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Warhammer Online: Mark Jacobs Interview

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by Garrett Fuller

Mark Jacobs had a chance to chat with us about Warhammer and the move to release the game in the third quarter of 2008. EA Mythic is now setting its sights on a fall release of the game for avid fans. Mark was quick to explain this decision by EA Mythic and was happy to offer loads of insight into Warhammer, game play, and MMOs in general.

Mark’s first words about delaying the game were what he has said from the beginning; that “release dates for MMOs are set in mud.” Mark continued to say, “We could have released W.A.R. in the second quarter but we would be sacrificing polish, quality, and balance.” With EA’s support of the game the team has the resources to put more time and effort into building a top MMO for players. Mark explained, “I don’t want to release W.A.R. until it is a great game!” Mark talked about how much EA believed in the game and said that if they did not believe in it they likely would have launched it already.

The other element to moving the release date we spoke about was the overall time frame that an online game is developed. Keep in mind that most MMOs take about four to five years to develop properly. By moving the release date to the fall Warhammer will still keep within the three year time frame of development and launch. Something many other MMOs have not been able to do.

Mark said that Warhammer wants to raise the bar for MMO games. The game now has a great chance to enhance quality, balance, and polish. Mark’s most important point for players is that “This is a good thing for the game long term.” He said how delays are never met with fanfare, but this is certainly not all negative. The quote that was being sent around was that “rather have players mad now, than mad later.” Mark really wants the launch of the game to be huge for players and is not afraid to delay a few months to give players the best game possible.

I did bring up the forum issue that Warhammer has been facing and Mark explained his issue with official forums. A lot of the forum traffic is negative and players feel like it is okay to bash developers when they are trying to get a message across. Mark used the Batman reference where a new strange hero attracts new strange villains. The better the hero does at stopping crime the more villains come out of the wood work. Sadly, developers go through something similar. If a developer posts something important to a game there are always vocal posters who are quick to put the announcement down. This negative energy feeds off itself and creates problem on official and sometime unofficial forums.

I asked Mark some direct questions on game play in MMOs and here is what some of his answers were. I asked, what is more important in an MMO, the journey or the end game? Mark’s response was “both, if the journey is not fun players will never reach the end game.” Warhammer is implementing RvR right from the get go to make that journey fun for players. Players can balance PvE and RvR to get to the highest level. Along with this question we asked how committed EA Mythic was to getting players to that end game. Mark said, “We are very committed to getting players to the end game, seriously committed to the end game.” Mark referenced the city sieges as a key element for players to enjoy the top levels in the game. He said they want players to go back and forth in capturing cities and fighting it out. Mark explained it is best when the journey is fun and the end game is great.

Another question we posed to Mark was if two players are fighting in RvR and one has slightly better loot, but the other is a more skilled player, will the player with more skill be able to win? Mark said there is a degree to balancing skill and loot. He also said it is not easy and many games do not get it right. If loot is the key factor in your game then the loot player would certainly win. However, good loot should not turn you into “Superman or a Jedi.” While W.A.R. will use loot as an incentive, Mark was quick to say that they are making sure “skill plays a role, knowing how to play is important like how to create or stack your character before a fight.” In the end W.A.R. is doing its best to balance the game between skill and items so players can have the best of both worlds.

We asked about the social aspects of the game. How players in some games may not even know members in their own guild, while in Dark Age of Camelot players knew everyone in their own realm, how would W.A.R. balance this out? Mark said they want players to know their guilds very well. They want players working together to form commodore and realm pride. With an end game like city sieges guilds will need to work together to take down a city. Mark also said that they really want to encourage players to defend their city as well. He said that no other games encourage defense, W.A.R. wants players working side by side for their realms in both attack and defense. People like working together and they hope to achieve this in Warhammer.

We asked Mark some quick fire questions about his take on games and his own personal preferences on game play. Here are the answers in a short paraphrased summary:

Do you prefer open world or instanced PvP?

Mark: Open World, I donÂ’t like gank groups, but I like the suspense and freedom. With instances I like the control as a designer.

Do you prefer to play a tank, caster, healer, or stealth class?

Mark: Caster, I do play them all, but always have a soft spot for casters.

Which Chaos god would you follow?

Mark: I am Undivided, I love them all.

Would you rather have the best loot or be top dog in PvP?

Mark: Top Dog! I am an old school PvPer, I put the PvP switch in DragonÂ’s Gate. I love that stuff.

Do you prefer large raids or small group dungeons?

Mark: Small group dungeons. By nature I am a solo player so I like small groups better than large. With large groups the more people required the more frustrating it can become. Most of all I want the game to be fun, I donÂ’t mind losing, I just donÂ’t want to be frustrated.

So there you have it folks, although W.A.R. is going to continue to cook in the development/beta oven for a few more months, rest assured it is for the better. The fact that Mark is willing to speak out on this delay shows the commitment that EA Mythic has to the game. After speaking with Mark we certainly all look forward to Warhammer and are glad that more time is going into balance, polish, and making a great game for all of us to play.

What do you think of Mark's design ideas for Warhammer Online? How do you feel about the delay?

Let us know on the forums!

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