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BioWare Mythic
MMORPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 09/18/08)  | Pub:Electronic Arts
PVP:Yes | Distribution:Download,Retail | Retail Price:$39.99 | Pay Type:Subscription
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Interviews: What Difference Does a Year Make? Q&A

By Garrett Fuller on August 19, 2009

What Difference Does a Year Make? Q&A

Warhammer has now been on the market for one year. Please tell us the story of the game's lifecycle.

Jeff Skalski:

In May 2005, Mythic signed a deal with Games Workshop to bring to life the rich universe of its fantasy-based Warhammer IP. The challenge we laid out in front of us was creating a fresh new MMORPG that stayed true to the IP, unlike any other to date, for gamers and loyal hobbyists across the globe. A little over three years later, an EA acquisition, and almost 289 pounds of baby weight created, we shipped Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning on Sept 18th, 2008 (a few days earlier for those who pre-ordered). It has been one of hell of a ride, and the talented developers here at Mythic haven't taken a second away from pouring their love and passion into WAR since.

If you go back and review the patch notes over the past year, what we've accomplished is rather astounding. What I find even more interesting is seeing how the players have adapted to our game over time, and how the various servers matured in different ways. We are an RvR game at our core, with two Realms--the forces of Order and Destruction. At any given point, one side will win and one side will lose. It's been interesting watching servers go back and forth between who maintains control, and challenging at the same time as we tweak system mechanics to help foster Realm balance. We've made some progress, but we have more to do.

Coming up to our 1 year anniversary, I couldn't be more excited for WAR. We've learned so much about our players, and are now beginning to improve certain aspects of the game that, months ago, we would have hesitated on. City Siege end-game experience, CC and AoE enhancements, Fortress rework, along with new user improvements, are just a few of the things we're focusing on. Keep an eye on our patch notes and dev articles!


What changes to the end game do you have planned for the future patches? Will players' concerns be addressed?

Jeff Skalski:

We've made quite a few changes, actually. My most recently released Producer's Letter covered some of these changes, many of which are going live with 1.3.1-those big-ticket items being City Siege enhancements and Keep Ramp additions. Past that, we'll be introducing open RvR incentives such as the Keep difficulty system, which will better reward players (both attackers and defenders) for fighting one another in and around Keeps. Additionally, we have the upcoming Fortress revision, and more plans in place for continuing to improve the RvR experience in city siege and open RvR population balance. I want to spice it up a little more, and this is, of course, all on top of performance improvements, bug fixes, and plenty of polish.

Will players concerns be addressed? Of course not 100% completely, but I want to be more transparent with our community with where we're at and where we're going. I play the game and I'm still not fully satisfied. We have more work to do.

There have been many player requests to make changes to the city siege and capture systems, when can players expect those changes?

Jeff Skalski:

Starting now in 1.3.1! And that trend will continue moving forward into future patches. We're just getting started. Next up is focusing on the role of Fortresses in the Tier 4 campaign, and continuing improvements to support more RvR situations in our city end-game.


Class balance is an issue in any MMO alive today. What are your methods for working through class balances and eventually implementing them in a live game?

Jeff Skalski:

When it comes to career balance, the Combat & Careers team work with an iterative process that cycles through many stages until we have a result which we feel is ready for the public. The stages are essentially: Identify, Propose, Change, Test, and then repeat until we're satisfied. The first step is identifying the issue, since we can't solve a problem until we determine what the problem is to begin with. In identifying a problem, we pull from several different resources, including player reports from forums, feedback from our Community and QA teams, concerns brought up by other developers, and our own personal play experiences as well.

Once we have identified a problem, we sit down and work through how we'd like to solve the issue. The Combat & Careers team discusses the issue back and forth, polls metrics, gathers information, and works out the results until they're happy with the proposal, then they run it by both the Design Director and myself for approval, as well as discussing it with Community and QA. As concerns are raised, the proposal is adjusted to account for any issues which came up, then it goes through another round of discussions until everyone's satisfied. One of the key parts of this stage is realizing how the change will affect the rest of the game, since an MMO is a living product and no change exists in a vacuum. This can often be the most difficult part of deciding what to do, since the ripple-effects tend to keep going and going, and we have to take a hard look at even the smallest change.

From here, the plan can diverge a bit. Before the C&C team actually makes the changes, we have to assess several factors. What's the scope of the change? What's the risk (how many other systems does it interact with)? How high of a priority is it? This allows us to determine whether it's a change that we'll be making immediately, or whether it's something that would be better off scheduled for a future patch down the road. Once the agreed-upon time comes, the C&C team makes the change and hands it off to QA for testing and verification. If QA gives it the green light, then off into the patch it goes! If problems crop up, though, then it comes back to the C&C team who has to determine whether the issue can be fixed, or whether a new proposal will be needed.

Talk about Land of the Dead and how it has impacted the game. Has it changed faction control and open world warfare in the game?

Jeff Skalski:

The Land of the Dead (LotD) shook things up and, in my opinion, in a positive way. We knew going into it, that it would split player population for the short term as players flooded to the new content for its shiny new appeal. This caused a lot of intense, memorable fights for many in the LotD when control flipped. It also gave PvE-centric players more reason to participate in the RvR campaign, as their exciting new content was gated by RvR. Lastly, this gave certain servers the opportunity to access their enemies' capital city for the first time in months since their opposing Realm was off exploring the Necropolis and the Tomb of the Vulture Lord. Now, fast forward to today, and the Tier 4 campaign is very active and populated with people from both Realms. LotD flips hands several times a day, which is great, and players are fighting each other in every corner of the Tier 4 campaign.


MMOs seem to be trending to a more casual friendly play style with the end game scenarios. Does Warhammer have anything planned for this type of game play?

Jeff Skalski:

One could argue that we currently already do this in some capacity with our Scenarios and Public Quests, but we have more things in the works to better support social networking and accessibility to the game. The New User Experience is a current area of focus for us that covers the Tier 1 experience, and sets the tone for future evaluation of Tier 2-Tier 4 content. The recently added Summoning Stones, upcoming Apprenticeship/Hireling system we are adding that will allow players to play with anyone regardless of rank, continued dungeon improvements much like we recently did with Gunbad, new Friends List feature we added in 1.3.1, and the RvR token system are just a few of the things we currently have in the works to improve the overall player experience.

Can you talk about the launches in Asia and how the game is growing?

Jeff Skalski:

In May we launched in Taiwan, and it's off to a good start. They are a massive group of hardcore RvR players over there, and are really pushing our campaign system to its max. ;) My wish is to one day see the best of the best from North America, Europe, and Asia go head-to-head is an all-out battle royal to see who reigns supreme in RvR warfare. Other than that, we just released LotD, so it will be interesting to see if they follow the same habits we did over here in NA and EU. Next up for us is Korea, and we are dedicated to making that as successful as it can be.

What's great about learning more about other player audiences is being able to take that knowledge and apply it to ideas and solutions here on the other side of the pond where applicable. I wish I could say more, but I will share with you is that the work we are preparing for Korea will be beneficial to our entire global player-base in one way or another. We have some cool things in the works!

Finally, we are currently in beta with the Mac client of WAR, and we're very happy to say that the interest in it has far exceeded our expectations. Stay tuned for more details, and should you be lucky enough to cross paths with a player with the title of iPwner, you'll know they are a Mac user. ;)

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