Strategy Informer have posted an interview with Relic’s Jonny Ebbert, lead designer on Dawn of War II.
Whilst mostly just covering the same groundwork about the game that others have before (The move from base-building to a more squad-focused game, Tyranids etc.), there are two interesting quotes that stand out from the rest.
Read the full article here or read more for some analysis…
Strategy Informer: You must get a lot of fan feedback then. What were the main criticisms levelled at the first game by the fans?
Jonny Ebbert: (Pause) Our support of the game wasn’t up to snuff. We did that to ourselves by making a very difficult patching pipeline, so one of the first things we did was make it very easy to patch this game (DOW II). Before, it took us months to create a patch and get it out to the player, which sucked because we couldn’t react quickly enough to developments in the community, you know problems and things breaking the game, so our new patching pipeline allows us to respond very quickly which is huge.
Our online service we were on at the time didn’t give us the robustness we needed for multiplayer. Firewall negotiation was weak and matchmaking was kind of ‘meh’ so with Games For Windows LIVE we‘ll be able to deliver a top-notch online service. They can handle the server load, they have great firewall negotiation, and then you have achievements. I think the player is going to get a lot more exciting multiplayer experience.
Second thing was the level of polish. I don’t think anyone really complained about it, but we always felt that we could apply way more polish to the game and we were able to do that with Dawn Of War II. We’ve added a lot of the details that were missing. The first game was exciting, but it was very broad strokes.
A lot of the people we hear from are the multiplayer crowd and they want lots of choice and lots of story, and I think we’ve found a happy medium to deliver both.
An interesting statement. Games For Windows LIVE is heralded as the red-headed step-child of PC gaming, with it being the cause of almost as many 1* reviews on Amazon as SecuROM (gotta love that FUD). Last year, Microsoft finally wised up that PC gamers wouldn’t be the same sort of cash-cow as it’s Xbox crowd and opened the system up, removing the Gold-level subscription charge and redesigning the interface for the PC.
If Relic are right and using the GFW:L platform solves a helluva load of networking problems & patching issues (common bugbears of PC gaming), then great!
That said, LIVE has been the cause of several patching DELAYS in the past few months (most notably GTA IV) as Microsoft require any LIVE-aware/enabled (I forget) game to pass any patches through their certification process to ensure it doesn’t break the service.
Then there’s the fact that Valve’s Steam service is still much more streamlined and PC-orientated than even the facelifted Games For Windows service. DoW II will ship on Steam from day 1, but, like GTA IV, will also require LIVE to be active in the background.
Strategy Informer: Now this is a standard question that we always ask, but what do you have lined up in terms of expansion packs and DLC?
Jonny Ebbert: We have a lot of seriously exciting plans for DLC. We really want to give our players a top-notch online experience and we want to reward our players for playing our game. We want to give out steady doses of free downloadable content because we believe in rewarding people who buy the game and the reason we don’t like DRM solutions is because they punish the innocent and they have to jump through all these hoops. We don’t want to do that so we’re going with the approach that Valve pioneered to just reward the people who actually bought the game with cool stuff. Free downloadable, regularly accessible stuff that enhances the game and then that’s an incentive for the people who didn’t buy the game to buy it. So we’ve got a really bold, robust strategy for that and we’re going to be revealing more details in about a month, but I think players are going to like it. And everybody wins you know? The people who paid for the game don’t have to go through any fuss and they’re constantly getting new stuff, which keeps the game fresh.
It’s good too see that some other developers & publishers are finally growing the balls that Valve have had for the past 2-3 years. Valve’s treatment of its first-party customers via the Steam platform has been nothing but glowing since it made a fool of itself with the Half-Life 2 launch and worked hell-for-leather to correct it.
Also, with last years DRM blow-up, it’s good to see another high profile release (see: Prince of Persia) forgoe any anti-consumer copy-protection, instead preferring to reward proper customers rather than brand them guilty until proven innocent.
Dawn of War 2 is due in February.