Odds are, by this point, that if you're into either fantasy or MMORPGs, you've probably heard of Warhammer. If you're not familiar with it, let me give you the quick overview:
Warhammer is a fantasy world from Games Workshop, a British miniatures game company. From GW, it's primarily a miniatures game, featuring armies bashing each other in a world that's similar, but not the same, to old Europe. There are many factions, such as Bretonnia, Chaos, Elves, Dark Elves, Greenskins, and Dwarves, just to name a few. There's also a role-playing game based off the Warhammer game, published by Green Ronin, under license from GW.
One of the big things about the Warhammer universe is the fact that it's dark. Chaos infiltrates into all levels of society – there is no hope for the future, there's only war until the entire human race (and the other similar races, such as elves and dwarves) are wiped out or turned into something... else. Technology isn't strictly "swords and shields" – there are guns of various sorts, plus plenty of magic.
So when Games Workshop held one of its periodic "Games Day" events to bring together the games for their various lines of games (such as Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, and Lord of the Rings) they also brought in the EA Mythic team to promote Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, the upcoming MMORPG from GW and the creators of Dark Age of Camelot, EA Mythic (formerly Mythic Entertainment).
EA Mythic hasn't had the license from the beginning. There was another company that previously been working on the Warhammer MMORPG, a fact that Paul Barnett – the Creative Director who came to EA Mythic from GW in order to help make sure that the game does, in fact, rock – wasn't hesitant to bring up in the presentation. The problem was that GW didn't like the direction the game was taking, and so it moved over to EA Mythic.
It's now got a different feel from what the original one had – a feel that is, perhaps, much closer to the original source material, while at the same time also preserving a very dark sense of humor that pervades the world. (An example: as Paul pointed out, the punchline for all the jokes that the black orc will say was "then I killed him!")
If you've read my other article about Warhammer: Age of Reckoning (from the January EA Mythic Press Event that was more convenient to me, as it was in Fairfax, VA, and not in the home of bad drivers, Maryland) we actually got to play two different starting areas – the humans (as a Bright Wizard) and Chaos (as a Magus, if I remember correctly). We then played two RvR – Realm versus Realm scenarios, Order versus Chaos – once as a dwarf (a rune priest I was) and once as a Greenskin (this time I played a choppa).
I had an added advantage in RvR this time around, though – I was massively hungover, and my cell phone had been stolen by a cabbie the night before. Therefore, I was ready to take it out on someone. The perky, incredibly friendly and always helpful Juli Cummins almost managed to make me lose that advantage, but I got a chance to play one starting area and then some RvR. This time, I chose to try the orc choppa and his starting area, then in RvR I got the chance to play as a Dwarven engineer.
There are two things that stick out as different when it comes to the initial levels of WAR versus other MMORPGs. The first is the fact that you're immediately thrown into the battles between your race and their racial enemies. (Each race is paired with an "enemy race" – Humans vs. Chaos, Dwarves vs. Greenskins, Elves vs. Dark Elves.) The second is that you're so busy doing stuff that you're not looking at how fast you're leveling or whatever – you're just having fun!
The first one is clear immediately. One of my first tasks was to go down and bash in a few Dwarven heads. Having done that, I needed to gather up mud so I can splatter it on Dwarven statues to make them more like Gork or Mork, the orcish gods – and then I went down to the river, smashed open barrels that had, well, dwarves in them, and while the dwarves were still dizzy, kill them! Finishing that off it was over to check out some wounded orcs. A wounded orc is supper, really, so you take their choppas (their blades) and offer to eat them.
So I'm already in the world. As I'm gathering choppas I see orcs firing siege weapons at a wall where the dwarves are holed up, but we can't move in on them. I'm entered into what they call a Public Quest.
A Public Quest, or PQ, is a quest given to everyone in a general area. You can work on it solo or you can group up with others doing it. You'll see information on how the quest was going. In our case, there was a giant staggering around being attacked by squigs (balls of meat with teeth, basically). You kill enough of the squigs and the giant is relieved. Get the giant drunk and he'll do your bidding – and what the orcs want him to do is carry a big bomb up to the wall and blow it open. However, when drunk, he's too dumb to figure out what a bomb IS, so the bomb is painted up like a squig. He carries it over, blows open the gates – killing himself in the meantime – and the dwarves come pouring out to defend the breach in their walls.
That was less than 15 minutes into the game as a new character. I was level 3 when I started doing that. But heck, if you want, you can level up just by fighting other players – you don't have to do any PvE (Player versus computer-controlled Enemy) at all.
There are over 300 PQs in the game – so if you have even just 15 minutes to play, you can be part of an epic quest. No need to gather up a 40 man raid or whatever, just go to where the fight is!
We then moved over to the RvR section. I'd gotten my butt kicked as a dwarven rune priest back in January, but this time I was an engineer. I looked over my options.
Let's see here: I can shoot, as well as use a sniper attack and a rapid fire attack. I can throw shrapnel and rust grenades, as well as entire bandoliers of grenades in certain circumstances. I can build turrets and land mines. I have a couple of melee attacks. I can heal myself.
Yeah. I think I'm ready to play.
We shuffled our way through the waist deep snow to contest Highpass Cemetary with the hated Greenskins and their allies, Chaos. Immediately I targeted a large orc and opened fire on him. As he ran at me, my turret opened fire on him also, and as he got to me, the land mine went off. A shrapnel grenade aided my friends caught in a furious melee nearby; I healed myself once, and later found myself throwing bandoliers of grenades as I was charged by more orcs. I shot it out with a Chaos sorcerer a few times and tried to keep the squigs from launching something at me.
The combat ran out fast and furious. More than once I was surrounded by orcs. There IS collision detection in WAR, so when surrounded – well, you're screwed. I got pounded into the ground. Clicking the respawn button, I had to wait 5 seconds to respawn then came back and ran back into the action (only pausing to throw down a keg of stout to boost my ballistic skill if I wanted, plus to build another turret).
The side of Order won the day, as they had most of the day. It was, in my opinion, crazy fun. Our characters? Level 20.
There was a huge line later for the presentation that Paul Barnett – in his rock star getup – and Jeff Hickman, the Senior Producer for EA Mythic, were going to be giving. They came in to overwhelming applause and yelling (only somewhat non-spontaneous) and powered up the video screens to show us some information on the various classes. Being a quick writer, I wrote down who they have so far:
Dwarves: Ironbreaker, Rune Priest, Hammerer, Engineer Greenskins: Black Orc, Shaman, Choppa, Squig Herder Chaos: Zealot, Magus, Chosen, Marauder Empire: Warrior Priest, Bright Wizard, Knight of the Blazing Sun, Witch Hunter
One of the things that amused Paul to no small end was the fact that back "in the day" – a while ago, at least – some people (I get the impression it was "marketing people" but they didn't specifically say that) were afraid that no one would want to play races like the Greenskins. They were too ugly!
The beta launched two weeks ago – stable and fun (according to them – they haven't let me in yet!). Greenskins initially outnumbered dwarves 2 to 1! (That population, according to Jeff Hickman, has stabilized down to about 1.2 to 1 now.) Of course, the dwarves were owning the greenskins all day at Games Day, but at the Games Day in Atlanta, GA, it had been the opposite.
Another funny thing was how one change – such as collision detection – could change how entire classes played. For instance, the Black Orc – the first class they showed us at the presentation – is the "tank" class. He can soak up tons of damage.
In some MMORPGs – and this was true even in Mythic's previous game, Dark Age of Camelot (I say as a person who played a tank in that game) – you weren't a lot of good in player versus player (realm versus realm) combat. You couldn't do enough damage to make yourself overly useful, and the other players would just run right through you to attack other people. You see that in another popular MMO nowadays where players will jump through other players to attack them from behind.
Not so here. Giving a new player a chance to go up against a Black Orc, Paul laughing recounted how many of them would try to "jump through" the Greenskin – just to bounce off and get pummeled by the orc. Run around the orc and start bashing on his shaman buddy and the Black Orc will reach over, pull the shaman out of the way, and get in your face.
That is a tank's job. To get in your face, so you can't get in his buddy's face. And without collision detection, it's very hard to do that job.
Before getting on to the character models, we got a quick tour of the world. There were huge waterfalls – enormous dwarven statues – a 750 foot tall wizard's tower – orbiting gates to realms of Chaos – a harbor that will host large realm versus realm battles as well as ships. It was enough to make people "ooo" and "ahhh".
Then it was on to the models. The first thing they'd show us was the miniature the character was based off of, then the computer generated character you'll see in the game. The Black Orc – a massive creature covered in huge plates of armor and carrying a giant weapon – was first.
Next we saw the Chosen, the favorite of Chaos – also big and huge and spiky. He's a pro wrestler meets KISS on acid, according to Paul. His kind would be hunted down by the psychotic solitaire Witch Hunters, clad in their leather dusters, big hats, and carrying a sword and a pistol. The Witch Hunters hunt down all forms of Chaos in the Empire, and are not Nice People.
You've got the Bright Wizard – "instant sunshine", an "Unlicensed Nuclear Weapon" – he does fire, and that's all he does. His fire jet from the mouth routine was quite entertaining. The dwarves have a "melee DPS" class (as Jeff would label it) called the Hammerer. He uses two hammers. He doesn't use axes, bows, guns, swords, staves, that kind of junk. He swings hammers. He throws hammers. He probably dreams about hammers.
The Squig Herder is a "pet class but not crap". They tame squigs, all kinds of squigs, that do all kinds of things. I noticed in RvR combat earlier that you couldn't always ignore the squigs – for instance, some would shoot you with some kind of glop and interrupt (or just slow down) your actions. Herders will also get a battle armored squig. This is a HUGE squig that's so big, and so mean, that when summoned it eats the Squig Herder! He then drives it around like a big tank, using it to attack people.
I'd asked Jeff and Paul about the fact that in RvR, pet classes often find their pet ignored – the battle armored squig ensures that you HAVE to shoot the squig to get to the herder! Kill the squig, and it'll puke up the herder...
From there, we got some seasickness-inducing footage via Paul's handheld camera of "behind the scenes" of WAR – RAW footage of WAR, it would seem. We followed the camera, swerving and weaving, through the streets of the Chaos beginning area and through the Chaos portal...
... to where we could see how the city of Altdorf was being created in EA Mythic's offices – a process that's been going years (Paul said three years – at least, that's what I have written down in my notes – but if I remember correctly, it's only been in EA Mythic's hands since E3 in 2005). It's a medieval village, one that's supposed to LOOK like a medieval village. He showed us an Elven tower ("bloody posh elves," Paul spits almost any time someone mentions the elves), a Skaven carrying the axe of a Bloodthirster demon, the creation of the sewers in the Empire's cities and how city blocks become slums in the poorer parts of the city.
Then we got to see how big the Bloodthirster's looks in his own demonic hands. The Bloodthirster demon was in a temple of some sort, and when killed attempted to hold onto his axe (lodged in the floor) as the portal behind him sucked him up into the air and through. Very entertaining!
We even went into one developer's "monster playground", looking at the monsters wandering around, from Skaven to demons to flying manta ray creatures to a huge fat guy in what looks like bondage gear.
After the fun of all that, Paul and Jeff opened up the floor to questions. Some points from there:
The presentation also concluded with the mention that everyone who was at Games Day will get into the beta!
At the end of the day, as the very last interviewer (again), I got a chance to talk briefly with Jeff and Paul. Most of my questions had been answered already, thanks to the presentation and getting to play. There will be weather in the game, though it will have no effect on gameplay per se other than visibility, and there will be a night and day cycle.
Balance is one of the big things that they're keeping a close eye on right now, not just in terms of classes but also in terms of population. So far it sounds like that populations are have been balancing themselves out, but they'll keep an eye on it as the game progresses. One interesting thing is that thanks to the fact that every character *I've* played has had the ability to heal themselves means that "optimal group balance" isn't as much of a concern – everybody can, at least, hold their own (as long as you know how to play them – I had no idea how to play a rune priest!).
And there will almost definitely be additional races down the road, but we're looking at years later (in expansions). I know I have one guildmate who is dying for Skaven... and the Skaven are already in the game.
That's about everything I have on the game so far! I've been saying in the past that I've been burned out a bit on MMORPGs – heck, on video games in general at times – but every time I get a chance to meet with EA Mythic and play some WAR I get fired up again about it. Now just to see who to bribe to get into the beta...