by Mark Arsenault
I had the pleasure of stopping by the EA / Mythic booth at ComicCon in San
Diego. There was a dazzling array of flat panel monitors and PCs showcasing
their upcoming MMO title of Warhammer. The booth itself was packed with a horde
of avid fans, all clamoring for a chance to play the beta of the game that was
running. Producer Lance Robertson was accommodating despite the frenzy, and
granted me a brief interview. Read on for the juicy details!
Mark: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today at ComicCon San
Diego. I know you have a lineup of people behind me, so I'll be as concise as I
can. I read on the Warhammer web site that you expect players will be able to
avoid either PvP or PvE entirely, is they so desire. How much of the game really
are they going to miss? Are they going to feel like they are still taking an
active role, or more of a sideline role in aiding the war effort for their
Lance: The way it works is that everything is geared around the war, all
the quests you can do contribute to the overall war effort. Everything is
intertwined, but you can dodge the RvR if you want to and play solely PvE, or
you can play solely RvR. Either way you can level up without a problem. It's our
intent that we would see a mix, but we're not going to force anyone's hand,
because some people just may not enjoy that. We'd prefer to see a mix, because
the game is geared for that, and we think they'd be missing out. Players are not
going to be gimped, it's not like they are ending up with something less, as
there is a full plate of PvE content available throughout the world.
Mark: The RvR style of combat and the use of that term on your web site
implies that you intend it to be somewhat similar to what those familiar with
Dark Age of Camelot would expect to see. Will there be similar RvR ranks, with
skills and abilities available at certain levels?
Lance: Some of it will be similar, there will be renown ranks, but it's
not meant to feel segregated. Like here I am with RvR stuff here, and here I am
with PvE stuff over here - it's very much blended between the two. You get
experience from killing players, you get loot from killing players, very much
like you do on both sides.
Mark: So you can progress from level from 1 to whatever the cap will be
essentially either way?
Lance: Ideally we'd have a mix, but you can do it completely either way.
Mark: For all the Warhammer 40k fans, which I know is a separate license,
the scope of battle that they will expect would be thousands and thousands of
players on the battlefield at the same time. You're obviously not going to be
able to do that here, so how will you make players feel immersed in that sense
of chaotic combat?
Lance: Well we learned a lot from Camelot, which can have huge battles. A
lot of what we did was geared towards that, with huge sieges and the like. We
wanted to ensure that the up close fighting was really, really fun in Warhammer.
So, we're not stressing the giant numbers thing, we're more interested in
ensuring good fights with the right amount of people in the right places. The
capital city fights will have on the order of 100, 200, 300 or however many we
can fit in there, and we want those to be the giant fights. The scenarios we
have implemented are about 8 on 8, or 16 vs 16 and 24 vs 24.
Mark: Scenarios are instances, separate battlegrounds for RvR combat, and
not part of the persistent world?
Lance: Yes, there is open field combat which was more or less the standby
for Camelot. You go into these RvR enable areas and you take objectives. Within
those areas you can jump into scenarios which are more hand-crafted, and finely
level designed areas that are geared up for that particular fight and are meant
for a certain number of people. The key thing with the scenario system is that
you are guaranteed a fair fight there, and so it's not just about who has the
most numbers in their raid. Going from that, the scenario system contributes the
most victory points [for your realm], and that is how we balance it.
Mark: You have implemented two distinct features in your combat system
called Player Tactics and Morale Points. What exactly are they, and how do they
contribute to battle?
Lance: The combat system is a 3 layered system. Tactics are like buffs -
they can be stat increases, they can modify things, they can enable other
abilities that you normally don't have. It's meant to be like a prep layer. So I
set up the tactics the way I want them before I go into a fight. Let's say I'm
an orc, and I know I am going to fight a bunch of dwarves. I'm going for numbers
and I want to be able to deal with as many guys at once as I can, so I might set
up a certain tactic a certain way. If I am fighting one solitary giant with a
bunch of other guys, I might set up my tactics a different way. Then you have
your bread and butter abilities that define what your career is, or make sense
for the job that I have - certain slashes and hacks and all that kind of stuff,
or be able to go berserk. Those are your basic abilities. Then on top of that
layer is morale, which is this little extra bit on top of it all where you gain
morale abilities. As you fight and have success in battle, the morale bar goes
up. If you leave combat, that will decay, but what we want you to do is go from
fight to fight to fight as quickly as you can and fill that up. The higher that
gets, the more effective, cool and grand the effects are. So it's a game of how
can I stay alive long enough to get the uber heal, or the mass area of effect
destruction around me that will save my group, or do I nickel and dime the lower
level morale abilities instead.
Mark: So you consume these morale points as you use the abilities?
Lance: Yes, you burn them off as you expend the skills. As the bar goes
up, more options become available, so you really want to progress from fight to
fight to have the most effective ones available to you. And that's really a goal
of ours, to have little downtime - we want you to try for that next fight even
if you don't have all your wounds cleared. It's a fun kind of balance point to
add on top of combat. There are big signature showcase effects for each class
that add a sense of glory on top of combat.
Mark: One of the interesting features that I have seen in the game was
that as players gain levels, skills and ranks etc, their avatar actually changes
over time so that their power becomes visually recognizable. Is this something
that is noticeable enough to provide for strategic preparation in the heat of
battle in RvR?
Lance: Yes, players get bigger as they get more powerful. Orcs get
larger, dwarves have their beards grow, and the other races will do some other
different things that we haven't really talked about yet. And absolutely, that's
the total intent - the effect is about the intimidation factor, or bragging
rights. The artists have what they call the 20 foot rule. From 20 feet away, or
really even further, you want to be able to tell not only what race they are and
what kind of career they are, but how much of a badass they are. So you will see
the orcs start to get giant spikes and stuff on their shoulders, with trophies
and things - hands on the spikes, or dwarf beards hanging off their belts so
players will say "Oh man that's a badass, I should avoid that guy", or
"Maybe we need 2 or 3 to take him down" - we're really excited about
that. We always want the player to have that feeling that there is more to be
had there, that there is something to strive for, so that when you see the
higher rank guys walking around you'll say "Yeah, I'm going to be like
Mark: What about level discrepancies - if somebody is considerably higher
or than a lower player, are they still going to be able to attack? Are you going
to have higher level players travelling to lower level areas just to grief
Lance: We're going to protect against that - we don't want the high level
guys wandering around lower level areas. For example, if a high level guy goes
into a lower level RvR area, he turns into a chicken. What happens is he gets
debuffed so that he will just get one-shotted by the low level players there.
So, we have some fun with that - for us it's all about what's fun. In the
campaign system or city capture, we don't want one side to just dominate and own
a city, so we're not going to let you keep it forever. The system will start
incurring curves for defenders, or reward them for pushing attackers out. What
we want is for you to capture the city and get your fun - you go rampaging
through there, lighting things on fire, burning stuff down, kicking doors in,
pillaging - all those kind of things. That's kind of the fun, joyous end game to
the city capture. You'll know out in the world exactly how long it's been since
that city got sacked, because it will visible in such a way that player's will
go "Yeah I'm going to go take that city."
Mark: Does the whole realm get bonuses for holding onto cities? The more
you have, the more cumulative the bonus?
Lance: Yes, if you're successfully keeping the enemy out, you're going to
get rewards, or if you successfully attack somebody else, you'll get rewards.
Monetary rewards, abilities, realm buffs - it's all there to be had, and it's an
ongoing fight. We're trying to make a city a living, breathing thing that will
make players want to defend it. There's no benefit to being rolled by your
enemies, so we'll do things that will make players want to fight off the
attackers. It's won't be like "Oh we lost the campaign game, what about the
city?" You're never going to want to do that, you'll want to get in there
and fight the battle.
Mark: Well thank you very much for allowing me some time to quiz you on
Warhammer. From what I have seen here in the demo, it certainly looks like it
will be quite entertaining for PvE and PvP gamers alike. Have you decided on any
firm release date yet?
Lance: Nothing firm, but I can say early next year. And it's been my
pleasure, thanks for the interview.
Warhammer definitely has aspects that seem to appeal to every type of gamer.
Whether it be softcore vs. hardcore, or those who prefer PvE or PvP, there is
content built in to provide entertainment in many fashions. Gamers everywhere
have been looking forward to this title for quite some time, and from what I
saw, they are not likely to be disappointed.