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Interview Wrap-Up

March 21, 2008

As promised, I sat down to watch through both IGN and GameSpy’s dev interview videos. If you’re not a huge fan of slogging through 40ish minutes of talking heads, here’s the info I gleamed from both, with commentary and beer nuts to follow:

IGN – Paul Barnett (Creative Director)

  • Paul says WAR is in the “baking period” right now – kill it, cook it and eat it – and they want to stop messing around with it so much to let things settle and flesh out. They’re running endless betas, getting loads of feedback, etc.
  • They keep wanting to make everything better and better.
  • Beta boards/players go through three stages: the “I” stage, the “He” stage, and the “Them” stage. Goes from understanding who you are and how you fit in, to focusing on others and thinking they’re overpowered and cheating.
  • IGN asked about any changes that EA brought. Paul joked about it for a bit, but really said the biggest change is the logo on their business card, and that EA’s been empowering, giving them more resources, and giving them space to do a good job.
  • EA liked the RvR system and encouraged them in it.
  • Paul explained why cities will revert to their race’s control after a timer, due to the possibility that a side would hold onto a city indefinitely. One side on a server could be under/over-represented and present an unfair advantage to keeping a city.
  • Greenskins used to be vastly more popular than Dwarves in beta (70%-30%) but recently it’s balanced out to 50-50. Behind-the-scenes metrics are used to keep tabs and help Mythic adjust problem areas to keep things balanced and fair.
  • Orcs are soccer hooligans!
  • Greenskins/Dwarves have been temporarily taken out of beta for further balance and tooling to make them more interesting (particularly their quests and zones).
  • IGN asked how Age of Conan is affecting (if at all) WAR’s development. Paul mentions that AoC has a particular style and different type of combat that doesn’t share much with WAR.
  • He couldn’t comment on the release date. (Surprise.)

GameSpy – Paul Barnett and Jeff Hickman (Producer)

  • They have all the areas and classes for both Elf races complete, and are continuing to polish.
  • Elves are the “sexy bit”
  • They held up a t-shirt with alleged comments (positive?) by beta testers. Lots of text on that shirt.
  • They’re working to finish up the trophy, armor dying and crafting systems.
  • Beta has been going on for a year now, and is going “very well” (Jeff). Players really wanted character differentiation, which is what the career team has been working on for the past six months (Mastery paths, etc.).
  • All classes have three Mastery paths (aka talent trees), which players responded better to than just picking from a huge field of assorted skills and bonuses.
  • Bright Wizards build up “combustion” as they play, and if it gets too high, they explode.
  • More talk about the public quest “Vegas/Slot Machine Loot” system. People thought Paul was crazy for the idea, but it’s been popular since implementation. Whatever loot you get through this will be usable for your class.
  • You can also get trophies through the Vegas Loot system.
  • More discussion concerning the trophy system – a way to physically customize your character (a trophy rack) to show off accomplishments.
  • Paul compared the starter areas to having a baby, seeing what mess they make (when the players entered the betas), and how they could fix them to make them greater.
  • They discussed the “evil-ness” of the Chaos race, and how difficult it was to adapt, for example, the lithe nature of the Dark Elves to a tanking class (which they were able to do with a flexible IP).
  • They talked about the Chaos Marauders – the “lunatic Vikings who mutate themselves” with three different mutations (think “modes” or “stances”).
  • Further explanation as to how there are four character roles that are reiterated for each of the six races – same roles, just different ways of doing them.
  • They really want replayability to be a goal.
  • They talked about how they whittled down doable and non-doable features in the game.
  • More Tome of Knowledge promotion, but nothing really new.

What I’ve come to greatly appreciate about this dev team is that they come off as open, honest, humble and enthusiastic – and as a player, I’m more willing to support a game and a dev team that’s willing to say “We tried this, it didn’t work, so we went back to fix it” instead of “Choke on our mistakes and accept them as perfection!” Not that that’s a pointed jab at any other games on the market right now.

Both of these interviews failed to give new bounties of information past what’s been released in the recent IGN/GameSpy articles, but they do elaborate a bit on some of the newly promoted systems (like the Vegas Loot) and it’s easier to get a feel for Mythic’s current attitude toward the beta. I watched closely, yet couldn’t see any indications that they’re really unsatisfied with any areas, which might necessitate a “go back to the drawing board” phase, and it’s encouraging that the extra time they grabbed by pushing the release date back has gone to good use.

I thought the EA question was funny – “Are they pressuring you in any way?” Well, of COURSE they are. For all the “hands off” talk that Paul and Jeff give, there has to be immense expectations from on high for Mythic to release a polished, successful MMO – or else. This is EA, after all, and they’re in the business to make money, start franchises, and milk the heck out of them. Warhammer must look like a nice, ripe cow, its teats just dripping with potential.

What I’d most like to know, however: what WAS on that t-shirt? Anybody?

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