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DoW:SS Developer Chat

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# 1Ninjabutter Feb 29 2008, 16:50 PM
Greetings! Here's a transcript from the Xfire chat with developer Johnny Ebbert of Relic Entertainment as he answers questions about Soulstorm and possibly even Dawn of War 2.


Johnny Ebbert:
Hi Everyone! I'm Jonny Ebbert, the lead designer on the Dawn of War franchise. Thanks so much for coming out. I'm really excited to answer your questions and hear what you have to say.

Question: What's been the biggest challenge during Soulstorm's development?

Johnny Ebbert: Honestly? Coming up with new ideas and concepts for the new races. When you have 9 unique races in the game, this is a serious challenge. We think we've come up with something really cool for each of the new races. The Sisters have a new faith-based economy, and ability system. And the Dark Eldar have their economy based on collecting the souls of the vanquished, and using that to power upgrades and global abilities. We think you guys will like it.

Question: Will the Soulstorm campaign be different or similar to the previous titles?

Johnny Ebbert: We decided to go with the Dark Crusade style of campaign because we really liked the focus on player choice. We really wanted to pump up the volume on the experience, though, so we allowed you to conquer a whole star system rather than a single planet. We also wanted to up the importance of the meta-game economy and reinforcement. I still get really excited every time I pull up the new campaign map.

Question: How did you go about capturing the essence of the Dark Eldar and how well do you feel you did?

Johnny Ebbert: Dark Eldar are supposed to be pirates that prey on the souls of others to prevent their own souls from being devoured. So we tried to build their entire economy around this (in the same way we built the Necron economy around coming back from the dead). So we added the concept of harvesting souls from the dead on the battlefield. But we thought that this concept was so cool and we wanted to serve a larger purpose, so we campe up with the whole idea of global abilities that you can spend your soul essence on. We really love the choice it offers, and we love using the abilities on each other when we're playing against each other here in the office.

Question: As well was the introduction of two new races, you decided to implement two new unique resources to go alongside them. Are these new resources necessary?

Johnny Ebbert: Not 100% sure they were necessary, but they certainly are fun. I personally love upgrading my points to save up enough faith to unload some cool abilities on the other guys on the team.

Question: I have a question, how will pathing for air units work, can they go anywhere on the map, or will they be limited to Fog of War like the air units in the old C&C games?

Johnny Ebbert: Air units can go anywhere on the map. They're not bounded in any way.

Question: What styles were you looking for with these new races?

Johnny Ebbert: We wanted the Sisters to feel like Joan of Arc. They're the ultimate martyrs fighting for a cause, and they have a supernatural sense of luck, like a higher power is watching out for them. They also have sex appeal...which is always cool in my book. There's nothing sexier than a chic who kicks serious ass. With the Dark Eldar, we were going for the concept of quick strikers, who use your dead against you, and can slowly wear you down if you don't manage to pin them down.

Question:
The campaign follows along similar lines as the one found in Dark Crusade. Why did you choose this more open ended game-play as opposed to a more narrative driven campaign like the earlier games in the series?

Johnny Ebbert: Because I personally hate being dragged along a linear story-driven campaign. I don't feel like I'm conquering anything, or making any cool decisions. All of the major decisions are being made for me, and I'm just left to sort out the details. Basically I'm a tool in a linear campaign, and at the end of every mission, I get a story piece that says, "Great work, tool! Now go do this!" I like being able to mastermind how I accomplish the end goal...in this cause...how to conquer the Kaurava system.

Question: Most companies would think itís time for a sequel after 3 or 4 years - but what is it that keeps you coming back and making expansions to Dawn of War?

Johnny Ebbert: Every time we go to events, people are always thanking us for bringing their table top army to life. It's the first time they've ever had the chance to see the units in motion, and doing cool things like stomp the life out of someone. Other people beg us to bring their favorite army to life. With Soulstorm, we saw a chance to bring two more armies to life. And to pre-empt the next question...why not Tyranids. Because Tyranids are way too cool for an expansion pack;) Besides, it's not like a third expansion precludes the possibility of a sequel

Question: I have read that there will be a named character appearing in SS, how did you get Games Workshop to let you use him?

Johnny Ebbert: Mainly involved me smashing chairs and swearing a lot.

Question: Do you feel that Soulstorm will be a return to competitive gaming for the Dawn of War series? Is this a goal of the dev team or are you simply trying to make a fun game?

Johnny Ebbert: We take both of these very seriously. Fun is always the driver, but we try to spend a lot of time balancing the game with our balance team, and with the top players in the community.

Question: Is there any missions where you get to use a titan? A full scale one, not just the broken arm of one;)

Johnny Ebbert: Wow...I'd seriously love to do that. If only we could get more than their toe to fit under the camera;)

Question:
Of the races in the game, which race was the hardest to implement into the Dawn of War series so far? What about the easiest?

Johnny Ebbert: Space Marines, hands down. They were our first race, so every aspect of the engine and the "DoWness" of the product had to be developed through them. Once they were in place, the other races were much easier to implement. Outside of that...Dark Eldar were probably the second toughest. It took us a while to find their "voice" as in...what they wanted to say and do as a race in our game. I think they turned out well, though. Outs

Question:
Do you offer co-op placements for young students who are studying computer science??

Johnny Ebbert: biggrin.gif Actually, we do! We even have a program where we'll pay your tuition if you are a rockstar and we want to make you one of our franchise players. We're always looking for talented new people who want to be game developers.

Question: Does Soulstorm require much experience from the other DoW games to understand how to play?

Johnny Ebbert: None at all. Soulstorm is a standalone expansion. So you don't need any of the earlier products to play it. You'll also be able to play all nine races in single player. And we didn't make the game any more complicated with any of our expansion packs. We simply added more races to play, and a new unit to each race. Anyone should be able to jump right in.

Question: I heard that this is the final expansion for the DoW series. DoW is coming to an end?

Johnny Ebbert: They must have forgotten to CC me on the memo...

Thanks so much for coming out and asking your questions. I realize a lot of you stayed up really late for this chat. And I also realize that some of you are frustrated because I'm the world's slowest typer, and because some of my answers are so evasive. But maybe...just maybe...I'll be able to say a few things in the near future that will completely blow your minds. Thanks again for being a part of Dawn of War. You guys are truly what make the franchise so fun to work on.

Summary:

In closing, it seems both Space Marines and the Dark Eldar were the hardest to complete, and Titans are too large to add in the game. Tyranids, however, may make an appearance after all, in future instalments. Stay Tuned!


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# 2Zealot20 Mar 1 2008, 03:35 AM
So, they felt it prudent enough to talk about how unrealistic and "Starcrafty" the air units were... oh wait, they DIDNT frusty.gif well, as much as i find SoB to be cool, they should NOT be the heavy duty looking chic-marines who walked into tau fire on that one video i saw somewhere (maybe dowfiles). they need to be like a lightscale SM army mixed with predominantly flamers and haldberds. and while i will be buying this, hope to god that they have a mode (not a MOD) that removes air units from the game. kinda like QS/STD modes, but in actual gameplay standards.
sigh... 5 dayish left.

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# 3Ninjabutter Mar 1 2008, 22:09 PM
The only RTS games I've seen with air units that were actually fast-moving flyers were Total Annihilation and Empire Earth. Total Annihilation's were awesome, stealth fighters would be on your screen and off it again in less than half a second. EE's were pretty good too. I like that idea much more than the way they're represented in SC and DoW, in these games they're not so much "fliers" as glorified hovercraft.


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# 4Fulgrim91 Mar 2 2008, 01:43 AM
Good interview. Thanks ninja smile.gif

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# 5Ninjabutter Mar 2 2008, 22:53 PM
Thank Raggy and Imperial Dane, they're the ones who actually got the transcript =p


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