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Bringing It All Back to the Community - An Interview with Bob Mull

Posted Tue, Aug 19, 2008 by Ethec

Bringing It All Back to the Community

A GenCon Indy 2008 Interview with Warhammer Online’s Bob Mull

Bob Mull

Bob Mull, Director of Community Management

One of the hardest working but least recognized guys on the Mythic staff, Director of Community Management Bob Mull, was my first stop at GenCon Indy 2008. Bob looks after the international community management teams serving not only Warhammer Online, but also those hardcore hangers-on playing venerable titles like Dark Age of Camelot and Ultima Online. But with the launch of Warhammer Online only about a month away, it’s not surprising that WAR is foremost in Bob’s thoughts.

Bob just returned from Dublin discussions about the game’s worldwide launch with GOA, WAR’s publisher in the key market of Europe, and my first question dealt with the European reaction to the recently announced class and capital city cuts. As popular as Games Workshop miniature properties e.g. Warhammer Fantasy are in the US and Canada, it’s by all accounts something of a national obsession in many parts of Europe, especially Great Britain. “I lived in England for a while, and it’s hard to go anywhere without running into a Games Workshop,” Bob noted.

Though admitting that the class cuts were met with similar levels of apprehension across the pond - apparently Brits were particularly fond of the Dwarf Hammerer - in the end it was all met with the same grudging acceptance in Europe as we saw in North America. “Mark [Jacobs]’ office is a few doors down from mine, and he took a lot of heat over the class stuff. A lot of players don’t realize that that was a really difficult decision for him...  If you’re following our game for a couple years and looking at the Blackguard and decide that’s what you want to play and now it’s gone, I expect that someone would be upset about that. And there’s really nothing I can say. I can talk about how it’s better now - how we want to avoid placeholder classes - but we really don’t want to have to do it.”

With the only real downer of a question out of the way, we continued on to the more optimistic topic of what WAR is doing for us gamers lately; namely open beta. As we sat at a crumb-covered table in the not-so-aptly-named “quiet area” at GenCon, Mythic was quietly working towards opening the floodgates on open beta downloads (starting on August 18th) for those that had received a code at one of Mythic’s Games Days or otherwise. But before open beta opens, I learned that Mythic has a special preview weekend planned soon for folks who can’t fly to Leipzig GC this week or PAX next week to catch the game in person. The upcoming preview weekend is in effect the game’s first real stress test and a celebration of the end of closed beta; with Mythic’s goal to beat up the servers with you and 100k of your closest friends. When will it be? We know that open beta begins on September 7th, so feel free to speculate on which weekend the preview will fall on prior to that date.

That’s far from the only bit of excitement Mythic has planned for the month leading to WAR’s launch. The “Realm War” is here to stay (and will be ready by launch, at the latest, for Europe, Bob confirmed) and the ramp-up campaign “Road to WAR” are two web-based efforts that players can start delving into now.

So what exactly is Realm War? Bob offered me the clearest, most concise explanation I’ve seen anywhere outside of Ten Ton Hammer’s Interview with Scott Stricklin. But here’s a quick overview with some clarification added.

Realm War has four components:

1) Character search - Get ganked by some greenskins or singed by a sorceress? Look them up on Realm War and see what gear they’re wearing and the stats of their items. Though more hardcore players might prefer to keep their equipment choices on the down low, Bob was quick to note that no tree choices, morale abilities, etc. will be displayed. Even so, players won’t have the ability to turn off these listings at launch. “We really felt that this was one of those things where as soon as we would allow some players to turn off this feature, it would become pretty useless to everyone,” Bob explained.

2) Leaderboards - See how your renown and all time kills stack up against other players with this feature of Realm War. Stats will be updated weekly, and though no tome info will be available for comparison at launch, Bob stated that this was definitely something Mythic wants to add on to as time goes by. “What we want to do is just keep adding feature after feature... we’d rather roll out one thing at a time and execute very well than roll out a bunch of things and have to fix them all.”

3) Guild Search - With information auto-populated by choices your guild makes and individual player stats, this is the place to get the skinny on a potential new guild or gather info to get sweet revenge on a rival guild.

4) Realm War - This is basically your window on the Warhammer Online game world. See real-time info on who controls the various RvR tiers of outposts, keeps, fortresses, and the cities as the forces of Order and Destruction vie for total domination.

WAR Booth

The WAR Booth at GenCon Indy 2008

Also under Bob’s purview, the Warhammer Online Herald will continue Mythic’s long-standing tradition of keeping players in the know. Bob explained that while the game’s landing page is for those relatively new to WAR. The Herald is just for active players of the game, highlighting community resources and offering in-depth interviews shining the limelight on the most influential members of the community.

To lead up to the title’s September 18th launch, Mythic is also running the “Road to WAR” campaign. Though it sounds like Bob explained that Road to War allows players to declare a side and raise armies to “fight” for control of real-world territories. The outcome will have some in-game consequences as well, such as titles and achievements for individual players as well as the ability to affect the starting state of the opposing city (“But not in a way that affects balance,” Bob clarified). More details will be provided as we head toward PAX in just a couple weeks, which is the last fan event before WAR is released.

We closed with a quick discussion of some of the recent impropriety issues involving customer service personnel in several top-tier MMORPGs, and though we agreed that it’s hard to stop humans from being human, Bob feels that Mythic’s policies and proven track record will help nip any CS misbehavior in the bud fast. “It’s a select few that have the power to change anything, and everything is logged... If something happened, I’d go ballistic,” Bob underscored with a smile, “but I’m really not worried... I tell those guys all the time that they’re working on a one-to-one level. They’re the front-line troops... almost everything else we do is one-to-many.”
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