Jeff Hickman Interview - 1.26.07
Ten Minutes with Jeff Hickman
Jeff Hickman, Senior Producer of Warhammer Online on why even cooperative games will enjoy WAR's RvR core
by Jeff Woleslagle
January 30, 2007 - At the press event last week at the EA Mythic studios, we were privileged to sit down with Jeff Hickman, Senior Producer for Warhammer Online, following a day of presentations and demos about EA Mythic's MMORPG adaptation of the popular Games Workshop tabletop game. The thrust of the interview was accessibility for gamers of all stripes, even for those who may typically dislike PvP in other MMORPGs.
Jeff Woleslagle, Ten Ton Hammer: I enjoyed your presentation with Paul Barnett (Creative Director) more than any I've seen in recent memory. You guys kind of have a Penn and Teller act going here.
Jeff Hickman, Senior Producer, Warhammer Online: "Paul and I work hand in hand. Paul is the crazy vision guy, I'm the guy that says that's great, but how are we going to do it? He and I work really well together. What you see shows really how we work together. He throws everything against the wall, and we say... how about this? Then he helps to make sure that what happens really works for the game."
Ten Ton Hammer: Speaking of "working for the game," What kind of resources are you devoting to Warhammer Online?
Jeff: We have about 150 people working on the project, which is massive, especially for us. I think when we launched Camelot we had 28 people, I think I was employee number 27 or something like that when we launched Camelot. So we're way above and beyond. Warhammer is such an effort for us. It's a game completely different from what we do with Camelot as far as the level of depth that we're putting into everything we do. The amount of detail in the world, the amount of immersive stuff, just stuff, that's happening environmentally, that is amazingly difficult to do. So we took a lot of time just making sure the game feels like it should.
I was playing a Dwarf RunePriest yesterday, and I stopped and took a look at him, because there were very small runic letters on his vestments. There were actually little letters visible on this run-of-the-mill office hopper laptop I was playing on, how cool is that?
Jeff: The character art is crazy, some of the stuff is so cool. Some of these things I'm like "Wow, they really did it." I have to point this out because nobody else does and it's such simple little thing: you can see belts. You can take your belt and change it to another belt, we've got all kinds of different belt buckles. And it's just cool. You put your belt on for the first time and you're like "I can see my belt, that's great!" Some of the other stuff... we can just go crazy with the goblins. Crazy hats, weird crap that they've got all over them. So much fun, we're having a great time with it.
The newly unveiled Chaos Magus (left) and Empire Bright Wizard (right) are evidence that Warhammer Online does absolutely stand on its own two feet graphically.
While we're on the subject of graphics, you hear the "WoW looks like Warhammer" and the "Warhammer looks like WoW' back and forth. How comfortable are you with the side-by-side comparisons? Does it help the hype level?
Jeff: It probably helps the hype level, maybe it does. I don't know. I prefer to stand on our own two feet. It's definitely difficult because we don't choose to look like anybody but Warhammer. We say that and some people kinda go "ohohoho, you're just saying that." And, no. Games Workshop has input in everything that we do. We look like Warhammer, and it just so happens that other games kind of look like Warhammer too. I don't say that to be crappy to other games, it's just a fact. When we go to Games Workshop and we say "here's what orcs will look like" and they go, "yes, that's what orcs look like!" or "nooo, that's not what orcs look like... this is what orcs look like, make it look like that.
So if people want to do side-by-side comparisons, that's fine. Our art style is definitely not hyper-realistic. People take side-by-side comparisons of Camelot and other realistic games, it doesn't mean that they're really similar games. Warhammer is what it is, we have a lot of things we stand on our own two feet about. I even think that our graphics, if you look at them side by side with games like WoW, they're really not all that similar. They're similar in that they are exaggerated and they are not hyper-realistic.
The brighter palette?
Jeff: Exactly. So when you look at it that way, it's like "yea, we are." That's what Games Workshop envisions these characters to look like. If you look at our Chaos, nobody has anything like Chaos. Even if you look at our humans. We could look at humans especially with WoW. If you had a scale from hyperrealistic to - I don't want to use cartoony but you know what I mean - WoW is way down on the exaggerated end, DAoC, EQ2 are kind of up here in the realistic look, and Warhammer is kind of in the middle. If you look at our humans, they're actually very real looking. But how do you make dwarves look super real looking? You don't. How do you make orcs look real looking? You don't - they look like orcs. There's nothing out there that look like orcs. They look the way we want them to look. But when you look at our orcs, they don't look cartoony, they look like ferocious.