Oct 16

Warhammer Fest 2014 Recap

staff_james_vanniekerkI’m James Van Niekerk, Art Director for the upcoming mobile game The Horus Heresy: Drop Assault. So this week I had the pleasure of attending Warhammer Fest 2014 in Coventry, UK. What a blast! I thought I’d write an article, but unpacking my photos from the event I realized perhaps a gallery would be more fitting.


I wasn’t there just to attend. My job for the event was to roam around the festival making sure everybody had a chance to play through Drop Assault, and reviews from fans were really positive. Watching the Reaver Titan lay down mass-destruction was an undisputed highlight in the playthrough!

The Celebrities


I really loved talking with some of the real authors and artists who make the magic happen behind the scenes. Had some great chats with the likes of Jes Bickham, of the White Dwarf team, who was demoing a mini game with Dan Harden (featured above), the amazingly talented Simon Egan, whose careful artistic hand has brought us many of the models in the gorgeous developing Primarch series and Andy Clark, of one of the writers of my beloved new Dark Eldar codex. I also was able to speak with several Games Workshop illustrators who are living the artists dream, working hard to realize the weird and twisted worlds of the Warhammer universe through creative characters and environments! Lastly, I had the pleasure of meeting other developers such as Don Whiteford of Nomad Games, makers of the awesome Talisman: Digital Edition!

The Displays

There were three amazing Horus Heresy exclusive dioramas set up in the convention hall. They depicted an epic battle in a factory world, a dusty confrontation on the surface of Istvaan and some sort of epic Iron Warriors space station under siege by the Imperial Fists.


This image deserves an honourable mention. In this display the Forgeworld team had clung a Kharybdis Assault Claw to the side of the exterior hull. Then on the inside they bored a melta-cut hole in the ship and had a squad of marines spilling forth. Very neat to look at!

The Golden Demon

Now this event sure did draw a crowd. The third floor of the convention hall was packed all day long with fans itching to have a look at the stunning models on display. Here are a few highlights I was able to get close enough to photograph.


A Few Words in Conclusion

I hope my photos make it clear that this festival was a feast for the eyes. There was so much going on that it would have been easy to spend all weekend roaming about. I was really encouraged to see people’s faces light up when they got to play through Drop Assault. It made me realize how the game can appeal to kids, teens and adults alike. Everybody gets a kick out of launching orbital strikes, deploying Titans and purging heretics like an Astartes!

Stay tuned here for the latest info on The Horus Heresy: Drop Assault, including unit spotlights, dev diaries, and news!


Sep 22

A Fan Led Project

staff_james_vanniekerkI’m James Van Niekerk, Art Director for the upcoming mobile game The Horus Heresy: Drop Assault. This has been more than a dream title to work on, as I’ve been playing Warhammer 40,000 and Fantasy since grade school.


Here’s a bit of history on my obsession with Warhammer 40,000 over the years.

The Astra Militarum

My entry into Warhammer 40,000 took place in high school, where I played as a World War II-themed Astra Militarum force. This conversion-heavy army started as a labour of love. I quickly learned that while green stuffing helmet brims onto guardsmen makes them look really cool, it becomes murderously time-consuming when you want to expand your force to over a hundred models. All that time and effort was worth it though! I won a Best Painted Army award at a local tournament.

The Dark Eldar


These days I play in a semi-weekly Warhammer 40,000 group with my friends and brother Jonas (who is the lead artist here at Complex Games) where I play a bloodthirsty Wych Cult of Dark Eldar. This army of ladies is a bit touch and go, meaning they tend to win big or lose big. Flying on a fleet of paper kites at break-neck speeds is always a volatile recipe.

Dark Heresy Role Play

On our lunch hour, Complex Games staff can be found immersing in the lore of a Dark Heresy role play game. I play as Withers McCarthy, a decrepit old psyker who has seen the terrors of the warp. We’re a group of mercenaries hired by the Inquisition to investigate the mysterious disappearance of large numbers of psykers to a strange cult in the depths of an un-trusting hive city.


Bringing it all into The Horus Heresy: Drop Assault

My experience playing and painting over many years has been crucially important when making decisions for Drop Assault. From something as simple as, “No, a boltgun doesn’t mount on a predator” to something more technical such as, “That ‘I’ symbol is from the inquisition, which didn’t exist during the time period of our game”, I’ve discovered depths of technical nerd-dom I never knew I had. I’ve learned a lot about the impressively rich lore of the Horus Heresy in the process, especially with the counsel of help we’ve had from Games Workshop and our experienced writers.

One the things I’ve been really excited about is the ability to depict a lot of these amazing Horus Heresy units and effects for the first time in full motion and sound. We’ll be breaking animated ground on loads of unique units and weapons which are exclusive to the Heresy Era. Take for example the devastating Scimitar Jetbike, which wields a Volkite Culverin that violently reduces organic matter to ash, or the Conversion Beamer that fires an unstable beam of antimatter which implodes in a concussive thunderclap. Working with effect artists in the studio to bring these weapons to a visual reality has been amazing. And having the actual gaming context to understand how they are meant to behave has been essential to doing these weapons justice.

So suffice to say, between myself and many others, there are a lot of fans in our office who are all really excited to unveil our dream project to you in the upcoming weeks / months. Stay tuned here for some unit spotlights and dev diaries, where we’ll be unveiling more units and news!