Interview: Game director Philippe Boulle on Dawn of War III

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III game director Philippe Boulle talks up a storm for Relic’s next strategy title.

Interview: Game director Philippe Boulle on Dawn of War III

I had a lot of fun with the Dawn of War series, and particularly enjoyed the risks that Relic took in shifting the campaign from traditional RTS to more of an action-RPG between the first two titles. It helped that the multiplayer was also a blast. Earlier this year, I had the chance to sit down with game director Philippe Boulle and talk about Dawn of War III.

For additional quotes, be sure to check out the current issue (with the amazing Warhammer 40K cover) for additional insights and hands-on impressions. As for this particular interview, it started with me talking to Boulle about an amazing Warhammer 40K diorama that was sitting in the interview room.

PCPP: That diorama is amazing! Did that come from the office?

Philippe Boulle: This came from Warhammer Cologne.

PCPP: The local office. You’re like, ‘We’re going to be here. We’ve got a press room. Can we get this?’

Philippe Boulle: Yes. They rose to the occasion.

PCPP: They sure did. And did they match units to what’s going to be in the game?

Philippe Boulle: Indeed. All of these units are in the game.

PCPP: Defensive units, a well? I can see a giant cannon up the back. I’m sorry, I’m not too well versed in specific names within the Warhammer 40K universe [sorry again to fans!].

Philippe Boulle: There’s a few campaign missions that have things like that, but it’s not part of the multiplayer.

PCPP: I was just playing before, having a lot of fun, and I noticed that there’s some restriction with the camera movements.

Philippe Boulle: Yup.

PCPP: Like, zoom has been scaled in compared to, I’m thinking more of a Company of Heroes 2 in my mind, I may have transposed that to Dawn of War, and no rotation. Is that the intention for the final version, and if so, why?

Philippe Boulle: [For more quotes on the specifics of the camera, check out the cover story of the current PC PowerPlay issues that’s on sale now.] I will say that Relic being Relic, the art is of a quality that I find myself wanting to unlock the camera now. I think what we’ll do is we’ll wait until we get it in front of people and see what the feedback is.

PCPP: Is it tighter on the zoom out, as well, because you’ve mentioned the importance of zooming out, at the moment?

Philippe Boulle: It goes further back than any of the previous Dawn of War games.

PCPP: So the intention of that is because there’s going to be more units on the screen?

Philippe Boulle: Yes. More units in total, a full pop-cap army is larger than you’ve ever had. We have big, taller units than we’ve ever had, so we wanted to give that epic scale, basically.

PCPP: What kind of challenges does that present: having to not just up the size of the armies, but also the size of the units themselves?

Philippe Boulle: I’d say the biggest challenge is making sure that special units stand out. [For more quotes on these challenges, check out the cover story.]

PCPP: Has TrueSight made it over from Company of Heroes 2?

Philippe Boulle: It actually has. [Check out the PC PowerPlay December 2016 cover story for more on the Company of Heroes 2 features/learnings that are in Dawn of War III.]

PCPP: That’s really cool, because I was going to say what I played was very open, so does that mean there’s less of an emphasis on urban combat, because it became quite tactical in Company of Heroes 2 to be able to sneak some units behind a tank or something like that. We shouldn’t expect that in Dawn of War 3?

Philippe Boulle: Uh, there’s less of that because we’re dealing with larger forces. [More quotes in the cover story.]

PCPP: It’s been a while since there was a Dawn of War game. Does that mean there have been other particular learnings you’ve been able to take from Company of Heroes and apply back to this series? Because I think, for me, being a big Company of Heroes fan, what I loved was seeing the changes that went into both franchise when you were moving between them fed back into each other.

Philippe Boulle: Absolutely. Definitely. It continues under the hood in our technology in that we literally took the Company of Heroes 2 engine once they were done with their major patching and used that as our basis, and then we’ll continue to develop that from project to project. But also just in terms of design and learnings, there’s some very obvious things, like, you now capture points in Dawn of War just by getting close to the point, which is something that came from Company of Heroes 2, but then there’s also a lot of sort of more subtle things that we’re taking, learnings in terms of pacing, in terms of what makes for fun squad-based combat, and what makes for more fun hero combat, those are big challenges for us. So that’s been a lot of fun to get learnings from one team, take them and move them in a different environment, pass them back and forth. It’s great.

PCPP: Dawn of War and Dawn of War 2 were different games in some respects, in terms of the second one became more of a Diablo-style campaign. This seems to be a combination of the first two games. I guess, there were some very vocal fans after Dawn of War 2 wasn’t what they imagined would be a sequel. Was that smaller, than expected, that outcry, which is why you were able to bring these units into something that was more traditional, as well—I’m talking about the hero units—and how has that been received so far?

Philippe Boulle: So far the reception has been great. People are playing at Gamescom and having a really good time, and that’s wonderful. When we started, we obviously took a look back at both the previous games in the franchise and what had worked, what had resonated well, what stood the test of time.

PCPP: And with the hero units, you can unlock certain gear, equipment, upgrades that makes it a bit more personalised.

Philippe Boulle: It’s less gear. Gear was a big thing in Dawn of War 2. So we wanted to play up the idea of, he’s really good in this role, I’ve got another hero who’s a really good ranged hero, and another one who’s a really good support, and I’m choosing which of my toys to bring to the battle. That’s not to say there’s no development path and no choice, there is some, but it’s not completely changing their gear, for example.

PCPP: Okay, and does that lend itself to less of a linear mission structure, and more of something where you get to pick and choose missions, and picking one over the other has consequences?

Philippe Boulle: Our priority with the missions was to give equal love to all three factions. Mission one is Space Marines, mission two is Orks, missions three is Eldar, mission four is Space Marines, and that has all kind of interesting impact, like, the player knows more than the protagonist. But in order to make that work, we stuck with a linear campaign structure, just so the player had one less thing to think about when they’re switching perspectives all the time. I definitely think that nonlinear meta-map approach is something that we’ll want to explore in the future, but it’s not part of the core game.

PCPP: Awesome. Thanks for your time.

Philippe Boulle: Great.

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