As an Associate Producer with EA Mythic, Josh Drescher does a little bit of everything from project oversight to high-level design to public relations and press.
Josh joined the studio (formerly Mythic Entertainment) in 2001, prior to the launch of Dark Age of Camelot. Since that time, he has acted as a Technical Support Lead, Project Manager, Senior Designer and Associate Producer – though rarely all at the same time.
Graduating in 1999 from Loyola College in Baltimore USA, Josh has (BA) degrees in Political Science and Philosophy – two fields chosen specifically for their extreme lack of real-world applicability. Upon realizing that law school was crushing his will to live, he entered the gaming industry and has lived happily ever after.
Currently, Josh is hard at work on EA Mythic’s upcoming next-gen MMORPG Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, based on Games Workshop's tabletop fantasy war game, and definitely one of the most-anticipated PC games of 2008. Josh was kind enough to take time out to answer some questions for Gameplanet; here's what we learned:
GP: We know you have a bunch of Warhammer fans on your development team – has it been hard accommodating everyone’s “must-haves” in the game?
Josh: Yes it has, but we’ve done a lot to integrate as many armies and locations as possible for launch – even if some of them (Tomb Kings, Skaven, Vampire Counts, etc.) aren’t playable initially. Luckily for us, MMORPGs last for YEARS, which will give us time to work in as much of the Warhammer IP as possible over time.
GP: Warhammer Online appears to have had a relatively lengthy beta period. What lessons did you learn from this, and have any fundamental aspects of the game been tweaked in accordance?
Josh: The most important lesson:
Your testers are part of the development process. If you use them to just hunt for bugs, you’re wasting their time and energy. We use our testers to provide critical feedback and commentary on every aspect of the game and we make sure to listen to what they’re saying. If a large number of testers say something isn’t fun or could be improved or doesn’t make sense, we listen to them and respond accordingly.
The best example of this is the RvR overhaul we did late last year. The testers (many of whom had played Dark Age of Camelot) weren’t satisfied with the heavy focus on instanced RvR that we’d used initially. They wanted more open field RvR that took place in the main game world. We listened to them and dramatically expanded the amount and types of open field RvR available. We added more RvR areas, we added guild-controlled keeps and fortresses and we added siege weapons to the game.
And the players were right – the game is MUCH more exciting now than it was before we heard their thoughts.
GP: We learned more about city sieges in Warhammer Online in Singapore this year, but our readers wanted to know what happens after you have eventually booted out your invader. Is it a complete rebuild from scratch, or do some of your previous achievements remain standing?
Josh: It depends on how successful the invasion was. Our Living Cities have five levels of content in them that enemies can destroy during an invasion. So a Rank 5 city that is invaded might only drop to Rank 4 if the invasion isn’t successful in destroying enough parts of the city. It’s also possible that it will be knocked all the way to Rank 1 by a very successful invasion.
Once an invasion ends, you have to rebuild from whatever point the city was reduced to – though we never allow core functions like trainers, merchants, etc. to be destroyed.
GP: Regarding the very top echelon of weaponry – will your characters proficiency with a weapon always count for more than the stats on even the biggest, meanest sword? Or will the end-game weapons you acquire significantly buff your abilities?
Josh: Armour and weapons can give you an edge, but personal stats, tactics and skill will always be more important.
GP: Have there been any big “oops” moments during development, where you’ve gone down a certain path and realized it just doesn’t fit the Warhammer canon, or your perception of what the Warhammer universe entails?
Josh: Probably when we started trying to add abilities like “STOP! Hammertime!” to the Warrior Priest. Lucky for us, GW’s licensing manager – Erik Mogenson – was there to explain that MC Hammer does not belong in Warhammer.
GP: Killing a Keep-Lord to acquire a breast plate seems to be one of the most significant things you can achieve, and a welcome addition to your inventory. Does the loot improve with the status, or achievements of the fortress you’re attacking?
Josh: Absolutely. Armour sets that come from King encounters, for example, are the absolute best equipment in the game.
GP: In regards to Public Quests, is there a continuous flow from these missions to the wider world? In other words, if someone never does any public questing, will they still be able to join in RVR battles and have the right skills and weapons to be of assistance?
Josh: Yes. Players can choose to play any way they want without running the risk of not advancing. If someone, for example, only wants to do RvR, they can level all the way through the game that way.
Now, there are benefits that players receive for certain accomplishments, but we make sure that those benefits apply only to the type of gameplay from which they are earned. For example, certain tactics and items can be earned though questing that can’t be earned in RvR – but they only benefit players in PvE portions of the game. The reverse is true to RvR content and rewards.
GP: One of the big complaints levelled at other MMO’s (and in particular, one big MMO) lately is that graphics and animations can become stale as hardware becomes more advanced. Have you crafted the Warhammer engine with overhead enough to last through the years?
Josh: The technology we use (and have used for years now on other games) is designed to be scalable and – most importantly – upgradable. As technology advances our engine (and WAR) will too.
GP: Thanks for announcing the Oceanic server a while back – Aussies and Kiwi’s will no doubt populate this quickly upon the release of Warhammer Online. Do you have any plans to include Australian or New Zealand specific themes to this server, such as Christmas events without snow?
Josh: The types of holidays and events we’ll hold in the game will be Warhammer-specific, so any holiday celebrations will be drawn from the IP and not from the “real” world (Aussie or otherwise). Expect crazy Warhammer holidays!
Our thanks to Josh Drescher from EA Mythic and Electronic Arts New Zealand for answering our questions. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is scheduled for release in New Zealand on the 26th September. If you haven't already, check out the latest trailer showing the crafting system at GP Downloads (60MB).