WAR Team Talks 1.1

With Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning‘s first major content update set to go live today, December 11th, four members of the WAR team – Associate Producers Josh Drescher and Spyke Alexander, Designer Brian Wheeler, and Combat & Careers Strike Team Lead Adam Gershowitz – found some time in their busy schedules to speak with WarCry Editor John Funk about Patch 1.1 and the goodies inside it – new live events, an overhauled RvR system, and of course the addition of two previously cut careers.

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The most anticipated feature of WAR Patch 1.1 is, of course, the addition of two new careers – the Dark Elf Black Guard, and the Empire Knight of the Blazing Sun. These tank classes were two of the four careers that were chopped from the roster several months before the game’s September launch. As Gershowitz explains it, “When it comes down to it, it was all about quality for us. When we were looking to launch the game, we were looking to launch a complete product. We stopped working on these careers in the first place because they simply weren’t the quality we wanted for launch – they weren’t bad concepts, they weren’t bad ideas, the mechanics were fine, but they weren’t the quality we were looking for.”

As the team thought about where they wanted to take the game after launch and where they wanted to go, these two classes “turned into win,” chuckles Gershowitz. “Players wanted more melee classes, and these are two very evocative, iconic careers for the Warhammer universe.” Furthermore, the fact that they’d been in a semi-complete state when cut meant that they could be more easily “picked up and dusted off – we didn’t have to start from scratch. We had feedback from Beta, we had the concept art and design, we had everything we needed to make the gameplay for the Knight and Black Guard very smooth.”

Drescher echoed the statements, stressing that the Warhammer that launched in September was a “complete product, not deficient in any way.” He compared it to a film, where for whatever reason, shots and scenes that sounded good on paper didn’t work out for whatever reason and get left on the cutting room floor, but the film that releases is still a finished product anyway. “This is like a Director’s Cut,” he said, noting that Adam and their team had worked on the Black Guard and Knight for months to get them to a point where Mythic was satisfied with the quality. “They weren’t ‘must have’ boxes on a checklist or anything.” When asked if the other two classes – Hammerer and Choppa – would ever be released, Drescher further affirmed that approach, saying that “if the time ever comes when those two careers are on the same level as the others, absolutely – but it isn’t a ‘must have.'”

Noting that WAR is primarily a Player-vs.-Player game, Adam Gershowitz said that they hadn’t seen the introduction of these two new classes affecting the balance at all. “Players wanted it – Order wanted a class like the Chosen, and Destruction wanted a class like the Ironbreaker. Now, we have these equivalent careers; we have parity between the two sides.” While most characters of the new classes were still low level, the handful that were above level 30 didn’t seem to be skewing the balance at all.

Another change coming in WAR 1.1 is the tweaking of some mid-range Public Quests, allowing one quest per chapter to be done either solo or with a small group. Drescher explained the rationale, noting that PQs were one of the most-talked-about features that WAR offered, and that they didn’t want new players to be stuck. “As the game matures, as the population finds its way into the higher tiers, we wanted to make sure that you as a new player who may have heard about PQs, will be able to do them and not get stuck because you can’t find a party … they shouldn’t be impossible tasks; we don’t want it to be like raiding where only 25% of the population can ever do it. “

However, there weren’t any plans to add further incentive to the quests. “We’re not looking to provide incentive because they have incentive by design,” he continued, and Gershowitz agreed. “Easy PQs are focused on giving the PQ experience to small groups … the rewards are appropriate for that; we don’t want to take away for the medium-difficulty or harder PQs.”

Formerly, the Influence system in WAR was limited to PQs – participating in the quests was the only way to earn Influence for the current Chapter, but 1.1 will add further Influence options from engaging in open-world RvR. Brian Wheeler elaborated, saying that the change was made “so that RvR guys could keep pace with PvE guys in terms of itemization. A lot of players who purely PvE’d and quested were getting items a lot quicker than the guys who were out there doing RvR, doing keeps and objectives.” The aim was to give better rewards from open RvR instead of Scenarios, he said. “Scenarios are their own reward. We wanted to make sure oRvR had the same return in terms of time investment. If you do oRvR you can itemize your character a lot better than you could pre-1.1 through grinding and killing.”

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RvR Influence differs from PQ influence in that it’s spread all across a Tier instead of divided into chapters. But the problem with that, said Gershowitz, was that it encouraged players of all levels to come join the fray, so the designers had to figure out what level to make the rewards – too high and low-level players don’t get rewards. Too low, and they aren’t worth it for high-level players. The solution they found was to offer two rewards per stage, one for lower-rank players, and a better item for the more seasoned adventurers.

Still, for all the attention paid to open RvR in the patch, we asked the team what they were going to do to curb the unfortunate phenomenon of “keep swapping,” where large guilds on opposite factions would agree to take each others’ keeps and switch on and off for large amounts of renown and other rewards. Wheeler said that they’d been looking through the data and had realized that the renown reward for actually defending a keep was far less than it should have been, meaning that there was little incentive to defend something once you’d taken it. In 1.1, he said, “defenders are going to get a lot more renown and influence in RvR by defending a keep. I think we’ll see a more doggish mentality where you go out, take a keep, and dare others to attack it.”

There were other things in the works that would work towards eliminating keep swapping, he said, though they couldn’t discuss it yet. The big change, though, would be that there would hopefully be much more incentive to take a keep and work to hold it.

In general, the team was happy with how players had grown with RvR – especially Scenarios, which Wheeler said players “took to like a fish in water. It’s an even, guaranteed fight as soon as you click that window. We’re trying to make open world RvR just as attractive in terms of readily available action, we want there to be traffic. Hopefully the defensive renown fix and the Influence fix will just be the first on our laundry list of solutions.” Naturally, though, they couldn’t say more about what was to come.

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“1.1 is the start of a very long list of improvements that we’re planning on making to the game, both focusing around the RvR experience and incentivizing players,” explained Gershowitz. “In future patches you’ll see more improvements to oRvR, the campaign system, we’ll be tying tying Scenarios and oRvR into one nice package so players aren’t forced to choose between a Ferarri or a Ford but two Ferarris, red or blue.”

RvR is the soul of Warhammer, but Gershowitz insisted that they weren’t “leaving PvE players by the wayside,” pointing to the live events like Heavy Metal and Witching Night – as well as formally announcing the title of the next (presumably holiday-themed) live event, Keg’s End, which will be expanded upon on Friday. The developers read through PvE feedback and took another pass through four or five dungeons: “we added some loot, retuned some encounters. 1.1 opens more content and quests, more lairs for players to find. You’re gonna find more stuff.”

Josh Drescher was particularly eager to talk about his personal favorite addition in 1.1, what he described as a “little nugget of joy” – Chicken Run. It’s a quest offered in the Greenskin and High Elf Tier 3 areas (for Destruction and Order, respectively) that sends high-level characters down to the first tier open RvR areas … where they get immediately turned into a chicken, and are tasked with completing special chicken objectives. “Which is mainly,” he elaborated, “like trying to get through as fast as possible without getting killed.”

“Players were doing this sort of thing anyway,” he joked, “so we made this a little gag that we could throw in and give them actual quest rewards. Also,” Drescher added, “any rank 1 character that gets ahold of a high-level chicken and kills them is going to get a reward like they killed an actual high-level character – everybody wins!”

So, that covers 1.1 mostly… what about 1.2? Or beyond, even? “We can’t tell you much!” Gershowitz laughed. “The things that players can look forward to, and be assured that we’re listening to, are improvements to the heart and soul of our game, RvR. We are dead serious about being best PvP game on the market. The things that we’ve been getting back – feedback on the forums, on the Public Test – are all things we’re taking to heart. So whatever comes in 1.2 is the same ‘we’re listening, we’re improving this game’ content that we’ve done in 1.1.”

Thanks to the Mythic team for finding the time to speak with us!

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