We discuss Warhammer: Wrath of Heroes with Mythic producer and games industry legend, Carrie Gouskos.
Like an unassuming dwarf busily working in a garden shed, Warhammer: Age of Reckoning is still bubbling underneath the MMO radar cataring to those who love Game Workshop’s distinct flavour of fantasy. And earlier this year gamers were treated to the MOBA spin-off Wrath of Heroes which took the best of the WAR’s PvP aspects and streamlined them into a new standalone arena-based experience. This move was both derided and celebrated by WAR’s slender but immensely passionate community, some of whom thought Mythic had greater projects to address.. Recently we sat down with the developer’s passionate franchise producer and Warhammer aficionado Carrie Gouskos to discuss why the team decided to do something so different…
GamerZines: Why did Mythic feel the need to spin off Wrath of Heroes into its own thing?
Carrie Gouskos: It was clear to us a couple of years ago that the games industry is changing and people want their content in different ways. Even people who like MMORPGs, like their content in different ways and at that time we were seeing the beginning of that free-to-play thing. We spent a lot of time looking at Warhammer Online and saying, “Should we take this game free-to-play?” And there were so many things that weren’t quite right for free-to-play, like the fact it’s such an RvR focused game – the things that we’d have to sell lead us to question whether it would be the right move. So we decided to turn that question on its head; we’ve seen a lot of full blown MMOs go free-to-play and that’s certainly a tactic – and don’t get me wrong that doesn’t rule out that Warhammer Online going that way – but instead we said, “Let’s find out what is the core of this experience that people like and bring it to the forefront.” We had the epiphany of three teams for this game and then we realised we couldn’t in any way make it part of Warhammer Online. To re-architect that entire game to cater to three-team play wasn’t an option. Another really key element is that when you want a lot of people to play RvR, population is really important. The whole thing about picking servers and players asking each other what servers they’re on and people being split up is what we wanted to invert. Wrath of Heroes has one server and then it builds out from that.
Being able to change up the core gameplay allowed us to play around with things we didn’t have in Warhammer, for instance monster characters like the Ogre. We’re getting fun, a little silly, but we’re trying to bring the things we like most about Warhammer into this game, but it’s for a different audience. We still have the Warhammer Online core RvR, and this may or may not be the them – I think this is for a different type of person. This is more, ‘I just want to jump in, have a good experience and carry on with my day.’
GamerZines: You had to look for the humour to find it in WAR, but in Wrath of Heroes it’s alot more apparent. It’s quite DOTA-esque to a certain extent…
Carrie Gouskos: When we announced WoH at gamescom last year, a lot of people called it a ‘direct control MOBA’, so we started talking about it as MOBA. One of the things which became really apparent is that people can’t differentiate between DOTA and a MOBA. So if somebody comes to this game with the idea that it’s DOTA they won’t get the experience they’re expecting. We’ve gone away from talking about it like that and basically described it as an MMORPG battleground with a League of Legends spin on it. We rotating between three different characters, so when you come into play if you haven’t invested anything at all there will be several free heroes you to can choose from, then you can play and earn gold to buy more, but the idea is that we give you opportunity to jump in and just play.
GamerZines: At the moment Wrath of Heroes feel like a bonafide spin-off rather than necessarily its own thing. Will that change as it develops?
Carrie Gouskos: We’ve thought about and talked about everything. We’ve talked about crazy modes, crazy styles of characters and I think we will rely on how the community is rallying around them because we might have some really cool ideas…One of my favourite modes in all gameplay is Gears of War Horde Mode; I love that idea. We have teams of six, why not put in some kind of Horde mode? It would work in these maps. I’d love that, but it may be that the community doesn’t want anything to do with it, so we’re going to gauge all that before committing to it.
GamerZines: I guess that’s where the current Open Beta comes in. How crucial is community participation to Wrath of Heroes’ development?
Carrie Gouskos: The more people we get in and give us feedback, the better we can get a sense of, ‘Right, this is what the community wants.’ We know very clearly that there are Warhammer fans playing this, because it’s such a compelling IP. It brings people to the game, so now it’s a case of who’s next? Is it the e-sports guys? Who is it? What do they find interesting about it? I think what we’ll probably end up seeing [enjoying this game] is a lot of people who love MMORPG’s, but don’t have the time or the money to get to this experience, as it’s often gated behind high level content.
GamerZines: The free-to-play landscape which Wrath of Heroes finds itself in changing rapidly. You can’t be so direct when it comes to pricing any more, you almost have to be a bit sneaky with more items sold at a lower price, is that a trend you guys agree with?
Carrie Gouskos: The best way to do it is just to do the offer of the time versus money reward. We’ve tweaked the time part of the time versus money [scale], because we came out a little too aggressive and we listened to the players and said, ‘Alright, we’ll give you more gold’. As long as you respect that some people have time and some people have money and offer everything in both currencies it doesn’t matter. There are plenty of people who play this game and unlock things without ever spending a dime. That’s okay, but one of the reasons free-to-play has been so successful is that there are those people who say, “You know what I’m going to give you £10 or whatever” – it’s all about having a shortcut to deal with that’. Those two sets of people can play together and have a symbiotic relationship. One isn’t necessarily more powerful than the other.
GamerZines: Is that where the promotional sales come in? How often do you have offers on certain characters?
Carrie Gouskos: We’re always trying to bring in new offers. A big reason for that is because there are the people who only want to buy when they’re offers. So if you don’t keep providing offers, then they don’t buy and obviously at the end of the day I don’t care if you spend fake or real money, but I want you to be thinking about what’s on sale today – what can I get? It seems to work well.
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