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Games Day '09: Managing realm vs. realm combat with Jeff Skalski


RvR is a carefully titrated, expansive system, and no one knows that better than Mythic Entertainment's Jeff Skalski. Jeff is the RvR team lead on Warhammer Online, and we recently had the chance to sit down with him at Games Day and pick his brain about many different aspects of WAR's RvR combat.

So what can we expect from city sieges in the future? What's the current priority for the RvR team? What's their plans for open RvR and keep sieges? What's it like designing a zone that includes a heavy emphasis on RvR and RvE working in tandem? These questions and more are answered inside this Games Day interview.

So tell us about a few of the challenges you faced when revisiting the Darkness Falls concept in Land of the Dead and how you worked it in with WAR's RvR.

[Darkness Falls] had a lot of positive feedback and recognition from the players, so what we wanted to do was really take the best bits out of it and put it into the Land of the Dead. At the same time, however, we really wanted to challenge ourselves to make a true successor to Darkness Falls, knowing that a lot of our players in Warhammer never played Camelot and we have to design for those players as well. We were just trying to make sure that we were making an environment that, in the RvR sense, is engaging, fun, and tense.

"We wanted players to be looking over their shoulders, always wondering when the enemies were going to come."

That was the big thing. We wanted players to be looking over their shoulders, always wondering when the enemies were going to come. We knew we wanted to gate access to Land of the Dead based on what was going on in the RvR campaign, and we knew that Land of the Dead had to be RvR flagged at all times. It's why we made the decision to allow rank 25s into battle and bolster them to rank 36. Yet, we know that there are going to be times in Land of the Dead when there will be no RvR action going on because the enemies will have been purged. In this respect, the content had to stand on its own for the players who just wanted to go there or go for those extra pieces of loot.

Back in the campaign system, players have been saying that they don't feel as if there's enough investment in the keeps. What are you guys doing to change that?

I can totally understand and agree with those types of points. What we just recently added were keep upgrades, where guilds can invest in the keeps and upgrade them for different strategies. We've also got the ordinance system in, so players can collect ordinance from other players or around the RvR areas and purchase new types of siege to enhance the sieging experience.

We're going to keep growing that system, like how we reward players for things like taking down upgraded keeps and things like that. There's only so much I can say now, but we want to keep adding tools, so to speak, to the player in RvR so they can keep changing up the keep siege. As the game matures, you'll start to see more to keeps than just kicking the door down and killing the keep lord. There will be many more things going on.

How did you avoid overshadowing the city sieges with the release of Land of the Dead?

As developers, we work on something, put it out, and then we look at how players go through it. How do they flow through it, what do they play most often, why are they not doing that content over there? We learned a lot about our player base and their habits, and that's critical when we get into meetings regarding what we're going to add to the game or what are the systems that we're going to improve upon.

So the thing with the Land of the Dead is that it runs on the side of the RvR campaign. The kings are still the focus of the main RvR campaign. I think what we're hopefully going to learn out of the Land of the Dead is that we really changed up the expected RvR rules. There's a lot of PvE content in an RvR space, which there isn't anything like that elsewhere in the game. Then you have the purging concept, that you can purge PvE instances and purge the Tomb of the Vulture Lord.

If that begins to resonate with our players then we might add that into a city, or potentially into the city sieges. We do have instances within the city siege, and there could be that idea of killing someone over an instance.

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