Last month we fought our way to Games Workshop's headquarters in Nottingham for an in-depth look at Relic's hotly-anticipated PC strategy Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II. While we were there we caught up with associate producer Jeff Lydell about RTS design, piracy and the supposed death of PC gaming.
VideoGamer.com: Apologies to start out on a negative note, but what do you think about the current state of PC gaming? There's a lot of chatter online about how it could die quite soon...
Jeff Lydell: My take on that as someone who's been reading internet chatter for a number of years now is that PC gaming has been 'dead' since 1994 and that it continues to 'die' every year. But that's obviously not true, because there are people playing PC games. It's just that we're seeing changes in the types of PC games they're playing. A lot of the things that the PC had that were exclusive to it, like online experiences, are starting to come over to consoles - so it's less a hold-out for that kind of social interaction. There's Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network - even the Wii has online components. So back in the day when Quake was defining how gamers interacted with each other online, PC gaming was 'dying' then! And I'd consider that to be the golden days. The N64 didn't kill it, the PlayStation 2 didn't kill it, and I don't think any of the upcoming consoles will kill it.
VideoGamer.com: Do you think it'll ever die?
JL: No. It'll die the day we stop having PCs! Right now, we all want to have PCs. We're seeing some changes where people are adopting laptops more. Maybe in the future when we're using integrated devices that aren't quite PCs, we'll see games on those instead. But PC gaming isn't dying.
VideoGamer.com: Piracy has been around for decades, but do you think that the issue is potentially more damaging to the PC games industry right now than it's ever been? The competition for sales is very stiff...
JL: It's certainly a threat to triple A gaming. It makes developers and publishers reluctant to invest large amounts of money in a just-PC product, unless there's some form of guarantee. Sometimes they hedge their bets with cross-platform developments, sometimes it's persistent online stuff that you need to subscribe to. But piracy is not going away. As an industry, piracy is something we have to work around, not something to try and eliminate - because that's a losing fight.
VideoGamer.com: What kind of copy-protection will Dawn of War II have? Anti-piracy measures can sometimes generate bad vibes with gamers - like when Spore got blasted for its initial install limitations.
JL: We are looking at some form of DRM for Dawn of War II, but we're heavily concerned with the consumer end of that, and the consumer experience. We want people to be able to play their games on multiple PCs. We want them to be able to play it with their friends, and most importantly we want any authentication to not be annoying or a detriment to the experience.
VideoGamer.com: So will there be any form of install limits?
JL: Not that I'm aware of, at this point. Just to speak a little further on that... the thing we are trying to do is to give incentives to be online. One of the things the high profile games have had in the past is that they've been primarily single-player games, with no reason to be online. When you have a multiplayer component or content that can be distributed through online there's an incentive to be a licensed user.
VideoGamer.com: So you reward people for being good instead of punishing them for being bad?
JL: That's right... Attract more flies with honey, that sort of thing!
VideoGamer.com: Confirmed released date?
JL: It's February at this point. I don't know if that's confirmed or not, but yeah we're looking for February 2009.
VideoGamer.com: Is there going to be a beta?
JL: Yeah. The exact date is not clear, but it's going to be some time in the New Year.
VideoGamer.com: You can't say January, or...?
JL: We'd like it to be in January, but we can't make a promise exactly when because of some considerations we have about getting it out.