Relic have just announced that they've dropped Games for Windows Live for Dawn of War II: Retribution, their upcoming expandalone campaign for their strategy/co-op tactics hybrid set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. They've prepared a statement, copied below. We also innocently asked them the obvious question: what was wrong with Games for Windows Live?
Behold, the voice of Relic:
"We are excited to announce that Warhammer® 40,000®: Dawn of War II ® - Retribution™ will use Valve's Steamworks networking and matchmaking to provide co-operative and competitive online play. This new back end will allow players to invite friends into matches from their Steam friends lists, and take advantage of the full set of Steam community features including groups, achievements, and Steam overlay chat channels. We are also going to include an all new matchmaking and ranking set up, built specifically for Dawn of War II – Retribution.
"The move to Steamworks will also allow us to provide features like guest passes, free multiplayer weekends, pre-loading and the ability to provide fast turn-around on future patches and updates.
"To accomplish this transition, Dawn of War II - Retribution will be a completely stand alone title in the series and will provide multiple campaigns to play, as well as all six multiplayer races, with new units for each of the existing five races and one new unannounced one. In a change from our previous strategies with expansion packs, we will not be patching this content back into Dawn of War II and Chaos Rising.
"Owners of Dawn of War II and Chaos Rising will get the chance to try out the full set of Retribution's Steam features in a multiplayer beta that will take place in the new year. More details on the beta will be announced at a later date.
"Dawn of War II and Chaos Rising will continue to operate on Games for Windows LIVE, in order to preserve the owners of those titles ability to earn LIVE achievements as well as their established friends lists.
"We are going to have more exciting announcements in the coming weeks, so stay tuned."
We asked Retribution's producer Jeff Lydell for more detail on their decision.
PC Gamer: Why did you decide to switch to Steam?
Jeff Lydell: Mostly it was related to the end-user experience. Dawn of War II and Chaos Rising are hybrids of Steamworks and Games for Windows LIVE, and require the owners of those games to log in to both to play. We've always thought this was cumbersome, and only implemented it because back in Dawn of War II's development, we needed digital distribution and matchmaking features from both platforms.
Since then both Microsoft and Valve have worked to catch up with each other, and on Dawn of War II – Retribution, we've decided to utilize the Steamworks SDK for networking and matchmaking.
PC Gamer: Was there a specific event that prompted the change?
Jeff Lydell: Yes, it was the start of the Retribution project. We couldn't do the switch on Chaos Rising because of the method we used to link campaign progress by importing save games. When we started work on Retribution we had a different plan for the campaign content. Rather than continuing with the exact same characters and progression, we've added new campaigns for different races and new stories. This meant we were free to change up that aspect of the game.
PC Gamer: What drawbacks does GfWL bring to development?
Jeff Lydell: First I should point out that development on LIVE is reasonably straightforward, especially if you are familiar with working on Xbox 360. We had a lot of support from Microsoft in getting DOW2 running, both in integrating LIVE and in getting better processes in place. We were always a special case with Steam layered on top, and they worked hard to make things work for us.
But this dual support of GFWL and Steam did add a lot of extra complexity and testing time, across the team here at Relic, the QA team and with Microsoft's certification team.
PC Gamer: What drawbacks does it bring to maintaining a community post-release?
Jeff Lydell: Despite my above comments about speed of deployment, we've been able to update Dawn of War II and Chaos Rising many times since we launched. We've done more updates to DOW II already than we did for the entire DOW I series across all four products, and it is more dependent on our commitment to responding to our community than it is on the networking provider.
The biggest drawback is it's rarely possible to release an update to fix a single issue, since we were usually scheduling multiple fixes for a certification appointment. That can snowball and slow down our development and testing time.
PC Gamer: What benefits does working with Steam bring?
Jeff Lydell: There are several, and I'm most excited that we are going to be able to take full advantage of Steam's features like free weekend trials and cloud saving. We are also working with Valve on some new exciting features to be announced later.
PC Gamer: How does the development team feel about the switch?
Jeff Lydell: We are always happy to add new features and content to the game, so I'd go with “excited.”