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Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning: WAR Council

If anything, the team at EA Mythic can never be accused of not being a spirited bunch. In all of the conference calls I've been able to take part of, I've never come back from one as charged about a game than I did with Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. From the minute the guys chimed into the room with a resounding shout of, "It's EA Mythic!!" to the very end of the call, it was easy to tell that they still love their project and are really putting everything they can into it - and they know it.

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) is a brand-new MMORPG based in the Warhammer universe from the developers behind Dark Age of Camelot. The game allows players to choose a side in the on-going war between the Armies of the Order, which include High Elves, Dwarves and Humans loyal to the Empire, or the evil Armies of Destruction, which play home to the Greenskins (Goblins/ Orcs), Dark Elves or Human worshipers of Chaos.

Among the other aspects that were discussed during the call, some of the more interesting involved some of the day-to-day workings within the studio. One of the stories revolved around a board in Paul Barnett's office where team members must come and confess that they were playing the game, not as a developer, but as someone who is playing it just like they would a real game they paid money for. Once someone is caught, they must confess their deeds to Paul who then has them add their name to the board along with the time and date that they realized that they were "...playing an awesome game."

This enthusiasm for the game is also shared by the various testers currently participating in the Closed Beta, leading up to the game's Fall '08 release (info that was shared both in words and in song). Although some info was still being kept under wraps, the team did share that they were currently in a targeted phase of the Beta where testers were being let into certain areas of the game and being asked to focus all of their energy on that one section. Right now, the testers are going through some of the game's higher-level parts of the Campaign game, mainly the Realm vs. Realm sections such as battlefield objectives, scenarios and everything else that can happen in the area. According to the guys, and the fresh feedback that was shared, the testers are incredibly happy with what they're playing.

Realm vs. Realm content is the heart of Warhammer Online and takes place on three fronts where each of the races wage war with ancient foes, such as the ongoing battles between the Empire and Chaos. Although players are limited to combating their racial foes early on, they can eventually join other groups and take part in their battles. The ultimate goal is to take over the enemy's capital city by invading and sacking it. Battles take place through a series of instanced scenarios as well as objective-based battlefields. One of the core elements of WAR's RvR system is that it integrates four different levels of combat; players can compete against other players in PvP combat, or take on objective-based Player vs. Environment quests. Everything players do in the game is geared towards helping the overall war effort.

With so much of the game focusing on the war effort, the question came up about what the developers were planning to do to keep one side from becoming too powerful. While they aren't out to punish success, they will place a few elements into the game that well keep things competitive. The longer a group holds a particular zone, the more likely it will be that the losing side will begin to see small advantages that will help get them back on their feet, such as offering buffs for the underpowered side. One of the goals is to try and make each side as compelling as possible in order to keep the population level for both sides at an even level.

EA Mythic is also aiming to make the game as accessible as possible to as many players as possible. Rather than designing the game for the top 10% of players, WAR is targeted for everyone. Paul compared designing the game to designing a golf course. Even though you can build a challenging course where only Tiger Woods could get par, it is probably better to design a good course where everyone is going to have a good time. Even though Tiger could play the course and have a big game, everyone who plays is going to have fun and want to keep playing into the end game.

Even with the focus on large scale battles, EA Mythic is also working to make WAR viable for players, such as Paul, who just want to play by themselves and be left alone. Although the experience is a different one, players who choose to play without the help of a guild will be able to experience all of the content WAR offers. However, while solo play is doable, it is hard to stay solo for a long time since the game is designed to take anti-social players and trick them into having to play socially.

If nothing else, I came out of the Warhammer Online conference call more excited about the game than I was going in. Based on the enthusiasm displayed by the team, it is hard to imagine them putting in anything but their best efforts into a game they are clearly still excited about.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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