As part of the on-going development of Warhammer Online, the MMORPG from Climax Entertainement, we have the latest Q&A sessions with the development team, in particular Executive Producer at Climax Matt Sansam and Robin Dews General Manager – Warhammer Online.How did Warhammer Online originate?RobinThe idea behind Warhammer Online started out as a random conversation between Karl Jeffery – the CEO of Climax – and Jon Gillard – Games Workshop’s Business Development Manager – at E3 a couple of years back. From the initial “We should do something together, you know&h**ip;” came the idea that we could create some kind of persistent online game based on the Warhammer world.This idea kind of trundled along in the background while we got on with more pressing stuff, but then in late 2000 we looked again and decided that it would be fun to create an online game that would offer its players an experience of life in the Warhammer world.We realised at the outset that operating such a game would involve a detailed array of design, development, management and business skills and so Warhammer Online Ltd was set up as a joint venture company to bring together the best skills of Climax and Games Workshop in a single entity.Prior to setting up the company, I’d been White Dwarf editor for four years and then GW Studio Manager from 1995. Those experiences meant that I had good knowledge of both serving a community and tight product development and so when I was offered the job I jumped at it.My partner in crime is Rick Priestley – Games Workshop’s Director of Product Development. Rick co-wrote the original editions of Warhammer Fantasy Battle (1982), Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (1985) and Warhammer 40,000 (1987) and has spent the intervening years refining and developing the background, texture and content of these gaming environments.In Rick’s words: “Warhammer was always a cheerful mélange of the serious and absurd. Our inspiration came from the obvious candidates of Tolkien, Robert E Howard (et al), and Michael Moorcock – solid fantasy fare for the time. Less obviously perhaps, Shakespeare, Milton and William Blake – truly no source is sacred! If the ingredients seem overly credible then the secret must be in the blending – the radio show I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, TV’s Monty Python – and the Python films – the Carry On movies, and (as if I should forget) Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns were also inspirations.”And so with Rick and myself on board from Games Workshop, Matt Sansam from Climax as Executive Producer and Paul Carruthers, head of the newly-formed Climax – Nottingham Studio, all in place, the project was up and running by June 2001.Was it always an MMORPG or did it start life as an RTS?Well, sort of both, sort of neither. We started out thinking we could do a massively multiplayer online battles game (MMOBG) and actually came up with a design that would work pretty well. However, as I’ve said elsewhere, online gaming communities are precisely that. They are real communities with rules, laws, codes of behaviour, etc., and we quickly realised that the problems we would encounter in delivering a persistent world battle game would be all about social engineering and not software engineering.The trick lies in how you create an experience that is challenging, edgy and fun for the players, whilst at the same time giving your new gamers a degree of protection from your hard-core, tooled-up long-termers. And all of this matters a great deal in a battles game, where the main arena for player-player interaction is conflict.Although we came up with a game design that worked, it involved bending the background in ways we were not quite comfortable with, and so we began to focus our attention more and more on a player vs. environment game that would encourage our players to behave in a more coherent (co-operative) way in order to stay alive. This shift in approach from an online battles game to an online adventure game would also enable us to really explore some aspects of the background that we’d only just touched on before in print and on the tabletop.What sort of influence does the experience you have with the successful tabletop games bring to Warhammer Online’s development?RobinGoodness – how long have you got?Jervis Johnson one of GW’s leading designers once wrote a very erudite essay on the history of wargaming and the essential differences between the twin schools of ‘simulated history’ and ‘games with toy soldiers’. Games Workshop has never made any bones about the fact that we are grown-ups who love to fight battles with model soldiers and long may it be so! The fact that we do fantasy rather than WW2 or English Civil War etc. (even though we play these) makes it a bit easier, but at the end of the day it’s a game of toy soldiers.As a result, we understand perfectly well that a game of Warhammer is as much a social activity as a gaming activity. How can it be anything else, when you get together with a group of mates on a Friday night or a Saturday morning and spend the time rolling dice, arguing about rules, cheering, jeering and generally having a good time in a party-like atmosphere.Although the game is clearly the focus of all this activity (and a crucial one), the time spent before the game – painting models, creating scenery etc. (and afterwards boasting in the pub) is equally important. It’s this social aspect to the gameplay that first intrigued us and drew us towards the online space. Although as gamers, we all love computer and console games, they are in essence simply Rubik’s Cubes of elaborate complexity. They are products that you buy, use up and then move on.That disposable product-based approach is simply alien to Games Workshop. We build living breathing hobbies owned by the players and not by the company. There are thousands and thousands of them around the world who collect, paint and game with Citadel miniatures. Games Workshop simply provides some of the tools they use to support this activity and we’re fortunate enough to be able to make our living doing something we love. Warhammer Online has grown out of this love of ‘social gaming’. It’s a game we want the player to genuinely own.”That disposable product-based approach is simply alien to Games Workshop. We build living breathing hobbies owned by the players and not by the company. Warhammer Online has grown out of this love of ‘social gaming’. It’s a game we want to player the to genuinely own.”Robin DewsWhat can you tell us about the setting for Warhammer Online – the area and the time period, for example? Is it generic fantasy, like Tolkien/Everquest, or the dark, gothic fantasy of the Warhammer world?RobinThe pre-production design and development of Warhammer Online has really been an extended conversation (argubate!) between the GW staff – “Goblin’s really do look like this you know!” and the Climax staff – “but we can only support XXX polygons in the game”, with sometimes complete incomprehension on both sides!I think that it’s also true to say that having gone through this process we’ve now got a team that has a fantastic insight into the potential and possibilities of an online game set in the Warhammer world. Strange as it might sound, before we started out on this project none of the GW staff had ever played a persistent world online game such as EQ or DAOC. We’ve since made up for it but, at the outset, I think it was a real a*et as we were not bound by the conventional ‘wisdoms’ of what will and will not work.We then started out by taking a look at the whole of the Warhammer world as a potential arena for the game. Through a series of iterations, we then refined it down to the area of the Reikland that has become the focus for this game. For readers who are not familiar with Warhammer, the world is a kind of distorted version of the ‘real world’, currently centered on Western Europe, but also including areas of Canada and North America (Dark Elves), South America (Lustria – home of the Lizardmen), Central Europe (Chaos Dwarfs) and North Africa (Undead). Holding that picture in mind, imagine the Reikland as on the border of France and Germany and you won’t be far wrong!As you might understand, this is a vast area and far too big to realise in a computer game. All current games make an abstraction of time and/or space in order to deliver the illusion of a real world. Everquest currently does this be creating a series of small regular shaped parks linked by corridors. It’s a good solution that works well for them, but with a ‘real’ whole world to play with we had to get a little more focused.Hence our game-world stretches from Marienburg in the NW along the edge of the River Reik down past the City of Nuln in the SE. It takes in the current Imperial Capital of Altdorf at the center of the map and extends out to the Grey Mountains that border the area along the SW (If you’re not a Warhammer fan, sorry about the detail.)What all this gives us is a big area, bounded by a river to the NE (think a super-Rhine – a mile wide and impassable) mountains to the SW (upland adventuring areas – yes, but ultimately impassable), marsh and sea to the NW and a tributary of the River Sol just to the south of Nuln.The time period will be contemporary with the current Warhammer timeline. This is the same one we use in our Black Library fiction and comics as well as for the tabletop battle game. It means that Karl Franz is the Emperor on the Throne in Altdorf and the hordes of Chaos are currently at bay. The only time we’ve made use of a different time period for a game was when we did Mordheim – the Warhammer Skirmish game. We then had to obliterate a city with a giant warpstone meteorite and so we set it 500 years in the past just to keep the present a bit cleaner.Most fantasy games draw their inspiration and setting from Tolkein (obviously) but also from the same sources that he used as the inspiration for Middle Earth – Anglo-Saxon and Norse mythology and poetry, etc. In practice, this means that they largely have what I’d call a ‘Dark age’ feel and of course Dark Ages of Camelot makes no bones about their inspiration.Warhammer has always been rather different and it’s why it has very distinctive character and feel in this landscape of rather ‘generic’ fantasy games. We call Warhammer a ‘renaissance’ rather than a ‘dark age’ world.On a superficial level, this means that it has guns, swords and magic as its technological base rather than the traditional ‘sword and sorcery’ fantasy settings. The European Renaissance was an incredible burst of creative and intellectual energy that completely outstripped the ability of the society to support it. Thus while most of the populace were living in disease and squalor, Leonardo was creating ideas for flying machines, computers and tanks and the Inquisition were ready to burn Galileo for suggesting that the Earth revolved around the sun! We kind of like this period as it allows us great scope to play games of ‘what if?’It’s this combination of fantastical technologies, with magic as a heretical and perilous sorcery and the merciless poverty of everyday life, that gives the Warhammer world much of its character – and makes it such a cool place to set games in.John Blanche, Games Workshop’s Art Director and general image guru, has said that “there is nothing in fantasy that you can’t see in history” and he’s completely right. If you take a look at the images of Hieronimus Bosche, Durer, Albrecht Altdorfer and Dore, you’ll see first hand the source images for the Warhammer world – oh and don’t forget Terry Gilliam’s Jaberwocky and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.What can you tell us about the game’s visual style? Some of the imagery seems fairly graphic. Are any of the artists with experience with the tabletop games working on the project?RobinThere is a visual style that pervades everything Games Workshop does. If you look at our rulebooks and supplements you’ll see that there is a kind of gritty realism to the images we produce that is born out of the inspiration of the artists I mentioned a few moments ago. You can often see a synergy between the visual style of many computer games and that of contemporary comic books and graphic novels. To me they appear to be drawing from a common visual lexicon, and it’s not a bad way to go as there is a dynamic to comic book art that translates well to the slightly cartoony look of most computer game graphics.However, as you might expect, it’s not where we wanted to be. The instruction to the art team was to render the Warhammer world in as ‘real’ a fashion as their technology would allow – complete with mud, blood, filth and decay!To help with this, Dave Gallagher, one of the Studio’s senior artists, spent three months working with the art team at the start of the year and he continues to come along to the regular art review meetings to help shape the look and feel of the game. Dave’s involvement has sometimes led to some hilarious discussions such as the time we tried to decide just who it was that climbed into the Skaven Rat Ogre’s cage each morning to put on his loin cloth in order to preserve the Ogre’s modesty. Needless to say, our Rat Ogre’s now have artfully crafted ‘hair down there’ rather than the typical loincloths.Seriously&h**ip; our current copy line for the game is ‘Dark Horror and Adventure in the Warhammer World!’ That pretty much sums up where we are headed. We want our players to be stunned, overwhelmed and perhaps a little scared by the environment they find themselves in as I hope they’ll see over the coming months.”Our current copy line for the game is ‘Dark Horror and Adventure in the Warhammer World!’ That pretty much sums up where we are headed. We want our players to be stunned, overwhelmed and perhaps a little scared by the environment they find themselves in.”Robin DewsWhat kind of scope is the world of Warhammer Online? How large is it, what kinds of different areas and terrain types can be explored? Are there indoor and outdoor areas? Are there cities?RobinWe’ve covered much of this already but here goes&h**ip; The area of the Reikland we’re focused on extends for around 400 square km. The design team is currently mapping this area at a scale of around 2.5km per square centimeter and so they’ve got massive sheets of graph paper covering every horizontal surface in their office.We were a bit worried at first that we wouldn’t be able to get the diversity of environments that our players would demand within such a homogenous area but that’s proven not to be the case at all. The northern area around Marienburg is surrounded by low-lying swamps and dank marshlands, the peaks and valleys of the Grey Mountains, rather than simply being a barrier to player movement are adventuring areas in their own right complete with upland glaciers and snowfields as well as hidden tombs and dungeons. The vast expanse of the Reikwald forest dominates the center of the map (think Mirkwood or Fangorn!), and further south, the land around Nuln and the River Sol give way to rolling grasslands and steppes. We think the players will have a lot to go at without us having to invent ‘northern snow lands’ or whatever.We also envisioned the cities in Warhammer Online to be just that – cities – and they are adventuring areas in their own right, too. In most of the other games we’ve looked at, the towns and cities appear to be merely trading posts where the players go to buy, sell or bank stuff before once again heading out to the wilderness to butcher a few more defenseless creatures.We wanted to flip this around and make the cities large and complex enough for the players to spend weeks or even months exploring them – urban jungles indeed. The towns and cities are also the focus of our skill and career system. Here you can get a job – Rat Catcher, Beggar, Sewer Jack, etc. and build a little fame, wealth and re-known before you risk your neck in the wider world.It’s the spaces between them, where law and order no longer exist, and where Orcs, Beastmen, Mutants, Outlaws and Cultists pray on the weak, that you really don’t want to venture into alone.Many of the locations will be familiar to fans of the battle game or Warhammer Fantasy Role-play (WHFRP) as well as readers of our novels and comics. For example, we intend to create both Blood Keep and Castle Drachenfels in-game, complete with their subterranean dungeons and catacombs. They will both be located in the Grey Mountains, but I’d advise players to up their survival skills a little before venturing out that way.What sorts of races and cultures exist in this area?RobinI seem to be answering the questions before they are asked! The big back-story behind the Warhammer world is that ever since the warp gates at the poles of the world collapsed, Chaos energy in ethereal form as the winds of magic and in condensed form as Warpstone has been pervading the world. The constant exposure to the warping effects of Chaos has led to a world that teeters on the brink of collapse. It’s a mediaeval world where civilization survives (just) but is a*ailed on all sides by mutants, deviants and cultists who wish to accelerate what they see as the inevitable triumph of Chaos. Witch Hunters and Religious zealots stalk the land – rooting out and torturing deviants but also terrorizing and p***cuting the very populations they purport to defend. It’s not a nice place!Expect to encounter tribes of Warhammer Orcs, Goblins, Beastmen and a whole range of creatures large and small – Trolls, Rat Ogres, Wyverns, etc. You should also expect these creatures to behave in as intelligent a way as we can make them. We don’t intend to have our Orcs simply wandering around the landscape waiting for a passing adventurer to hack them down, or standing idly by while one of their mates gets butchered. Wolves will travel in packs and we expect our hunters to suddenly find themselves the hunted.What races will be playable? Will players be able to have Bretonnian characters as well as Reiklanders? Will all elves be generic, or could one be a Swordmaster of Hoeth?MattThis is actually a pretty big question covering everything from races to careers to skills but I’ll try and keep my answer nice and short.Initially players will be able to choose to be Humans, High Elves, Dwarves, Halfings or Ogres. As time goes on we’ll be looking to expand this choice to include the racial variants such as Bretonnian’s or Wood Elves.There is no such thing as a “generic” race in Warhammer Online. Once the player has chosen a race and determined his statistics it’s entirely up to them which career path they wish to follow. Some will become famous warriors, some will follow the path of magic and many others will do something entirely different. Obviously there are some restrictions – the Dwarves are never going to let an Elf learn how to become a Runesmith but generally most career choices are open to most characters.That said, there are some career choices that will have a direct effect on what you can do later on down the line. For example, becoming a Witch means it’s unlikely that the Witch-Hunters will welcome you with open arms. Well they might do&h**ip; but you should probably start running if that happens! However, most of those careers restrictions can be overcome with some hard work. To go back to that previous example, it’s entirely possible for you to repent and attempt to improve your standing with the Witch-Hunters through a serious of tough quests. However this really will not be a trivial thing so when you embark on a career like the Witches you should be sure that the path you have chosen is the right one for you. Don’t worry though, not all careers are like that. Joining the Rat Catchers is unlikely to upset too many people.What kind of character generation system is in place for Warhammer Online? Are there specific classes, or is it a skill-based system?MattI’ve briefly touched on this already but let me be more specific.Once a player has selected his race he, or she, will have a set of statistics covering things like strength and willpower. The starting values for those stats will be based on the race that was chosen and each race will have a different set of values reflecting their racial strengths and weaknesses. What that really means is that Ogres are inherently stronger than Humans, Elves are smarter and faster, Dwarves are more resilient. Basically, everything you’d expect from the Warhammer races.Once the race has been chosen you will then be able to adjust the statistics however you like, within certain limits or course. You do this by spending extra points and allocating them to the statistic you want to improve. For example, if you want to make your Ogre that little bit smarter than average then you spend your “spare” points on intelligence.Once that stage is complete the player will choose a starting location for their new character and then enter the world. At this stage your character will only know a few of the basic skills, such as running and swimming. In order to learn more advanced skills you will need to join a career and in order to do that you need to explore your surroundings and find one of the many career masters and persuade him to let you join. Obviously some careers are easier to join than others. It’s going to be fairly easy to join the Rat Catchers but joining the a*assins is going to be impossible until you’ve learnt and improved some stealth skills and improved your standing with that group.Why were the evil races kept as non-player character (NPC) only? What sort of reactions to this decision have you received? What role will the followers of Chaos play? The Skaven?RobinAs I’ve said elsewhere, this was really a very difficult decision. We knew that many Warhammer fans would love to be able to play an Orc or Skaven Grey Seer as their character, but once we’d made the switch to a player vs. environment game it was inevitable. The only way we could have made this work would have been to have some kind of team PvP system of the kind they have in World War 2 Online or Dark Ages. Within the context of the Warhammer World, it simply would not have been credible to have an Orc turn up in Altdorf, buy supplies, or go off adventuring with a party of Humans, Elves and Dwarfs!We’ve already talked a lot about where we’d like the game to go next and one of our favorite ideas is to have the Vampire Counts as a playable race. After all they are simply one of the noble families of the Empire who at some point in their history decided to drink blood and avoid sunlight.It would be great if the only way you could become a vampire would be to get a ‘blood kiss’ from another player and you were then restricted to moving around during the hours of darkness. I digress a little&h**ip;as that’s an idea for the next version of the game, but you can see where our heads are at.One of our design principles has been that player’s don’t have to be ‘good’. We have a very subtle system of tracking the relationship between the players and all other NPC entities in the game, a value we call ‘standing’. If you really want to go out there and study at the Amethyst College, learn the Lore of Death and then split with the programme and become a Necromancer then good luck to you! But&h**ip; be aware that the Witch Hunters both PC and NPC will be on your trail and that you’ll find that life, in anywhere but the most out of the way locations, will become very hard for you (But never mind&h**ip; you can always raise a few dead bodies to be your mates.)Finally&h**ip;we are actually currently modeling the Skaven as in-game entities but intend to reserve them for GM’s and game designers’ use. This backs up the secretive and clandestine nature of the Skaven and the way in which they operate in the Warhammer world. It also means that if the players ever encounter a Skaven in the game world – in the sewers under Altdorf or the swamps around Marienburg – they’ll know that this is no simple AI drone, but a real intelligence looking back at them and ready to react.How does leveling and character advancement work? Will the game use a mission-system?MattAs I mentioned before Warhammer is essentially a skills based system, however we do still have levels for the player to advance. These levels are not a measure of power for the character but are in fact a measure of how famous they are within the Warhammer World.Hunting down snakes in the woods, while helping the character to improve his/her skills, won’t actually earn them any glory or improve their level. However hunting down the nearby tribe of Orcs that has been troubling the local farmers probably will. Killing the zombie dragon that has been rampaging across the countryside, eating the peasants, will definitely help make you famous. a*uming you survive&h**ip;What is combat like? How will characters fight, and how is death going to be handled?RobinLike many elements of the gameplay in Warhammer Online, the principles that underpin our combat system derive from the character of the world itself. One of the absolute characteristics of combat (in any world – real or virtual) is that the outcome is largely unpredictable. It’s this unpredictability that makes it such an exciting feature. We wanted to get away from the ‘safe bet’ combat systems that allow you to ‘con’ a creature to evaluate its strength and then get a text message to tell you whether you are likely to win or not! The real world simply doesn’t work like that.We’re looking for a much more ‘organic’ approach where your in-game knowledge and experience begins to inform your ability to evaluate the outcome of a combat. The AI team is working on routines to ensure that our ‘monsters’ will not stand idly by while their mates get chopped up by passing adventurers and who will run and get back-up if they think they are in trouble.General weapon skills – sword, club, knife, etc. will be available to all players. On top of that they will be able to learn more specific skills within the careers system. A period spent with the Altdorf City Guard will allow you to learn pole-arm or pistol shooting, but if you want to master muskets you’ll have to train with the Hochland Long-Rifles, etc.On top of these advanced skills, we also have a system of ‘combat techniques’ that players can learn and call upon in specific circumstances.Taken together, these elements combine to make a combat system that will be edgy, risky, and dangerous. We wanted something more than the players simply hitting the ‘auto attack’ button and then sitting back with a cup of tea and, if it all works out as planned, then we’ll get it.The fact that we are working primarily with a skill-based system, rather than stat-based, means that we also can’t simply level-up our players or monsters by piling on a few more hit points. The key to survival in the Warhammer world lies in training, developing and honing your combat skills – and what could be more fun than that?Long debates about this one&h**ip; but player death will be handled through incapacitation and movable revival points. Some of the details of experience lost through death, equipment loss, etc. are still to be worked out, but we’re unlikely to do anything radical here. Player characters need to be treated with the greatest respect, just like your real-life friends.In some of the screenshots, we noticed there appeared to be retainer characters. What is this all about? Will characters be able to acquire henchmen?MattPlayers will be able to buy and own a variety of animals, such as cats and dogs, as well as being able to buy and own horses. These “pets” can be used in a variety of ways, from guard dogs that help protect the character from attack, to riding horses to help the players cover long distances in a shorter period of time.In addition, certain NPC characters will join the player for some missions and help him achieve a specific goal.Will players be able to fight in teams, or war bands? Can players form up armies?MattThat’s entirely up to the players themselves. There are many areas that a player can wander around and explore but once they head out into the wilderness it’s a good idea to team up with some other players for mutual protection.Will tabletop rules that are unique to wargaming be applicable in Warhammer Online? Such as morale checks? Will certain races and peoples bear hatred towards others?RobinTabletop and Online are such completely different gaming platforms, that it’s highly unlikely that any rules will make a direct translation from one to the other. However, Warhammer Battle, Warhammer Online, Warhammer Role-play, Black Library fiction and comics, etc. all draw their inspiration from a Warhammer background that is common to all of them.So of course, Dwarfs and Elves don’t get on! (Humans aren’t so keen on either of them. And Dwarf NPCs are unlikely to have any truck at all with an Elf player character unless he has gone a long way to improving his standing with the Dwarfs through his own efforts and actions. How the players interpret all this though is really up to them.Were the new 6th edition tabletop rules taken into consideration for the game?RobinThe simple answer is no. As I’ve said, we’re in a very different place to a tabletop game, where the players are fighting a battle using dice, tape measures and model soldiers on a landscape that varies with whatever buildings landscape features and equipment they have in their collections. The rules you need to describe the myriad of situations that can occur on the tabletop are quite different to the structure you need to facilitate an online world game.The big similarity between the two arenas – tabletop and online – is that in both sets of circumstances you are attempting you provide your players with a framework within which they can explore your world – a sandbox not a sandcastle! Wrap the game too tight and there is no creativity for the players, leave it too loose and you are wide open to exploits and abuse – it’s a subtle and difficult tightrope to walk. If I can guarantee one thing to you today, it’s that we will get this balance wrong in places and once we go live we’ll have to go in and patch. This is as certain as day following night!Will players of the tabletop wargames be familiar with the concepts in Warhammer Online? Would players of Everquest or similar games recognise it better? Does it draw from the Warhammer Fantasy RPG?RobinWarhammer Battles, Mordheim, Warhammer Role-play, Black Library Fiction, the Warhammer Monthly comic, Citadel Miniatures, Forgeworld resin kits, etc. all draw their inspiration from the same source. Games Workshop has been developing the Warhammer World for more than 20 years now so that, with the possible exception of Tolkein’s Middle Earth, it is one of the best documented fantasy settings in the world. Fans of all of the above will find familiar reference points in the landscape and background of the game.However, it’s essentially an online RPG and, as such, will be recognisable by fans of EQ, DAOC or other persistent world online games. We also hope that players of these games will give us a try. Even if you’ve never seen or heard of Warhammer, if you’ve a taste for dark, gothic horror, you might like us.In certain areas, the game does unashamedly pull from Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play (WHFRP). We’re quite proud of this. At the time it was first published in the mid-80s, WHFRP was extremely radical in that it dispensed with the standard class/race matrix that characterized D&D and that has remained the staple of fantasy games ever since, and replaced it with a skills and careers system that enabled the players to genuinely forge their own destinies in a very biographical way. The fact that WHFRP is still in print under license all these years later is, I think, a tribute to the then originality of this approach.It’s this WHFRP based skills and careers system that we’ve very liberally plundered and applied to our game in order to give our players a very personal and biographical character development system.At the end of the day, games are like stories. After a session of Warhammer Online we’d like to think that our players meet down the pub (in the real world not online – although they can of course go for an in-game ale at the Dwarf’s Armpit in Altdorf!) and tell each other their online tales. When that happens I know that we’ll have made a good game.What will magic be like in Warhammer Online?MattWow this is a big question, but here goes&h**ip;Magic in the Warhammer World works in a very different way to other fantasy game settings and we’ve tried very hard to keep that feel as well as simulating some of the more unique aspects.All magic in the world stems from Chaos itself. Magical energy enters the world from the shattered Warp gates at the planets’ poles, and streams across the landscape altering and affecting everything it comes into contact with. It’s this magical energy that causes Chaos monsters and other dark horrors to exist and it’s also this energy that spell casters tap into to cast their spells.Wizards in the Warhammer world cast spells by channeling magical energy directly from their surroundings. This means that magic-using characters and creatures do not have an inherent pool of “mana” to draw from but they instead tap into these Winds of Magic and channel the ambient power through themselves to work it into the spell they are trying to cast. Once that magical energy has been tapped by a wizard it is gone from the pool and it will need to be replenished with the passage of time.In terms of Warhammer Online we keep track of many different values to help us simulate these Winds of magic. For any given area of the game world we know both the maximum possible magical field strength as well as the current rate at which the field is refilling. By varying those numbers we can create a wide variety of effects and have areas where the magic is strong but refills slowly or where the magic field is very small but refreshes very quickly, or any other combination we like.In addition to the Winds of Magic various other things have an effect on the magical field strengths. Standing stones help focus the magical energies and will add to the rate at which an area refills, the moons of the Warhammer world have a large effect on the size of the magical fields themselves as well as the fill rates, which means that magic in the world will vary with each lunar cycle. The good news is that characters with WitchSight will be able to see these field strengths and use that knowledge to their advantage.Spells themselves require a set amount of magical energy to cast and any specific spell will always cost the same amount of power, whether a novice or a master is casting it. The difference comes in the amount of time a spell caster takes to actually cast that spell. Let me give you an example. If a fireball spell requires 100 power to cast and a novice wizard can channel and focus 1 point of power per second, it’s going to take him 100 seconds to cast. If a master wizard can channel 10 points of power per second then that same spell will only take him 10 seconds to cast it.However channeling this power has it’s price. Spell casters take damage every second the magical energies are passing through them. Going back to my previous example the novice wizard is going to get badly hurt casting that fireball spell as it takes him a long time to focus the energy. The master wizard probably won’t even think twice, although casting that fireball over and over again is really going to take it out of him. This also means that there’s nothing stopping a novice wizard from trying to cast a very powerful spell, as long as he can find some way to survive the experience.Oh and there’s one more thing that any potential mage should bear in mind. Generally this focusing and channeling of magical energy is not 100 per cent efficient. The higher your skill the better you are but it’s never totally perfect. What this means is that when a character attempts to cast that fireball he has actually drawn more than 100 points of power from the environment, he’s just used 100 to power his spell. This extra magic, or wild magic as we’re calling it, doesn’t just disappear. It gets tracked and once it builds up to certain levels unpredictable and usually dangerous things occur. Demons are drawn to this build up of power and when the wild magic reaches a certain level there’s a good chance that one will draw on that wild magic pool and manifest itself. Random spells will be triggered and cast using the Wild magic as a power source. Basically magic in the Warhammer world is a dangerous thing to mess around with but as long as you’re prepared for the risks the rewards and great.There are a lot more aspects to the magic system that I could go into such as:The Winds of Magic are actually divided into eight colours of magic and wizards can learn to draw from one colour specifically&h**ip;Drawing the magical energy from an area is actually a good tactic when facing a magic using monster&h**ip;Several magic users can join together and use rituals to help channel the magical energies faster&h**ip;Scattered throughout the world are pieces of Warpstone. This material is essentially raw magic condensed into solid form and foolhardy wizards can use it to power their own magics&h**ip;Channeling magic all over the place is generally not something that the populous of Warhammer approve of and is likely to get you burnt at the stake if you’re not careful&h**ip;Hopefully that should help explain roughly what we’re trying to do with the magic system and why I’m very pleased with what we’ve come up with.What sorts of treasures and items can players look forward to discovering?MattThe short answer to this is lots and lots&h**ip; At the moment the design team are working on defining well over 5000 items for initial placement within the game world. Everything from mundane items right up to chaos and soul bound weapons. Obviously as this is Warhammer, not everything you find is going to be entirely safe to use&h**ip;Are there plans to expand upon the areas currently available in Warhammer Online? What regions, if any, are being looked at next? Are areas such as Mordheim being considered for inclusion?MattAbsolutely. We are developing a good solid set of tools right now, which will also let us easily add new content at a later date. That said we’re already committed to creating a huge area of the Warhammer World so I want to get that finished and get people playing the game before promising any specific extras.Also we’ve been very careful about the setting of our game world and the timeline. This means that you won’t be able to explore Mordheim as the destruction of that city happened over 500 years ago. However there’s nothing stopping us from creating a similar situation and giving the players a chance to explore.Mind you Rick and Robin did seem a little nervous when I asked about hitting Altdorf with a comet so maybe not.RobinThe only answer I can give is yes&h**ip;but…! The big but is that right now we’ve got a game to deliver and a million and one things to think about. Every time we sit down and talk, read through the forums, chat to fans at conventions we all go, “wouldn’t it be cool if&h**ip;”In Rick’s phrase “games are made by what’s left after you’ve thrown the rubbish away!” We think we’ve left our players with an exciting, entertaining and sociable online gaming space and we’ve made the online game that we always wanted to play.Lets hope that our fans agree&h**ip;
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.