Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Is Done After Five Years

Five years to the day after its release, EA has announced the shutdown of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.

A Notice of Shutdown was posted on the official Warhammer Online website today, listing December 18th as the final day Age of Reckoning will be online. The notice was accompanied by a developer post from Age of Reckoning Producer Carrie Gouskos. Along with recounting how she got hired onto the project from Gamespot, and that has “…spent six of the last seven years of my life working on Warhammer.” The shutdown stems from Mythic and Games Workshop’s license deal ending, and after five years, it seems like both companies are ready to walk away. Gouskos does note that the relationship between the two companies “remains strong,” so let’s hope Age of Reckoning isn’t the last collaboration between the two.

Gouskos revealed some scrapped Warhammer Online projects in her farewell post, including an iPhone companion app that was developed, certified, then scrapped circa 2009-10. Other killed projects include a free-to-play version for Asia, an expansion called Blood Hunt, and a MOBA-style spinoff game called Wrath of Heroes.

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning was released on September 18th, 2008, and peaked with 800,000 registered users that same month. Despite deep canon and a focus on PvP (the ongoing Realm War), Age of Reckoning would eventually fall to 300,000 players in 2009. There don’t seem to be any official numbers available after 2009, but there are only three official Age of Reckoning servers online – down from 13 worldwide servers in 2009 – one in North America, one in Germany, and a third for the rest of Europe.

The full text of the shutdown notice has been included below.

Reflections on my experiences with Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
Carrie Gouskos, Producer

I was first introduced to Warhammer Online, when it was added last minute to GameSpot.com’s E3 2006 stage show. As one of the hosts of the show, my responsibility was to research the game and the franchise, gather questions from the audience, and give a thoughtful informative interview with whomever had been sent over from the development team.

I never could have anticipated what happened next. Jeff Hickman (Executive Producer) and Paul Barnett (Creative Director) gave one of the most memorable interviews in my career – and suddenly I was thrown into their universe. The online chat channel soliciting questions from the viewing public was spammed with directives like “No more questions, just let them keep talking” – which is not surprising if you’re at all familiar with Jeff Hickman’s indefatigable charisma and Paul Barnett’s passionate humor. The tone, candor, and refreshing quality of how they spoke about this game that they so clearly cared about made you just want to be a part of it. What was more surprising, however, was what followed – a large group of developers, perhaps delirious after three days of non-stop game demos, partly exhilarated by the positive response to the game, showed up at the GameSpot booth and invited me to their studio E3 party. I declined, because they scared me a little bit, but in retrospect it’s not hard to imagine how I ended up – three months later as a designer working at Mythic on Warhammer.

I made an offhanded comment the other day to someone on the Warhammer team that I spent six of the last seven years of my life working on Warhammer. There were breaks in there, but most of them still related to Warhammer in some way. Some aspects of these efforts never saw the light of day. For example, we completed, passed review, and ultimately opted not to release an iPhone companion application that would allow players to monitor the realm war and their guild status – three whole years before the studio decided to take mobile by its horns. We also spent over a year on a version aimed at the Asian markets that would convert the entire game free-to-play. The Vampire themed Blood Hunt expansion would have been a marvel. And in under a year we produced a spin-off product Wrath of Heroes, a MOBA-style game that used mostly Warhammer assets – which despite being a tremendous learning experience, never made it out of Beta. There are many memories like this, ones that I feel comfortable sharing now – including the fact that we do have two of the four remaining fully built cities (Karaz-A-Karak and Karak Eight Peaks which are truly truly beautiful but would take months and months of optimization before they could match the changes we made to the game along the way). And one of the greatest lessons I ever learned as the young unpolished Tome of Knowledge designer “Never put anything in the game that isn’t done yet and hint that it’s coming soon – see: The Cards system”. There were some beautiful ideas that were left on the cutting room floor. And they represent only a fraction of how much heart went into the game.

Most everything else made it, and Warhammer despite its flaws was a valiant effort into the MMO space. I don’t think any of its critics would ever call it boring. It struck out boldly, and some of the game’s novel features are now considered industry standard for MMOs. The credit goes to far too many to list it out here, and it’s almost irrelevant. The point is that some of the most talented people in gaming made Warhammer possible. They worked insanely long hours, and they put their heart and soul into trying to make this beautiful IP a living and breathing universe. World class artists. Genius engineers. Designers and content implementers who would put in 100 hours a week and not complain. Hard-ass producers who you would follow into battle anywhere. Writers that truly transported you. QA that wouldn’t let us get away with a thing. And so many others. For those that are still with Mythic and those that have since moved on, we couldn’t have asked for a more driven team dedicated to bringing this amazing franchise to life.

And finally, the players. If I were to list out all of the great experiences I’ve had with you, this would be a novel, so I want to say thank you from all of us to all of you for sticking with us so long. Even when you didn’t like the changes, even if you thought we made mistakes. The community made this game possible. And a special shout out to Tink for Pink – which was truly the measure of a community coming together to do something right.

Games Workshop has cultivated a world class IP. We were lucky enough to play in their universe for nearly a decade, with five great long years live. However, like all things – our contract has come to an end. Both Games Workshop and Mythic agreed to part ways, despite how hard it is emotionally on us to let the game go. It has been a tremendous honor to work with Games Workshop and even though we may be parting ways, our relationship with them remains strong. And now, hopefully, because this may be the last thing I ever write about Warhammer, I’ll be allowed to acknowledge the existence of Chaos Dwarves. Or maybe not.

We look forward to seeing you on the battlefield… at least until the war is over… and once again, we thank you humbly for five amazing years.

 

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5 Comments on Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning Is Done After Five Years

rickshaw

On September 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Great game loved the beta but hated the subscription shame they never woke up to opening the game to the mass’s

folklore

On September 18, 2013 at 5:33 pm

It is a sad day for that. The game was one of the few mmo’s that actually managed to hold my attention. Well good night Warhammer Online. Hopefully the upcoming warhammer 40k mmo finally manages to get made.

Aedelric

On September 18, 2013 at 6:15 pm

The fact that they are primarily shutting down due to the licensing deal having expired does make me much more apprehensive with trying out the upcoming Warhammer 40k MMO. An MMO is a very time consuming game and the characters you create are a cherished part of your life, I am not one to take a chance on something when it quite likely will not continue after five years due to contracts. I guess that is the advantage of playing games where the developer owns the IP, makes me glad Guild Wars 2 is my MMO of choice these days.

It is a shame as I believe Mythic squandered an opportunity with Warhammer as a Free to Play version would have been hugely popular if done correctly, especially if they jumped on the bandwagon early like Turbine did with LOTRO. I did try the free trial and it did have interesting and enjoyable features, but none that warranted a subscription fee, not that any modern MMO can justify a subscription fee these days.

Red Menace

On September 18, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I have an unopened copy somewhere. All my friends had moved back to WoW before I got it. Anyone want an unopened copy? Still has the free month code and everything!

psycros

On September 20, 2013 at 4:19 pm

WH was rife with design flaws. Not enough classes, not enough races – every character in a class looked identical. You really felt the rail underneath you, too. The “evil” side was truly evil, and that’s not something that appeals to many gamers outside of Eve Online. It also looked and felt like a cheap WoW ripoff – and that’s sad considering that Warcraft could have *been* Warhammer if Games Workshop had been smarter.