Rome: Total War Interview (PC)
Si: Hello, let's please open the discussion with the economy and religion in Rome: Total War. Will the game feature both aspects, and how will they be implemented and affect gameplay?
Mike Simpson: The economic model for Rome is quite different from the previous games. It's more "sim" like, taking more factors in to account and giving the player more levers to play with. Religion is also quite different. Each faction has their own gods, and choosing which gods to build temples to becomes a major decision. We're not claiming that the gods intervene to give you (for example) a farming bonus, just that the choice of temples focuses the population on that particular aspect of life, and it progresses a little faster than it would otherwise.
Si: How does the size of a city affect play, as we understand recruitment relates to a city's population? And we will be able to zoom in and witness that population, thus admiring our cities milling with civilians and resounding with the sounds of the gladiatorial games and armies marching to war?
Mike Simpson: City size is fundamental to progress through the tech tree - so a lot of gameplay is centred around managing your cities well. For example, a number of factors will affect the growth of a city (eg agricultural improvements, population happiness, tax rates, governor's skills etc) and a city has to reach a certain population size before the player has the option of upgrading the city's Government Building. This upgrade is necessary to allow the next level of all the other building types to also be built - so if the player wants to be churning out the best units, they'd better make sure their cities are expanding throughout the game. All of the player's cities can be viewed in real-time 3D at any time - with citizens walking through the streets and all of the players improvements (eg huge stone walls) being accurately reflected. As far as the battles are concerned, the size of the city is also represented on the battlemap. There are about 5 levels of city from village to huge city.
Si: Please give more information about the challenges the Roman Senate will offer us.
Mike Simpson: There are quite a number of these, such as the assassination of characters that are enemies of Rome, conducting peace talks with certain factions, blockading ports, capturing cities, securing trading rights for Rome and loads more.
Si: It is obvious that politics has a large role in the campaign game. In Medieval:TW there didn't seem to be ramifications for continually reneging on alliances. Considering the many types of deals that can be made in RTW and the inclusion of the Senate, how will your political reputation affect your faction?
Mike Simpson: Your political reputation affects how likely allies are to trust you, and what kind of deals they'll offer at the negotiating table. There's also some emotional response in there, so factions do bear grudges. Just like the real thing.
Si: Now that there are no provinces, does that mean there won't be units you can train in a specific country/city? Like in MTW's Ireland, when you conquer it you can train kerns and gallowglasses. What other training mechanisms will be included?
Mike Simpson: There are still provinces, but the units that are linked to provinces are now mercenaries. So, go to the Balearics for your slingers (for example) and hire them there. That way each faction can go "shopping" for units they couldn't otherwise get.
Si: One of the few downfalls of gameplay in MTW was the way that turn times could increase exponentially once campaigns were in full swing. Micro-management can become tedious in a satisfyingly complex game. RTW players wishing to detach themselves from the nitty-gritty of manoeuvring in the tactical game have been allowed the use of AI generals in battle. What measures will we see to automate any of the grunt work of the campaign mode?
Mike Simpson: Lots. Basically every city can be fully auto-managed by the AI. So players can focus on managing just a few key cities and ignore all the rest. Cities that are auto-managed can be given policies (eg military, social, financial) that should be pursued if the player wants to provide a rough direction for the AI.
Si: Regarding diplomacy, will we be able to coordinate assaults with allies (let's say to agree with the AI to attack army/city A in three turns time)? What other alliance control options will be included?
Mike Simpson: Players have a great deal of flexibility when conducting diplomatic relations with their allies. For example, they could offer to attack an enemy within 3 turns if the ally pays them 2000 denarii or gives them one of their cities or if that ally also attacks them within 3 turns. You can also make threats to enemy factions unless they pay you money or hand over cities or become a protectorate etc. There are literally hundreds of different combinations of offers and counter-offers that can take place in this diplomacy system.
Si: Will the tactical AI utilize different tactics based on either the faction it controls or the different types of units under its command? For example, will Parthia's horse archer laden armies fight a battle of slow attrition via missile attacks combined with feints and ambushes, or will Rome's infantry heavy armies seek decisive action via direct contact?
Mike Simpson: Yes. The AI works on several different levels and will look at more than just the things you mentioned above (such as terrain, battle objectives, weather, the visible contents of the players army etc) in order to decide on the best strategy to use at any given time. It will also respond to the player's tactics during the battle.
Si: Regarding battlefield terrain, has the random terrain generator been tweaked to produce realistic looking battlefields? Will we see gentler slopes on hillsides and realistically unpassable terrain that better represents the area's geography and topography, rather than a return to MTW-style maps where armies are able to unrealistically camp on the extreme slopes of hills and mountainsides?
Si: Is the game still on track for its planned Fall 2004 release?
Mike Simpson: The game is still on track for a Fall release.