After an immense amount of hype buildup over the last couple of years, Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade finally launched last month on Steam. Although this was technically the ‘official launch,’ the development team still has a lot of features that they plan to implement before it is considered a completed game. Interest in the game peaked when Behaviour Interactive discussed 1000+ player, persistent battles. While Eternal Crusade isn’t quite there yet, we discussed the game with Senior Producer Nathan Richardsson and how it will become more MMO oriented in the future.
We appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to discuss Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade with us. Can you please introduce yourself and explain your role with the game?
My name is Nathan Richardsson, I’m the Senior Producer and my responsibilities range from being a cheerleader, maintaining course, community interaction and marketing to development of the game itself. And the crusher of dreams.
Eternal Crusade finally came out of Early Access last month. What changes did the official release bring and how has reception been from the players?
For us it didn’t really change the way we work or keep on expanding and adding to the game. The official release was another day as we’ve been running the game live since last year for our customers, it was more a marketing and retail event. It does change of course the release cadence and QA process, although we have been patching weekly with improvements and fixes.
The reception has been mixed and understandably so. We started with a Founder program and big dreams and over those years, a lot of things changed, such as technology we relied on evaporating. That changed a lot how we had to approach the game, what features were at launch, and what wasn’t.
We would always like to have had more time but we have a lot of commitments and partners we work with and we also need a solid runway post launch to keep on expanding the game. Our way and model is that we’re here for the long haul as most online games, where we keep expanding for free the game over the next years. Launching and abandoning the game was never the plan.
What is the current vision that Behaviour has for the future of Eternal Crusade?
I joined less than two years ago specifically to help this team and the strategic changes within Behaviour to start making their own games. It’s a studio with a 20-year history of making games for others and Behavior wanted to leverage that experience in our new arm, Behaviour Digital.
Eternal Crusade is following the vision of Behaviour Digital, we want to focus on games with long term engagement, expand those games over time and want to create lasting relationships with our customers. As one of the first titles we have a lot to prove yet and that’s our aspiration.
One of the biggest initial draws to Eternal Crusade was the promise of 1000+ player battles. Obviously, that’s not a thing right now. What happened to cause the shift to smaller battlefields?
Biggest factor was feasibility and technology. I come from EVE Online and have done larger battles, I know what it takes, what kind of tech is needed and how long it takes to get there. We had a technology partner which was supposed to solve a lot of those issues but it wasn’t the case yet. Even looking at other games doing it, it took them years getting there and lots of sacrifices in the game experience to achieve it. Planetside and EVE started the groundwork back in 2003 for their architectures.
That meant we changed the scope two years ago, we went for a more feasible, versatile and practical long term model, a hub-and-spoke architecture. The garrison is the hub and the spokes are the various maps and modes you go to via the world map. This allows us to connect new areas, game modes and rulesets gradually over time without running the risk of disrupting the existing world: be that PVE, PVP, guild warfare – or PVPVE – and then connect that into our persistent world map and campaign system.
That’s where we connect everything into the metagame and the outcomes of everything can affect the world map and campaigns.
Even though 60+ player matches is still fairly large scale, can we expect the game to eventually implement modes with hundreds or thousands of players at once?
Yes, we’ve already done 100 player battles and it simply wasn’t fun right now with our approach. So we scaled down the number of players to better fit the experiences we were creating now. Then we will expand upon with various game modes and environmental effects like warp storms that directly affect a battle on those maps.
When we have expanded on that solid base, we will push in new directions and it’s as simple as connecting that new area to the hub, the world map and the campaigns. It’s of course a huge simplification but that’s the freedom and versatility we gained from going another route. In a fixed open world terrain, we wouldn’t have been so easily able to adjust gameplay to fit content.
Another aspect that players wanted to experience from these large battles was the sense of a persistent world. Currently, the only sense of persistence is through ranking up and territory control. Will there be other features added that make the world feel more alive?
Yes, the current iteration of the world map is getting more features and we’re adding campaigns which gives factions story and goals. Both are very expandable and included in our first content update which is in a couple of weeks. That will move us a step closer but it’s only one step of many that are planned in the free content updates and expansions. If there is a single thing we feel is sorely lacking right now, it’s the metagame and we’re on it.
What other types of “MMO features” are planned to be added to Eternal Crusade in the future?
We have so many things to work with that our problem is “which one next.” Right now we’re focusing on expanding on the characters themselves and where they can progress to. This includes Warlords, Elites and customization but also on the metagame and a person can contribute to the larger scale.
With the campaigns we’re starting with faction achievements but we’re adding over time everything from more goals for the faction down to the personal level which you could call missions of sorts.
We also want to prioritize work on the features we wanted in at launch so that’s the focus now. More world persistence and goals to achieve, then moving to the Warlord and an entirely new class, the Terminator Equivalents as they are called. We also have bikes, heroes and elites to do that are in the pipeline.
This is on top of generally improving all aspects of the game in all our updates. Guilds will receive more features like their own Garrison and advancements and organized play, as well as communications, battlefield organization, situational awareness, more rewarding teamplay. Even simply updating the Garrisons themselves to become more like hubs of activity.
Currently, the Tyranids are only present in a 5-player dungeon crawl experience. Are there any plans to implement them onto the PvP battlefield?
They certainly aren’t going to be staying only in those dungeons and we have some things we’re going to try out when we have time for that. Right now it’s our priority to expand and deliver what we wanted to have in at launch, get better balance and better performance and optimizations. That will allow us to put Tyranids in larger PVP encounters as they are quite expensive server side and right now, outside our focus.
Speaking of PvE, are there going to be any other PvE or dungeon-like modes?
Expect all sorts of weird thing and experimentation to happen. The hub-and-spoke allows us to do that very safely, where adding say, 5 Players V 5 Players V Environment with entirely its own ruleset, connecting it to the world map and campaigns, doesn’t affect the entire world. That’s all on the table after we add more PvE maps, NPCs, AI changes, room modes and so on. It’s also built up very modular which allows us to take this interesting places.
There are also quite a few co-op experiences out there that are almost standardized which we’ll put our flavor on and play with. Possibilities are endless but we consider that as part of the PVE experience game modes more than “adding Tyranids to current PVP,” which is entirely different and has its own rules. We’ve always said we wanted to try to allow players to randomly spawn as a Tyranid Warrior in PvE. You know, because that would be evil.
With the structured PvP implemented the way it is now, one of the biggest concerns is balance between factions and units. Certain units and loadouts simply aren’t used because they can’t compete. Are there any plans to overhaul the underperforming classes?
We haven’t stopped our balancing since we launched and we started quite a while ago. It’s also when we add more wargear, weapons and so on that it affects so many things. This is why the hub-and-spoke is great for us as we can isolate, balance and have different rulesets in different game modes. Right now it’s about getting the faction balance right in terms of weapons, classes and wargear. We’re patching weekly right now and have been for a while and every single patch contains balancing changes.
With many MMOs and multiplayer-only games going free-to-play, it might be difficult to convince players that Eternal Crusade is worth $49.99 before getting the chance to play it. Will there eventually be a trial or limited free-to-play version of the game?
Most certainly. There has always been talk of a trial of the game and other entry points. That hasn’t gone away and is a normal part of any game. That doesn’t mean the $49.99 isn’t worth it. It includes a lot of virtual currency and items as opposed to a trial which has many limitations on gameplay and possible paywalls as is the nature of a free approach.
We’d also like to offer more packages than just the $49.99 package, up and down with different things included. Expanding the business model, while adding more targets for our current players, as well as options for various entry points that fit you is totally going to happen.
In fact we promised it and we’ve always said, paid customers come first and we’re now getting comfortably away from our launch that we have enough server resources etc. that we can open floodgates like that.
So yes, we want to lower the barrier to entry and have more targets for everyone.
Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know about Warhammer 40k: Eternal Crusade or its future development?
What sets us apart is the Warhammer 40,000 universe, our desire for long term engagement with the players, expanding the game continuously for free and becoming the ultimate playground for your Warhammer 40,000 fantasies. Our long-term model is that upfront purchase with the Rogue Trader Store as a long term revenue stream. You don’t have to buy a thing in the store unless you like to though, it doesn’t have the best weapons and everything there is optional.
So if you’re on the fence, you should stay there and stay tuned as we expand more and more with two content updates this year and the first expansion beginning of next year. When you feel comfortable in joining the Eternal Crusade and we’ve made you more confident in investing your time with us, join. After all, you only have to pay once to get in and then you can come back for more fresh content and features whenever you want.
MMOGames would like to thank Nathan Richardsson and the Eternal Crusade team for taking the time to discuss the future of their game.Related: Behaviour Interactive, Interview, MMORPG, Shooter, Warhammer, Warhammer 40k Eternal Crusade