There’s a lot of potential to Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade, blending grand multiplayer battles with a persistent over world for you and your chosen faction to fight over. Unfortunately, as you can read in our preview, it’s a game that is still ripening through the Steam Early Access process, with a number of bugs and features yet to be added.
Having played some of a very early build on PlayStation 4 for the first time, we sat down with Mathieu Fecteau, Associate Producer at Behaviour Interactive, to talk about the game and it’s development.
TSA: There’s been quite a few Games Workshop games in the last few years, some better than others, so why should people be excited for Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade?
Mathieu Fecteau: Because it’s the first real massive online shooter [in this universe]! We’re using not only one part of the IP, but we’re going wide in its lore and we’re expecting to go further, so it’s not a standalone game that will not evolve anymore.
From our point of view, it’s the most immersive game in the universe. The other games that are in production are mostly a portion and they stay there, so the goal for us is to explore, from time to time, the whole experience of the lore.
TSA: It’s also interesting that this is the first time that anyone’s really tried to do a big multiplayer shooter in the 40K universe, and that’s pretty surprising given how it’s a perfect setting for this kind of game. Why do you think it’s taken this long?
Mathieu: So, the IP only started to get known outside the tabletop game a couple of years ago. Before Dawn of War, the IP was not that well known to videogame players, but now we’re confident that it has coverage wide enough to get people interested.
But in particular, why this IP? Because we like it! [laughs] On the team, there’s a huge amount of people who are Warhammer fans from before the videogames. I’ve personally been one of these for the past 15 years.
TSA: Are you good at painting the models? I was always terrible…
Mathieu: Yes I am, I’m a good painter! I won’t say that I’m a pro painter, because people like to say that, but I’m quite good.
TSA: Obviously there’s some give and take, because a third person shooter is so different to a tabletop game, but how much can you take from the tabletop, how it’s all balanced, and so on? Because, with the Eldar, they’re very fast but quite weak, for example.
Mathieu: Like Nathan [Ricardsson, Senior Producer] said in the presentation, we’re not based on the tabletop, we’re based on the lore. Obviously, we had to look at the tabletop, because the rules there are based on the lore too. If you take a Dire Avenger from the Eldar, one on one in the tabletop game, a Space Marine will just crush them because of their stats, but it’s balanced by the way you can build your army.
So we had to modify the game around that. Games Workshop is really open to going into the lore instead of just the stats of the tabletop, and that’s why a Dire Avenger still has very good armour, though it’s not as good as a Space Marine and it’s not balanced exactly the same.
We’re kind of in between. We had to look at the tabletop, but didn’t want to use the tabletop exactly as it is, because that wouldn’t work…
TSA: And also, you only have a small number of classes and only a handful of vehicles.
Mathieu: Exactly. The way we are imitating this is with the custom loadouts, so that if you want to have a Storm Shield, it will cost a bit more so you won’t be able to afford that mini grenade.
TSA: One very interesting thing is that this is to be a persistent shooter, with battles tying into the overworld, but how does that actually work for the players?
Mathieu: When you say persistent, it’s related to the world. So the map will move around by who controls territories, and the frontier moves depending on the situation. This will have an impact on the position of everyone, and that’s the persistent world itself.
At some point you’re going to ask me, “But what do you get at the end?” There is no end, it’s just controlling territories, and we’re going to see how to balance that when the game is running.
TSA: So does the world reset every once in a while? Are there special rewards for a winning faction after each week?
Mathieu: You’ve got rewards, yeah, but it won’t reset for now. We might come to do resets, I don’t know, but I don’t want to go there and it’s really far from something I could state for you to put officially! [laughs]
But yes, there are rewards. A match will bring you reward boxes, reward stats, medals and things like this, so basically, people will play to get honours and bling for their armour. Factions will get rewarded for the whole thing, but it’s really individual, because you also have the persistence of your character, which evolves with a progression tree, stats and equipment.
TSA: Another interesting point which took me a little while to figure out, is that only certain classes can capture points in the objective game mode.
Mathieu: Yes, and this is related to the tabletop game. To avoid having someone play as a class that is so specialised and so strong in one thing, it’s balanced by the fact that, yes you’re strong, but you need those little regular guys – well, I wouldn’t say that Space Marines are little! So you need those Tacticals, those Dire Avengers and the War Boyz to capture objectives. The other classes are really useful, because they’re going to cover you to hold the objectives.
TSA: Yeah, so it’s another incentive to work as a team and stick together? And to avoid having five Striking Scorpions, with their very powerful melee in one room?
Mathieu: Or you’d see five Devastator guys just back to back [machine gun noise] and taking an objective. That would be unbeatable! [laughs]
TSA: Finally, how do you deal with the endless list of community requests? Do you just shuffle everything into a box to deal with them later?
Mathieu: There’s two kinds of requests. There’s requests regarding the lore, and there’s requests regarding features, bugs or what seems to be problems. If it’s to do with the lore, we put it in the box and we’ll see, because it’s so huge.
TSA: And I guess you have your own plan and timetable, as well.
Mathieu: Yeah. “I want Tau in the game! I want Tau!” they say. We can’t just say, “OK, here’s the Tau!” or just spend $1 million to get the Tau in just for you.
But requests regarding the balancing of the game really comes from the players. We have the forums and the Founders [who bought the game’s pre-Early Access version], and our game designers are talking with them, not just listening, they’re talking to them.
The Founders are on a special server, called a UAT server, that is under NDA, and we can put there anything that is in progress or not working yet, so we can test and get feedback. We even have maps that are just blocky layouts still. So in terms of balancing and features, we’re really close to them and we’re listening and we’re playing these things.
So they’re two opposite things. Lore-wise, sorry, but we have a roadmap that you’re going to like anyway.
Thanks to Mathieu for talking to us, you can check out our preview here, with the game currently out on Steam Early Access and planned for a final release in Summer 2016.