We were ushered in the Mythic’s booth by PR representative Eddiemae Jukes. Here we first were given some time to play around with the game client and I must say for eight months of work it looks amazing! We were taken around a small area designed around the Orcs with a variety of quests and many of the more familiar critters associated with the Orcs. First let me say while graphically the game was a bit lighter then its predecessor, all of the character models and environments looked and felt “Warhammer”.
The first sight to greet me as I sat down was my Orc character, beautifully armored in a set of haphazard armor, was that the enclosure had the look and feel I was expecting for an Orc encampment. The next thing I noticed was the presence of goblins and other Orc allies. Leaving the camp and approaching a stunning giant I was introduced to what was perhaps my favorite feature. Here I was automatically given a quest by the giant to fetch him 20 casks of beer that were conveniently lying around the area. This is something I have never seen in a game before but will be great for players like me who love to explore and find new things to do. As I moved further out from the camp I began to notice other features of the world. Sadly before I could explore much farther it was time to get up and go talk to the developers of the game.
We were ushered in to a small room and introduced to Paul Barnett, Consulting License Producer (on loan from GW) and Greg Grimsby, the game's Art Director. I had the opportunity to ask some questions about the game. First and foremost I was wondering just how they were using the license? The answer was, I have to admit, not what I expected; Paul Barnett informed us that GW and Mythic were working closely together on numerous levels to insure the game would be recognizable to Warhammer fans, but also acknowledged that changes would have to be made to fit the medium.
Now what does that mean? It means that while the models look extremely accurate to their Fantasy Battle counterparts, the developers have made some concessions to make them look more ‘realistic’, as most of the miniatures are exaggerated to make certain details stand out. Weapons are a great example of this. In many cases in Warhammer Fantasy Battles the weapons have been exaggerated so there is no confusion as to what a unit is wielding; this is not an issue in Warhammer Online, so these items can be scaled down. Now, as I mentioned earlier, the models that we were shown were dead on. As an example, Greg took the reins of the demo machine and flew across the fields of battle to an impressive dwarf stronghold. There standing proud was an impressively rendered dwarf standard, looking as though it had been ripped right out of the Dwarf Army Book.
Now many fans are aware of the close cooperation between Games Workshop and Climax the first time around. I am happy to report this cooperation has continued with Mythic. Games Workshop has several designers involved in the project, including Rick Priestly who has been working very closely with Mythic’s Mark Jacobs on designing a game fans of both MMO’s and Warhammer Fantasy Battles can enjoy. One of the items they worked closely on was the death system. Rick strongly felt that death should not be a punishment, players should not loose items or be forced to run long distances. The problem with this, he was informed by Mark, is that it would allow players to zerg. Working together they have designed a system where players will have to wait a short period before they can resurrect. This will prevent zerging but keep any punishment to a minimum.
It was mentioned that like Mythic’s other big MMO, Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC), Warhammer Online will make use of a Realm vs. Realm (RvR) style of PvP with the game's most natural enemies facing each other; Dwarf vs. Orcs, Humans vs. Chaos, High Elves vs. Dark Elves. Now it’s unclear how these factions will interact, but the developers were clear that unlike DAoC, Warhammer Online will not have an artificial border, all zones will be open. They want players to be able to try and get a large army together and make an assault on Praag or Altdorf if they chose.
The game will also contain a leveling element to prevent once side having an advantage over another in RvR. The game will utilizes the mercenaries of the Warhammer Universe, the Dogs of War. We were informed that the Dogs of War would use the actual units from the Warhammer Universe. Players will be able to fight along side the Cursed Company, Long Drong Slayer’s Pirates and even Lumpin Croop’s Fighting Cocks. These units will fill out the armies to help compensate for any balance issues that might exist between the units.
In addition to zones being open, the developers mentioned that there would be three different levels of PvP combat, skirmish, battlefield objectives, and scenarios. Skirmish battles will be single or group combats that players are most familiar with. Battlefield objectives will be an objective on the field for players to take such as a castle, towers or possibly a pass. The last type, scenarios PvP, will be based around a scenario where many players will gather to fight out a battle on an instanced battlefield. These combats will be the most complex, involving players trying to take a series of objectives. Finally, for players who do participate in PvP, there will be a rank system. It is unclear what it will entail at this time, but the developers believe that it will be similar to that of DAoC. It is refreshing to see a game building with PvP in mind from the ground up, however players will have the choice to only participate in PvE if they want. Those who do PvE only will just find their options more limited.
Now I, like many fans of Warhammer, have some high hopes for the game. One thing that furthers that hope is that Mythic plans a long beta for Warhammer Online. Though the start date is still unclear it appears that it may start this fall.