on the fly patches for game balance and smaller pieces of content.
Some updates will contain new features, some will be new playable areas.
MMORPG: Can players expect the amount and types of microtransactions to be similar to the studios’ previous MMO or something different?
James York: Similar base point but there will be differences for sure. We do prefer to stick to cosmetic and quality of life options rather than being able to directly buy things like armour and weapons.
MMORPG: When will the game release or is there an approximate release window you can reveal at this time?
James York: We are currenty aiming for early 2020
I want to thank James and the folks at Virtual Realms for taking the time to answer my questions. If you would like to know more make sure to check out https://warhammerodyssey.com/. I, personally, am looking forward to learning more as the game approaches beta and release. Now that I have a baseline of information though, if you will excuse me, I am going to go and think about the rest of the questions I didn’t have a chance to ask.