Hail CAesar! A Chat With Total War: Rome II’s Lead Dev

By Alec Meer on July 2nd, 2012 at 5:00 pm.

Not James Russell

I came, I saw, I previewed Total War: Rome II. I also chatted to Total War series lead designer James Russell about the enduring appeal of the Roman Empire, how it’s possible to control a wargame on this kind of scale, introducing a human element to the game’s soldiers and politickers, and branching storylines on the campaign map. This is part one of a two-part interview – more tomorrow.

RPS: I guess my immediate question is the complexity of controlling something that’s so much bigger. Does it feel, when managing all these units, like a big step up, or is it more about the amount of soldiers within each troop?

James Russell: To take a step back regarding that part of it, I guess what’s special to us about Total War is the spectrum you get of scales, you drill right down into human level interactions and individuals fighting it out. You can zoom out and see that ten thousand times and it’s that spectrum that makes Total War unique in a way, that you get both of those ends of the spectrum. What we’re wanting to do with Rome is really, really push both ends of that spectrum, so I think it’s pretty clear on the human level stuff, we want to have more emotional interactions, you see your buddy get downed and you might try and help him up, or you see more interactions…

RPS: Can we trigger those reactions, or just witness them?

James Russell: Well that would be part of how men behave. So similarly, a guy gets hit by an arrow, I react to it, instead of just ignoring it. It makes it feel more human, and then you’ve got the facial animation and the shouting of orders and incidentals, and we want that to happen more and more, so you’ll see the officer shout if the unit’s getting flanked, and that kind of stuff, plus the unit level camera, so it’s really pushing that human level scale.

But then on the other end, really pushing the epic, large-scale spectacle of the battle, so there you saw I think combined battles, so you’ve got land and ships in the same battlefield, and then also we’ve got multiple ships in a unit, because ancient world battles weren’t fought with eight ships, you had several in a unit. We’re having several in a unit because you’re going to have many more ships than before. And then we’ve got bigger environments and epic cities and that sort of thing, so to get back to what you were originally asking about with that large scale thing, we’re not intending for it to be more to control, it’s just a more impressive scene.

For instance with ships, you don’t have more, you’ve got more ships per unit. With land and sea, we’re not going to necessarily go above 40 units that we’ve got for Fall of the Samurai, right, you might have a number of ships, a number of navy units and a number of land units. It’s more about the larger scale environments and the fact you can do more with each unit rather than having loads more units, so we want to do more with scale without creating that management burden.

The same thing’s true on the campaign map, so it’s that combination. We want human level dramas and storylines that we can talk about in a sec, but we also want to push the scale so, just as we were talking about on the battlefield, the map of Rome, the Roman World, is going to be bigger than the Rome one, quite a bit bigger, so we’re pushing the map further out. And that’s going to have consequences, in terms of the concern you raised, you could ask that about the campaign map, ‘does that mean there’s going to be more management, a lot more stuff to control?’

That is a valid question on the battlefield, and the same is true of the campaign map, but what we want to do is make sure that you’re not actually controlling more things. So for instance on the campaign map, what we want to do with regions is have what we’re calling a province system, where you’ve got a province that’s made up of several different regions, and what that means is that you still capture small chunks of territory. So there’s still a lot of strategic depth, you’re not head-shotting great big regions, which means that we can still have hundreds of regions in the map, so it’s really big. We’re having a province system where for several regions, maybe three or four regions, you’re only managing one province. It means that you get the strategic depth in terms of capturing territories and moving armies around.

James Russell

RPS: To take them over you have to grab them individually as regions, but once you’ve got them you can bulk manage them essentially?

James Russell: Yeah. There’s one management node for several regions. Whether you call that bulk…I think that the point is about strategy game play is that it’s about interesting decisions, and we want to make the decisions more interesting. We don’t want to give you more of them for you to necessarily have to repeat and repeat and repeat. But it also has other consequences, because it means you can capture territory without always having to fight a siege battle, so you get a greater variety of battle types, and a greater variety of battle environments as well, because you’re not always trying to head-shot the city.

It allows us to have a bigger map, grander scale, without making you have to control loads more things in terms of the management side of the game, and we’re doing the same kind of things with armies as well. We want the player to be thinking like a Roman military leader. A Roman emperor was not thinking about, do I move that unit of archers together with that unit of cavalry and make a two stack and then send them between those two cities, the Roman emperor’s thinking about where the Tenth Legion is, and thinking about the fact that they want to reinforce it with the Eighth Legion. We want the player to be thinking more about their legions rather than a random collection of units.

So I think that makes the gameplay deeper and more interesting and also it reduces the micro-management. So the aim there is to have fewer and more significant battles, and we’re doing a number of different things to encourage that and make that work. For instance we’re really trying to create a strong concept of a legion. A legion will have its own legacy, its own gameplay effects and character – so for instance if you’ve lost a great battle or done something very specific with a legion it might get a trait with a particular game effect that reflects how you’ve used it. And that outlives its General, so it’s not just about the effects of the General.

RPS: Does that move to legions and the fewer and more significant battles reduce the rock, paper, scissors aspect and make it become more about where you’ve put your legion as opposed to needing the specific counters to the specific types you’re up against?

James Russell: We definitely don’t want to have bog standard legions where they’re all the same, absolutely not. In fact the opposite in many ways because that’s why we wanted to give these legions a character, so they’ve got their own unique nature. We don’t want to have all your legions being the same, I think there’ll definitely be strengths and weaknesses to each legion and to each General, and obviously there’ll be plenty of rock, paper, scissors gameplay within the battles themselves. You’ve got a massive variety of combat styles and cultures as well. The Rhine legions might be quite different from the Eastern regions, and that kind of thing, depending on how you use them.

RPS: I actually prefer that, as long as I’ve got enough men and I can position them well, I have a chance, as opposed to ‘oh no I haven’t brought the right type of spear and therefore I’m screwed.’

James Russell: As a strategy design philosophy question it’s interesting how strong you make the rock, scissors, paper effects. Do you make them overwhelming, so you have to bring the right counters, or do you make them quite weak? There are pros and cons to each approach. I guess in the situation you describe where you’ve brought the wrong troops and you’re screwed, it’s probably because the enemy army took quite a risk and was quite specialised as well.

RPS: It’s all part of the drama to some extent.

James Russell: Yeah, I think it’s interesting. You want to make it strong enough so it’s really part of the game and has genuine strategic implications, but you also don’t want it to be so overwhelming that you feel like ‘well, this army’s just the wrong type.’

RPS: In terms of the micro scale getting to see the human element, is that purely a style thing to enrich the whole vista, or could it start to replace UI elements, like you don’t need to watch the morale meter, you can actually see that these guys are visibly freaking out and that’s your cue to do something about it?

James Russell: That’s a very good question, in battle the key thing is that making the men feel more human makes you more invested in them. It makes it feel much more impressive when you zoom out. In terms of core gameplay effects, I think one key thing to emphasise is the unit level camera where you go down and lock the camera to that unit, we don’t just want that to be an aesthetic thing, the player’s going to need some incentive to do that. We don’t just want the player using that in order to go in and watch something, it’s got to have an effect.

RPS: Because otherwise you only really use it when you know the victory is in the bag.

James Russell: Or at least it’s just the only skirmish going on while the other troops manoeuvre or whatever, yes, absolutely. We want to make sure there’re some gameplay effects there, but we’re experimenting with exactly how that works. It is not going to be just an aesthetic.

RPS: Can you talk about anything you are thinking about in terms of that?

James Russell: I think we wouldn’t really be comfortable because there’re various different approaches and we’re looking at two different philosophies in particular. We’re just trying to work out exactly how that works. You did see a little hint of that kind of thing as well in Fall of the Samurai with third person mode. I’m not saying that’s what we’re going to do, that’s an example of the player having direct control over what goes on in that view.

[Fall of the Samurai’s third-person unit camera for cannons and gatling guns is mentioned]. It did make a big difference to the gameplay because you could particularly aim at individuals, so with cannons you could aim where two units were crossing to try and go through, so it did have proper gameplay effects, it wasn’t just a gimmick.

But you lose your attention, and that’s a big thing. Player attention is a resource in a strategy game for the player to spend as they choose. I think on the campaign map, the human levels side of the game is obviously deeply interwoven with the way that the game plays, and so for example, what we want to do is weave in lots of human level dramatic threads into the gameplay.

We’re going to really take the dilemma system of Shogun 2 to town and we really want to make much more of that part of the game where you’re presented with interesting human level dilemmas. But we’re not just doing it one by one, we’re going to have sequences of chain dilemmas that trigger up in certain situations, depending on how you’ve been playing the game. They’ll influence and have effects on the whole game.

I think one of the amazing things about the era is that it was a time when individuals made history, through their personal decisions, you’ve got all these legendary figures and we really want to bring out some of those personal choices and actually have branch sequences of storylines where you get to make personal decisions and see that play out in the game world, and see the effects that that has. So it’s about humanising elements of the campaign game, because the geopolitics of the time was intimately bound up with individual’s own choices. We want the player to be thinking ‘do I save the Republic or do I make a play to become emperor?’ We want that to be a proper dilemma that the player has.

RPS: Even though essentially the campaign is to some degree non-linear, you’re carving your own path across Europe and the rest, does it necessitate that some fixed stuff has to happen so that you can then encounter these key storyline beats?

James Russell: No, I don’t think so, I see it more as there’s this huge landscape of possibility, and what we do is lay little Easter eggs everywhere, but loads of them.

RPS: ‘Easter eggs’, eh?

James Russell: I was going to say ‘lay traps’ but then that might come across badly. Traps, Easter eggs is not really the right word because that implies that they’re really rare. We want loads of them everywhere. The thing is that they’re not just singular things. The way that you’ve made a decision about one will influence which future ones come up, and they’ll have game effects, and they’ll change the dynamics of your actual core campaign. They’re not just little niceties. That’s the intention.

We’re kind of gathering together loads of archetypal Roman elements, and thinking about ‘ok, some will be weaved in like that, some will get their own mechanics’. There’s all these archetypal Roman concepts, and we want to get all that in the game somehow, whether it’s a unit, whether it’s even an ancillary or trait, whether it’s a proper mechanic, or whether it’s woven into this branching dilemma system. Things like slavery, circuses, all that kind of stuff, they’re going to be in the game, and some will have their own mechanics, some will be woven into these personal storylines.

RPS: Are you going to have to play as Rome essentially in your first play through of the campaign?

James Russell: No, we don’t want to do what we did last time where you can only play as Rome. We feel very comfortable now having really focussed the gameplay in Shogun 2 and gone where we really went all out to bring the gameplay down into that one small contained play area, we’re now really comfortable rolling it out into a vast world again. We feel very confident with keeping that contained in a way, in terms of how it feels to a player so they don’t get overwhelmed, but they feel that there’s this massive world to explore.

Because of that there’s this massive variety on the campaign map, so we don’t want to restrict that to experienced players. You’ve got all this variety, like barbarian cultures in the northern forest, exotic kingdoms in the eastern desserts, all that kind of stuff, we want the player to be able to experience that so we definitely don’t want to force you to play Rome.

RPS: They’ll all have these Easter egg plot elements per culture, then?

James Russell: Yeah. Variety’s a big deal, so we’re not just focussing on Rome. We want to have for instance different tech trees, or certainly different tech content for different cultures, that kind of thing. We talked a little bit about you thinking do I save the Republic or do I become emperor, we have this idea of themes of betrayal, internal conflict, intrigue. And obviously there’s the Senate, and that has its own agenda, and all that kind of stuff. But there are those elements that will be in the game for different factions, any culture can have its internal conflicts, can have its court intrigues, or tribal rivalries, however it’s framed. So we want to get the variety but we definitely don’t want to short-change any other culture.

RPS: I really like the idea of playing it as warring Scottish tribes or something, competing amongst each other for who gets to wear the biggest headdress.

James Russell: (laughs)

RPS: So with the seamless, or what appears to be seamless, naval to land stuff, what’s the scope for the player really getting screwed up if he’s coming in from the sea and he could be skirmished on route and then he just lands with just twelve men because it all got sunk. Can that happen?

James Russell: Ok, so, on the campaign map, what it necessitates is the breaking down of the distinction between armies and navies, because what you effectively saw there is a navy capturing the capital city of a big empire, so what that means is navies become strategically more important on the campaign map, and it breaks down that distinction. If your navy, when it’s approaching land, in that combined battle which is like a coastal battle, if the ships got sunk by catapults on land, you only had one ship that managed to land, and it would land troops, then yeah, you’d just have your one unit. It’s possible.

It depends on exactly how we do the morale system, it might be desirable for that one ship to rout if the situation was hopeless. Obviously we’re still looking at all of the details of how it combines. It’s a single battle type.

RPS: And can you get out of there if things are going badly, have your guys run back to the ships and flee?

James Russell: Well, not necessarily. That would be much harder and historically it’s much easier to land your ship because you just row it straight at the beach, and then it beaches itself up on the water and they all jump out, to actually embark on the ships you’ve got to get the entire crew pushing it back out to water, and then they have to get up on the boat. It’s quite a different thing.

RPS: Rome, as a setting, seems to be something of a high point for this series. What do you think it is that makes it stand out above all the rest in many minds?

James Russell: I think there’s just something uniquely evocative about ancient Rome. And not just Rome itself, but the whole timeframe. It’s the whole sword and sandals culture, but there’s something very unique and identifiable about the nature of Rome. Something unique about the look and feel of the Roman legions. It’s also the archetypal empire-building era of history. Before the Roman era you had mythic periods and Ancient Greece and all that kind of stuff, but you didn’t have these small kingdoms conquering the world in that way. It’s the world’s first superpower. There’s also something uniquely modern about Rome in its focus on civics and infrastructure and making a society as well as a war machine, taking their education to other countries.I think people can identify with Rome in a really strange way.

RPS: They came so close to being all out villains, but they just about pull it back by generally having improved society at the end of all the bloodshed. The world was sort of a better place for them ultimately.

James Russell: Yeah, I think it would have been pretty brutal being smashed by the fist of Rome. It’s quite nasty. You wouldn’t want to mess with the Romans, and they were obviously horrendously brutal, but it was a brutal world I think, and they had a vision of a society. Although I think they wanted to conquer the world and dominate the world, I think they were ultimately a creative force not a destructive force. They weren’t in it for the destruction, they were in it to create glory for a positive vision of a society.

RPS: They thought they could make the world better.

James Russell: Yeah. They genuinely thought they were superior and everyone else was savages, absolutely, but they had a strong positive vision of their own society that yes, they had a superiority complex of course, but they weren’t a kind of nihilistic destructive force.

RPS: Although if you take it all the way to the top with the emperors and the senate, then that essential rot is there, it’s all about in-fighting and betrayal, it’s not about any sort of philanthropic intent…

James Russell: Absolutely, I think that’s human nature though. I think that’s the way that human beings are. I think there’s something unique about it in the popular imagination as you say, there’s something very, very special, and I think in some ways it feels less alien than for instance the medieval mind. I think people can identify with what it might be like being a Roman and I think they could get the motivations of a Roman senator in a way that I think it would be difficult to get the motivations of a Cardinal in the Middle Ages, or even a knight. I think there’s something modern but also impossibly romantic, romantic’s not the right word…

RPS: Game of Thrones at the moment owes quite a lot to the Roman saga, I’d say.

James Russell: And Star Wars. All sort of things I think. There’s something just so powerful about it I think. From a developer perspective as well I think it’s a great, rich tapestry, that world, to have all that variety of fighting styles and environments. Different cultures, I think it’s a unique point in time.

 

There endeth part one. Tomorrow: let’s talk about AI, baby.

 

 

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80 Comments »

  1. Captain Hijinx says:

    FUCKING YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. SirKicksalot says:

    Please bring back the Roman announcer. That fucking voice break when he announces victory…

    You might also bring back every voice and all the music too. TRIARII!!!!

    • Jimmy says:

      They should also recruit TRIARII the martial industrial act. Always worth turning off the in-game music and listening to the likes of Triarii, Sophia, and anything on the Cold Meat label.

    • Davie says:

      I loved the Roman voice actor. Everyone in the later games sounds like they’re putting on ridiculous accents, too silly to take seriously (with the exception of the British for obvious reasons) but the Roman guy just sounded so angry and badass all the time.

  3. yabonn says:

    Grmbl.

    I want to flank, not mass. I want my cavalry to have meaning. And i don’t want the whole game to be about the triggering of the “all against me” phase.

    I’d like less code smell, and alt-tab not being a risky bet.

    And I want it soon too. Grmbl.

    • Njordsk says:

      If I don’t say dumb things Roman didn’t use much calvary, they were mainly here to cover the flanks and harass feeing ennemies.

      The legion really was THE unit in the roman empire, and on the battlefield the cohorts disposition was everything that mattered.

      I think it’s clever of them to use this scale, as using every single cohorts independantly would have absolutly NO MEANING for the roman army.

      • yabonn says:

        Well, that was true… until the reign of Emperor MaPomme III, who directed his considerable roman emperor resources into building a decent roman (& friends) cavalry force. It his rumored that he had a grand old time doing this, as his battles involved lots of manoeuvering, flanking and breaking the enemy’s morale.

        In the great emperor immortal words “well, that is kind of the point”. And also, I think : “I’d get bored and dirty if my cav was near useless and I’d just have to pile units, glad I’m not the emperor of Cipango”.

      • Binho says:

        Yes and no. The legion was a body of citizen heavy infantry, and they were the core of the army. They never operated alone though. There was usually quite a lot of cavalry with it, drawn from non-citizen provincials or from outside the frontier. How much depended on the general, the army, the campaign, and the time period. Cavalry was essential for scouting, for harrassing the enemy, for flanking, and numerous other tasks. Often during battle they were also mingled with units of lighter infantry, so they’d have a place to regroup behind safely after a charge or skirmish. Pompey had some 8,000 cavalry with him when he faced Caesar at Pharsalus, for example. Their defeat by Caesar’s cavalry backed by detached legionary cohorts allowed the Caesarian cavalry to flank and rout Pompey’s forces.

        The Roman army seems to have been a lot more flexible than generally believed. They’d quite happily detach cohorts or other units from their parent legions to serve elsewhere in other functions (even in other countries!). A shield boss belonging to a legion stationed in Germany was found on Hadrian’s Wall, for example. During campaign, cohorts would also be detached from the main army to secure other strategic goals. This could be from fortifying a hill, guarding a supply depot, all the way to conquering small neighboring nations.

      • Cheese says:

        The game isn’t just about ancient Rome, though.

  4. weirdoo says:

    I wish part 2 was out now, i’m a major fan of Rome Total War <3 :3

  5. Vinraith says:

    Not even a question about mods, eh? I guess we’re just surrendering that point, now?

    Edit: Ah, there’ a part 2, my bad.

    • Unaco says:

      Or, you know, it’s in Part 2. Or they aren’t ready to talk about Mods yet. With SEGA/Creative getting quite pally with Valve though, I’d reckon we’ll see modding with Steam workshop support.

      • Vinraith says:

        Crap, right, I keep forgetting these are Steamworks games now. Dammit.

    • DiamondDog says:

      Or maybe that’s going to be in part two? I imagine you’re desperate to get on your soapbox.

      • Vinraith says:

        I missed the italics at the end, what’s with the needless insult?

      • DiamondDog says:

        I wouldn’t call it an insult, but with any TW article it’s just a matter of time before you show up going on about modding. It’s important to you, which is fine, but you seem like someone who wants to be disappointed, just to vindicate your opinions.

        Case in point, the game has barely been announced and you throw sarcastic accusations at RPS. Even missing the text about the second part of the interview, it’s still early days, and yet you talk already of “surrendering the point.” You’ve hit the ground running with this one.

        It’s very tiring to read the same rhetoric over and over again. But for my part I shouldn’t let it bother me, which I have done. So I’ll say sorry, and shut my mouth.

        • Vinraith says:

          Tonally that OP was not intended to be sarcastic at all, more like resigned. I don’t want to be disappointed, I just usually am. It sounds like there’s some hope in this case, though, based on the subthread below this one.

        • sPOONz says:

          Modding IMO is what makes pc gaming great. So im all for people asking for it.

        • DiamondDog says:

          Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for modding. I’ve never gone in for the huge overhauls myself, just usually some more subtle ones. But that’s the best thing about past TW games, is the range of play styles you can get by how many mods you use.

          It’s just tiring when the game has barely been seen and we already have the usual crowd snapping at CA’s heels about all the same issues. At this stage it’s like complaining Call of Duty is linear. It’s too big for them to tailor things around the purists. Which is obviously why mods are important.

    • Unaco says:

      Also, they (CA) definitely seem to be embracing modding again, recently… with the Mod summit coming in July sometime, and the release of the Shogun 2 map editor tools.

      • Vinraith says:

        Well, here’s hoping. They certainly build fantastic engines, and it used to be that modders would then build fantastic historical (and non-historical) games on top of that. I’d love to see that return.

  6. Xardas Kane says:

    My first reaction when I saw the announcement was literally “TEEEEEHEEEHEHEHHEEEE!”

    I honestly haven’t been this excited about a TW game in ages! The release date can’t come soon enough.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    I’d love more of a connection with the grubbier, more personal aspects of empire. I guess we can have the Victorians to thank for the fairly clean image of Romans, and possibly HBO for redressing some of that. Elements of Crusader Kings would be very interesting indeed.

  8. Sardonic says:

    But will there be a unitary combat engine again? This forced 1v1 melee stuff is lame.

  9. misterT0AST says:

    I’m Italian, I noticed how the Romans (and Napoleon) are always perceived as brutal oppressors in the UK and even in the USA, as nazis of the ancient world.
    We on the other end see the advanced culture of the Roman Empire, and we study how it “unfortunately” fell to pieces in the late fifth century A.D.
    Maybe it’s because we study Roman poetry and literature in school, and we barely even know who Shakespeare is.
    Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are many points of view on this as always, but when I see Rome depicted by the British I always imagine the face of a greedy centurion smiling while he plots the assassination of a Senator. There is always a certain focus on the military, the administration of provinces, and so on. We focus more on the likes of Cicero, politicians and literates, Roman Law system, the Mos Maiorum, et cetera.
    Just wanted to point that out. Nations are weird.

    • Unaco says:

      Ehhh? I’m British, and I’ve never been taught that the Roman Empire was anything approaching the Nazis, or Brutal Oppressors. Patently false to claim that this is the perception of them in the UK. If anything, we were taught about the wonders of the Empire that were brought to the world, and Britain specifically… Aqueducts, plumbing, technology etc etc (thanks to Adam Hart Davis), the Politics and intrigue, and, to some extent, the debauchery and excess.

      Napoleon… Yeah. He was a little sh*t and we were at war with him, and it was quite recent, and he was French… so he’s going to get a bad wrap in Britain (but we beat him, so Napoleon himself we aren’t concerned with… more Wellington and Nelson for winning). But the Romans aren’t commonly depicted as ‘evil’ in Britain.

      • Chris D says:

        Sure seems like someone was never in a Nativity play.

        There was good stuff sure, but let’s not overstate the case, you don’t get to be the biggest empire in the world without a certain amount of brutal oppression.

        It’s just that in Britain there are other brutal oppressors closer to us than that, like the Normans,or if you grew up in Scotland, the English.

        There’s also other awkward questions about who else has had empires recently which perhaps makes us more inclined to say “Well empires can do nice things too!”

        • Unaco says:

          I didn’t say they get a perfect f*cking representation in the UK, pure as the driven snow or that. I just said that they are NOT painted like the Nazis, and as brutal oppressors, as the OP suggested.

      • misterT0AST says:

        It must just be the media then.
        I really had that feeling watching documentaries, films, television in general. Every time they say “Roman” they show off some weapons, they talk about arenas, maybe they say something on the condition of slaves, the supreme power of the emperor, and then that’s it. Not a word on law, their way of interpretating gods, political organization. Just a bunch of fascist warmongers who want to rule the world, call everyone else “barbarians” and eat baby slaves for breakfast.
        I’m glad this superficiality is just apparent.

        • Brun says:

          I think the whole “barbarian” thing is just a misunderstanding of the Latin language. In Latin, the word for “barbarian” is the same as the word for “foreigner” or “outsider.” Typically it was used just to refer to people who weren’t part of the Roman Empire (i.e. “not us”). I’m not really sure where the connotation of inferiority came from, other than from the translation to English as “barbarian.”

          • misterT0AST says:

            “barbaros” was Greek before being Latin. Athenians thought everyone else to be in fact inferior. Read Isocrates’s thoughts on slavery, it’s something like “Persians are ruled by a King, they don’t have a democracy, therefore they NEED NATURALLY someone to dominate them. We can take them and use them as we wish because that’s their role in the world: to serve.”

            Romans just could not think that: 1) Greeks were not Romans and yet they were much more advanced, Rome took their religion, their philosophy, their most brilliant minds 2) the Carthagineans were such a pain in the arse that calling them inferior would mean the wars against them were just slaughters. They were not. 3) To get Athenian citizenship both of your parents needed to be Athenian. Roman citizenship was much less important and it could be gained in your lifetime. Or one of your parents needed to be Roman.

            So yes, “Barbarus” was offensive, but they didn’t really believe that other peoples were inferior for real.
            Rome just had the favor of the Gods to bring peace to them, but being “Roman” is not a matter of blood, birth or culture, more a moral attachment to the public interest.
            The word you’re looking for is “Hostes”= everyone outside of the Empire.

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        I don’t know if Napoleon is particularly seen as evil? The Napoleonic Wars are more to do with France trying to tip the balance of power in Europe in their own favour, and Britain trying to prevent them from gaining a European hegemony (because the first thing you’d do once you conquered mainland Europe would be to eye up the English Channel).

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          Also, Napoleon, like the Romans in a way, brought some forms of progress. The metric system, officially registered last names, etc.

          • Zwebbie says:

            Funnily enough, Dances, from that comment I had guessed you were, like me, Dutch, and lo and behold, I read below that you are. It’s odd how the Dutch don’t harbour any grudge towards Napoleon when we’ve got as much reason to as any other nation, with the whole plunder and mass conscription and ruining the economy business.

          • Dances to Podcasts says:

            I suspect it’s because they were more or less invited in. In the same way, the British don’t consider themselves invaded and conquered by the Dutch, but they had a ‘Glorious Revolution’. :)

    • Brun says:

      Actually I’d argue that the Romans receive a great deal of respect in the United States, primarily due to their technological and organizational prowess. Perhaps it’s because I took Latin for several years that I saw them portrayed that way, though.

      As for Napoleon, I feel like he has little to no resonance in the US. Most people don’t even fully understand who he is or why he was so important historically, although I will grant that he was really more of a European figure whose actions had only minor effects on the US.

      • Reiver says:

        I wouldn’t call the louisiana purchase minor… but yeah, my impression of american histroy teaching outside of universities has been that its insular and of the tub thumping variety. JJust like the SNP want to make High School history in Scotland.

    • TheWhippetLord says:

      It seems to be a basic bit of human nature to want to find good guys and bad guys in history. I think there’s certainly been a bit of revisionism in (English-language, don’t know any other type I’m afraid) history to acknowledge that certain past cultures did both good things (aqueducts, roads) and terrible things (slavery, latin grammar.) They’re still interesting despite not being perfect by modern standards, is how I’d describe the current popular view (for a very nerdy version of popular I guess.)

      Of course there are some cultures which seem determined to twirl moustaches and cackle evilly (Nazis, Napoleonic France*) but I don’t think many would put Rome in with them (considering the period.)

      *May not apply outside UK, Russia and the Iberian Peninsula

      • Claidheamh says:

        By Iberian Peninsula, you must mean Spain. :P

        • TheWhippetLord says:

          The Portugese were left mildly miffed as well. :P

          • Claidheamh says:

            Yes, I guess that’s true. I’m willing to bet the French were more upset than them though.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      In fact, the Victorians did a lot to shuffle the uglier aspects of the Roman empire under the carpet in order to find a historical model for their own empire, which had its own ugly side. The view of Rome as a more violent place is more recent.

      I think a lot of it is down to the evolution of civilisation, and the ideas that have propagated regarding individualism and human rights, as well as greater ability for people to monitor the actions of their government overseas via cameras and the internet. Sure, Roman power was extremely brutal, but a comparison of human rights between Pax Romana and the Washington Consensus isn’t particularly fair, even though the general way in which they obtained influence has similarities. That said, 1700s Britain did openly have slavery and public execution, and the US has also used torture and extrajudicial killing in order to preserve its power, so it’s not like modern empires are completely clean.

    • Binho says:

      I’m both Italian and a Roman archaeologist, and this view of the Romans as conquerors spreading their culture and ‘civilizing’ the uncouth barbarians is very, VERY much part of a 18th-19th century British Enlightment/Romantic view (In turn inspired by earlier Classicist movements in Europe). It’s a view the British used to justify their own Empire. I think Italian and European 19th-20th century nationalism picked up and ran with that idea (The Facists especially), and it’s taken a hold in popular history.

      As is the case with most human interaction, the truth behind what the Roman Empire actually did to the nations it conquered is significantly more complex and depended on the regions and cultures involved. If we were to generalize for the sake of argument though, the Romans usually were content to leave things as they were – and simply install a governor, army, and maybe a colonia full of citizens (generally legionary veterans) to make sure things were kept in line and the Emperor was paid his dues. If there is already a system in place that works, why change it? That was the beauty of the Empire. Not it’s spreading of ‘enlightened’ culture – but it’s ability to unify a whole host of different cultures under one roof (or tax code, if you want to be cynical :P).

      The Roman Empire did improve life for some people – but it also made lives worse for others though (Recent findings show Scotland was severely affected by the Romans).Yet for the majority of people living beneath Roman rule, things remained pretty much the same as they had been before the Romans came. They just had to pay tribute to a different chief/king, and there were a few more amphorae and people speaking Latin around.

      Of course, even I’m generalizing a lot here, and a lot of what I said is still being debated by historians and archaeologists. It’s the current consensus though.

    • Pheasant Plucker says:

      Well as you’re all being so positive I’ll throw the counterpoint into the ring then!

      Rome was a predatory, asset stripping, murderous (occasionally almost to the point of genocidal) empire who set back the nations that they conquered hundreds of years (aside from the ones that they exterminated completely). Luckily for them they have benefited from a sustained propaganda campaign to paint them in a positive light from the Roman church, who were almost the sole guardians of our ancient history.

      Consider, they kill or enslave a third of the population of Gaul. One Third. That’s one of the most horrific statistics in history only exceeded by such as the Mongols or Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’.

      They slaughter or enslave the entire population of Carthage. Possibly up to 700,000 people. One can only imagine doing all that by sword.

      They burn one of the great Greek cities of antiquity, Corinth, to the ground.

      They massacre the Dacians so completely that there is almost no trace of them today. An entire nation vanished just because they happened to be sat on a gold mine.

      In return for this Industrial scale carnage they left behind such infrastructure that would assist them exploiting the country. Roads to get the legions around, and bureaucracy to ensure that everything was squeezed to the max. Furthermore, almost all of this ‘progress’ was not actually invented by them but was taken from others.

      The thing the Romans did invent was a standing army capable of being in the field all year round. Militarists might find this admirable, but why should anyone else.

      Heh – like I said, it’s a counterpoint thrown in for consideration.

      • misterT0AST says:

        It seems that view implies that Romans were culturally more cruel than Greeks, Assyrians, Parthians, Teutons. If you control the biggest empire the Western world has ever seen, you will commit the biggest atrocities the Western world has ever seen, and make the greatest buildings the Western world has ever seen, and have the most slaves the Western world has ever seen.
        Judging morality from 400 B.C. by today’s standards seems a bit out of place.
        Peace in the Roman Empire was not kept only with legions, as some still believe.
        “Divide et Impera” means that every single little tribe would have a pact with Rome directly, a “Foedus”. They would gain benefits and do something in return. Franks for example were payed to guard the Elbe river from invading Germans.
        In the East Greece could keep its system of laws, and so could Egypt and Israel.
        They tried to befriend everyone they could, and destroy everyone else.
        Rest assured that people under Roman Government would remain so because they were kept happy. It’s simply IMPOSSIBLE for a foreign army to control such a vast territory if most of the populace is hostile. Military occupation was not so common.
        All peoples that could get a good Foedus with Rome would do so, because it was just more convenient for everyone. Then the emperor starts building statues and aqueducts around you, and you start speaking Latin without even realizing it.

        • Gormongous says:

          One minor correction: Roman historians claim they befriended everyone they could. Unsurprisingly, we don’t often get what everyone else thought, but the few accounts not written by Roman aristocrats or their Greek clients suggest that Rome acted with all the benevolence and tact of a paranoiac-turned-home-invader.

          I mean, look at how the Second Pubic War got started and tell me the Roman Senate wasn’t spoiling for a fight, however they could get it.

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        Yes, it’d be difficult for Rome to hold onto an empire without it benefitting at least some of its subjects. Then again, as modern Syria shows, you can have a fairly stable state that benefits enough people to keep going *and* commit widespread atrocities.

    • Janto says:

      It is interesting – I wonder what the German, or Greek, or Jewish take is on Romans?

      I doubt many Irish people would be that sympathetic to the Roman empire’s ‘tragic’ demise, but it’s also not significantly part of Ireland’s history, so it doesn’t have the same level of distaste the Vikings or the British empire would get, or special cases like Cromwell.

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        I’m Dutch and like Germany our country was split in two at the time. The areas above the rhine are seen as proudly independent, while the areas below are seen as more technologically/culturally advanced. Neither of those are really valued more than the other, it’s just the way it was.

      • Premium User Badge

        Kong says:

        In Germany today it is generally the same as in the Netherlands. With some exceptions…

        At “historic” festivals in Germany you can see Roman and germanic tribal reenactors camp together, but the participants may eye each other full of disgust. Both sides may call the other fascist, imperialist sons of nazischweinehunde, it is really funny.

        A big German newsmag “Der Spiegel” wrote an article about the “Varus Schlacht”, where Rome lost three legions to a combined effort of germanic tribes. The author seemed to have taken it quite personal. He wrote about underdeveloped mud dwelling barbarians that dared to resist the greatest civilization of its time. How could they destroy the legions, which wanted to bring the gifts of high culture to the suffering people outside of the empire.
        That article could be a justification for the exploitation of any hut dwelling people today. This might not have been the journalist’s intention. He was just writing against those Germans who are still influenced by romantic ideas of “the Germanics” which are the basis of Nazi Herrenrasse ideology. The victory of Varus Schlacht counts as a major event for creating “German identity” among German nationalists, romatics and neo-nazis until today.

        The history of those tribes described as germanic tribes has not been a subject of history lessons in Germany after 1945, with the result that the majority still believes in the romantic visions of the 19th century: Germanics being identical to Germany and the Germans.
        Despising those tribes and favouring Rome is a matter of displaying political conviction against nationalism until today.
        Fun note: adding “of German Nation” to “Holy Roman Empire” is an idea of 19th century nationalists as well.

        • Janto says:

          Thanks. It’s a bit like poor old Caspar Freidrich, then, the ‘Germanics’ condemned for being adopted as ideals by a bunch of cocks later on in history, despite the Nazis clearly seeing themselves as heirs to Rome in their own warped way. It’s a shame, really, because the German Romantic movement had bugger all to do with the Nazis, and the attitude from Der Speigel is completly mad, and comes across as loving authoritarian/fascism – not hating it – to an outsider.

          • Premium User Badge

            Kong says:

            You are welcome. It is a shame that the history of those tribes is being held under the carpet, with the described results.
            The romantic movement in german countries has a lot to do with the Nazis though. It invented the First Reich by claiming the Holy Roman Empire as “Deutscher Nation” (German Nation). The romantics invented the “Arian race”, the “germanische Rasse”, antisemitism developed to new heights in neo-germanic heathen circles (which invented their own rune alphabet among other things), the health of the Volksköper became a cult, inspired by the prowess of germanic warriors like “Hermann the victor of the Varus Battle” etc etc.
            It hurts, but the work of Richard Wagner will be forever linked to extreme Volksnationalismus.

            Classic Rome served the Nazis merely as an example of power, possibility and artwork. The Nazis saw themselves as heirs to the “Germanic Reich”, which fought, destroyed and succeeded Rome. Inherited it, sure. However, warped it is anyway.

          • Premium User Badge

            Kong says:

            Caspar the poor guy, he was a hippy among hardcore metal freaks. Richard Wagner did not know what avalanche he was releasing. Hard times for artists in german countries at the time. The Powermongers all envyieng France and Britain who ruled the waves or the chnannel to luxury. The 19th laid all the foundations for future conflict.
            The same is true for the 20th. “I am going 20th on your ass” habe ich schon gehört. Das 20. hat das Mittelalter abgelöst.
            The 19th 20th were not good times for hippies, That’s a fact

            oops “I am going 20th on your ass”
            not on you an expression I heard
            where?

  10. Cinnamon says:

    I’m hoping that you can give names to legions and have other customisation options like changing their uniform colours and standards. That worked well in the multiplayer avatar conquest mode of shogun 2, one thing that pretty much everyone liked.

    • Jimbo says:

      I hope they go to town on the whole Legions / RPG thing and how their history/status is visually represented in the battles.

      • Cinnamon says:

        Not sure how they would do that too much other than let you fill out your ranks with non Roman “auxilia” from friendly or conquered regions. Maybe they could do some things like unlock new armour for the soldiers.

        • Jimbo says:

          Like… have green troops look spotless but nervy and have veteran troops look progressively more badass / better drilled. Have barbarian units equipped with better weapons if they have won battles against better equipped forces.

          I want to SEE that narrative on the battlefield, even if they have to exaggerate it / make it unrealistic in order to make it work.

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      Inb4 the Cock legion and their legendary standard, the Aquilla ex Phallus

      • Cinnamon says:

        Worth doing that and posting screenshots just to further rile the “not historical enough unless I have 5000 mods” brigade.

  11. Spinoza says:

    After preordering Empire Total war , CA said to me: stichus servus meus liber esto. I’m still free.

    • misterT0AST says:

      That only counts in testaments though, unless it’s been approved by the censor.
      Therefore you’re still a Iunian slave and your belongings will go back to CA when you die.

  12. Discopanda says:

    I predict it will launch with Steam Workshop and full mod support.

  13. takfar says:

    Having just had lunch, I’d love an eastern dessert, myself.

  14. Solanaceae says:

    They need to fix the AI or it’s all for naught.

    Any sense of immersion in the first game was destroyed when in every single battle the enemy AI was incapable of even advancing in a cohesive fashion, much less ever offering any real challenge.

    • tnankie says:

      Wish I had read that before posting to say the same further down.

  15. DrozzRith says:

    Now you just have to throw Steamworks in there and you have yourself a PC masterpiece.

  16. dmastri says:

    I’m excited, but quite weary about this.

    Last time they made claims of this scale they shat out Empire Total War and then left it for dead. Some nights, I can still hear its cries haunting my computer.

  17. BwenGun says:

    With all this talk of story and easter eggs I shall be rather aggrieved if Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus don’t make at least one appearance. And frankly I’d be perfectly alright if they released a DLC akin to the Alexander one they did for Rome just following their exploits around the Med.

  18. Lynchbread says:

    Everyone check out the Ground Branch Kickstarter, we need to get this funded. It’s made by the people who made the original Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon, we must fund this.

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/670743543/ground-branch

    • Brun says:

      The fact that you resort to such immature tactics as spamming on every completely unrelated comment thread has convinced me NOT to support this Kickstarter.

  19. HilariousCow says:

    Please try to improve the loading times, even at the cost of fidelity. They’ve been getting steadily worse in this series, to the point where I (and many others I know) just stop playing.

  20. Gormongous says:

    I don’t want to get into the big debate above about the Roman Empire’s relative merits, but as a historian-in-training I do have to call out this immensely stupid thing that Russell said:

    Before the Roman era you had mythic periods and Ancient Greece and all that kind of stuff, but you didn’t have these small kingdoms conquering the world in that way. It’s the world’s first superpower.

    Uh… No small kingdoms like Macedon conquering the world under Alexander the Great? No superpowers like the Persian Empire ruled by the King of Kings? I’m glad to see his raw enthusiasm for the subject, but some of the things he says about Rome show a terrible understanding of the period.

    • Binho says:

      As a recent post-grad in the archaeology of the Roman frontiers…welcome to my world!!

      (EDIT: PS. If you have’t yet, play Europa Barbarorum for Rome 1!)

  21. tnankie says:

    I hope you take them to task on the AI Alec, it has been a disgrace since the inception of this series and I am not convinced it has improved at all. Although Empire was a particular lowlight, shogun 2 suffered from many of the insanities still (troops walking back and forth under arrow storms during sieges was my favorite).