Q&A: EA Mythic chief demystifies Warhammer Online delay

General manager Mark Jacobs discusses the recently announced delay of the long-in-the-making massively multiplayer game.

As announced earlier today, the launch of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning has been delayed until the middle of 2008. The upcoming massively multiplayer game is in development at Virginia-based studio EA Mythic, and takes place in a dark fantasy world originally created by UK tabletop game studio Games Workshop. The highly anticipated game will feature "realm-versus-realm" competitive gameplay that lets players play as a high-fantasy character and participate in large-scale online battles.

Today's delay is the latest chapter in Warhammer Online's long trek to launch. It was first unveiled in 2000 by developer Climax and Microsoft, only to be briefly canceled four years later. Then, after Climax developed the game solo for a few months, independent developer Mythic Entertainment picked up the license in 2005. In 2006, Electronic Arts bought Mythic and renamed it EA Mythic.

What does the delay mean for Warhammer Online's future? GameSpot spoke with EA Mythic general manager Mark Jacobs to find out.

GameSpot: So, Mark. You have an announcement you'd like to discuss.

Mark Jacobs: As announced in my State of the Game address, and also by [EA CEO] John Riccitiello in our earnings call, we are pushing back the release of Warhammer until the first half of EA's 2008 fiscal year, which runs from April to September.

GS: Obviously, the next question is: Why?

MJ: Easy. The short answer would be that it's hard to make this kind of game. Now, for a more detailed answer. It really boils down to this: Our game is going to live and die by two things. One is realm-versus-realm (RvR) gameplay. The second is overall quality. This is not 1999, 1997, or even 2001. This is 2007. We have to be able to release a game that, in terms of quality--without even going into game systems or RvR--is top-notch. We've seen too many games in this industry, and in this space, release without that, and we're not going to do that.

In terms of RvR, the game's motto has always been "war is everywhere," so this game has always been focused on that aspect of gaming. One of the things that we found during beta was that certain aspects of our RvR system weren't everything that we wanted them to be. So we added open-field RvR. We've been looking at certain rule sets for different RvR servers. And that takes time.

The other thing is, and it really encompasses the entire game's development, is what the team's been doing--and doing a tremendous job with, by the way--is meeting all their milestones in terms of the amount of material to add to the game, whether it's content, quests, or systems. What they didn't meet in the milestones was the date. So, they'd get everything in, but it took a little longer, and as it took a little longer, we were faced with two obvious choices: We cut some polish, or we cut some features. And we made the decision, backed by EA, to make sure that all that polish is in there, and all those features are in there. And that's it.

GS: The first early warning for this development seemed to be when the beta shut down. What were the telltale signs did you see in beta that might have led to this?

MJ: Oh, that's easy. We have tons of metrics for this game. Unlike Dark Age of Camelot, where our tools were nonexistent, for measuring user satisfaction with surveys, taking the pulse of the beta, we came back with things like, "We want open-field RvR." "Some of the quests are really great, some aren't so great." And we took all that and said, "Well, we need more time." We need that polish time. One of the things I've been talking about is the difference between a game being feature-complete and content-complete. We were supposed to be at that stage at a certain point, and after that, we were going to have many, many months to polish.

Coming out of beta, we saw that we weren't going to have those months to polish, and you know, look, if the beta feedback had been "Hey, everything's fantastic, you guys rock," this delay wouldn't have happened. But we came out of beta saying, "Look, we need some time to polish, we need some time to iterate on things like RvR," and so, we took the action. That's the whole point of beta, right?

GS: So, in terms of making sure the game was up to snuff in terms of quality, and offered enough to be interesting to players in the current massively multiplayer landscape, in your opinion, what does a modern game of this sort have to offer?

MJ: The quality level, in my estimation, has to be better than Dark Age of Camelot, has to be better than EverQuest, better than EverQuest II. You need that kind of quality. I think it's very safe to say, and I know I've said this before publicly, that World of Warcraft set a bar for quality that surpassed any other MMO in the industry. Love the game, hate the game; I don't think there are very many people who can argue about the quality of that one.

So, we have to try to match that. We can't go back to rely on what we did in Camelot or what other games have done in the past. We have to try to meet or exceed that quality bar that Blizzard has set.

GS: But quality aside, is it even relevant to still try to create the kind of "be-all, end-all" sort of game that features player-versus-player (PvP) gameplay, and also player-versus-environment gameplay, and also crafting, and also guilds and in-depth community features, plus all the other things that the all-in-one games of yesteryear tried to offer?

MJ: I think that's really up to the companies. If they want to spend the time and money to build up a team that can pull it off, like Blizzard did, they're certainly free to do it. I don't think there's any bar that can't be overcome, or any level you can't beat, and it doesn't matter whether you're talking about Blizzard, or BioWare, or really, any company. Any time a game is great, somebody can always do better, and somebody usually comes along and does do better. So, I think it's really up to the company as to whether they want to try to reach that bar.

In our case, our focus, again, is RvR. It's the hobby of Warhammer. What we're trying to do is deliver a really great game focused heavily on RvR. That's going to be one of our "hooks." If the RvR in our game isn't great, everything we hope it will be, then it isn't going to be a great game. So, are we trying to put in absolutely everything that Blizzard has, especially now with Burning Crusade on the market? No, I think that would be a mistake. Are we looking to focus on the things we know we can do well, and throw in some new innovations and twists that we hope players will enjoy? Absolutely.

GS: In your opinion, what is it about the competitive RvR experience that gets people excited?

MJ: Well, we can't talk about some things, obviously, but some of the things we have talked about is the sacking of the cities. We think that the fun that people will have and the rewards they'll earn, and the challenges that are involved in sacking a city, are unlike any other RvR or PvP game that we know of...in the West. [Laughs.] I can't swear that's true for games in Asia as well, but I do know that in North America and Europe, on the MMO side, our RvR experience is going to set a new standard for fun. And we hope that will encourage players to keep coming back for more.

GS: Aside from the fact that the massively multiplayer audience has matured, and now there is a sizeable population of veterans who might look for a hardcore competitive experience, how will Warhammer Online appeal to beginners and get them to buy into competitive RvR play, beyond the usual experience of getting yelled at by hyperactive 12-year-olds who play competitive games day and night?

MJ: [Laughs.] We've done it right before, and we might, as you say, be seen as a hardcore company that makes hardcore games like Dark Age of Camelot, though of course, for the true hardcore players, we were seen as "Care Bears" compared to the Shadowbanes of the world. On the other hand, our game worked.

What we're hoping to do with the RvR experience, through the multiple ways you can get into RvR, or even the competitive PvE aspects of the game, is get people in from the beginning. Now, this won't be the equivalent of Dark Age of Camelot's open RvR system, where in that game, a 10th-level player who ventured into the frontiers would get his butt kicked time after time by the "gank squads." No, you're not going to have that.

We're going to get players into RvR much more safely in more evenly matched situations where they will not be up against guys who can take advantage of them time and time again. That's something we need, especially in what we're calling the "core RvR rule set." That's what a lot of players want. There is no "one type" of player, as you know. Some like really hardcore PvP environments where you can kill anyone, others like PvP for "realm pride," where you're just fighting for Hibernia or the Empire, or Midgard or the Greenskins, you want to believe in your side and fight for your side. So, we're going to have that as well.

And then there are the players who are scared of RvR because, as you say very astutely, [laughs] sometimes it is the hyperactive 12-year-olds who form these gank squads, or have just played the game constantly so they know every trick, so a lot of these players won't even venture in. What we're trying to do is make it a bit fairer at times to get them in. And then, when they go to true open RvR, or the sacking of cities, they'll have the experience, and I hope they'll lose some of the fear, of RvR. But it's important to keep in mind that Warhammer is being designed [for] even if you don't want to RvR. We've said from the beginning, if you want to PvE your way up from the ground up, you can. There will not be as much content as in RvR, because RvR is a never-ending thing, but there will be plenty. The directive from me in the design from the beginning has always been that any player playing any character class, of any race, should be able to PvE their way up to the top of the system, even if they don't want to engage in RvR. But, we encourage them to. We reward them for it. We give them an environment that's conducive to RvR. And we think that'll go over very well with the entire community.

GS: What can you tell us about the development schedule of the game from here on out? Will we have another beta before launch?

MJ: I can tell you everything. Just as we said when we closed the beta, we had always planned to close beta. We've closed betas before. We'll close it again when we start the next process. We didn't close it because we got all this bad feedback--not at all. We got tremendously positive feedback on certain things.

The reason we closed is because, if you've seen our beta-forum discussion boards, and you see our guys responding and reading, we were starting to chase our tails a little bit. Guys would say, "Oh no, this is important. Or, this is important." We had to go back over all the feedback and metrics we got and take a deep, hard look at the game and figure out what to do next.

In terms of moving forward, we're still on track. This delay announcement has absolutely no effect on our reopening of beta we have planned for December. When we shut it down, we said December. Now with the delay, we're still saying December. These are absolutely unconnected events.

I can tell you that for the first month of beta, we're going to focus on certain aspects of the game. What we wanted to do was test out some key things, and test the stability of the game, which just like Dark Age of Camelot, came through with flying colors other than one bad night. [Laughs.] Other than that, the game was stable, the systems worked really nicely.

Now is the time to give players certain new aspects of the game, and say, "OK guys, beat up on this for a week or two." Then we shut it down for a few days, or a week. Then bring them something new. Then shut it down again. Then we'll reopen for the guild beta. Once we let the guilds in, we may shut down as well, because sometimes with a game like this, we get so much information that we just have to stop and say, "OK, let's take a deep breath, and let's talk about it."

GS: Aside from all that, this game has always seemed like a bit of a juggling act, since it's not just working with a new publisher, but also, with someone else's well-known, well-established intellectual property. Can you give us an update on where Games Workshop stands with the delay?

MJ: First, the relationship with Games Workshop is fantastic. These guys have been my friends for years, even before we did this deal. It's hard to say that we have the "perfect" relationship, because no relationship is ever perfect, but man, let me tell you, it is as close as you can get. We are in touch with everybody, up to the CEO and chairman of the board, and we talk to them. We're friends with them. They come stay at the house! It's all good.

So, in terms of the delay, they basically asked me, "Let's see if we have this right. You're going to invest more money, and more time, to make us a better game." And I said, "Yup!" And they said, "Great. Don't see a problem with it." That was the entire conversation regarding the delay. They couldn't be happier with us, because not only are they in touch on a corporate basis in terms of approvals and marketing and things like that--it's also on a personal basis for them. They're fully briefed and prepped for anything we do, and they're playing the game and loving it. They're continually astounded by our ability to bring to life things that they might not have been able to because they aren't computer gamers. So when they go in and see Altdorf, or the Inevitable City, which some of these guys have only seen in their dreams, and they get to walk around and play in it--oh my god, they're happy!

GS: Anything else to add about the game?

MJ: Nobody likes news of a delay. We're not happy with it. Nobody is. But when the delay is used so that we can build a better game, a more glorious game, a game that will give players what they want, then I think we have to look at this as a very good thing. Especially in light of other games that have launched because they didn't have the time, or the backing from their corporate parents, and the games--really, everything--suffered as a result of that. We have the support of EA, we have the support of our CEO, and thanks to all that, and thanks to the hard work of all the guys at Mythic, we're going to deliver something great.

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Discussion

48 comments
Stevie1980
Stevie1980

All this hype makes me laugh, sure it will be a well designed game with alot to offer, it will be stunning graphically with beautiful sculptured landscapes, towns, equipment, dungeons, it will have new exciting pvp/rvr(which has never been done before apparently), but it has no chance of over taking world of warcraft as no 1. MMORPG1 Why?, well simply because its to late for it to catch up with the users or sales wow has made and the obvious fact they stupidly let EA fund and support it, this is a company btw who took one of the biggest opportunitys to rule the MMORPG world with a franchise hardly anyone dislikes and completely ruin it, EA are all about the money always have been. I would love to eat my words tbh i really would, but its not going happen.

A4Audiguy
A4Audiguy

I've been looking forward to this for a while. I stopped playing WoW about 3 months after the expansion came out because I was very dissapointed. I hope this is half as good as it sounds. P.S. F**k EA

TheRealUku
TheRealUku

thankfully there doing what all of us who know what will rate highly and combining alot of the good elements of all the best mmorpg , quest ideas from D&D (very good) pve and character mastery from WoW (hate it or love it still the best pve content and RvR now with keeps! from the best pvp mmorpg (camelot) ok EA are funding the game but at least mythic and games workshop are calling the shots , EA are there for the profit ofc , and with there backing at least the quality and server base will be huge , so its a good thing for all. they plan to target and hopefully match or beat the no.1 mmorpg which is a hell of a challenge! make us proud and shut up all the lame ass comments ive seen regarding this game with ill prepared statments , try reading about it a bit more before commenting you n00bs , i like many other sensible clever people have been following this since its conseption , ive also played 90% of all mmorpg , so i stand in a good viewpoint to either critisise or complement i feel.

Frail421
Frail421

I agree with 'markevans' completely, in order to demolish the competition you have to compare yourself to it. WOW is so huge that it IS the standard that other games will be judged upon for years, for example: quick - name the best FPS you have ever played: the first one to pop into yer head is likly to be DOOM, duke nukem, castle woflenstein, or UT. these are great because a) they set a standard that others havnt and b) they are popular because they appeal to a wider range than the previous titles. and c) they are unique in their own way and that is what sets them apart. Same thing here, WAR i think is going to beat WoW with a size 18 F-off hammer because they are trying to do something that blizzard hasn't/cant/won't do. Period. PS i really hope this doesnt turn into Starwars Galaxies (huge potential, huge flop) we'll see........ i dont want to have to eat my words

Crush_Project
Crush_Project

im shocked. EA is not forcing out a half chewed crap pile? its gotta all be propaganda :P

Jonkenden
Jonkenden

I'm dissapointed, it seems they keep extending it and it's starting to feel about as likely to release as duke nukem forever. I'm probably going to play other games and ignore the existance of this until it suddenly pops down in my mail box.

matte989
matte989

MMO's are tricky beasts and if you want to play on the level Blizzard created(or beyond!) you have to get it right. I'm really happy to hear that they will be working on the game even longer. Announcements like this reassure the core MMO community that "hey, they are doing this thing right".;."they don't want us to run out of end-game content in 2 months", etc. Best of luck to all the hard working peeps at Mythic. There is nothing my buddies hate worse then to make a decision & time commitment on MMO 'X' only to have the development team get dumped into a 5 mile wide lake of quicksand. I think it's safe to say that Blizzard(so far) is the only one to successfully do post-ship content. Go Go Mythic PS - Make sure your AAA devs get a break before ship!!!! :-D

kyrieee
kyrieee

wow those were long answers

Jo-Que
Jo-Que

Sort of happy about the delay, gives me more time to gather money for a new computure.. he.. ^^' This game's gonna rock!!! >=D. Paul Barnett ftw

Diernes
Diernes

Delays like this are good. No one likes a game that sux. (hellgate london cough) more time means more polish.

akazergling2
akazergling2

Given EA's track record of patience and tolerence, I'm sure WAR will be given a proper burial in the coming weeks.

wargod53
wargod53

I think it is great that they are being given the time t develop and release the game the way they want it, and so that it will come out and be how they want it to be - it wont be rushed....

Kooken58
Kooken58

oflow this is suppose to be a real pvp game, if you knew mythic and played their games you would know that...

markevens
markevens

I don't think these guys are making a WoW, they are making Warhammer. I don't care that they are comparing themselves to WOW, the fact of the matter is that WOW raised the bar substantially, and they are simply acknowledging that. Personally, I'm keeping a close eye on this one because it seems they ARE doing something different. Well, that and I love their PR guy who practially wets himself everytime he talks about the game. Love those videos man!

fallensymbols
fallensymbols

More money, more time, all for a better game? That's fine by me.

rat5112
rat5112

Hardcore = only accessible to those capable of playing 5+ hours a day. The fact of the matter is the hardcore audience is the minority of the audience out there for these games. WoW became such a success by opening themselves up to the concept of the casual MMO player. I play PvP because I enjoy testing myself against other players. When someone 20 levels above you comes tearing through an area and starts killing whatever moves because they're bored it might be fun for them but its frustrating as hell for the rest of us. I'm lucky if I get an hour a night to play any game. I'm not going to play a game were have to organize a group to gat even the simplest things done because of bunch of gankers who are pathetic enough to have to pick on those weaker than themselves. So forget the hardcore I want game that's fun for me.

oflow
oflow

Yah, no matter how they sugar coat it, the reports must be true. Lots of rumors floating around from beta players saying the game kinda sucked. It kinda looks like they are falling into the same trap as most new MMO games by comparing their game to WoW. I really wish developers would stop trying to make the 'new WoW' and just come up with something else. Stop being afraid of alienating potential subscribers and make a real PvP game. This game has been in development for so long, they really need to start find their own identity. What's amazing me is that you can tell they are basically trying to match the financial success of WoW and feel the only way they will be able to do it is follow their model based on what he said in the RvR explanation section of the interview. The answer is right in front of their faces and they cant see the forest for the trees. The only way to beat WoW is to make a non carebear pvp system. If you play WoW you know most of the people who are pvpers are kinda dissatisfied with WoW's pvp. This could be their one saving grace. But from the looks of it they are going the 'make something that everyone will be able to participate in' route which will be their downfall. The only way to unseat WoW will be having better PvP. They better stop listening to the metrics and start listening to pvpers. People are attracted to the game because its supposed to be RvR based. They really need to go in the other direction and make the game more hardcore, not less. It seems like the wrong thing to do from a 'metrics' standpoint, but if they want to dethrone the king and not be another Vanguard they had better wake up and embrace hardcore. Most longtime mmo players that are into pvp site UO and Shadowbane as some of the best pvp games to this day. Yes they sucked for griefing/ganking, but in reality thats what people that like RvR want: they want the freedom to make RvR when and however and then based on that have a system of rules that counter this created by the community, i.e. you dont like whats happening get your side together and stop it. Thats what people really want. Take head.

jakob_187
jakob_187

I was really hoping they weren't going to delay it, but I'm glad to hear about delays when it involves the word "quality". EA is going to be more than willing to give these guys whatever they need to deliver a WoW-killer, because face it...it's the only market that EA hasn't penetrated yet. They've got something in every other category. Warhammer Online will be an incredible game. My only fear, as a guy that only gets maybe 3 or 4 hours a day to play, is that the game will involve dumping a lot more than that into it to achieve something. If that ends up being the case, then I'll have to end up sticking to WoW by default. By no means is WoW just an incredible game...it's nothing more than a collect-a-thon mostly, but it's something that I can play for 3 or 4 hours and advance in significantly. We'll see what happens. I do hate that it's getting pushed back this much, as I was really looking forward to the March-ish release, but if it's to make a better game, I won't complain.

theNexus
theNexus

It basically boils down to on beta the combat was still just poor hence the first delay. It is shaping up to be a good game but the combat system and rvr was just not quite right and quick as it should be like wow - wow does not have much to go on in terms of options in combat that war is shaping up to offer but combat runs at a better pace on wow by a mile. It is nice to see though mythic have come to realise these issues and listen to the players and going to spend more time on it

wraith808
wraith808

It's good to see a company that knows what beta testing is- feedback for change (sometimes painful) rather than a test bed to get defects to fix after release. I want this game to be at the top- I love the universe, and the idea- so I'm glad to see that they took this move.

Targzissian
Targzissian

Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising got put on "indefinite hold" after the pre-order was already on store shelves. It was really a surprise. From the article above, I don't think they'll do anything like that with Warhammer Online. But by the time it comes out, I may be playing Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures.

grayoldwolf
grayoldwolf

I personally see this as a good thing. I am a lifelong Games Workshop fan. The fiction base is awesome - it has far more layers than any MMO out there because it has been built upon for 25+ years. If EA are going to take time to do this amazing license justice, then I can only applaud them. Now... when's the 40k version coming out? :D

Gruug
Gruug

Glad to hear that EA is backing the delay due to "quality" issues. Maybe this is a sign that EA has been listening to its customers for a change.

mopeyking
mopeyking

Good to hear and any one who is going to complain about them mentioning wow. -shut up- lol you have to admit that wow for being out so long has become quite a polished game and any one making an mmo must compete with that level of polish :) If they can make rvr great then they will have a success on their hands because blizzard simple does not like pvp and many of their customers do!! There is an mmo void for pvp. It will be interesting to see conan and WAR come out at around the same time ;) -going for conan but will be look at WAR still. They may both benefit by not only being compared to wow....

Warchief_Zuljin
Warchief_Zuljin

"go play halo if you want pvp" No, you see, people want GOOD PvP, not an over-hyped FPS game.

nightfend
nightfend

People always complain when MMO's are released unfinished and buggy. But then people also complain when an MMO is delayed to improve quality. So it's a no-win situation for developers. Players will complain no matter what. I personally I really glad they are taking the time to polish RVR in the game. That way the first few months won't have a huge number of nerfs to overpowered classes. BTW Dark Age of Camelot was my first MMO. I still have fond memories of the game and really am hoping I'll feel the same way about Warhammer when it's released.

dorohala
dorohala

This is a long interview but can be interesting!!!

celebnaur
celebnaur

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Wardenb
Wardenb

Im glad they are polishing this game before releasing it, i mean, with such a great lineup of games this holiday season and then in the new year, what else will we play :P Spoit for choice :D

metalisticpain
metalisticpain

I hope they have full pvp realms, i never likes the idea of a map only haveing pvp sections which you had to urn into in order to kill others

absinthewfaust
absinthewfaust

they delay this any more, it better set the bar sky high as far as gameplay, because gfx wise, it is going to make janet reno look like playmate of the month! just ask helldelay london! i think theirs is tipper gore!

dsymetry
dsymetry

This game is going to be addicitve as hell and I might need rehab.. or it will be a failure.. which I doubt and hope it won't.

Erebus
Erebus

"On the other hand our game worked." - Mark Jacobs referring to Shadowbane's unfortunate legacy. ...I laughed. "We've been looking at certain rulesets for different RvR servers." - Mark Jacobs. ...I cheered! It's unlikely a single RvR ruleset will please all the PvP'ers. Some want safe zones, some don't. Some want to roleplay, others feel roleplaying is for 'tards. But the big question is: will there be a ruleset for players who do NOT want instanced RvR? Please please please please please please. :)

Tuor7
Tuor7

Well, it seems to me that Mark from Mythic would be saying this sort of thing even if it wasn't true. OTOH, I hope it is true that this is to improve/polish the game. Time will tell.

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

Well if it does something WoW doesnt and does it well it stands a chance, if it tries to be or exceed WoW at its own game (doing everything at 7/10 rating) then they are in trouble ... So from the sound of it they are sticking to their guns and trying their own thing. Great news :P

runstalker
runstalker

For any MMO to be good, you have to throw a ton of people at it. Since EA's cash stepped in, the team's grown to like 170 people--and the resources, obviously, are better. So I think if Warhammer Online simply gathers all the most popular MMO features into a huge, ultra-polished wad of Warhammer lore (this IP is great), it stands a good chance to pull folks away from several games.

Argonaut125
Argonaut125

Hey you know they delayed it because they listened to the beta players (AKA buyers) and took their advice to heart. So I really don't mind

absinthewfaust
absinthewfaust

yay now helldelay london won't be alone! there will be a new game that looks and plays like games that came out years before its time!

gipper07
gipper07

Didn't read the whole article so I don't know if this was addressed... but I hope the beta still comes back on in December! I NEED to play this game again.

Mr-Apples
Mr-Apples

DAOC is the blueprint for how to fritter away good ideas and a mountain of community good will. I can't see how this will be any good in the face of that track record.

RossRichard
RossRichard

Just a word of advice, from a former Dark Age of Camelot player: Mythic is crap. Bad PR, lazy GMs, and very very bad ideas for the general direction of their games. I strongly suggest that anyone who is looking forward to this game play something else to tide them over until another MMO from a more reliable company comes out (like Bioware).

Grantelicious
Grantelicious

My mate was in the beta and he said he wasnt impressed and the quests were just standard kill 10 of these and return to me.

waza000
waza000

if they can give a little "something" more to the graphics, i wouldn't mind ... and really, i totaly HATE when mmorpgs are released too fast (yes the devs in a mmorpg have to release updates after the game came out, but in my opinion, the balancing and an important part of content should already be in the game) so i'm happy that Mythic want to put more effort in it and i ABSOLUTLY applaud EA for not releasing a game too fast, again !

NandoSupes
NandoSupes

I really want to play this game,I'm willing to wait.

teirdome
teirdome

Mark is my hero. He cut the crap and was humorous at the same time. I absolutely cannot wait for this game!