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What's New in Early Access & a Peek Into the Future

Terry OBrien Posted:
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Greetings fellow Crusaders, it's been a long while, but we're back with more coverage of Behaviour Interactive's upcoming Eternal Crusade, a third person Shooter set in Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 universe. Since last we spoke, Eternal Crusade has been early-released on Steam, to positive reviews from those who ventured into the early-release, and a lot of things have changed and grown since then.

Today we are speaking to Nathan Richardsson, the Senior Producer on Eternal Crusade, and we are going to find out exactly what's new in EC, and what's coming up in the future.

MMORPG: Hello Nathan, it's been a while since we've spoken. How are things going with the Early-Access?

Nathan Richardsson: We’re incredibly happy with the reception. While we’re doing it in a rather unconventional way, where we’re deploying an Alpha and then doing rapid updates so there’s a lot of changes happening, most people seem to understand. On the other hand, the perception of “Early Access” on Steam is that it’s almost a finished game, or a beta or somewhere there in between. We’re weathering that by constantly adding new things and we’ll soon unleash the MMO elements we haven’t enabled yet. That’ll change the perception from lobby shooter, which was intentional on our part to get a “shooter” as part of an “online massive shooter” and that the feedback was solely focused on the shooter part.

Having 60 things broken and getting feedback on all that is far worse and a bad development practice rather than getting 20 things getting right and the feedback focused on that, then take the next 20 systems and integrate that. You know, kind of trying to be practical and pragmatic about how to develop a game! Having said that, we’re still at 75% on Steam which we find fantastic for an Alpha in the very critical environment of Steam Early Access.

MMORPG: Now that players have gotten some time into Early Access, I've been logging some time on the official Forums, gathering a few questions for you, let’s jump right in. Now that we have seen some of the early work on the Eldar, (and they look fantastic, by the way), there are a ton of players wondering when we might see some Ork-y stuff? Perhaps in time for Beta?

NR: The Eldar are now at blazing speed internally, the Eldar development pipeline is getting everything assembled so that we can finally deploy the “full complement” of Eldar. That means they have their classes, weapons, vehicles, abilities, animations, VFX etc. in an Alpha state and can field a team against the current factions. If we’d added them piecemeal, it would not have been fun with 30 people playing the same aspect warrior with the same weapon and no vehicles against a raging Chaos Space Marine force even though it might float some people’s boats.

Which brings me to Orks. We’ve already started on them. When the Eldar development pipeline guys finish up on them, they start moving over to the Ork tasks. Are they right around the corner? No, but we already have stuff materializing, motion capture arrived, vehicles well on their way, their weapons a work in progress and we’ll start unveiling them straight after the formal introduction of Eldar.

And our definition of graduating from Alpha to Beta includes a full complement of Orks so yes, they will be there.

MMORPG: How about seeing some of the Eldar getting to be playable in the Early-Access?

NR: Absolutely! They arrive before Orks and we really don’t have that much left of Eldar, they are measured in weeks actually and I think the design team is about to start balancing them on our Closed Alpha Founder’s server.

MMORPG: We know you guys are still in Early Access, that's not the same thing as Beta, right? When do you suppose Beta will start?

NR: It actually is the same as Beta. Alpha and Beta are simply stages of completion for us. It’s ambiguous in the industry what people call things. We use Steam Early access as a framework for our customers to easily access and engage with us. Then we also use a lot of Steamworks as part of the game, like the anti-cheat, voice, distribution, build pipelines … Steamworks is a set of pretty powerful developer tools so we don’t really use Early Access as many others.

Some put a game in Early Access just a couple of months before launch, as a beta or pre-order-ish thing, others use it to fund themselves from pre-alpha, we use it for their tools and convenience for our customers. So our “Closed Alpha”, “Closed Beta”, “Pre-orders” and the actual game is all by buying the Early Access pass. Really simple.

Regarding when we graduate to Beta is another thing, for us it’s a set of features, content, systems that have to be in place where we consider ourselves having completed the Alpha stage and now we have something we can call a “Massive Online Shooter” and not just “lobby shooter”. When the features are there in their first iterations, we graduate. That’s within months.

MMORPG: Will we see more features added before Beta gets here? What might they be?

NR: We often refer to the “Massive Online” part as the systems we’re working on now. You can put there everything from better matchmaking and regional servers, territorial conquest, character progression, 1000s of weapon variations and accessories, visual customization, PVE, game modes. Quite a few things.

After that we go to Beta and then we launch. For us, launch is just another day though as we have the entire team continuing developing free updates and expansions just as usual. We simply move out of the Early Access section and keep on giving free content and features for years and years. Simple as that.

MMORPG: The EC forum is always full of guys who want to know when, or even if, they will see their favorite weapons, particularly two-handed weapons. Are those slated for Beta, or possibly post-release?

NR: Weapons are coming before Beta! Hundreds! We’ll populate the Founder’s weapons directly to their inventories first, we’ll add accessories and other such thing so you can specialize your class in certain directions like most massive online games allow you to do. We also have weapon modding of course which allows you to take that direction further or simply be a hybrid. This comes both through the loadout where you’ll get suggestions of weapons you can buy and from rewards in matches.

Two-handed weapons haven’t started yet and just being skeptical, I can’t say when because they are an entirely new set of motion capture, animations and executions.  And right now, we have our hands full with getting everything else in, like, all the things! Also in this case, it’s the same people that work on factions, so choosing between shoving in two-handed weapons vs working on Orks is a very easy choice for us.

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Terry OBrien

Terry OBrien / Terry is a Features Writer at MMORPG.com, and resident Warhammer guru. He is old, he remembers playing Telengard on a Commodore 64 in the early eighties. He wants all you kids and your new-fangled video games off his lawn!