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Interview with Jeff Lydell #2

By 5*General - 20th May 2011 - 01:13 AM

Since our first interview with Dawn of War 2 producer Jeff Lydell had to wait for posting until The Last Standalone could be announced, we immediately looked towards meeting-up again with Jeff soon. We didn't have to wait much longer as Relic have been hard at work on yet another DLC pack and we're on the scene to talk to Jeff Lydell about just what that DLC is, what Relic's plans for it are, and what's up with patches.

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5*General: And how are you on this fine day?

Jeff Lydell: Good. We've been busy here at Relic :)

5*General: So we see, what with the patch, Last Stand DLC from TASK3R, and that image...

Jeff Lydell: I see it is in focus now.

5*General: Looks a lot like Ultramarines.

Jeff Lydell: Well, that skin is Ultramarines.

5*General: Are there... more skins?

Jeff Lydell: The shield is team colorable, so as many as you can make in the army painter.

5*General: Ah, that sounds cool. Is it part of the new wargear for Last Stand or something different?

Jeff Lydell: It's for Last Stand. And the space marine is not going to be the only one getting new stuff. All 6 heroes are.

5*General: Can you elaborate on any of the new items or will we just have to sit tight and wait?

Jeff Lydell: We have a fairly thorough post going up tomorrow. But each hero can expect two new pieces of gear, with new stats and traits, and unique art for every piece. And it will be paid DLC. Purchasable per hero or in a bundle for the whole set.

5*General: What makes this set of Last Stand wargear different from the set handed out a month ago that justifies the price tag (other than instant access)?

Jeff Lydell: The stuff last month was not all unique art for one. We also had a specific goal with the achievement wargear. We wanted to give the experienced Last Stand players a new challenge. Originally The Last Standalone was going to launch the same day, but Valve was a little busy with Portal 2.

5*General: Ah, so you guys actually had The Last Standalone ready on April 6th, but Valve prevented it from going up for sale until the 20th due to Portal 2?

Jeff Lydell: Not so much prevented, as we hadn't firmly scheduled it with them. Their team was swamped, and it took a couple weeks to sort through the unique requirements of The Last Standalone. Not even Valve had tried selling a piece of their game on its own before. Oops.

5*General: How do you feel the switch to Steamworks has gone for Dawn of War 2 so far?

Jeff Lydell: Overall it's excellent. We are still working out some matchmaking and ladder problems with Valve. And deployment of new updates is possible with a very small team, which is great.

5*General: Speaking of which, some players were a little annoyed at the length of time between 3.14 and 3.15, particularly given that 3.15's balance patch notes are diminutive compared to some other patches. I don't have a quote in front of me, but certain members of Relic definitely indicated that patching on Steam would be a faster process- do you feel community members have misinterpreted such statements?

Jeff Lydell: We patched like crazy during the beta, but patching has a cost as well. Not a money cost, but a disruption one. Everytime we patch we break replays. Everytime we change balance we disrupt the metagame. So we are trying to stick to a once a month rhythm. We also have most of the studio working on Space Marine right now, so resources are tight. That said, we are going to continue working at the problems in the game and getting fixes out. And DLC has justified more people than we otherwise would have had.

5*General: Sounds good, and you guys did get 3.14.1 and 3.14.2 out rather quickly so the faster potential patching does seem to be helping for bug fixes. And as a bit of an aside, I suppose I can't expect a proper response about whether Space Marine is the only other project drawing resources, could I?

Jeff Lydell: No, not really ;)

5*General: No Company of Heroes 2 or Homeworld 3 or Tau/Necron/Dark Eldar/Squats expansion announcements here, ladies and gentlemen. But I will ask something a bit unusual for these interviews and ask a little balance question about the Inquisitor's Crossbow in the hopes of catching someone in Relic who might have a better perspective on what's up with that. 3.15 will be the second patch that the Crossbow has received a significant buff now, and to be honest most Inquisitor players I've spoken to have said she didn't even need the first buffs to it, so what is up with that?

Jeff Lydell: The original change was made to fix a bug, it was never intended to do no damage. They did more testing of it, and are now happy with how the Crossbow's ability is performing in gameplay.

5*General: On the whole though, with a couple of exceptions like the above, the community seems to be taking the patch rather well, albeit feeling that not enough balance changes were made. Is that feeling just incorrect or perhaps warranted but futile due to there being a lot of notable bug fixes coming in this patch- that is, did the bug fixes cut into the balance fixes this time around?

Jeff Lydell: We aren't trying to meet a changelist quota. The balance team is spending their time making sure their changes are good, rather than trying to fix every issue in one breath.

5*General: You mentioned in response to an earlier question that "DLC has justified more people than we otherwise would have had", and in our first interview you mentioned that you would be using Dark Angels to gauge future DLC and such. Does this mean that Dark Angels was successful, and as a result not only is more DLC- like the upcoming Last Stand DLC- forthcoming, but more developer support than Retribution would otherwise have at this stage?

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Jeff Lydell: A little background on DLC. We had planned to do TLSalone from the beginning, since it was something no one had tried before. On every DOW2 game we've done retailer exclusive sets of wargear, and Retribution was doing the same. The only thing different about Retribution was we decided to sell the pre-order wargear at launch, and the sales were astounding. So we decided we needed to follow up with more DLC, just to see how it would do. We planned out two offerings in a hurry; The Dark Angels, and the new Last Stand gear that's coming up right now. The idea was try two more different types of DLC: a chapter pack and a Last Stand offering. To answer your question, yes, the Dark Angels did very well. More people bought it than I ever expected. As for post-launch support on Retribution, we were always going to have something, but it wasn't going to be large or very frequent. Mostly due to competing projects within the studio.

5*General: So DLC definitely seems to be raising-up Dawn of War 2- good to hear! And it also sounds like we're going to be seeing more cosmetic DLC! Any chance of featuring Chaos or Eldar or Imperial Guard or even Tyranids next?

Jeff Lydell: Maybe. I'd really like to do more chapter packs. Plus if the Last Stand wargear does well we could see more there. It's an easy case to make if we make money on the DLC :) Personally I expect The Last Stand DLC to do better than the Dark Angels did. Last Stand players are similar in size to the multiplayer modes, plus the wargear will have gameplay uses.

5*General: Yeah, I'm planning on getting it, but I'd definitely have a very tough time staying away from it if I tried. I can just imagine booting-up Last Stand and... the itch! As you mentioned though, the wargear will have gameplay uses. Are you concerned about that? I know Last Stand isn't really a competitive mode, but it seems there might be potential for the new wargear to be just a tad too good or a tad too necessary, and not having it could be a ticket to letting the team down, and that's never a good feeling.

Jeff Lydell: That's a balancing act. Too weak and it's not worth buying, too powerful and people get annoyed about not having it. Overall I'm not too concerned about it, we've aimed at opening new options for how to play each hero, rather than simply buffing them.

5*General: So the word on the street is that the upcoming Last Stand DLC was designed by Clint Tasker- can you shed some light on that?

Jeff Lydell: Yep, Clint recently moved into an official design role, and this was his first big task. Clint's done a ton of design work from his balance position, just now we've made it official. Plus we are working with really limited marketing dollars, so Clint and I are both trying to get the most our of our Twitter accounts :) That's why I've been encouraging him to talk about this stuff in public.

5*General: Speaking of Twitter, don't forget to follow Lord Lokgar on Twitter for those party pics ;) And of course Jeff Lydell and Clint Tasker. As far as future projects go, there has been talk of Dawn of War 3 swirling around for quite some time now. Relic has a reputation for creating incredibly innovative games, but not always polishing them to the degree that more traditional RTS games are. Retribution seemed to buck that trend by effectively relaunching Dawn of War 2's multiplayer component in an effort to refine it. While any sequel is no doubt quite far off, is Relic more interested perhaps in a Dawn of War 3 that is more an evolution of Dawn of War 2 rather than a revolution of it?

Jeff Lydell: Whatever we do next, the goal is to be better than we've been straight across the board. Relic never rests on our laurels, we are always looking at how to improve our games. Retribution delivered far, far more than a normal expansion. If you compare us to our competition. So expansion or sequel, we hope to do something great next.

5*General: Awesome! I look forward to whatever rests on the horizon. But those are all the questions I have for today, so thank you for your time and for joining us again so quickly!

If you have questions for Mr. Lydell or anyone else at Relic, let us know! Personal message 5*General with your questions and who you want to ask them to. We don't have 24/7 access to Relic employees nor would we want to disrupt them so often, but we do want to hit-up Relic for these kinds of interviews fairly often, and seeing as we are first and foremost a community site, we want to ask Relic the questions the community wants answered.