Cody Bye of Ten Ton Hammer sat down with Mark Jacobs at AGDC for a two part interview discussing the plan of WAR. The interview is appropriately titled “The Man with the Plan” and goes into details with Mark on some interesting topics that only a visionary behind the scenes could truly answer. Jumping right into my thoughts on what Mark had to say we start off my looking at the answer to a very basic question. Cody Bye asked Mark why he thought the game had already generated so much fan responsiveness.
“Two reasons,” Mark answered. “We have the advantage of a very well known and very well loved IP. Warhammer isn’t as popular as, let’s say, Lord of the Rings. But what Warhammer does have is a really loyal and really committed fanbase that spends a lot of time and money playing their game. While we may not have the sheer numbers that the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars may have, we do have people who just LOVE this IP.”
“Combine that with a very good marketing plan and the cool stuff we have in the game, and people know that we’re not just trying to make WoW 1.5,” Mark added. “People also know from our previous product (Dark Age of Camelot) that we’re not going to be a vaporware company. They know that they can look at this game and believe a little – hopefully believe a lot.”
The second half of Mark’s response was the only part that I could truly believe justified all the hype. The Warhammer IP is well known and people do love it, but the IP is loved for different reasons than the capability of being the next blockbuster fantasy MMO. The die hard fans of Warhammer are the ones playing the table top games and reading the books. They’re the ones who do not want Mark Jacobs and Mythic to really mess up their passionate pass-time. In my opinion they are the ones who are going to be most skeptical and standoffish when it comes to WAR. It’s the DAOC fans who are the fuel of WAR’s hype. The players who loved what Mythic has done right! People know that Mythic made a great game so they are ready and willing to give Mythic their time and money again. Like Mark said, they aren’t going away. WAR is here to stay.
Now this next question is something that hits hard for many fans of this genre. What happens when, after so much hype and expectations, a game doesn’t feel right? Cody asked Mark what he thought about looking at a game before it hits store shelves.
“Never judge a game until at least thirty days after it has launched,” Mark said. “At points, back when we were releasing Dark Age of Camelot, I’d tell the community not to get terribly worked up over the game. Don’t expect that the game will do everything AND bring you coffee in the morning. Look at the game, and if you like what we’re doing and believe in us that’s great. Keep it simple and don’t go crazy.”
“Doling out messages like that, especially to the Warhammer fanbase, is a great start,” he continued. “Then you need to look at the history of online gaming. Generally when a game gets to be around three years old, you really begin to see the population of the game going down. It happened in Camelot, and it happened in Everquest. You now have a lot of people entering their third years with their respective game.”
It’s true he did say that back when DAOC was releasing. DAOC never had the hype that WAR has though. Honestly I don’t know what to think about the direction of not judging a game until 30 days after release. I can’t say that I agree. If you’re going to say that the game should not be judged until 30 days after release then you should have waited 30 days until you released it! Looking a little deeper at what Mark could have meant it’s a given that MMORPG’s are evolving and the reason we have patches is to fix things. For example, if a game has a bad launch (like WoW! Remember those queues and server crashes?) do we condemn it? No of course we don’t. The time to look at the game and what the developers are doing is before you buy the game, not after. Once you purchase the game you then decide if they are sticking with what they planned/promised and you base your decision to stay or leave after that.
Could his remark about people entering their third years in their respective game be aimed at WoW? *rubs his hands together* Reading into it I can’t help but grin when I think of the possibilities of WAR toppling WoW in the North American and Euro market.
Now enough with the theory and interpretation and onto some real WAR stuff! Cody asked Mark a couple questions and it led to city sieges. We know about those so I won’t increase the length of this blog entry more than it’s already going to be by explaining it. What about some more specific questions? We like those! Mark was asked: What will players have to do once their cities are sacked? Will the cities regenerate?
“Of course,” Mark said. “The last thing we want to have happen is to have people not being able to do what they need to do. We don’t EVER want to provide a disincentive that might cause people to quit. So if every time I logged in I couldn’t go to my capital city; that’d be a horrible situation. It’d be even worse when you throw time differences and play patterns into the mix. What if people came in at three in the morning and were immediately able to sack the city, which the can’t do in the actual game, but the next time people log in their city is sacked!”
“But if players sack a city in WAR, NPC forces continually get harder as they try to kick the players out of their city,” Mark said. “We’re going to send in the clones. We keep sending in the NPCs until the people are eventually kicked out, and we want it to be a challenge to players to see how long they can stay in the city. We’ll give them rewards depending upon how long they were able to stay inside the city.”
I’m so very glad that they are thinking smart. Far too many times I have to worry about inconveniences and factors of gameplay that are just downright not fun. On paper everything they are saying so far has WAR heading down the path to being a near perfect game. If Mythic can keep the hype under control and discover a way to funnel it into productive testing and feedback then we are in for a real treat.
Mark Jacobs really is the man with the plan. I’m glad that we can trust ‘our game’ in the hands of an intelligent and wise game developer. Remembering back almost a year ago I read a statement where Mark Jacobs commented on why there would be no stealth classes in the game. To paraphrase what he said by memory: “All stealthers are griefers”. How can you not completely trust someone who has the gumption to come right out and say it?!