Warhammer Online was front and center at PAX this year. One of the first booths as you entered the exhibition hall; it was always crowded except for the early mornings reserved for press and exhibitors. I made my way to the booth on the last day of the show and met with Product Manager Eric Correll. He in turned tagged Associate Producer Carrie Gouskos and game designer Ryan Bernard, and we made our out to seek a quiet corner to talk. In this stage of game design, I could imagine that they would not be able to speak on any number of areas. So, as we sat in a circle tucked away from the maddening crowd, I asked about what they each did.
The Tome of Knowledge is Associate Producer Carrie Gouskos' baby. "It really is a Tome of knowledge," said Carrie, "we are tracking over 5,000 different achievements and this will be a true Tome that you can page through in the game UI. We are still toying around with the idea of server firsts and we don't know if we'll implement that. That rewards the early adopters and then it's no fun anymore."
What other use is there for this Tome beyond tracking achievements? "It's also your quest journal," replied Carrie. "It looks like a book and you fill the pages as you progress along your career in Warhammer. For example, if you are working on the bestiary part, after you've killed a Squig, it will show a picture of a Squig. It will give you hints about some things as you progress." Carrie stressed that it was not a "book of spoilers" but a helper. For some quest lines, after you attain one objective, it will tell you what the next is. For others, only hints may be provided.
Ryan Bernard works on RvR design. Armed with years of refining large scale online Realm vs. Realm warfare in Dark Ages of Camelot, Realm vs. Realm warfare in Warhammer Online promises to be a fun and challenging experience. How does WAR RvR compare to DAoC I wanted to know. "You can head out to the war camps at any level. That's the way we've designed RvR," said Ryan Bernard. "It's open warfare on the frontier."
"Most PvP in MMOGs are an afterthought," said Associate Producer Carrie Gouskos. "Or else it's a pure PvP world," chimed in Product Manager Eric Correll, "but we're designing Warhammer for both PvE and PvP and have balanced it from the beginning for that."
The difference here is that PvP is really RvR - Realm vs. Realm. That is to say, you can only hunt players of the opposing Realm. In Warhammer, there are four types of RvR planned. Skirmishes can be found on the open frontier where it is open RvR. For PvE players to get their feet wet, there are quests that require them to enter the RvR areas; they can either make a mad dash for it and hope that they can accomplish what they need to do in the 10 seconds that it takes before they are flagged "killable" by the opposing realm, or take some friends and keep a wary eye on the horizon. Some of these quests as described will allow "zone hugging" where players can make a dash in, accomplish their objective - which could be to hunt a critter that only roams in the frontier areas or gather a herb that grows there - then zone out to rest. The zones are seamlessly integrated and players will have to take note when they receive a visual warning that informs them they will be flagged "killable" when they cross the actual zone line.
"The aim is to give players a taste of what it's like to play in the RvR," said Ryan. "Of course, you don't have to take the quest if you really don't want to, but we think once they get a taste of the adrenaline rush they'll want more."
Frontier Battlefield Objectives are the second and found in the game world. These are control points that can be held for victory points. When captured and held for three minutes, the control point then cannot be retaken for five minutes. Different areas are ranked from low to high levels so all players have the ability to experience RvR against players of similar levels.
The third is the Focused Instance. Thirty are planned upon release, distributed from the first tier through level 40. These scenarios will carry significant weight in RvR points and range from small group to large scale scenarios. Balancing will be done with NPC "Dogs of War" but no further details were available.
Finally, the last type of RvR was the high-level City Capture campaign. City Capture Scenarios were presented as instanced replicas at PAX and non-instanced real-time scenarios at Leipzig. When I asked for clarification, Eric Correll, Product Manager of EA Mythic stated,"City Capture will most likely be population limited, but not technically "instanced" in the same way scenarios are in lower level RvR zones." Essentially, the details have not been worked out yet. There will be objectives, even certain areas that you may to capture. Mechanisms to help balance zone control and realm population discrepancies are planned although they could not talk about them at this point in time.
Since RvR scenarios are level based, all players have to do is approach the NPC, register for a scenario and once there are enough opposing forces, you will be informed with a UI box and upon acceptance, will be transported into the battlefield. EAMythic plans on allowing players to continue playing anywhere in the world while waiting for scenarios to fill, rather than having to remain near the registration NPC. Again, manner of execution has yet to be finalized.
So, how are you preventing the higher level players from assisting or griefing in the low level areas?
"We turn you into a chicken," was Eric's dead-pan response.
"Serious!" All three responded with grins on there faces and off we went into chicken-zerg flights of fancy.
"They can peck!" exclaimed Carrie.
"One point! One point!"
"We'll have chicken achievement statistics."
"A fried chicken title or drumstick badge for being killed as a chicken."
But no, although you will be turned into a chicken if you enter an area that is ranked lower level than you, nothing else has been finalized. Not the defense or armor class or attack…not even the pecking damage. But still… imagine chicken against chicken battles led by low level fighters.
Warhammer Online is still a work in progress at this stage in time. Pushed back to an early 2008 launch to allow time for better polishing and balancing, the game is currently in closed beta. As evidenced by my chat with the team at PAX, there are some exciting battles to be had as well as pure silly fun.