Space Hulk (2013) Interview (PC)

Games I’ve Never Played But Really Wanted To #118: Space Hulk, the board game. I remember playing Space Crusade, board and video games, but only the original Amiga Space Hulk video game which was okay but not SPACE HULK (which we apparently have to capitalize now to make it look like we’re shouting). Thankfully developer Full Control, out of nowhere, has stepped in to make everyone’s dream of a proper SPACE HULK videogame a reality. We’ve got a preview elsewhere on the site, but I also managed to catch a word with Thomas Hentschel Lund, the CEO of Full Control, nice guy and tabletop strategy die-hard. Now then, let’s explore the Hulk.

Strategy Informer: First I have to say, just in terms of graphics and detail Space Hulk’s looking great.

Thomas Lund: Thanks! What we were going for is an XCOM feeling, with really nice 3D graphics – we could have gone with a top-down board game look and it would’ve been fine with many fans but we wanted to expand it out so that regular Warhammer 40K fans are interested in it too, and possibly XCOM fans too. We want to get this dark, claustrophobic feeling across.

Strategy Informer: I think board game players will like the look, because if you’re going to do it as a videogame you should make it look the best you can.

Thomas Lund: Yes, we want to do just that! Videogames also have slightly different rules though than board games, and we’ve tried to take these on board too. For example in the board game once you’ve moved a piece you can’t go back, like Chess. That’s to stop cheating, but the computer can take care of those calculations so we’ve changed it so one Marine can use two Action Points to move, then I can move a different Marine then go back to the first who still has 2 AP left. It’s much more of a classic Action Point-based strategy game system [like original X-Com or Jagged Alliance], which the board game is not like. It just feels better doing it like that. We are touching upon these things but still keeping true to the core rules.

Strategy Informer: What are those?

Thomas Lund: The core mechanism is that every unit has 4 Action Points every turn, and then there is a roll of 1-6 Command Points which are free AP that you can use. Tactics-wise you have to think of it more like SWAT, you have to cover your flanks. There’s also Overwatch, and Guard so you can do a little better in close combat. Marines are powerful at range, but your enemy is really powerful at close combat. If they break your defences and flanks you have an issue, you have to re-adapt your tactics, your squad and where they are facing – quickly, before they all get shredded to pieces!

Strategy Informer: I see you’ve also implemented a cool “move and shoot” mechanic.

Thomas Lund: Yes, that’s also in the board game. The guys with Power Fists and Storm-Bolters have that ‘Move & Fire’ mechanism. For every move you make you get a free shot, which we’ve automated so if there’s an enemy in your line of sight you can just shoot him. You can manually select your target, including doors if you want. There was no reason not to automate it if it’s something you always want to do!

Strategy Informer: Is there a penalty for these free shots?

Thomas Lund: Nope, none. It’s already hard enough!

Strategy Informer: [laughs] How about over range?

Thomas Lund: Not the chance of hitting, no. The core mechanism underneath it is first time you shoot you have 1 out of 6 on a die chance of hitting, and if you shoot again it’s 2 out of 6. The prequel missions we’re putting in will help introduce players to all these mechanics.

Strategy Informer: I’ve noticed the levels you’ve shown off so far seem quite small, do they get bigger?

Thomas Lund: Absolutely, the second mission alone is much bigger than the first. Further on down the campaign you have multi-levels with ladders, they can get really large and can take you up to an hour to play.

Strategy Informer: Any other types of Space Marines we’ve not seen so far?

Thomas Lund: Yes, for example in mission two there’s one with a Storm Shield and Thunder Hammer who’s really good at close combat. He doesn’t have any ranged weapons. He’s harder to kill. We also have one with Lightning Claws, he’s the best at close combat. They’re still meek compared to the Genestealers but they do have a fighting chance. The Assault Cannon is great at ripping enemies to pieces but has limited ammunition, and when you reload it turns hot and has a chance of exploding – if it does it’ll take out an entire room! So you have to make sure to not over-use it.

Strategy Informer: Any other characters?

Thomas Lund: Further on there’s Brood Lord bosses for the Genestealer side. Terminators have a guy called the Librarian who has Force weapons and psychic powers. He has four powers to choose from. One power of his is called ‘Psychic Storm’ that basically eradicates an entire room. He has a limited amount of psychic power so you have to choose when to use it. He can also charge his axe so he becomes better at close combat, he can replenish Action Points, he’s really a guy you want alive on your team as long as possible, and who you need to use wisely.

Strategy Informer: When’s the game coming out?

Thomas Lund: We’re aiming for PC and Mac this Fall, with the iPad version after that but still the Fall. We’re looking to see if we can fit all this on to iPhone but that will come later if we do. It will feature the three intro missions and the 12-mission ‘Sin of Damnation’ campaign. We’ll have multiplayer, including on one PC playing hot-seat, or over a network. There’s a separate co-op campaign with each player having a squad playing against the AI, and a Versus mode where one player plays Terminators and the other Genestealers. There’s cross-platform play too, so you can take on someone on an iPad playing on a bus while you play on PC. We’ve got customisable banners to unlock, and characters. All the guys in the game are “named heroes” but you can make one of your own and put him in the game. As you play you can unlock adornments to put on him, give him your own unlocked banner and brag about it to your friends during multiplayer.

Strategy Informer: Speaking of customisation, will there be a level editor?

Thomas Lund: Good question! Yes, we’re going to release a free level editor. We’ll try and see if we can get it out straight away but we’re not sure if we can right now. Time-wise we want to concentrate on getting the best game out there first, but we will release the editor so people can build their own maps, campaigns, or stories and share them. We’re hoping to do a ‘Staff Pick’ of levels which could get featured in the game.

Strategy Informer: I’m rather worried to ask this since the game’s hard enough, but will there be a ‘New Game Plus’ mode?

Thomas Lund: We do have different difficulty levels, from ‘new player’ easy to utterly hardcore ‘insane’ difficulty, but not a strict New Game Plus. One thing from the board game we have is the Timer. It’s optional here. That will put extra pressure on you, but if you do play with it on you might be able to get some unlocks you can’t get otherwise!

Strategy Informer: How supportive has Games Workshop been of the game?

Thomas Lund: They’ve been really fantastic to work with. We have a once-a-week sync-up meeting, and they’ve been regularly like “wow, it looks really great”. They’re happy and we’re happy, so definitely we’d like to make more games together.

Strategy Informer: That’s good, because they’ve seemed rather hands-off with a lot of other Warhammer games.

Thomas Lund: Yeah. Obviously they want to have their IP represented in the best possible way. I think we’ve reached that stage where the game’s looking really fantastic. We were given pretty free rein with making the game look 40K, gothic science fiction, and they were like “yes, that’s Space Hulk!”. We wanted to make the environments look dirty and used with piles of skulls everywhere. We’re only probably going to make Space Hulk once, so we want to make the best possible effort and even though we’re only a small team make it better than previous 40K games, at least in terms of art style and feeling. I’m happy with it!

Strategy Informer: It’s a little surprising to me that despite how many Games Workshop franchise games there are there have been very few straight conversions of the board games.

Thomas Lund: Yeah, THQ chose to do other kinds of games like Dawn of War and Space Marine. Not my type of thing but there is an audience for that so that’s fine, that’s still 40K, but they never really went for a type of turn-based game.

Strategy Informer: When did Full Control start up?

Thomas Lund: In 2004, this will be our eighth game. For the last three or four years we’ve been aiming to create turn-based strategies, because that’s the type of game I like to play. We want to keep on doing that. We recently ran a Kickstarter for the new Jagged Alliance, so we’re moving part of the Space Hulk team to that. Hopefully we can sign another 40K game, I’ll try my best but it’s a matter of how well Space Hulk performs to see if it’s a viable business to still make these kinds of games. Is there enough love for turn-based games?

Strategy Informer: I presume you were the ones who approached Games Workshop and BitComposer for the Space Hulk and Jagged Alliance IPs respectively.

Thomas Lund: Yes in regards to Games Workshop, but we actually approached BitComposer with our previous game Frontline Tactics (like a turn-based Call of Duty) and they said it wasn’t for them, but they offered us Jagged Alliance for use with the same engine, which Space Hulk is also based on. We’re iterating and expanding the core code we have for these kinds of games. As long as people buy them, we’ll make them.

Strategy Informer: You enjoying Rezzed? Space Hulk seems to be getting some of the most attention of the show so far!

Thomas Lund: It’s really cool! It’s nice that we can show off the game in the back yard of Games Workshop to fans before we get to the final stretch and release it.

Strategy Informer: I’ve heard you’ve got a gamepad version running too?

Thomas Lund: Yes we do have a controller version, so we can play it on Big Picture on Steam!

Strategy Informer: Are you thinking about console versions at all?

Thomas Lund: We’re trying to see if we get some kind of deals going for console versions, with the new generation coming everything’s shifting around. It’s really hard to commit to something that’s a moving target. Sony’s being very indie-minded now with the PS4. Xbox is… not! [we both laugh] We’re self-funding and self-publishing so even being able to do the QA and everything with Microsoft or Sony would be a large expense. We’ll do the PC, Mac and iPad versions and see how it goes, we can expand into a new wave of platforms after that. Downloadable on console, Android tablets, we’ll see how we feel.

Strategy Informer: Are there other campaigns apart from ‘Sin of Damnation’ that you’re looking to adapt, perhaps as DLC?

Thomas Lund: Yep! Not only new campaigns but also additional chapters too. Based on the performance of the actual game we want to make everything we can, so we can go from ‘Ultra Marines’ to the ‘Death Wing’ chapter and ‘Space Wolves’. New chapters, new campaigns, even going back in time and looking at previous board games, new weapons, new Librarians with new psychic powers, but nothing is set in stone right now.

Strategy Informer: Why do you feel that Games Workshop has been so restrictive in supplying the Space Hulk board game to people? It’s always so hard to get hold of!

Thomas Lund: I don’t know! It’s a very popular game. My guess is as good as yours though! I don’t know if they’ll release it again either. Obviously coming out with a replacement for the board game is a great move for us – either seek out a copy of the board game for $300-400 or spend a much smaller amount on the videogame!

Strategy Informer: Have you set a price point and release yet?

Thomas Lund: Yes but it’s not official yet! It’s not going to be a $50 game, it’s not going to be a $10 game. Late Summer to Early Fall. Soon!

Strategy Informer: How was the Kickstarter experience with Jagged Alliance: Flashback? It got a little close there…

Thomas Lund: [clearly considers his words] That is a tricky question! Are we happy we made it? Absolutely, we are happy that we get the opportunity to do Jagged Alliance game independently so we can put our vision into it and do it turn-based. But it was extremely stressful, and was much more work than we anticipated for many reasons. We made some mistakes, we weren’t always clear with the message, but it’s also been a positive experience re-enabling a community that’s been dormant and seeing what we can do. Once we launch Space Hulk we’ll turn it over into a co-effort of community and us to create the best new Jagged Alliance game in the old style. Jagged Alliance 2, new story, completely modded.

Strategy Informer: Okay, seems our time is up. Thanks for talking with me!

Thomas Lund: My pleasure!

You can read my feeble effort to command my squad of Space Marines around the Space Hulk elsewhere on the site. For now though thanks to Thomas Lund for taking time to talk to us and show off the game, and for everyone behind the amazing Rezzed event at the Birmingham NEC for making it possible. Seriously, I think Space Hulk honestly had the biggest queues of the whole event outside of the developer sessions, and I know Full Control regretted only bringing two PCs along! That’s really impressive for a turn-based strategy based on a famous but nearly unavailable board game, and I think that shows the love for the Space Hulk brand as much as the effort Full Control have put into making it as faithful as they can. I for one can’t wait to play it – properly, without all this dying in five minutes nonsense. Sigh.


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