In the latest
Ton Hammer Live! Podcast, style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer Online
Producer Carrie Gouskos provided exclusive, never-before-revealed
information about the hideous Skaven! Under the influence of warpstone,
she revealed details about the various type of Skaven that you can use,
plus details on the huge Skaven dungeon! Yes! You will go into the
festering tunnels of the hideous rat-men to fight them on their own
turf. If that wasn’t enough exclusive information, I can only
say Throt the Unclean! Now wipe the crazy foam from your mouths and
read on about the Skaven. Oh yeah, there’s also some
information on changes to the RvR mechanics, the decision to stay
subscription based, and other non-Skaven things.
Ton Hammer: Tell us a little bit about this RvR pack.
Gouskos: The RvR pack is the
first paid content pack since we launched two years ago. Last year, we
of the Dead, which was an
entirely free expansion pack. This time, we’re offering this
RvR pack, and it is going to cost a little bit of money. What it
contains is a complete change to the way in which the end-game open RvR
is played. It is a culmination of a lot of work that we’ve
done this year trying to bring out the full potential of the open RvR
experience. It includes Skaven and everything Skaven-themed. Skaven are
these super-cool rat-men army in style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer.
I think that it is the most popular army in the tabletop game and they
are super cool and we’re playing around with them. They have
a lot of fun things that they do and a lot of fun attributes, so
we’re trying to incorporate them in a lot of different ways.
It includes an extension of the renown rank system, which is our
equivalent of leveling. We’re not about making people grind
through PvE levels. The point is that you get to 40, which is our max
rank, and then we want you to work on your renown rank, and that is
what makes you powerful in RvR.
In addition to all that, the Skaven classes are going to be playable.
There’s a different kind of mechanic. They’re not
going to be a whole new career that you’re going to start
from scratch. There’s a lot of stuff going on.
We’re really excited about it. Everything is kind of focusing
on the RvR aspect of the game. As I mentioned last time, it’s
what our focus has been all year.
Ton Hammer: Is this RvR pack part of patch 1.4 or is it something
Gouskos: The RvR pack is
going to be timed with patch 1.4. We kind of call them both
interchangeably, mostly because we haven’t given a name for
the RvR pack yet, so that’s why we’ve sometimes
called the RvR pack 1.4. One of the distinctions is what is available
for free, so we realize that some of our players probably
won’t purchase it and so we want them to have things as well.
Obviously, we then split it up to things that are part of the pack and
things that are not.
Ton Hammer: So if players choose not to buy the RvR pack, what do they
have to look forward to?
Gouskos: For us, one of the
key factors is that we don’t want to charge people for
anything that is population gating. So, we’re obviously going
to save a lot of the cool stuff for people who buy it, but places like
areas and mechanics that require population are not going to be
restricted to only those people who purchased it. We don’t
want to take our population, which is a bunch of people standing
around, playing, killing, and having fun together, and then splitting
them into two sections, one for the people who paid for it and another
for those who didn’t. If we did that, even people who paid
for it would say that this was worse because now my friend
can’t play with me. The goal is to make available to
everybody everything that is population based and then offer some
really cool stuff that represents progression in the game to those who
want to pay for it.
Ton Hammer: How does the purchasing of the pack work? Is it one giant
content pack or are there different bits of it?
Gouskos: We talked about it
as not one giant thing, but as several sections. People are able to buy
it in sections if they choose not to buy all of it at once. There are
themed divisions. We call those themes progression, power, and
personality. Each of those three themed packs is a single piece, so a
person who likes power and doesn’t care about personality,
then they don’t have to buy that personality theme.
We’re still working out when and how much for the pack.
Ton Hammer: To put it in a style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Rock
Band style="font-weight: bold;"> type of analogy, is it
like you can buy a few songs or you could purchase an entire album?
Gouskos: It’s kind
of like that. It’s hard to make that comparison because
it’s DLC. I think of us as being between DLC and expansion
pack. We’re in the middle there because it’s not
one or the other. Hopefully, it’s the best of both. In
theory, you’re correct. You can buy them individually, but in
practice, you’re better off buying the whole thing at once.
Ton Hammer: With this type of system, do you think that we’re
going to get more packs like this here on out or are we still doing
full-blown old-fashioned expansion packs down the line?
Gouskos: That’s a
good question. It depends upon the players and how they respond to
this. This is sort of a departure from tradition that we’re
trying out. The goal of doing it this way was to iterate more quickly
and offer more content more frequently. If players respond well to
that, then we’ll certainly continue along that line. If they
don’t, then we’ll explore other options.
I’ve said recently that full blown expansions are off the
table because you see the MMOG market changing with a lot of games
going free-to-play and things like that. I think that people are
getting more and more comfortable with different kinds of monetization
Ton Hammer: Switching gears a little bit to in-game topics. What can
you tell us about battlefield objective resource nodes?
Gouskos: Sure thing! The way
the campaign works in style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer
right now is that you capture zones and move from zone to zone to zone
until you lock down what we call a pairing. You lock down pairings and
you open up a city. That’s the end-game. The city has this
epic battle that we completely redid earlier this year to great effect.
We wanted to take a look at the actual zone locking mechanic out in
RvR, which is open realm versus realm. That is the core gameplay and
that’s what I think makes our game very special. We wanted to
make sure that it was really, really solid.
So we listened to a lot of feedback from players that said things like
that it happened too quickly. Then they said that all they were doing
was standing around waiting for timers to finish counting down, and
I’m not fighting against other people, I’m fighting
against a keep door. People call it RvDoor when they’re being
really mean. We listened to that kind of stuff and we took it to heart.
We’re open to criticism, and we decided to make it as good as
it could be. What we did was to change the mechanic.
Zones have two keeps in them. It used to be that who owned the keep
depended upon the zone, but now your side controls one keep and the
other side controls the other. This is in every single zone. The
objective is to get the other keep. In simplistic terms,
that’s the only objective. What that means is that the
battlefield objectives that are available, which are smaller points
around the RvR lake, are open to the struggle back and forth. So you
run out and try to capture and then own the objective. If you own the
objective, what you end up doing is that you end up sending resource
carriers, taking resources from the objective, back to your warcamp. As
you get resources, if the resource carriers successfully get to the
warcamp, you get resources for your side. Resources contribute to your
keep’s level, and the keep’s level is what helps
you get the power in the war. Level 1 is armored resource carriers.
Level 2, they become mounted resource carriers, and so on.
As you’re going and getting more resource carriers, you get
siege equipment which is now super-powerful. We’re changing
it so as soon as siege goes up, we want people going right after it and
attacking right away. Also, there are other tactics involved.
We’re adding aerial bombers, which is a way to get people
inside the enemy keep by taking a flight path over there and dropping
down inside and wreaking havoc inside the keep.
Finally, when the keep is level 4, that’s when you get access
to the ram. The ram is now the only way to take down the door. The goal
is to drive players to get siege equipment, which is powerful, and to
keep the siege equipment up, and to then take down then enemy keep to
capture it and move forward in battle. All of these stages combined
have tactics that people are talking about. The new tactic is to
hopefully spread people out, and to encourage people not to only guard
their battlefield objectives, but to also guard their resource
carriers. It helps a smaller group of people to take on a bigger army
with some of the tactics that they can do. There’s a lot of
changes to tactics. The objectives have been simplified.
There’s no more waiting for timers. Yada, yada, yada. I can
go on for hours about this. I’m really passionate about the
changes we’re making.
Ton Hammer: You mentioned the resource carriers. Can they protect
themselves or do they need a garrison of players to watch out for them?
Gouskos: They can’t
protect themselves. They’re going to go down. If you let your
resource carrier go down while he’s en route to the warcamp,
then the other side gets your resources. You clearly have an objective
to keep them safe.
Ton Hammer: Does that mean that you don’t necessarily have to
attack the node? That you can concentrate on attacking the carriers?
that’s a strategy you can use. However, you’re
going to want to own a node. The nodes are spread out all over the
lake, and it’s in your best interest to own the nodes. But
you can take any strategy you want. You have different options.
Ton Hammer: That’s interesting. If you don’t want
to engage somebody right away or if you’re completely
outnumbered, you can just sort of mess with them and just have fun with
them. Because every once in a while, you just want to be an ass and
mess with other people’s good time. That’ll
probably be a good way to do it.
Gouskos: That also ties into
that mechanic that we added in version 1.36, the Against All Odds
mechanic, which gives you super-duper renown and stuff when
you’re completely outnumbered. If you wanted to stick around
and mess with people, you’re going to get rewarded for doing
that. That’s the kind of behavior that we wanted to
encourage. We want people to be out there fighting, even if
they’re outnumbered, because, eventually, if enough of them
are out there, they’re going to end up banding together and
taking on the other side.
Ton Hammer: Are we going to see this added to all the battlefield
Gouskos: Yes, absolutely.
Ton Hammer: The campaign is getting a makeover. What can you tell us
Gouskos: The zone mechanic is
where we really focused. In terms of the complete campaign, we actually
are not making a lot of changes to it. The makeover is really for the
zone mechanic. We are looking at having you take all 3 pairings, but
that is something that we’re still playing around with.
We’re probably going to do it, but I’m not sure yet.
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 580px; height: 174px;"
Skaven Gutter Runners
Ton Hammer: Imagine I have never heard of style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Warhammer style="font-weight: bold;"> and I don’t
know what Skaven are. What can we look forward to within the game with
Gouskos: Skaven are this sort
of mercenary group of rat-men. They have some really cool abilities.
Part of what we wanted to do was to capitalize on some of the cool
stuff they could do. The things that we’re going to allow
them to do are pretty uber, so the idea is that you go out and you hire
these mercenary Skaven. You take control of one of the troops, and then
you get to run around and be the Skaven. All of the credit for your
Skaven troop is actually going back to your character, but
that’s a little game artifice. The goal is to make Skaven
playable and to do fun stuff with them and to have people run around.
For example, let’s take the rat ogre. He’s the
beefy Skaven class; he’s the tank class. He has a charge
ability where he kind of tears through groups and sends them all
flying. He also has a hurl ability, so he can throw other members of
his side up onto keep walls. He’s also the only way to damage
a keep door aside from the ram, so he’s a big, brutish, nasty
kind of Skaven. Going hand-in-hand with him is the packmaster. The
packmaster is a supporting class, and he goes with the rat ogre and is
able to do team moves with the rat ogre. He’s also important
because he can summon rats and things like that. He’s sort of
a hybrid class.
There’s a warlock engineer, which is kind of a defensive
class that builds buff nodes and can repair siege weapons. He can throw
warp stone, which is this crazy substance. He’s more of a
defensive class. Probably my favorite is the gutter runner, which is
this espionage class. He has permanent stealth ability. He can leap up
onto keep walls, and he can sabotage siege equipment. So if somebody is
trying to use on their defensive siege equipment and the gutter runner
has been by, then you better make sure that it hasn’t been
sabotaged because if you get hit by it, you’re in for a nasty
Each one of these four classes has a unique role and relationship to
the battle, as well as the other players. We want to make them pretty
powerful so that they’re something that you want to do, while
keeping it part of the flow of the game.
Ton Hammer: The gameplay sounds cool, and I’m sure that this
is coming up. Andy Belford actually commented on it at Gamesday as
well. How does Skaven fit into playing with the Order side? It makes
sense with Destruction, but how does it fit in with Order?
Gouskos: Skaven are
mercenaries, and we ran this all by Games Workshop, who work very
closely with us. They were ok with it, and they believe that it fits.
They are a mercenary class; they are for hire. It ends up working out
because they aren’t really aligned with one side or the
other. So many of the classes in style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer
aren’t really aligned per se. The other thing that we need to
be careful about is that it is not you being the Skaven;
you’re working with the Skaven troop. The Skaven are running
around and doing crazy stuff. Yes, it is for your side, but we had to
look at it for the needs of the game, and they were very cool with that.
Ton Hammer: Looking at the RvR pack and how it is being offered, the
big question is why you’re sticking with subscription when
everybody and their brother is going free-to-play right now?
What’s the thought process behind that?
Gouskos: There are a lot of
people doing that well and to great effect. There are a couple of
reasons. To be perfectly honest, I investigated free-to-play for a
while. We were working on style="font-style: italic;">Warhammer
in Asia, and we looked at it and said that this was something that we
could do and bring back to the US. It’s something
that’s happening with more MMOGs. Why not? Don’t
get me wrong. We’re not totally against it. One of the big
things that came up with free-to-play was that in order for it to work
in a RvR game, you have to consider monetizing the power, such as the
weapons, armor, and things like that. This is really scary because that
is something that I don’t think players embrace. If you look
at MMOGs that are free-to-play, a lot of people approach it as if you
spend a lot of time or spend some money, you can get it. I think that
works for a lot of things, but when it’s power, then it gets
into fuzzy territory. With the focus that we have on RvR, it seems that
it might not work.
That doesn’t say that we haven’t thought of some
things. We’ve definitely made some changes to the
game’s economy this year. If we ever go into free-to-play,
that would help us do that. But, it’s not where our focus
was. I think the second part of that is that had an option. We could
spend a lot of time converting the game to free-to-play or we could
work on this RvR pack. We chose the latter. So, is it off the table
completely? No. Is it something that we want to do in the near term?
No. We want to provide content for our subscribers.
Ton Hammer: I like the fact that you considered what type of game you
have in the thought process of free-to-play. You’re
absolutely right when it comes to fans and their belief that people
shouldn’t be allowed to buy weapons or things that make their
character better. That kind of thing pisses players off so much. If a
mount that you can buy looks a little bit better than the best thing
that you bust your butt for in-game, they get pissed. I think that
it’s brilliant that you looked at the trends and realized
what kind of game that you have. My hats off to you guys.
Gouskos: Thank you.
Don’t get me wrong. We do have some vanity stuff that
we’ve looked at and said if players want to buy it, that
might be something we’ll make available. But power is really,
really scary. And that’s the only thing that would be worth
anything. If players want to buy a funny hat or whatever, they can have
the right. As you said, other players will have their pride where they
refuse to pay money for stuff. When you get into things that actually
affect the gameplay, that is a quitting point for a lot of people.
Ton Hammer: The floor is yours. You can discuss anything you want from
the RvR pack to the sieges, whatever you want.
Gouskos: Ok, are you ready? I
saved something special for you guys.
Ton Hammer: Sweet!
Gouskos: World exclusive and
never announced! I’m going to give you information about the
new Skaven area, which we have not talked about at all. We’ve
talked about a new place for Skaven to play, as well as the fact that
we’re focusing on RvR. So, what that means is that the new
playable area is a Skaven dungeon. It is a RvR focused gameplay
experience. What happens is that while you’re fighting in the
campaign, the Skaven dungeon will become available, so it’s
not a progression in time. It’s an offshoot of the campaign.
The Skaven dungeon will become available, and right now we’re
looking at it being for renown rank 65 or higher. You’ll have
to grind up there if you want to get in on the action. It’s a
24 versus 24 RvR, crazy mad free-for-all! But, in the dungeon are these
legendary Skaven bosses.
For example, one of the bosses is Throt the Unclean, who is a
well-known Skaven boss from the tabletop army. The goal is to take him
out, but it’s not really to fight him. He’s there
to mess with you and to do stuff to you, but the goal is to take out
other players and to be the one to bring his health bar down first.
When Throt appears, he has two rat ogres. One goes running towards
Order and the other runs towards Destruction. They’re
basically running after a guy. If they catch up with the guy,
they’re basically going to kill him and go onto the next
person on that side. So as soon as the rat ogre comes running towards
you, you got to start booking it and get away from him, while the other
members of your side are trying to hurt him as well as hurting the
other side and Throt too! If you manage to get his health down below a
certain point, he’ll become disoriented and go after the
other realm. So he’ll turn around and start booking it
towards the opposite side.
This is the situation you want to be in. You want them to have to deal
with the rat ogres while you deal with the boss and take him down
first. Meanwhile, you’re still fighting each other in this
large, crazy area. If you kill him, Throt will summon another one and
he’ll come after you again. If he kills you, he’ll
go after somebody else. The goal is to work around the maneuverings of
these non-player characters, but it isn’t like fighting this
big PvE boss. It’s more of playing with the mechanics and
screwing around with the other side while trying to stay alive.
You’re given points based on how well you do against Throt
and taking him down and how many players from the other side you take
down while doing this.
That’s the first big piece of news about the dungeon and how
it is going to work. Based on who wins the whole dungeon (Throt is only
part of the dungeon and not the whole thing), that’s how you
gain access to the Skaven troops. Now you can play the Skaven troops
back in the RvR lake and you use them to take down the keeps.
Ton Hammer: That’s pretty awesome. Does it reset after a
certain time? Is it a repeating event?
Gouskos: No, it’s
an event that has a chance to happen within the RvR. Once
you’ve gone through the event, and there’s
different instances of it since it is 24 versus 24, and completed the
instance, you’ll go back into the normal battle and then
you’ll have a chance for it to happen again. Basically,
you’re fighting in the middle of this lake and all of a
sudden, it’s DAH! DAH! DAH! The Skaven have arrived and
they’re crawling up through the ground, so you have to go
down into the dungeon and deal with them. Then you get to use their
mercenary troops in the battle.
Ton Hammer: What we’re seeing here is actual dynamic content
maybe for one of the first times in a RvR game.
Gouskos: I wasn’t
even going to go that far, but I’ll take it.
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