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Alpha Testing & Beyond with Nathan Richardsson

Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade Interviews - By Suzie Ford on October 09, 2015

Alpha Testing & Beyond with Nathan Richardsson

Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade entered closed alpha just a few short weeks ago, and has been getting tons of updates weekly ever since. We caught up with Executive Producer Nathan Richardsson to chat about the game, and what's next.

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MMORPG: Your cadence has been insane already with the Alpha. There’s a lot of new content being added weekly. Are you planning on keeping this pace all the way into beta and beyond?

Nathan Richardsson: Yes, absolutely! It’s important for us to keep founders in a tight feedback loop with us, so when we’re developing and have an iteration ready, pre-balanced and tested, it pretty much gets deployed immediately. That way, we can incorporate feedback faster, and deploy new iterations or re-balanced versions, be that a map or a weapon. 

Moving forward when we’re into Beta, I can see the deployments having a longer gap, maybe major additions every 2-3 weeks and minor ones in between. That’s just because we’ll be pouring more time into optimizations, performance tuning, polish and quality before deploying to Beta. Alpha will still be running with our Founders while Beta has started though as kind of the rapid iteration server for us. Our Founders are with us through thick and thin and they’ll be a big part continuing towards launch, so we think they’re all prepared to a more bumpier ride on the Alpha server as well as the smoother ride on the Beta server.

MMORPG: With that in mind, are you on target for the additional races to be added? When do you think we’ll start to learn more about the Orks and the Eldar?

Nathan: When we re-scoped at the beginning of the year and set the target to get the core “shooter” right, then adding the “massive” layer afterwards, we put a lot of things on hold which weren’t going to make it in time for an accelerated schedule or wasn’t part of making a great core shooter. Orks and Eldar wasn’t going to make it with their full complement of classes, weapons, vehicles etc., so they were put almost entirely on hold.

I’m happy to say though that we’re back and started, Eldar are being rigged and textured as we speak. When we’ll see them in Alpha and Beta I can’t say yet till I have my asset and outsourcing plan with our partners set. I’m hoping though that we’ll be able to get a basic set of them in the near future, perhaps not with as many variations of weapons and accessories, or on maps which don’t require the full complement of “stuff”.

MMORPG: What has the feedback been like in alpha? Are people digging the actual gameplay?

Nathan: Frankly, we were scared shitless opening the Alpha at the time. It’s always like that when you’ve worked really hard, poured your blood, sweat and tears into it and you’re about to show yourself to the world. I mean it. I mean … no, not that. Anyways, if someone tells you that they aren’t anxious when you finally deploy something, they are lying, no matter how confident they are in the fun, quality or performance of what they’ve achieved.

Then the first impressions started pouring in, and they were all fantastic, we could barely believe it. People have been looking for a great Warhammer 40,000 massive game, especially a shooter, for a long time. And our first attempt at that core shooter has been incredibly well received, with a very healthy dose of constructive feedback. I must say, I’ve finished the internet a couple of times and the Founders that are with us in this have been great at keeping it constructive and civil as well. Only a few fatalities and we usually only have to bring a couple of shivs and a bolter when we go to the forums. Kudos to you, Founders, you make us want to be better all the time.

MMORPG: Without progression systems, I’m betting the amount of players per day will drop down at some point. How far are you away from giving players stuff to work towards during the alpha?

Nathan: We thought this as well, with a vertical slice of a shooter, the players would drop pretty fast. The opposite is true and in the industry we use the KPI of Daily Active Users (DAU) pretty often and of the 5000 activated Captain’s in there, almost 4 weeks after we launched Alpha, we’re still seeing it around 1000 DAU per day. That is amazing.

I attribute this to us responding to feedback fast, updating regularly, adding new weapons and maps and gamemodes as well as the transparency and interaction. Well, that and there is a certain pleasure of driving over Space Marines in a tank. Again, and again, and again. 

So with more shooter additions, we’ve also started working on adding that depth to the character, that you actually have a character, which gets added character progression, personalized loadout, visual customization, varitions of weapon archetypes and vendors that you get them from. It’s all coming in over the next months. Depth of character.

MMORPG: Can you talk a bit about the new stuff coming up in next week’s patch?

Nathan: We’re actually really excited about next week. Our goal, if it passes Quality Assurance, is to deploy the Fortress Game Mode on a Fortress map type. This is the big siege stuff, destructible walls, mountable defensive turrets … and a new tank. Did I mention that I liked driving around in tanks on Space Marines? I do really love it.

Fortresses are the big goals, after taking the outposts of a territory, you can siege them. While this isn’t a full-size-at-launch Fortress map, it has most of the bells and whistles (read: meat grinders and mass destruction) of the final Fortresses. It’s going to be a blast and I’ll be there in a tank, driving. See you on the battlefield Crusader.

Suzie Ford / Suzie is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. An avid gamer, Suzie lives in the desert Southwestern US with her own personal minion.