Greetings Crusaders, long time no see. We've been really busy killing Traitors in the Eternal Crusade Alpha test. Recently we had a chance to chat with Nathan Richardsson about that same Alpha test, and ask a few questions about the future of the game.
MMORPG: Now we all understand that game development it subject to changing goals and timing constraints, but having said that, there are lots of features that players are clamoring for. Without asking you to give us specific dates, I will talk about the feature and you tell us if we will see them soon-ish, not for a while, or a long way off still. Rapid fire session… here we go!
Orks and/or Eldar factions?
Nathan: Eldar is ahead, hopefully before Christmas with a basic compliment of loadouts, vehicles and classes, Orks long way off still. The problems are animations for both. Couldn’t find any Eldars or Orks in Montreal, you know? It takes a while to get them mo-capped and rigged right.
MMORPG: More subfactions (not new ones, just the rest for each faction)?
Nathan: Before Christmas!
MMORPG: Advanced/Hero/Special character classes?
Nathan: Long way off still, except the Warlord, he is soon.
MMORPG: More vehicles?
Nathan: Soon, variants of the Predator most likely.
MMORPG: More maps?
Nathan: About 2-3 weeks!
MMORPG: More Game modes?
Nathan: We’re still working on improving the three we have now, so not for a bit. But different game modes on current maps, probably soon.
MMORPG: More weapons?
Nathan: As fast as we can make them. I’d say every 2-3 weeks, sometimes faster if a new class is coming in.
MMORPG: Updates to the Rogue Trader Store?
Nathan: Before Christmas, when you can actually use the items you buy! That’s very important for us. That they actually exist, have stats, work and are usable in-game in personalized loadouts
MMORPG: Tyranids or anything to do with Tyranids or PvE?
Nathan: You’ll see it before Christmas on our Twitch and other previews but I’d be really happy with some of it in game as well before Christmas. But realistically, next year.
MMORPG: Now that we are stably playing the game on several maps, how do you feel about the overall progress since Alpha started?
Nathan: I’m incredibly happy with how things are progressing. We’ve been able to deploy pretty regularly new things, more balancing, new features at a regular pace and that’s part of the founders being part of the development. Of course we’re so far out from launch that this is about massive prototyping and experimentation which this early on should lead to a much better final product. We believe in agile development and early feedback despite some things breaking all the time but that’s what we’re there for, to break all the things!
MMORPG: How has player feedback been thus far?
Nathan: I’d say somewhere between incredibly good and fantastic. Two reasons for that because one is that it’s been predominantly positive from all sources but also, the Founders are giving us incredibly good constructive feedback. Yes, not everyone is happy, if we’d manage that we’d be ordering ourselves a Thunderbird but when we get to hear why people are not happy, based on trying out the game right now we understand better why and can do something about it.
It’s pretty key in our philosophy, addressing something now is faster, cheaper, fun and more sexy now than in 4 months where it’s painstakingly slow, no fun and costs us lots of resources. One might even say that we’re doing this in an intelligent and pragmatic way to decrease risk, increase quality and that the Eternal Crusade becomes the fun epic game it deserves to be. Or we stumbled upon a book with cool buzzwords and it’s going to be a mess.
MMORPG: Will you (BE) be allowed to create some original weapons in order to flesh out certain aspects of some classes (no pun intended)? FGor example Fire Dragons are largely anti-vehicle troops according to Lore, but they are also a Capping class for the Eldar, and those two purposes don’t exactly go hand-in-hand.
Nathan: We do have a lot of freedom with certain things, like the classes, their loadouts and so on but some things in the lore are not up for change. Up till now though we’ve found solutions and essentially that the factions have asymmetric classes helps with that as well.
The Ground Assault for example for space marines has a Shield, but Chaos doesn’t very much use shields, so we have the Mark of Nurgle for them instead. We’ve also been surprised that there are exceptions all around which helps us with balancing so I’d say in general, we stick to lore but we have more options than we thought in the beginning.
And for all the free expansion material, JC on a treadmill, our minds can’t stop racing to what we want to add… we’re all over the place.
MMORPG: In its current alpha form EC is pretty much a 40K-themed shooter, not much different than CoD or Battlefield. What sorts of unique features can we expect to really make it stand out from the run-of-the-mill shooter and working more towards the MMO side of the fence?
Nathan: Yes, Closed Alpha is a very, very early stage of the development of the game. This stage hasn’t really been open till lately where we have more indy developers which see the value of early feedback. So we decided to focus first on the core “shooter” of “massive online shooter”.
That means it is very much like many shooters, since it helps a lot with feedback and balancing with this part of the game. What we’re aiming for next, much of which you’ll start seeing early versions of before Christmas is character progression, your own inventory of items and stuff, personalized loadout with that as well as visual customization.
We call it “Deep Sexy Shooter” because instead of being a jump-in shooter, you will have persistent characters that you progress and fit with loadouts. This will continue to evolve and expand all the way till launch, adding more specialized weapons, character progression with flavors for the sub-factions and so on. Depth of character. We’ll also unleash more technical work, on number of players and graphics work to make it far more beautiful. And sexy of course.
MMORPG: The idea of having three outposts plus a one stronghold as a single territory, does that still look like a viable end goal, or are we looking at deviating from that?
Nathan: We’ll get to that in the New Year, where we start to see the territorial conquest over maps and then hopefully be able to start testing out the 16×16km “open territories” which contain 1 fortress and 3 outposts. There is also a PVE aspect to them and while at first they won’t be fully open, that is eventually the goal. But we have various modes of transports to give you that resemble and surprise you with encounters of various kinds.
The good thing about this new strategy is that instead of just one huge territory cramped with outposts, we can have hundreds of these huge territories open for battle to scale up in the conquest for Arkhona. I could be really cocky and say “you ain’t seen nothing yet” but you actually have seen some stuff in the Closed Alpha, so… let’s settle for “we’re bringing sexy back”.
MMORPG: Originally the mechanics for the melta gun were loosely modeled on the original lascannon mechanics. Has the changing lascannon mechanic had an impact on the planned Melta mechanics?
Nathan: Not long term no, because we often use mechanics we already have to create prototypes. The melta will have its own mechanics when we have a good idea of how we want it to be. That’s essentially how we work this early on, placeholders that are easy to work with and get us 80-95% of the way and then we create the final mechanic.
With Unreal Engine 4, this prototyping and creating mechanics happens even faster and sometimes we get stuff straight out of the box. Ok, we didn’t actually get a real box from them with stuff in it, it’s a metaphor.
MMORPG: Many thanks to Nathan for taking the time to answer a few questions for us, I hope everyone reading this is as excited as I am about where our Crusade has brought us thus far, and where we are headed next. As always, if you want to jump straight into the Alpha test with the rest of us, the founder packs are still on sale!