Welcome to our second Empire: Total War Q&A, where we provide more answers to some of your most burning questions!
Q: How many factions will there be in the game? And will [insert name of home country here] be included?
A: These two related questions are two of the most popular, particularly the “Will my country…” bit. People also wondered how we end up with the faction list. Surprisingly, nationalism and irrational prejudice do not drive our choices. If they did, then Yorkshire, Dorking, the Kingdom of Bognor, Chicken Madras and the Democratic Workers’ Republic of Woking would automatically be factions. In every game.
Naturally, not all factions are equal. This has always been the case; it is far harder to win as the Western Romans, big though the faction is, than the Saxons in R:TW Barbarian Invasion. We tend to define factions as being potentially playable (or not), by their culture, whether they are major or minor, and whether they might be “emergent” when we look at the candidate list. We then look at getting a good mix in terms of culture, national unit and army lists, and gameplay potential.
We use “culture” as a way of collecting similar factions together and sharing resources: you’ll find Western European nations all share a lot of the same cultural baggage, so it make sense to have a common set of game resources for them. Sometimes this means we can sneak in extra factions because they are similar to something we have already done (hurrah!): it is relatively easy to add Mysore if the material for the Mughals and the Maharattas already exists.
The major/minor split is our take on whether a faction starts the game with more than one region (e.g. France = major; Hanover = minor). When we are considering who to include a minor faction is less likely to make the cut than a major one. Some potential factions end up as rebels early on because the nation in question simply did not go anywhere during Empire’s historical period. Often these were considered for full faction status before they were assigned to the rebel category: it is not sensible, for example, to do a full faction work up on the Republic of Genoa.
Emergent factions (these, you might remember, were in RTWBI) are those nations that did, or might, come into being during a game’s historical period, or could have come into being. The most obvious one in the Empire period is the United States of America. There are no guarantees that the USA will appear, but if there is a rebellion in the right sort of area, at the right sort of time and other factors are appropriate, then rather than seeing rebels, you will see the Continental Army marching off to war.
So, the Empire: Total War factions have yet to be finalised. There will be at least 10 playable factions in the game, but we’re currently engaged in a free and frank exchange of views about the candidates for inclusion on that list. Some, like France and Prussia, have guaranteed places as playable factions because they were significant in the wars and politics of the time. The powers that changed status (waxing and waning) are the ones that cause us problems! The full faction list is much longer, and it includes all the AI-controlled factions that we don’t think are that rewarding for a human to play.
So, we are currently looking at around 50 factions and scratching our heads to decide which ones make the cut as being interesting both historically and in terms of game play. The final point is that what we’d like to do with the factions and what’s practical are not always the same thing. Often we’ll have to exclude a faction for time reasons. If we’re going to have to create a completely new set of buildings, units, animations and on-screen messages for a minor (and therefore relatively obscure) faction, the chances are that it won’t make it into the game. And sometimes more does not automatically equal better. It can mean that the development marmalade is spread too thinly over too many slices of conceptual toast.
Q: Will famous characters such as Wellington make an appearance in the game, and will they have special abilities to reflect their historical importance? What new character traits are there?
A: Famous and some not-so-famous characters are present in the game, yes. However, because the unfolding of a TW game isn’t a fixed path, there is not going to be a guarantee that an Arthur Wellesley (the Duke of Wellington eventually), a Napoleon Bonaparte, a George Washington or anyone else will *always* appear when the game is played. If they did, then camping on their spawn points until the right date would not make for a very interesting game. This, by the way, is all part of the larger counterfactual-historical debate in Total War games: history probably won’t repeat itself exactly as you play.
We’re having to be quite disciplined about the famous people that we include as characters and ancillaries, simply because there could be thousands of them, all with their own claim to a place in the game. Should we include Mozart as a famous composer, Thomas Slade, a naval architect of some genius, Lancelot “Capability” Brown, the man who completely reshaped the English countryside, Jethro Tull, the folk rock band and agriculturalist, or Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, a right royal pain in the neck? They’re all interesting people, and made their contribution.
The traits system is being revised for Empire: Total War; the Rome/M2TW system could “spam” traits sometimes and we need to address that. We’re not going to give you a list of the new character traits because it (a) would be a bit boring done like that; and (b) the list isn’t finalised, so that if we tell you there’s a trait called “Sausage” might not ever make it into the finished game. There is a trait called Sausage, by the way, but it’s not really the kind of thing you want to talk about in polite company. However, just to whet your appetites there are two interesting traits: “American General” and “Indian General” that have potentially interesting effects. These are gained by Europeans fighting in the relevant parts of the world and represent “going native” in terms of skills and attitudes. If everything goes to plan, the American General trait will even give a general and his unit some stealth ability on the battlefield. It’s also possible for generals to develop a complete dislike of the two continents too – not everyone likes curry or burgers, after all.
When the list has firmed up at beta, we’ll return to the subject of traits and historical characters in another FAQ or as a developer diary.
Q: The bayonet was invented in this period, so how will the various types be used on the battlefield? Will key technological inventions like this be events on the campaign map?
A: The bayonet is quite an interesting technology that directly impacts on battlefield behaviour in units. Before it arrives, musketeers have to reverse their muskets and use them as crude clubs to beat down opponents. The plug bayonet is a big step in the right direction, but once it is fitted (like a cork in a bottle neck) it prevents a man from firing and reloading his gun. It does give a musketeer a short “pike” for hand-to-hand fighting, and that’s useful. Incidentally, the bayonet was seen as a substitute pike and accordingly pike drill was used after its introduction. The ring bayonet allows fire and slow reloading, but isn’t very secure in its fixing to a musket; it’s better in a fight, but not that much better.
Finally the socket bayonet slides onto the musket and then locks on a barrel lug. The blade is offset, so that the musket can be loaded and fired easily, and it won’t come loose when thrust into an enemy’s guts. This kind of practical, brutal weapon made it possible to introduce “modern” bayonet fighting as a drill.
And no, we’re not handling technological advances as set historical events. We’re giving you more control over the game than that, but as to how -that’s for another day.
Q: Won’t the rampant expansion of European powers over less developed countries unbalance things in Empire? Won’t players be able to simply sweep aside native populations and establish colonies?
A: No, not necessarily. This is where the art of the game designer comes in, at least in our opinion. It’s our job to make sure that the game isn’t just a predictable rush for colonies. The question also ignores the number of wars that went on across Europe during the 18th Century as well.
There was “rampant” European expansion during the Empire period, but the European nations and their trading companies weren’t guaranteed to have things their own way at all. In India, for example, the Europeans fought against each other and used proxies in a series of vicious little wars that could have seen the Europeans driven out on several occasions. That they weren’t is more a tribute to cunning diplomacy, bribes, and the fact that some local princeling was always willing to cut a deal.
Interestingly, native populations weren’t always swept aside. At least part of the sense of grievance felt by the American Colonials towards the British government was fuelled by the agreements that London had struck with the native tribes to restrain their colonisation efforts. In India the Europeans were in no position to sweeo “the natives” aside. Instead, they mounted a “hostile takeover” and left the senior and middle management in place; the poor old peasants at the bottom of the heap probably never realised that they were now farming “colonial” land.
Q: Will the game be totally different from M2TW?
A: Firstly, Medieval 2: Total War was a development of the Rome: Total War engine. For Empire: Total War we’ve started again with new game and graphics engines. Apart from anything else, we needed to do this for the naval combat system. This follows our revolution-evolution pattern of game development at The Creative Assembly: a new game engine, an evolved version of it, rinse and repeat.
Secondly, the Empire period requires a different approach to the medieval era. Warfare, politics, and technology have moved on. We have a “palette” of game mechanics that we can use to bring these to life, and we must pick and choose the right ones for the subject matter. Naturally, some aspects of a Total War game are “givens”: a turn based strategy game and real time battles. We won’t – and wouldn’t want to – change that. Within that broad constraint, though, we hope to use mechanics that are appropriate to the period. Papal sanctions are important in the medieval world, but they don’t matter so much during the Enlightenment. Therefore, the Pope doesn’t need to be simulated in detail in Empire. The choreography of musket fire is important, so that gets a lot of attention. And then there’s the naval game: not to blow our own trumpets too much, but some developers would publish that as a separate game in its own right!
And finally, the development team on Empire is not the M2TW group. The Empire people did Rome: Total War, and some of the core team have been on TW games since Shogun: Total War. Chrysler don’t just have one team working on all their different car models, you know!