Interview With Steven Lumpkin, Level Designer for Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade
This week we got the chance to talk with Steven Lumpkin, Lead Level Designer for Warhammer 40,000 Eternal Crusade, to get to know the upcoming third person shooter MMO set in the Warhammer 40K Universe. Definitely worth to read.
First of all, thank you for giving us the possibility to interview you about Eternal Crusade. Would you be so kind to introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi everyone! I’m Steven Lumpkin, the Lead Level Designer for Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade. My team is in charge of creating the massive open world of Arkhona in the 41st Millennium.
How would you describe Eternal Crusade to someone who has never heard of it before?
Imagine a third person shooter where you play an elite warrior in a grim, far future. Now imagine you’re with an army of hundreds, assaulting a massive and imposing Fortress. You’re charging from cover to cover. Your allies are roaring across the destroyed fields in heavy tanks, their guns blazing. A mighty hero is standing on a nearby hill, holding a holy relic high, inspiring a squad that’s pummeling the gates with rocket launchers. As the gates crumple under sustained fire, your time has come. You and your allies rush in, fighting tooth-and-nail (bolter and chainsword) against hundreds of enemy players. When the killing is done, your army is victorious, and it’s your flag that’s waving from the pinnacles of the fortress. That’s Eternal Crusade.
What makes Eternal Crusade to stand out in its genre? Why should a player choose to play it over any other title?
Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade is what we like to call a massive combat RPG. That says it all. First, it’s massive. We feature a persistent open world containing battles that involve hundreds of simultaneous combatants, both on foot and in vehicles. Second, it’s a combat-focused game. Real-time third person shooting and action melee combat. Third, it’s a role-playing game. Your character earns upgrades as he or she accomplishes objectives on the battlefield. You can apply these upgrades into different loadouts or builds, and equip different weaponry to specialize in your chosen role on the battlefield. You can focus on a single class, or spread your advancement across multiple combat roles for extra versatility.
That’s a magic formula for me, personally. Throw in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, four opposed, iconic factions, and all the classic weaponry, classes, and vehicles? That’s exciting.
How much of the Warhammer 40K lore can we expect to see in Eternal Crusade? Are we going to meet iconic characters and interact with them?
Answer: The story of Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade will be a player driven story. The actions of the players will determine the successes (or failures) of the factions, but the objectives available to each faction will come from NPC leadership… including some very familiar faces. Fans of Warhammer 40,000 will be well satisfied with our attention to lore. In fact, we even have Graham McNeill, a writer for the Black Library, providing story content for us.
Is the game a persistent open-world MMO like a traditional MMORPG or Planetside 2, or is it more like a lobby-based game with big instanced matches?
We are a persistent, open-world MMO, and all of the PvP activity in the world will take place in this sandbox environment. We do not have lobby-based PVP matches, but our co-op PvE content will take place inside of instanced dungeons.
We know that the game will be PvP focused but that will feature an AI controlled race, the Tyranids. How does this factor into the PVE?
Absolutely. The Tyranids are our primary PvE threat. As a player faction advances across a continent and becomes dominant in PvP, Tyranid invasions will begin to crop up in certain territories. If this invasion goes unchecked, the Tyranids will actually capture territory from the players, denying them the benefit of that territory. While we want this to be threatening to everyone, the factions that own more territory will be threatened by this more. In order to reclaim control of Tyranid-conquered territories, players will have to descend into Tyranid Hives in order to eradicate wave after wave of these foul aliens. This will be a co-operative experience intended for between 4-10 players.
QUESTION: Can you tell us something about the game world, available maps and game modes?
My area of expertise! We’ve classified a few different experiences as you fight your way across the war-torn continents of Arkhona. Outposts are small Imperial holdings intended to defend a location of some importance; a pass, a highway, a historical site. Depots are slightly larger. These sites, like power plants or manufactorums, provide material support to a nearby Fortress or Stronghold, increasing its supply level. Conquering a Fortress or a Stronghold will often require an attacker to capture the linked Depots first, removing the supply. Fortresses, such as a Fortified Research Station, are the site of large-scale battles involving multiple angles of attack. You’ll need heavy armor and dozens of allies to take one down. Finally, our biggest, baddest, most difficult to conquer location is (currently) called a Stronghold. These structures, like an Intercontinental Artillery Battery, are the sites of battles requiring dozens of vehicles and hundreds of players. Conquering a Stronghold will give your faction commanders access to battle-altering call-downs and commander powers.
Of course, fighting inside of a fortified location is only half the battle! We’re also defining areas between these structures we call battlefields, which are carefully designed for strategic warfare.
Tell us something about the available factions. Talking about gameplay, are they the same thing with different names, lore and models or there are actual playstyle differences?
The four factions are the loyalist Space Marines, the traitor Chaos Space Marines, the brutal and cunning Orks, and the enigmatic and manipulative Eldar. I posed this question to Brent Ellison, our Lead Game Designer, and he had this to say:
“Space Marines are balanced for short/med/long range, while due to their weapon focus Eldar are strong at short-ranged and long-ranged gunplay and weak in the mid-range. Orks, on the other hand are quite strong at the short-medium range but weak at long (at least in terms of being able to predictably kill things). They also have a variety of options to get them up close into assault. Meanwhile, Chaos are similar to Space Marines in some ways, but have a strong focus on psychic powers and have more offense than defense.”
Tell us something about controls and combat systems.
I’ve turned to Brent again, our Lead Game Designer to give you the answer straight from the source:
“This is a proper action game, so we’re taking our cues from games like Space Marine, Dark Souls and Battlefield 4. We support gamepad as well as keyboard and mouse, there are no action bars, you just swing your sword or shoot your gun. In addition, we have a lot of environmental interaction – you can take cover, vault or climb and spring off walls with your jump pack.”
Can you tell us something about the character progression and customization? Are there classes and levels? How can we improve our character as we advance in the game?
Brent Ellison: “There are no levels, instead you earn XP to spend in a wide progression tree where you can unlock accessories for your loadouts. You can also earn weapons, upgrades and consumables through your actions in game. All of this is horizontal progression though, so you’ll be getting new weapons, options and specializations, not flat power. Note that you can switch to different classes and loadouts between spawns, you’re not locked into just one per character.
Each class has its own tree and set of accessories that ensures they have a distinct role on the battlefield. For example, an Ork Loota starts out with a Deffgun, which lets him deal a lot of damage at range and suppress targets. He’ll be able to find an upgrade that improves his Deffgun’s rate of fire, unlock an accessory that makes him more stable when shooting, and later get weapons like Zzap Guns and Kannons. Each of these has a build point cost however, so he’ll have to decide what he wants to fit into his loadout.”
Is there some kind of territory control? If yes, how will it work?
Brent Ellison: “Territory control is a battle on the front lines where you take capture points and move a territory’s influence over to your faction. Certain major strongholds have links to nearby depot territories that keep them supplied – a well-supplied territory has all its turrets, gates, etc., working and repairing quickly. But if you start losing depots, your turrets start running out of ammo and when they get destroyed they don’t come back as quickly. In addition, certain territories give Commanders access to special powers like supply drops and airstrikes, so there’s a strategy to where you pick your battles.”
Will there be some kind of guild/clan system in the game? If yes, how will it work?
”We want you to be able to play with your friends if you want to, and stick with them in a guild forever if you like while still being able to engage in the highest level of competition. At the same time, we want large, military-style guilds to be able to run their group how they want to, and so we’ve developed a system to support both.
A character can join a Squad of up to 10 characters, and a Squad can join a Strike Force made up of up to 10 Squads. For coordination convenience, multiple Strike Forces can also band together.
If you identify more strongly with your Squad, you’ll probably join up with other Squads and form a loose coalition. If you identify more with your Strike Force, your Strike Force leader will probably assign you to a specific Squad based on your function. Both Squads and Strike Forces have their own spaces which they can customize and socialize in.”
When can we expect to see the closed and open beta phases? Any schedule for the launch?
Currently we’re planning on having alpha “stress tests” as early as this fall. We’ll draw participants for these tests on a first-come-first-served basis from those who purchased our Founder’s Packs. After that, currently targeting January, we’ll release our first Early Access Module to our Founders. Those who purchased the Captain Pack will have access immediately, with the Sergeant Pack gaining access after, followed by the Warrior Pack.
I say we’re currently targeting January for Early Access but we’re trying some things to push that sooner - as soon as possible, really. I don’t want to promise too much, but we know how important it is to get the game into our players’ hands, so keep an eye on our newsletters!
Have you already decided the business model for the game? Will it be free-to-play, buy-to-play, pay-to-play...? Will there be a cash shop? If yes, what can we expect to find inside?
Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade is a premium game, like Guild Wars 2. If you buy the game for $40, you have full access to all four factions, and all the in-game classes and vehicles. As a bonus, if you preorder, you’ll get a $40 value in Rogue Trader Points on top of your purchase of the game. We also offer a Free-to-Play option- the Orks. If you want to try the game for free, you can play a subset of the Ork classes and vehicles. Much like Guild Wars 2, we have no subscription, and we have a store in game. Our Founder’s store, called the Rogue Trader, will become the in-game store later. Miguel Caron, our Studio Head, relies on the business philosophy of “pay to be cool”- we want you to WANT to spend the money, not HAVE to spend. He also doesn’t want any pay-to-win mechanics, so a player who hasn’t spent anything will have the same overall effectiveness on the battlefield.
I mentioned pre-ordering: the other big bonus players get for pre-ordering is, as you mentioned above, Early Access to game modules as they come out. You can compare this to the Modules from Star Citizen (the Hangar, Dogfighting, etc) - which Behaviour is also working on with Chris Roberts.
Thank you for all your answers. Would you like to add something?
If you haven’t seen the game in action yet, we just very recently did a 1hour livestream from Behaviour’s offices where we showed off Combat and Vehicle mechanics! Check it out on our Youtube cannel!
Hope you enjoyed it. If you want to know more about this upcoming game, click on the "info" button below.