Interview

Empire: Total War Interview (PC)

Strategy Informer: What types of games will Empire: Total War feature? Will there be any mission-based campaigns, a year from which to start, or just a grand campaign launch from a fixed year?

Creative Assembly: Empire: Total War will feature the traditional Grand Campaign mode, in addition to the skirmishes and online play that fans expect from the series. We’ve also included an Episodic Campaign entitled ‘The Road to Independence’ which is a first for the Total War series.



Strategy Informer: What kind of changes will we see in the campaign part of the game as opposed to what we’ve had in Medieval II: Total War?

Creative Assembly: Oh boy! Where to start? Obviously we aren’t just tied to Europe for Empire: Total War. The player will be able to fight wars from the Americas to the Indies, and in between, on both land and sea. The game map itself is based on NASA satellite data and so the terrain and the coasts will closely reflect the actual geographical features of the world. The world’s seas and oceans are no longer just lifeless moats that need to be crossed or blocked. They are now actually an intrinsic part of the game with real time sea battles playing a major role.

For example; competing nations’ warships will fight over trade routes and access to the seas. We now have “Trade Theatres” (Such as the East Indies, East Africa, the Ivory coast and South America) where the main objective is to monopolise the trade goods produced there and ship them back to your home ports, without the enemy getting their hands on it. Supporting your overseas colonies and invasions of other continents will require shipping of troops and protecting them with your navies. Failure to protect transported troops will result in disaster unless you manage to avoid enemy shipping.

Improvements to your regions are no longer a one settlement per region-based activity. For example, ports are individually interactive and upgradable. Farms, Factories, Mines and a number of other buildings can be burnt to the ground or developed. Farms can grow in to huge landscaped stately homes. Developing Factories will improve your nation’s access to goods or weapons and they help create wealth. Universities can be invested in and technology researched to improve your armies and navies, or just create a more educated populace that drives faster research.

Agents have been reduced in number, made more important and overhauled. Now we have Gentlemen who can turn their hand to increasing the speed of your nation’s research, steal enemy technology or duel with enemy Gentlemen and Rakes. Meanwhile Rakes will assassinate, sabotage and spy on armies.

And there is sooo much more, but I think you can tell that a better question might be “What hasn’t changed?”

Strategy Informer: How many actual units will ETW be able to represent through its battlefield engine?

Creative Assembly: Empire will feature up to 10,000 units at once in Land Battles. These are handled with approximately 20 unit cards. Naval warfare will feature massive battles of up to 20 ships per side.

Strategy Informer: One of the biggest problems in the newer Total War series was its A.I. Such problems were mostly addressed by modders but we would all love to hear what kind of effort went into improving the newest battle A.I.?

Creative Assembly: We're focusing on the development of the Battle AI on Empire a lot more thoroughly than on previous Total War games - both in terms of man-power dealing with the problem and the solutions we're applying. This increase is to address the issues and the identified exploits of the past, but also because the complexity of the game has increased (by the very nature of the amount of things the player can now do!) so too must the AI improve to deal with the myriad of new options. We've become acutely aware that older state-based approaches to the problems will no longer be sufficient, and so we're looking to new, more emergent, AI techniques to bring us to the next level.

So at the highest level, we've approached problem on two fronts.

The first is to try to breathe more "life" into the way the computer plays, and improving the "perception" of humanlike-behaviour. For example - ensuring that fighting the French *actually feels like* fighting the French, as opposed to battling Native Americans, or other factions who might and should behave very differently - in terms of how they form, how they move and use the units and special abilities under their disposal, and how they react to the player's actions. On this side of things, we've done a lot of research into genuine historical tactics, and worked these into the game engine as unique Faction-based and Admiral/General-based battle tactics for the first time.



The link between the Campaign AI and Battle AI is entirely designed to facilitate this. The Battle AI will request recruitment of particular unit types to ensure these tactics engage appropriately. Likewise the Campaign AI will insist the Battle AI fights in a way that will benefit the faction’s long-term goals (fight to the last man, harry the enemy and minimise casualties but still fight to win, fight a rear-guard action, etc. etc.).

The second is to introduce a level of planning and prediction, which is also something completely new to the Total War Battle AI. The main objective of this is to identify exploits or manoeuvres that the player might be employing with a long or short-term view to counter-acting, and to forward-plan for sub-objectives over a period of time. For example - identifying early on that our left flank is weak and potentially susceptible to attack, so ensuring that the main body stays close to suitable defendable buildings or impassable terrain, and managing the path of tasks that are required to achieve this action over the course of the battle - all the while balancing the main priority of the overall victory conditions and battle plan!

Suffice to say, brand new systems for the Empire Battle AI have been in development and R&D for a long, long time, and even now continue to be so, and we're very excited with the potential and scope for replay-ability that they're giving the game.

Strategy Informer: Finishing off a fleeing enemy often took a lot of effort due to imprecise response from mainly cavalry units. Was something done specifically for this issue?

Creative Assembly: Well, although we have improved the cavalry and infantry combat mechanics in Empire, the problem sort of resolved itself due to the ranged combat nature of warfare in this period. There are plenty of opportunities for taking pot shots while the enemy runs especially if you have dragoons, cannons or rifles. Additionally the unit handling has been overhauled to counteract this issue.

Strategy Informer: Sea battles have finally been brought to player control in TW. What was the biggest challenge in its battle engine development?

Creative Assembly: There were 3 major challenges with the sea battles.

Getting the sea to look like the best sea anyone had seen in battle was the first challenge and we had a programmer working on that for a considerable amount of time. The effort was all worth it because it does now look fantastic.

The next challenge was getting ships to move across that water in a way that at least felt and looked realistic. And then on top of that make them sink in a way that looked real. In the end we created a system that gave ships appropriate buoyancy and, when the ship was holed, made it take on water in a way that looked great.

The final challenge was getting the ship-to-ship combat to the very high standard we always set ourselves in all Total War games, but at the same time allowing it to be controllable and fun for the player. Anyone who has seen our gameplay trailer of the naval battles can see we have managed to achieve that. The real proof will be when people play the game themselves.

Strategy Informer: What would happen if two friendly or enemy ships collide?

Creative Assembly: It depends on the form of collision and the difference in size, but as ships were actually relatively (compared to propeller driven ships) slow moving. Damage was likely but not in the same way as if an iron or steel hulled ship collided.



Strategy Informer: How will the modding community be supported by ETW? What tools have you prepared for modders, and how many programs would somebody need to recreate different units for ETW?

Creative Assembly: Announcements will be made in the future but we do have plans to make this an extremely moddable game.

Strategy Informer: A lot of people will be interested to know what computer specs they'll need to run ETW in average and full graphical setting?

Creative Assembly: We will be announcing the minimum specs at a later date, once the engine has been fully optimized. I can confirm that Empire: Total War is DX9 compatible and has been designed to run on a variety of machines.

Strategy Informer: Will we see a demo before the official game release? If yes, when can we expect to see it?

Creative Assembly: It’s too early to speculate at this point.


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Comments

By sfabobby03 (SI Veteran Newbie) on Sep 04, 2008
sfabobby03
This game looks really good! I love games with old ships in them. This one looks like it won't dissapoint me!
By Kres (SI Elite) on Sep 04, 2008
Kres
I am really hoping for a good A.I.. That's the single most important matter to me. They got some great ideas going for it. If it'll really work out, time will tell. Holding my fingers crossed.
By Nikola101 (SI Newbie) on Sep 04, 2008
Nikola101
I really doubt that this game will offer what it need to offer.M2:TW was a dissapointment for REAL fans.
By sfabobby03 (SI Veteran Newbie) on Sep 04, 2008
sfabobby03
I agree with you Kres that how good the AI is will play the biggest part. I'm keeping my fingers crossed as well.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Sep 04, 2008
herodotus
I too was very disappointed with M2TW, and spent only a brief time on my HDD. A much better AI is seriously needed, and so too is a far more dynamic and challenging Campaign structure. The last one became oh so boring all too quickly.
By RastaKid (SI Veteran Newbie) on Sep 04, 2008
RastaKid
I'm sure that this game won't offer what I'm looking for but it looks like a nice game actually
By jhellie_baby (SI Newbie) on Sep 08, 2008
jhellie_baby
wow...nice game :) just like you are on a real ship.
By V4ndall (SI Veteran Member) on Sep 09, 2008
V4ndall
Nah, there are mods increasing AI in MTW2, so if they screw it up again, players themselves will hopefully fix it... What I actually don't like about the game is the covered time span...
By Kres (SI Elite) on Sep 10, 2008
Kres
Yep, TW modding scene is still huge. I've tried numerous mods. Some indeed sort out AI issues.
By Ringo133 (I just got here) on Sep 10, 2008
Ringo133
I really hope that WW1 is included in this game. That would be soo awesome, I can picture how cool the huge armies and trenches would look. Why hasnt anyone ever made a WW1 game??
By lacki2000 (SI Member) on Sep 10, 2008
lacki2000
There are WW1 games in the market but very weak (Victoria is great but without tactical warfare). I suppose Empire:TW will end before WW1.
By Ringo133 (I just got here) on Sep 10, 2008
Ringo133
Thats too bad. Well maybe that will be the next total war game... WWI Total War. I bet you that will be next.
By Florentin (SI Veteran Member) on Sep 14, 2008
Florentin
whoa! what an awesome presentation!
Great screen shots, awesome interview!
Thank you!
By Nicolas19 (SI Core) on Sep 15, 2008
Nicolas19
I follow the series since Shogun, but sadly, almost everthing that changes between titles, relates to the graphics. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to turn TW into Europa Universalis, but the campaign map should get the same attention as the stunning battle view.
By loyalknight10 (SI Member) on Sep 15, 2008
loyalknight10
I like this game .This is a game which to some extent to age of empires, where we can rule the world. I would like to have modern weapons and units in this episode apart from swords,axe and bows.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Sep 25, 2008
herodotus
At Lacki2000: "I suppose Empire:TW will end before WW1.". Yes it will. It is supposed to end in 1815 according to news releases. I hope an expansion takes through to the American Civil War (1861-5) and the 1890's.
By lichlord (SI Core) on Oct 08, 2008
lichlord
i hope faith doens't mean too much here i hated medievel total war for that :/
By TheRomeo5 (I just got here) on Mar 26, 2009
TheRomeo5
This game and whole collection of total war is the best strategy game ever made!It has all,it's very realistic,every part of the game speaks for itself...I hope that the next total war game will be about wwi...That would be great!