MMORPG.com: Long time no chat, Carrie! Let's get right into it. What's been going on in WoH since we last spoke? How's the open beta going, and what changes has the game recently seen that folks might be out of the loop on?
Carrie Gouskos: Hello again! It’s safe to say that a lot has been going on in Wrath of Heroes – both the Closed and Open beta periods have been very illuminating for us. We’ve been learning a lot about our players and what they want to see in the game. The benefit of a game like Wrath is that we can focus our attention on rapidly iterating and adding new features and content, which we don’t expect to slow down anytime soon.
Some things that have come online in the past few months (including the upcoming version in the end of May):
- New Heroes – We started Open Beta with five and are up to twelve in just two months. Obviously we don’t want to add them too quickly, but we’re trying to find the right pace of introducing new heroes and mechanics in a way that keeps changing the dynamics of the game, so it continues to evolve and grow. Among the recently released heroes are three that weren’t available in any of the previous beta periods.
- New Map – You guys are previewing the brand new map The Pyramid of Settra, which is part of our summer Tomb Kings theme (along with the reintroduction of Amenadresh) – While we won’t be adding maps as frequently as heroes, there are even more in the works.
- Hero Bests, Quests, and Trophies – We’ve got several achievement-type systems in place to incentivize and reward people for completing objectives within a single scenario, to complete them across multiple scenarios, and to beat their own records. We’re just about to release a “trophy system” which is the first step in letting people visualize their successes.
- Friendly Competition – Besides wanting you to beat your own best, we’re eager for people to compete against their friends – we track kills versus every opponent within a single match, see a lot of people vying for highest competitive kill streaks – and we’re releasing the ability to compare all of your personal stats, per hero, against anybody else in the game.
- Tutorial and Free Hero – We’ve introduced a tutorial system to teach people about how the fundamentals of the game works. When you complete it, you get a free hero (Lucian the Blade) so there’s absolutely no reason not to (unless you hate the Empire).
- Store – Seeing as we’re free to play, we obviously have an in-game store. Almost everything on the store (with very rare exception) is available for purchase via either of our currencies, the in-game earned currency (gold) and the purchasable currency (gems). Besides constantly refreshing the items in the store (lots of new things are available for purchase – like ornate chests, mastery points, and potions) – we are finding ways to offer multiple tiered price options so that new players don’t feel like they have a huge road to climb to being competitive.
MMORPG.com: I'll admit that it's been a while since I've had a chance to check in on my favorite little Gobbo and raise some hell too. One thing I was looking forward to when I last played was a little more depth in persistent character growth. It's hard to do in a MOBA like this, but have you guys added anything or tweaked existing features that add progression to a player's account?
Carrie Gouskos: Earlier this year we introduced mastery trees to every hero. Mastery trees work like they do in any MMORPG, you gain points by gaining in-game levels and then can spend them to unlock new abilities for your characters. There are three types of abilities to unlock currently: tactics enhance a particular statistic, alternate abilities swap out the way one of your abilities work (allowing a player to switch a hero between offense and defense playstyles, for example), and perks are uber-abilities (like turning into a Lord of Change) that are gated by certain criteria.
Many of the abilities are usable by multiple heroes, so often we see people buying points in the mastery tree for one hero to slot on another. We continue to be surprised at some of the loadouts and strategies we’re seeing from players – (and only occasionally in a bad way) J
We also introduced “Hero Synergies” which play into more of the IP kind of behavior, giving players benefits to rolling groups of heroes of the same army. This will only get more interesting as we release more and more hero types within each race. In the upcoming version, we’re going to allow players to have multiple ability loadouts if they have different skins for their heroes.
There’s more in the works, as we want to offer as much depth for individual heroes as we have with breadth of catalog of hero choices. Being successful and tactical requires not only playing your hero well, but coming up with the right ability loadout for your playstyle, as well as modifying your group makeup as the match requires.
MMORPG.com: How have the players been taking to all the changes and ups and downs of a beta schedule? Do you find you get a lot of inspiration from their desires to make the game better? I remember at PAX Prime last year when you polled the audience for the next hero to be added... let's just say that rat won that day.
Carrie Gouskos: We’re seeing a very good response to how quickly we’re iterating on the game. All of the iteration comes from feedback, both internally and externally – and is based on what we see and hear from players both in surveys and by playing with them (anonymously, of course) in the betas.
Right now our community efforts are focused through our Facebook channel. That’s where you can find both news and teasers of what’s to come. The team also runs polls on what we should work on next, which hero they’d like to see go on sale, and even let the beta players vote on the initial Open Beta hero lineup. Going through the commentary is another outlet via which we gauge player reaction and interest – and of course, we will never ignore a good hero idea.
MMORPG.com: There's a new scenario coming to the beta right? Can you give us the lowdown on what it's all about? Is it a twist on an old Warhammer Online favorite like Mourkain?
Carrie Gouskos: The Pyramid of Settra is a brand new map in the Tomb King universe. We thought that would pair nicely with the release of the Tomb King hero, Amenadresh, and it’s an especially different looking and feeling map from our other three. That has been the key to map selection “where do we want to play next?” and “what would be completely different than what we have right now?”
Of course people often ask why we don’t bring over more of the favorite maps from Warhammer Online (particularly Nordenwatch or Reikland Factory) but having three teams does a lot more to change the gameplay mechanics than you would necessarily think. That doesn’t rule them out, but sometimes we start with one of those maps and before we know it, it’s turned into something completely new.
MMORPG.com: What sort of mechanics will we see used in this one? How does one team defeat the other two?
Carrie Gouskos: The key to winning is all about getting or having the most points when the time is up. Having three teams means that often two teams can complicitly work together (until the very end), or everyone can go all out to take everyone else down.
In the Pyramid of Settra, relics spawn periodically, and players must grab them and take them back to their treasure room. In some ways, this shares similarity to the rules of one of our other maps, Black Fire Pass. But one of the key differences is that due to the number of relics in play, keeping up offense and defense simultaneously is a lot more important. The winner of the map can change very quickly if you’re not working together and paying attention. That’s also what makes it exciting!
MMORPG.com: What about the new hero? Can you spill some details on him/her/it?
Carrie Gouskos: Amenadresh the Steward was briefly available in the closed beta, and we’re very glad to see him back. He’s a Liche Priest that can both curse the opposing team and bless/heal his own. He’s one of the more interesting heroes (I think) and brings another healer-type back into the mix, which I know a lot of people have been looking forward to.
MMORPG.com: What sort of role will they play in a composed group?
Carrie Gouskos: Used effectively, Amenadresh is the glue of a cohesive team. We’re always looking to introduce heroes that help everyone else play better – because ultimately we see this as a team game. I know a lot of people like to have the highest number of kills or stats, but being the best in spite of your team does not always merit the greatest reward. We’re hoping to continue to add more team gameplay mechanics, features, and heroes to emphasize this – while being very cognizant of the differences between premades and pick-up groups.
MMORPG.com: Lastly, but certainly not least... what's Carrie playing most when she sits down to crack skulls in WoH? Better not be an elf.
Carrie Gouskos: The Greenskins have always been nearest and dearest to my heart, but it’s very situational depending on the map, the team and what the opponents are doing. I really do embrace playing the right hero at the right time. That being said, I don’t play elves. That’s never okay.