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Lo-fi shooter Warhammer 40k Boltgun has weirdly hi-tech gore

Upcoming FPS Warhammer 40k Boltgun may look like a 90s shooter, but developer Auroch Digital says it needs modern tech to look this old school.

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Warhammer 40k Boltgun might look like classic 90s shooters Quake or Unreal Tournament, but under the hood it’s packed with “cool modern stuff that you could only have dreamed of in the 90s”, according to lead designer Grant Stweart. And some of that high technology is powering a dedicated gore system.

With the Warhammer 40k Boltgun release date not far off, Wargamer spoke to the developers at Auroch Digital to find out how they created the game.

Warhammer 40k Boltgun gore system is high-tech - boltgun shell explodes cultist

Code lead Sam Chester explains that when your Space Marine hero blasts apart a Chaos cultist in Boltgun, the gore system kicks into action: “When you shoot an enemy we spawn a particle effect” – a spray of bloody fireworks – “we spawn decals” – bloody stickers that get applied to the level map – “then we also spawn these little body parts”.

Chester explains that some of those giblets “stick to surfaces, they can stick to the ceiling and then drop off and plop onto the floor, or they can slide down walls”. Others “don’t stick, they roll about, they slide around the environments, slide down sloped surfaces, and they continue to have physics enabled…” He adds “the art team have done an incredible job” creating dismembered body-parts for all sorts of creatures, from Chaos Space Marine Terminators to Greater Daemons of Nurgle.

Warhammer 40k Boltgun gore system is high-tech - gravgun unleashed on a Great Unclean one

Chester points to his bloody inspirations: “The gore system is inspired by Brutal Doom’s gore system, which was exceptional, and a little game called Jet Force Gemini from the N64 days… that was the first time I’d seen dynamic gore that flies around, hits the environment, and reacts there”. Truly, the blood god Khorne would be proud.

Lead designer Grant Stewart explains that all these drippy body parts contribute to a game that’s surprisingly demanding on computer hardware: “It looks very old but we’ve actually got a lot of very modern systems in it… There’s a lot of fairly smart things the AI are doing and just the sheer volume of them is enormous as well”.

Warhammer 40k Boltgun gore system is high-tech - plasma gun obliterates nurglings

Stewart says the team has had conversations about “1,000 nurglings”, though adds “hopefully that won’t be in the game, but that’s the kind of ballpark that we’re operating in”.

Warhammer 40k Boltgun runs in Unreal Engine 4. This modern tech wasn’t a magic bullet for recreating the retro aesthetic. Chester gives the example of the sprite renderer: “Our enemies and many objects in the environment are rendered using sprites that rotate to face the camera”, just like the baddies in Doom. Unreal Engine 4 has a tool that does this, but it couldn’t draw the huge number of objects and enemies fast enough for Auroch’s liking.

Warhammer 40k Boltgun gore system is high-tech - gravgun gibs Lord of Change

Chester says that in order to solve this, “We rewrote a sprite renderer that could run on the [graphics card] or on the [main processor]”. This in-house tool could be fine-tuned to deliver exactly what Auroch wanted and run on “all of the target hardware”, including low-end PCs and the Nintendo Switch. An ingenious solution, though not one to admit to the Adeptus Mechanicus.

In the first part of Wargamer’s interview with the designers at Auroch Digital we discussed their love of boomer shooters. The designers are all dedicated miniature wargames nerds, each collecting a Warhammer 40k faction. The combination of a low-tech exterior hiding surprisingly high technology is thematically fitting for a game set in the technologically regressive Imperium of Man – you can read our Warhammer 40k Boltgun preview to see what we think of it.

You can check the Warhammer 40k Boltgun PC requirements  and see if you can run it at PC Game Benchmark.