Necromunda has bullet casings the size of tower blocks

Necromunda [official site] is finally coming to PC, with the subtitle Underhive Wars. It’s a game set in the underbelly of the factory planets that power the eternal crusades of the Warhammer 40K universe. Players control rival gangs, skirmishing in the shadows of giant machinery. I spoke to Rogue Factor about their upcoming adaptation of this long lost Games Workshop tabletop favourite coming, and here are the important points, including details on the movement system, camera, level architecture and INFINITE PIPES.

Rogue Factor previously adapted Mordheim and they’ll be using a similar movement system for Necromunda rather than moving to a more conventional turn-based tactical approach. That means you’ll have direct control of characters during your turn, moving, aiming and firing within a limited sphere based on their action points allocation. The camera will be similar as well, resembling a third-person RPG rather than the isometric XCOM-like angles I associate with tabletop gaming.

The architecture of the world is important, particularly the scale which sees levels built around a single bullet casing as large as a tower block. You’re fighting among the component parts of the enormous death machines that litter the battlefields of 40K, and Rogue Factor want your human characters to feel tiny and inconsequential.

from the tabletop game box art

“It’s super-exciting. Necromunda is a license that hasn’t been depicted visually a lot so a lot of our work is to take the few concepts that were done for the rulebook, and to be inspired by that and figure out what it should look like. Necromunda is the place where everything is being made for the Emperor, or at least most of the machinery and equipment. So we were very aware that the size of these battleships, for example, makes no sense when you’re at the human level, so we thought what if we look at just one part. One cannon. But, no, what about just one bullet. One bullet casing.

That’s very fun to work with, because then we think, well how do you transport that bullet? With a train and that train has a locomotive the size of an aircraft carrier. That opens up all kinds of possibilities for level design and sets us apart from many other videogames, which are mostly set in proportions that are very human. And it’s a different side of the 40K universe as well.”

Given that Rogue Factor are depicting this part of the universe, visually, in more detail than ever before, I asked how much input Games Workshop have.

“It’s a really nice relationship. We actually have a lot more freedom to develop the visuals, to make sure it works for a videogame rather than tabletop. A lot of the artwork for Games Workshop is very busy visually, and that makes a lot of sense because as a still, you have time to look at it, admire it and enjoy the details, but in a videogame that style would make a very noisy picture.

For us, the challenge has been to take the large scale and what makes Games Workshop art great, and depict that in a way that works visually for a tactical game on a screen.”

from the tabletop expansion box art

Alongside this massive scale, the development of the actual characters is vital, and there’s a greater focus on building and enhancing your squad than in Mordheim. Rogue Factor aren’t talking in detail about the structure of the game yet, but I did get some information.

“You build your squad, much as you did in Mordheim, and the members follow you, gain experience and progress. That’s very dear to us, the progression, and we want to go much further than we did in Mordheim. There are other elements we’re not talking about yet, but there will be a lot more depth and replayability. We want to open up the various build opportunities for each character to give a wide range of strategic possibilities.

We want to make sure that whichever House you play, and there are six, you have a very unique experience. That goes to the locations they inhabit, the jobs they do, the equipment they use. So there are biker gangs, industrial workers, and they’re all distinct. The Houses come straight from Games Workshop and so does the vertical aspect, directly from the tabletop game. It was the first tabletop game to really have that verticality, and there’s something really interesting about adapting that. It’s twenty, twenty-five years old, and it still has such a passionate fanbase, not just because of the setting but because it was doing something different.”

The architecture will be responsible for the biggest tactical shift. Combat mostly takes place from a distance rather than up close and personal, and weapon ranges will be one of the most important tactical considerations. Using cover to get close enough to fire a high power, low range weapon, or pinning opponents down with sniper fire. Range isn’t just horizontal lines across the battlefield though, you’ll need to keep track of enemies above and below. As in the example of that giant bullet casing, there will be much greater use of verticality.

from the official Necromunda magazine

And the INFINITE PIPES? Well, maybe not quite infinite. But they’re procedural pipes. Levels will be more hand-crafted than those in Mordheim, though there will still be procedural elements. The example I was given involved pipes. The world should feel cluttered, thick with details, to show its industrial workings. But laying down every piece of piping by hand would be one person’s job for the entire development cycle – the Batman cape of the Warhammer universe – so elements such as the pipes have their own procedural generation tools so that levels can be busy with essential details without taking hundreds of hours from what is still a small team.

“Repetition is so important for us. It fits so well with the industrial setting, because these are machines building machines, but it also makes sense. For example, instead of having one column with lots of detail, we’ll have a fairly simple column but repeat it many times, to give a sense of scale. It gives us the sense of size but is also feasible for a team of our size. We don’t have 600 people on this project, like some studios can, so we find ways to achieve the ideas in smart ways.”

But how does this industrial nightmare look? Grimdark? Gray? Repetitive?

“Grimdark is our art direction (laughs). We want to go in that direction, but we can’t go too grim. It’d be very easy to fall into a very gray colour palette, so the core is based around the grimdark feel, but then we use light and colour to bring out highlights and details. If the game is just rust, there’s no differentiation between one area and the next, so we want to have pockets of contrast to make sure the environments feel distinct. And not too depressing!”

from the rulebook

I mentioned that Relic’s Dawn of War III art department has a sign that says “If in doubt ADD MORE SKULLS”, and asked how important skulls are to Necromunda. Pipes and bullets are all well and good, but I’d like to see skulls the size of buildings and infinite procedural skulls as well.

“In our concept piece, the main thing that’s featured is a skull crusher. It grinds skulls, in the mouth of another, larger skull. Skulls are important.”

It’d be good to finish on skulls, but I asked one final question. How would Rogue Factor describe Necromunda to someone who has never heard of it before – what is the appeal in a nutshell (nutshells may be the size of a planet)?

“It’s basically a mix of Judge Dredd, Mad Max and Sons of Anarchy.”

Necromunda: Underhive Wars does not have a confirmed release date.

22 Comments

  1. sonofsanta says:

    That final quote gives me hope they understand the setting. Though Gorkamorka was more obviously derived from Mad Max, I can see the hints of it here.

    God I love Necromunda. I’d play a game just about scavenging in the setting, being a pokey little Juve threading your way between rival gangs to search for archeotech on the shores of chem pits.

  2. imperialus81 says:

    Very cool. Way back in the day I actually chopped up a bunch of Necromunda gangers to convert my Imperial Guard army into the Necromunda Spiders regiment. Most of them were based on Cadians, but a lot of the officers were Necromundans.

    I do hope they don’t overdo the “grimdark” end of things. Necromunda and GorkMorka were sort of the tail end of the ‘pink mowhawk’ era of 40K and I miss that.

    • Premium User Badge

      Al__S says:

      Necromunda original release was firmly in pink-mohawk territory. Gorkamorka, which I loved more, was the rocket boosted outrider of the properly grimdark, doing away as it did with the Klans as being at all important.

  3. Chiron says:

    The Warriors meets Judge Dredd in the far future.

    I’m looking forward to this.

  4. Frair says:

    Man, if they really want to depict verticality, they’d better do away with the top view overworld map that Mordheim had. I was not a fan of the map, and the camera in general. The over-the-shoulder cam was terribly wonky in enclosed spaces as well.

    • Pogs says:

      I agree. And it’s a pity they’ve stopped development on Mordheim due to being a small studio.

  5. RedViv says:

    Sounds good so far.

    THE GRRRRLSKLLLZ WILL RISE AGAIN
    BUST SHOW FOR ESCHER
    ESCHER OR BUST

  6. JimboDeany says:

    It appears they learnt a total of no lessons from the Mordheim game…..

    Over the shoulder view is terrible for a strategy game.

    • Captain Narol says:

      The shoulder camera is very immersive, and you have a global map accessible for a more strategic view… Worked fine for me.

      • Frair says:

        I found it terrible the moment you entered a building, or your character was up against any wall. It also auto centered any time a new action occurred, which was jarring. The deployed screen was handled terribly as well, imo. You can see all your deployment points but you can’t actually click on one to deploy there, you have to cycle through each one in a seemingly random order. I really hope they address this stuff.

        • JimboDeany says:

          What I’m saying is that it works far better with a free roaming camera that lets you actually maybe plan what you are going to do.

        • cpt_freakout says:

          It was wonky when entering buildings, and that deployment phase randomness was truly puzzling, but I thought that the 3rd person camera made things much more personal. XCOM’s overview camera was pretty good, but I think that the reason they added the ‘cool cinematics’ to certain moves was to reduce the abstraction the camera creates. Mordheim’s camera felt more intimate than the usual top-down tactics game view, and it reflected the fearful, messy, and downright dirty state of street fighting in the WH setting.

          If they fix its wonkiness, I think this perspective is quite adequate for a videogame adaptation of Necromunda, and I’m glad they’re sticking with it, to be honest. It’s one of those things where videogames can do something different to boardgames and bring out things from the licenses that could be missed when moving around minis on a table. In this sense I think the tactics in Mordheim and Necromunda might not be meant to be eagle’s eye military Commander decisions but imprecise gang leader ones. I hope that makes sense.

  7. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    It’s twenty, twenty-five years old

    Nah, that can’t be right because I remember when it came out, when I was a kid…wait, that was, umm….
    Oh fuck, I’m old now aren’t I?

  8. Viral Frog says:

    “Rogue Factor previously adapted Mordheim and they’ll be using a similar movement system for Necromunda rather than moving to a more conventional turn-based tactical approach”

    Well, that’s a shame. Looks like I’ll be passing this one over. Mordheim didn’t stick with me for this exact reason. I don’t like that I’m not able to properly survey the field during my turn.

  9. JB says:

    “Necromunda is a license that hasn’t been depicted visually” Aside from the miniatures, the scenery, and all the existing artwork, sure. ;)

    (I jest, I’m sure they just meant in the vidja-gaems sphere)

  10. Premium User Badge

    Bored of Canada says:

    They’re using the same movement system as Mordheim for this?

    Does Games Workshop’s licensing agreement mean that adaptations can’t be 1:1 recreations of the original game design? Feels like all these adaptations seem to come out slightly hobbled.

    • jamienobes says:

      I don’t get it Blood Bowl was a pretty true representation of the tabletop game. Why can’t we have the same with Necromunda? Why devs why?!

    • vorador says:

      Space Hulk (the one made by Full Control a while ago) was pretty much the tabletop on digital format. It even included the original tendency of things usually going south fast for the space marine player.

      And it didn’t do very well sales wise. To the point that the developer folded. I guess being loyal to the original game doesn’t always pay off.

  11. TheAngriestHobo says:

    Who exactly are you interviewing in this article? It’s possible that I’m just blind, but I don’t think you specified who those quotes came from.

  12. UttiniDaKilrJawa says:

    Well, after reading the various comments about Mordheim I decided to check it out. Really, dig the camera view (could use a little less auto-centering). Defintely more intimate than most turn-based strat games out there. Also, it really lets you see the artwork on the models.

    I really like how this camera view gives you the fog of war effect without having to grey or black areas out. Because your “in” the terrain / street you can’t see past the corners/buildings/etc. Also, liked the strategic overview map to help orient yourself in the street views. Would be cool to see an intelligence or recon stat used in a game like this. The better your intel / recon would be the closer your strategic map would match the actual terrain.

    Long story short (TOO LATE!!), I am really excited to see what they do with Necromunda with this same system (with much refinements please).

  13. Snowskeeper says:

    Glad they seem to understand (assuming I do) that WH40K’s “grimdarkness” is sort of a loop. It’s so grimdark that it pops right around to being silly and ridiculous again. It’s not like Battlefield where everything is dull and boring because Serious Bsness; it’s big green orks wearing skulls as hats and skulls as ornaments on their back spikes and decorating their hydraulic power claws with skulls and painting everything bright red because it makes them go faster, and dabbing their skin with blue because blue makes them luckier.

    The Imperium has less of that sort of thing–they’re a lot closer to the drab monotone sort of thing–but their grimness is its own aesthetic. Everything–even the mass-produced stuff–is intricate and detailed, with lots of little fiddly bits. Especially the stuff going to the Important Factions within the Imperium. I’ve seen books talking about how some Space Marine Chapters have rites inscribed on every individual ‘bullet’ they use. I don’t know if Necromunda supplies any Space Marine chapters, because I know nothing about Necromunda, but. Yes. Things. Things and stuff.