Tyranids. To the veteran Warhammer 40K player the name inspires chills down the spine, a combination of awe and trepidation; and why? The Tyranids are an alien race from beyond the known galaxy. They arrived in this galaxy in 745 M41, along the Eastern Fringes, and since then their dreaded Hive Fleets have infested planet after planet. Once these planets have been stripped of their bio-matter the invasive Hive moves on, leaving behind a despoiled husk, incapable of supporting life.
Tyranids are an vast mixture of various bio-forms, all of which are based on the same basic genetic core, and then intelligently bio-manipulated to serve one of many roles deemed necessary by the Hive Mind. Subspecies vary from the diminutive Rippers and 'Gaunts, to the massive Carnifexes, to the stealthy assassin Lictors. The Hive Mind uses the bio-matter retrieved by the Hive to replenish combat losses, but also to constantly improve the species by absorbing and recreating biological traits from other species. There are those who believe that the impressive psychic power displayed by the Zoanthropes are the direct result of the Tyranid absorption of the Eldar genome.
Tyranids play no favorites, and have no allies, predating on every known type of world and culture. Whatever lies in their path is attacked and devoured. This then makes them the perfect foil for Behaviour Interactive to use as the “equalizers” in their upcoming 40K MMO, Eternal Crusade. We recently had the chance to speak to Miguel Caron, Studio Head at Behaviour Online, and asked him some questions about the role of the Tyranids in Eternal Crusade.
Tyranids are just one aspect of what Behaviour is calling asymmetric balancing, along with using four factions and other, less obvious systems. Essentially, the more territory a faction controls, the more they will need to defend, with whatever resources are available. Tyranids are intelligent, they will attack whatever faction has won a big battle, while they are still weakened and recovering, thus exposing the Tyranids to less risk. Also, while other big battles between factions are raging, the Tyranids will look for lightly defended areas to despoil, forcing whichever faction they attack to send vital resources from elsewhere to repel the attacks.
Speaking of Tyranid intelligence, when we asked Miguel if synapse behavior would be accurately modeled in Eternal Crusade, he let out an evil laugh. Not only will synapse behavior be modeled, the Dev team has brought an A.I. Expert aboard, to design, from the ground up, a specific A.I. just for the Tyranids. It's difficult to apply a standard “human” A.I. to the Tyranids, as they don't have the same concerns and motivations as most cultures do. They are mostly concerned with two things: consuming bio-matter and species propagation. Even self-preservation takes a back seat to growing the Hive as a whole, something sure to surprise players when they run into it.
Balance isn't the whole purpose of the Tyranids in Eternal Crusade though, they are also there to provide the factions with an opponent in both Dungeons and Raids. Dungeons is the term Miguel used to refer to instanced underworld areas, jam-packed with enemies that must be cleared to reach the “bosses”, a lot like your standard MMO would have. Dungeons will be procedurally generated, to keep players on their toes, and populated with a variety of opponents, largely, but not exclusively, Tyranids. Other potential dungeon opponents will be revealed later, as the crew at Behaviour don't want to spill all the beans just yet. Right now, the idea is for Dungeons to be balanced around teams of five players, but that could change, as the Dev team explores more of the possibilities. The reward for clearing these dungeons will be rare resources and artifacts that will benefit the player and, potentially, their faction.
Raids, on the other hand, sound like they are aimed at the brave. Imagine dropping a team into a Tyranid Hive, outside of friendly territory, right in the middle of bug-central. The players will have to defeat wave after wave of enemies, increasing in ferocity and frequency, until the strike team is over run and destroyed, or victory is achieved. With little to no support from home, these raids sound like they could very well be one way trips. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
We asked Miguel about what sorts of Tyranids we will see in Eternal Crusade, and, while admitting to us that he had to hold some of them back, he did confirm these:
In addition to sharing all this information on Tyranids, Miguel spoke to us a bit about the upcoming Founders Program. It will be unveiled at E3, June 10th to June 12th, but what we see at E3 will just be the beginning. Every month after the unveiling there will be more and more items and content added for Founders to check out and purchase and each Founder will receive the title of “Vanguard”. Keep your eyes peeled here as we bring you more from the game every other week in this column.