1Up has put together a preview of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, based on a demonstration they received of the MMORPG from senior designer Josh Drescher.
When we express a hint of concern at the way each of the game's 24 classes can be boiled down to MMORPG conventions -- Dwarf Ironbreaker = tank, Bright Hunter = mage, etc. -- Drescher quickly extols the virtues of this system. "First of all, there are places where tradition has real value. The four, core archetypical roles -- tank, melee DPS, ranged DPS, healer -- represent the distilled wisdom of generations of fantasy gaming drawing on everything, to name a few, pen and paper RPGs, table top wargaming and, of course, PC RPGs and MMOs. These are roles that need to be filled, and a game that tries to eliminate them simply for the sake of being 'different' is going to seriously disappoint its players."
A fair point, but what remains to pull in experienced RPG veterans who are tired of the glut of similar fantasy MMOs featuring similar classes? Drescher answers, "We keep in mind the demands of the IP, making sure to stay true to the spirit and vision of the 25 years of Warhammer games that precede us. We keep in mind balance and parity, so that basic, engaging functions are available on both sides of the war. We keep in mind playability, so that we aren't just layering on tons of random abilities simply for the sake of variety. And, of course, we keep in mind fun." Drescher laughs at this obvious yet oh-so-often overlooked bullet point. "Balance and variety are important, but [Senior Producer] Jeff Hickman and [EA Mythic President/CEO] Mark Jacobs will feed us all to a pack of wolverines if the game isn't fun."