Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes detailed

PAX Prime 2011: BioWare Mythic opens up on what players can expect from free PVP-focused online game; Warhammer Online "maybe" going free-to-play.

Who was there: Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes development head Carrie Gouskos took to the PAX Prime 2011 stage alongside creative director Paul Barnett, producer James Casey, and Web developer Ken Holley, as well as senior designers Nate Levy and Amber Turner.

Wrath of Heroes is entering closed beta "very, very soon."

What they talked about: This fall, BioWare Mythic will launch Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes, a free-to-play variant of the scenario combat found in the studio's massively multiplayer online role-playing game. The Wrath of Heroes team was on hand at this year's PAX Prime to deliver more information on the upcoming game.

The panel began with a trailer for Wrath of Heroes (embedded below), which primarily showed off the game's illustrated art style and chaotic combat. The trailer also emphasized the team's mantra of "Fast, fierce, fun." When the trailer ended, the team noted that this game is intended to provide an experience separate from Warhammer Online, in that it won't have that game's realm-versus-realm competitive gameplay.

Instead, Wrath of Heroes offers scenario-based combat built on three teams of six players each, where rounds last 15 minutes and players can change their heroes on the fly. It also emphasizes leaderboards, unique heroes, and a small download client (under 1GB).

The team also briefly addressed Wrath of Heroes' free-to-play nature, which is to say, how they plan to make money off of the game. Namely, there will be a roster of playable heroes that rotate in and out. However, players can purchase permanent access to the character that they prefer to play as with real-world money.

Moving on to Wrath of Heroes' particulars, the team began with how they go about creating heroes. This process can be divided into two questions: What is needed and what would be fun?

To the first question, they gave the example of Korith Deathbringer. The character operates as a ranged damage dealer that specializes in single-target sniper abilities. In early play-testing, they found that Korith was vastly overpowered, so they introduced the dark elf Korelei. Her specialty is close-range, fast combat, with armor-piercing abilities and high damage avoidance, and she effectively countered Korith.

Less was said about characters introduced to be fun. However, the team did mention a troll and a dryad hero, with the first being able to rain vomit and the second having changing foliage.

On to art, the team said that the base of any hero's appearance is its character model. They first start with what a character looks like naked, and then they layer on the armor and weapons. Barnett noted that his core creative direction to his team has been, "Let's get to the cool s*** really quick." As such, the focus has been on cutting out any equipment that doesn't have a vivid, interesting look and style.

Abilities are designed in tandem with the hero's look. The team decided to go with only five abilities so as to get away from the MMORPG way of incremental upgrades to skills. Instead, they are hoping to give the game a deathmatch feel akin to something from the first-person shooter genre, where everyone has the same weapons and it comes down to player skill to determine the victor.

Because Wrath of Heroes is a Warhammer property, heroes will have a backstory. The BioWare Mythic team didn't delve too deeply into this area, saying only that character development is important in Wrath of Heroes and that each one will have voice-over work.

Once the heroes' art and abilities have taken on more definition, the team moves to play-testing and iteration. Calling this an on-going process, they said that there is a cycle of play-testing, taking feedback, iterating, and then play-testing more. This method occasionally leads to cuts, with the team saying that Warhammer Online's Chosen class was introduced into the game but ultimately cut, for now, due to balancing issues.

At this point, Gouskos confirmed that Wrath of Heroes will enter a closed beta phase "very, very soon." No additional details were offered, but players interested in participating can sign up through the game's official website.

The team then addressed the approval process it must go through with intellectual-property holder Games Workshop. Largely, GW is hands-off, as long as the game hits the requisite dark, gritty tone that the franchise is known for. However, it has thus far requested some changes.

For example, an Egyptian priest character was initially submitted with the name "Yu'Mahd," playing off the trite forum retort "you mad." GW rejected this name but did approve its substitute, Amenadresh (which phonetically said roughly comes to "a man in a dress").

The BioWare Mythic team then provided an overview of the first few characters that are being tested. Bax Dreadtoof is an Ork that specializes in heavy armor and close-quarters melee combat. The more he fights, the bigger he gets, and he's loosely modeled on the Incredible Hulk. Felica the Flamekissed fills the bright wizard role, specializing in potent ranged magic and area-of-effect damage spells.

Glowgob da Green is a goblin healer that specializes in area-of-effect restoration. The team noted that Glowgob is a great example of how some characters are designed to be button-mashy, while others are complicated and require skill. Glowgob falls into the latter group.

The aforementioned dark elf assassin Korelei and archer Korith Deathbringer are also currently in the beta, as is Nethys the Crimson. Nethys is a vampire class that focuses on close-range magic and spells that siphon life from her target to restore her own power. Lastly, they showed Thagison the Disgraced, a pugnacious dwarven fighter that is highly resistant to magic and is extremely fast.

BioWare Mythic currently has about 25 heroes in varying stages of development. As voted on by those assembled at the PAX Prime 2011 panel, a ratlike Skaven hero will be the next that is fleshed out.

As an interesting tidbit that arose during the Q&A portion of the panel, the team was asked whether Warhammer Online will transition to a free-to-play model of its own. To this question, Gouskos answered with a noncommittal "maybe."

Quote: "What do you do? Blow s*** up. How do you do it? Fireballs. What else do you do? Nothing. There's a purity to it."--Paul Barnett, describing the bright wizard class.

Takeaway: Wrath of Heroes won't just be a spin-off of Warhammer Online's scenario combat. Instead, BioWare Mythic is creating a drop-in, drop-out experience that emphasizes a level playing field, where players differentiate themselves on the basis of skill. And it doesn't look like the free-to-play business model will alter the balance of this effort.

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Discussion

24 comments
Xizle
Xizle

Sounds good I quit WAR a few months ago but still dip in and out of the endless free trial and play the occasional RVR scenario so this could be a nice replacement for when im craving some RVR action.

simon1812
simon1812

why cant they just add this to the existing game?

taidalwave
taidalwave

it is like the game i was dreaming of only in my dream it was not free to play

towely62
towely62

loved warhammer online age of reckoning just hope the pvp is some what the same as age of reckoning it was THE main reason i kept coming back to the game

oflow
oflow

this game isnt WAR its a different game all together. Trimmed the fat and made it just arena combat might actually be worth playing, WAR was fun but had a lot of flaws.

nyran125
nyran125

the idea of free to play games is much better than the reality....the reality is free to play really meens Large DEMO, but play full game for $60-$90 for 6 months only...Lets say EVERY game employs this system and we no longer get single player game anymore and dont think thats not a reality by the way as more of these become successful and now Call of duty is doing it, which was the BIG danger when a popular FPS decided to do the Sub system, because everyone might follow suit. lets say theres 8 -10 games you love to play , Call of duty, Battlefield, Counter strike, and MMORPG like Star Wars, Age of empires, Dawn of war, Starcraft , Warcraft, Heores of might and magic 3 or 6 coming up and lets say Batman Arkham City decided to do Free to play also multiplayer with no single player 10 games all free to play x $5-$10, some might even be crazy like $15 -$20 a month..But lets try $8 Thats $8 x 10 games = $80 a month, thats $480 every 6 months for just 10 games. $960 for the whole year FOR 10 GAMES. Its ok if you playing just 1 or 2 games , thats $96 for 1 game for the whole year. but $96 is a pretty expensive game dont you think for 1 year an dnot only is it $96 , the game also restricts you from playing UNLESS you keep paying? Its almost like GAMBLING, or Arcade games of teh 90's..Pay to play...PAY PER VIEW........seeing more simlarities to the pay per view system. NOW all of THAT IS ONTOP OF YOUR INTERNET BILL AT THE END OF THE MONTH TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TrueIori
TrueIori

Warhammer universe fits in great for a moba style game :), can't wait.

mortaleclipse
mortaleclipse

I have seen these type of games before, is it a 3rd person Moba style game?

funkmugumbo
funkmugumbo

If it went F2P, I might just reinstall

ThePurpleBubble
ThePurpleBubble

Hmm... A Warhammer... MOBA? Closer to Bloodline Heroes than DotA or LoL from the sounds of it, though... I am looking forward to seeing how this turns out...

R083R70
R083R70

I enjoyed Warhammer, but I just lost the time for it. I will have to make time for Dark Millennium for it looks great, I just hope that a little more is put into the single player experience than Warhammer online.

Mystoksor
Mystoksor

WAR had some good aspects, but in the end it was too flawed. It needs to be rebuilt from the ground up or scrapped altogether. Warhammer deserves a better MMO than the turd Bioware is keeping on life support.

MidniteShadow
MidniteShadow

Awesome, now more players can experience the fast paced RvR from WAR and DaoC. Wewt for awesomeness, the Warferno is back :).

Fleshx
Fleshx

Typical EA project for a team that they don't know what to do with or don't have anything for them to do. My bet - warhammer online will be shut down soon after star wars launches. The warhammer team will get lumped in with the seasonal lay-offs.

BadMonk
BadMonk

i always thought they should bring out a WoW battlegrounds for PC/360 and PS3 where its just the battlegrounds from world of warcraft and still divided into certain level groups but cross platform play so be great to have servers where PS3 vs 360 players :) have the same classes and even using the game controllers you can still have lots of stuff mapped to buttons, as you already have 8 face buttons then when using left trigger for e.g you have another 8 slots and so on :) be cool eh?

greendude123
greendude123

I cant stand f2p games (Guild wars 1-2 are the exception) P2P or no go for me.

FlamingFury
FlamingFury

Soooooo many games are taking on the financial model of LoL lol. I personally think it won't work for everyone, think of free to play models in other games with item shops aka Maple Story. For awhile that was the key method of earning money from free to play. I wonder what the next iteration will be.

feleas
feleas

@Shikamaru822 agreed. lol

Shikamaru822
Shikamaru822

Looks promising, and the 40k demo was epic, shut your elitist face if you dont think its a COD/Halo clone.

Hatemachine25
Hatemachine25

Truth be told I only half agree about the 40K demo, it's GREAT fun of that I am certain, but not really worth the price tag, at least in my book, when it hit's 30 bucks though it's entering my collection in nanoseconds. I tend to save full fledged full price titles for games with a little more depth or replayablity and staying power, 40k looks and plays like a brutal Dynasty warriors in space, and I love it for that, just not 60 bucks worth of love lol. as for this, I think it's an interesting choice to go with standard MMO fare PVP combat as the basis of a game, making it free to play, relatively balanced from the get go, it's like WoW meets streetfighter, the only thing costing money is to not be forced to be stuck playing random and being forced to play as Dhalsim (HATE getting stuck with that char). It sounds like FUN! But really all the games need to be is fun, I would HOPE people could truly care less where game developers get their ideas from, who did what first, or better, and just about any other measure by with which everyone holds a big ole Dong waving contest to champion their idealized versions of Video games, and just shut up and play. My own hypocrisy not withstanding of course, Oh and 5 minutes on a real keyboard that only cost me 5 bucks in a thrift shop, HAPPY GAMING FOLKS!

Marked_by_chaos
Marked_by_chaos

@stailcookie The Space Marine demo mediocre? The game is insanely fun. Everything is spot on in that game from the shooting to the melee. Plus its a demo so they are not going to give you the best, more insane levels of the game. People worked extremely hard on that game. As well as Warhammer Online and the DoW series.Just be grateful that you have access to such things and stop complaining. Its a huge insult to a developer to say that about their product. If you like it or not. I thought DoW 2 was on the ball with its squad based combat. It also gave off the feeling of how strong the units are and that you did care when your army was getting hammered. I'm sick of hearing that every game that is released now is compared to something Blizzard did or whatever. Did you know that Blizzard went to Games Workshop and asked to make Warhammer games but they said no and then Warcraft and Starcraft were born. Game ideas that were taken from the Warhammer universe and called something different. But that's how everything works in this world now.. Take an idea from something and call it something different and your own.

stailcookie
stailcookie

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

sircyrus
sircyrus

An odd project for Bioware, though "Bioware Mythic" is really just Mythic with the Bioware name (and reputation) attached. I hope that Warhammer Online does go F2P. It's got a lot to offer, but not enough to justify a subscription fee, at least IMO.