TSA Talks To Space Marine Director

This interview could have gone very wrong. Conducted over email, the initial salvo of questions included a few… strange enquiries.

In an effort to involve my wife in what I was doing, I had asked for her input. She hates games, you understand. But that doesn’t stop me trying to make her interested. So I showed her a few screenshots of Space Marine, the upcoming Warhammer 40k shooter and wrote down the questions she had.

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One of them was, “ARE ALL THE MEN SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE SUBMARINES?.” Another was “WHICH IS THE RUBBISHEST GUN?” In capitals. I chuckled to myself and thought, “I’ll delete them later.”

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Except I didn’t. Because I’m an idiot. So we should be grateful that Space Marine game director Raphael van Lierop agreed to answer my questions at all, even if this interview is a bit later than expected. So cheers Raphael, we owe you a pint.

If you want to check out our Space Marine preview, you can do so here.

TSA: What can you tell us about the story and how it pans out?

Raphael van Lierop: Space Marine’s story is an epic blockbuster experience that puts players in the role of Captain Titus of the Ultramarines. An important Imperial Forge World, Graia, has just been invaded by millions of Orks who want to get his hands on the Titans, massive war machines built to level entire cities.

You have been sent with a small strike force to take back strategic locations, and protect the Titans until a larger liberation fleet can arrive.

But you are quickly pulled into a much darker storyline, involving the Imperial Inquisition, some secret research they have been involved with on the planet, and powerful technology they cannot allow to fall into enemy hands.

Racing to recover this research and keep it out of Ork hands, you and your battle brothers are drawn into a conspiracy that reveals a mysterious connection between Captain Titus, and some of the story’s darker truths.

Ultimately, you will stand face to face with your greatest fear – the forces of Chaos themselves, and the neverending fear of ‘taint’ that might lead you into their dark and perverse world. How Titus responds to these events defines him as a hero, and sets the stage for his continuing story.

[drop]TSA: The similarities between Space Marine and Gears of War are pretty obvious, and not something that you’re shying away from. Do you see that as a plus or a minus?

RvL: Many people call out superficial similarities that are then dispelled once they play Space Marine. That said, it is always flattering to be compared to such a highly polished and successful franchise.

We believe we have a game that delivers something fresh and unique within the crowded 3rd-person shooter space, and any similarities to existing games can only work in our favour as this makes it easier for players to get right into our game, where they can then experience all the ways in which it is different.

TSA: It’s interesting. You could argue that Gears was inspired by Warhammer 40k, visually at least. I’m thinking specifically about the design of the heavy armour and the chainsaw melee weapon. But not everybody will understand that. Do you feel pressure to let people know Space Marine did it first?

RvL: There’s always an education that needs to happen when you have a setting that has been around a while and has inspired countless other works of fiction, games, movies, etc. The question of origination comes up, and we do call out that our starting point in creating this game was to deliver the core fantasy of being the Warhammer 40,000 universe’s most iconic hero – the Space Marine.

For us, that title means something very specific – it is not a generic label. And we feel that in a way we are reclaiming the name – showing that the Space Marine is something unique and compelling and able to stand on its own.

In the end, we are all inspired by the same things, and I’m sure we and other games inspired by Warhammer 40,000 can look back even further to see the fiction and ideas that have inspired it. This cycle of re-interpretation can be very positive, provided everyone adds something fresh to the idea pool and broadens it for others to build on.

TSA: There have been loads of videogames based on Games Workshop creations, but this one seems like a far more deliberate push for the masses. Why now?

RvL: I think this goes back to the relationship with GW I mentioned earlier. At Relic, we’ve worked on the Dawn of War series for the past 8 years, and have had a lot of success with that franchise. And there were people in the studio who wanted to express other points of view, showing this IP through a completely different lens – in this case the action blockbuster.

Of course, by creating a triple-A 3rd-person action-shooter, you are wading into a massively competitive market, and there are things about making an action game on the console that force you make the experience as accessible as possible. But, we’ve done this without ever dumbing down the IP or the experience in any way.

We believe we have taken concepts that are a natural, organic extension of the core IP pillars of the setting, and have found ways to express them as a blockbuster action experience.

TSA: Relic’s history is largely built around the RTS. How are the guys making the transition into third-person shooters? Presumably there are few transferable skills?

RvL: The Space Marine team is comprised of veteran Relic developers who have built lots of award-winning RTS games, and know the Warhammer 40,000 IP better than anyone outside of Games Workshop.

Over the past 2.5 years of development, we’ve supplemented that core with outside talent, people who have console action game development experience. Combining those two talent pools has created a kind of ‘alloy’ that is stronger than each would be individually.

[drop2]TSA: You’ve already stated that there will be a weighty single-player campaign. What about co-op and multiplayer?

RvL: Space Marine has a blockbuster single-player campaign that runs about 10-12 hours long, or longer depending on player skill and difficulty. Beyond that, we have a robust Multiplayer component that we’ll be devoting a lot of specific press to in the weeks ahead.

TSA: I’ve spoken to a variety of devs over the past few months that feel that a multiplayer aspect is essential to most games, for commercial reasons. The demand for stand-alone single-player experiences is dwindling. Is that something you agree with?

RvL: I agree that developers have been forced to find ways to make our games more ‘sticky’ with consumers so they are less likely to rent them or return them for resale.

TSA: Last up, “Visible, violent death” is the mantra you guys are using for the game. It’s certainly not for the squeamish. Why push for so much blood and guts?

RvL: The depiction of extreme violence in Space Marine has everything to do with the expectations of the IP. The famous tagline for the table-top game is, “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.” That gives you a sense of what the fiction is about.

This is a grim, dark science-fiction universe that is not at all a happy-go-lucky place. For most people, death is always just around the corner. It is quarter-to-midnight for the human race; our species faces inevitable extinction.

Against this brutal backdrop, we need incredible heroes that inspire fear into the hearts of humanity’s enemies, and hope in the hearts of those who dare to fight against the encroaching darkness. The Space Marines are these heroes, and our game lets you be one.

TSA: Cheers Raphael.

We’d like to extend our sincerest thanks to Raphael and everyone at THQ who made this interview possible.

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12 Comments

  1. Great interview. I’ve always been interested in 40K, though opted to play Warhammer Fantasy (when I used to be into the hobby.) That said, I’m definitely going to be picking this one up.

  2. Great interview – I’m pretty excited for this game – shame he didn’t answer your wife’s questions though.

  3. Cannot wait for this! I trust Relic more than nearly any other developer so I’m very, very excited about this.

    • So, there’s a high probability that Relic will deliver a polished PS3 version?

      • Yep, there is. Relic don’t do things by half, they really are passionate about the games they make.

    • Relic have an impressive record re 40k

  4. Good interview, video was cool too, might check this out.

    Also, I would love to read a game review written by your wife… I’m sure the results would be hilarious for all?

  5. I know it’s based on toy-soldiers but everything I’ve seen of this title so far just looks massively ill-proportioned. I was really hoping they could pull this off without it looking like the movie “Small Soldiers” with Tommy Lee Jones in it. Google it (if you dare…) and you’ll see what I mean

  6. Used to get the White Dwarf mag all the time and really enjoyed reading the battle reports. Need to keep an eye out for the cgi Ultramarines movie. I’m hoping for good things from this game and it’s one I’ve got my eye on.

  7. gave up playing the real thing years ago but the games always drew me in. loved relics last work with warhammer. even thought this does look a bit like a grunt fest i’ll still want to try it out at some point

  8. Nice interview, I played a Dawn of War but so far that has been my only Warhammer experience.

    Also I admit, the question I most wanted answering was
    “ARE ALL THE MEN SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE SUBMARINES?.”

    Classic ;)

  9. I used to play 40k back in the mid 90s and this game does look cool. The disproportional armour and characters kinda fit in the 40k mythos: Space marines are genetically engineered warriors of the far future. It would be perhaps more interesting and fun to be an imperial guard solider – weak and fragile, compared to the triple hard johnny biglegs of the Space Marines who are nigh indestrucdible(apart from being shot in the face like most things).

    I liked the Eldar more than the imperium, they’re much sleeker and are basically space elves. A game based on them would rock. Also the Tau are pretty cool too, I had great times with Fire Warrior on PS2 but it’s aged badly.

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