I’m interested in Dark Millenium Online, the 40K MMORPG. I really am. I just wish Vigil Games would reveal more about it, so while I was at GamesCom I hatched a truly brilliant plan. Unfortunately my sock full of pennies and painstakingly sharpened Biro were taken off me at the door of their booth, so I settled for a straight interview with Executive Producer Tim Campbell. You can read it right after the jump.
RPS: So, you haven’t released a great deal of information on the game yet. Is this going to be a traditional MMORPG?
Tim Campbell: We look at it like, there’s two layers to an MMO. There’s the upper layer, which is progression, merchants, getting abilities and all that kind of stuff, and we have some twists and turns in there but for the most part it’ll be quite similar to the other MMOs out there.
Where we want to innovate is in the basic, moment-to-moment gameplay. The first thing we realised is that if you try to do traditional MMO combat with guns, it doesn’t work. You have like, a tank with a gun? It doesn’t make sense. And because the IP is really visceral and powerful, we wanted to amp the action up. So, it’s much more action-based. But we don’t want to talk about that just yet.
What I will say is that walking through these halls, you can spot an MMO from forty feet away. There’s something about ’em. They’ve got a million buttons, and you target enemies and attack them, and the whole thing is so easily identifiable. But because of our presentation and interface, if you walked by our game on the show floor, you wouldn’t think it was an MMO. At that level, it doesn’t play like an MMO.
RPS: There’s a lot of vehicular combat in the trailers you’ve released. Can you talk about that?
TC: That’s definitely one of the pillars of our game, in addition to action combat. Vehicles in MMOs are usually pretty poorly implemented. You can’t get out, there’s no real physics. But the vehicles in our game, you can jump in and out, they react to the environment. I mean it’s not like, super-hardcore physics, you can’t really crash the vehicles. I’d call it “part-physics”, if that makes sense. You can still ram other vehicles and stuff, but you can’t tip over.
RPS: How exactly are you using the 40K universe?
TC: It’s our goal to make players feel like they’re actually inside the 40K game world. The races and classes we’ve chosen are all really iconic. I mean, so far we’ve revealed Space Marines, but that trend’s going to continue. We’ll reveal all the high-level bullet points of the IP.
RPS: I feel like the 40K universe distinguishes itself with a degree of… not maturity, but violence and depression. Bleakness. It doesn’t seem to be on the same wavelength as most MMOs, which strive to be accessible to absolutely everybody.
TC: Personally, I feel there’s a difference between accessibility of gameplay and accessibility of content. I’ve played 40K for 25 years. It’s daunting at first to sit down with someone and show them the universe, but there are a lot of accessible, acceptable, identifiable themes in 40K.
A lot of sci-fi can be weird, with no points of reference. But 40K has loads of points of reference. You’ve seen it in pop culture all over the place- it’s fantasy, it’s sci-fi, it’s horror, but it’s not unidentifiable fantasy-sci-fi. The idea of a Space Marine isn’t weird. Fighting demons isn’t weird. You’ve seen it in a bunch of fantasy games. I think Games Workshop’s great at producing a ton of fantasy content that resonates really easily.
RPS: I suppose what I’m talking about is that most MMOs tend to market themselves at a younger audience than you’d expect from 40K.
TC: I think if you look at our last game, Darksiders, you’ll see that we didn’t “gimp” the setting there. It wasn’t ridiculously dark, but we didn’t shy away from those elements and that’s our style as a studio.
RPS: So, ranged combat’s what you’re using to differentiate Dark Millenium Online?
TC: Well, ranged combat, the universe, and a couple of other things we’ll be talking about at a later date before the end of the year. There’s a lot of things that fall out of ranged combat that make the game not play like a traditional MMO.
RPS: How do you feel about Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning?
TC: I played it, I enjoyed it. I don’t really like to talk about other people’s projects, but I think that did fall into the category of a more traditional MMO, and we don’t. You go on missions and you gain levels; we have all the trappings that make you feel attached to the game and the community, but what you’re doing- the thing with an MMO is that you never talk about what you did in the game. You might say that you got cool loot, or you killed this boss, but you never say- like, if you’d played Left 4 Dead, you’d be like “We were in the carnival, and a guy shot the car, and it was crazy, and one of the Smokers got one of our guys who got dragged off on his own!”
The physical acts you did. That’s what you’re talking about. And in an MMO, you say- “I pulled a mob and killed it”? Everybody does that in every MMO in every hallway. You just never talk about it.
RPS: So you’re shooting for something more instanced? More scripted?
TC: There’s still an open world. One of the things I can talk about is that we’ve carved out a little system in the universe where we set our game, and some of the planets are contested, some aren’t. Some are just outright battlefields. So there’s a lot of open, explorable space, but there’s also a lot that’s personalised and scripted.
RPS: Okay. And will the shooting be skill based? Do you aim with the mouse?
TC: Ah… I will say it’s more action oriented. One thing we wanted to make clear is that it’s not hardcore shooting. The weird analogy that I always give is that on one end of the melee combat spectrum you have WoW, and on the other end you have Devil May Cry. But there’s stuff in the middle, like Diablo. It’s not WoW, but it’s not Devil May Cry. Translate that to ranged combat and you can maybe start to see what we’re doing here.
RPS: Will we be able to play Inquisitors?
RPS: Thanks for your time.