Warhammer Online's Paul Barnett • Page 2

Oh! What a lovely WAR.

Eurogamer: What sort of things can players expect to see in the early content updates?

Paul Barnett: I have this document which I've been writing which talks about things we're honour-bound to do, stuff we wanted to do which we either never got to realise properly or decided to put off - so a couple of the careers that looked tasty. if we can get those working, I think they should go in.

And also watching what people do - we get an awful lot of metrics from our game. And often people will say one thing, but actually play another. They'll pour scorn on our system and say they don't like it, and we'll check and find that everyone's doing it, and doing it obsessively. And they demand features, and you put them in and no one bloody uses them.

It's all basic stuff - we're going to be doing more of the socialising, more of the exploring, more of the dungeon-delving and neat, cool things to find - all wrapped around the RVR.

Eurogamer: Even more than many other MMOs, this is a game that's really made by the players, because of its genuinely massively multiplayer, RVR design. Are you nervous about letting go and handing it over to them, and seeing what they do with it?

Paul Barnett: Nah, the player base has basically been playing our game for about two years. What we tried to do is put the massively back into massively multiplayer. The game actively rewards you for grouping, grouping often, grouping with lots of different people, and being in big groups. It's a completely different social experience to some other MMOs, which are really single-player games where every now and then you have to play together to improve your single-player game.

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Choose a look.

That's the core of our gameplay. So no, we're quite happy about that. What we're looking forward to is people who've been playing other games being able to experience the stuff we're bringing which is either different, new, or - as I like to put it - where we've taken the crap bits and got rid of them.

You know, I quite like the fact that we've don't have item damage, and you won't have to keep spending money to make your sword sharp. That's cool, that is. I like the fact that you don't have to run miles from the graveyard to get back into the action. I like the fact that you don't have to go to someone with a stupid celebrity name to buy a bag to put stuff in. I like the fact that I can move where my map goes and make it different sizes, or just delete it. I think these things are great.

Eurogamer: What's the part of the game that's hardest to predict how it will work out once it's out in the wild?

Paul Barnett: The flip-flopping on the campaign. We do a lot of controlling of our population, hard-capping, and we do it in lots of different ways to prevent the servers becoming unbalanced. But even if we get a perfectly balanced server, we're still not fully sure how the players are going to manipulate the campaign system. So we've done an awful, awful lot of data-tracking on that.

What we're going to do is - Hickman [Geoff, producer] always calls it the fun factor - is find the best way of doing it. Not the most numerical, design-led way of doing it, but the most fun way of doing it.

That will be the hardest thing to predict. Along with the number of subscribers we're going to get. I've said 3 million - if I win the office pool, that's almost 27 dollars!

Eurogamer: What aspect of the game are you proudest of?

Paul Barnett: The Warhammer world being realised well. It would have been easier to just put a coat of paint on it, and actually, that's the temptation. But if you love Warhammer, then it's got the gags, it's got the philosophy, it's got the style, it's got the flavour, it's riddled in the text and the sound effects and the music and the graphics and the interface and the loading screen, and it looks really, really good. A lot of other games with a licence can find themselves submerged in the necessity of making it feel like something else.

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Choose an obscure in-joke.

It's lucky - or some would say, factual - that Warhammer has a very similar look to World of Warcraft. That's just fluke. It's not our fault it has the same look. We would have realised the game the way we did even if WOW didn't exist.

Also, I'm pleased that the Warhammer world didn't corrupt the solid game design. So probably fusing those two together was the best thing we did. Oh, and the endless fart gags.

What's your favourite bit?

Eurogamer: Public Quests. I think they'll be the single most copied element of MMO design over the next couple of years.

Paul Barnett: They pass my genius test. If you see something, and the first time you see it you end up slapping your forehead and going yeah of course, it's obvious, whatever it was is probably genius. It's the reason the iPod is genius. As soon as you see it you go, yeah of course, stupid! Why wasn't it always like this?

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