Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Winter Assault Designer Diary #1 - Welcome to Winter Assault

Lead designer Andrew Chambers lays out the origins of the Dawn of War expansion in our first designer diary for Winter Assault.

The universe of Warhammer 40,000 is a very interesting and unusual place compared to your standard fantasy setting. Imagine taking huge green orcs and pitting them in combat against human warriors, but instead of giving them plate-mail armor and swords, you stick a rocket launcher in their hands, put them in power armor, and throw in some wicked-looking tanks and other vehicles. It's a pretty harrowing sight, especially when you have dozens of units battling each other. This was the scene in last year's excellent real-time strategy game Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War. And now designer Relic is getting an expansion ready that will add even more chaos to the screen by introducing a new playable faction and ratcheting up the already excellent gameplay to whole new levels. Due out this September, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War: Winter Assault should provide even more fodder for your battles. And in this opening chapter of our designer diaries, lead designer Andrew Chambers discusses the origins of the expansion.

Though there's something peaceful about snow, there's nothing peaceful about Winter Assault.

Welcome to Winter Assault

Andrew Chambers
Lead designer, Relic

Explosions, immense demons, explosions, big guns, explosions, fast-action strategy. Did I mention explosions? I'm talking about Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War, the real-time strategy game that we released almost a year ago. Most of you likely already know all about Dawn of War, so I won't bother going into too many details about it. What I am talking about today though is the expansion that we are currently applying the final spit and polish to, Dawn of War: Winter Assault.

Once Dawn of War was on the shelf, the launch party was over, and we had all caught up on some sleep, we sat down and talked about what our goals were going to be with the expansion. We knew that we had a strong multiplayer base to work off. The Dawn of War experience is still going strong today, with many people continuing to play it online and debating new strategies. We knew the additions we had made to the real-time strategy genre as a whole were quickly being touted as some of the freshest and most invigorating gameplay additions seen in a long time. In short, we knew we had a good game there, and we knew we wanted to build on it, not break it.

With that constructive mentality set, we started to critically and creatively look at some of the shortcomings of Dawn of War. We asked ourselves what areas we most wanted to focus on in the time we had to ensure that both old and new players would be excited to pick up this new addition to the franchise.

Straight away we knew we were going to add a new race. In fact, I'd already begun planning the new race while we were wrapping up Dawn of War. The new race had to bring something unique to the table while fitting seamlessly into the existing experience. It was also an opportunity to experiment with some new ideas and some unique gameplay elements that hadn't been done before. All of this factored into why I chose the Imperial Guard as the new, fifth race for Dawn of War. Since they are such a defensive and ranged force in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, I knew that by adding this style into the game we could fill a hole in the high-level gameplay of the dynamics between the original four races. We could also create some fun new gameplay with their "bunkered in" approach to war and the huge array of tanks they have at their disposal.

Getting shot is a good excuse to make snow angels on the ground.

The other big focus for me was the single-player game. Since the original Homeworld, Relic has been well known for delivering high-quality and immersive single-player experiences. Though the single-player game in Dawn of War was a lot of fun, it didn't live up to our very high internal standards. We are aiming to rectify this in the expansion. When you play Winter Assault, you will experience a more involved, challenging, and entertaining single-player experience than in Dawn of War, with every mission providing you with a unique experience unlike any found in the other elements of the game. I won't ruin the surprise by going into details!

I know you are all dying to hear more details about these additions to Dawn of War, and we will be talking more about it in the upcoming months. For now though, I've got a LAN game of Winter Assault to play. It's time to break out the Imperial Guard, pump out some tanks, and blow the heck out of my enemies. Hey, I'm back to the explosions!

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