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Exclusive Warstorm Interview - Combining Card Games and MMOGs

Posted Tue, Nov 25, 2008 by Cody Bye

Many massively multiplayer online gamers are "players-of-all-trades", which essentially means that they'll play any game - MMO or not - that strikes their fancy. As one of those "player-of-all-trades" online gamers, I'm constantly on the lookout for a fun, entertaining "game" experience. I've tried the World of Warcraft TCG (which you can read about at Ten Ton Hammer). I've been a long time player of Dungeons and Dragons. You might even catch me playing a little online Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune if the timing is right. I have a constant yearning to go to McDonald's when they are having their Monopoly prize promotion. If it spins, moves, lights up, or generally has a chance to exclaim "You're a winner!" I'll play it.

Warstorm is labeled as an CCG product with MMO elements.

Recenly, I was scouring the Internet for my next fateful gaming encounter, when I stumbled upon a game called Warstorm, a CCG that claimed to also have a MMOG elements. "Holy crap!" I exclaimed, "It's like merging beer and pizza into one deliciously good, yet drunkenly awesome product!" With my curiosity piqued, I got ahold of the development company's team lead, Matt Deegler, and had a short chat with him about Warstorm and why MMO gamers might be interested in this pseudo MMOCCG. Like you the reader, I was fairly stumped with the entire idea at first, so I had Matt give me a brief explanation about the game and how it's like a massively multiplayer online experience.

"Warstorm is our latest free-to-play, short form game," Matt explained. "In Warstorm, players become Warlords who place armies into battle versus NPC’s and other players.  The combat is turn-based and victory comes by defeating either the challenger directly or by beating all armies controlled by that challenger.  Warstorm has strong trading card game roots as the squads are comprised of cards that the Warlord owns.  Cards can be earned, bought, sold and traded through the game, and a larger collection means more flexibility in creating squads."

"The MMO element of the game comes from Warstorm’s ability to support tens of thousands of players simultaneously battling enemies, Matt continued, "chatting with friends, and trading with everyone.   From our eight man tournaments up to our game ladders where thousands of players compete against each other, this game is focused on player vs. player strategy.   We have focused a lot of energy into making the game community-centric, designing ways for players to communicate, learn, and bond with each other."

Of course with any MMO or CCG, there is almost always a cost of some sort. Continuing on my pizza and beer analogy, this sort of masterful combination couldn't be strictly free... or could it? According to Matt, good players can certainly do well with the free cards that players can accumulate. Personally, I have my doubts that any "world champions" would come out of the "free card" ranks, but I might be wrong. However, the whole of the game seems to be available to any player, even those that don't want to pay with cold hard cash. Sounds like our typical F2P games, doesn't it?

"Warstorm is designed so that no player needs to spend money to get into the game," Matt said. "In Warstorm we give all new players a free initial deck to be used to build their first squad.  With this squad a player can begin their journey, earning additional card packs as awards for beating NPC’s in missions, reaching higher levels and accomplishing battle achievements.  Some rare cards are unique awards for achievements that require effort, not money.  This means that a good deck can be built based on free-to-play awards. "  

Ranking ladders are a large part of the gameplay in Warstorm

Finally, Matt and I got down to the nitty-gritty and discussed the actual gameplay we'll experience once we start up a session of Warstorm. For the most part, Warstorm sounds very similar to a lot of the lobby-based MMOGs that we've been covering recently. While hundreds of players might be hanging out in the card game lobby, you'll only get up close and personal with one opponent at a time. That said, Matt did mention that sixteen person tournaments were being held and that there is always a game to be played. Over the course of a gamer's experience they'll continue to earn higher (or lower) ranking within the Warstorm community.

"Ranking is based on a chess ranking system that is used in many popular games, such as World of Warcraft, called the Elo ranking," Matt said. "If you challenge a player who is far higher ranked than you and win, then you receive more experience and rating points than you would if you challenged someone below your rank and win.  It means that it is better for you to challenge stronger players because even if you lose, you lose less points than if you lost to someone at your same level, and you still gain experience points which will help you earn Achievements."

"There are three ladders: advanced, intermediate and beginner," he continued. "If you are successful in being at the top of your lower ladder, then you will be automatically moved up to a higher ladder.  This helps keep you at the level of competition and gives you the ability to improve and continue to move upwards."

While this sounds like pretty standard fare for the card gaming world, what MMO elements have really been introduced into Warstorm to give us that beautiful hybrid mixture? As a "player-of-all-trades", I came to the game looking for both pizza and beer, and I certainly don't want one without the other. Thankfully, Matt's next point discussed the advancement system within Warstorm, which is very similar to what you might find in today's MMORPGs and RPGs.

"Every Warlord will gain experience through battling opponents, and experience points are required to level-up.  Warlords at higher levels are allowed to play more squads simultaneously, allowing for huge battles," Matt said. "As to your card question: In a battle, the quality of your army depends on what cards you have available to play and what strategy you use to construct your deck. Warstorm’s flexible battle system can allow high-skilled low-level players to compete with higher-levelplayers who might not have designed as-good a deck."  

"Every card has a role in squad-based combat.  A squad is a 7-card combination of a Hero plus six other cards.  Selection of a Hero is important because s/he is the leader of a squad, and the units in the squad must be the same race as the Hero, currently Human, Elf, Undead or Orc," he continued. "Combined with the hero there will be a range of units.  The typical offensive units are Infantry, Beasts, Archers, Cavalry and Apparitions.  There are certain units that are more effective against each other.  For instance, Archers deal double-damage against Infantry, but they are weak against Cavalry who can trample them.  This balance of power means that there can never be one perfect set. "

Card collectors can certainly appreciate the art on these cards.

But Warstorm isn't strictly focused on PvP content either. On the contrary, gamers will find a mixture of PvP and PvE in the game, including a number of single player PvE scenarios for players to developer their Fatal1ty-esque PvP skills. "Although we focus on PvP as our strength, we have PvE scenarios for those who prefer to develop against NPC’s," Matt said. "These single player scenarios are a great place for a player to gain experience and additional card packs while testing out squad combinations.  Over time we will produce more PvE content and challenges through expansions such as our faction campaigns. "

With all this talk of pizza, beer, card games, and MMO, I'm almost ready to head out to my local gaming store to give the latest card game a whirl, as well as going by the Warstorm website to give their product a try. As we always try to do in our developers interviews, we gave Matt the final word of the afternoon and asked him if there was anything that he'd like to say to the Ten Ton Hammer readers and the Warstorm fans. Of course, he gave a great farewell

"I’d like to first thank all of our current Warstorm fans. You guys are great, and we could not have made this game without you and all the fantastic feedback you give us," Matt finished. "For those of you who have not checked us out yet, come on by!  There is no better game to be playing between Lich King raid bosses!"

We'd like to thank Matt again for his time, and we wish the best of luck to the Warstorm team and their intriguing MMOCCG.

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