Gaarawarr Gabs with Josh Drescher – Part 2
Part 1 of the interview with Josh Drescher covered topics ranging from Mythic’s past to the possibility of new races in WAR. Here in Part 2, we continue with more focused questions on WAR and Mythic. But don’t worry, we get one last humorous tale from Mythic’s past as well. 🙂
So, read on as we discuss Capital Cities, the RvR Campaign, the Mythic/BioWare rumors, and more…
“Never say never” seemed to come up a lot throughout this interview. While not always the answer someone wants to hear, I found it encouraging. I’d much rather play a game where the possibilities are limited only by time and not imagination, and that really came across as Mythic’s only limiting factor in all my discussions with them. As players, we all very much want things to happen “now now now” but that isn’t always realistic. I find myself falling into that unrealistic state of mind occasionally as it’s a very easy thing to do. However, these conversations firmly cemented my ability to be patient with WAR…for now, hehe. Hopefully they help more people feel the same way.
Back to the interview…
GG: It was originally stated that WAR would have multiple capital cities, two for each pairing. That was changed ultimately to just one pair of cities. Will there be a point, even if it’s with an expansion, where we’ll see those additional cities put into the game?
Josh: You never say never, but it is one of those things where, at the moment, we are far more interested in getting the existing capital cities to be fun, or more fun. We look at the experience that players are having there, and throughout the campaign, and we’re not happy with how it’s behaving. So again, you never say never, but at the moment, in terms of capital cities, we pulled them for a number of reasons way back when and there are core design reasons why it was the right thing to do. To try and channel as much attention as possible into two coherent end points rather than having there be six potential places where the action is taking place at any given time. So again, it’s always a possibility, but probably not something you are going to see any time in the near future.
GG: Some people like to complain that currently (it’s always server-dependant) the campaign moves really quick. It’s really easy to move through and it feels like you’re not accomplishing anything, even though you’re doing something. But it doesn’t feel like you’ve done this really big epic thing that, with the Warhammer Tabletop game, some huge army would accomplish. With some of the upgrades to Keeps, it’s kind of like you started to see ways to make them harder to take. Are there plans in the works to make the Tier 4 campaign more progressive, in that it really feels like a campaign and not just something you did in two hours?
Josh: Absolutely. I would say, just from a personal standpoint, the fundamental weakness that exists currently is lack of population. It’s much, much more difficult to progress the campaign if the population of the server is sufficiently high. You’re actually having to fight your way tooth and nail through every section of that campaign, which is always what we had envisioned. Which is why, not to continue to go back to Jeff’s Magic List, but population is one of the top five things we’re looking at right now and we are looking at that from a number of standpoints, some that we can talk about and some that we can’t. Some of the things, like coherent server merging, are some things we are looking at now. We have announced new character transfers for a couple of servers.
We recognize that a lot of the game elements are extremely dependant on the other players just being around. It sounds unbelievably simplistic to say, but it’s one of those things where it’s a cascading improvement. If you have more players on a server, a lot of different things just get more fun. RvR, obviously, is much more engaging when there are other players, but things like Public Quests are also dependant on populations. So, one of our goals over the next 6-9 months is finding some very interesting and creative ways to address Tier 4 and game-wide populations and then allow that to bootstrap and improve all sorts of different things in the game.
Now, mechanically within the campaign — again this gets into those areas where you are just going to have to trust me because I can’t talk about specifics just yet — there are a lot of changes that are going to be made where we hope both improve what we would call the cadence of the campaign, the speed at which it moves, and also the impact of any one part of it.
At the moment, you mentioned the sense that you get of the tabletop game vs. a persistent virtual world experience. You can’t ever make them the same because you are, in that virtual world, one entity within a large (and let’s just be honest) not particularly well-controlled army. On the tabletop, you are the one guy that gets to decide: What does the avant-garde do? What does the rear guard do? Am I going to flank them from the side? And you can bring to bear hundreds of units in a coherent way. You can’t do that in MMOs. Not currently. Barring having a magnificently organized guild, it’s going to be very tough to replicate that kind of attitude or sense of things.
So we kind of steer in the opposite direction and go: How can you make the chaos of battle as much fun as possible? And so we have started to look at where the choke points are where, if I am involved in the campaign, I’m not happy. So Fortresses right now are just a big frowny face. You get in there and they don’t perform the way we want them to you know, the overall experience. They’re pretty and the promise is nice, but if the experience isn’t engaging then you might as well not be having it.
We are trying to identify all those different points and go: OK, what can be done to sanely improve this and make it fun? So, if I am only there for this section of the campaign, what happens when I am taking Praag that makes Praag distinct and fun? And when we push into the next thing, if I have to go be with my kids or go to work or whatever, I don’t feel like “Oh, I missed the good part of the campaign!” We want them each to be enjoyable in their own way and then really lead up to the city capture and city defense being something that is exciting and interesting.
You will be seeing a lot of new thinking about how the cities behave as well, and trying to incentivize defense, even if it is obvious the city will fall. There should still be a reason you would want to stick around and fight ’til the end. It has to kind of be the Helm’s Deep vibe where you go “Well, our goal really is not to win here. Our goal is to hold them off for as long as possible.” And how do you have that experience in a coherent way? So that’s what we’re looking for in terms of improving the tempo and the cadence and then also the individual sections of the campaign.
GG: So, I have a friend who has played the tabletop game forever and obviously loves it. They told me I had to ask this question. They love the Tomb Kings expansion and the Land of the Dead, but they love the Tomb Kings lore in general, and the first thing they said was “Well, this is just the Necropolis of Zandri, but there are a lot of different places.” And that made me think. It is called the Land of the Dead, but the zone is called the Necropolis of Zandri. Is there a chance in the future for us to see more Necropoleis?
Josh: Absolutely. The initial implementation of the Land of the Dead was intended to be focused and to provide some very specific things for the game. Partially because there are things that, in the past, we found players really enjoy — things like RvR-gated dungeons. But then also, we hadn’t ever really tried some of the platform-style interaction that you get with Land of the Dead content, and we really weren’t sure how it would work out. And so [we did that] before we committed to the “Let us build the entire Land of the Dead” and there was only a section of the team working on that at any one time. We had a lot of people working on day-to-day maintenance, bug fixes, improvements, and the types of stuff that you almost certainly talked to the other people on the team about.
So, again, it’s one of those “never say never” [things.] I’m not promising that we are going to go out and expand it any time soon, but obviously it’s one of those things where it would be awesome to have everything there one day. I would love to have Lustria but you would have to find a coherent way to put it in. I think we did some perfectly satisfactory hand-waving to get people from what is essentially the Old World to the Land of the Dead. We could certainly go “And the blimp will also take you to the realm of the Lizardmen.” You never know — Lizard-blimps.
GG: This is a question more about Mythic as a studio. Players heard about all the stuff around Mark Jacobs, EA’s announcement about BioWare and Mythic, and all that change-up. A lot of the players look at the different aspects from different viewpoints. Some of the main [rumors] are: BioWare was brought in to save Mythic. BioWare was brought in so they could learn from Mythic’s mistakes. BioWare was brought in because they decided it was cheaper to combine everyone and half the people are getting fired. BioWare was brought in because they have no experience with MMOs and Mythic has a couple under their belt.
Josh: It’s a vast Lizardmen conspiracy.
GG: There we go. The truth was heard here first!
Josh: It’s one of those frustrating things where the answer I’m going to give you is both the truth and the one you’ve been hearing over and over again. I mean, you’ve been walking around all day and, while I don’t expect you to know what all the guys at BioWare look like, there is no one from BioWare here. We don’t have a BioWare office. There’s no BioWare executive in one of the corner offices. We don’t have a bunch of people on loan to them (which is not to say we wouldn’t be willing to do things hand-in-hand with them.) I’ve mentioned from time to time, anything that might make it possible for me to one day visit Skywalker Ranch including, but not limited to, custodial duties.
GG: Only if I get to carry your bags. 😉
Josh: The serious answer is that it is a little bit of each of these things that you mentioned. Is it about BioWare saving Mythic? No, we don’t need to be saved. Is it about BioWare helping us to buttress some of the places where we could use a little more assistance? Absolutely. Being part of a coherent umbrella studio group under the games label will make that possible for anybody who is developing massive online properties [within the EA family.] The fact of the matter is that it is very easy to get in that “splinter-cell” mentality. Not Splinter Cell the game, but in such that we are building our own thing here and we are independent of you over there. And while in some ways that is good as it insulates you from other groups and others’ shenanigans, you also wind up with a lot of redundant activity where there is no reason for BioWare to solve a problem we have already solved. And that can be as simplistic as “How do you integrate a customer service database with a catalog of players, items, and inventories?”
It’s not sexy stuff, but it’s stuff that takes a lot of time and resources to build and think of all the weird things, and it just happens that we have been doing that for 10 years. Is it that we have experience they can learn from? Yes. But it is also an efficiency thing. There is no reason for us to be building the same thing in five different ways when we’ve got a way that works. And so it really is kind of… “business as usual” is the best way to describe it. Anything that happens with Mythic was going to happen one way or the other, so we are independent of the BioWare stuff.
The boring answer is that what was announced initially is true today. However, I would accept a lightsaber at any time if Ray and Greg would like to send me one. I know that they’ve gotten to hold real ones. At E3, apparently, they had a guy from Lucas Arts and they actually had a briefcase with original, straight-up legit, these were on-film, lightsabers and Paul got to hold one for, like, two seconds.
GG: So it’s obviously apparent from what we have heard that you guys definitely have a roadmap, things you want to get done, but you’re also very much listening to the player-base. Are we going to be seeing some major announcements as far as the next… I mean, the Tomb Kings just came out and there’s a new Live Event coming out for the end of the summer that looks great… but are we going to be seeing something big about the future of WAR other than just the letters about what’s getting fixed right now?
Josh: You’ll continue to see the type of additional content that you’ve been seeing since launch. So, Live Events and so forth, you should just assume will continue indefinitely. Will there be announcements of more core things? Yes. Do I know when you’ll get them? No. It really is like I said, we’re at a point where we are not necessarily directed by the player-base so much as we have configured ourselves and configured our leadership in a way that makes it easier for us to respond to the feedback that we’re getting from players. Like I said, it takes time to get a product out in the wild and then look back at it with objectivity. We’re in that place now where we can look objectively at what we’ve done. We can look at some of the choices that we made that were not the right choices, and we have the freedom of movement necessary to address some of those core, fundamental challenges.
So you’ll continue to see things, primarily from Jeff [Hickman] in his Executive Letters, explaining not just where WAR is going, but where all our products are going, and where the studio is going. Things like that. So you should expect to continue to see those and, yeah, there will be big things on the horizon that I think players, at the very least, will be very enthusiastic about. They may be polarized the way they often are, but it’s one of those things where we’re trying to do what’s right for the game and it’s going to be very interesting to be a player as you see the crazy things we’ve got brewing. The new “Andy” class is going to be excellent.
GG: Ahh…the “Mythic Andy?” I hear it’s going to be unlockable like Jedi in the original Star Wars Galaxies…
James Casey (UI & ToK Team Lead): I thought it was actually “Mythic Candy?”
Josh: So years and years ago, we would get phone calls every now and then from people that would get their credit card bill and, depending on how it had been printed out, sometimes the spacing of the letters was a little wrong. And there was apparently one company where, when you’d get your itemized bill, it wouldn’t look like Mythic Entertainment it looked like “My Thic Entertainment.” And for some reason, every now and then, you’d get a person that would go… and clearly this was symptomatic of an underlying challenge in their relationship with their spouse… but they interpreted that as “My husband is buying porn on the internet again. $15 a month is going to My Thic Entertainment.” So we would get these weird phone calls that the people on the phones would have to deal with and it was always exciting.
GG: “Don’t lie to me! Put that hussy on the phone!” My Thic Entertainment: Ruining marriages for years and years and years…
James: That’s probably true anyway…
Everyone’s laughing at this point…
GG: “Just come to bed!” “No!”
Josh: Oh, so you’ve seen Andy’s documentary?
And more laughing…
Andy: Let’s talk as little as possible about that…
Josh: I didn’t realize it, but somehow or another I’m on the mailing list for the Syndicate.
James: I thought you were going to say for My Thic Entertainment…
And even more laughing…
Josh: And on that note, enjoy the remainder of your visit. Thank you very much. It was good talking to you.
And so ended my time with Josh Drescher. Thanks again Josh for taking the time to sit down with me. Especially as often as you kept having to come back and see if we were ready since all the other interviews kept going long… hehe. What can I say? I gab. 😉
Stay tuned in the coming days/weeks for the rest of the Mythic interviews. The interview with Nate Levy, Combat & Careers Strike Team Lead, will be coming soon!