WAR Producer Q&A: Free-To-Play "Endless Trial"

Mythic recently launched its "Endless Trial" program, offering Warhammer Online free-to-play from Ranks 1 through 10. ZAM gets the trial details and more from producer Josh Drescher.

Warhammer Online's latest patch, v1.3.2, continues to address many of the long-standing obstacles the MMO has faced since its launch. As we reported in October, 1.3.2 brought about the removal of forts, the New User Journey, the Apprenticeship system and more. Many fans consider the recent changes—and those upcoming in 1.3.3—vital to WAR's continued survival in today's cut-throat MMO market. One of the newest additions to the patch 1.3.2 is the Endless Trial, offering new players the chance to "try before they buy" without the former 10-day time limit.

Mythic's new Endless Trial essentially changes WAR's entire Tier 1 experience (Ranks 1 through 10) to a free-to-play MMO. We here at ZAM think it's an ambitious move, and a great way to offer potential subscribers the time they need to make an accurate, informed decision; a trial model that many other subscription-based MMOs could learn from. In an effort to learn a bit more about the details of the Endless Trial, ZAM held a Q&A with Mythic producer Josh Drescher. Read on to learn more about the free-to-play trial, as well as the New User Journey that Mythic added to help new players.

ZAM: After trying out various re-enlistment programs and retail box price points, was the Endless Trial the next logical step for WAR? Does the research indicate that "partial free-to-play" models are more enticing to new and returning players?

Josh Drescher: Absolutely. In the wake of our recent 1.3.2 update, WAR is truly better than ever and we want to give people a real chance to come and see the great improvements the game has enjoyed since launch.

Beyond that, there’s always been a concern that time-limited trials force players to have an unnecessarily stressful first interaction with the game. Especially if you’re a more casual player, 10 to 14 days may only be enough time for you to log in once or twice to try things out unless you force yourself to play more frequently. We want players to have time to come to WAR, kick the proverbial tires and try things out at THEIR pace.

ZAM: It seems like a great way to showcase WAR without time limits or obligations; but is it a fully-featured trial, without restriction until Rank 10?

Drescher: The primary restrictions relate to things like the Auction House, mail system, guild control, access to zones outside of Tier 1, etc. These limits are largely intended to reduce opportunities for abuse by spammers, gold farmers and so forth. Beyond that, trial players have access to everything that subscribers can access in Tier 1—including scenarios, RvR and Public Quests.

ZAM: How does the Endless Trial leveling mechanic work? Does it automatically cap players at Rank 10, yet allow them to continue playing in Tier 1 indefinitely, without obligation?

Drescher: Once players reach rank 10 they no longer level. However, they can continue to participate in Tier 1 content such as open RvR, Scenarios and Public quests.

ZAM: Is the Renown Rank also capped at 10?

Drescher: Because your allowable Renown Rank is dictated by your overall Rank, it’s automatically limited as well.

ZAM: Can players still experience all that professions have to offer, up to a certain skill cap? Are there any restrictions on the potions and talismans they can create?

Drescher: Endless trial players can craft potions and talismans; however, their crafting skills are capped at 125 and will only allow them to make items for players level 10 and under.

ZAM: Since players can participate in RvR and the T1 dungeon, is there a limit to the resources they can accumulate, when it comes to things like gear and gold? If not, do all those items carry over if the player decides to become a subscriber?

Drescher: There are no limits on resource accumulation (aside from personal storage space) and everything carries over once a player chooses to subscribe.

ZAM: Can you tell us a bit about the "New User Journey" for new players? Was it introduced for the sake of accessibility, more than anything else?

Drescher: Accessibility is definitely the primary, driving force behind the initiative. Internal polling and metrics had made it clear to us that one of the things that had been 'turning off' newer players was a sense of confusion about how some of the most basic parts of the game function. As MMOs become more popular with a broader audience, we need to be mindful that not everyone is automatically aware that—for example—you get quests from NPCs or that you need to train in order to learn new abilities, etc.

The New User Journey initiative was squarely aimed at helping new players—and especially players without any prior MMO experience—understand and feel comfortable with how WAR operates on a very basic level. By offering a much more detailed, but still non-intrusive system for informing players, we’re hoping to make their first experience with WAR as enjoyable as possible.

ZAM: Placing new players in a single, paired starting zone does seem like an effective way to nudge RvR and social gameplay in the right direction, but what about the other Tier 1 zones? Even though they will still be accessible via Flightmasters, isn't there a risk that all content could become "ghost towns?"

Drescher: All three of the pairings are available to new players; the only difference is that they need to travel to the Dwarf/Greenskin and High Elf/Dark Elf pairings if and when they choose to adventure there.

As for the reasoning behind the choice, it was largely a function of us wanting to make sure that new players were entering the game would be able to easily find one another, regardless of the race or career they chose.

ZAM: Does the "New User Journey" in any way affect existing players who have long since left earlier zones?

Drescher: The New User Journey is, as you might imagine, primarily targeted at new players. My expectation is that existing players would largely ignore it if and when they choose to create new characters, since it covers things they are almost certainly already aware of. It was important to us that we kept that in mind, which is why we don’t force new characters into a tutorial prior to entering the game world.

That being said, I think having more and better informed new players will provide cascading improvement for other players over time. As those new players progress through WAR, they’ll be better allies for existing players to fight beside.

ZAM: Can you explain the "Apprenticeship Program?"

Drescher: Apprenticeship went live with version 1.3.2 and allows higher level players to apprentice lower level players. This increases their effective combat level to match their master’s and allows them to adventure and fight with their friends regardless of the level gap.

ZAM: Many long-time WAR fans were a little worried when they heard the news about the recent layoffs at Mythic; a reported 40 percent of staff. Will the current situation slow WAR's continued development of new content, or the refinement of existing content?

Drescher: As stated in our Executive Producer’s letter on the subject, we remain committed to our games. Beyond that I can’t comment.

ZAM: Thanks for your time, we appreciate it!


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