Friday, March 09, 2012

The Tyranid Archive - A Piece of the Hive Mind

Here's something I had completely forgotten about, but just rediscovered and figured was perfectly timely for us going over 4th Generation/Edition of Tyranid models this week. A few years back, when Moloch was better connected with the studio, he managed to score an interview with Phil Kelly and Jes Goodwin on the heels of the 4th Edition codex release. I feel like the article explains itself, and it's always lived on Warpshadow, but I've reproduced it here for the sake of completeness and ease of use. I can't promise that it's aged well, but it does give a unique insight to the minds of the creators. If anything, it's a pretty solid indication of just how open the studio used to be that Jes and Phil were ever allowed to give an interview like this to someone who wasn't employed by Games Workshop.

(circa August 2005)

We see their faces and read their articles in the mag every month. We admire their work on the shelves of the local store and shell out hard-earned cash to make it ours. If we’re lucky we’ll get the chance to toss them a curly question about that model or this rule or my army that just isn’t coming out quick enough or, heaven forbid, at all.

They are heroes and villains both. Creators of the games, models, rules, pictures and worlds you admire. Destroyers of those cherished loopholes and stratagems that made you a god amongst your peers since the last release. In their august presence you might babble like a child, or offer them a beer, or ask them, "what the hell were you thinking?!". Or anything in between.

Games developers, eh? Whatever your feelings might be about them, as 40K players we’d all love to grab their attention and bend their ear for a bit. Then turn the tables and leach them for all the inside info they can give.

As it turns out the minds behind our latest Codex and model range are quite affable toward the odd bit of info leachery. Our good friend Marco of Hive Fleet Moloch offered The Gestalt the chance to pose a few choice queries to Phil Kelly and Jess Goodwin on the subject of all things new and niddy, and served us up the answers when the gents were kind enough to give their candid replies.

Which is the long winded way of saying: here’s our first interview! We hope you all enjoy it. Massive thanks to Marco, Phil and Jess for making it all happen.

Marco                              Phil Kelly                    Jes Goodwin

Not that this indomitable duo of highly specialised, gene spliced design drones would need any introdution around here, but just to be sure:

Jes Goodwyn has been designing Games Workshop models for what seems like an eternity. Among a gazillion other things he has been the driving force behind the Tyranid design.

Phil Kelly should also be considered a loyal servant to the Hive as he has been playing with a Tyranid army for many years and is the author of the latest Tyranid Codex.

First off, We would like to thank the both of you on the behalf of the members of Warpshadow for granting us the honour of this exclusive interview. There are a lot of Tyranid players out there who have been waiting patiently for the re-working of the Tyranid list and model range. On their behalf, we would also like to thank you for putting so much hard work into revising the line and its codex.

Phil: Just doin’ our job Sir. Seriously though it was a lot of fun. Got one hell of a monster fix that year I can tell you…

Jes: Our pleasure, I’ve had to be patient also, but I’m getting better at it after the therapy. Anyway guys, there were several other guys on the team. Roberto Cirillo did a lot of concept work and visualisation. Mark Harrison did a lot of the sculpting [The lictor is my favourite of his] and of course the spirit of Mr Chambers was always with us.

Q1: What kind of goals did the both of you set for yourselves when you began reworking the Tyranids?

Jes: From my point of view it was really picking back up from where it had got to last time. We were really rushed at the end of the last Tyranid project and I don’t feel that we did some of the models justice. Since Phil will probably take this from the rules/background angle, I guess I’ll concentrate on the models [Can’t promise though] Here we go; [I’ll use bullet points ‘cos I bet Phil will]
  • Extend the range of plastics available. We get a chance to revisit plastics with each big release, and I had a grand plan from the last time, so it was a matter of dusting that off and seeing if it was still relevant
  • To make them more ‘Tyraniddy’ rather than ‘Alienesque’. It had always been the intention to make them an expression of the Gribbly/B-movie alien Archetype, which the Alien, the Predator, the Thing, the Metaluna mutant are all expressions of rather than being archetypes themselves. I also wanted to play up the Reptilian/Dinosaur/Crustacean elements to get rid of the ‘insect’ tag, Tyranids should look like an amalgamation of lots of different species, you shouldn’t be able to pigeonhole them easily [The original brief for them at the time of Rogue Trader was for 6-limbed, bio-engineered dinosaurs in space]
  • To continue to make them feel that they are all part of one race, by extending the visual elements that had been established in the previous plastics, and using consistent textures and morphology
  • To remake as many of the previous designs that we weren’t happy with as the deadlines allowed
  • To reintroduce some of the elements of the 2nd ed ‘nids that had got lost, and that I felt gave them much of their ‘niddy character [see above]
  • To carry on the ‘master plan’ that Andy and I had worked on in the past. There were a whole load of individual goals for specific models, but these are the big themes.

Phil: That’s one hell of a question. I think I’ll just set out the major goals rather than go into detail or I’ll be here all day. OK, here’s my points:

  • Ensure that 40K Tyranid armies look like we portray them in our background and fiction. There are far too many lists out there trying to get the most out of the mutation rules, ie taking a bare minimum of species and cramming as many rending claws in there as possible. That’s not what the Tyranids should be about.
  • Make sure the middleweight Tyranids get back into the fray – Warriors, Lictors, Zoanthropes and Raveners were being left on the shelf and armies (including my own) consisted of only the little guys and the really big guys.
  • Make good on the promise that you can field lots of different styles of Tyranid army, all effective in their own right – we now have at least six effective and distinct army styles available to Tyranid players. These are the Godzilla army, the Critter swarm, the Shooty army, the Warrior army, the Flying Circus and the Combined Arms force. Not bad from one Codex. As to which is the most efficient, only time (and a lot of gribbling) will tell. I have my bets placed.
  • Make an off-the-shelf main list army a competitive option without customising every damn thing in the list.
  • Make all broods effective in their own way and correctly costed.
  • Remove the ‘individuality’ implied by mutants in broods and special characters.
  • Move the Tyranid narrative forward with Hive Fleet Leviathan.
  • Do Andy Chambers proud.

There are many more, but on with the show.

Q2. What, if any, inspiration did you draw from previous incarnations of the Tyranids?

Phil: The background from the second edition Tyranid book was top quality stuff, from the pen of Mr. Chambers himself. So I nicked almost all of it, like the shameless magpie I am. With a few modifications, of course…we had a very strict directive from Rick to include a massive chunk of background.

Jes: Miniatures wise, I wanted to recapture some of the distinctiveness of 2nd Ed, but with the models updated to fit in with the Tyranid visual style that we began to develop in 3rd. In particular I wanted the Hive Tyrant to be closer to the rest of the Tyranids than a certain movie icon, and to get back some of the dynamism of the 2nd ed Lictor

Q3. We have heard tell of a new addition to the Tyranid list. Can either of you comment on what inspired this new addition?

Jes: Ah, the Broodlord. The nature of the genestealers is that they are the Tyranid species most prone to being mutable by their very nature. We kicked around a lot of possibilities based around the ‘stealers, the Broodlord just seemed to fit the bill for the list.

Phil: We were intending to do the Broodlord as a special character, about whom we intend to remain irritatingly quiet. But he made it in as an HQ choice instead. He is an evolution of the genestealer background, which has always been a favourite of mine.

Q4. Have there been any plans to resurrect the infamous Genestealer Cult in the form of a codex or White Dwarf article with rules for them?

Phil: Ah, that old chestnut. We do get a lot of people asking, several quite highly placed in the company, and myself and Jes are interested in revisiting them. They will never get their own Codex – we just don’t think they are all that appropriate for the battlefield (after all that’s what the main Tyranid list is for) and are more suited to smaller games like Inquisitor and Killteam. I wanted the main 40K list to be 100% alien, and not have any human auxiliary stuff – it would dilute the alien nature of the Tyranid army.

Jes: What he said, but I think that they would make a logical adversary for the Alienhunters.

Q5. After the Tyranids were released in third edition, Jes made certain prophetic statements about the possibility of a plastic carnifex and new plastic Genestealers in the Tyranids' future. Now we see that these prophetic statements have come to pass. We are all happy that the Tyranids have been revised so quickly, but it would be hard to imagine that the most highly-evolved army in 40K has reached the end of its evolution. Would either of you care to say anything about possible future developments for the Tyranid story line/model line/rule set?

Jes: Almost like it was planned………………….;-]. I think there is a lot more mileage in themed armies, extending Phil’s range of different styles, a winged army perhaps. Be the perfect excuse to do Gargoyles in plastic, wouldn’t it? More plastics would also mean more biomorphs, which would mean extending the choice for some troop types. Maybe some ‘genofixed’ species might become mutable, as the Hive plays with new ideas.

Q6: We have heard exciting rumors of an upcoming campaign involving Tyranids, can you confirm that and, if so, can you give us more details?

Phil: There is an upcoming 40K campaign for next summer, and Tyranids will be taking part. That’s all you’re getting I’m afraid!

Q7. Jes, How did Games Workshop decide which of the new Tyranid models would be plastic and which wouldn't?

Jes: Plastic is usually reserved for troops that you need lots of or big things that are impractical to do in metal. This is sort of changing as new technology makes an impact, but we are usually given a certain amount of ‘frames’ to play with, the Carnifex took up three! [Actually, I just whined about a plastic Carnifex until they gave in,]

Q8. Phil, what kind of new strategic avenues will be opened up to Tyranid players by the new codex?
Phil: As described above, there are a lot more army styles available to the Tyranid players out there. Over playtesting I got the bejeezus shot out of me by a shooty army fielded by Alessio Cavatore, they are a lot of fun. I am a recent convert to the way of the Tyranid Warrior with Deathspitter and Rending Claws. Tyranid weapons have become a lot scarier, so expect to see more shootiness in Tyranid armies. Also, as I have harped on about on more than one occasion, the Tyranid player can now field ‘purer’ armies – with a Broodlord as HQ you can field a viable army of little guys without a monstrous creature in sight, or go to the other end of the spectrum and field an 8 monstrous creature army. Of course you’d have to be a hardcore nutcase to go for that, eh Marco?

Jes: L’avenue des Champs Elysee.

Q9. Are there any plans in the works to release a "Collecting Tyranids" hobby book like the one released for space marines? Will any of the Tyranid concept art work be included?

Phil: I would be very, very surprised if there wasn’t one of these published in the next few years, but it’s not us lot that produce those things so I can’t say for sure.

Jes: As Phil says, not our call, but Roberto and I would love to get more of the concept work published.

Q10. Jes, Phil, what kind of cool new projects would you want to work on if you got to continue working on the Tyranid line?

Jes: More variations for the Tyrant, each Tyrant should have its own distinctive crest, and there are extra tails, weapons etc that we could do. A Winged Tyrant [‘cos I worked out how it would work, despite the fact that people say it won’t take wings] Plastic Gargoyles, Bigger Monsters,…………

Phil: Hmm… bigger gribblies, a Tyranid-centric campaign, and an evolving Leviathan storyline in Codex: Alien Hunters.

Q11. Are there any left-field ideas you can share with us that didn't make it into the revised Tyranids?
Phil: Several ideas we talked about didn’t make it to the final cut, but nothing we do here is truly wasted – we may get them back into the process and refine them later down the line. I was keen to do a gravid Hive Tyrant that spews Rippers from its womb as a special character, but then I came to my senses – having individual characters for the Tyranids kind of defeats the point – they are characterized by their lack of individuality. I’ve always liked that angle that each Tyranid is but a single cell in a massive super-organism. Cells generally don’t have names.

Jes: I know what Phil is saying, but I can see special versions of monsters being relevant for campaigns. In fact now that the mutation rules are subsumed into the list maybe ‘Mutation’ is a more appropriate name for Tyranid ‘Special Characters’.

Q12. What do you think tournament and competitive players will look forward to most?

Phil: Viable middleweight creatures, fleet-of-claw genestealers, venom cannons that can cause penetrating hits on open-topped vehicles (bye bye land speeder squadron), Lictors that do not need maps and cannon fodder that can shoot worth a damn. Oh yes, and the Broodlord. There’s a new guy in town and his Initiative is better than yours.

Q13. We're seeing the Carnifex - with its broad range of upgrades, expanded force organizational roles and extensive modeling options - become a more prevalent and adaptable workhorse in the Tyranid force. What drove this design decision, and how do you see it shaping the way players build their armies?

Phil: Most of my work on the Carnifex was driven by the glut of options on the plastic kit and the prep work done by my esteemed colleague Mr. Goodwin. Over to you Jes…

Jes: Like I said, I whined a lot……. We had always talked about a tank style piece for the ‘nids, but no-one liked the idea of the old ‘Slug Tanks’, visually they were just dull. I wanted the ‘fex to be a combination of dreadnought and tank, with lots of chances to customize, and as many biomorphs as we could get on the frames. I wanted to revisit the Monstrous Arms frame to bring the sculpting into line with the other plastics. I wanted to get an image out of my head that had been niggling away for several years. I wanted it to have that ‘wow’ factor. I wanted it bellowing, not grinning. I wanted a LIVING ENGINE OF DESTRUCTION dammit! [Like I said, I whined a lot] Andy C and myself had come up with several ‘breeds’ of Carnifex very early into the process, it was up to poor old Phil to make sense out the madness.

Q14. Shouldn't the Broodlord rather be called Patriarch ? Is there a difference ? Is there an additional model for the Patriarch in the Tyranids future, say in a campaign?

Phil: The Broodlord is a completely new species. I always think of him as the Olympic athlete of the Tyranid race – tough, fast, and strong. He’s at the peak of physical fitness for purpose, that purpose being to smack seven shades of Grox dung out of any enemy characters that come his way, of course. I always think of Patriarchs as more like a king than a warrior, probably because of that classic model of the Patriarch on his throne with Magus attendant. Always reminded me of Don Corleone, that chap.

Jes: No, Yes, Maybe, but not necessarily in that order ;-]

Q15. With the Black Library turning out some really impressive background books is there any chance of seeing something like that for Tyranids ?

Jes: Their call, I’m afraid, as I’ve said, both Roberto and I would love to get some more drawings into print

Q16. Very nice that the Zoats made a short return and that the background on Kryptman's actions was expanded. Were there any wild background ideas that didn't make it into the book ?

Phil: Zoats? What Zoats? I have no idea what you mean. Please report to Redistrubution Block Alpha-92 at your earliest opportunity.

Jes: You might call them Zoats, we couldn’t possibly comment ;-]

Phil: There was one wild background idea that didn’t really get its day in the sun – that the Nids ate the Squats. They had to join the queue behind the Orks and the Inquisition!

Jes: Don’t listen to him, he’s from Essex.

Many thanks to Jes & Phil for taking the time to run through this veritable parcours of questions as well as to the infamous Warpshadow Gestalt - Phage, Teatime and Mr. Pink. T`was a lot of fun.

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