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War, Interrupted • Page 2

EA Mythic boss Mark Jacobs on Warhammer's delay.

Eurogamer: How will the beta programme be affected by the decision to push the development out for a few more months? What do you have in mind for ongoing testing, and what are your beta testers going to be seeing down the line?

Mark Jacobs: There's no change of plans at all. Before we announced the delay, we said that beta was going to reopen in December - that has not changed. Our plans are still to have a nice long beta of this game, and frankly to beat it into the ground over the next two quarters.

No game, really, has launched badly from a technical standpoint and ever recovered - right? If you launch badly, it's tough to come back. We want to spend as much time as possible beating on the code, beating on the game, to make sure that it's ready to go at launch. Dark Age of Camelot had, at the time, the best launch of any MMO. We want to do even better with Warhammer.

In terms of what the beta testers are going to be seeing, when we announced the closure of beta for two months, what we told the players was that this was part of the plan. It will continue to be part of the plan, because we had already had closed beta once before, as we go forward.

What we're going to do, especially in the first phase of the next beta, is focus the players on certain aspects of the game - certain new aspects, certain revised aspects - and say, okay guys, for the next week to ten days, you guys get to beat on X. That's all we want you to do, play this until you can't play it any more, and let us know what you think.

Then we'll shut it down, take the feedback and see if we need to make any changes. Then we'll move on to something else. We're going to do that all through the first stage, and after that, we'll go to the Guild beta, where we'll have more content back up, and we'll allow people to play a little more freely. Then we'll take it down, put it back up again, and probably do some more focus testing on new elements of the game.

The point of the beta is, obviously, not to provide free entertainment for people. The point of the beta is to provide free entertainment that helps us to make the game better - and so, we need to get these people focused now. We've gone through a lot of the stuff we wanted to go through before; now we need to get them focused on specific areas of the game, new content like the crafting system, and things like that, so they can really give us the best feedback they can in a very short period of time.

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Eurogamer: It seems quite unusual for a company like EA - as big as EA, even - to encourage you to listen to the community feedback to this extent...

Mark Jacobs: You're actually right. One of the things that's been happening over the 15 months that I've been at EA, and you've probably heard other people speak about it, whether it's our CEO or others, is recognition that EA needs to change the way it's making games. We need to have higher quality in our games; we have to be providing games that players really want to play.

Part of that is changing how we make them. On this level, we have been talking to the community, getting their feedback, being involved. This is going to sound somewhat conceited, but I don't think any MMO or any game developer spends as much time talking to the players as we do. It doesn't matter whether it's Warhammer, or Camelot, or the other games we've done in the past, we've always believed in the importance of community relations, the importance of listening and hearing what your players say.

You don't always agree with them - but you have to listen to them. We've shown to EA how important that is, and John Riccitiello wants us, whether it's Mythic, Bioware and Pandemic, or the other studios within EA, to make great games. This is just a part of it.

Eurogamer: Although EA is being supportive at this point, did you find that there was a lot of education you had to do with the company's management to get them to understand massively multiplayer gaming?

Mark Jacobs: Yes and no. Here's the thing; a lot of people in EA really understand MMOs. Frank Gibeau, who is my boss, used to play Camelot a lot. Bing Gordon used to play Camelot a lot. These guys play WoW as well, and other MMOs - so there are a lot of people within EA who really get MMOs.

John Riccitiello, as you know, when he was founder of Elevation, bought Bioware and Pandemic - and they're working on an MMO, so he really gets MMOs.

Then there are other people at EA who don't get MMOs, and yes, they need to be educated on that. On the other hand, though, we need to be educated at times - on things like worldwide publishing. We've done it before, but not in the same way that EA can do it. So it's a pretty good relationship. They've been very helpful to us, and I think we've been very helpful to them as well.

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