A Live Grab Bag FAQ
by: Tony "RadarX" Jones
To provide a state of the game Wednesday evening, the EA Mythic Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning design team which included Producer Jeff Hickman, Creative Director Paul Barnett, and Associate Producer Josh Drescher fielded a number of questions. After the customary greetings we've come to expect from these dynamic three, things started off with an explanation of where exactly the team is with closed beta. It was stated they are working on "targeted beta" right now, which means testing specific content with scrutiny. Their current focus is on the battles between the mighty Altdorf and the evil home of the Chaos, the Inevitable city.
The next question was in regards to balancing Warhammer Online content based on Dark Age of Camelot and how different the two games were going to be. Jeff Hickman first carefully explained (after Paul Barnett yelled "We know what we're doing!!!") they saw what worked in DAoC, and have taken that a step further to make it even better. He went on to state one similarity, Sieges and Keeps, was recently added primarily because of overwhelming player demand not to mention "they are fun." He appeared to be trying to make clear that yes, some of their ideas did come from DAoC but they used them as a foundation to build something more advanced.
Speaking of Sieges, a question regarding siege equipment provided some additional information we didn't see in February's newsletter. Jeff Hickman stated you'd only be able to find siege equipment in a keep, outside a keep, in a city, or near special war camps. There are basically four types consisting of Boiling Oil, Ram's, Indirect Fire and Direct Fire. While the Boiling Oil and Ram are for Keep defense and offense, Indirect Fire can consist of a Catapult, Trebuchet, or Mortar designed to blanket an area with damage. Direct Fire on the other hand is meant to specifically damage other siege equipment and can include Ballista, Hell Cannons, and Dark Elf Reavers.
However don't think for a moment you can stand around and lazily firing away, each weapon begins a minigame of aiming which can include wind elements. The PvP fans will be taken care of obviously but what about PvE? There was a brief mention we will see Siege scenarios in the game for PvE such as assaulting a Dark Elf vessel and turning it's guns on other ships.
The team moved on into a very sensitive topic with experienced PvP players, side balancing. How are the developers going to make sure fights are not only fair, but fun for everyone? They first explained that as time goes on in an occupied area, the more benefits the under dogs get. It could be something as subtle as guards being removed from the winning team but in time, the oppressors will become the repressed. Clarifying quickly they weren't attempting to punish those that work the hardest, but to keep the game fun. Paul Barnett also mentioned that every time they run a metric on current beta populations it always comes out near even. Whether this will remain true on a large scale remains to be seen, but it's apparent they are watching it.
It didn't take long before concerns about specific playstyles made it into the discussion. How much of the end game will the casual player see? Will it be dominated as in other games by the most hardcore? Paul Barnett answered this tricky question with an unusual metaphor. He stated developers have a tendency to build for the top 10% because they are the most vocal and successful and likened it to constructing a golf course. You can build a course that only Tiger Woods could successfully navigate but it would frustrate a normal golfer. They intend to build something that maybe a hardcore player will move through easy but will be fun for all.
What about solo players whose style includes avoiding other players like they had SARS? After Barnett reiterated his preference about solo play, Hickman stated that "You can take part in anything, just can't do it all alone." Players can easily walk into a scenario, city, or keep with complete strangers and fight along side them. Their goal is to integrate everyone into fighting for a common goal and getting to know each other. They referred to this as "tricking people into making friends" and it sounded like a brilliant strategy.
A natural progression of getting people together is of course the guild, which was discussed at length in the recent podcast, but Drescher was kind enough to elaborate on. Guilds are critical for overall success in the game at the high level and there is an expectation they are not going to be static. Calling their plans the "living guild" players will not just use this function as a chat channel for the people you regularly play with. Another interesting note, was that while guilds will be able to level to 40, the team stated they were trying to "equalize" guild leveling in an attempt to avoid the classic mega-guilds that grind right to the top.
The Greenskin Shaman
What rewards can people expect for guild membership? A great example is banners they can carry which will provide special effects for members on the battlefield. They can either be planted in a keep or put on the ground by a bearer, but beware they can also be stolen by the enemy.
While on the topic of scenarios, they made it a point to mention there were over 30 available and described them as "All the games you played as a kid you can now play with swords, magic, and explosions." There was mention of the standard deathmatch and capture the flag, but they seemed particularly proud of game called "Murderball." In Murderball essentially one player has the ball but don't think they can just hide and rack up points. Not only does a beam of light emanate from their head, but possession of the ball slowly kills the player. How does anyone survive if not only the ball, but other players are trying to kill them? You become super strong while you have it, and can leave a wake of destruction in your path.
Finally they touched briefly on the topic of lore which is near and dear in the hearts of many Warhammer fans. How will this game draw you in and make you feel a part of the epic story? An example they gave was one of the first things you'll do in the Empire is rescue people in your home village and repel invaders, while consequently the Chaos side will assault an Empire village and plunder. Over 300 Public Quests will help tell the story of the area you are in and bring players into the Warhammer universe.
Overall it seems the team is not only enthusiastic about Warhammer Online, but is looking at every possible facet of design they can. Keep checking back with us as we continue to follow their progress and see what will appear in the games brings release, which they reiterated as "Fall of 2008."
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Vengeance Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Game Page.