E3 2014: Warhammer 40K: Eternal Crusade Is Coming, and You Can Spend Money on It Soon

Do not fail your brothers.

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"Transparency" is the new buzzword in online role-playing game development. "Community collaboration" is also bandied about with more frequency, with Sony Online Entertainment's EverQuest Next leading the charge, laying bare the development process and seeking player feedback throughout the course of creation.

Behaviour Interactive is taking a similar approach with its development of Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade, the upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game. I sat down with lead game designer Brent Ellison and his fellow developers Miguel Caron and David Ghozland at E3 2014 to talk more about the game, and the first thing they expressed was their development motto: "Be true, be fair, be transparent." The studio has sought fan feedback from the very early days of preproduction, showing gameplay prototypes that in no way represented the quality of what the final product should represent.

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It was unusual, then, that Ellison and his team did not actually show me any of that footage--or any other footage, for that matter. The presentation was a lot of words, a very short and unfinished CG trailer, and a storyboarded example of what a typical gameplay session might be like. But it was mostly just words, which made for a disappointing presentation, and seemed at odds with the developer's stated motto. Nonetheless, Behaviour is preparing to take your money before there is any gameplay of consequence to show off. On June 25, you will be able to purchase your way into the Eternal Crusade founder's program, which not only nets you a copy of the full game when it's released, but also earns you access to various game modules as they are developed. The most expensive package, selling at $120, earns you access to all four of the game's factions (as do other packs), the earliest access to pre-launch modules, plus a whole lot of founders points (more than other packs), which you can use to purchase other items in the game. The game itself is currently scheduled to be released at the end of 2015.

Bear in mind, the game is already fully funded. This is not a typical early access or crowdfunding program. Behaviour, previously known as Artificial Mind & Movement, is best known for animated film tie-ins like Brave: The Video Game, as well as mediocrities like Naughty Bear. The developer is expecting a lot of trust, but I'm not sure it has earned it. (I'd be more willing to give my money to a developer with a better track record and an established role in the MMOG space.) The team communicated its pride in Eternal Crusade's monetization structure, but that's an odd thing to take pride in before the game has even left its preproduction phase.

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But back to those words. A typical gameplay session in this player-versus-player-focused game starts in your strike cruiser, where you can socialize with others and decide where on the planet of Arkhona you will land. You are taken to the surface and dropped into a predator tank, and you and your teammates might explore a nearby cavern for an ancient relic. Inside will be a swarm of Tyranids, but those giant AI-controlled space bugs won't be able to stop you. You shoot and slash your way through from a third-person perspective and collect the relic, which you then turn into high command for rewards that impact your performance on the battlefield.

Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade is primarily a player-versus-player game, however, so don't count on the bulk of your battles being against Tyranids. After grabbing the relic, you might notice a battle raging over a nearby fortress. So you return to the predator and head to the front lines. You sneak in using cover to avoid enemy fire (no word on whether the game will have an actual cover system), and then rush through a doorway blasted open by a LanCannon. You murder your foes and find your way to the top of the fortress. Raise your flag, Space Marine: You are victorious!

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Space Marines isn't the only playable faction in Eternal Crusade; Orks, Eldar, and Chaos Space Marines will also be playable. Regardless of your faction, the game is primarily about massive action. Behaviour impressed upon me that battles will depict 1,000 actual players onscreen at once. In fact, the team told me that game writers such as myself don't understand just how many players that really is. (I always thought it was 10 cubed, but now I'm not so sure.) So let's just be clear that 1,000 is a lot of people. All of those people will battle it out in a persistent world, using Warhammer 40K mainstay weapons like boltguns and chainsaws, along with psychic powers. Combat will be further invigorated by jumppacks, and you will be able to actively block and roll to avoid enemy attacks.

The element that most intrigued me was the idea of the commander role. You don't become a commander by playing the game a lot; rather, you become a commander by earning a reputation--a real one. Players who rise to the top of the pecking order will naturally become commanders, and will then be able to command other players by issuing orders and coordinating attacks. Players will be able to join squads as well, but I love the idea of a player fulfilling an even greater hierarchical role. It's a sensible idea that could make for extremely fulfilling coordinated attacks.

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Behaviour Interactive spoke a lot of lovely words about Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade. The game Ellison and his fellow developers describe sounds terrific--it's like Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine and PlanetSide 2 had a baby. But I'm cautious. The team had no prototype on hand, in spite of its stated dedication to sharing everything and collecting feedback. In turn, the preorder announcement rubbed me the wrong way. Game-makers are asking more and more often for money in exchange for a promise. I don't doubt Behaviour's good intentions, but I'm not yet ready to shower money upon Eternal Crusade just yet. On the other hand, given the troubled history of Warhammer 40K MMOGs, I'm ready for this game to be everything its creator says it will be. Bring it on! I mean, "Waaagh!"

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