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Exclusive WAR Call to Arms Interview - The Slayer, Choppa, and Land of the Dead

Posted Thu, Jan 29, 2009 by Cody Bye

For massively multiplayer online gamers, nothing is more thrilling than the addition of new classes. Not only do they often provide a completely new experience for player, they also give new players in the game a fresh set of faces to experience the game with.

Back before the launch of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, the developers at Mythic Entertainment opted to pull out four of their original starting classes, stating that they just weren't ready to see the light of release. Since that time the developers have released two of the classes during a "Heavy Metal" event, and now they've announced the final two classes to make their way into the original game: the Dwarf Slayer and the Orc Choppa.

To pave the way for their upcoming content, Mythic Entertainment's Jeff Hickman sat down with Cody "Micajah" Bye to get the exclusive scoop on the Slayer, the Choppa, and the upcoming RvR dungeon "The Land of the Dead." Make sure you check out the interview, then to hear more about the upcoming classes stop in to Ten Ton Hammer's official "Call to Arms" vooncast tonight featuring the WAR developers talking about these new classes and content!


The Slayer and the Choppa are the last two of the "original" classes.

Ten Ton Hammer: We've been hearing rumors about all sorts of things for the last few weeks. Everyone's guessing that the Slayer and the Choppa are coming to WAR, but what else is going on? How are you introducing everything?

Jeff Hickman: How this all comes together is that we're having, what we're calling, a "live expansion." It starts at the end of February, and we're calling the entire arc the "Call to Arms."

Imagine that the kings of the realms have discovered an opportunity rising in the distance, and this opportunity is a new land that has been discovered. The kings want to check out and invade this land in order to gain more power and help with the war efforts.

The first parts of this live expansion are really two things for the kings, getting people to the area and then getting people in to help win any battles that take place in the area.

So the first thing that happens in the live expansion is what we're calling the "Bitter Rivals" event. Over this three month period of time the event really focuses on the introduction of these two new classes into the game. Basically, it's a week long event that allows you to unlock the Orc Choppa and the Dwarf Slayer.

Ten Ton Hammer: Unlock them for a head start, correct?

Hickman: Yes, that is correct.  

Ten Ton Hammer: Tell us about the upcoming RvR dungeon that you're introducing. How does it work? What are we going to see in the dungeon?

Hickman: About a month after the Bitter Rivals event, we're still plotting this out, but there's another event that chronicles the Call to Arms and gets you closer to the final event: The introduction of the PvP dungeon, "The Land of the Dead."

It's kind of a misnomer to call it a dungeon, because it actually comes in two parts. In the first part, there's an external necropolis that is outside. It's got desert sands, ruins and everything you might think of when you think of a Tomb King related setting.

Then there's an internal part of the dungeon that is literally the Tomb of the Vulture Lord that players can go adventure in. All of this takes place in the Land of the Dead, so this dungeon is most definitely all of the things we looked at when we were building the game.

When we sat down to make Warhammer Online, we looked at Dark Age of Camelot and Darkness Falls was one of those places that stood out as a shining light. It was great, successful, and to this day it hasn't been duplicated. We wanted to bring that to the Land of the Dead.

The area is gated by RvR, so you must fight your enemies and earn control of this dungeon in order to enter it. Control will constantly be flipping between Order and Destruction, so one side will have control of the dungeon then the other side will gain access to it, and during that time you'll actually overlap in the dungeon and be able to fight each other.

The Purge will be an in-game event where lots of RvR and opponent deaths will take place.

Ten Ton Hammer: When you initially went in Darkness Falls, it was a straight shot down to the depths of the dungeon and you had to fight everyone if you were going in or escaping. Do you have anything like that built into the Land of the Dead?

Hickman: Absolutely. We call it the Purge and we play on it quite a bit more than we did in Darkness Falls. Like you said, in Darkness Falls you came in, ran down the hall, and killed anyone in your way.

We've got part of that in the Land of the Dead, because some of the better parts of Darkness Falls was that you never knew exactly when your enemy was going to get control. You were always in a hurry, always trying to get in and kill monsters. Once you were deep in the dungeon, you were always looking over your shoulder because you knew that enemy players might be spilling into the dungeon at any moment.

The funny thing is, there wasn't usually that much RvR going on in the dungeon. It just always felt like it was.

Ten Ton Hammer: There was always a sense of dread that someone was going to sneak in behind you and gank you while you were fighting a mob.

Hickman: Exactly. There is actually a lot of PvE that goes on in the Land of the Dead, and there are two things that can happen when control flips. One thing is the open world RvR fighting that goes on in the necropolis with all the ruins and crazy stuff that's happening outside.

Then there's the tomb itself, and there are actually multiple ways that you can purge your enemies out of the tomb and get rewarded for killing and purging your enemies out of that tomb.

I don't want to go into too much detail, but that's a good overview.

Ten Ton Hammer: Back in Darkness Falls, you had a separate currency that players were awarded with after killing the monsters in that dungeon. Are you planning on implementing something like that into the Land of the Dead?

Hickman: I don't want to answer that question directly, but I won't say no.

Honestly, there are five things in Darkness Falls that you can point at as being "really cool" and any of those things you will see in the Tomb King dungeon.

Ten Ton Hammer: I never got high enough in levels to venture to the end of Darkness Falls, but when you get to the end of the Tomb of the Vulture Lord, is there going to be a big, epic boss mob?

Hickman: There are definitely some surprises that you'll see in the Tomb of the Vulture Lord. If you think about how Darkness Falls was, it was also set into two different regions. There was a sort of "upper" area, which you have in the Land of the Dead as the necropolis. It's a bit lower level - you can get in at low level 32 and stay there till around your mid-30s - and there's lots of interesting things going on.

But just like in Darkness Falls, the really experienced players can venture into the next level. The Tomb of the Vulture Lord is a super intense, super high level dungeon that caters to people that are looking for something even more difficult than the Lost Vale (their most dangerous PvE adventure). This is a little bit higher level with a little bit higher level rewards.

It has a lot of crazy encounters including a possible run in with the Tomb King himself at the bottom of the dungeon then a surprise that happens outside in the necropolis when you defeat the Tomb King.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are the Tomb Kings going to have a possible expansion race, because you're delving so heavily into the Land of the Dead and the Tomb King.

Hickman: It could, but I'll tell you frankly that we don't have that intent right now.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will the new dungeon have new monsters and model and animations? Or is it a play on stuff you've already created in the world?

Hickman: Oh yeah. Lots of new stuff.

Ten Ton Hammer: Let's move onto the new classes, because I think that's what players are really looking forward to. What can you tell me about the Slayer? What kind of mechanics does he use?

Hickman: Since the Choppa and the Slayer both use the same mechanic, I'll just explain them both at once. There are definitely differences between the two classes, but at the core they have the same mechanic. Let's just call it "Berserker Rage."

If you look at both the Choppa and the Slayer, they're both guys that have been designed to be super lightly armored, close-in melee DPS fighters. These are guys that build up Berserker Rage, and as they're in combat and their Berserker Rage builds up, they get stronger.

Their abilities do more damage, their weapons hit harder, they might swing faster, and as they're filling their Berserker rage they're also unlocking more abilities. But that's only good until a certain point. At around fifty percent, they actually start to overextend themselves and while they're still doing more damage they become much easier to kill. They start taking more damage and their defense start going down.

It really becomes a balancing act for these classes to use their abilities that use up their rage while still keeping their berserk at the point they want it to be at depending on their current situation.

Here's a picture of the Choppa in the beta phase of WAR.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are these two going to be the highest melee DPS classes in the game? Where do they fit in with other melee DPS classes?

Hickman: I hesitate to answer the question because I don't have good numbers in front of me, but I can tell you what the goal is. The goal is that these guys put out a lot of damage. Are they going to be the highest melee damagers? They're going to be close.

When you compare them to the Witchhunter and the Witch Elf and the Marauder and the White Lion. they're all going to be similar in the damage they put out. It really depends on the situation you're in and which class fits best.

Ten Ton Hammer: So where do you see these two classes excelling?

Hickman: These are the guys that we want to see hit the back lines of the enemy. They're going to have a hard time standing toe-to-toe with anyone that can absorb damage. The Slayers don't wear any chest armor at all! He's bare-chested...

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there going to be anything that goes in that equipment slot?

Hickman: Potentially, we might see runes and tattoos going in that slot. That said, you're definitely not a heavily armored guy. You want to avoid damage as much as possible. His skills are all about damage avoidance or mitigating that damage in other ways, and he's all about taking out the weaker opponents quickly.

Ten Ton Hammer: So the Choppa was in the original beta, but it's obviously been a few months since then. How much has changed with this class? Will people that played the Choppa in the beta feel like the class is completely different? Or are they going to be pretty comfortable with that character?

Hickman: There's obviously a few differences in the way he plays and his abilities, but the feel of the career and the way he fights are very very similar to the way he played in beta. He's a savage brawler that wants to kill his enemies as quickly as possible.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are you putting anything into the two starting areas that are specialized for the Choppa and the Slayer? Something for players that have already gone through those areas to go back and try?

Hickman: We have a couple things planned around the Bitter Rivals event that have to do with both of these classes and have interesting new things that have to do with the Choppa and the Slayer, but those things aren't necessarily going to be permanent in the starting areas.

Ten Ton Hammer: Why did you decide to go with the Slayer over the Hammerer? Personally, I always felt like the Slayer was a much better concept and much more iconic. Why'd you initially go with the Hammerer class and why did you decide to switch that class to the Slayer?

Hickman: We always wanted it to be the Slayer. We always talked about having him in the game. Unfortunately, there were always problems with putting the Slayer into the game from the fact that it partially goes against the lore to the fact that the class will be so popular that nobody will play anything else. There were all sorts of different reasons.

But the biggest reason was really the lore. When we were in the beta and looking at the classes, we realized that we needed another dual-wielding DPS guy and we went back and forth with GW on the lore and how we could do the Slayer and there was so much argument about the class that we decided to go with the Hammerer instead.

We were never really satisfied with that answer. When we were given the chance to go back and really focus on the class and examine what we were doing, we decided to go back to the drawing board and really figure out a way to make the Slayer work. We went back to GW and back to our lore books and looked for precedence in how a player could actually play of these guys.

Finally, we went to the masters at GW and asked them how they'd do it and they plotted out a way to do it and that's exactly what we did. That's when we said, "Let's do it."

Ten Ton Hammer: What was the lore problem with the Slayer, for those people that aren't incredibly familiar with the Warhammer IP?

Hickman: Mostly, it had to do with what a Slayer is. A Slayer is a disgraced Dwarf. he's a Dwarf who has had some great shame come down on him. The reason these guys become a Slayer is that they want to die gloriously in battle. They're searching for the biggest, baddest monster, the biggest, baddest fight so that they can fight, lose, and die.

The problem is is that Dwarfs never give up, never say die, and so they try their hardest in these battles and sometimes they survive. So in some ways it's difficult to have a Slayer player character because Slayers are essentially there to die.

It's one of those things where you ask, "Wow...how's that going to work?"

We worked through the lore, and there are definitely precedents of Slayers that live a long time. These guys are so powerful that they live a long time and can't find anyone that can kill them. While it definitely has some little stumbling blocks and the lore enthusiasts will poke at us about it, we felt that the Slayer was so awesome and so iconic for the game that we just couldn't pass it up.

The Slayers in WAR will definitely stand out from other Dwarfs.

Ten Ton Hammer: The Slayers in the lore have a pretty iconic look. Will players still be able to change their look enough to feel different? Or are there going to be massive armies of red mohawked Slayers running around?

Hickman: I think we have enough variation in the game that people will feel fine about it, but we will definitely be sticking with the way Slayers look in the lore. There will be variations in the types of haircuts that they have. It's often a mohawk but there will be different types of crazy haircuts for players to choose from. Lots of crazy hair color. Tattoos and runes will also be included.

We'll also be doing plenty of things with axes and shoulder pads and we can tell you that they'll really come out looking pretty awesome.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else that's going to be included in this big expansion? Maybe destructible keep walls or things of that nature that players have been wanting?

Hickman: Don't forget about all the things that we've been finishing up over the last four or five months. We love our game, but there are so many things that we can still tweak here and tweak there. That's what we've been doing the last few months.

We introduced two new careers, lots of balancing, itemization improvements, lots of XP adjustments, smoothing out the client, lots of different new content that we've done. We have no intention of backing off on that, even with all the other stuff that we're doing.

Leading up and even while we're doing our stuff with the Call to Arms event, there's so much that we're going to continue to do along those lines. The zone domination and override system and the supplemental system that's coming in a couple weeks allows guilds a different method and a supplemental method of capturing zones.

Things like new and interesting rewards for guild claiming holding keeps. All sorts of new guild rewards are coming into the game very soon. A load of continual RvR benefits and rewards for going out into Open RvR and calling other players.

Ten Ton Hammer: What are you guys planning on bringing to the Ten Ton Hammer panel at the New York Comic-Con for players to see?

Hickman: I don't want to ruin anything that we're going to do, but we've got a lot of great things planned for that event. Paul's going to be there, and there's going to be blood involved. We've got a ton of great stuff to show everyone including some imagery and hopefully some in-game stuff with the Slayer and the Choppa and maybe some info on the Land of the Dead. Definitely lots of great stuff is planned for Comic-Con.

Ten Ton Hammer: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to tell Ten Ton Hammer readers and Warhammer Online fans?

Hickman: I want to highlight just how interesting and "big picture" the Call to Arms live expansion is. It's going from the end of February basically into May and there're so many things that are going on. It's going to be an amazing sight to behold for players of the game.

With our new recruit-a-friend program and free trial program coming up, we can get more people to come into WAR. The game just keeps getting better and better.
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