When Dawn of War was released, enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts of the Warhammer franchise alike rose in glory. The game not only represented it's source material accurately and vividly, it gave a fresh yet accessible perspective on the strategy genre, and filled it with more detail and well designed animation than anyone could ever wish for.
However something was missing. As visceral and addictive as the action and its protagonists were, many felt the game lacked something very specific that could have only improved it further. That specific something happens to be an army of red, armor plated, acid firing tyranic alien beasts, hell bent on destroying every living thing. Now though, a handful of modders dedicated to their beloved table top game have taken it upon themselves to bring these monsters straight onto the digital battlefield.
The team were more than happy to drag their eyes away from the mod for a second, and delve a little deeper into how exactly they're bringing the Tyranid army to life.
Images courtesy of Games Workshop and Relic Entertainment.
Mandatory formalities as per usual! Could you please give me the names and general responsibilities of yourselves?
Kaveman (myself) - Admin, animator and I deal with public relations
Tarot - Moderator and general forum Nazi
RobSkib - Moderator and animator
Gwalchavad - Coder and all round nice guy
El Perro – Design and ideas within the DoW engine and code balancing with the other races
-X- - Concept art, designed our fantastic user interface and also creates FX
Stryer - 3D Modelling, UVW mapping, Rigging, Skinning, Texturing (Yes, he does everything). Outside of DOW, he teaches Science to little kiddies!
Warlord Kentax – Creature sounds
How long approximately have you been together working on the mod?
We've been going for about a year now, but in the early stages of development we had very few people who could actually work on the mod, so for the first few months we just spent all our time throwing around ideas.
Have there been any rough or good times in particular so far that have really stood out for you?
Well, our website recently took a nosedive, and we lost all our forum posts. That took about a month to fix. Things have really starting to pick up recently, though, as we've been getting a huge amount of modellers stopping by and asking if they can help. We lost a load of our lead guys as well - Lord Azreal, founder of the forums just disappeared somewhere one day.
Our best times were probably around when Stryer managed to get the genestealer in game and we could finally start animating and getting some real content into the game.
Although now a definitive title in the RTS genre, Dawn of War has yet to really take off in terms of it's modding community in he same way say, Half-Life 2 has. Was this at all a concern for you during preproduction, in the way that your work might not reach as wide an audience as many other titles?
DoW was not 6 years in the making, so naturally didn't have the hype that Half-Life 2 had. It will never have the same size community, because it isn't the same size game. When we did start up, there wasn't anyone else trying to make a Tyranids mod, so we were the only ones. Also, since we are introducing an entire race to the game, it's only a matter or time before a DoW or Tyranid fan finds our site on the net and downloads the mod. That's not to say we're not popular, when we uploaded our latest release which is no where near finished and only has one model in game, we had around 600 downloads a day.
Another thing with Dawn of War being a new title (though not the only Warhammer game), is that there's no previous game with the same toolset that you could've really worked with, you're basically being thrown in at the deep end. Do you feel Relic have compensated for this in their support for the mod tools they supply?
You'd be surprised, but DoW is a really easy game to work with once you've worked out how it works. Our personal opinions of Relic are kept personal, but we have had a few shocks with vicious rumours of the Tyranids being in the Winter Assault expansion pack as well as other things.
The lack of documentation (or should I say, understandable documentation) has been a major pain in the in regards to the toolset. Very few people actually understand what they are doing when it comes to Dawn of War modding, which is a real shame. We'd like to thank CLR, especially for his help over the last year and FINALDEATH for the sterling work with the Dawn of War WIKI. The age of squat guys are probably most helpful to mother modders due to the Object Editor tutorials they have produced for everyone. The list goes on and on, but without the DoW modding community our mod wouldn't have stood a chance.
How are you finding the actual dev tools? Are things relatively easy or have you encountered many issues that have slowed development down?
The Dev Tools might seem a little intimidating, and the interface a little confounding, but they are really powerful, and open the game right up. Yes, we had to learn how to use it, but it was worth it. Now we've done that getting everything in game won't take very long at all. So far we haven't come across anything we haven't been able to get past, and thanks to the community I'm sure we never will.
In terms of actual content, it's quite clear that you are providing an entirely new set of models and animations; will you be doing the same with sound?
Yes, we will. We still haven't quite decided on what everything will sound like, but we will be introducing a whole new set of sounds, instead of just using existing ones.
I used to be an avid WH:40k fan, and my favourite species by far was the Tyranid race. I always felt that they had unsurpassed character and style in comparison to others. However I was deeply disappointed when they changed the Carnifex from being a giant, screaming crab, into a whiney maggot thing with a gun. Do concerns such as these have any impact on the way you develop the look of your army? Are you going for a carbon copy of the existing visual style of the Tyranid race, or will it be more a case of using your favourite versions of each character?
Lots of issues originally arose from the 2nd vs 3rd vs 4th Tyranid design debate. At one point Stryer actually had every Tyranid modelled and textured for the 3rd edition style. When the new codex came out though, we were pretty much leaning for the 4th edition as the models are much better and we want the mod to be as up to date as possible. We do know that Tyranid fan sites (such as www.warpshadow.com) are very pleased we are doing the 4th edition models and have offered me lots of constructive criticism and support in doing so). 4th Ed it is!
Another thing (well, as far as I remember) that made the Tyranids stand out was the way they worked as an army. In terms of Dawn of War, it must be pretty simple to develop armies that basically function around mechanics and buildings. However the Tyranids structures and weaponry are far more organic, and I was wondering if you are planning to develop the game to accommodate this, or use artistic license on the actual army and change the way that they work?
We plan on making a few gameplay changes to make sure the Tyranids play as a completely separate army, and not just reskinned Space Marines, for example, but they will still follow the basic system that all the other Dawn of War armies do. In other words, they'll build Listening Posts, capture like everyone else, and use requisition and power as resources. We have discussed radically changing the Tyranids but in the end we decided that in order to keep the game balanced with the other races we needed to try and keep to the standard 'template'. We are having Synapse Aura from the usual Warriors, Hive Tyrant and some of the buildings so if the Gaunts, for example, are in the aura they will be fearless and have an "Iron Will" controlling them, if they are not in the aura will they perform very badly and will die horribly quickly. The aura is short ranged so the Hive Mind must always micro manage the combat, again in keeping with the 'nids.
One of our favourite units is the Lictor, we have made them Hero Killers, so be warned, they do that job with perfect precision, but if they get caught in the open they can be gunned down by large squads, but by micro managing them, again, the Hive Mind will keep them "hidden" until their time is right.
Is the mod going to be just multiplayer or will there be a single player campaign as well? If so, are there any details that can be shared in regards to story?
At the moment we are concentrating on getting the Tyranids finished and in game, but as soon as we do that, we plan on making a single-player campaign to go along with it.
What's the general plan of action for now in terms of development?
The plan at the moment in terms of development is organisation. We never really sorted ourselves out and have always been quite loose in how we work, but recently we set a 3 week deadline for 6 team members to complete something and were impressed by how focussed and close we became during that time. It has really shown us that organisation has a place in a hobby (which this is for me) just as much as in work situations.
Thanks guys! Now get straight back to work!! Sorry, but I know for a fact that I'm not the only one eagerly awaiting the release of this mod! Best of luck with development and we hope to hear from you soon!
You can catch up with the Tyranid Mod here: Tyranids.gameapollo.com