Interview: Josh Drescher & The Half-Blood Patch
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 11 March 2009, 10:03 am
When he's not dressing in spandex and saving civilization with his awesome superpower of meticulous note-taking, Josh Drescher is pestered by the likes of me for a few spare moments of his time, and perhaps a hankey that has touched his furrowed brow. What? Too creepy? In any case, he was kind enough to answer ten questions for me before notifying my next of kin.

WAAAGH!: Bitter Rivals is based around, well, one of the most notorious rivalries in Warhammer -- Dwarfs vs. Greenskins. How is this echoed in the Mythic offices -- are there any hardcore rivalries you can share?

JOSH: Barnett’s been Choppa-mad for a long time, but I’d say the Slayers are the clear favorite for most of us. Paul and Hickman’s long-standing rivalry is probably the most visible. Jeff (who’s long stood up in favor of Order) is clearly enjoying being the front-man for the Slayers in the office at the moment. He keeps demanding Mohawks from people.

WAAAGH!: Patch 1.2 quickly became famous for its novel-length patch notes. What's the thinking behind saving up so many changes and additions for one mega-patch versus, say, bi-weekly patches? Is it just for something substantial to wave a PR stick at?

JOSH: There isn’t a real philosophy behind it – it’s just a matter of the team having a ton of stuff that needed time to work through, polish and test. We’ll definitely do smaller patches in the future, as well as patches that rival this one in terms of note-length and features. It’s never a good idea to commit to delivering patches at a set interval, because that forces you to rush important things, which can be worse than not patching at all. It’s better to have it done right than done fast.

WAAAGH!: We know that the combat and careers team has been doing a lot of investigation into career balancing, asking the players for feedback, etc. A lot of people have been asking: why were certain careers first up for major tweakage in this patch versus others? What gave these careers priority?

JOSH: There is Method to the Madness, I assure you. Generally speaking, we address issues we uncover first, then we look to the community for feedback and additional concerns. The Combat and Careers team collects potential issues from the fans, then runs tests and tracks metrics to see if the concerns are valid or not. If they’re valid, they go straight into the “must fix” column and are addressed ASAP. Now, some issues take longer than others to track down and prove and, once proven, some take longer than others to fix. The order in which things get patched isn’t necessarily indicative of the order in which we started working on them. Confusing, I know, but such is life.

WAAAGH!: As a follow-up to that, does it ever strike you as insane to try to balance a whopping 24 careers for a PvP title? Wouldn't it have been a lot easier with far fewer classes?

JOSH: Easier, perhaps, but also less rewarding to the players. Variety has always been important to us – both because we want to give players lots of options AND because (as Warhammer fans) we wanted to cram as much of the IP into WAR as possible!

WAAAGH!: What is your personal favorite new feature in 1.2 and why?

JOSH: The easy answer would be the addition of Slayers, but if I can’t use that, I’d probably have to go with the Zone Control Domination system. I’m a BIG open RvR fan and so it’s been frustrating to not see that system working out to its full potential up to this point. As a result, I’ve been really looking forward to the improvements to that side of the game that came in 1.2.

WAAAGH!: Between launch and today, how far has Warhammer's performance and client stability come, according to what you guys can monitor?

JOSH: We’ve come a long way, but we’re still not satisfied. While we’ve made some serious progress, but we’re certainly not done addressing all of the very reasonable concerns that the players (and we) have about performance. That being said, no sane developer is EVER “done” working on performance improvements. We’ve tackled a LOT of serious issues and the game plays better today than it did at launch. This will continue to be a MAJOR focus for the team for the duration of the product’s lifespan.

WAAAGH!: A lot of people -- including myself -- sat up straight when we saw that non-combat pets were coming to WAR via the Recruit-a-Friend program. The big question is: is this just the beginning? Will these so-called "vanity pets" grow in number, assortment and ways to obtain them?

JOSH: That would be telling. *evil grin*

WAAAGH!: We got a lot of impressions reports from people who attended the NY Comic Con -- what were YOUR impressions following the event?

JOSH: Sadly, I wasn’t at NYCC this year. I was in Europe on an EA Producers Tour. I hear the Saturday night party was a lot of fun.

WAAAGH!: With the new official forums open for business, how are you guys going to keep this from degrading into a dank pit of trolling, sarcasm, and personal insults? What are your greatest aspirations for this feature?

JOSH: The answer is simple: We never, ever let Andy, James and Jess go home. Honestly, it’s a HUGE challenge, to be sure. Firm, but fair moderation is key. Because people can’t join the forums anonymously, we can avoid a great deal of the more egregious misbehavior that plagues other forums. Posters who break the rules will be dealt with sternly and there won’t be an easy way for them to return to the forums once that’s happened. That level of accountability tends to curtail a lot of the more serious “Internet Toughguy” nonsense that might otherwise pop up. As for our hopes for the forums, it’s pretty simple – we want a place where we can hear the players’ voices clearly and easily on important issues AND where players can go to hear what we’re saying, thinking and planning to do without needing to get “lucky” and find the right third party forum that we happen to post in. We absolutely do NOT intend to try and replace the excellent fan-run community sites out there. Those guys have wonderful, vibrant and energetic communities that will continue to see interaction from Devs and support from Mythic.

WAAAGH!: Total fluff question! What are you playing in WAR these days, and what have you witnessed that's surprised you from the players?

JOSH: I’m still playing my trusty Iron Breaker, but I have to be honest – his days as my main are numbered now that the Slayer is coming on line. As for surprises, that’s a tough one to answer. I’m usually more impressed than surprised by our fans, to be honest. For example, I’ve been really impressed by the dedication and commitment of our fans over the past few months. We know it’s tough out there at the moment for everyone, so it really means a lot every time a person decides to take their hard-earned money and spend it on WAR. We don’t take that vote of confidence lightly and it’s one of the reasons we decided to commit so heavily to large, free expansions to the game over the next few months. My hope is that things like 1.2 help to – in some small way – illustrate the fact that we are listening, we do appreciate every, single person who chooses to play WAR and that we’re working SUPER-hard to constantly build upon and improve the experience our players are enjoying.

WAAAGH!: Thanks for talking with us!

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