Mark Jacobs RE: classes being scrapped, mentoring, and delaying WAR

Some interesting weekend reading material for the Warhammer Online fans out there. Mark Jacobs addressed the crowd on the boards regarding the possibility that some classes might not make release. It’s a legitimate concern that with all the many changes added to the game’s development within the past few months (namely the character specialization changes) that many of the classes might be put on the back burner. The man himself answered these concerns.

In terms of the number of classes, marketing, release, etc. It’s still pretty simple, we’ll release it when it’s ready but keep in mind that beta is for chucking what doesn’t work in order to replace it with stuff that does work. So, if a class doesn’t work out the way we hoped it would, we *might* keep it out on release if we can’t come up with a good way to fix it. It would make no sense to either release the game with a broken/bad class or to hold up the game’s release if we are not sure even how to fix a bad/broken class. One of the lessons from DAoC’s development/evolution was that less is indeed sometimes more. Again, please don’t read anything into this post other than the usual “this sort of stuff is what beta is for” disclaimer. Besides, with the new systems we have been putting in, players will have even more options to customize their class than before so I don’t think players having a dearth of class/options is something you have to worry about. – Mark Jacobs

A fairly standard and expected response. It makes sense to me that if a particular class is causing enough trouble during development that it alone would delay the release of the game then the class should be scrapped or delayed, not the game. Vanguard is the most recent example of a game that developed X number of classes but delivered Y, where Y is less than X. It’s not unheard of that something like this occurs. I cope with the possibility of such losses by trying to stay within the frame of mind which recognizes that just because a game is in beta that doesn’t’ mean it’s finished. Nothing said during beta – and I emphasize nothing – should be thought of as a promise or be expected. I’m guilty of failing to live within my own reasoning many times. As long as my orcs and goblins are all in the game we won’t have a problem, ‘k Mark? 😉

Another interesting topic was brought up recently. In Everquest 2 and City of Heroes there exists a feature referred to as mentoring or side-kicking. This allows players of different levels to scale down and group together in order to negate the penalties of a lower level grouping with a higher level. Mark’s response to the possibility of Warhammer having a mentoring system:

As to #8, that’s one I’ve always had mixed feelings about as a designer. The pros for doing that are obvious but the cons are what concern me. If players can easily move down in levels to help other players, I worry that new players will have a harder time getting in groups. After all, if you could choose an experienced player playing at a lower level or a new player playing at the same level, you’ll go with the experienced player. His/her knowledge of the game will always be an advantage to you and to h/h. So when the new player is LFGing or wants to get into the fun in a situation where the number of participants is limited, h/h might have a more difficult time of it in this system. Like I said, I have mixed feelings on it. – Mark Jacobs

I’m with Mark on this one. In EQ2 I felt that often times I wasn’t wanted in a group at level 20 because a level 80 could just mentor down and offer the group more than I could. I also felt that it was sometimes a little too close to “power leveling” a player when mentoring occured. Keeping this system out of the game, even though it does have some benefits, is my preferred choice.

And lastly, always a scary topic: Delaying a game. This has been discussed a few times by Mark and others at EA/Mythic but each time I feel the same. When companies bought by other companies have nothing but good things to say about those who bought them I can’t help but wonder what is real and what is really real. EA’s track record for buying companies and allowing them to maintain the quality control of their games blows. More times than not when EA touches a game it shrivels and dies. Harsh words for a harsh reality. However, since we have no proof of the contrary, Mark Jacobs’ are the closest thing to the truth.

Keep this in mind when you look at WAR’s development, especially in regard to EA. Since EA bought us, we’ve extended the development time of WAR in order to make it a better game. As the guys from Blizzard just said at D.I.C.E., it’s their willingness to miss ship dates + commitment to quality that has allowed them to make hit after hit. When we have told EA that we have needed to delay the game, they didn’t blithely say “Gee, okay, take your time, we don’t mind!” but rather “Okay, show us why you need more time and why this game is going to succeed.” Since we have been able to do that, they then gave us the time we needed. Our CEO has publicly stated that EA needs to raise the quality bar of our games and we at the EA Games Label, are working hard to do that. The president of the Games Label, Frank Gibeau, is a huge MMO fan and has been very supportive of us. With our beta signups, surging interest in Asia and reactions from our beta testers, EA knows that we are well on our way to making a great and successful game and they are giving us the time and resources to do just that.

I won’t say “It will be done when it’s done” but creating something great on a large scale takes time and as Blizzard and BioWare have proven, if you take the time, invest the resources and have the talent then good things will happen in the end. And believe me, nobody wants to see WAR take the stage more than I do but, as I’ve said before, I’d rather have you pissed at us now than pissed at us when we release. – Mark Jacobs

I choose to believe Mark – maybe that paints me as a blind fanboy. I think that right now in this current market the worst thing a dev can do is lie. Prospective mmo players are just looking to find any reasons to denounce one game and declare the other a victor. Mark’s candor also helps his believability. Looking at this quote and the first one above it seems there are two ways to take what Mark is saying. We can either assume they plan to hit a Q2 release even if it means everything isn’t done because that’s what they want -or- we can expect that they wont’ hit a Q2 release because that is what they want. Either way they’ve made it clear that whatever they do it will be best for Warhammer Online.

Well, that’s all for now folks. If you’re one of those people who like to “go outside” on a nice day then I expect I won’t be seeing you back any time soon. Have a great weekend!

  • I don’t think you’re a blind fanboi, Keen. Because if it ends up sucking, you’ll be the first to report it. You just hope more than anyone that it doesn’t.

    As for cutting classes, the same thing’s been going on in AoC’s development for the past 3 years. The game started off with something like 24 or 32 classes and is down to 12. Some might say it’s simplification, but really… it’s about being able to make each class a solid and playable one for release. That’s a lot harder that people give credit to designers for, all the while keeping balance.

    Considering WAR has 24, I don’t think it would hurt if that number was cut down to 16 or so and more coming in the months following release.

    Look how happy people are with 9 in that “other” game.

  • Look how happy people are with 9 in that “other” game.

    I consider it one of the weaknesses of that “other” game, especially compared to DAoC. I don’t like homogenous sides.

  • I really don’t think cutting classes is a solution in WAR unless they cut out racial pairings altogether. Since each pairing contains 8 classes, 4 of each type of archetype, they’ll end up with a balance nightmare if they leave out the tank class for realm 1 and the healer class for realm 2.

    They’d have to delay the launch of entires race while concentrating on the others, e.g., launch without high elves and dark elves while polishing up the dwarf/orc and empire/chaos pairings.

    Ideally, the launch with what they promised, period. I don’t care if I have to wait another couple months for them to get it right.