EGX 2015: Interview with Fatshark about Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide
At EGX 2015 GameSkinny got to interview Daniel Platt, the Lead Level Designer at developer Fatshark Games, who are currently working on Warhammer End Times - Vermintide (Vermintide).
Vermintide is a co-op mêlée focused first person game, set in the Warhammer fantasy world. If you know Left 4 Dead you already know the fundamentals of Vermintide. You have two weapons, and three item slots. Ranged weapons do feature, but the ammo for them is a bit more scarce than you are used to. You are fighting the Skaven, who are rat like creatures. They love to climb about and jump at you.
Daniel Platt working hard next to the window.
After the introductions, we got straight to the interview.
GameSkinny: What's the biggest challenge with making a Warhammer game? As it's in such a large established franchise.
Daniel Platt: Well I think it was generally that so many people have an idea of what Warhammer is, or how it should be, so getting the look and feel right was really hard. Getting it to look authentically Warhammer. We spent a lot of time working on that, and as we have a lot of massive Warhammer fans at the office it helped us a lot with that.
GS: So as the game is set in the Warhammer fantasy universe, what was the idea behind fighting only the Skaven?
DP: Well we felt that the Skaven have been really underserved as a race, it's usally Orcs or Choas in Warhammer, so this was a good chance for us to show off the Skaven really. We also had to pick something to focus on in the first game to begin with. There are also a lot of Skaven fans at the office, and other people are saying "oh thank god somebody's doing something with the Skaven." Since Shadow of the Horned Rat there hasn't really been much Skaven in Warhammer video games.
GS: Obviously the game is team based PvE, and I guess the ideas are drawn from Left 4 Dead?
DP: Yes, Left 4 Dead was a big inspiration for us, it's a really great game. We really love it.
GS: What differentiates Vermintide from Left 4 Dead? Apart from obviously Warhammer.
DP: Well that's just it, definitely the mêlée combat is something we have put a lot of time into, and it's working. It has that really good feel to it I think. And also the replayability that comes from the loot at the end of the level, you didn't get to see that in this demo, but at the end of every level you roll dice to determine what loot you get. You then bring that into the next mission, so you may get different weapons which act differently, so you can then customise your characters more. Vermintide has some more systems to it which give it more replayability.
GS: So it has RPG-lite elements to it I guess.
DP: Yes, not skill points in that sense, but more how your character plays. I think that will keep people playing for longer.
GS: I'm guessing the game has some sort of AI Director type deal, which will spawn enemies in at some points. But what dictates when enemies are spawned, and the types of enemies get spawned?
DP: It checks for if people are kind of running off on their own, we want to keep people together. We think it's very important as game designers to hit people on the wrist when they are playing it wrong, so we quite quickly introduced a Gutter Runner. A ninja like character who pounces on people when they are on their own, this gets people to stick together. But if they are too tight together the AI Director will throw in a Poison Wind Globadier, which can create gas clouds which will split people up. So it keeps throwing challenges at the player to make sure they are not in their comfort zone. Also if you take a lot of damage, and are doing badly, it will let off on the pressure. But if you are doing very well it will throw more at the player.
GS: It sounds like these different types of enemies are a bit like the Special Infected.
DP: Yes, absolutely, they have their purpose to get people to cooperate properly with each other. Some are more inspired by Left 4 Dead, but some are more unique. We have a Ratling Gunner, a huge mini-gun like thing who will shoot at you no matter what's going on. If there is, let's say, 40 Skaven in front of you he will just tear through them. He doesn't really care.
GS: Does this mean that Skaven attacks can affect other Skaven?
DP: Definitely, that's a huge part of the Skaven style in general, they are very selfish. They are always looking for that kill, and for example the Poison Wind Globadier will throw his gas at you now matter who is around you, and they will often kill each other. You can use them against each other which is fun.
GS: I noticed that when there is just one Skaven on their own, they tend to try to hide, or run away. Or if they are backed into a corner they will just lunge at you.
DP: Yer, totally. That something we want to reflect with the Skaven, and it's also something that sets us apart from Left 4 Dead, we don't have zombies. They are not mindless creators, they have a brain. They like to swarm you with numbers, and if they are on their own they are cowardly. They are also a lot more agile, they can climb over things, and jump over roofs to try to surround you. They are quite interesting as an enemy to have. Especially as a level designer like me, as I build all the ledges and roofs for them to climb over.
GS: With that in mind, if the enemies can go anywhere, what process do you go through with building that into the levels?
DP: I try to think of it as two levels. There is one for the players, where they move. Then there is another for the Skaven, as they can take certain paths that the player can't. So they have special access routes, and can go through this tunnel, or jump off this roof. It's really cool when you are almost thinking for two different games.
GS: As Vermintide is going for a mêlée focus, does that mean ammo is scarce?
DP: It depends on the type of weapon, so gunpowder weapons' ammo will be more scarce. [Fatshark] feel it's something that's fun with Warhammer, if you were in a modern setting guns would be the best option, but here since they are little bit slower and clunkier etc. it's a good balance. We have some very effective ranged weapons, but there will always be room for some melee combat when the Skaven close in.
GS: On that subject, can you just describe the two characters I played as?
DP: First you played as a Woodelf, with a bow and dual daggers. Then you played as the Imperial Soldier, with the repeating gun and a big hammer.
GS: I definitely felt a difference between how the mêlée felt between the two. The hammer being slower, so you can't just run up to someone and hit them, as it takes a bit of time for the swing to actually happen.
DP: That's exactly how we wanted to make it feel.
GS: Again with the Imperial Soldier. With his gun I found you can spin it up, and then fire rapidly, but I discovered that a lot of the bullets simply wouldn't hit even when the enemies are close. So has a random recoil-ish system been built into the game?
DP: Well Warhammer gunpowder weapons are quite undependable, so they do have some random recoil. But that's something we are working on, so you get feedback about where your hits are going, but that's something we're working on before [Vermintides] release in about a month. But definitely, a lot of gunpowder weapons are very unreliable, some are more accurate than others. The crossbow is a bit of a sniper weapon, but some of the gunpowder weapons go here and there when firing.
GS: So a bow and arrow is mid range I guess?
DP: Yer, unless you are good enough with it.
GS: What was the biggest challenge with making all the weapons feel different?
DP: We have some very talented game designers, and for them it's always a question of keeping things effective while making them feel different, so nothing is unbalanced. So each will have uses, for example if you have the hammer, that's very effective against Stormvermin who are wearing plate. The hammer will be great against them, where the faster dual daggers will be best against hordes or small enemies. So the weapons will have different usage areas really. You can maybe equip a shield and that will be good for a tanky, make sure enemies don't get close to your friends, crowd control kind of person. So there are just a lot of different uses there.
GS: Because I like asking this question, If you could describe Vermintide in 4 words, what would they be?
DP: Warhammer, FPS, co-op, mêlée.
GS: Before we finish up, can you just let us know when the game is out and for which platforms?
DP: Absolutely, so it's coming out for PC on October 23rd. It will be out on Xbox One and PS4 but we have not announced a date for that yet. As we are a small team we have to focus on something, and as we come from PC anyway we are focusing on that first.
GS: Sounds good. Thank you for your time.
DP: It's been great talking with you.
I would like to once again thank Daniel Platt, and Fatshark Games for the interview. It was lovely talking to you about Vermintide.
If you want to pre-order Vermintide, which is out on the 23rd October, you can get a 10% discount on Steam.
If you want the game for a console, keep an eye on the news for when the Xbox One and PS4 versions are coming.