Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning launches this week, and its outspoken creative director and frontman Paul Barnett is reaching the end of an exhausting, interminable PR tour. We followed up our review (Barnett: "You're very naughty!") with a chat at the Games Workshop Games Day, held last Sunday at Birmingham's NEC Arena.
Eurogamer: You're at the Games Workshop convention in Birmingham today...
Paul Barnett: Yeah, it's sort of like going to the Vatican to hear the Pope giving a talk. Thousands and thousands of the faithful.
Eurogamer: How are the Games Workshop fans responding to the game?
Paul Barnett: Pretty good actually. Warhammer's a bit like Batman. As long as you stay true to the spirit of Batman, then Batman fans don't mind if it's Lego or if it's a cartoon or if it's a film. If you go off-canon, if you show disrespect to the idea, they get a bit funny. We actually went out of our way to try and capture Warhammer as it should be in an MMO.
Eurogamer: We recently interviewed Lord of the Rings Online producer Jeffrey Steefel - he suggested that LOTRO could be the second mass-market MMO after World of Warcraft. Do you think WAR has a shot at that title, too?
Paul Barnett: Oh, crikey. Crikey. Lord of the Rings? Crikey. Well, he's closer to his product than me, so I don't really know.
I think if ever there was a fantasy MMO that had the greatest possibility to proving that there's more to this business than just everyone else and this freak of WOW, it's Warhammer. The time's right, the market's right, WOW's old enough now that it's losing its lustre, more people than ever are online, it's a cool world, it's well realised and we've got new things to offer. Do I think we'll be the second one? Of course I do, in fact I think we'll be the first one; we're just not there yet.
Eurogamer: Do you have a number of players in mind that you'd consider a success?
Paul Barnett: I don't know what the business people have - they have all sorts of crazy numbers, and things to do with shareholders, and things that would probably get me fired. But we're having a staff pool. I put down my bet: a million within the year, and then three million.
Eurogamer: That's a confident bet.
Paul Barnett: But that's just me, personally. That's not Mythic or EA.
I'm very bullish about it because I think the Warhammer world is great, I think the game we've made is great, and I think we've got the best possible chance of catching fire. The momentum is the key thing. You can never launch a game twice.
Eurogamer: Speaking of momentum - how often do you expect to be making major content updates to the game?
Paul Barnett: GOA and Mythic have got a great track record of doing loads of content for free throughout the life of the product, followed by expansions every year or year and a half. WAR definitely is going to follow the same route. We already have a live team, a core team and an expansion team in the studio right now who've been working on all the different elements.
We'll be doing what we've been doing with the beta, which is listening to people, finding out how to improve the fun factor, balancing that with the needs of not breaking the game, and then the obvious crazy stuff that just has to be done to make the game great. People will be very happy. I'm particularly looking forward to some of the new careers.