Mark Davis from EA Mythic started us off with an introduction to a new MMO feature called "public quests." These quests, like those you are already accustomed to, give players a number of objectives to complete, but allow any player willing to take part to join in, even while the quest is already in progress. Once a quest’s stages are complete, players are rated by their contributions; higher ratings offer better chances for loot and more influence, which offers players character progression outside the standard race to the end game. In all, more than 300 of these public quests will be scattered throughout the game’s many zones, each with stages offering different types of objectives. In the public quest we played through, our fellow Greenskins took offense to a local village refusing to aid us in the war, so our quest required us to slaughter the villagers, burn each building to the ground, and then defeat their hero.
The most impressive feature shown to us was "realm vs. realm," or RvR, combat, a large-scale battle that unfolds through the actions of its players. Nearly everything your character does in a zone feeds into the zone-wide struggle between your race’s enemies, including player vs. player combat, capturing battlefield objectives, and even gathering influence through public quests. Once a side conquers a zone, more zones open up for battle, allowing players to march closer to the enemy capital. The war itself is persistent, giving players incentive to return and do their part, but once an army captures an enemy capital, the war will pause to give the victors the opportunity to sack the city, gather loot, and even capture the enemy king (Davis mentioned that they are the toughest encounters in the game).
Beyond being the ultimate prize for your enemies, capital cities are a powerful resource. As the war rages, cities become more prosperous and offer better loot and tougher dungeons for its denizens, and when captured, those resources fall into the hands of the occupying players.
Characters are given three major ways to progress through the game. The most basic is leveling your character, with an initial level cap of 40. Players can also improve renown by playing the the RvR game; this gives players additional abilities, tactics, and items to use. Guilds can also progress, using what EA Mythic calls the Living Guild system, offering players within them group rewards like a battle standard that buffs nearby players.
Warhammer Online is even taking some cues from Lord of the Rings Online through the Tome of Knowledge. Collected in the tome is your quest log, as well as an extensive listing of your character’s in-game achievements; your character will earn experience points and titles by fulfilling certain challenges (like defeating 50 goblins). Many of the challenges are not quite heroic and can be earned by sending private messages to other players or clicking on your character ("Ow! My eye!" is the name of that one).
What most impressed us about the game was the scale involved; we can chat you guys up all night about the game’s lengthy feature list, but seeing them all in action and working together to drive RvR combat is something that is hard to describe. Players of all kinds will find a niche in Warhammer Online, no matter their skill or devotion to the game, that will be useful in the big picture. Giving everyone a chance is something that many modern MMOs fail to do, and EA Mythic has taken that challenge in stride.