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Four years of WAR: An interview with Mythic's James Casey


To celebrate Warhammer Online's fourth anniversary this week, we got in touch with EA Mythic Producer James Casey to talk about the past, present, and future of WAAAGH!

Massively: Four years is a sizable length of time in any MMO's life. How does it feel to hit that mark?

James Casey: It feels great to have been able to have support from the Warhammer and gaming community for the last four years. That support has allowed us to continue bringing them the thrilling Realm vs. Realm combat and engrossing worlds that they have come to expect from Mythic and Games Workshop.

To your point about four years being a sizable length of time for an MMO, I will say that as a studio, we actually have a stable of MMOs that have been around for a damn respectable amount of time. From Ultima Online hitting its amazing 15th anniversary this year to Dark Age of Camelot having already broken that fabled 10-year mark, we've had a remarkable run in the MMO space, and I think that I can speak for everyone who has come and gone or still remains in saying a heartfelt thanks to all of our fans and customers over all the years. We owe that track record to them, and we hope that as we continue to evolve and develop as a studio and across our products, we can provide more of that sense of community in all of our offerings.

Four years of WAR An interview with Producer James Casey
Looking back over the past four years, how have you seen the game's course played out? What was expected, and what was not?

From a positive angle, I think that over the past four years, we've seen some amazing fans and supporters. One of the changes we saw as the game went on over the first four years was how we approached the core concept of the game. At launch, the game provided players a choice in how they approached the game; there were ample and varied PvE elements as well as the RvR components at every tier of the game. We gave all players the choice on how they wanted to move through the game and progress.

As we continued development on the game, we found that the stickiness of the game, much as we saw in Camelot, was in the RvR portions of the game. So gradually we saw a shift in how we expanded the game to focus more on the RvR game. We spent the majority of the last year or two completely revamping and expanding each aspect of the RvR endgame. Don't get me wrong; there is plenty of PvE to be had and more added over time, but we want to cater to keeping people coming back for that grandiose PvP that the game has to offer.

There are so many parts of the game where we can look back at what we expected out of systems or ideas and give anecdotes on how the game evolved and met or broke our expectations or just went off on a tangent. I think the greatest testament to some of the innovative and unique aspects of our game is that as new games come out in the market, you see these aspects popping up and becoming a staple of MMOs. We expected things like public quests, the Tome of Knowledge, and open RvR to be popular, but to see them embraced not only in our game but amongst more and more games is heartening.

Do you have any anniversary events or presents planned for the fourth anniversary?

Currently we are running one of our live events (The Wild Hunt), but when it winds down at the end of the month, we'll be releasing our latest patch and our new veteran rewards for the four-year anniversary. We'll be pumping up some bonuses in game during that time period as well. So you'll get bonuses to your experience, renown, and gold as well as some very unique items for those who have been staunch supporters the whole time.

What is the Warhammer Online team's greatest accomplishment during this past year?

I think the biggest accomplishment over the last year has been our development team's dedication to trying to keep up with what the community is looking for from the game. Not only did the team members continue to iterate and build upon the RvR endgame, which has changed considerably over the last year and a half from the starter zones all the way to our city sieges, but they have been doing patches that address specific concerns. In fact, the last patch was a compilation of bug fixes, issues, and changes specifically culled, collated, and done in collusion with our forum community and core testers.

Four years of WAR An interview with Producer James Casey
How has Wrath of Heroes been received by the community? Is it drawing more players than WAR? And is it ever leaving beta?

Wrath of Heroes has been a grand experience and experiment for us. It has allowed us to look at the free-to-play market and also iterate on what is one of the core fun aspects of our game model: PvP combat. For a beta product, it has received a lot of positive feedback, and there are numerous dedicated fans.

Over the summer, for example, we took the feedback of our testers and ramped up the Hero cadence; we've been releasing Heroes every two weeks to keep people entertained. We've added new features to give more value to our customers as well. As an example, rather than just letting players buy an alternate look via skins, we introduced "Skins with Benefits" where the skin not only makes you look cool but gives you added functionality in battle with an additional loadout. The whole beta thing has given us a way to quickly iterate and respond to the customer and community.

As for it leaving beta, that's dependent on one thing really: the players. We've had a good response, and as noted, it has given us a chance to respond to the customers, but I don't think we've hit that tipping point, number-wise. That being said, we're not above asking for more people to come join us in the game. In fact, whether you've never heard of the game or may have tried it out in an earlier beta, come try out our latest build. We have tons more heroes, more free heroes at a time, more maps, more features, and all in all more fun.

In fact, here's a code for new and old players alike that will give them a boost bundle as incentive: MASSIVELYBOOSTED. This code is valid through November 30th and has one use per user. Don't forget to come back everyday, 'cause we shower people with free gold and gifts just for showing up!

Is Wrath of Heroes the future of Warhammer Online? In other words, is Mythic pouring all Warhammer-related resources into that title while letting WAR go?

Wrath of Heroes is a way to experience Warhammer Online. We've kept separate but complementary teams for both products over the development of Wrath.

Many players have wondered, especially in today's ever-dwindling field of subscription-only MMOs, why WAR hasn't taken the step to free-to-play beyond a 10-level infinite trial. Could you address this?

We've investigated this option in the past, but the costs and changes needed to make it happen in a satisfactorily way haven't synced up yet.

What lies in store for the future of WAR?

Our developers are continuing to look at what the community is looking for, imagining new ways to meet those expectations, and determining the best way to support them. The coming patch addresses some class balance topics and bug fixes and sets us up for a new dynamic live event that isn't tied to a holiday. We are looking at the next step in the our ongoing discussion for combat and careers as well as cramming additional fixes and changes in as we go.

Finally, what would you like to say to your loyal fans who have stuck with you during these past four years?

We have more things in store, and we hope we can continue to inspire and unite you through play! So from the bottom of our hearts... to all of our past, present, and future supporters... Thanks!

Thank you!

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