E308: Exploring an improved Inevitable City in Warhammer Online

Our discussion of Warhammer Online as seen at last week's E3 event continues, with a look at an improved Inevitable City. During our huge Massively goes to WAR feature spread earlier this year, we had the chance to tour the Chaos home base, and came away impressed. Last week we got the chance to see an updated version of the capital, and learned about what the extra time removing the other capitals has netted the Mythic Entertainment development team. Read on to hear Adam Gershowitz talk about city improvements, the endgame reward cycle, and how the two-cities structure has focused the player experience.

Adam Gershowitz: Inevitable City is one of the two capital cities we're going to launch with. It has gotten bigger and better than it was previously. That's part of the reason why we're down to two capital cities - we keep throwing more and more stuff into the existing ones. It got to the point where we were like, "Well crud, just Altdorf and Inevitable City have as much content as we originally planned for all three city pairings. So we kind of wanted to finish the job, to make sure it's really really top-notch so we're focusing down a little bit more. What that does is it actually changes the campaign up a little bit.

"You'll actually see a lot of lighting going on in Inevitable City right now. It's definitely much better than it was previously. Generally speaking we're only one or two steps from completion"

It really doesn't make things too radically different. We've actually found in Beta that it's working better for us. As you can see our campaign map hasn't changed much from last time. [ed: Readers interested in learning how the WAR campaign operates should check out our Keeps and Sieges discussion.] What's different is these little UI changes: here on Inevitable City and Altdorf you can see these little locks. That indicates they can't be sieged and captured. There's also this new lock on the map between the final zone and Altdorf (and IC). That's our Fortress. You know that Fortresses are bigger than a normal keep, smaller than a city. They're the first part of tier 4 endgame content. [ed: For more on fortresses, you might want to read our how-to on sieging a Warhammer city.] In order to get to a capital city you have to capture two fortresses now.

How has this played out in Beta?

Adam: What we've been finding in Beta is that focuses the players a little bit. Instead of them going "we want to take the Orc city!" and "we want to take the Dark Elf city!" - everybody's goal is one goal. It keeps the server focused and determined. It keeps the game progressing fairly smoothly. That's really important especially at launch where we are going to have a very small high-level population. We don't want to get players too spread out. We want to make sure they're focused and having fun. We want to make sure they're not frustrated because things aren't hopping.

So here's the Inevitable City, a lot has been added since the last time you saw it. [ed: for details on how it was the last time we saw it, check out our writeup on Capital Cities.] IC, just like Altdorf, gets more interesting the higher your city rating. Special events occur, more content unlocks, obviously we're running through right now in friendly mode. It's a quest hub with lots of interesting things to see, people to talk to, places to go ...

Is this the intermediary lighting model or the final hand-lit one?

This is not the final lighting model, it's the intermediary. You'll actually see a lot of lighting going on in Inevitable City right now. It's definitely much better than it was previously. Generally speaking we're only one or two steps from completion. Basically what happens with lighting is you have to remember we were focused on putting everything into the game, putting them in the right place and making sure they played well. We wanted locations to be good before we started moving and shuffling. Now we're going through and hand-lighting every single zone in the city.

"There's this eye here over the door. If you weren't high enough level to get in, it would play a voice over which says something like 'Get thee gone, peon!'"

Previously you saw it unlit, then you saw it with the automatic lighting, and now you're starting to see it with the first pass of hand-lighting. So we still have a couple of final polish passes to go through, and really kind of clean up the lighting. We want to make sure the daylight lighting is as engaging as the night-time lighting. Generally speaking you're probably looking at 75% - 80% complete at this point. We're at 90% complete for lighting, on certain zones.

So what content has been added since our visit?

Well, you're familiar with the concept of our endgame content, the king battles are big 24-man raids. [ed: yes we are, and you can be to thanks to our PVE endgame writeup.] We can take a quick look at Tchar'zanek's tower. There's a great thing here, really evokes the feel of the city - there's this eye here over the door. If you weren't high enough level to get in, it would play a voice over which says something like "Get thee gone, peon!" This will obviously turn into instanced raid content for attackers.

I notice the orc there has fantastic armor. Are the Trophies in the game right now?

Trophies are in the game, I don't have any of my characters set up with them right now. Throughout Beta you'll see people grab tokens of success and put them on your equipment.

So here's Tchar'zanek's throne room. Just like with Karl Franz he has a final mode - in his case, this room starts to crumble away. You actually start to follow him into a weird place that's kind of in between here and the warp, to fight him there. People are getting flung from floating island to floating island, vortexes are everywhere, demons, all sorts of crazy stuff. Actually, as cool as Tchar'zanek is - if you're a Warhammer aficionado, you'll like what some of that extra time has bought us.

We're going through and adding content and expanding on what we already had. It's what our extra time has bought us. The more reputation your city has, the more you're going to attract these iconic NPCs. We're putting more and more of them in the game. For example over here in the arena, we have Engra Deathsword. He looks pretty much exactly like he does in GW lore. We work very closely with the GW artists and designers to make sure these encounters are really true to lore.

You'll actually be able to interact with and get rewards from Engra - if you're a Destruction player. You can fight in his arena, for example. If you're an Order player, if the city is high enough ranking to attract him to the city, you'll actually be able to fight the encounter. That's one of the nice things about the city - one of our self-governing things about the cities is that there is more to do and more rewards when the city is built up. Then, of course, we'll make it harder to hold that city and move back out.

"Sitting on a city is an asinine thing to do, and we don't want to reward it. If you leave the city after you've sacked and pillaged it, after you've dragged the king back and thrown tomatoes at him, and of course you've gotten all your rewards. It'll be better for you"

We want players to naturally leave when they're "done." Sitting on a city is an asinine thing to do, and we don't want to reward it. If you leave the city after you've sacked and pillaged it, after you've dragged the king back and thrown tomatoes at him, and of course you've gotten all your rewards. It'll be better for you because then the players will begin to rebuild and reset the campaign to a mode where you can eventually attack a high-level city again.

This sort of natural reward cycle - is that what will encourage players not to keep a city sacked all the time?

When I say "encouraged to leave", it's going to be harder and harder for an invading army to hold the city. It's not going to be easy to sack the cities. One of the things we found out as we were testing is that with so many cities and so little focus, the cities weren't getting sieged as frequently as we wanted. By focusing down, not only is the content and gameplay better, but the game is more focused and things are going to happen more frequently. We want to see the cities turning over and sacks to be happening relatively frequently. It's going to be a long time before the first city raid happens ... probably at least a month. After that once the server starts maturing we want to see them happening on a fairly regular basis. We'd love every month or so?

This article was originally published on Massively.