Recently, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III was given its a launch date on April 27th for PC. The high action RTS sequel to 2011’s Dawn of War II attempts to improve and build upon the game’s most notable features. Developer Relic Entertainment plans to deliver a true RTS experience to seasoned fans as well as peek the interests of a new generation of gamers.
During GDC 2017, DualShockers had the opportunity to sit down with Dawn of War III game director Phillip Boule and discus the game’s multiplayer mode and creating an real-time strategy game.
Azario Lopez: What significance would you say the multiplayer feature plays in the Dawn of War series?
Phillip Boule: It’s hard to overstate the importance, Dawn of War sort of stands on two legs: one is a propelling campaign, they other is compelling multiplayer. This could be the reason that people still play Dawn of War twelve years after its release and Dawn of War II six years later. With any luck, five years from now we’ll be talking about how people are still playing the Dawn of War III multiplayer.
AL: Was it a challenge to develop a new multiplayer mode that would attract hardcore fans and get them to move from Dawn of War II to Dawn of War III?
PB: The way we approach that is to go back to the way we approached the previous games. It’s not about making a game for the hardcore fans. It’s about making a game that’s authentic as well as making sure it feels right, feels fun, and feels engaging. After that, it’s about trusting that the fans will follow us on this journey.
AL: Since beginning the development of the multiplayer on Dawn of War III, have you seen any new trends in the online competitive community?
PB: Well sure. The PC strategy space is very dynamic, the popularity of MOBAs is something that we had to pay attention to. However, the way we approached that is to address what is compelling about these popular games and see if they would make sense in the Dawn of War universe. A few things we looked at is creating more responsive controls and a more readable combat experience.
We saw these elements as the new standard of online multiplayer gaming, so we are going to improve and surpass that. We aren’t set out to join the ranks of MOBA’s we are definitely a full fledged RTS.
AL: With the core mode having 3v3, 2v2, and 1v1 options, what mode do you think players should put the most time in?
PB: The most Dawn of War experience will come out of a 3v3 match. You can get the maximum number of variety of factions while fighting it out a huge map.
AL: With the Dawn of War series having a large fanbase, is it tough to hear out fan feedback, but also keep your creative vision?
PB: That’s definitely a challenge. Especially when you’re making a sequel, creatively there’s discussions of how much “new” is needed, how much is too much, and when does it stop being a sequel and just become something else. We spent a lot of time thinking about this and I believe we had the luxury of some time passing between Dawn of War II to know the elements of gameplay that have stood the test of time.
As we expose the new features to the fanbase, it’s always a process of seeing how they play the game and hoping that we got every decision right. Strategy games are a big complex living thing, we might need to make adjustments as it goes live, but that’s what makes creating RTS games so exciting.
AL: Is there anything in Dawn of War III that you feel adds to the RTS genre?
PB: I think its biggest step forward at a high level is the integration of heroes in an army. Now, this has been seen before, but the way we do it is different and creates different interactions. There’s a lot of things done under the hood that we’ve done such as reduce the amount of randomness in the game and make the game more readable.
AL: Is the multiplayer feature something that new players to the series will be able to pick up and easily enjoy?
PB: Absolutely, there’s no assumed knowledge involved during development. Even for players that might have not played the game after ten years, we want to have a game that welcomes new players and previous ones. However, there’s certainly rewards for people who know the Dawn of War games, such as nods to previous games.
AL: Is it tough to create a game that is accessible to new players, but still contains deep systems that will hold the interest of returning fans?
PB: It’s a challenge, but it’s one of those fun challenges of game design. In the case of strategy games fans know good ones because they have deep systems and lots to explore which makes the challenge of making a game accessible without dumbing it down.
Instead, it’s about rolling out the welcome carpet and making sure that we are exposing the important systems and not leaving it up to the player to discover these components. The tools are there to make the player better as they continue to spend time playing.
AL: What is the pipeline for the future of Dawn of War III in terms of DLC?
PB: There will definitely be balance support. In the past, we’ve released whole new armies as parts of huge expansions. We haven’t fully committed to which direction we are going to go, but that’s what I think we are going to do.
We would like to expand the number of classes, but our current thinking is that we don’t want people to pay for new heroes. We would rather release them into the wild and they can use them in game. We have a “Skulls” currency that is earned just by playing the game so there will be things that can be unlocked that way. We would also like to roll out some cosmetics as well that players could purchase if they want.