[INTERVIEW] Jonny Ebbert gives his insight on DOW2! -1 reply

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I didn't make it!

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#1 10 years ago

Hello FileFronters! I've been doing my best to get around the websites - if your intergrated within the major DoW fansites like the official DoW2, DoWSanc, Gamereplays and RelicNews forums, you'll have noticed I posted up asking for questions. Unfortunately DoWMods slipped to the back of my mind and I didn't post on here. I'll attempt to correct that with extreme predjudice, and I've relocated DoWFiles on my favourites. The original post (slightly editted for context) from all of the sites is below. Enjoy!

I would like to thank the following people for their contribution to the interview: PacPomarnacki - For kicking me to ask for an interview, proof reading and supporting me. The #horusheresy and #dow_community channels on IRC - We laugh and cry together. I owe you guys for brighting up my rather dull days! (And fixing trojans) Deadguy - for setting up the IRC channel for the interview. Thunder - for setting the whole thing up and clearing it with THQ Jonny - for answering the questions nobody in the media asks, giving up his precious time during finaling and another 5 minutes of his next meeting! To anyone I forgot - you know who you are, stop crying :P

So, without further ado, I present to you a very long wall of text! Hirmetrium: So to start off, can you introduce yourself and what you do at Relic? Jonny: I'm Jonny Ebbert. I'm the lead designer on Dawn of War II. Basically I lay out the high level vision of the product, and then work with the designers and other departments to make sure that the individual features all make the vision a reality.

Hirmetrium: Personal questions! What games are you playing at the moment? Jonny: Right now I'm playing Call of Duty 4 and Bioshock, and really looking forward to Far Cry 2.

Hirmetrium: Did you kick the World of Warcraft habit? Jonny: 3 years ago. After playing UO, EQ and WoW religiously, I finally had the epiphany that life is too short to play massively multiplayer games.

Hirmetrium: And do you still play Warhammer Tabletop lots still? Jonny: I played in our last tabletop campaign but I had to skip the current one because we're finaling. I still fill in for someone once in a while when they can't play their army that turn.

Hirmetrium: What’s the weirdest Dungeons and Dragons character you’ve ever played? And will you be dressed as Hitman this Halloween? Jonny: I once played a character based on Captain Caveman in D&D. That would probably qualify as the strangest! As for Hitman, I pretty much dress up as Hitman every day of the year, so I'd try to be more creative on Halloween! Hirmetrium: Suit, tie, and gun to make the grunts work? Jonny: Exactly!

Hirmetrium: How happy with Dark Crusade were you? It’s been a while, and no doubt there are things you would of wished to improve upon. Jonny: The truest thing I've heard in a while is the saying that games are never finished...they simply run out of time so you're always left with questions of "what if" or "if only". There are many things I would have liked to improve in DC but I think the game turned out well. It's definitely something I'm proud to show to my friends and family.

Hirmetrium: Fast forward slightly – what about Soulstorm? We’re all aware it was outsourced to Iron Lore. How much did you affect the process? Do you think it did better or worse than Dark Crusade? Jonny: I charted out the high-level product design for Soulstorm and helped Ironlore ramp up on the franchise at the very beginning. After that Ironlore pretty much took the ball and ran with it. As for the final part of the question, I think we had a real advantage over Ironlore since it was our engine, our tools, and we'd been making Dawn of War products for 3 years when we started DC, so I think DC had an edge for those very reasons, but I'm probably not the most objective person to ask.

Hirmetrium: What would you say to the people who don’t plan to buy Dawn of War 2 because of Relic’s patch support of the original Dawn of War to change their minds? Jonny: We've made huge strides to improve our patching process, and our online service for Dawn of War 2 and we have some really cool surprises in store for people in terms of the online experience. So ultimately I'd tell them that we're working very hard to provide a top-notch experience in Dawn of War 2.

Hirmetrium: We know that Dawn of War 2 will have a focus on cover – those of us who have played Company of Heroes will understand how important it is. Is the system coming over in exactly the same way, or are you making changes? Jonny: The system is the same, with some cool improvements, but cover won't be quite as central in Dawn of War 2 since we're adding melee to the mix and because we have units that don't need to hide behind cover to survive on the battlefield. We really like the mix of action and tactics that you find in Dawn of War 2 and we think players are going to really find it exciting too.

Hirmetrium: What sort of numbers will be present – how many squads do you expect players to control, and will vehicles be alongside that number? Jonny: Are we talking about in the Campaign? or in Multiplayer? Hirmetrium: Is there a difference is the best place to start! Jonny: Yes, there’s a very big difference. I can't dive into heavy details on multiplayer because we have a big reveal coming up but I can tell you a few things. First, a lot of journalists noted that there is no resource gathering and base building in single player and extrapolated that applies to the whole game. That's not true, there is base building and resource gathering in multiplayer and there are some cool innovations on both, but they are there and we'll be giving the details on it soon. We've done some really innovative things in single player, but multiplayer will feel very comfortable and familiar to people who loved the original DoW.

Hirmetrium: What other elements from COH are coming to Dawn of War 2? Gamesday 2008 showed us some obvious ones, like pinning and retreating, which have been brought in, and we already know that cover is playing a key strategic part. Jonny: Ok, with that being said, here is what we're trying to accomplish in Single Player: We didn't think base building and resource-gathering were appropriate in single player because starting over is no fun in a single player campaign and also because Space Marines don't go to planets to build little cities and chop wood. We wanted to create the feeling of an elite strike force that fears nothing because it is fear incarnate! We want you to carry your progress from one mission to the next, so for that reason we've giving you command of a small strike force of Space Marines. You’ll know each of these guys by name and each has his own role on the battlefield, and you'll bring four squads down for each mission but you'll have more than four to choose from when you're on the strike cruiser planning your next mission. And as for whether there are vehicles to bring down, there are certain things you're going to have to discover for yourself when the game comes out…

Hirmetrium: My next question was about bases and resources in the campaign, but you appear to have answered that completely already! Jonny: Both are awesome pacing mechanics for Multiplayer, but they just don't make sense in single player and when people play our SP campaign. We don't think they'll miss them at all.

Hirmetrium: What, in your opinion, is the most awesome piece of wargear for campaign, and why? Jonny: The sniper rifle. Once you get your hands on it, you will understand why it is the definition of awesome! The gameplay video shows its practical use, but it just doesn't fully convey how satisfying it is to use when you're the one pulling the trigger Hirmetrium: On that note quickly - many people have pointed out in the gameplay demo that only squad commanders receive weapons, but will it apply to the entire squad like the wargear screen shows? Jonny: It will only apply to the commander. That's an extremely old video that had the first pass of code. The reason we did that is that you're finding rare artefact weapons and it didn't make sense for them to come in packs of three! We also want to drive up your attachment to you squad and really make them feel unique and cool. Hirmetrium: Will the other squad members get weapon changes too however? Jonny: Their weapons improve over time, but your squad leaders are the only ones who change their weapons (with a few rare and cool exceptions).

Hirmetrium: Are Sync kills in, along with the over the top super units to show them off? We all love them blood piñata’s. Jonny: Sync-kills are in! You can see the Warboss and the commander do a few in the final fight in the game play video. Hirmetrium: With large amounts of blood? Jonny: That was our main failing in the gameplay video, the blood was not heavy enough, and that has been fixed...with extreme prejudice!

Hirmetrium: What’s with Blood Ravens and no Librarian? Is he in or not? Jonny: Heh, we have plans for the Librarian, big plans. That's all I'm going to say on that.

Hirmetrium: Is there room in the campaign for cameos? Chaos, Guard, even Tau? Jonny: There's always that chance!

Hirmetrium: How has the melee system changed? Is it radically improved, or very similar to the original Dawn of War? Jonny: The melee system has had some really nice improvements made to it. The pathing is much smoother, and melee units have a much easier time hitting units on the run. We have the same pathing guru that was on Company of Heroes, and he has made his awesomeness felt.

Hirmetrium: What’s the story behind 3 man squads? There’s been a lot of community backlash over this, and how “un-fluffy” it is. Jonny: Yes, I noticed that it has really caused a bit of a stir. I will give you our reasoning, and perhaps this will at least bring understanding if not forgiveness! A lot of us on the Dawn of War team found that it was really difficult to face the fact that 8 Space Marines were the equivalent of 10 Guardsmen or 10 Orks. It pained our souls deeply, we wanted Space Marines to feel heroic, larger than life and powerful. It also pained us that we had to make all of the infantry in the original Dow roughly the same size. So our goal in Dawn of War II was to make Space Marines feel heroic and godly, like the rare, unique, elite bad-asses that they really are. So first, we made them to scale. They tower over the Eldar and Orks (the boyz at least) and we also made them really tough. So we thought smaller squads were better for that reason.

Now add the fact that we're giving you command of an elite strike force, and we want you to feel like every guy counts, That each loss is a devastating blow to the Imperium and that your squad commander really needs to stand out. We also want you to see the detail of combat, and manage your guys closely, so the camera needs to be fairly close to the action. If we wanted to accomplish this, 3 man squads turned out to be the way to go. However, we made Tarkus (your tactical marine squad leader) unique by giving him a squad of 4. So basically it was a catch 22, we could either make our Space Marines really bad-ass, to scale, feel heroic like the backstory, and give the intimate experience or we could make them disposable and numerous. We chose the former. Hirmetrium: Both of which people seem to hate can I note… Jonny: Heh, and there's the dilemma. Like I said, now that they know the reasoning, perhaps the people who dislike 3 man squads will at least understand us, if not forgive us!

Hirmetrium: What sort of mod support will be available? Jonny: Having worked with the Essence Engine for 3 years now, it's just not a moddable engine. The Dawn of War engine was built from the ground up to be mod friendly and the stakes were much lower then. Animation trees were an order of magnitude simpler, units took half the time to make… basically our choice was this: Re-write the essence engine to make it moddable and give you 1/3 the game you're getting, or focus on making Dawn of War II the game it is today. We chose the latter. As someone who loves the mods I've seen in DoW, it was a painful, painful decision, but I think it was the decision we had to make.

Hirmetrium: One of the most heavily asked questions is about the army painter – this was an incredible feature in the original, customising your own army with banners, badges and colors. It really captured the spirit of tabletop. Is the feature returning fully in Dawn of War 2, with improvements? Jonny: Yes there will be an army painter! And yes, there will be some really cool toys to play with! I was playing with it this morning as a matter of fact...

Hirmetrium: Company of Heroes style Doctrines – are you willing to say if they’re in Dawn of War 2 yet? Jonny: We'll have to wait until the multiplayer reveal to find out!

Hirmetrium: A long time ago you promised me, in a previous interview, that you’d bring hard counters back to the Dawn of War series. Are they in Dawn of War 2? Jonny: There are definitely hard counters in Dawn of War II and they are hard counters that are visually obvious, which I think most players will appreciate. One of our first rules when designing multiplayer was "If someone has to read help text to figure out why they lost a battle, we have failed".

Hirmetrium: We’ve seen huge amounts of RPG style content, squads gaining levels and items. What’s with Relic’s obsession over RPG content? Jonny: We want you to be able to carry your progress forward from one mission to the next and we wanted you to get really attached to the squads in your strike force by customizing equipment and watching your guys get better with each shot they fire really delivers that feeling. I watch people play the game every day, it's extremely fun. I've noticed some people getting concerned that these elements will be in multiplayer. They will be, but in a way that won't affect balance, and in a way that will enhance the core DoW multiplayer experience.

Hirmetrium: Is Dawn of War 2 aimed at the casual market, or are you aiming for the hardcore, competitive market like you (sort of) did with Dawn of War? A lot of people are concerned with the single player experience being heavily focused on over the multiplayer experience. Jonny: We've built the Single Player experience to attract casual people, and people who otherwise wouldn't play RTS, but the hardcore will find it just as engaging. Trust us on this, MP is focused on the traditional RTS player. I've watched roughly 100 people play the SP campaign, and the first question I always ask, "Did this feel like Dawn of War?” I've yet to hear "No".

Hirmetrium: When is the beta likely to be opened? Soulstorm users were promised entry, and I know many people would be keen to provide early feedback, especially on some features for the online lobby and the like. Jonny: There will be a beta for Soulstorm users, but I'm not going to give you an exact date yet. However, we are working on it as we speak!

Hirmetrium: When’s the multiplayer reveal date? So many people want to more about multiplayer, but I can’t ask that until THQ give the green light! Jonny: I know when the press is coming, but I'm not sure when the actual information comes out. We have to give print magazines enough lead time so that they release with the online publications. I would be shocked beyond belief if we didn't have something for you before Christmas, as in "something you're reading online in great detail".

Hirmetrium: Jonny, thank you so much for your time and effort Jonny: I really appreciate you taking the time to do this Thomas and I hope I gave you guys some information to get excited about!

My regards and thanks to everyone involved - people who posted questions, and people I consulted along the way! You may now return to your normal lives :P



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15th June 2006

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#2 10 years ago

Thanks for the interview Hirmetrium! T'was a good read ;)


A Force of Chaos

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28th March 2008

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#3 10 years ago

Yeah, base building is in!


Modding Beginner

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7th October 2006

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#4 10 years ago

although base building is in for multiplayer and out for single player campaign will there still be an offline skirmish mode with base building or not?