Fatshark discusses its next medieval fantasy co-op action title – and how it’s been improved.
Fatshark’s Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide was a quirky release. It was a Left 4 Dead-style, FPS co-op experience but with an emphasis on melee combat, loot grinding and builds. Sure it wasn’t as polished as L4D but Vermintide was still a compelling, fun and frequently updated slice of co-op action. Surprisingly, Fatshark announced Warhammer: Vermintide 2 and will be bringing us the Skaven and Chaos factions, fighting together as one (or so we think).
Robert Bäckström and Victor Magnuson from Fatshark spoke to GamingBolt about the upcoming release and offered more information on Heroic Deeds, Hero Careers and much more.
"We are not planning on adding any additional heroes in the final retail version, we have however added 3 different careers to each Hero which very much function as additional characters in many ways."
The first and the obvious question I wanted to ask is about how the new Chaos faction is a step away from Left 4 Dead?
The Skaven clanrats and slaves are fast paced and individually weaker than the player characters but use their numbers to mitigate this, very much like horde Zombies in L4D. The Chaos marauders on the other hand are no pushovers even one on one and we had to use a different approach to their behavior in the horde combat mechanic.
How are you maintaining the balance between Chaos and Skaven?
It will very much depend on the mission at hand, some levels will be more leaning towards Skaven while some will have a heavier influx of Chaos. We have updated the AI Director to handle what type of faction or combination of faction is populating certain areas of different levels.
We know five heroes are returning. Are there any plans to add new heroes in the final retail version?
We are not planning on adding any additional heroes in the final retail version, we have however added 3 different careers to each Hero which very much function as additional characters in many ways. In this way we can have our cake and eat it too so to speak, allowing us to add much more gameplay variety compared to the original but at the same time continuing the story of our five unlikely heroes from the previous game.
"We wanted to create a system that was really flexible and allowed us to create unique and interesting challenges without completely unbalancing the core game."
Tell us about the multi-progression mechanics for these Heroes.
So each hero has 3 different career paths that the player can choose from, players are free to switch between them at any given time in between missions to whatever best suits the group they are playing with. Let’s say a player usually plays as Bardins (our Dwarven hero) Ironbreaker career, a defensive tank type of role, But his friend is playing Markus Kruber as a knight and has better gear, the Bardin player can easily switch to any of Bardins other careers and fill a more role with a higher damage output either as the Slayer (extremely offensive melee combat focused role) or as the Ranger (specialized at ranged combat).
Vermintide 2’s pacing system has been influenced by Left 4 Dead’s AI Director. What can you tell us about the same?
That is true we were heavily influenced by the AI Director from left for dead when we created the pacing system for Vermintide, with the added Chaos faction we have had to make some changes to how the system works. As we now have so many more different enemy units to choose from at any given time in the game we had to create a system that populates the levels in chunks. This new system gives us two great benefits, first and foremost it allows us the control to be able to mark certain areas of a level as either Skaven or Chaos or any mix of the two depending on the setting and story of the level, but it also allows us to have a much bigger variety in the levels when it comes to enemy compositions.
In the first game we pretty much used the same mix of enemies on every level since we didn’t really have enough variety to be able to switch it up in any meaningful way. But with the addition of a whole new faction but also with new additions to the Skaven forces we can have much more variety in any given level between two playthroughs. This allows for much more replayability within the same level but also allows us to change things up dependent on the current mission.
What can you tell us about the Heroic Deeds mechanism?
The Heroic Deed system is new system that we are adding to the game that we are really excited about. It is a direct reaction to how our community played the original game taking into account the different ways players found to challenge themselves beyond what was available in the base game. We wanted to create a system that was really flexible and allowed us to create unique and interesting challenges without completely unbalancing the core game.
Since Vermintide is a loot based game it is really important that we keep the core gameplay loop very balanced or we quickly find ourselves in a situation where players try to min max their experience and only play a limited set of levels either because they are perceived as faster or easier to complete in order to get loot as fast as possible. This created a situation where more experimental levels either never got played or would create differing and or conflicting motivations for players.
"The big new change is the addition of the Chaos forces, while the Skaven´s strength came from sheer numbers Chaos relies on brute force, these guys are much tougher than their skaven counterparts."
With the Heroic Deeds system we can create really cool experiences or challenges that won’t completely upend the balance of the main game. Since players won’t be able to grind these missions over and over it allows us to do things that would normally off balance the game. It also allows us to stray from the conventional formula of what is expected from the game such as having Deeds that are played singleplayer without bots or with only two players, create elaborate quest chains that have completely different objectives than the base game.
What were the kind of things you were not able to do in the original but are doing now in Vermintide 2?
With the addition of the Chaos forces we are slightly moving away from the Left 4 Dead formula that we leaned pretty heavily on in the original. I’m not saying we are moving away from it completely, it is still very much at the core of the gaming experience but the new Chaos forces are not as easily pigeon holed into to the Left 4 Dead formula.
The addition of Career skills and Passives is also something we couldn’t do in the original that we really feel bring a nice change of pace to the sequel and allows for some truly awesome hero moments for players in clinch situations.
Can you tell us about the new kind of enemies players will face in the game?
The big new change is the addition of the Chaos forces, while the Skaven´s strength came from sheer numbers Chaos relies on brute force, these guys are much tougher than their Skaven counterparts.
The core enemies in the sequel show much more variation – where the first Vermintide had only Clan Rats we now have not less than four different variations of the foot slogging equivalents in the chaos army – the Marauders. They might be ferocious dual wielding savages, sturdy shield bearers or towering maulers with two handed axes.
So, the sequel has a lot of interconnected systems. In a complicated scenario like this, how are you tackling the co-op mechanics?
Coop is always at the core of everything we do in the game, everything is balanced in a way that it should not be possible to complete without the aid of your companions.
"We are currently working tightly with the modding community for Vermintide to provide them with tools which would facilitate their efforts and to support official backing in the form of Steam Workshop."
Will Skaven and Chaos get along in the game?
I can’t get into detail here but for the most part yes, but let’s just say it’s not a relationship without its problems. They are both using each other for their own benefit and whenever one or the other has run out of their usefulness I wouldn’t expect them to get along very well.
What can you tell us about mod support on PC?
We are currently working tightly with the modding community for Vermintide to provide them with tools which would facilitate their efforts and to support official backing in the form of Steam Workshop. However it is still too early to tell if this is a feature that will be shipping with the game at release or if it will be a post launch update. To what extent the modding capabilities goes is also a bit early to say exactly but our ambition is to make it as simple as possible for players to create new content for the game.
We will in the coming weeks (at the time of writing this) go live with an early version of our modding support for Vermintide that will allow our community to use the mods that have been created for that game in a more official capacity. This will serve as a first step and alpha version of what we will do in Vermintide 2.