I worked on WAR for three years and had two jobs – Lead Concept Artist and later, Lead UI Designer. I had been the Lead Character Artist on Mythic’s other project leading up to WAR: Imperator (a Romans-in-Space MMO that was cancelled), so I managed to keep my hands in some of the production art for the game as well. Mythic gave me the opportunity to try out a lot of different roles from my time on Dark Age of Camelot forward, and I learned a great deal about game development in the process.
As Lead Concept Artist working on a licensed IP, I managed a team of internal and external artists trying to achieve a great style while keeping Games Workshop happy. I painted my fair share of concepts as well. We were very proud to see the art we developed for the project continue to influence the future of Warhammer long after Warhammer Online itself had gone offline. The canon artwork for the tabletop books was largely focused on character designs (for the miniatures), so our time spent developing the world and its architecture was foundational for the future of the IP.
In the final year of development I worked with a team to redesign the UI from the ground up. One of my favorite designs was “Open Grouping” – a feature for allowing players to find a group seamlessly in the game. Prior to WAR, MMO players would use a “Looking For Group” tool to add themselves to a list of available players or find other groups who had flagged themselves as looking for a group. In WAR, we defaulted all groups to open and allowed players to join them in one click, providing a list of groups sorted based on distance and activity. This feature was very popular and helped players succeed in fights and to form connections. Similar systems became commonplace in the industry afterwards. Community is the lifeblood of online games, so finding ways to help players form connections is perhaps the most important thing we could do as developers.
After Warhammer shipped in 2007 and failed to meet expectations, Mythic went through a period of years when it would start projects but not finish them. The studio took several years to reestablish it’s identity as a mobile developer (after I had left), and was sadly shut down just as it was finding its feet. During those intermediate years I worked on many projects – Warhammer, Ultima, and pitches for new IP.
In those years I got hands on with the first iPhone, prototyped and pitched a location-based game (years before Pokemon Go would prove the potential). I made some assets for Dragon Age 2 during our time as a Bioware studio. I also had a chance to develop and pitch some original IP. While none of these opportunities really lead anywhere, the experience taught me a lot about pre-production and how to do it right, because I also saw how it could be wasted.
Mythic grew from a small indie developer working on Dark Age of Camelot to a large EA Studio, and then experienced a crisis-of-culture. My 8 years there were a fantastic education in game development, the design process, and the business.