Talking About Total War With Mike Simpson

The subtitle that became the name of an entire series has finally been given its rightful place. The next Total War game will be called Total War: Shogun 2, and that’s the game I talked about with The Creative Assembly’s studio boss, Mike Simpson. We didn’t stop there, of course, because the conversation had to turn to Empire, Napoleon, problems with AI, the nature of multiplayer gaming on the PC, and the possibility of Total War: The 20th Century. So read on for some perspective from the strategy supremos of Sussex.

RPS: So when I last visited you guys, before the release of Empire, there was this feeling that because you had developed firearms, and cover, and vehicles in the form of ships, that maybe you’d be heading towards announcing something along the lines of a 20th century Total War game… but instead it’s a return to Shogun? Was it always going to be Shogun? Or did something change?

Simpson: Okay, well, the way we look at it is that there is a long list of things we can do with Total War, and I should think that almost anything you’ve ever thought of is on that list. We argue constantly about the things on that list, and the order in which we’re going to do them. The order changes all the time. The 20th century is on the list, but of course it’s not exactly the easiest transition from the kinds of battles that Empire was all about, which was all about formal armies and men moving around in units. The 20th century is much more fragmented, much larger battlefields, and there’s just more to deal with: aircraft, and so on. It’s certainly something we want and intend to tackle one day, but it wasn’t the thing we most wanted to do after Empire. What we really wanted to do was go back and redo Shogun.

RPS: Can you explain a bit about that then? What sort of process lead to that? Why is Shogun so appealing?

Simpson: So we talk about this list, and we discuss the things on there all the time. Shogun had been at the head of the list for quite a while. There are a few reasons for that, and the main one is that it’s just a setting that has everything we need to make a really good Total War game. It has the cool content, which was the thing that we fell in love with the first time around. We still really like the Japanese content because its perfect for a strategy game. It’s a period in history where there were a lot of different factions that could have won, and in the end it was one of the smallest and least likely factions that ended up dominating, ruling Japan, and founding a dynasty that would run for the next two hundred years. It’s got that perfect starting position of beginning with a small amount of territory and being able to expand enormously. The other thing is that it was a period of rapid technological change. For instance, the introduction of gunpowder into Japan brings guns and creates a tech race. So the setting has everything we need, the content we need, but there’s also so much we can do now with the game’s technology that we couldn’t do before. That just made us want to go back to it.

RPS: So there’s some extremely shiny things been revealed with regards to the campaign map and so on, but I understand one of your major concerns this time is developing multiplayer and making that into more of a mature, ongoing experience? What’s your approach?

Simpson: In the past our multiplayer has consisted of stand-alone battles, which take a while to set up. And there’s ultimately nothing much to make your care about the result in the long run, they are one-off events. Traditionally our multiplayer has only been a fraction of the gameplay of the main game, of course, and so we wanted to think about that and serve up a multiplayer game that was more like other multiplayer PC games in general. PC multiplayer is generally quite strong, and so we wanted to get more of the people who would play our single player involved and playing our multiplayer – that’s the objective. We tackled this from a number of directions, one of which is just to focus on the battlefield gameplay, so that the battles are strong enough to stand up on their own merits in the long run, so that playing battle after battle remains a strong experience. But the other angle is to put a wrapper around these battles to give the game a long-term meta-game, and we did that in a variety of ways, and there’s a lot of it.

RPS: Progression? Unlocks?

Simpson: Well people have commented that it’s rather similar to how Call Of Duty’s multiplayer rewards work, although I happen to know that our design team haven’t actually ever played Call Of Duty.

RPS: Parallel development, eh?

Simpson: Well they’re solving very similar problems: how to put an interesting wrapper around a series of short bursts of gameplay. In this kind of multiplayer you’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t mean that veterans necessarily always kill the newbies, so there’s a real limit on how much progression you can allow in terms of power. You can unlock a variety of tactics and so on, but not become more powerful overall.

RPS: It’s an interesting point, because multiplayer tends to be much more about the ruleset – how tightly the game plays, which has always seemed to be what the North American strategy studios obsess over. Total War on the other hand has always seemed more open and rough, the model is more exploratory, more sprawling, figuring out how best to bodge it, rather than executing a super tight build-attack process…. a different philosophy.

Simpson: Yes, there’s a fundamental difference in philosophy there. It’s the difference between creating a game where the player is playing against a specific set of game rules, where the rules are carefully crafted and therefore limited, and what we are trying to do. What we are doing is trying to get the player into what might be a real world situation. Our games are more sim-like than “gamey” in terms of the way the rules work. Now, as it happens, those things don’t conflict because we are simulating historical warfare. Almost anywhere in history you can look at warfare and find a set of rules that are almost perfectly balanced, because they’ve evolved to get there. Our philosophy is one where we try to make it like the real world because we know that the real world already had good gameplay in it. Rather than going directly to a set of arbitrary rules, we base it on the real world. That has an extra advantage for us in that things that ought to work in the real world tend to work in game. If you have an idea of how battlefields in the real world work, things like flanking, attacking from behind, using terrain, that will work for you in the game.

RPS: Ah, but that doesn’t always work in your favour, does it? The emphasis of criticism of the last couple of games has often been on the AI, and that seems to be precisely because people have some understanding how things work in real battlefields, they get upset when it doesn’t work like that in the game. They do get cross about that, particularly with Empire. It was a really big deal this time around.

Simpson: That’s true, if you don’t do a good enough job, and I think that’s what we were possibly guilty of with the last game. When we moved into the Empire-Napoleon sort of era it was the case that the way the AI needed to work was radically different from the previous games. I think we underestimated how radical that difference was. When you are forming up with these long lines of soldiers it’s all about fields of fire and moving into positions to dominate the battlefield. It took us a lot of work, and a lot of patches, to get that working correctly. Going back to the Shogun era, we have a much more balanced mix of ranged combat and melee, we’re back to an area where the AI was already very good, and we’ve been able to build on that, and we’re not doing any of the kinds of things that were an issue previously. That’s on the battlefield, of course, on the campaign side there are a different set of problems. Part of that is related to the structure of the game. In Empire and Napoleon you start off with quite a big Empire, and that changes how things play out. We had introduced an entirely new campaign AI for that game, and it was very, very ambitious, and it took us quite a long time to get it to do quite what wanted it, and it was quite a chaotic process. To give an example of the kind of problem we faced: if you were playing against AI on a very high difficulty level in Empire or Napoleon, then you wanted a serious challenge, you wanted to be attacked. The campaign AI wasn’t aggressive enough for most people, it was passive, that problem has gone for Shogun 2, and the very hard and hard levels have beaten me already in testing. There is so much AI grunt that I think we are now dialing that back, which is a better position to be in. I don’t expect to get any of that kind of criticism of the AI in Shogun.

RPS: Napoleon seems to have been relatively well received as a smaller campaign, which I think has been true of a couple of the smaller games. Yet they seem secondary to the roadmap. Your focus is very much the grand campaign, and then something else. Is that something you ever consider changing?

Simpson: That’s another of the reasons to go back to Shogun. It’s all set in Japan, so it’s somewhat less sprawling that something like Empire was. Empire by its nature had to encompass two thirds of the world, and that made it very big and complex right from the start. What I like about Shogun is that you start with a single region. The map is still very large, so it doesn’t have an epic field, but it’s not overwhelming at the beginning in the same way that Empire could be.

RPS: Naval battles again? Were they really significant to the struggle for Japan?

Simpson: Yes, we have have naval battles again, but they’re interesting because they’re so different from European naval conflict we did in Empire. A lot about them helps gameplay a lot, too. With Empire period battles the side with the biggest ships and the most guns would generally win, and that’s not a great thing for gameplay, or to get any kind of stone, paper, scissors relationship with. For Japanese naval battles it’s a lot more like a land battle. There will be a variety of bow ships or missile ships, whose job is to shoot things at range, and then there are melee ships who tackle and board other ships, and then there were gunships later, too, with the arrival of firearms. So there’s more variety. They were also mostly oar-powered, too, so there’s not this problem of constantly being in motion against the wind, which ultimately made it much harder to control more than just a few ships in Empire. We also mixed land into the naval battles too – these are coastal battles, because the Japanese battles did not venture into the deep sea – so there are things like small islands and straights to use. The naval battles in Shogun are fun and interesting.

RPS: I have an odd tangent for the next question, because it’s a question that seems to have become obligatory for big PC games companies: what do you feel about free-to-play models for gaming? Is there anything there for you?

Simpson: It’s something we are thinking about all the time, because it’s interesting. I think what Facebook games in particular have revealed is that there is a whole area of game design which is just about making your game spread itself virally from person to person. The Facebook games are entirely based on links between people. They are designed to get you to want your friends to play because that gives you some advantage. That’s an interesting idea, especially when you are thinking about how to create multiplayer games. I don’t see any reasons why some of the distinctions between single and multiplayer couldn’t be blurred a bit, too. That idea seems to have sprung out of free to play. Whether we will end up in that sort of area I don’t know. It’s interesting to think about, but as far as our own work and Total War goes… I don’t have an opinion yet.

RPS: Returning to multiplayer, how do you feel the co-op campaign for Empire was received? Were you happy with it?

Simpson: It’s not something that vast numbers of people want to do. We’re going to carry on supporting it, and we’ll develop the concept as we go along. I think there’s more that we can do to get people to play campaign-like games co-operatively, or co-operatively against other groups. There are obviously difficulties playing the straight Total War campaign game with any large number of players. It can take years to take it turn by turn and to play out all the battles, certainly with the way things are arranged at the moment.

RPS: Speed chess sort of arrangements?

Simpson: Yes, we have those sort of things in there now. It moves them along!

RPS: I have to admit I never go around to looking at it. Seemed too daunting even to get one other player involved after the Empire campaign. Constantly managing RPS and my other projects means I generally want to tackle something I can digest in my own time…

Simpson: Yes, quite. The fans have been asking for this, the co-op campaign, for a long time, and they say “we want 8v8 campaigns” and we say “no, you really don’t.” You’d try to play that and you’d never get to a full turn because someone would be out doing something else. It’d be rubbish. Anything beyond 1v1 or two versus the AI becomes very complicated. But we’ll work on that in the future. It’s one of those things on the list!

RPS: Thanks for your time.


  1. JB says:

    *snip*they say “we want 8v8 campaigns” and we say “no, you really don’t.”*snip*

    I’m currently in a 4-player game of Rome Total War (thanks to Myrddraal’s Play By Email Multiplayer/Hot Seat Campaign Mod), it’s going great. 8v8 might be a bit extreme, but more than 1v1 would be brilliant.

  2. Heliosicle says:

    I just hope I can actually play multi this time… Medieval 2, Empire and Napoleon all had the same connection problems for me.

  3. Skull says:

    Very intreasting interview their Jim. Creative Assembly are a developer who sound like they listen a lot to fan feedback and know what to do to improve their games. I for one, greatly enjoyed Empire: Total War despite its numerous flaws. I have absolute faith that CA will deliver a great game with Shogun: Total War.

    One thing that does botther me is how people are comaparing the unlock system they are using to CoDs. This is one of the things I found greatly off-putting about the game, I go to RPGs if I want better weapons as I level up. However, I won’t be touching the multiplayer no matter what they do to it so I cant say I care to much!

    • Reiver says:

      It’s unfortunate what they do with that fan-feedback though. Rather than make the changes and improvements that fans suggest they use it in misleading interviews and PR for their future games. Look at the “AAR” Prussian campaign that was posted in the run up to Empire’s release that was either a different copy to what everyone else got or a total work of fiction. Or the AI preview videos, the talk of fixed sieges (still utterly borked after all the patches and now excluded from most mods) or the promised street fighting when the pathfinding and unit cohesion is worse than even Rome’s.

      Infact i think it’s worse that they show awareness of the issues and yet fail to address them.

  4. Greg Wild says:

    I hope for his sake the AI is up to snuff this time. Those words don’t look very tasty :D

    All around though, Shogun II is looking great.

  5. Baboonanza says:

    ‘the real world already had good gameplay in it.’
    Love that statement.

    ‘You’d try to play that and you’d never get to a full turn because someone would be out doing something else.’
    You need an app for that.

    I like that they are finally owning up to the mistakes they’ve made since Rome, and I genuinely have high hopes for the next one because I think they know they have to get it right. I remain slightly skeptical however, since CA’s PR has always made positive noises.

    But I’m a Total War whore, and I would love them to make it work. Gimme gimme gimme, I neeeeeeeed it!

    • Raidhaennor says:

      I’m not so sure about “owning up to mistakes they’ve made since Rome”. His diagnosis seems to be that it’s the move to a different type of warfare, to Empire that screwed up the campaign and battle AI.

      “When we moved into the Empire-Napoleon sort of era it was the case that the way the AI needed to work was radically different from the previous games” and

      “In Empire and Napoleon you start off with quite a big Empire, and that changes how things play out. We had introduced an entirely new campaign AI for that game”.

      The campaign AI has always been awful, even in the first Shogun (which I loved, and played again while I was waiting for an ETW patch…). The AI doesn’t know how to develop very well, how to place troops in the right place, how to make use of features like naval movement, or protect itself against it, etc. The failures of Empire campaign AI are on par with the previous episodes of the series.

      I’m not very optimistic about Shogun 2. I really really hope I’m proven wrong, but I’m going to wait before buying, this time.

    • Reiver says:

      It may have been a different era but one of the main things that keep the AI from being competitive (not so much challenging but at least not a walkover) is that old flaw from the first day of vanilla Rome being released: premature and unsupported head on cavalry charges. The AI’s inability to position artillery left their armies utterly one dimensional.

      I personally feel that the campaign map has improved a lot and Napoleon’s was the best yet but that’s rather faint praise. Certainly a intelligently (i hope) aggressive AI will shake things up a bit. I didn’t feel truly under pressure once during my time with Empire and Nappy. I was just able to sit back, build up and then annihilate at my leisure. It’s a pity because it’s, imo, the near death struggles and the against the odds triumphs that make for memorable TW camapiagns.

    • Wilson says:

      @Raidhaennor – Yeah, I’m concerned about this. I seem to recall that in Medieval II there were issues with cavalry charging into the front of spears, and from what I’ve read from more experienced players it sounds like there was a lot that could be done to the AI.

      It might not really be a problem for me because I’m not great at the game, but even I was never impressed by the AI. It was passable, but it never did anything surprising and made some silly decisions about units positions quite often.

      AI is of course a mammoth job in this kind of game especially, but I think maybe he should play it down a bit. Perhaps say they’re going to try and make it solid, but that it won’t necessarily be anything special because it’s a hard job. I’m going to keep my cynical hat on for now.

    • Xercies says:

      I played Empire and I’m wasn’t very good at the game but the AI seemed to be on simple mode since they wouldn’t actually sieze any of my big towns and fight any of my big armies, it was a piece of cake frankly to beat everyone and so i got bored very easily. So hopefully the AI is a lot more aggressive this time.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Cavalry charges have been a problem, yeah. However, the #1 problem in Total War games, ever since Rome, is the way the AI can’t hold its main battle line in formation for any reasonable period of time. The AI may start with a good battle line formation, but shortly after contact with the player’s army, the main battle line will break up into individual units that run around independently, like chickens with their heads cut off. The AI general never reforms the battle line, so it’s ridiculously easy to pick apart the AI’s army with feints by cavalry or skirmishers.

      Real-life battles often devolve into chaos, but with Total War battles it happens way too early, and it’s too easy for the player to exploit the AI’s inability to hold a strong battle line together. I think the devs don’t even recognize that it’s a problem, based on the comments in that interview. Their engine and programming would actually work better for a WWII game, where each unit operates more independently.

  6. weego says:

    Sigh, as with most of the total war games, I will buy it and then play it for a few hours before remembering that I always only play them for a few hours and then give up for good. This is because I am, in equal measures, awful and impatient at strategy games.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      Whereas I am awful (apart from CoH) and patient. So I love the Total War games despite the dodgy AI. The AI not being able to board troops in Empire was a step too far even for me, though.

    • Fumarole says:

      A patient player should know that amphibious landings was included in a later patch.

  7. BooleanBob says:

    “In the past our multiplayer has consisted of stand-alone battles, which take a while to set up. And there’s ultimately nothing much to make your care about the result in the long run, they are one-off events.”

    Nooooo! Multiplayer should be worth playing for its ooooown saaaaake! (Which of course he acknowledges, I just needed to flail at the spectre of progressive unlocks one. more. time).

  8. alh_p says:

    bah. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating -and I will certainly not be as witless as to preorder this.

  9. WMain00 says:

    Unlike Empire, i’m going to at least wait around for a good couple of weeks to determine via user playthroughs and forums as to how much of a buggy mess it is (or isn’t). After the farce of Empire and the equal insult of Napoleon, my feelings towards CA games have cooled.

  10. TT says:

    Not a word/ question about modding!! shame

    CA stoped looking at their games as a strategical/ tactical simulation.

    It they want persistent Multyplayer its simple make the battle impact the next one – look at Close Combat
    Not freaking Call of Duty!!!

  11. frenz0rz says:

    I’ve bought every Total War game on release since Medieval 1 (I regret never playing Shogun as a kid), but with Empire I, and many other people I’ve spoken to on the Org and elsewhere, felt enough was enough. I’ll never get Napoleon, and I’ll certainly think twice before spending any money at all on Shogun 2. Why so harsh? I think we all know really. The same half-baked promises that are given every time about perfect AI, seamless gameplay, and everything working to a high standard as intended.

    I’ve written far too much about Empire over the last year or so to go into any details, but im sure we all know what the main criticisms were. Suffice to say, I was expecting a relatively polished game of 18th century politics, warfare and colonial expansion. The diplomacy is still borked, with AI factions unable to even declare peace with each other. Both the campaign AI (which has admittedly improved) and the battle AI (which hasnt) still do outrageously strange things which no human would ever order. Mass bayonet charge across a wide open plain anyone? And I should NOT have to be overwhelmingly suprised when a colonial province actually changes hands. Thats not even counting the complete lack of family trees, which were arguably more important in 18th century politics than anything else and have been present in every other Total War game, or anything to do with the abysmal state of the game on release ignored by many reviewers.

    I really am going to think long and hard about buying Shogun 2. Perhaps a review which was able to see past the shiny veneer and polish to the in-depth state of the game 100 turns in, as opposed to the first half hour, would pique my interest.

  12. EBass says:

    My thoughts pretty much mirror Frenz0rz, I’d say I’ll wait for reviews but by and large reviewers thoroughly screwed the pooch on empire. Its easy to promise stuff, lets see if they can deliver.

  13. Myros says:

    Been too burned by CA in the past to believe anything they say now.

    Im sure I’ll pick up Shogun 2 at some point though, a year after release when its patched and on sale in steam is a likely result.

  14. Veeskers says:

    Oh, I see. Another multiplayer unlock system. How modern. Pay for the carrot, get a free stick!
    Doesn’t anyone feel insulted by this trash? Don’t you find it slightly patronizing that they’re suddenly going to make you do chores for the right to use the units that are in the game you paid for, just to feed off your drive to “progress” and “keep up with the rest”, instead of just letting you enjoy the multiplayer on its own merits?
    I’ve lost interest, that much is certain.

  15. balazs.szemes says:

    It’s the same story all over. Way back in Rome and Medieval 2 the AI was horrible, but it was moddable, and people not associated with CA created good games. I bought Empire in preorder, but besides being shiny it was a mess, with absolutely no challenge. So I skipped Napoleon altogether.

    Now we have the same people talking about the AI and showing some videos where the AI with a very strong force beats the player with a much weaker one, (btw also displaying that fortresses became the same meaningless stuff they were in ETW, with climbable walls for God’s sake, why would one build a big fortress with climbable walls?), and also introducing multiplayer. CA has a habit of talking up the AI every time, and failing every time.

    Instead of Shogun 2 I’m waiting for Europa Barbarorum 2, CoW1.4, DotS and such, and playing a plethora of others already released. These will be superb, enjoyable TW games for free (that is, if you already have MTW2). Shogun 2? I’ve seen no promising signs besides some shiny graphics.

  16. Hikkikomori says:

    Being the unofficial RPS resident Japanese military historian, i have to report that Mike’s comments about historical accuracy are really suspect, which makes me doubt many of his other comments too.

    “Our philosophy is one where we try to make it like the real world because we know that the real world already had good gameplay in it. Rather than going directly to a set of arbitrary rules, we base it on the real world.”

    Two major issues with historical accuracy i can see in the Shogun 2 videos, turn Japanese warfare into European warfare, but with fancy swords and armour.

    1) The cavalry rides huge Arabian/European horses. Japan had ponies practically. There was no such thing as the Western crushing cavalry charge. In short, you can better think of Japanese cavalry as mobile infantry (or archers in the earlier days of the bow).

    2) The Japanese didn’t fight in block formations. Even after coming into contact with the Chinese and Mongols who used mass formations in the 1200s, the Japanese still did not change their tactics, preferring to stick to their own kind of warfare.

    If you add just these two purposeful changes to the game design, it is obvious that CA has no desire to recreate the real world. There was a real opportunity here to create something fresh and new in war gaming, that has never been done before. For whatever reason, CA chose not to do it and they can certainly do whatever they want with their game but throwing nice-sounding quotes that they know they don’t follow doesn’t do them any good.

    • Wilson says:

      @Hikkikomori – That’s interesting. Seems like a shame they aren’t doing something more innovative then. Ah well. I’ll probably be getting this one on budget if at all anyway.

    • DiamondDog says:

      I think it’s a bit late to be picking up on CA’s lack of faithfulness to military history. If I remember correctly the invading Mongol army in the Medieval games had the same size horses as everyone else.

      Personally, exact historical accuracy isn’t so much of a problem if it means the game is enjoyable to play. What gameplay benefit would be had from doing away with the block formations? Would it create enough of a difference to the current tactics for it to be worthwhile?

      Those aren’t rhetorical questions, btw. I only have a passing interest in this era so it’d be good to know why you think it needs more accuracy to be a better game?

    • Hikkikomori says:

      No reason to keep being inaccurate because the series was in the past. :)

      Granted, i have a personal interest in historical accuracy. I don’t claim that the game needs accuracy to be fun for everyone. I can see though some lost opportunities and the boss’ claims that they are seeking to create game mechanics by imitating reality seem like spin to me.

      Now, about why i think portraying specifically Japanese warfare more accurately would be more interesting.
      1) Japanese army structures at this period reflected feudal structures of the land. That means that armies were generally allowed to deploy into strike forces with each daimyo controlling his own men. This lasted well into the Tokugawa shogunate era and it has not been done before in a game.

      2) It’s hard to go into detail about the formations quickly, but let’s say that armies fought in formations that favoured fluidity. The ashigaru spearmen ranks would be spaced apart to absorb charges differently, for example. No pike pushes and less fear of moral breaking with one mishap.
      Instead of an army being spread out in a long horizontal formation, the army would be arranged for a deep defence or attack. Loose formations favour this type of fighting because block formations would just get bogged down and stuck in a deep deployment.

      3) The lack of proper cavalry charges and the addiction of many horse archers changes things as you might guess.

      When you combine the above, you have warfare as it was never seen in western lands. And there is much more to tell but maybe CA have modelled other yet unseen parts of warfare better so i’d better stop here.

    • DiamondDog says:

      Thanks for the insight! I can’t disagree with you that trying new things would have been great, but after Empire I get the feeling CA wanted to get back to more familiar territory.

      I guess my point is with anything the size of the Total War franchise the depth is going to give way to more broad appeal. As nice as it would be to have a highly accurate Japanese battle mode, it’s a bit of a futile hope.

      Still, I’m one of those people that can be entertained by something like Gladiator without being bothered by the various liberties taken, so I’m as bad as CA!

    • Hikkikomori says:

      Heh, i’m bound to enjoy it a lot too regardless i fear. :) I’ve been waiting way to long for this and the good visuals are going to be very useful on many levels.

      I get the sense too that they are regressing back to familiar territory after the lashing the got recently. I’m still annoyed by their PR, trying to hype up things that are not there though.

      I’m so getting into modding this thing! I’ve read that their modding support is terrible butt it can’t be helped. If there’s a way to shrink those damned horses, i will bloody do it! :D

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I don’t believe CA have ever claimed to be historically accurate, have they?

    • Hikkikomori says:

      Mike did just say that “we are simulating historical warfare” and that “Rather than going directly to a set of arbitrary rules, we base it on the real world”. Our discussion here was not about accuracy per se, rather about CA claiming that they try to take rules of combat from the real world since the real world is more interesting and balanced, when they are most obviously not.

      Japanese warfare was interesting and balanced (hell, it led to centuries of warfare because things were so balanced!) but CA is coping out for something familiar to the western mind and their programming skills.

      Glad i could clear this up. :)

  17. durns says:

    Burnt hard by Empire, but keep going back to Medieval 2. Oh what to do?

    Was I the only one that actually preferred the pre-Rome strategic map? It actually felt ‘strategic’, and like a big chess game.

    • Fumarole says:

      I like the old maps, it made the game feel more like a board game.

    • Elmarby says:

      You are not alone in liking the 2D province map.
      Aside from the ‘feel’ off it, the AI vaguely knew what it was doing there (and got a little break by moving units around if attacked) so it was fun to fight them. The new style of strategy map we have since Rome has shown us an AI so far out of it’s depth it is disgraceful. It hadn’t the first clue about prosecuting a war. Both on attack and defence it was laughable feeble.

      The diplomacy was an even worse joke. With friends and long time Allies declaring war on you for little reason and often without the army or navy to take you on, even if the AI should have had half clue. The battle were awful. No sensible tactics attempted, and even worse tactics actually deployed. The AI was even incapable of just lining up it’s men and engaging in musketry fire. Who remembers enemy units for unknown reasons marching from the left to right flank, all the while in range of the player’s musketry.
      Oddly enough, I rather like the naval battles. A bit simplistic for my tastes, not rewarding raking fire and such. But over all in a fair shape and not at all bad for a first effort. There was enough there for modders to make it a good experience.

      This RPS interview was way too mild. Mike Simpson was the guy who blogged he was too ashamed to give Empire away to friends. Thanks for that, I paid €60,- for it! And that he goes and drops support for Empire to produce Napoleon TW within the year.
      This guy should have been roasted, not given a softball interview to hype his latest.

  18. littlewilly91 says:

    He’s nowhere near ashamed enough. On failing AI expectations: “I think that’s what we were possibly guilty of with the last game.” Really unworkable at release is pretty disgraceful. An example of the challenge they face with A.I. -Basically it’s dumb on a campaign map with many factors. Civ gets it right. Countless others get it right. I think it’s pretty unacceptable for such a big game to fail in it’s most central intentions and still release, and still say all these things which are stepping away from exaggeration and into lies. Something in his tone suggests all hype and behavior of CA is justified. Take no responsibility! Take the money! I guess they’re polarized away because they must get a lot of hate mail. Maybe they are under pressure from their publishers or rubbish managers? There must be talent in there.

    I mean, I’d have liked Empire more if it was in the Rome Engine with some graphical overhaul.

    Don’t wait for reviews, because they get a review code that they are told isn’t representative of anything much and that all technical issues won’t be there for players. I’m waiting to browse the forums for the hardcore’s views, and if that’s bad there is still hope in darthmod. Any word on if they are opening up modding in this one? I guess it undercuts their extremely basic expansion units.

    • Wilson says:

      I think it depends what Civ you mean. From the sounds of it, the AI on the newest game can’t handle the one unit per tile combat very well (I think it may be better after the patch, but it was atrocious to start with from what I’ve heard) and the older games always needed a lot of bonuses to be competitive at higher levels. AI is just really tricky for these kinds of games. I think people may be willing to put up with a mediocre AI if it really is the best the developer can do, but they should admit it isn’t anything more than mediocre. Having an AI which can’t board ships is very disappointing for a game with the scale and scope of Empire. You’d think they would have at least worked in some cheaty way for the AI to do it, rather than just ignore that part of the game.

  19. BrownBear says:

    Empire broke my computer… Literally. Smoke and fire.

    Also I was understanding of bugs, crashes and freezes, but then to release Napoleon while Empire was still broken…

    Shogun looks promising but I am no longer pre-ordering and will wait for user reviews before I commit.

  20. Jambe says:

    I like how he totally didn’t answer this question:

    Were they (naval battles) really significant to the struggle for Japan?

    Interesting interview, though. I’m glad they’re back to Shogun, which is more familiar territory for them. I hope it’ll be a less fiddly experience than Empire/Napoleon.

    • Hikkikomori says:

      Let me satisfy your curiosity then! :)
      Yes, naval battles decided the fate of Japan on quite a few occasions. The battle of Dan no ura was one of the biggest battles of the 12th century and it was a naval battle and hugely important for the centuries to follow.

      In later centuries, that the game takes place, naval engagements were a casual occurrence for daimyo with a coast line fief. Many naval engagements come to mind that made or broke whole fiefs. The Japanese never developed long distance ships really but they had good enough ships to fight among themselves in Japan and to raid Korea and China.

  21. lePooch says:

    The 20th century is much more fragmented, much larger battlefields, and there’s just more to deal with: aircraft, and so on.

    I always thought of Company of Heroes as logical 20th century analogue of how Total War battles would play out. In fact, if Relic and Sega/CA got together and wrapped CoH with a Total War strategic map, I think I would die of ecstasy.

  22. D.H. Lawrence says:

    Why not bring back the province maps from the first Shogun and Medieval? They may not be as eye-candy-ful as the current maps, but they worked beautifully. CA’s been beating their heads against the wall with the current strategic maps … 3 games later and it still doesn’t feel right. Not to mention the nitpicking involved in Empire, constantly upgrading all those little towns … hoo boy was that unnecessary.

    • Wahngrok says:

      I liked the provice maps also much more than the current system. Feels like so much time (and fun) wasted managing the movement of the units. Sad, really when there was a quite well working system in place until Medieval 1.

  23. RegisteredUser says:

    “I don’t see any reasons why some of the distinctions between single and multiplayer couldn’t be blurred a bit, too.”

    I do. Leave my epic single player campaigns / stories alone!

    Other than exploiting people for their data and stalking your ex / friends, i.e. the devil’s work.

    Also: Am I the only one who feels that “The naval battles in Shogun are fun and interesting.” sounds a bit like he quietly is going “Gosh, I really hope so..I’m just talking out me bum like with the Empire AI last time..hope they don’t notice.”? It just feels like half a wish to me when he utters it there..

    P.S. IMHO going into more advanced gunpowder ages is a sure gamekiller, as mechanics will change and then the game will be YAWWIIG = Yet Another WW II game.

    I have a much, much better idea.

    Go and buy the M&B:Warband people and add the option to “merge” with any horse or footman at any given point in time in a Total War battle, with an at least as-good combat system as Warband. You won’t be able to imagine the response this would get, especially since TW graphics are actually bearably good.