Warhammer Online: Exclusive Interview with Jeff Hickman and Paul Barnett, Part #3

Incase you missed the first two interview, you will notice that every time Jeff is speaking I have it “The Hickman”. A little story behind that, Paul suggested I always refer to Jeff as “The Hickman”. Jeff told Paul that if he ever got anyone to actually do that, he would pay him a buck. Well Jeff, pay up! From this moment on, WarCry will always refer to you as, “The Hickman”.

If you missed Part 1 you can see it by Clicking Here!
You can see part 2 by Clicking Here!

Warhammer Online: Games Day Interview
Answers by Jeff Hickman (Senior Producer) and Paul Barnett (Design Manager)
Questions by Matt Lowery

Part 3


mattlow: We keep hearing about the Tome of Knowledge, but we don’t actually have many details about it. It’s not like a database for the game, so you have to unlock it, you have to find the things to fill it?

“The Hickman” Absolutely, so when you start the game the Tome of Knowledge is empty, except for a little bit of information about yourself. So as you move through the game, through quests, public quests, through exploration, through killing enemies and monsters, through discovering secret things in the world. Through basic discovery…

Paul: By bothering to look around the land, and interface with the land, and going and doing things. By bothering to pay attention to the sweat, blood, and tears we put into the game. The more you bother, the better it gets. You can get to level 40 by mindless grinding, your Tome of Knowledge will have hardly anything in it. All the wonderful glories it unlocks, you won’t have. So the power people, the people obsessed with just the end, they are going to have to go out and do these things. And people who love socializing, people who love mapping, people who want to do things slowly, people who love clicking on everything and examining it, they get a wonderful experience too. They don’t have to worry about if they are going to get 10 levels in an hour, because they are getting rewards in other ways. It’s also important that the Tome of Knowledge is for the person at the keyboard, it doesn’t belong to the character, and it’s for you! It’s for you bothering to try. It’s for you doing your best. That’s what’s important about it. So there are certain things about the Tome of Knowledge that we can’t talk about yet, which are really interesting. We have taken a view, and an attitude, with that in mind.

mattlow: Another thing you talked about that I really loved, was the bear quests. Where you have to get 10 bear paws…

Paul: The bear quests! That’s in the quest pod cast. Infact we should do that, cause that just drives me bonkers! It drives me bonkers!


“The Hickman”: It drives everyone bonkers! My wife and I play other MMOs… till Warhammer comes out, and we make fun of that. Everyone, everybody that plays other MMOs makes fun of that. Hey, didn’t I just kill a bear, didn’t he have a heart? Don’t all bears have hearts, or paws or whatever? Huh, that’s weird I didn’t get one.

Paul: The absurdity of it is in three areas. The absurdity that I’ve just done it and it thinks I didn’t do it. The absurdity that I’ve just done it again, but I don’t have the right token, and the absurdity of requiring a token to prove I’ve done it. It’s a three step farce! And so we went no, it just has to be dealt with. It has to be fixed.

“The Hickman”: Because we track everything you do in the game, we do that for the Tome already, now we can apply things like kill collectors so that it’s like, you are wandering through the world, fighting through the world for days, you are wandering through the world and you find a guy that doesn’t like boars, doesn’t like Dwarves, doesn’t like Squigs, whatever it is. And he says, “Man, hey, I see you have been killing lots of Squigs, you have Squig blood all over you. You Rock! Here is some XP.” Halleluiah! I think I’m going to go kill some more Squigs!

Paul: And that’s the point, the point is, when you are running around the lands, and you come across a group of something. And you think, “Do I want to go kill those?” Well ya, because somebody somewhere will want them DEAD, STUFFED & MOUNTED!

“The Hickman”: And that plays back into the Tome where you go into the Tome and in the Bestiary and it’s like huh, every Squig you kill, increments your kill counter for the Squigs…

Paul: You’re a Legendary Squig Killer


“The Hickman”: As you begin to do different things with Squigs in the world, whether it’s killing a certain number of Squigs, killing a specific Squig, umm discovering all the different kinds of Squigs in the world. As you do those, you are unlocking different rewards for yourself. Whether its XP rewards, or a Lore reward, which is text in the book you can read. Perhaps a new title, or a new Ability, a Squig killer Ability. That… That’s what the Tome is about.

mattlow: You aren’t calling advancement levels. Instead we hear a lot about Tiers, are Tiers just another name for levels, how are they different.

“The Hickman” No, so I know where the confusion comes from. We use to use Tier externally, Tier is really an internal term that we use to talk about a grouping of 10 ranks or levels. So that’s all a tier is, truly it’s a grouping of 10 levels. We use it for a lot of different things internally, we use them as a way to encapsulate a piece of content or a career. But the reality of it is, there are 40 levels or Ranks, we call them Ranks. You know that’s a Warhammer term that we like to use. So there are 40 Ranks in the game, and you move through the game without any knowledge or worry about Tiers. But behind the scenes, I can tell you that, if you look at the first 6 zones in the game, they are Tier 1 zones. All that means, is they are Rank 1 through 10 zones. That’s really all it means.

mattlow: What about death penalties, resurrection sickness, all that stuff? We don’t see any of that in the demo.

“The Hickman”: No you’re not. There is a lot of discussion internal to the team. Mark Jacobs has given us specific direction on death penalties. His goal is, he wants people to care, he wants people to care about death. He doesn’t want people just running off dying dying dying. Yet he doesn’t want the penalty to number 1, not make sense, number 2, to be so bad that people hate it. It’s not you die and you have to go back to your corpse, ok. So we are still talking about exactly how we are going to tighten that up, and what we are going to do. We got three or four different things that we are chatting about, and it will be different than what you are seeing in the demo now.

mattlow: Is the intention to have it the same for PvE and RvR? I would think you are going to die far more often in RvR.


“The Hickman”: The goal would be that it’s the same. I don’t know if we are going to reach that goal. Like I said we have 4 different possibilities on the table right now, 2 of them are the same for both, 2 of them are different for both.

mattlow: Are you going for the same size servers as Dark Age, or perhaps larger, or smaller? I mean as far as population goes.

“The Hickman”: I’ll give you the professional answer. <clears throat> “We are going to put as many people on the servers as we possibly can.” The real answer is, we want to max out our servers probably around 10,000 people. It’s actually the same as Dark Age of Camelot.

mattlow: In WAR, we can now loot players that we kill. We can get money and items from the corpse of enemy players. While we don’t actually get there loot or money, we get rewards like we do in PvE. Can you explain how that works? Combat goes pretty quick in RvR. I wouldn’t want to stop in the middle of combat to double click on a corpse, look at a pop up window with the loot in it, and then drag it to my backpack. So how does it work in WAR?

“The Hickman”: So that actually ties into the death penalty a little bit. We are big believers in the finality of combat, especially in RvR. It’s really important to have, what’s the word I’m looking for… flow, ebb and flow.

Paul: Winning and losing.

“The Hickman”: Like, you need to win. There needs to be a point where you are like, “I won that battle.” So what we try for is, that feeling. A lot of that is going to be how we play with the death penalty a little bit, a lot of it will be with where respawn points are, that kind of stuff. So we are still playing with that, but that’s really the answer to your question, what will end up happening is, there will be an end to combat, and at that point you will have the opportunity to go and loot. If you choose to take it or not, it is completely up to you. We don’t want people who are in the middle of combat to loot, and we don’t want the losers to loot either. The loot is the reward for winning. So as the winner you have the opportunity to say, “Wow, we won!” click, click, click, click.

mattlow: Technical question, with all this customization you can do with your character. For performance issues, will I be able to turn a lot of that off?

“The Hickman”: Its still under discussion.

Paul: The people that are paid to do that, are whipped like mules to get the game to run on the lowest possible specs we can get away with. In the last month alone, the memory footprint of the client was reduced by 40%.

“The Hickman”: And the frame rate of the client was increased by almost 100%, and boy is it noticeable. They are doing a great job.

Paul: They are paid to basically keep doing that every month from here to release.

“The Hickman”: We are optimizing the hell out of our game. It’s an entire team that is just sitting there working on this. To answer your question a little more directly. Will we have the ability to turn up and down those things? Absolutely.

mattlow: You have talked abit about balancing out sides in WAR. Can you elaborate a bit on how you can do this?

“The Hickman”: We are talking things like, and I am making no promises, but we are talking possibilities like, when you enter the game, something pops up and says, “Hey, you know what, we suggest you play this server, and on this side.” We find that that grabs about 10% of everybody that sees it. We are talking about things like, you don’t want to play on that side. What if we gave you a XP bonus? What if we give you a combat bonus? What if we give you an item? We run the whole gambit from when you start, before you ever enter the game, directing you, coercing you, cajoling you, getting you into the game. Then when you are in the game, there are other things that we do there to help balance you out. Scenarios in and of themselves demand balance, and because they play such an important part of zone capture, while again you can’t capture a zone just by Scenarios, they play a large part in them. I can go on and on, we have a list of about 14 different things we are doing just to help with population balance. Which is about twice as many as Camelot is able to do.

mattlow: With the Dogs of War in scenarios, is there a minimum number of players that must be present to use them?

“The Hickman”: Yes, we never want the player to feel like there are a whole bunch of NPCs around him.

Paul: It’s not BotWar.

“The Hickman”: Ya, it’s not BotWar. The Dogs of War are there to cut down on the queue. That’s it, that’s their goal. As a matter of fact, what happens, is if you get into the queue and there is already a scenario running with Dogs of War in it, It will actually put you in that scenario that’s already running. It will just drop you in, and take the Dog of War out. So we do a lot of stuff like that. We down play Dogs of War as much as possible. If there is never a Dogs of War, ever in the game, I will be happy. Because then we have achieved our goal of scenario balance.

I wanted to thank Paul and Jeff again, for a simply great interview. I, like over 200,000 others, can’t wait to get my hands on the game!

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