As Mythic readies the first major content update to their massively online game Warhammer Online, we spoke with Executive Producer Jeff Hickman about the upcoming free new content, new classes, and new dungeons in Call to Arms.
Unlike a traditional MMO expansion, A Call to Arms is being delivered over the course of several months, with several different live events leading up to the revelation of a whole new realm-versus-realm controlled dungeon, The Land of the Dead. "It's a little non-traditional in the way that MMOs do expansions, but we have so much that we are doing and so many things that are happening that we really felt it deserved that term applied to it," explains Hickman.
Call to Arms is the first major content update for Warhammer Online. Mythic spent the first months since release focusing on fixing bugs, improving performance, and getting the game up to speed. While Hickman wants to punctuate that they are nowhere near done tuning the game, they felt it was finally time to give the players something big and new.
"The Call To Arms expansion is important to us - it really focuses on three things. Retaining players...bringing back players who left for whatever reasons...and the new classes - now is the time to start a new character for any players who have never played before."
Several live events lead up to the final event in June. In late March we get our first look at two new classes, the Orc Choppa, which was previously cut from the game's initial release, and Dwarf Slayer - a Dwarf unable to complete his life oath, resigned to die in battle in order to regain his honour. The Slayer replaces the Dwarf Hammerer, also cut from the game's initial launch. Both are being introduced via a Bitter Rivals live event.
So why these two classes?
"We always liked the feeling of playing the Choppa...gritty and bestial...a heavy hitting, fast chopping maniac. It's just his mechanic was really raw, and just didn't feel right. Conversely, you look at the Hammerer, which was the other class that we cut, and the Hammerer was never our dream...when we went back to the drawing board, we knew we could make the Choppa better, but weren't sure what could make the Hammerer better."
"We went back to Games Workshop and said, "We really want to do the Slayer. How can we make this work?" And so we worked through the lore, worked with Games Workshop, and did whatever we could do to get the Slayer into the game."
As to how the classes play, both are berserker-type warriors, wearing little armour but making up for it in sheer toughness. Both will be able to buildup rage to fuel their abilities. Players can choose to keep their rage low and play cautious, or send the bar into the red, where they will deal more damage but also take more. Both should add an interesting new twist to the forces of Order and Destruction.
Once the new combatants are in place, the events begin to focus more and more on The Land of the Dead, a new area to the south that contains artifacts of great power of interest to both sides of the battle. A bridging event occurs in April, lasting 10 to 14 days, which "really focuses on looking southward, giving the players the first insight into what's happening down there."
Finally, in June, the Rise of the Tomb King event occurs - a massive race between the two opposing factions to open The Land of the Dead dungeon.
"The whole expansion arc kinda ties together a lot of different things, thematically based around finding, defeating, and gaining rewards out of the Tomb King dungeon."
Once the Land of the Dead opens, the struggle isn't over. Much like the Dark Age of Camelot dungeon Darkness Falls, The Land of the Dead is constantly contested.
"The Tomb King dungeon is really the brainchild of Darkness Falls. We really want to look at the things we did in Camelot, and pinpoint those things, make them better, and steal those things from Camelot and make them better. We need an RVR dungeon in Warhammer. We need a Darkness Falls."
Once one faction gains access to the dungeon, players can team up and work their way towards the grand pyramid in the centre, but at any moment the dungeon can change hands, blocking access to their faction and flooding the dungeon with their enemies. It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't played Dark Age of Camelot, but the sense of tension generated by the mechanic is truly amazing.
So Call to Arms is set to change the face of Warhammer Online in a big way, but Mythic isn't planning on stopping there. Following another major update towards the end of the year, the company will begin looking at a boxed expansion for the game.
"Most likely we will (release a boxed expansion), we're still talking about it, but probably what's in store is something else free by the end of the year, and then I'm sure we're going to put a box on the shelves at some point. All in time and all at the right time. Right now the way we are doing this is exactly how we should be doing things. We've talked about a box, and right now there's a small team that meets once a week to discuss ideas for that, but in general we're all pretty focused on what we're doing right now."
For now, Warhammer Online will continue as it is, "Evolving instead of punching you in the face with new content."
Sounds good to me.