The Human Side of WAR
Ten Ton Hammer Interviews Jeff Hickman and Paul Barnett at Games Day 2007
By Garrett Fuller
What is it about gaming that makes us all love it? What draws us into an MMO, a table top war game, or an old school, pencil-and-paper RPG? What makes us tick? Remember the first time you logged into an MMO, the first time you played an RPG with your friends?
Whatever the feeling that game gave you was, you were hooked. You got “It”. It, as they say, is something that you either get or you do not. How many times have gamers said, “You don’t get It?” Perhaps we say that because many people don’t see It our way, and it’s exclusive to our own personal feelings towards a game or genre.
At the end of Games Day, I had an opportunity to sit down with Jeff Hickman and Paul Barnett, the Senior Producer and Creative Director for EA Mythic, respectfully. We didn’t discuss the game in a normal way, instead we discussed It. The passion and vision these guys have about Warhammer and what they want players to feel. Paul was subdued for a change; he talked about that strong emotional connection the managers, team, and hopefully players will all feel when Warhammer Online is launched. This is not your typical Paul and Jeff interview; this is about human nature, about emotion, and about why Led Zeppelin and the Ferrari all play an important part in the making of Warhammer Online.
First off, we discussed the Warhammer team and how they have grown from 60 to one 170 people over the past year. These individuals all share a passion for making the game, and because of this, management has been faced with trying to convey It as that passion.
What is that vision you ask? What is It? Paul explained that many video games are “fire-and-forget.” You build them, you ship them off, and you forget about them. “We want this game to be a hobby,” he said. For many, a hobby builds skill, commitment, and imagination. “A good hobby does those things and our hobby does that in spades.”
When he explained this ideal, he talked primarily about the fans, how happy they are to play games, wear t-shirts, and think about what they will do this week or next week in their hobby. This level of passion among the fans builds those three elements: skill, commitment, and imagination. So naturally that is where the development team is focused. They are not just creating a game; they are building a hobby for fans.
When talking about MMOGs Jeff stated, “A lot of people are hitting the market, but they are not hitting the mark.” He said they are still producing games with a rock solid foundation but then he asked the question, “Where is the glory?”
To explain his question, Jeff used the analogy of a car. Here is what he said:
Paul Barnett sporting a Ten Ton Hammer card...in his mouth.
“It’s like, if I’m going to make a car, I get the four wheels, I get an engine, and I get a steering wheel, probably a seat and what do I have? I have a Yugo. It’s a car that works. It is a foundationally functional car.
“What is the difference between a Yugo and a Mustang? A Mustang is an engaging, interesting drive that is full of character. It has emotion attached to it because of its history. It is a vehicle people want to drive because of the emotion behind it.
“What is the difference between a Mustang and a Ferrari or a Mercedes? Those are glorious cars to drive. Why? It‘s that feel. It’s that touch. That is what we need people to understand. EA Mythic is no longer in the business of making a game; we are in the business of making a hit game that is engaging and glorious.”
Jeff continued to talk about Warhammer Online as a whole and why they are putting so much polish on the game. However, his definition of polish is very different from what others have stated about it. “Polish is not the frosting on the cake, polish is everything that you do,” he said. They want the polish to exist in every part of the game, not just as unimportant lens flare or an extra dollop of color in a particular zone.