The tagline “WAR is Everywhere” was part of the top-level marketing shtick we used during the development of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. It was supposed to indicate that the game would be – above all else – about a permanent, ongoing, PvP/RvR struggle. It was initially just part of an effort to differentiate WAR from other titles where PvP was a secondary component, but it became a somewhat broader concept as development progressed. By the time we launched, it felt like WAR – the game itself – was EVERYWHERE.
I’m not going to waste time picking at old wounds or attempting to offer a post-mortem commentary on “what happened”. There’s been tons of gossip and speculation and smug armchair game design (and project management) in the years since it launched. Some small bits of it have been on-target. Most of it is uninformed BS. It will be up to people well above my pay grade to decide if the “real story” ever gets told, but in the meantime I will say this:
We were proud of and confident in the game we launched. We knew it had enormous potential. We knew it had been well-built and crafted with care and affection by hundreds of developers. We knew that those developers spent YEARS of their lives, giving it their all to make sure that WAR would be everywhere and enjoyed across the globe.
In a few hours, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning will go offline for good.
That’s sad in a lot of ways, not the least of which being that the hard work that hundreds of developers put into it will vanish, without a meaningful way to ever visit it again. It’s one of the cruel realities of MMORPG development. You can’t just load up your old work years later and show it off to your kids.
But it DOESN’T change the fact that – now more than ever – WAR is everywhere.
WAR launched a little over five years ago and began development a few years prior to that. It was a huge part of a lot of lives for a very long time and it will be sad to see it slip away. But for most of us, our direct involvement with the game ended years ago. Only a small handful of people who actually worked on WAR are still at Mythic to see it shut down firsthand. The vast majority have moved on. Some have left the industry entirely. Most have joined new studios, teams and projects. But everyone took some of WAR with them, out into the world.
If you look around the industry today at pretty much any major MMO being developed in the Western market, you will find WAR there. Sometimes, it will be in the games themselves where concepts and ideas that first showed up in WAR have been “gently borrowed”. Mostly, however, it’s in the people making those games. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a major MMORPG team whose leadership doesn’t feature someone who cut their teeth as a developer on WAR. In some cases, HUGE chunks of the WAR team simply set up shop in a new project – old comrades in a new home.
That hasn’t happened by accident. We didn’t miraculously recruit a team of people who were already the Best There Is At What They Do. The WAR project helped MAKE them that. It gave people an opportunity to learn and struggle and grow. Oddly enough, I suspect that – had WAR been a run-away success – a lot of those people WOULDN’T have become the industry leaders they are today. It’s hard to toughen up and get stronger in a comfortable environment. It’s even harder to grow if you never leave the nest.
When those people walked away from Mythic, regardless of why, many found an industry that respected their experience, their talent and their hard work. More importantly, they found an industry that WANTED that experience and talent and hard work for new projects.
Personally, WAR gave me amazing opportunities that I will be forever thankful for. It let me do lots of silly things, it let me travel the world (always cattle-class, but still a good opportunity!), it let me meet tons of amazing people – on the team, in the wider industry and among the hordes of fans. But probably most importantly, it taught me lessons I make use of every day now. Hard-won wisdom, first learned (and earned) in the trenches of WAR has helped me be a better designer, producer and director.
As I said, in a few hours, WAR itself will go offline forever. But the people who made it will carry the lessons they learned with them onto countless projects, both now and in the future. The next time you log into a new MMORPG, scan the credits for familiar names and when (inevitably) you find them, you can smile and think “WAR is here too”.
As a final note, I wanted to touch on the folks whose post-WAR experiences haven’t been entirely rosy. I don’t want to gloss over the real human cost of the project’s failure to become a blockbuster, because that’s a very real part of the story as well. I realize that not everyone was able to transition to new and better things, at least not within our industry. There were a large number of people who simply decided they couldn’t put their families through the stress of the game development “lifestyle” anymore. For those folks, I totally get it and wish them well. But there were also plenty of people who left the team and were never able to find a new industry gig. That, to me, is a tragic waste of talent and experience and potential. I hope that everyone who worked on WAR is aware that – for all of the bumps and bruises we endured after it launched – the work they did is held in high regard across our industry.