InterviewWarhammer: Age of Reckoning Conference Call with Mythic

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

Developer: Mythic Entertainment
Publisher: Mythic Entertainment


Setting: fantasy
Thursday night EA/Mythic handled a conference call to tell some of us journalist-types more about Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, the new Warhammer fantasy MMORPG coming out from Mythic. A big area of concern for many interested players has been “what makes WAR unique among fantasy MMORPGs?”

The call took the format of a presentation – “what makes WAR unique?” – followed by a Q&A session of questions that had been e-mailed in. Jeff Hickman, senior producer of WAR, handled most of the questions, with help from Paul Barnett, the creative director for WAR and Games Workshop liaison to EA/Mythic. Jeff handled a lot of the “fact” side, as he put it, while Paul – as excited and outspoken as ever – answered a lot of the “flavor” side.

First, the presentation:

"What makes WAR unique?"

It's the story of the war between two realms - destruction and order.

There are 6 races, and they're paired up in racial enemies. You have dwarves versus greenskins (orcs & goblins), humans versus chaos, and high elves versus dark elves. It's a mixed game of monster hunting, questing, RvR, a land of conquest, conquest of capital cities, utter destruction, and the looting & pillaging of enemy realms.

Each class has unique play experiences, with lots of advancement possibilities past even just leveling. From the instant you log in for the first time through the end game, you can pick between PvE and RvR, never having to do the either if you don't want to (though it's very, very encouraged for you to RvR).

There's unique PvE and monster hunting, especially with the public quest system: a system of quests where instead of going to an NPC for a quest, you'll get it automatically upon entering a zone. Everyone else in the zone will have the same quest, and be working on it. These are intended to tell stories. They work in phases, and there are lots of them. If you don't want to do them, you don't have to, but there will be people around you dealing with giants versus villages, or dragons versus castles, or warmachines. Some take 10 minutes, some take hours. One example was:

You have to invade a forest to get a large amount of lumber for a mill. The Spirits of the Woods come out to defend the forest. After defeating them, the Guardian of the Forest comes out.

That's a quick summary of the presentation part of the call.

Now to the Q&A part, from questions sent in ahead of time – some additional comments from me are in brackets, and if it’s in quotation marks, odds are that Paul said it:

What ideas have been implemented in WAR that you've gotten from DaoC?

The RvR system (of course), but where DAoC had 1-2 levels of RvR, WAR has 4 levels - it's very broad and very deep, many things to do and many places to do it. The guild management system is starting where DAoC is today. Plus, there's the diversity of classes: there are four classes per race, and every single class is unique.

How are you addressing grinding in WAR?

By attempting to make it fun from the beginning. If you need 10 wolf bones, there's not a percentage chance that a wolf will have a bone; every wolf has bones, and you can get them. You have epic quests that start in the starter village, you can RvR - you can even use siege weapons.

For instance, Chaos, in the starter village, starts with hacking up villagers in a nearby town, stuffing their body parts in a hell-cannon, then shooting it a wizard in a tower that's throwing fireballs at you.

Casual players?

The game is attempting to be built around quickly accessible PvE and RvR action. With how the advancement system works, you'll advance regularly, and be able to get into fast action, in both PvE and RvR, even solo.

How will the dark atmosphere be maintained?

Lots of guts! GW can look at it at any point and say "no, not dark enough" - in fact, that's why Paul is there. But Paul, and Mark, and Craig (their art director) make sure they make it dark at every chance possible, and not in a "skin babies and roll them in salt" way (a quote), or in a "take light sources out of the cave" kind of way. It's British dark, and has dark humor, too.

How is your character created, how does it evolve, incremental changes, how it looks?

Five of the races have male and female. Greenskins do not, since they are space fungus [orcs and goblins grow from spores in the Warhammer universe], but you can play as an orc or a goblin. You'll have facial and body customizations, and racial features that will change as you go on in the game - for instance, a dwarf's beard will grow longer (stuff like that will probably happen 4-5 times over the course of advancement). Each class will have its own unique look, too, so if you're good, you should be able to look at a character and say "that's a rune priest" or "that's a witch hunter" - and get an idea of level by their look, plus their racial features (such as orcs getting bigger). Plus you'll get trophies from dead enemies (both in RvR and PvE) that you can hang off your character.

They told the artists "work harder or we'll beat you" to keep things unique, both on a class and an individual basis, so when you see a horde of black orcs, you'll say "That's a black orc", "that's a very mean black orc", and "all those orcs look different". They've only probably had one artist die on them so far...

Differences between classes of different races

Since no single class is the same - they will share the same general idea - for instance, fighters stand next to something, soak up damage, and hit that something often with a large hunk of metal. But a Human Knight of the Burning Sun [if I heard the full name of the human tank class correctly] and a Dwarven Ironbreaker will have different abilities and play differently. Some will be more tactical in their fighting, some will simply use big weapons, some will use fast weapons, or attack many people at once.

What are the four levels of RvR?

Three play into the fourth kind.

Skirmish: In every single zone there are places you can fight, and there are places that are safe. Just have to enter the area – it’s the foundational RvR.

Battlefields: Inside skirmish zones are objectives. For instance, a tower will give your whole realm bonuses, so you'd want to take that.

Scenarios: Inside of skirmish areas you can enter the "lobby" for an instanced scenario. Both sides have objectives, and they're matched up by points, and reinforced by NPCs if necessary. The objectives all consist of some form of "kill everybody", so there's no real "capture the flag" that can be done without killing.

Finally, all those pour into the campaign mode, which is primarily between the two races locked in struggle (i.e. greenskins and dwarves). As you do well in the RvR, you'll take the massive amount of land between the two capital cities. If you get to the capital city, you can try to capture it - and if you do, you can ransack the city, fight the citizens, and even capture the enemy king, put him in chains, take him back to your capital city's stockades and you'll be able to buy rotten vegetables to throw at him. The other races on your side can help you, too, so if the elves are doing well, they can help their side.

Will there be PvP specific rewards?

There are rewards. Whether you go RvR or PvE you can get XP. You can also get Renown, which is rank in RvR. You can get items in RvR - for instance, you can get items from the bodies of dead players, like you do off monsters, though they do not lose the item. You can also get some abilities.

Encouragement for PvP?

The rewards and the fun and the realm pride. You can fight in the same place every night and have a different battle each time. Or, as Paul would say: "See that guy over there? I'M BETTER THAN HIM!"

How will level differences affect PvP?

Inside of a set level range, it will be fairly close in strength (within about 10 ranks, which are slightly different than levels). Past those ten ranks you cannot fight each other - the higher level cannot attack the lower level and vice versa. If skill will not make the difference in the fight, it is intended that game mechanics will prevent it.

Will PvP changes be permanent?

The zones will change depending on who takes them and are permanent until retaken. The capital cities will be difficult to keep for a long time, mechanics are in place to help the defenders, especially over time.

Paul says there has to be an end, there has to be a victory - it takes the PvP to an end point, we beat you, you lost, and give a conclusion so you can keep score.

How big is the land, game time vs. real time, weather, etc.

33 zones - outdoor areas, 6 capital cities, 3 PvE dungeons, 1 massive RvR dungeon at the high end, a "bazillion" amount of scenarios that are instanced RvR dungeons. Still figuring out how time and weather will work. There will be all kinds of terrain but desert.

Will allied races be able to meet easily?

Yes. "Once you have a dwarf tank, and a bright wizard, all you need is a namby pamby elf!"

Will you be able to have characters of both sides on the same account on the same server?

NO. "That's lunacy," said Paul, "Say it again and you're fired."

What does the end game entail?

Sacking capital cities, a massive dungeon, an amazing amount of public quests in the high end zones, various boss monsters (not really raiding for PvE, but will take a couple of groups)

Guild system questions

Start with DAoC's system and work from there...

Why no death penalty in PvP? Doesn't that encourage bad behavior?

The death penalty is time. IT hasn't been finalized yet. It should not allow, however, die/run back/die/run back behavior, and you will not be able to spawn rush. There won't be equipment damage - Paul found the idea of the gods hitting you with tiny little hammers funny and stupid.

How do you keep power players from killing newbies over and over?

Zones have an internal level range. RvR is flag based, so if a level 40 shows up in a level 10 area, he can't attack them - he's not flagged - and they can't attack him.

Which god do chaos Characters follow?

Nurgle was out - he's all fat and slow and spits flies, and wouldn't be fun past five minutes. Khorne doesn't believe in magic and believes in relentlessly killing everyone, even his own people, so he was out. Slaanash just ends up with lots of boobs hanging out, and piercings, and no clothes, and giant crab claws, and players forget what Slaanash is really about and get caught up in the boobs. So that leaves Tzeentch - he likes everything, both magic and chaos warriors, lots of iconic imagery, bloodthirsters, unclean ones, keepers of secrets, warriors of khorne, you can deal with the other gods, and best of all, he's got sorcerors on flying disks!

In the end…

Mythic has over five years of experience with realm versus realm combat in Dark Age of Camelot. They’re doing their best to bring that sense of realm pride to WAR, and to encourage people to RvR – through the ability to ease into it, over the course of levels, or to jump right into it, or just to deal with it when you feel like it.

Personally, I have fond memories of Dark Age of Camelot back in the original days – when a raid against our relic forts would bring people out of the deepest high level dungeon of the time (Spindelhalla) as everyone goes running into the frontier to defend. You didn’t need to be a hardcore PvP type player to help defend – it was up to you to help save the realm!

And with WAR, the stakes are even higher…

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About the Author, Sean Michael Whipkey (A.K.A SeanMike)

I'm a 29 year old senior network and systems engineer for a consulting firm in the DC area. I'm mostly into MMOs and FPSes (on the console), and I'm a big pro football fan. In my other spare time I like to write and tend to read copious amounts of history and military sci-fi. I'm also into cooking and bad action movies.