Interview: Warhaven’s game director on combat, inspiration, and the future of the game

    
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Warhaven caught my attention with its epic medieval battles featuring hand-to-hand combat and fantastic graphics. It’s an upcoming game that recently had an open beta for players to get their hands dirty with it. I came away impressed. So when I had the opportunity to have a chat with Eunseok Yi, Warhaven‘s Game Director at Nexon Korea, I had to do it to learn more about the nature of the game’s combat and classes. Let’s dive in!

MassivelyOP: One of the first things about Warhaven that caught my attention was the theme. I’ve never been much of a fan of first person shooters in general, as typically, I prefer magic and melee combat and there seems to be an endless number of games for running around with guns or shooting spells. What was the team’s goal when they began to build the game around hand-to-hand, melee combat?

Warhaven‘s Eunseok Yi: I think there’s a unique charm to hand-to-hand combat. There’s valor and nobility, and a certain ‘badass factor’ which exists only in more close, primitive sword fight battles that occur at close range.

I believe there’s a reason why protagonists fight with swords and lightsabers even in future sci-fi stories such as Star Wars and Dune.

Though there are many games on the market that provide gamers the satisfaction of sword fighting, most of them are single-player, PvE games. We wanted to set out and develop a PvP game that presents the excitement of a close-combat battles in groups.

Currently there are three modes, each one essentially coming down to capture the point combat where your team holds a spot long enough to take control and earn victory points or move the objective. I have always been a fan of quick random team battles without objectives – are there plans for any game modes like this or other types? If not, are there plans to add more maps that use the existing game modes?

Through this Open Global Beta, we received feedback that players prefer a simpler and faster pace of combat.

Based on these reviews, we plan to reorganize the gameplay rules of some modes, and also modify some areas of different maps accordingly so that movement is unhindered, and players can enjoy at a swifter pace.

After the release of games like Player Unknown’s Battle Ground (PUBG) and Fortnite’s battle royale, many similarly styled and themed games were released to try and capture or ride on the popularity of those games. We have seen a shift lately with fewer battle royales being released, and even Warhaven does not have any battle royale mode currently. Do you have any plans to add a battle royale mode?

Of course, battle royale games have their unique strengths which we admire, but we found that those elements which made the genre fun were difficult to implement into our close-combat gameplay.

So as for now, we are not planning on adding a BR mode to Warhaven.

When I played Warhaven during the beta, I found some similarities to games like For Honor and Chivalry not simply because of the theme but also from a gameplay perspective. Would you say those games provided some inspiration for Warhaven? If not, were there other games or concepts the team was pulling from?

The main difference that For Honor holds is that it focuses on mostly 1-on-1 combat, and seeks to dive deeper into developing that experience. We wanted to broaden this to large scale group fights rather than secluding players into duel-type situations.

Chivalry definitely shares a lot with Warhaven in that sense; it focuses on large-scale, medieval-style close combat. Chivalry is well-built game with a simple but in-depth combat mechanism which we really admire.

However, one of Warhaven‘s most definitive goals is to provide an experience which is “easy to start, but hard to master”. With this principle in mind, the next step is to create more simple, easier entry points for players first starting the game, but the path becomes more challenging and complex as players reach master level.

I have seen some criticism from players about the combat and hitboxes: When a player attacks, if the crosshair isn’t exactly on your opponent, the attack will miss. This seems to be the case even if the weapon appears to pass through the enemy player. As an example, in Chivalry you can attack and move your mouse around in a circle to deal damage to everyone around you – which is silly. I believe the way Warhaven handles this is better, as it forces the player to intentionally hit their opponent instead of randomly clicking and scoring damage. Was this your intent for how combat should be handled? Have you considered changing it so that a weapon passing through an enemy will register as a hit even if the crosshair was not positioned correctly?

Similar to what we see in Chivalry 2, the on-screen cross-hair in Warhaven is there to serve as a visual guide. Therefore, the actual damage is made based on the character’s weapon movement (where it sweeps) and its collision with the hitbox on the opponent’s body. And of course, ‘dragging’ works in Warhaven too, but we set it to inflict weak damage so that players don’t overuse it.

However, through recent testing, we learned that many factors within the game could potentially lead players to misunderstand the hitbox mechanism, so we’re revisiting these points with changes and improvements in mind; earn players’ trust is our goal on this one.

When you had the open beta, were there any unexpected things that players did? Was there a class that most players used? Was there a technique or strategy that you saw players doing that you were surprised about?

Most of what we saw during the beta falls under our expectations concerning users’ play patterns.

However, one thing that we observed was that new players seemed to have difficulties understanding and following the match rules at first (e.g., interacting with a flagpole to capture a foothold).

For the next version of Warhaven, we aim to improve the game in a way that it becomes more intuitive to every player, regardless of in-game rules and missions.

I’d like to talk about classes a little. I found many of the classes to be very unique, especially the Smoke. It is a fairly original concept for a soldier to use smoke to empower their attacks but also heal their allies. Could you describe the team’s inspiration for the class? What was the inspiration for the game’s classes overall?

Smoke: In the early development phase, we had plans to developing a healer as a simple priest. However, to give it a unique twist while also using familiar elements, our concept artists came up with the idea of “a priest using an incense burner,”. The concept was well-received internally and motivated us to change the direction of Smoke’s design.

Blade: Blade was the first soldier that we created. He has the image of a classic knight, the default look of any sword game. We thought it would be cool to design a soldier wielding a two-handed sword without a shield; it gives him a badass edge.

Guardian: To give Guardian a proper “protector, defender” vibe, we decided to give him an oversized shield. It looks like it can block out anything and everything. As for his overall silhouette, we wanted him to have a bulked-up appearance, similar to modern-day EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) specialists.

Warhammer: We designed Warhammer to be a soldier originating from a rice-based culture within Herarth (the name of the world in Warhaven). This led us to find artistic inspiration from Korean Joseon era armor. (ancient dynastic kingdom of Korea).

We have the Blade with a longsword and brutes with warhammers, all of which are seemingly human characters. However, the archer is a cat. Is that just a random class or is there more to that design decision? Are some of the developers big Elder Scroll Khajiit fans? Can we expect to see other animal to human hybrids at some point?

We didn’t want Warhaven to be set in a solely, historically accurate medieval European setting.

So we put in a bunch of fantasy elements, and one of them is a race called Goya, the non-human bipedal feline race. In the prototype of the game, Goya folks were first designed to look like canine-esque gnolls, but I thought the large cat imagery would be more attractive, so the Goya became what they are now.

There is a possibility that other bipedal beast-type races will be added to the game, which we hope fantasy fans will really like!

In For Honor, the classes are all drawn from different cultures. Originally, it was Vikings, Samurai, and European knights, but they’ve since added classes from other cultures as well. In Warhaven, other than the six classes, players also have four different Immortal characters to transform into. From these four, they appear to be themed around medieval Europe as well. However, the Darkgale’s rider is perhaps like an ancient Egyptian god (although I could be misunderstanding the inspiration for the Darkgale or even the others). Could you explain how the Immortals were designed? Is there one theme or culture the game is drawing inspiration from or will it vary?

In Herarth (the name of the world in which Warhaven is set), there are many different regions and unique cultures. These cultures developed in their own ways, depending on latitudes, climate differences, access to sea, differences in soil, and crops suitable for growing.

One of our main Immortal characters, Martyr, is from the Estal culture. Located on the east side of the continent, the culture has constant precipitation, an abundance of black soil, and has suitable weather for wheat agriculture. Politically, Estal cultures consist of feudal states, which form the mainstream. These states are of great importance when embarking on war.

Another Immortal, Hoet, is from the Suto culture. Located in the west, countries of Suto culture are usually rainy during the summer and dry in the winter. Rice is the main crop of this region. Centralized, bureaucratic countries have developed in the Suto culture. Also, Suto culture emphasizes an Immortal-worship based education system, so the majority of schools in this area focus on this path. To gain social standing in a country of Suto culture, folks must have a history of participating in the battlefield, and they must have fought for the side of the Immortals.

Yet another Immortal, Raven, originates from the Daur culture. Located in the center of the continent, this region is largely covered by immense deserts. The culture is based on cattle rearing and war-time trades.However, in Daur culture, information and knowledge hold the highest price, therefore powerful magicians like Raven were able to emerge from this culture.

Darkgale is from the Yhai culture. Grasslands and plains spread across different regions of Yhai culture. The plains provide little to its inhabitants, therefore folks depend mostly on Immortal-provided goods and supplies to support themselves.This economic structure has given various groups a strong military cultural tradition.

One interesting thing is that Sadru, the rider of Darkgale (which is the name of the horse!), is from the same culture as Raven.

If the Immortals do have a wider range of cultures and regions they are drawing inspiration from, can we expect to see additional classes or Immortal’s added to the game? Do you already have some new ones in mind?

Yes, we are preparing to unveil new Soldier characters and Immortal characters every new season prior to the official launch.

Before we wrap up, do you plan on having additional betas before release? Are there any new things players can look forward to that might surprise them?

Although I can’t share the detailed roadmap with you just yet, given that we are targeting an early access launch in 2023, we should be able to be back with new updates shortly. We promise to come back with a more fantasy-filled world of Warhaven where players can enjoy a simpler and quicker, yet more in-depth close-combat gaming experience.

Thank you so much to Eunseok Yi for taking the time to answer our questions with so much detail! Check back here often as we continue to watch the development of Warhaven and await the launch!
Every other week, Massively OP’s Sam Kash delivers Fight or Kite, our trip through the state of PvP across the MMORPG industry. Whether he’s sitting in a queue or rolling with the zerg, Sam’s all about the adrenaline rush of a good battle. Because when you boil it down, the whole reason we PvP (other than to pwn noobs) is to have fun fighting a new and unpredictable enemy!
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