Massively goes to WAR: Exploring Warhammer's capital cities

Last Friday afternoon we had the chance to sit down with Warhammer Online Development Manager Mike Stone. Mike is one of the minds behind the massive cities that sit brooding at either end of the racial pairings. Under his guidance, Altdorf (the Empire capital) and the Inevitable City rose before us in all their majesty.

While we didn't spend any time in the captured versions of these capstone RvR targets, our time exploring these living, breathing areas was very illuminating. EA Mythic's attempt to involve the player in the lifecycle of their capital city is really interesting, and expresses itself in numerous ways. Read on for descriptions of these elements and far, far more as Massively investigates the neighborhoods and streets of Warhammer Online's mightiest metropolises.

Bonus Trivia: On either end of Altdorf is a huge drawbridge, beyond which more city hazily extends out of sight. These are open areas the developers are leaving themselves to enlarge the city in future content updates. Every capital city is open-ended in this fashion.
As we began our tour, Mr. Stone noted that they're referring to the capitals as "Living Cities" for a reason. Each city has a rank, which increases over time as players participate in the city's culture. Quests and Public Quests completed in the zone open up new areas, new encounters, and brand-new PvE dungeons. As the rank of the city increases, NPCs begin to act and behave differently. Some, like the well-known Gotrek and Felix, won't even show up in town until the proper city rank is reached. Even the kings of the allied races (the High Elves and Dwarves) will arrive in Altdorf once the city's rank reaches high enough.

We started off in the market square, the heart of the massive sprawl. A mass transit system is located there and in other neighborhoods, insuring that players will be able to arrive at the heart of the Empire with a minimum of conflict. Stone estimates that the first time a player would arrive in the city, they'd likely be about level 7 or 8. The first sight when players step off of the gyrocopter pad will be a magnificent view of the Imperial palace.

Just off of the pad there's a quest giver who will set players to the task of exploring various parts of the zone. This quest will in turn lead to other quest-givers, especially in taverns. Taverns play a crucial role in the capital cities, offering quest-givers a place to hang their hats, access to subterranean dungeons, and auction house NPCs. Four pubs are spread throughout each of the racial cities, ensuring players aren't clustered around a single auction locale.

A troupe of actors is just walking out into the main square as we enter the tavern and (our quick look around complete), we follow them back outside. They're heading for a massive platform in the center of the area, right near the gallows (several dead men hang from nooses). Stone says that the troupe will regularly perform fully voiced theatre productions. The tools the team has developed for these elements are very robust, and these productions will rotate regularly based on season, in-game holidays, etc. Nearby, there's a bank and a mailbox – staples that you'll find near every tavern in every city.

Bonus Trivia: Invading armies can smash the War Quarter statues during a city invasion. Players who have their statues destroyed, even if they're not present, will receive a Tome of Knowledge unlock for the trouble.
The Emperor's circle and War Quarter are further areas that players can explore. The War Quarter will be the district that plays host to the highest-level players, from 30-40. Entering the city from Reikland, a high level zone, will be much like stepping in through the front door. There are public quests here as well; one involves an out-of-control steam tank and its missing parts. The War Quarter houses the massive leaderboard statues, graven images of the top ten renown holders in any given week. The statue looks exactly as your character does, and are simply enormous compared to player character scale. The central fountain holds aloft the top renown player of all time. They don't expect that image to change very often.

Just off of the War Quarter in Altdorf is the Guild Tavern. It's a unique building, separate and distinct from Guild Halls. Guild Halls are slated for the game, but details on those structures aren't quite available yet. The Tavern unlike the (presumably private) Hall, is a communal meeting ground for members of every Guild. Only guild members can enter, and there are just a rooms inside. The front room is a massive meeting ground, filled with useful services. There's a mass transit NPC, which will allow you the opportunity to travel from anywhere in the world straight into the arms of your fellows. Likewise, the transit NPC will spirit you away to other areas of your side's controlled zones. Upstairs, there's an area for guild leaders only. There are several benefits to organizational leaders, including extra rest XP and a few other "extra" perks.

Abutting the docks is yet another tavern. The Blowhole is another worn-down gin-joint with auctioneers and quest-givers. This particular tavern, though, features a unique Public Quest: a bar brawl. Bother a patron, touch his brew enough, and the whole bar will break out into fisticuffs. The Screaming Cat tavern, halfway across the city, is the home to Gotrek and Felix. These notable NPCs only arrive in town once Rank 5 is achieved. Invading Destruction players will find that the famed duo is available to fight one-on-one as well. Of course, whether they can actually be slain is an entirely different issue ...

From the docks we moved into the slums, the worst part of the city. Towering over the rundown district, like a furious demon just felled from the sky, is the Bright Wizard's tower. There is rubble everywhere, and open flames mark several just-completed "experiments". As we move into the tower, Mike notes that that this is one of the two encounters that will "gate" access to the Imperial Palace for Destruction players. Once the contested version of the metropolis is unlocked (via the keeps and sieges gameplay we've previously discussed) the hordes will be faced with the difficult task of taking out two mighty sub-bosses before they can take on the imposing Karl Franz.

Bonus Trivia: The sub-boss PQs are gated to 'just' 48 players. They'll be some of the hardest encounters in the game, but because they're Public Quests and not raids they require no single point of coordination.
The head of the Bright Wizard's college is one such individual. Wrapped in a coruscating pillar of fire and wielding nearly endless eldritch energies, the forces of Destruction will have to work through a several-stage scripted sequence just to reach the mighty wizard. The other sub-boss that must be conquered to gain access to Franz is the Grand Theogonist of the Sigmarite Church. He's located in the great Church of Sigmar, an imposing edifice filled to the brim with warpriests. Below the Church is an entire explorable dungeon teeming with undead, and pointed at by numerous quests for both Imperial and Chaos players.

With a glance upward at the towering spires, we move from the squalid streets into the Emperor's palace. As we enter the massive marble doors a Tome of Knowledge unlock reveals itself; every part of the city has one of these just for exploring, and hints as we move through the rest of the area suggest there are dozens if not hundreds of hidden unlocks waiting to be found. The Emperor himself, of course, resides in the palace's inner sanctum. As we walked down the lengthy central corridor, Mr. Stone noted that this is the exact route that Destruction characters will take when the city siege comes to fruition in the final battle.

Bonus Trivia: The Elven and Dwarven kings won't stick around once the city comes under siege. By the time Destruction players break down the doors of the Imperial Palace, they (and their mighty warships) have already left Altdorf's harbor.
It will be a lengthy scripted event, with numerous waves of enemies and cinematic moments. This will culminate in a sequence where Deathclaw, the personal griffon of Karl Franz, bursts through the stained glass window above the throneroom. The pair will fight Destruction players near the throne, and then retreat to an exterior courtyard. The last gasp of the king will take place in a majestic external courtyard, with the burning city of Altdorf as the horrific backdrop.

Read on for our exploration of the Inevitable City -->
This article was originally published on Massively.