WarCry recently had the opportunity to chat with Warhammer Online Associate Producer Josh Drescher about the game’s first year and things to come. Take a look back and sneak a peek.
Please introduce yourself and tell about your position on the WAR development team.
My name is Josh Drescher and I’m an Associate Producer. That basically means I do whatever our Executive Producer – Jeff Hickman – tells me to do, from press to design to project planning and management. APs throughout the studio act like “utility” players.
Now that WAR is a year old, would you say that it is a “better” game than it was the day it was released?
Absolutely. We were pleased with WAR at launch, but seeing the game “in the wild” helped us to see areas that needed improvement. We’ve been working very hard – especially over the past 6 months or so – to respond to the constructive criticism we’ve received from our fans and to really improve the experience players have in WAR.
Approximately how many significant changes have been made throughout the past year in terms of content and fixes?
Too many to count. We’ve run numerous Live Events, added four careers, launched a free Live Expansion – all while constantly tweaking and fixing and improving the game overall.
What would you say have been the five most significant changes in the last year? Why those?
- Server stability improvements – We’ve managed to improve server stability my whole orders of magnitude over the past year and we’re continuing to improve it as we move forward.
- Client performance improvements – Especially in terms of large-scale battles, we’ve been unhappy with client performance since launch. Our client programmers have made some serious improvements, but there’s still work to be done.
- RvR changes (many of which are still ongoing) – We’ve taken a hard look at the RvR experience (particularly in the 4th tier of the game) over the past four months and have found it unsatisfactory. We’ve made changes to encourage open field keep sieges (and defense) by enhancing rewards and adding things like a second set of ramps in keeps. We’ve made major changes to the campaign – like pulling out the need to take fortresses – to improve the flow and performance of end-game RvR. We’ve got a lot more in store – especially for cities – in the coming months.
- Addition of new careers – The Choppa and Slayer have become two of the most popular careers in the game.
- Land of the Dead – What can I say? I love RvR dungeons.
How has the WAR community responded to these five?
I would say generally quite positively. You can never change anything and have that please every player, but I think our fans – even in cases where they don’t totally like a change – understand WHY the changes are being made. They get that we’re committed to improving WAR and understand that sometimes that takes a bit of “tough love”.
Of all the things that might have changed but didn’t, which would you put as first priority on the list of “must fix/add”?
There really aren’t many areas that need attention that we HAVEN’T started at least working on. Long term, I think that the Tier 4 campaign and server/client performance and stability will be things we’re constantly working to improve.
How much community input does the team ‘listen to’ when it comes to prioritizing changes/additions?
Quite a bit. As I said earlier, constructive criticism has been what’s made it possible for us to recognize some of our weaknesses and then to address them.
What plans does Mythic have for the community to celebrate the first anniversary?
Shameless bribery! XP and Renown bonuses, special weekend events, Live Events and more (keep an eye on the WAR Herald).
When do you anticipate the next content addition to launch? Any ‘sneak peek’ information you can give?
When (and what) Jeff Hickman says so. No sneaking or peeking just yet.
Keep reading for information about the next patch to hit the PTS and more!
When is the next major patch scheduled to be released?
The next major update will be 1.3.2. We just code-locked on it yesterday, so it’s off for testing now. Nothing’s ever final until it’s released, but we’re currently looking at these areas for 1.3.2:
- Decoupling fortresses from the Tier 4 campaign – As mentioned above, this was a significant decision and we’re not eliminating the fortresses entirely, we’re just not requiring that you capture them to control a pairing.
- New User Experience – Improvements to the initial experience new players have when entering WAR for the first time.
- Hireling system – Still being tested and tweaked, so no final details other than stating that the goal is to allow players of all ranks to play with one another.
- Additional Crowd Control balancing – I considered putting this in the “Top 5” above, actually.
- Career balancing
- Other goodies I can’t go into just yet.
In terms of your work on the development team, what would you specifically categorize as the biggest challenges you’ve faced while working on WAR?
That’s something of a “moving target”. Obviously, just getting the game designed, built and delivered was a massive undertaking that involved hundreds of people spending multiple years hard at work.
Looking back over the past year, however, I think our greatest challenges are the ones we’re facing now. Trying to respond with agility to the issues that come up in a game that is live and “in the wild” is massively challenging.
Changing expectations from our players as the game matures, supporting or refactoring major systems as in-game populations start to settle into the latter tiers of the game, maintaining an attractive and accessible experience for new players – all of these things require significant attention and resources. And that’s all in addition to the standard balancing and bug fixes that all MMOs are constantly working on.
What have been your greatest achievements?
- Getting the game out, period. It’s shocking just how often large projects like WAR never actually make it to market. There are so many things working against you that it’s actually a minor miracle when new MMOs come out at all.
- Really capturing the heart and soul of the Warhammer IP. This was personally very important to me, as a long time Warhammer fan, and it was equally important for the whole studio.
- Meeting thousands of passionate, awesome fans all over the world. It’s easy to get beaten down by the attitudes of a vocal minority on forums and such, so any time we’re at shows and interacting with the actual players directly it really “recharges” us and makes the long hours and endless challenges feel totally worthwhile.
- Introducing systems (Public Quests, the Tome of Knowledge, Living Guilds) that are so new and innovative that our “Noble Competitors” are now introducing them to their own games. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Can we get a picture of your cubicle?
I’m not sure I trust you.
Pirates or ninjas and why?
Do all of you who are “oldsters” on the development team haze n00bs when they join Mythic?
We used to, but we’ve been so busy over the past few years that we generally just hand them a bottle of whisky and point them at their keyboard. That being said, going on a long vacation is still an invitation to have something terrible happen to your office (like having all of your desk toys nailed to the ceiling).
Do you actively play WAR? Do you play “openly” or do you have stealth characters?
I do play regularly, but we’re not allowed to tell anyone outside of our families and extremely close friends who any of our characters are. I go one step further and don’t even let my COWORKERS know who I am in-game (though my wife knows, since we play together).
Please add anything else you’d like!
Thanks to everyone who’s playing WAR. We’ve got a lot of great stuff in the works and I think you’ll all enjoy the game even more in the future!
WarCry would like to thank Josh Drescher for his time and great answers. Please comment in our forums and let us know what you think! We’ll be featuring an article soon looking back at the past year in the WAR universe. WAAAGGGHHH!