Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

Other quest chains enable players to dip their toes into hostile territory. ‘Yellow quests’ require a short hop into enemy lands, while ‘red quests’ put a bounty on an enemy player’s head, and ask you to go claim it. As he explains this, Josh laughs: “It’s not like your typical MMO experience where for some reason you’re able to safely walk around as long as you’re, y’know, 50 feet away from an enemy. There’s just an amazing sense of risk and reward. Will there be other players there who are waiting to kill you, or will the zone be controlled by your allies? Our hope is that as players experience some of that they’ll be organically drawn to the realm vs realm experience.”

Which highlights a bigger question: realm vs realm? It sounds exciting, but what does it actually mean? Dwarves don’t like Orcs. Humans hate Chaos. Dark Elves despise High Elves. Every zone, from the simplest, early newbie towns to the spiraling and vast capital cities, is twinned with an area from their competing faction. Progress, in the form of quest completion, bosses killed, or towers and flags raided, converts to victory points - which, eventually lead to one side ‘winning’ the zone.

The ultimate expression of that comes in the level 40 player-vs-player endgame, where factions get to raid each other’s capital city. “For instance,” explains Josh, “you’ll have the capital city of the Empire, Altdorf, on one side. On the other, you’ll have the Inevitable City of Chaos - and the battlefront moving back and forth between these cities, based not just on the local combat, but on everything in the game. Capital cities become more ornate, more interesting, and more valuable depending on how long it was since they were last conquered. High-end dungeons, important vendors, treasures and items only appear if your side has been persistently successful in all areas of the game.”

It’s clear that the team has the mechanics down pat: they’re building on designs that have worked in their MMOs for half a decade. But they’re also building on something more: a fictional world idolized by its fans, and heavily protected by its owners. Is Josh enjoying the pressure? “At the very beginning, there was a lot of collective bargaining going on between the fans. You look at the armies available in the Warhammer IP and unless we were going to take 15 years developing the game, it was going to be impossible to do everything right away. So, there was excitement... and then soul-crushing disappointment. But that’s part and parcel of trying to adapt something that’s had 25 years of history - you’re not going to get everything in at once. It’s exciting though. There are millions of people with a vested interest in what we’re doing, and we have to make sure that we don’t let them down.”