When we were making Empire: Total War we wanted the flow of the game to broadly match the flow of history. The idea was that the European powers start off in a relatively stable situation where major warfare in continental Europe is very expensive, very unpopular, and for the major powers generally a bad thing. There is much more fertile ground abroad, and so the major powers export their rivalry and conflict to the new world and India. As the century continues the major powers grow richer and more powerful, and they divide the world up between them. By the end of the century there is nowhere left to go, and the focus return to Europe for a grand denouement. In real life, this began the Napoleonic Wars.
Empire: Total War does try to steer things in this direction with variable success. Even when it all works out perfectly, what we would really like to have happen – something that is recognizably the Napoleonic wars – is just not feasible.
Firstly the timescale is not ideal – the Napoleonic wars were fought over a relatively few years. We could probably have coped with that though.
Secondly, by the time the player has played a couple of hundred turns and got to the starting line for the denouement wars, his game world will have diverged from history so much that anything remotely resembling the Napoleonic wars is very unlikely. But we could probably have worked out a way round that too, maybe even without putting the game in to such a tight straightjacket that it would cease to be a game.
But thirdly and most importantly, the level of detail required to successfully depict the Napoleonic wars is an order of magnitude greater than we were working to with Empire: Total War. The period was documented in great detail, and that detail is readily available and widely consumed. Fans of the period would be disappointed if we failed to delve in to that detail. And I am one of those fans. I started Napoleonic table top war gaming when I was a teenager in the 70’s. I also had the great pleasure of working on Peter Turcan’s “Waterloo” series of games at Mirrorsoft in the late 80’s. It’s taken another 20 years to get back to this era, and I wanted to do it properly.
So that’s what we’re doing. There is more than enough material in the Napoleonic wars to sustain a TW game, and Empire: Total War provides the perfect platform to build it on. With a tight feature set and all the tech working before we start we can focus on making the game as close to perfect as we possibly can on day one.
So what exactly is Napoleon? A full Total War release? An expansion pack?
You don’t need to have Empire to play Napoleon. In comparison, we’ve put about 4 times as much effort in to it as we did for BI. The vast majority of the content is completely new. Some of the battlefield buildings and textures are the same as is some text – no reason to change them – but all the other graphics and data is new.
Code wise all areas of the game have advanced from Empire, there are a fair number of new or changed features, and the game has the same kind of twists to the gameplay that we’ve done to make it play quite differently. The character focus also gives it quite a different feel. And of course by keeping the historical scope reasonably limited we’ve made sure we deliver better quality code on day 1.
Overall, to seasoned Empire players it’s a huge new experience and step up in quality. It should be fresh and different and interesting enough to hold their attention for many, many hours. To anyone who hasn’t played its predecessors, Napoleon is the best TW we’ve made, and a great way to get in to the series. Everyone wins.