The spotlight has fallen firmly on the DoWPro/DCPro mod for Relic's excellent Warhammer 40K RTS. Dawn of War: Dark Crusade. Our questions have been kindly answered by Korbah of the DoWPRO team!1. What do you think of Relic's support towards their mod community?
It is hard to give a one word answer here - in some ways itís excellent, in others there's room for improvement and what also needs to be considered is that things have changed in the way Relic communicates to the mod community since DoW's initial release in 2004. If we look at the official Relic mod tools there's a pretty reasonable degree of functionality for all the basic tasks - you can make maps, change unit stats, make fx and sound effects and add post production to models. Generally the tools, whilst tricky to learn, function well and most of the issues with the initial releases of the mod tools have been resolved. Essentially if you ride the learning curve you can create great stuff. What has been missing is support for actual model creation and editing the engine. Fans made a 3rd party input script for 3dmax (the modeling program needed to make DoW models) and this makes up for the lack of official input scripts. What still lacking is engine tools. There's no facility to modify the engine at all - the hard code is still very much untouchable. This is somewhat frustrating because there are many things that you simply cannot do without editing the engine. If I were looking for improvements in future mod support I'd definitely appreciate more documentation of some of the lower order functions and a better official support of the modeling and engine tools. Overall Relic's tools permit modders to create a lot of great content but stops short at full unrestricted access to the game which would've been truly wonderful to have.2. What is the hardest thing to work with in the Dawn of War engine?
The hardest thing to work with is finding work arounds to limitations in the engine without being able to actually change the engine itself. I often have a clear idea of what I want to achieve game-play wise without a clear avenue of how to implement it within the code. Thus I usually sit around and have a good old brainstorm with the other two coders Octopus Rex and Saaz until we find a work around or a compromise. Then it's just the grind of writing in the code, testing it, revising and refining it.3. What do you feel is the greatest strength of your mod compared to other mods of a similar nature?
I think what DCPro brings is a clear focus and uncompromising vision. We're out to make DoW the best RTS it can possibly be for competitive play whilst preserving very accessible gameplay. Unlike some mods we're not interested in adding content for content's sake - we add new material to add cohesion and facilitate game-play. DCPro should be very enjoyable for the new player and expert alike with a modified Skirmish AI to help players learn with and increase their skills and a vibrant online multiplayer community for players to really compete with each other. We've also got a great support base within the DoW community and a lot of great players on board to really push the limits and find any and all game-play issues. We're organized, we're committed and we're here to revitalize the competitive DoW community.4. What's the greatest weakness?
Greatest weakness - a lot of people just don't trust mods until they're official. Itís hard to convince people to put in the extra effort needed to get a DCPro game because the player-base isn't as large as it could be and they may need to wait longer for a game than they might in other RTS'. I think its going to be a slow process to alert and then educate people in the DoW and wider RTS community what DCPro is and what itís about. We're here to help foster a really fantastic grass roots community and a great online gaming experience, but we need people to participate and help us grow. I think itís simply a matter of persevering and continually reaching out to people.5. 7 factions must be tough to balance, what would be your favourite faction in terms of balance and why?
7 factions is a huge task, yes. We're not there yet either but we've got a great framework in place - all the races are playable and there's no single imbalance or race that gives you an advantage that cannot be reasonably surmounted by good play. That's certainly a great place to be at this early in development and bodes well for the future. In terms of favorite faction in terms of balance I'd have to say either Eldar or Chaos. Both these races featured in the original DoW and have undergone significant revisions throughout the history of DoWPro. I think itís probably the game-play depth we've been able to build into these races as well as the way each of them really typifies the theme of the race in the Warhammer 40,000 back-story. Eldar is fast, fragile and deadly with a huge array of unit interactions and specific builds that really let a player put together some very innovative and creative play. I think Eldar is a pretty tough race to master but really rewarding to play. Chaos is very different and in my mind is a ruthless and brutal race of unrestrained aggression with a huge capacity for individual unit variety. Whereas Eldar relies on unit combinations to maximize the benefits of hard counters, Chaos instead permits each unit to be used in dramatically different ways that really rewards players with a great sense of timing and combat awareness as they rapidly alternate the way in which they use each individual unit throughout the duration of the battle.6. I see you're working with the AI team from Dawn of Skirmish, it's great to see modders team up like this. What kind of enhancements to their AI has there been specifically for this mod?
The community spirit within the DoW modding community is just great. We've collaborated with several modder's such as the famous Medes and his modelling work but I think our longest successful partnership is indeed with the Skirmish AI team led by Arkhan the Black. Our two long suffering AI coders LarkinVB and KaiserSoze have done an amazing job refitting the Skirmish AI for DoWPro, WAPro and now DCPro and I think the mod benefits greatly from it. I think one of the most impressive things was being able to get the AI to use the new and unique way DCPro's Necron faction lays down power generators. We've got a pretty healthy dialogue with the Skirmish AI team and regularly provide feedback and suggestions for their core.7. What in the mod are you most proud of and why?
This is a tough question. There's a lot of things I'm proud of - the uniqueness of each faction, the great game-play depth and the awesome fun you can have playing the mod and interacting with the community. However, the thing I'm most proud of is how the team stood up and faced the challenge of taking WAPro and turning it into DCPro. When DC was announced by Relic I knew I wanted another go at adding new races, there were things I wanted to change in how the team operated and how we went about adding new races - we learnt a lot in making WAPro (DoWPro for Winter Assault). Thus I set out some very clear guidelines in November of 2006 of what I wanted to achieve with DCpro: add 2 new races, implement several key new game-play features, and integrate the new DC features into the existing factions. It was a huge task and that was obvious from the outset Ė however, I also stipulated that I didn't want to release it to the public until we had something really great. No half baked builds with bugs to mar the DCPro experience. DCPro was to be the magnum opus - the whole project was set up to create a mod that was akin to art. My expectations were almost completely unrealistic but the team got behind this vision and slaved away under the whip for a full 7 long months bringing about the massive overhauls required to achieve the goals that'd been set. The professionalism and attitude of the guys was amazing and I think the results speak for themselves. The DCPro 2.00 release was in my mind an amazing achievement and I'm just incredibly proud of the way the team banded together and got the job done so well.8. Crunchy or Creamy, now there's a question. Do you prefer the technology behind something or the background? In other words, do you think story and fluff is important or the nuts and bolts of changing numbers and code?
Good question - I think itís too easy to worry about balance, this is RTS, and make changes that compromise the feel and theme of a unit or race. This is an easy trap to fall into and itís something I always try to avoid. I'm a huge fan of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and fully appreciate that this game should give the player the impression that they're actually immersed in the universe. Immersion is something that in my mind greatly adds to the depth, fun and interest that they player has when playing the game and should be sought at every opportunity. Thus I always say "game-play and theme first, balance second" and I'm sure you can dig up posts to that effect that I've made across several forums, lol. What I mean in a practical sense by this is that when redesigning a unit I'll always develop a concept of how it should behave relative to other units, giving it a defined role or collection of roles. I also ensure it has a meaningful impact within the greater setting of that faction. Essentially I work out how a race should play and then work out how each individual unit should play within that race and within the back-story relevant for that unit. Once I've got a clear understanding of this I'll then essentially adjust the numbers and code until that unit behaves in-game similarly to how I envisaged it. It can sometimes come about very readily, at others times it takes a lot of "jigglin" of the code and some solid brainstorming to get the unit behaving correctly. Once the unit "feels" right in-game itís then a matter of just refining the numbers so that itís balanced.9. What is your favorite 40K faction? It can be one that's not in DoW: DC as well.
The grimmest, darkest iterations of the 40k universe have appealed to me for a long time. There's a huge amount of depth within the 40k universe and I think the capacity to fully explore the human condition from the most abominable end of the spectrum right up to the most commendable and positive, is definitely possible within the setting of the universe. Combined with endless opportunities to explore all kinds of Sci-fi goodies and I think that's what keeps me interested in Warhammer's story. In terms of favourite faction I'd have to say I love the concept of the Imperium. A unified humanity; enslaved by its own shackles of brutality, bureaucracy, hatred, intolerance and momentum. Beleaguered on all sides and from within it's a fundamentally corrupt, evil and monstrous entity but represents humanity's only true hope of avoiding extinction. I think its the paradox represented by the Imperium of man that most attracts me to it as a "faction" in that it regularly brings out the worst and best out of humanity. If we're talking favorite DCPro race - Chaos baby raaawr.10. Last of all...is there anything you'd like to add/say to the fans of your mod?
In case people didn't catch on yet - I'm pretty passionate about all this. I'm a hopeless artist and not much of a musician but I appreciate art and I think the creative experience I've had making DCPro is somewhat akin to what artists must feel about their work. When I first played the DoW beta I said to myself "wow this game has potential" then sadly never felt it reached it - so I took it upon myself to find that potential. DCPro is the culmination of a 2yr+ effort and I hope that others will share in what myself and the DoWPro team have created. DCPro offers a lot of fun, 7 unique races and great game-play and there's no reason why people shouldn't play it - dammit is FREE! lol. I'd love to see competitive gaming take off again using DCPro. For anyone interested in trying DCPro check our homepage at http://www.dowpro.org
and try to get onto the IRC chat on quakenet #dowpro. I hope people give it a go and really stick with it - as more people get involved it'll be easier and easier to get games and get more competitions running. We've only been out since June 30 and already we've got a large 61 player ESL competition currently underway - I hope it the first of many new tourneys. I look forward to seeing all you new DCPro'ers online and in-game soon!!