Keeping faith with the warhammer lore

Using an established setting/IP has worked brilliantly for MMORPG manufacturers. Star Wars Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, World of Warcraft — all of them have invited people to come play in a world which they already know from books, films, or other games. And rumour has it there’s another Star Wars MMO in the pipeline from Lucasarts/Bioware also.

Warhammer is an amazing IP. Mythic hit the ball out of the park (note: american idiom cos I is so cosmopolitan) when they cosied up with Games Workshop on the deal. It’s long-established, well-supported and the demographic is teenage boys, a lot of whom have gone on to play computer games but remember the setting fondly. It was designed for RPGs and wargames and provides lots of atmosphere and opportunity for player conflict. Or in other words, the main point of warhammer is to give flimsy excuses for large armies to fight each other. Warhammer and PvP were made for each other.

Working with an existing IP isn’t easy though. Everything you write has to be checked and OKed by the guys who own the setting. Everything takes a bit longer. Sometimes they will step in and say no. Sometimes they will surprise you by saying yes or making suggestions you hadn’t thought would fly. The games manufacturer needs a close relationship with the IP owner. They need lore nerds on the development staff! (I remember reading that Turbine had at least one staffer who spoke fluent elvish!!)

And sometimes, you have to go and ask nicely if the lore can be bent or twisted just a little bit. Why would you do it? Well, sometimes your players will want to do stuff that isn’t a big issue in the original media. In this case, the demographic for MMORPGs is different from the warhammer playerbase — it’s older, there are more women. Mythic also wanted more keep sieges and PvP set ups which would be difficult to reproduce on a tabletop.

So female dwarfs go in, and all over the community forums, you’ll see threads asking for more female options (I bet Games Workshop can count on one hand the number of times they’ve been asked for more female models). Keep sieges go in.

We need the lore nerds to keep us honest and tell us all about the amazing setting that we’re getting to go play in. But we need the developers to be listening to what the community wants and knowing when to stretch the old lore too.

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5 Responses

  1. Nice thoughtpiece! Was good to wake up to 🙂

  2. I think LotrO proved that some liberty needs to be taken with IP – female hobbits ambling through Angmar and stopping for picnics? Possibly not what a hardcore Tolkien fan would envisage. But the game needs to be playable and giving female models is a part of what is expected.

  3. Haha, something tells me that hobbit girls and their pet chickens going for picnics in Angmar was probably not part of the initial pitch 🙂

    I think they call that kind of thing ’emergent behaviour’, otherwise known as ‘the players did WHAT???!!!????’

  4. I always want to be one of the players that displays such behaviour, but I think I rarely am.

    I like that the lore doesn’t have to be adhered to too rigidly here, especially as I’m fairly new to it. But I would like to give Warhammer fans an experience close to the game and setting that they love – and from all I’ve read Mythic feel the same way.

  5. wow… the things one learns. And here I thought I knew it all 🙂 lol. Thanks for sharing!

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