Yesterday we sat down with Josh Drescher and Jeff Skalski to discuss Warhammer Online's changes after Patch 1.3.2 was put into effect. The game has seen its ups and downs in 2009 and looks to make a come back as we near 2010. Josh and Jeff explain some of the issues the game has had as well as offer solutions for the future.
In discussing Patch 1.3.2 Josh and Jeff explained that performance has been the biggest boost within the game. Many of the performance issues were solved with the patch and the game has been moving better than ever. Josh mentioned that they keep a close eye on performance and constantly look to improve it. They have the performance now at a good base line to be able to work on other areas and get them set up. The team admitted it was the performance that was holding them back from making certain changes, now that they have it in check, they can move forward with other ideas.
Jeff talked about the response from players to the new city siege system now that fortresses are out of the picture. The game has seen a mixed response from players because now sieges happen more frequently. This can create some problems with the population on either faction because players are only logging in for the sieges. Jeff explained that the team is hard at work on an Underdog system. The Underdog system will give advantages to the side that has lost its city. It will allow the side being dominated to bounce back rather than just be beaten regularly. It almost acts like a handicap in Golf, Josh explained and he wished the Washington Redskins had a system like this to play better football. The goal is to implement the system in Patch 1.3.3, so expect more news on it in the coming months.
In terms of overall RvR the team explained that the new keep difficulty system that scales ranks and rewards has been working well with players. Jeff explained that the server populations are closer than people think with no one side truly out numbering the other. We all agreed that some player guilds are just relentless when it comes to taking cities and this causes the other realm to feel out numbered. Josh said that metrics play heavily into all their decisions on end game RvR and they watch closely what players are doing. The changes and decisions to Tier 4 RvR remain one of the top priorities in the game and the team pays close attention to what is happening on the servers.
Out of these two issues, the guys said there is a third issue that they put above all others. That is class balance. Some class balance changes have been implemented into the game, but there are more to come. This is one area the team feels is the top priority of any RvR game. Jeff mentioned the changes to the stun and root rules that went into effect in Patch 1.3.2 as an example of making the RvR battles more fun for every player. They want to allow people to play the game, not just be stuck in one spot for fifteen seconds while they are killed. The team also mentioned that they are working heavily on the area of effect issues the game has been suffering from and hopes to see those balances in place.
Another element to Warhammer that is new is the unlimited free trial system. Players can now take the free trial with Tier 1 content and do not have a time limit set on their game play. The free trial is unlimited. Jeff explained that this will do a lot to allow players to enter the game on their own terms. Players are not limited by a ten day free trial as some games do. They can log in and play whenever they want with no deadline. Josh said that they wanted to unshackle the limitations on players to get into the game. They want more people to try Warhammer and expect this system to put the terms in favor of the player in allowing them time to try the game. The team said that they have already seen positive results and players are coming into the game more now. Jeff explained that this helps the higher tier paying players as well because it can have a great impact on boosting the population. In an RvR game where population is critical, the more players you have the more targets you have in RvR. Jeff was happy to say that everyone benefits from the free trial.
Overall Warhammer seems to finally be moving in the right direction. Jeff and Josh said that the team continues to work on their top three priorities with RvR, Class Balance, and Performance being the three. They will continue live events and Josh said that 2010 is the "commitment to quality" year for Warhammer. I asked about the possibility for more classes and races and Jeff explained they want to get the baseline for the game cleaned up before they start moving toward more classes and races. He did say, that everyone wants to play the Skaven! If the Skaven cloak that you get with a copy of Dragon Age is any indicator, who knows maybe in the far future we will see the skaven enter the world of Warhammer Online.