I don’t know about you, but one of the things I’ve always loved about the Total War series (if I do say so myself) is flying around and looking at all of the little details on the battlefield. With persistent bodies, buildings, scenery, etc. in Total War: Shogun 2, we’re able to push around more polygons than ever, which means even more beautiful environments. Combine that with the foxiness of Japan’s stunning scenery and you’ve got yourself a winning formula.
There’s a whole host of people to thank for that, including our very own Pawel Wojs, who brings us today’s featured blog on the environments of Total War.
Please could you introduce yourself and tell us about your role on the Total War team?
Hi, I’m Pawel Wojs, and I am a battle art lead. I’m responsible for Total War: Shogun 2’s natural environments, battlefield artillery and ships.
What sets the location of Shogun 2 apart from previous titles in the Total War series?
Japan is very artistically and culturally distinctive. The location is much more focused than previous titles, since we are only dealing with the islands of Japan as opposed to all of Europe or a large section of the world.
What research was carried out to ensure the terrain in Shogun 2 is accurately representative of the terrain in feudal Japan?
We collected vast amounts of research material, from present day photographs and maps, to photos from the end of the 19th century, and wood block prints and other artworks from the period.
How do the different types of terrain affect your soldiers on the battlefield?
There are a lot of different features that will affect the gameplay, from height advantages on hills and cliffs to different surface types such as sand effecting movement speed. Dense forest will conceal troop movement, islands will channel ships in naval combat.
There are a lot of cool new weather effects in Shogun 2. Are they purely aesthetic or do they also have an effect on gameplay?
Yes. As well as adding to the overall atmosphere, different weather effects will have an impact on a number of gameplay elements such as firing rates, morale, fatigue and accuracy.
And we’ve got a massively improved particle effects system in Shogun 2, is that right?
We sure do, I will let our Lead Effects artist Howard Rayner talk a little about that:
HR: Yeah, we’ve spent quite a bit of time refining the particle systems for Shogun 2. The graphics team have optimised the system to allow us to have more effects, and we have fully utilised the quarter-sized particle rendering to allow us more onscreen effects without increasing the overdraw costs. Also the more time the artists have with the tools the better the results! Although not particle related we have also made better use of pixel shaders to achieve surface effects that go hand in hand with the particles and help sell the look we are going for.
How do the seasons play a part in Shogun 2?
With every turn on the campaign map the season changes. This allows us to really push the iconic image of Japan, from pink cherry blossom in the spring to the red maples in the autumn, and provide a lot of visual diversity from one battle to another.
Presumably, given that Shogun 2 is set in 16th Century Japan, we’ll see a marked difference to the overall appearance of battlefield visual elements like the overall terrain and vegetation– to what extent do these details enhance the overall experience of Shogun 2?
With Shogun we really wanted to push the visuals to a new level especially with the battlefields, while trying to capture the elegance and beauty of the Japanese landscape together with its extreme volcanic nature.
To start with, we made the decision not to use Speed Tree in Shogun 2. This is a bespoke tree system enabled us to have complete control over our vegetation. Instead, one of our talented artists, Michal Gutowski, spent a year dedicated to the vegetation, modelling every one of our 80+ trees from scratch. The results are the most realistic forests ever before seen in a Total War game. In addition to the new tree system, we have improved the grass system giving us a much greater variety of ground cover than in the previous titles.
Improved terrain normal mapping, greater usage of pixel shaders, and an advanced tile system using natural erosion data all mean the battles feel more natural and epic.
With all of these fantastic improvements being implemented, does that mean that players will need a massively higher-spec machine in order to enjoy them?
As with all Total War games, we cater for a very wide range of system specifications. To get the most out of the visuals you will need a decent rig, but those with older lower-spec machines will still be able to enjoy the game.
Finally, what’s your favourite thing in Total War: Shogun 2?
AI has really come into its own with Shogun 2, so I’ll have to say that’s one of my favourite aspects. The siege battles in particular are a lot of fun. Oh, and the animals…
CL: Pawel does love those animals!
Thanks for your time, guys!