British company Games Workshop has announced a MMORPG game based on its massive franchise Warhammer 40k. The designers have stated that this not a traditional MMORPG and will apparently be nothing like any other MMO that has come before it:
Conceptually, Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade is unlike any other MMO, specifically because its ambitions aren’t trying to mimic what’s been done well before. Developer Behaviour Interactive takes the genre very literally. The acronym, after all, does not stand for World of Warcraft.
Massive, multiplayer, and online are three distinct but connected features at the heart of Eternal Crusade. Studio head Miguel Caron also calls Eternal Crusade a MOBA -- not because it’s similar to League of Legends, but because the gameplay fundamentally relies on the idea of a multiplayer online battle arena.
But it’s the action-oriented combat, player freedom, and rejection of existing standards that will define the next-gen MMO. For one thing, Eternal Crusade “has no concept of an endgame,” Caron explains. “Where most MMOs end, we begin.”
It remains to be seen exactly how that will play into Eternal Crusade, which, after almost a year of design planning, is just coming out of pre-production. But the intentions are pure: Players will begin playing the Warhammer 40K MMO without worrying about grinding through fetch quests. “When you start the game, objectives will be given to you by other players who’ve moved up the food chain,” Caron says. “These objectives will give you bonus XP if you follow them, [which] you don’t have to do.”
It makes sense: townsfolk don’t tell Space Marines what to do. The Eldar do not hunt pests for their pelts. Orks barely obey their own Warbosses, which plays into the logic of making them the only free-to-play race in Eternal Crusade. Caron’s thought is that most players will, like Ork Boyz, ignore their superiors’ orders anyway, opting to do their own thing instead as they learn the ropes. They’re a fine starting point for players that will, when they’re ready to obey the orders of the Imperium, ideally pay a little to join the Ultramarines or Dark Angels.
The game features the traditional starting races that have become almost synonymous with 40k. The technologically advanced and psionically gifted Eldar, the crazy and ambitious Orks, the Imperium's genetically enhanced angels of death the Space Marines and their corrupted, psychopathic former brothers the Chaos Marines.
Choosing one faction doesn’t wall you off from the other, however. If you opt to play as Eldar, you may not have the necessary strength to brute-force your way through a Space Marine force head on. Teaming up with Chaos in a temporary allegiance gives you the opportunity to see how they work not only as warriors on their own, but in conjunction with another faction. What are their strengths? What do they have that your race doesn’t? What are the weaknesses you could later exploit? All factions are not created equal, and that’s by design.
“Chess is a balanced game,” Caron says, “but a pawn against a queen is not balanced.” Chaos forces are great for pushing the frontline, he explains, while Eldar are better suited for sabotage behind enemy lines. Each team has advantages over another -- Orks up close, Space Marines at a range, etc. -- that factor into each’s play style, while allying with another group throws off any potential rock-paper-scissors guarantees.
The designers have also decided to try and implement a new way of looking at MMORPG combat and likened the brutality and graphics to Gears Of War and Space Marine (another 40k game but a hack'n slash one):
Caron says, “This is a really stupid excuse that someone in marketing one day decided to say: ‘Don’t judge our combat too hard compared to a console game, because MMOs cannot have the same beautiful, visceral combat you can in a console game.' That’s bulls**t.”
Caron wants to be judged against other action games, not MMOs, when it comes to Behaviour’s combat system. He uses the word “visceral” more times than I can count when explaining how fights play out. Behaviour wants players to brutalize each other in gory fights that combine great gunplay, crunchy melee hits, and shocking executions inspired by Relic’s Space Marine and Epic’s Gears of War.
This definitely makes a change from Games Workshops habit of making RTS games like DoW:
The developers intend to take this onto a huge scale to a point that the warring factions are fighting over entire planets. So before you can take a planet you have to completely eradicate any enemy presence on that planet by taking over all the territories on said planet? That is insanely big.
From the big picture perspective, you’ll use your soldier to kill hundreds of other player-controlled characters in the biggest, most populated battlefields ever seen. Eternal Crusade’s unforgiving slant toward PvP combat may leave some feeling intimidated, but a dash of PvE against the Tyranid, a non-player race, keeps combatants from focusing exclusively on each other. Caron tells me to imagine the MMO with the most dense player count on a server today -- Planetside 2 comes to mind -- and double it. That’s Eternal Crusade.
Double the size of Planetside 2? That is insanely big.
Not only that this game seeks to cause consequences with everything that happens and expects you learn from and live with the mistakes you make as well as strategize on keeping hold of resources and choosing when and where to attack:
Pursuant to that, permanence is important to the developer. Caron “hates with a passion” games that don’t have consequences when a fight ends, and when there’s no clear winner declared. Eternal Crusade adds a sense of meaning to battles -- perhaps, if I’m reading into Behaviour’s hints correctly, by having factions fight for territorial control. Again, Planetside 2 comes to mind.
“We want people to live with their mistakes...but just because you lose a campaign does not mean you’ve lost the war,” says creative director David Ghozland. The intention is for you to create a history that will live for years after Eternal Crusade’s release. More importantly, you’re meant to learn from failure and apply a new strategy to the next massive battle in hopes of scoring new skills, items, upgrades, and resources, which you can use to spend on vehicles. “Controlling resources is very important,” Ghozland says. The team is still too early in development to elaborate on where else you’ll spend your earnings.
For me this is where it gets interesting the customization does not follow any other MMO's stereotypical set of characteristics. They are basing themselves on the table-top game of 40k itself.
Some, certainly, will play into Eternal Crusade’s customization, which goes against the grain of established MMOs. Those inspired by World of Warcraft give every player enough options to give them a unique look.
“We’re not comparing us to other games. We’re comparing us to the tabletop game.” Warhammer has lore to adhere to. You’re one soldier in an established army, after all, and a red Ultramarine borders on heresy. “Your identity is in your armor,” Ghozland explains. Symbols, and probably patterns, apply to your housing, space ship, and headquarters. You can change the way you look, but a Dark Angel will always look like he belongs in the Dark Angels.
In a universe whose races obsess over war, a game about nothing but fighting each other makes sense. But where does it all lead, especially if “endgame” isn’t in Behaviour’s vocabulary? Eventually, “players will be able to investigate and explore the underworld” of the planet they’re fighting for. Ghozland hints that it holds a “dark secret.”
That, along with additional story, presumably resides in the collectible artifacts hidden in procedurally generated dungeons.“Different dungeons and different underworld entrances will be controlled by different factions,” Ghozland explains. “Sometimes you control them. Sometimes you don’t. So you will have to sneak through enemy lines and try not to be noticed to enter the dungeon you want to explore.” Every time you try to run through them and hunt down artifacts, the underworld’s randomized layout changes.These are sizable ambitions, particularly for a game that’s still so early. That said, Ghozland and Caron have until the “end of 2015” to achieve their studio’s goals.
Both are well aware of the skepticism toward Behaviour -- the developer of Naughty Bear -- taking the reins on this one, too. Caron’s hired many ex-Funcom devs with MMO experience. Former Vigil employees who worked on the failed Warhammer 40K: Dark Millenium sent resumes immediately after Eternal Crusade’s announcement.With next-gen hardware, a strong and passionate staff, and a solid two-year development cycle, Eternal Crusade could very well turn out to be the Warhammer 40K MMO fans have wanted since, well, World of Warcraft defined what an MMO could be -- but not necessarily where the genre would end up.
Well i'm in! If they really do everything they've said they are in the way they have said they are going to do it this could be an awesome game!!!!!
I only have 2 requests to make!:
- PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, have Kharn the Betrayer in it. As a boss or ally or whatever just find away to put that loveable psychopath in there!
- I want honor guard armor!