Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II - Retribution Postmortem Interview

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posted 5/9/2011 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
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It's no secret that a few of us at Gaming Nexus are big fans of Relic's recent run of Dawn of War II games.   With that in mind we reached out to Relic to see if we could get their perspective on the games that they've released as well as what the future holds for the franchise.  Luckily we were able to talk to lead producer Jeff Lydell who answered the following questions.

Relic is now three games into the Dawn of War II series, looking back at the games what do you think was the best design decision you made? Are there any that you think are a little cringe worthy that have been fixed?
Adding progression elements to the RTS formula has definitely been a major success. When I read through the forums there is a ton of discussion on the configuration players have been using, and best of all, arguments about which is best. That reflects the depth of options available to the players in the campaign.

Most cringe-worthy would have been the lack of multiplayer content at launch of DOW2. Two expansions later we have corrected those problems, but we likely disappointed a number of our fans out of the gate.


The original Dawn of War II took a step back from the more strategic "base-building" style of RTS, and then with Retribution it seems to tiptoe forward to a more army-centric game. Do you feel you've found the "sweet spot" between squad-scale tactical management and higher-level strategic play?
We are always looking at ways we could do things better, but I’d say that DOW2 found a good balance for the game it was trying to be, especially with the Space Marine army. When it came to adding the other five races to the campaign, we felt the need to make changes.

Regarding base-building, the lack of higher level strategic gameplay, and specifically the lack of escalation into bigger fights is missed by many players, and I don’t think we are done tweaking the formula.

One of the cool things about Retribution is the ability to play all six races in the series. Why did you wait until this point to do that? What kind of challenges each race present in allowing the user to create them?
We only had four races to work with for DOW2 ;) Seriously though, with making a brand new game like Dawn of War II, it’s important to focus on the core experience. Once you lock that down, the expansions are a lot easier to get ambitious with, since at that point we are simply cranking out new content.

As for the challenges of each race, I can give a few examples. It was necessary to tweak the gameplay in Retribution to fit the swarmy races, like Tyranids, Orks, and Imperial Guard. Having multiple heroes didn’t match the Tyranids at all, so we changed that up. Last, we had to make sure the stories made sense for everyone, due to the shared nature of the campaign. Our intent was to make it so you could play your favorite race through Retribution and have a good experience, and I think we succeeded.


Outside of the obvious Warhammer 40K canon lessons, what things did you learn from these games that you are using in the development of Space Marine? Any chance you’ll be going back to the Dawn of War series in the future?
Disclaimer, I don’t work on Space Marine. I will say the best lesson we got from Dawn of War was to deliver the fantasy as best you can. If you go back to the original Dawn of War, it did a great job of delivering the fantasy of controlling your favorite Warhammer 40,000 army. Space Marine is focusing on delivering a more specific fantasy, which is the super-human ability of the Space Marine.

As for Relic, and myself specifically, we are staying on the Dawn of War series, we aren’t taking any breaks. :)

Looking back over all the games what was the hardest unit to design and balance?
Most recently it was the Baneblade. It was a massive tank with a huge number of guns, and it was hard to give it a focused role. In the end we solved it by making two of its primary weapons into abilities, which let them feel powerful without being too powerful.
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