I’m going to open this article by establishing something: I absolutely love the Warhammer 40,000 setting. There is something so absolutely imaginative about the system which begat something that now sounds as generic as “space marines.”
I mean, let’s look at it: these space marines are actually in service of an emperor who is basically dead, but kept on a bizarre life-support throne which has allowed his consciousness to protect mankind from the forces of Chaos for tens of thousands of years. Except the throne is breaking down, and when it does, his decaying body will finally snuff out. And no one can fix it, because no one understands how technology works any more — in fact technology is treated as religion, not to be understood but to be worshipped.
It’s bonkers. The world of Warhammer 40,000 is bonkers, and very, very dark — after all, if Chaos doesn’t eventually kill mankind, the Tyranids, a countless horde of hive-mind aliens, will. And honestly? If you want to work in that kind of context, that kind of thing has to touch some part of your brain that just thrills you. That’s certainly the case with Miguel Caron and Behavior Interactive, who are working on Warhammer 40K: Eternal Crusade, a massive online shooter.
If you’ve been following the news, you’ll probably be confused: wasn’t there already an MMO based on Warhammer 40,000 coming? Dark Millenium or something? Well, the answer there is a bit... vague. THQ, who owned the rights, went bankrupt. But before that happened, they announced that the MMO “part” of Dark Millenium wasn’t working out so they were canning it. While it’s never been fully announced that the title is now completely cancelled, that only seems to be because THQ aren’t around to make announcement.
In a chat at this year’s E3, Caron explained. “What happened [with THQ] was a big learning experience for Games Workshop. We have the exclusive rights to the IP for our game, but the way they give out the IP now is they slice it up: we are promising a third-person, over the shoulder shooter with massive warfare. No story, only war. We pitched it to Games Workshop and they carved that out of the IP.”
“There may be other Warhammer 40,000 games!” he laughed, “On iPad, or even a story-driven MMO a la Rogue Trader. Before this, THQ got the rights to the entire IP. But for Games Workshop it’s not about how much money they make selling the IP to someone. They don’t want someone to buy the IP but not actually get a game out with it. So they have the same goal as us: to get a game out that makes the fans happy.”
It’s all good to know that Games Workshop are actively involved in this upcoming game, but with little more than a (scant) press release and an announcement website to go on, what is there to get excited about?
“Imagine the massive warfare of Planetside 2, but we are aiming to double the number of concurrent players in a battle,” Caron boasted. If he’s serious, that means battles with potentially as many as four thousand players. “Thousands of Orks slamming their shields, Space Marines on the other side, running towards each other and slamming into each other like it’s 300. An epic, bloody battle until at the end there’s one huge Ork Nob battling against a lone Space Marine hero, with fallen players and more watching it happen via a feed direct to Youtube.”
Caron talks with a real passion and belief, even if you can tell such ideas are still lodged right in his brain rather than reality. After all, he admits the game doesn’t plan to go into an open beta for two years yet. Caron is so incredibly passionate, however, that as a long time player of the tabletop game he actually left his CEO role at Funcom in order to make this game — approaching and somehow managing to convince the team at Games Workshop to sign on for his MMO without having a studio attached.
“This is my project; when I was with Funcom in Montreal I wanted to use this license but they did not; it was one of the reasons I left. I want to make this game. When I started it was not about the company, but the game. Even on my own, I still had seven people with me working on the game, building it, and they are the core team at Behaviour right now. When I joined Behavior, it was predicated on them not just getting me, but my team.”