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Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

The Age of Reason fails. It's time for WAR

Mythic Creative Director Paul Barnett likes to talk. And not just about his online RPG. "A game guide is actually there to corrupt your enjoyment of the game.

"It tells you the most efficient, straightforward and dull way to increase your numbers, and in no way tells you the wonder and joy of the game you're playing. And for most games, the wonder and joy is in getting there. In fact, in most of life, the joy is in getting to something."

There's more: "We now have people obsessed with getting to the endgame, not realising that the greatness is in going on that journey. It's like Final Fantasy: you play one and it's basically random monster encounters... I'm a big proponent that if you can get people to engage their mind and give them things that give them wonder and awe and engage their imagination, you will have a better game than one which is perfect in its number crunching, but is soulless."

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He proceeds to talk about fishing with dynamite, poker, custard, rich English people on drugs and the online roleplaying game that has the potential to be the most entertaining since Blizzard decided they wanted to generate as much money as the average gold mine conglomeration.

Mythic are the second group to try their hands at converting the Warhammer fantasy universe to a multiplayer online space, after Climax's aborted attempt. With 25 years of little metal men beating the living daylights out of each other to draw upon, it's a phenomenally large task. Since the Nottingham tabletop gaming company gave them licence with their licence to choose their own out-of-history version of Warhammer, they could have done anything. Sensibly, they've gone for the core values.

"One of the things we had to decide early on is..." Paul muses, "well, our game is Warhammer. It's not farm-hammer. It's not making-T-shirts-hammer. It's not dancing-hammer. It's Warhammer. Therefore, though there are these elements in other games, it's not of much interest to us. And that's difficult, because we have this obsession with 'Don't you have to appeal to all these different game styles?' And in short, no, you don't. Pick a great idea - War - and then realise that idea in the most wondrous way you can.

"If you don't have an absolute brutal vision you will not move from, it will be corrupted and thwarted by people who don't know what they're talking about," Paul elaborates. "If you're going to make a gory horror slasher flick, tell people it's a gory horror slasher flick. At that point, you only have to do two things. One, make sure it's a gory horror slasher flick - that is, put gore, horror and slashing in it - and two, tell people it's a gory horror slasher flick. That way, no one can be disappointed. Horror slasher fiends come, are very happy, and everyone else who thought it was a romantic comedy about gay cowboys stays well away. It's the same with our game. Our vision is just a way of saying 'This is what we stand for. This is what we're doing'. If you don't like it, have no fear. If you think you might be interested, come and have a go. And if you have a go, we're pretty confident that you'll like it."

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To that end, everything in the game is focused on losing you in a world which is at near-constant war. Your initial experience won't be in a distant village with casual quests like in most games. Your village will be under immediate threat - or, in the case of Chaos, it'll be you who's immediately threatening a village.

This sense of a world on the edge of collapse is emphasised by one of the game's major new innovations: that of public quests. These are attempts to increase the simple joy of being in a multiplayer environment, by allowing players to interact in groups without anything as formalised as actually grouping. A public quest activates when players walk into an area, for anyone to muck-in on. It moves to a further stage and eventually climaxes, rewarding participants in proportion to their contribution to the event.

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