Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader Dev Discusses Future Plans And Cut Content

"Warhammer is so voluminous and multifaceted that stories in it can be told endlessly."

Story Highlights

  • Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, the first cRPG in the franchise, was released on December 7, 2023.
  • The developer and publisher, Owlcat Games, has been praised for the title’s incredible combat and lore.
  • eXputer interviewed Owlcat’s Executive Producer Anatoly Shestov for an email Q&A session.

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader became a highly anticipated title soon after its reveal in June 2022, being the first cRPG in the Warhammer 40,000 franchise. The IP is renowned for having many notable titles, and thanks to Baldur’s Gate 3, which lured hundreds of thousands of fans into the genre, Rogue Trader found itself in a bustling community with some serious competition.

The talented developers at Owlcat Games, in close partnership with Games Workshop, did not fail to deliver a compelling title, as it was praised for having great combat and fantastic Warhammer lore. Rogue Trader has given the studio even more opportunities and the motivation to explore similar IPs. And so we spoke with Anatoly Shestov, Executive Producer at Owlcat Games, to discuss the challenges of developing Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader and the studio’s future plans. 

Read ahead for the full interview.

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader – via Owlcat Games.

What was it like creating the first cRPG in the Warhammer 40k setting? Were there other titles that you took some inspiration from?
Shestov: At first, there is a joyful anticipation; working on such a project is a dream. Then, there is fear because there is a very high risk of getting it wrong. There are too many unique details and features, and each one must be conveyed with love. Among the sources of inspiration were Last Spell, XCom, Jagged Alliance, Wasteland, Battlefleet Gothic, Mechanicus, and – as with any project in our studio – the golden store of classic RPGs.

Does the team have plans to keep adding content beyond the two DLCs already announced for 2024? 
Shestov: Certainly. We are already working on several interesting ideas beyond what has already been announced, and each of them focuses on one of the major elements of the Rogue Trader. 

What were some of the major challenges you encountered while creating Rogue Trader?
Shestov: Volume and detail. The game came out noticeably larger than initially planned, primarily because, at each moment, we found individual elements of the setting that required additional disclosure in the environment, narrative, and mechanics. Combat system. We did not have a direct reference that could be used one-to-one in Rogue Trader, neither among tabletop RPGs nor among video games. What players got in the game was the fourth iteration of the mechanics. A huge number of questions that we had to explore and even invent. Especially in terms of the setting outside of military operations. 
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader – via Owlcat Games.

2023 is nearing its end, and I must say that it was a great year for cRPG lovers. Unsurprisingly, many more people fell in love with the genre. Do you think this will encourage more developers to explore opportunities in this sphere?
Shestov: Definitely. From a business point of view, the audience’s love for the genre, expressed in purchases and high ratings, is a direct signal that the niche is much wider than is commonly believed.

One thing I found quite interesting with Larian's approach to Baldur's Gate 3 was adding headless bodies to the game to prevent players from talking with them using a spell. I'm curious whether Owlcat did a similar creative thing to work around some of the problems in the game.
Shestov: Certainly. One example is the Perils of the Warp, which summon demons. We had to change the operating principle to “the unit explodes and a demon appears in its place,” otherwise, situations would appear like the cutscenes with chaos spawns that began after defeating all the initially known combatants.

Now that the game has been released, which Warhammer 40k setting would you like to take on next?
Shestov: Warhammer is so voluminous and multifaceted that stories in it can be told endlessly. We already have an idea of the next story we want to tell the world, but any details on this issue are still premature.

Every studio has a unique approach to different genres, and with Owlcat specializing in cRPG, I want to know how you approach them.
Shestov: The main pillar of any development in our studio is immersion. We spend a huge amount of effort to ensure that what is happening is believed so that it is perceived as a gaming convention to a minimum. And over many iterations of internal, closed, and external playtests, we continue to refine the already made content so that that magical feeling arises: ‘I forgot about time, I forgot about things to do, I forgot that I have to work tomorrow – I’m there.’
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader
Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader – via Owlcat Games.

I have noticed that the game does not hold back on the brutality side, giving you options that you would think twice before choosing. Was there a point or threshold you didn't want to cross for those choices, or did you intentionally go all out?
Shestov: What was included in the release is far from the ‘maximum.’ Somewhere, we did not have enough resources; somewhere, we ourselves decided that this was too much. There are no children in the game, no torture, no genocide or suicide. Every element of brutality that players ended up with was something that we felt was necessary to unlock the fantasy of grimdark and the battles in it.

Aside from the restrictions on romance in Rogue Trader for reasons you have mentioned a few times, what other features were you unable to implement in the game?
Shestov: Compared to the original plan, a sufficient number of systems and content were cut from the game at different stages. Here are some examples: the use of military vehicles, mass battles, craftworld, a full-fledged system of morality and fear like in the desktop prototype, changing the voidship, decorating the voidship, the production of goods and items in a trading empire, the trading system itself. 

Anything else you would like to share? Something we haven't touched upon yet.
Shestov: We would like to thank the audience for the incredibly positive reaction that they shared with us in every feedback, review, survey, and message. Even those who give the game a negative review, nine times out of ten, colorfully talk about what touches them most. The feeling that the game we made hits the heart – something for which we worked hard as a large team for three years. And it’s a wonderful feeling.

YouTube video

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader was developed and published by Owlcat Games. The isometric turn-based tactical RPG is based in the Warhammer 40,000 universe and was released on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, macOS, and PC on December 7, 2023.

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Mudassir is a seasoned journalist with a passion for uncovering the stories behind our favorite virtual worlds. Armed with a trusty notepad and a keen curiosity, he dives headfirst into the gaming industry's most exciting personalities. His knack for insightful questions and his ability to connect with developers and gamers alike makes his interviews a must-read. While on the lookout for the next person to interview, Mudassir keeps himself busy by writing news surrounding the gaming universe. Experience: 4+ Years || Senior Journalist

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