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Preparing for WAR: Mark Jacobs on Launching Warhammer Online
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Preparing for WAR: Mark Jacobs on Launching Warhammer Online

September 22, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 6 Next

What are you looking at there, going forward?

MJ: Stargate: Worlds looks like it may launch. Perfect World, the Asian game that's done so well over there, looks like it'll be launching here soon; I think they just went into beta. And there are other games in development that will be coming out in the next couple years. It's a much more competitive space. They're going to have a much tougher road than they have.

The other things that really differentiates the time, is that back in 2001, you didn't have to spend anywhere near the amount of money you do on an MMO now. Look at what we spent on Camelot: $2.5 million developing it, $650,000 in marketing it. You couldn't spend that on a triple-A MMO now if your life depended on it! You just couldn't! It would get you nothing in terms of content.

So Funcom has to not only try to improve their game, but do it with a lot of cash, and that's one of the things that makes it so much harder on them or anybody else. On Camelot, we didn't have any cash until the game launched, and once we were successful, we had money, so we could keep investing.

It's harder for the Funcom guys now, because they have to keep spending a lot of money, and unless their numbers go up, they're not going to be taking in as much as these other companies could spend on just making a game. So, boy. That's a much tougher dynamic.

It's amazing how many MMOs are still pitched and developed given what a sink-or-swim environment it is, with so many studios and games shutting down.

MJ: It really is. That's an excellent way of putting it. Back then, you had time -- not to sit back and do nothing, but you didn't have to immediately succeed. Now, unless you have very deep pockets, it's very difficult just to stay and improve the game hoping for success.

Blizzard has also upped the ante in terms of sheer volume of content, after having been out for a few years. Is that intimidating?

MJ: For a lot of developers, absolutely. It is very, very hard to compete in this space against the big guys. I don't say that because we're one of the big guys, because we're not yet. We're one of the big companies, but until Warhammer's a success, we're not one of the big guys. WoW is one of the big guys. Hopefully we'll be one of the big guys.

When we were looking at the landscape when we were doing Camelot, we said, "We don't have the same money these other guys do, but I think we can be competitive, because we have our hook." Now, because these games are so much more complicated than the games we did seven years ago, that young developer who wants to break into this space can't simply go, "Well, we've got an interesting hook, so we don't need to spend what they do." It's a very different dynamic.

The general sense I get from people's early impressions of Warhammer is that once you've put some hours into it and you're into the double-digit levels, the unique characteristics really shine, but when you first jump in, people get a strong WoW deja vu, in terms of what you're doing at the lower levels, and the game's visual style.

MJ: Well, you know where the visuals come from. The visuals come from Games Workshop, and if there's any similarity to the WoW visuals, you need to ask Blizzard where they got their visuals come from. (laughs) We can trace our visuals directly to the Games Workshop IP, which came about before Blizzard was even a company. Just go back and look at the old Games Workshop books.

Yeah, I'm actually extremely familiar with Warhammer, going back some fifteen years.

MJ: Right -- well, as a matter of fact, you could even buy a book called World of Warhammer. Remember that one?

I do, actually.

MJ: Yeah. I mean, what's the copyright? 1997? And it's called..."World of Warhammer"? Hmmm.

So, for the people who look at this and say, "Boy, some of these things are similar," also keep in mind that we've been making MMOs since before Blizzard ever did. A lot of the things in the game, be they RvR or other things, come from Camelot.

But even having said that, knowing that full well, games -- MMOs or not -- have a tendency to be somewhat derivative of each other. We need to make it as easy as possible for the people who come into our game to enjoy our game, especially for those who have never done RvR. For those who have done RvR, it's a hoot. You can't wait to get into it. You can actually start RvRing from the moment you get into our game -- you don't have to do a single quest, a single PvE quest. You don't have to do any of that if you don't want to.

On the other hand, since we know that most people have never played Dark Age of Camelot, we wanted to make it as easy as possible to get into the game, and we wanted to make the game attractive to people who do like PvE, and don't like PvP. So we also follow the kind of formula that we've used in Camelot, and that other games have used before ours and after ours: you have quest givers, you have quests, you do things. We try to take that to the next level with the tome of knowledge, or public quests -- which I think is going to be one of the most borrowed concepts from our game. So that's what I say to them.

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