"It's not a welcoming setting": Rogue Trader's Alexander Mishulin on Warhammer CRPGs, setting, scope, and more (Exclusive)

We recently spoke to Owlcat Games about the upcoming Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader
Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader is quite exciting - we recently spoke to Owlcat Games' Alexander Mishulin about it (Image via Sportskeeda)

After checking out Warhammer 40K Rogue Traders, I had the pleasure of speaking to Alexander Mishulin (Creative Director) and Nikita Putilin (PR Director) of the upcoming CRPG. We spoke about a variety of topics throughout the event, but the interview focused on lessons learned, why 40K instead of Warhammer Fantasy, and much more. There’s a lot to love in this upcoming roleplaying game, and it’s also the first-ever Warhammer CRPG.

As a Rogue Trader, the player has the freedom to associate with whom they wish without stressing about the Emperor of Mankind, so you can expect a wild, varied team of protagonists.

Unfortunately, Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader does not have a release date yet, but the game is a lot of fun. It takes a great deal from the rich, grimdark future of Warhammer 40K without feeling like it was rehashed from other games.

During our conversation, Alexander Mishulin, Creative Director at Owlcat Games, discussed why there hasn't been a Warhammer 40K CRPG until Rogue Trader:

"It's not a really welcoming setting to the CRPG. One of the reasons we choose Rogue Trader, because, Rogue Traders are among the small amount of people in the whole 40k universe that has freedom to choose, freedom to do whatever they like."

Alexander Mishulin of Owlcat Games discusses Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader

Q. Perhaps one of the things Warhammer fans have wondered the most: What took so long to get a Warhammer CRPG?

Rogue Trader is an excellent setting for a Warhammer CRPG (Image via Owlcat Games)
Rogue Trader is an excellent setting for a Warhammer CRPG (Image via Owlcat Games)

Alexander Mishulin: We had several guys internally that were playing it (Rogue Trader) and had a campaign for it and Dark Heresy for about three or four years. It branched out, they looped more people in, and, eventually, they came to the point that they decided they wanted to make a pitch internally to Owlcat about RPG set in Warhammer 40k. And we loved it.

We understood how to make a great RPG out of this and that those guys are super eager to do that. So that led us to speak to Games Workshop and start pitching it and having negotiations about IP rights and everything. That was initially our idea.

It's not a really welcoming setting to the CRPG. One of the reasons we choose Rogue Trader is because Rogue Traders are among the small amount of people in the whole 40k universe that have the freedom to choose, freedom to do whatever they like. Other people are more like “In line, or they're heretics.”

And, so it's not very good for an RPG because RPGs are about your decisions, your consequences, and when your superior is just telling you to go there, kill those guys. It's not an RPG.

Q. Since you guys worked on Wrath of the Righteous, Kingmaker, etc., Fantasy is a setting you're already pretty familiar with. Before deciding on Rogue Trader, did you guys consider Fantasy Warhammer?

Alexander Mishulin: I would say no because the guys who pitched us, they played 40k, and they, you know, don't like Fantasy Warhammer so much. We discussed it a little bit because, yes, we have experience with fantasy and because fantasy Warhammer is rather popular because of the Total War series. But we decided that if our team is super eager to do 40k, and they know how to do that because they played it, they are invested in it. We decided to try something new and broaden our portfolio, so to say.

Q. So, does this follow the Rogue Trader tabletop? Does it follow the rules of the tabletop as closely as possible, or is there a little, little wiggle room?

Alexander Mishulin: Actually, it doesn't. It takes the series as inspiration. So terms and abilities etc., are familiar. Items and armor, of course, are the same because it's the same setting. But other than that, the mechanics are all ours. The tabletop scaling is rather low, and for a 100-hour game, you would feel super, super flat when it comes to loot.

You will not be growing in power too much, your abilities will be just the same but different in small bits. So we have to have more progression, we have to have more abilities, and that led eventually to branching out from the original.

Q. Speaking of Pathfinder, were there any sort of lessons you guys learned from that experience that carried over?

Alexander Mishulin: First and foremost, as most developers, we are trying to have more and more time for polishing the game because Kingmaker was released rather raw and Wrath of the Righteous was better, but we underestimated the Play Time, so the last stages were not as solid as the beginning of the game.

This time around, we also overestimated. We planned for 60 to 80 hours, now it's 100. But we noticed it in far earlier stages, so we plan accordingly. We still have enough time to polish the whole game, at least in our opinion. Yeah, so that's the first thing. The second one, from game to game, we are expanding the range of players' choices, options, and reactions to that.

And we hope that with Warhammer, we managed to do so as well, as there will be more activity for player choices in character generation. For example, you will be selecting your Moment of Triumph and the Moment of Darkest Hour, which is like the greatest failure and has small mechanical bonuses to that. But also, it will have narrative consequences as there will be reactions throughout the story to different triumphs and failures.

So we are learning from our mistakes, but we are learning from what we are doing and trying to do that better.

Q. How large in scope is Rogue Trader? By that, I mean how much of the 40k universal players see?

Alexander Mishulin: It transpires in the Calyxis Sector, so not the whole billion of men or sectors of space, just one. But aside from that you are exploring this sector and you will be visiting quite a lot of star systems. You will be rebuilding and expanding your trade empire. You will have meetings with other traders as well. As with Drukhari, Eldari, Necrons. Chaos, of course, has something to say about all that.

So, pretty much, you will see bits of the whole universe, but condensed in this small sector.

Q. Because there's a lot of racism in space in the 40k universe, nobody gets along in space. But how varied will the party be? How many potential races/factions can join your party?

Alexander Mishulin: We have ten companions, and there will also be some surprises, but I cannot talk about that. Aside from the ten companions, you have Drukhari and Aeldari, who represent two different worldviews, and it will be quite tense when they are both in the party at the same time. You have a Sister of Battle and a Space Marine, which represents the bulk of Imperium ideology.

Jason: It just wouldn’t be 40k without Space Marines.

Alexander Mishulin: Oh, yeah. We had to do that. Yes. There is also Adeptus Mechanicus, which is another take on the Creed and anything technological. And he is also kind of dabbles in archeotech. And you can either push it or forbid it.

So, it either, he will go. Not so good way for an Adeptus Mechanicus because they remain loyal to the Imperium. You have an Unsanctioned Psiker in your midst, Idira. And you also have an interrogator from the Inquisition. And for the more common people, Jae. Because she's a Contrabandist, she's just a Rogue Trader. Rather successful, but in terms of power when you compare her to a Rogue Trader, or Inquisitor, or even Interrogator, she's almost nobody, and she is far, far beyond her depth.

The Seneschal is also like the common man. He is already in ability under you. He, more than others, represents common folk while still being strict and respecting the whole hierarchy.

Q. Is there a particular part of the Warhammer 40K storyline in which this occurs? Or is it its own tale within the franchise?

Alexander Mishulin: At most, it is a stand-alone tale, but we, of course, have ties to current events, we have ties to notable characters. To give you an example, Marazhai here is from Riven Tempest Cabal. There is no such cabal in the Warhammer Universe.

It's our own cabal, invented specially for the game. But it has strong ties with Blackheart. That means you will be interacting with characters you are familiar with. And it plays into the whole politics of everything. So, with most of the other characters, at least they mention or have connections to particular factions and events.

Warhammer 40K Rogue Trader does not have a release date yet but is currently scheduled for Q3 2023. You can read more about the upcoming game here.

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Edited by Adarsh J Kumar
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