Kicking this website off to a start, we at MMOCrunch will begin a weekly series entitled “Before the Now”, where in, we will be taking a look at various MMORPGs and how they have evolved from their past into what we see today. Usually, in most games, only minor changes have taken affect but other times you’ll get a game that has completely changed everything, even the developer/publisher. One such game is Warhammer Online.
Warhammer Online was not always being developed by the DAoC-famed Mythic Entertainment. Before Mythic the game was being developed by Climax Online and published by Sega. It was quite a different game back then having promised features that most MMORPGs still do not have.
Starting development in 2004, Climax took some bold steps to differentiate their newly acquired IP from other like-minded fantasy MMOs such as Everquest 2 and World of Warcraft, both of which were months from release. The game was promising the ability to play as a total of 5 different races (Human, Elves, Orcs, Dwarves, and Halflings), and almost 100 different careers. There were NO levels planned for this game, everything was to be based off the skills of your chosen career. Should you decide to switch careers, you could, and you could keep using those skills from that previous career too. Neat idea huh? Too bad its never been carried over to other games.
Their PVP system was proving to be rather unique as well. Unlike the current Mythic rendition of the game this one was not promising any realm vs realm PVP. No they were developing something completely unique, which I’ve decided to term career vs career PVP. You see, the game was being developed so that most, if not all, careers had an equal opposing career (witch, witchhunter). These career characters, if they saw the other on the field, could attack eachother. No matter where they were; town, castle, cave, they were open to PVP. Such careers being planned for this were the Bandit and City Guard careers, as well as the Priest and Cultist careers. In addition to this style of PVP the game was planned to include the usual all-out PVP areas of the map as well as a more traditional dueling PVP-mode (like WoW).
Unfortunately, this game never really made it passed its’ first year in developement. GamesWorkshop (owner of the IP) decided to pull its funding from Climax in June of 2004. Climax attempted to go it alone with its’ own funds for a while but it eventually closed down for good in late 2004 due to trouble in securing a publishing agreement, presumedly with Sega.
On May 18th, 2005 Mythic and GamesWorkshop secured a deal that would allow Mythic to recreate the MMO franchise from scratch and now we have the game the is currently being developed with a release date scheduled for early 08′. The original game had a lot of fresh ideas, and although were probably not ideal for the Warhammer world they could have definitely been used to spark up interest in a new IP. Unfortunately that never happened and Climax is now back to developing console-specific games.
Come back next week when we take a long look though the history of Tabula Rasa. The game that went from a hardcore fantasy MMORPG to a casual Sci-Fi MMORPG.
Thanks for the insight into Warhammer’s beginnings. I wonder how much of a nightmare trying to balance 100 different classes would have been… I’ve been working on a web-based game with some friends and we’re having trouble trying to balance 8 classes while trying to make each unique and interesting to play!
Personally, I don’t think trying to reinvent the wheel is a successful strategy for most MMORPGs. Most of the popular MMORPGs share very similar fundamentals with each other (e.g. xp-based advancement, linear skill building, class-focus, etc.). It is what people are used to seeing and what they expect from their games.
As much as I hate to admit it, most people like to see incremental achievement and one of the best (or most accepted) ways to do this is using a level-based, xp-driven system. If you don’t have this, you’re presented with a problem that people aren’t attached to their characters, or even the game for that matter.
MMORPGs thrive because they consume so much of a person’s time. People feel like they’ve invested themselves into a character, race, class, or game and it’s difficult for them to give it up. That’s why these games can get away with a subscription-based business model and why were compare WoW-addicts to crack-addicts (World of Warcrack).
It is unfortunate that many game companies that try to push the boundaries of what’s accepted in an MMORPGs generally tend to fail. But why would any company make a game that doesn’t involve a time sink when people have come to accept it (no matter how much they complain along the way)?
I believe Mythic saw this as an opportunity to ride the wave of newly introduced players WoW brought into the market. They’re going to include and refine what worked in DAOC and (hopefully) remove all the things that didn’t. They’re not going to reinvent the wheel because that would scare people away. Even though WAR will be heavily focused on PvP, they’re still including ways for players to advance without having to experience PvP combat if they don’t want to. Smart move, imo!
Keep up the thought-inspiring articles! :)
Thanks for the compliments and comments guys!
Tomorrow I’ll be doing a piece on Tabula Rasa. I hope you guy find it just as interesting, if not more so. The game did start out as a fantasy MMORPG afterall. . .
very interesting article and I will always wonder what it would have turned out to be like. However from the videos I have seen of the old version and hearing about the classes and what now I can’t see it as being a real “Warhammer” game. I am very happy with the direction Mythic is taking the game.