Where the War Goes from Here
Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade launched just a few weeks ago on the PC, and it’s been having a rough go from critics. That said, it has its hardcore faithful, and it’s clear Behaviour is keen on improving the game more and more in coming months. We caught up with Executive Producer Nathan Richardsson to discuss the state of the game, and what’s to come in the new few months.
MMORPG: Currently the game feels like a lobby shooter. When can we expect more "MMO" features to roll out? Persistence being chief amongst them.
NR: The problem isn’t really lack of world persistence, it’s very much there. World map, characters are unique, their progression, items, interaction etc. are all part of one single persistent world. If there wasn’t persistence, you as a character wouldn’t exist.
The fact that you do battle on a smaller battlefield doesn’t change that either, it’s more the philosophy we use to make it easier for us to tie together a varied world of different and unique experiences together, without having to worry all day about what happens if they conflict with each other in a shared space.
But building something more meaningful on top of this persistence world is our focus right now, iterating on the map, tying more activity into and most importantly right now, we’re finalizing the first version of Campaigns which will continue to expand and is really the thing that gives you, your faction and your guild objectives and goals to achieve, earn RTC etc. and see the effect of those movement reflected on the larger world. Might want to mention the Garrison where you can hang with your faction.
We totally understand that right now, the components in there doesn’t mimic an MMORPG and we moved away from that a long time ago but we are very much an MMOFPS, were it not for us being third-person.
MMORPG: Can we expect to see any addition PvE game styles?
NR: Yes, plenty of ideas to work from in PvE. You can imagine the more common co-op modes that entire games are built around to something like PvPvE and then perhaps add more P’s to that, like 4 warparties in a more exploratory mode with a lot of Nids there on a huge territory.
It allows for an experience which is closer to an open world and it’s probably why I like to call them Open Territories. I mean, choosing whom to kill during various encounters across that territory is difficult. I usually just kill everything. That is ways out though as we have plenty to add in the meantime, but PvPvE is relatively simple to start trying out. This is very unlikely and certainly more than a year out, possibly three. I think if you want to talk about PvPvE it would be more accurate to talk about PvE “invasions” from other factions.
As mentioned above, we can do all that because we chose a hub-and-spoke architecture without worrying the least what happens to a Fortress match. Then we tie them all together through common system such as the World Map and Campaigns.
MMORPG: What kind of concurrence numbers are you reaching? Right now the game feels quick to get a match but the maps feel sparsely populated.
NR: We’re doing surprisingly good numbers. Since Early Access and Founders, we’ve had 25% of our players coming back every single month, despite the increasing player base. It’s also called MAU.
Concurrence is lower than we’d like as we still have a large long-term player-base compared to launch players so the main draw is our patches, free content updates and free expansions. That’s when we fire up a ton of more Amazon servers. Sparse population can have different reasons though, we have many matches going and they are big matches, so when we spin up a match, there might not have been enough to fill both sides but we’d rather get the match going earlier. At least for now.
MMORPG: Do you have any goals to push the player per match numbers higher?
NR: Absolutely. Right now it isn’t really necessary, I’ve never liked the numbers game, having come from a game where you have 3000 vs 3000 players. Believe me, the numbers alone don’t make them “fun” in itself, it’s the final goals and achievements.
Second is performance and while optimizing and improving performance across the board, increasing player numbers to affect the lower spec PCs out there just isn’t a good idea either.
MMORPG: Have you noticed a factional balance issues since launch? I've been in matches where it feels one side clearly is better than the other and then played that faction and felt clearly better than the other. While this is anecdotal does the data back the position that the game has some balance issues still? If so what are you doing to address them?
NR:It’s an online shooter, balancing is an eternal task as we keep adding more classes, wargear, vehicles, abilities. Right now there is class imbalance, factional imbalance and gear imbalance but we have people working on that all day, every day.
What you’re mentioning though is that some are more organized than other and let’s just say that the faction that was expected to have the smallest population turns out to be one of the most effective and coordinated in general. We have all this data so we see it and we have lots of work to do, as we didn’t chose the simple route. Having this big a focus on melee in a shooter isn’t exactly choosing the easy path and it has been expensive for us. If you want details, we’ve been working to hammer out the big outliers, and currently our focus is on improving the Space Marine experience by nudging their stats and (more importantly) giving them more tools.
MMORPG: What are your 3 biggest milestones for the next six months and how will those positively impact the player experience?
NR: A large part of our milestones are based on player feedback. I think short term it’s Campaigns and the World Map that will get a lot of attention, a long with the ongoing tasks of new gear, performance improvements, optimizations and fixing.
We have a backlog of Elites that is important for the battles themselves and lost out to more work on the individual player’s progression in the last meters. I’d expect to see the Terminator Equivalents and more playing around with the entire Elite concept.
And game wise it’ll be more game modes, even dynamic ones where something like a warp storm changes the rules of battle, not just the scenery. We call those mutators and we would tie those into Warlords for example and the Campaigns. So part of a campaign we really want to be giving a faction during that campaign, new abilities, better supplies etc. from Abaddon as we move the world forward.
As you can see, I have difficulty picking a single thing but World Map/Campaigns for goals and objectives on a regular basis from your faction leaders, more Character advancement through Elites, new classes, abilities and second foundings, and a variety of game modes, with mutators and secondary objectives (Warlords and Terminators will probably happen before new game modes, mutators or secondary objectives so I’d say those are the big milestones) which gives you a lot of more options than today.