Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Interview with Warhammer's Carrie Gouskos

Recently, I had a chance to ask Carrie Gouskos, of Warhammer Online, a few questions. Some of these are ones that I have been wondering about for quite a while. Speaking of WAR, did you know the patch notes for 1.3.2 are out?

Thanks for the time Carrie!


Werit: Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do for Warhammer Online?

Surely! I’m an Associate Producer at Mythic, and I was responsible for the UI and Tome of Knowledge development leading up to launch. Since we launched, I’ve taken a step back from the Live game and looked at some other side projects, leading the nebulously named Special Projects team. That included work on the Realm WAR website, producing the Mac client, and some other stuff we haven’t announced yet. Currently I’m back on Warhammer development as the Producer on Warhammer Asia.

That’s the CV, as for a brief bio about myself, I’m a former games journalist and former employee at the defunct version of Acclaim Entertainment. I obsessively collect video games and consoles (tally is at 57 right now), and I talk a lot. Also I like cupcakes.

Werit: One of the big projects you were involved in was getting Warhammer Online working on Mac's. How has that gone?

Getting Warhammer on the Macs has been much… much harder than I thought it would be. You’d think because the game was done on the PC and because we had the help of TransGaming to port the product over that it would be a cinch. But there were a lot of pieces and a lot of factors that differentiated the Mac and the PC game from a technical perspective. Fortunately for this reason, working on the Mac gave us a new perspective the PC version, and I’m very proud to say that improvements done for the Mac are going to be greatly beneficial to the PC players as well. Look it’s the Mac and PC folks working together!

Werit: What was the biggest challenge involved in getting it all to work?

Performance, performance, performance. As I mentioned, Macs work in different ways than PCs, and some of the things we did one way for the PC just didn’t play nicely with the Mac. Figuring out how to get that done, while not stealing resources hard at work on the PC game, and while still making sure everything still worked in the end, was very challenging.

Werit: Any chance we will see Linux support in the future?

Probably not. Sorry Linux people!

Werit: I've noticed there have been a bunch of improvements to the Realm War web pages. Can you catch the readers up on how that is going?

Thanks! The web team has been working very hard and I’m glad to hear it’s paid off.

Let’s see, after launch, we put together a crack team of people to take a look at the Realm WAR and figure out exactly how to best support the needs of our users when they might not have access to play the game. We all have experience of wanting to sit and fixate over our characters while we’re at work, or unable to play, or whatever.

So we outlined a whole bunch of features we wanted to support, to allow people the chance to get info about the game. We had a couple different phases of implementation, and have been gradually introducing the ideas in order of importance. For example, the most recent additions include the ability for players to log in and see which of their friends and guildmates are online or offline, as well as detailed RVR information about the last few events to occur on the server. There’s more, there’s always more of course, and we’ll get to them as it makes sense for the team.

Werit: I and others have made tools that use the Realm War information. Any chance we will see Realm War start to use XSLT? Some other MMO's implement it and it makes using the web pages much easier.

Oh so those were yours! Nice work! J Of course it’s something we’d like to do, but we’re always balancing resources. At the moment we’ve dialed back work on new features in the Realm WAR because we’re focusing on other things. But making the Realm War more malleable for the community is always a priority when we’re investigating new features for it.

Werit: Any plans to branch out Realm War into services such as RSS or Twitter?

Why yes! RSS has been on the top of our to-do list for awhile, but we just didn’t get to it. Twitter is an interesting beast, I’ve been using it for awhile now and while I think it’s great, I think a lot of companies who try to use it for marketing end up using it in the wrong way. Currently we just have individual staff accounts that aren’t really official, and one official account that gives Herald news. And I kind of like it like that. I don’t know if we’d extend it to the Realm WAR, but I guess we wouldn’t ever rule it out. That’s more bordering on Andy and the Community team’s territory though.

Actually one of the unannounced Special Projects that we’ve been investigating since the beginning of the year is an example of an extension of the Realm WAR. I can’t spoil it now, but I would keep an eye open in the next month or so for more info.

Werit: How goes the Tome of Knowledge? There have been a lot of improvements to WAR lately, but the Tome remains largely untouched.

The Tome will always be very close to my heart, but the UI and Tome were both taken over by a very talented producer (James Casey) who owns them in their entirety. I don’t know all of what he’s up to, but I expect big things!

Werit: Can you give us any hint about what the Cards page is for in the Tome?

I don’t want to spoil James’ thunder. ;) Though to be fair to him, he inherited that burdensome question from me. There is something going on with the cards, but more will be revealed later. That’s your hint.

Werit: It's hard to believe WAR is a year old. Looking back, what are you most proud of?

It’s hard not to say the Tome, because I’m extremely proud of it. But I think I’d rather highlight the work that the UI Team did in the year leading up toward launch. I was lucky to have such a talented team, and I was lucky that everyone was willing to work extraordinary hours. And I was lucky we had the ability to put features into the main game for the UI that a lot of games only have in mods. A lot of things came together that make me really proud of the UI as a product, though I wish we had more time to do more. But that’s the developer’s credo right? I wanted more time! Why’d those players have to make us launch?!