Warhammer Online Preview With Mark Jacobs

“Premium games for premium players.”

Those are words from Mark Jacobs, CEO of Mythic Entertainment under EA Games, and the force behind “Warhammer: Age of Reckoning” (W.A.R.) or simply Warhammer Online. Those five words can be used to answer many of the questions that W.A.R. encountered since it was announced as a MMORPG. Most of these questions are born in the aftermath of the World of Warcraft phenomenon and are unavoidable to any serious MMORPG developer.

While the rest of the internet community has already made their thoughts known and disputed, we are still eager to hear what the W.A.R. people have to say. All of us have been through the days of the “WOW killers” MMOs (“Lord of the Rings Online”, “Age of Conan”, and “Dunegons and Dragons Online” to name a few). I personally want to know if W.A.R. can be another excuse to keep me away from my level 51 Undead Warlock; amongst other characters in recent MMOs from Asia.

So I was feeling pretty good right after Mark Jacobs finished showing us the newest high-definition cinematic trailer for W.A.R. Thankfully, this isn’t a meeting with a Public Relations person or we will never get to ask the questions we want. I’ve been out of the loop with Warhammer Online since it’s cancellation in 2004 and the pickup by Mythic Entertainment in May 2005. The story is pretty easy: the good guys (Dwarves, Humans, High Elves) are being attacked by the bad guys (Orcs/Goblins, Chaos, Dark Elves). The player is to help either side.

Before we started asking about what makes war in W.A.R. (an acronym that Mark Jacobs made a point to the name the game after) so much fun, we asked if the team was worried about fighting for attention from other popular titles (Starcraft II, Diablo III, Dawn of War II, etc.). Right off the bat, Mark Jacobs answers, “We’re the only new MMO”. He elaborates that that while WOW is a powerful and good game in its own right, “Things get old.” The second expansion to the game, “Wrath of the Lich King” is still part of a game that is three years old and counting. The CEO of Mythic Entertainment explains his relatively humble ambition: he doesn’t care if W.A.R. isn’t the number one game of all time. He’ll settle for being the top five or top ten. Not so much for toppling giants as opposed to standing on the shoulders of titans.

This is when we start hearing about his efforts to make a game that is fun for as many people as possible. Now, normally if I were hearing this from a Public Relations person, we would be overly skeptical. But with the man himself in front of us, we decided some benefit of the doubt is due.

At this point, he brought us into what makes waging war worthwhile in W.A.R. The Realm versus Realm combat which features lessons learned from their earlier MMO “Dark Age of Camelot” and more. The attractive idea behind Realm vs Realm is to participate in a war campaign across four zones until you are literally at the enemy’s gates. Pillaging cities is a series of quests in addition to being a reward to the whole war campaign. You don’t need to be at the frontlines to make a difference either; you can fortify, change, and enhance your home front by fulfilling quests at your own city. This is a welcome change from other MMORPGs in that there is a real war effort going on.

For those of you who are worried on the relationship between the original tabletop Warhammer and W.A.R., Mark Jacob reassures us that they “cared more about making a great game than continuity.” Coupled with the fact that he used to work at Game Workshop (origin of the Warhammer tabletop), the relationship between W.A.R. and Games Workshop is a pleasant one that seems to focus more on great gameplay than licensing wrestling.

I also got to see their unique public quests and casino quest reward system. But before that, we saw the minor skirmish in Realm vs. Realm blossomed into a full-fledge offensive on their Beta server. It is an awesome thing to see the faction population helping each other to reach a global game goal.
In the end, I left the meeting with the rest of the guys excited about the prospects of W.A.R. Everything they promised is already working and ready; no promises of “next patch add-ons” or such. I can be a casual PvE player whenever I’m not at my regular job while not worrying about losing too much to the more hardcore player.

Best of all, W.A.R. sounds like exactly what it promises to it’s players: this is war and you are part of it.

You can also check out the full cinematic trailer here.

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