Summary: We get a ton of details on this Games Workshop based fantasy RTS title from chatting with Namco producer Chris Wren.
FiringSquad: First, how did the idea come about to adapt the classic Warhammer franchise to the RTS genre?
Chris Wren: In starting the new PC division at Namco Bandai Games, we really wanted to make a fast paced RTS game with an emphasis on battling above all else. Warhammer instantly came to mind for the style of game mechanics and the look and feel of the Universe, and we considered just making our own gaming universe borrowing from this and other fantasy strategy games out there (both tabletop and on the PC), but in the end it made much more sense to just call up Games Workshop and ask if they were interested in making a game with us. As it turned out, they were thrilled with some of the ideas we were kicking around and they thought it would be a great use of their license. By leveraging all the knowledge-base of the actual license, we have been privy to many things we could never glean from books or other people’s products. In addition to being able to directly reference some historical aspects of Warhammer in our game, and taking advantage of the excellent balancing system, we’ve had a chance to ask the creators about this thing called Warhammer and why certain decisions were made, and how we can best use the license to meet our goals for an RTS game.
FiringSquad: Some people will likely compare this game to the Relic-THQ Warhammer 40,000 RTS game series. What do you think of this comparison? Are you prepared for that comparison?
Chris Wren: I’d say I’m flattered by the comparison to a game I really enjoyed playing myself. The two universes are fairly distinct -- true they both have Orcs and Chaos, but the style of gameplay is different too. With 40K, you’ll find yourself running smaller squads around than you will in Warhammer: Mark of Chaos. I think of 40K like the marines from Aliens, or possibly Navy seals, and Warhammer fantasy is more like the Napoleonic wars with magic and demons. Both are good, but not the same.
FiringSquad: How did Black Hole Games get the gig to develop Warhammer: Mark of Chaos?
Chris Wren: Honestly, we went shopping for a team who seemed like they had the inclination and the skills to help us make the game we were thinking of. I had played their previous game Armies of Exigo and saw in that some incredible art direction, technical achievement and a solid understanding of RTS mechanics. We had several houses that were eager to jump on this Warhammer project, but I was convinced these were the right guys to do it. So we did some early prototype stuff with them, and they showed that not only were they capable, but they were ready to sink their teeth into it and make it something special. It didn’t take long to go from this to getting a demo up and running at E3 less than two months later.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the single player storyline in the game?
Chris Wren: The story was written by a Writer at Games Workshop, one of the guys who helped author some of the army books for Warhammer, Gav Thorpe. Gav took some high level direction from our early design discussions. In an early design meeting, we had decided the general plot for the two campaigns. We defined all the races we wanted involved and we concluded that we wanted this to not to take place in modern Warhammer, but at a critical crossroad in Warhammer history. From here, Gav wrote some amazing backgrounds and dialogue to bring it all to life. So you will play out the story as either an aspiring champion of Chaos or a captain of the Empire. Under Chaos, you are following in the footsteps of the great Chaos leader Aasavar Kul, in which you must prove your worth among the Chaos tribes by leading them in battle to earn your place among the gods. On the Empire side, you are an up-and-coming captain in the imperial army, in which your past is tainted with accusations of dealings in Chaos. You must rise above all of this to lead the Empire’s forces to victory repelling the Chaos invaders and restoring your family’s good name, all the while seeking out the forces of corruption within the Empire.
FiringSquad: What will the playable sides be like?
Chris Wren: They are all very different. Choosing either campaign will give you a good sampling of all of them (either as friend or foe). On the Empire side, you will get to command Elven and Empire armies, and you will fight alongside Dwarves and other mercenary units. Among the Chaos, you will command units from the Chaos gods Khorne and Nurgle and multiple Skaven clans. Undead minions, Orcs and goblins, Giants, Vampire Counts and others all play a role in the campaigns. For multiplayer, you will be creating your own armies; these can include any one of the four main armies, as well as allowing for many combinations of mercenary units mixed in.
The Elves have the best ranged fighters. Their shadow warriors and archers are devastating from distance. The average High Elf army is not quite as numerous or armored as say an Empire army, but they make up for it in accuracy.
The Chaos army has the strongest individual units and they are not prone to fear or morale loss. They are slow, and have the worst range fighting in the game, but they make up for it with raw brute strength and unshakable will.
FiringSquad: What are some of the team's favorite units to play with in the game?
Chris Wren: I’ve been playing Skaven and Chaos lately, so I’ll focus on those. For Skaven, I like the Warp Jezzails, which are two man(rat) “rail gun” units that have huge range and high damage. They are the enemies at the gates who can snipe from across the battlefield but in melee they are fairly useless, so you need to keep them safe and far from the enemy. The Rat Ogres are fun too. They are very slow units, but if they can get within melee range they can tear up just about any unit in the game. The Rat Ogres travel with Skaven Packmasters, who keep them in line. If you can take out the Packmasters, the Rat Ogres will go out of control and start attacking their own units as well as yours. On the Chaos side, I really like the Undivided Sorcerer and the Hellcannon. The Sorcerer has got this creepy mad scientist voice, and his spells are all particularly evil. He also has a spell that lets him teleport around the battlefield making him a great hit and run unit. The Hellcannon, is basically a cannon, but in addition to iron it’s also made of demon and other body parts. It shoots fiery cannonballs made of iron, demon and other body parts, which even if it misses the enemy, tends to demoralize them.
FiringSquad: What will the missions and maps in the game be like?
Chris Wren: The campaign follows the story, with several offshoots and side missions available throughout each chapter of both campaigns. You will progress across our campaign map going from town to town, and to different events and battles when you encounter a hostile force, you will enter into our battle mode, which is the heart of this game. Each mission you go on is custom made, there are no generic missions or “go collect 50 rat whiskers and report back to me” missions. Each one was made to be a compelling experience unto
FiringSquad: What sort of multiplayer modes will the game have?
Chris Wren: The Multiplayer is mostly centered around competitive play and skirmishing. We have implemented a detailed stat tracking system to record personal profiles of your online record. This will tell others what your favorite maps and armies are, as well as your wins and losses. We have built in clan support that allows players to form their own clans, recruit and promote members as well as clan statistics tracked as a group. The customization really comes into play in multiplayer. Online, players can create their own armies any way they want, and they can also customize the looks of these armies down to the insignia on their shields or the type of beard they want their troops wearing. Among the types of online skirmishes we support are siege maps, capture and hold maps, 2V2, 3V3, as well as the traditional 1V1 battles.
FiringSquad: What other important gameplay features are in Mark of Chaos?
Chris Wren: The Champions are one of the most significant features in the game. Every major army in the game has many to choose from and each one can be customized to meet your needs. Every champion comes with a unique skill tree that in single player will develop over the course of the campaign, allowing you to earn experience and spend that advancing one of your hero’s three skill trees. All heroes share the three skill disciplines of Command, Combat and Dueling. Command is centered on your champion’s ability to lead your army and give benefits to other units within your army. The Combat skill tree is focused on skills which are useful in regular combat; many of these are powerful magic attacks. The Duel skill tree is specific to fighting other Champions on the battlefield. There are many types of champions, some are good at melee, others range and still others magic. Each champion can not only build skills, but they can pick up and equip items. Enemies and Destroyed buildings will often yield loot which your champion can then go pick up and add to their inventory.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the graphical features in the game?
Chris Wren: We really wanted the camera to allow players to get right up close to their units, to peruse the front lines of a bloody conflict for the soldier’s perspective. We also wanted the ability to zoom way out to see the whole battlefield. Most of the graphic features in the game were built around these two principles. Our satellite camera almost resembles the minimap, except it is not a map but just a camera that is pulled way out from the battlefield looking down on it. You can still command units from this view and issue formations and other orders. The up close and personal camera is more for show than anything, but the game is very playable from a close perspective. The main camera system starts you at mid distance isometric angle and is probably the most versatile camera in the game, you can zoom in and out as well as rotate the camera any way you want, there are some nice default cameras you can snap back to quickly if you find yourself enjoying the up close view too much and need to get back to business quickly.
FiringSquad: Will there be a mission editor or other mod tools released for Mark of Chaos?
Chris Wren: We will be releasing a powerful map editor around the time of launch. This will not be an officially supported tool, but should allow players to make some amazing maps for multiplayer. It will let some of the more dedicated players put together maps as complex as we have in the game -- raising and lowering terrain, adding objects like trees and buildings as well as starting locations and rules for the maps.
FiringSquad: Will there be a demo of the game released and if so what will it contain?
Chris Wren: We’re planning a couple demos of the game. The first one you will see is a multiplayer demo. This will contain a number of maps and a limited set of armies to choose from, but should allow players to sample a variety of multiplayer options and games to choose from. This demo will likely have our entire customization toolset available to deck your armies before you take them online.
FiringSquad: What can you tell us about the status of the game's progress and when will it be released?
Chris Wren: We are getting close to final on Warhammer: Mark of Chaos. The push lately has been to get the single player campaigns in order. We had a closed Beta test for multiplayer a while back, and to polish multiplayer before we launch the game, we’ll be hosting an open public beta soon to let more people jump in and help us tune up the last stages of that portion of the game.
FiringSquad: Finally is there anything else you wish to say about Warhammer: Mark of Chaos?
Chris Wren: What we’ve done is not a game you can easily slot into a predefined category, as it borrows from several genres -- everything from RPG, to RTS to Action/Adventure is all present in this game. It is an RTS at its core, but these other elements really allowed us to tell a cool story, make a dynamic multiplayer environment and show off Warhammer like you’ve never seen it before.
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