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Clan feature #1: Chosokabe

Hi all,

Right now, you’re probably wondering what clan you’ll pick in Total War: Shogun 2. In this, the first of Shogun 2’s clan features, we focus on the Chosokabe clan. Pull up a chair and find out more…

 

 

Chosokabe

 Faction banner for the Chosokabe

 

The Chosokabe clan claim descent from the Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Despite their long history, the Chosokabe clan has had mixed fortunes, and has been under the protection of the Ichijo, who helped them to recapture their castle at Oko. Chosokabe Kunichika, the daimyo, is certainly bold and brave enough to have imperial blood in his veins: he once jumped off an Ichijo castle wall for a dare! He has now broken with the Ichijo, rebuilt Chosokabe influence, and vowed revenge on his enemies.

Kunichika can take advantages of the Chosokabe’s traditional strengths: they are phenomenal farmers, and gain extra income from their lands; they produce superb archers and cheap archer units too. With their strength concentrated in Tosa province, the Chosokabe are already at war with the Kono clan of Iyo to the northwest.

Now they have to make an interesting strategic decision: deal with their immediate enemies in Iyo, crush the Ichijo clan at home in Tosa, or attack the Miyoshi clan of Awa province. This last might seem like madness, but Awa is blessed with plentiful warhorses, a valuable resource for anyone planning to expand their clan army. The other nearby resource that will be incredibly useful is the good building stone in Sanuki to the north east. Once these immediate opportunities and problems are resolved, then who is to say the next shogun will not be a Chosokabe lord?

Thanks,

CraigTW

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Shogun 2: Naval Q&A

Today is a fine day indeed. For in this, our latest blog, we’re revealing brand new, exclusive details about naval combat in Total War: Shogun 2.  Featured today are design impresarios Gabor Beressy and Jamie Ferguson.

Please could you tell us a little about the different types of boat in Total War: Shogun 2?

GB: At the moment we have five major categories of ship in naval battles: Light, Medium, Heavy, Cannon and Trade ships. These types define not just the size, but the characteristic of the ships.

For example, light ships are smaller and faster than their heavy counterparts, with better manoeuvrability – ideal for ranged attacks. Although these are similar ships they all have their unique role within the light ship class (support arrow fire, close range firebomb throwing or matchlock fire). The medium and heavy ships are more robust, slower ships with a larger number of crew aboard. These are much better when it comes to boarding enemy vessels. Cannon ships are late-game units with devastating cannon fire. You won’t be able to get many of these!

How different is the naval combat of Shogun 2 to that of Empire or Napoleon?

GB: It’s really different. Because of the new weapon and ship types, the gameplay has changed a lot. The design goal was to create ships with unique roles, which can be combined and used differently during battles. For example you will be able to use a medium ship to board a heavy ship, while one of your light ships can give support fire without risk of being boarded.

In previous TW titles, it was often the case that “bigger was better”. Is this true of the ships in Shogun 2 also?

GB: Not anymore. Certain ship types are still better in attacking others, just as before – but every ship has a counter unit.  For example: light ships used properly in small numbers are designed to be able to take down heavy ships.

Two or three light bow ships can kill the archers on a heavy ship and burn it to the waterline with fire arrows from a safe distance. These bow ships, however, are really vulnerable to any kind of ranged or boarding attack, so you will lose one or two during the attempt. It all ties into the whole rock-paper-scissor ethos behind Shogun 2 – everything works in balance, and the player has to make some tricky strategic decisions along the way.

Will gunpowder feature in Shogun 2’s naval battles?

GB: Yes. We will have ships with matchlock crews, and Japanese and European ships with cannons. Maintaining these ships won’t be cheap, but will definitely be worth the money! Of course, if you don’t have access to gunpowder weapons you won’t be able to recruit them. But maybe you will be able to capture them!

How does the inclusion of land affect the tactical flow of naval battles?

GB: The addition of different terrain features will give much more diversity to the battles. You can defend areas between islands, or try to lure the enemy into a trap – forcing them in to an area where it can’t manoeuvre with heavy ships. You can use terrain as cover against enemy fire, regroup your ships and attack from a better position.

Is it possible for me to beach my ship, or be forced against the rocks?

GB: You won’t be able to beach your ships but if you go near shallow water it will slow down or stop your ships completely. Speed is an advantage in battles so keep moving. It’s better to try and avoid getting hemmed in.

Will fire be returning in naval combat, and will I be able to repair my ships?

GB: Yes, definitely! The repair feature is still in the game and hopefully we will have more burning ships then before! Thanks to the fire arrows and firebombs, I expect a lot of spectacular battles with burning and sinking ships.

What else has been done to further enhance the visual elements of naval combat?

JF: Unlike previous total war sea battles, land now makes an appearance in naval battles with all that element brings to the battlefield. This results in dramatic cliffs and sandy beaches, reefs and islands. We even have whales and seagulls making an appearance. The naval battles also reflect the weather and time of day. This means we have Fog, Snow, Rain and Night time battles.

CL: And I’m going to add that the coastal water looks incredible!

Thanks for your time, guys.

-CraigTW

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Mod Tools Update

The recent announcement that the uniform editor was being dropped jumped the gun a bit.

It’s true that we’re not planning to release the tool we originally designed. Some feature designs don’t pan out as imagined, and this one was frankly not great. All it would allow was the setting of colours for a particular unit type. It was clunky and didn’t do what most people actually wanted.

What we are planning to do is to release the full unit editor along with the data builder tool. This is the tool chain we used to create and edit the units in the game. It’s far more powerful than the uniform editor would have been.

There aren’t any areas of the game which in principle we don’t want players to be able to mod, but there are difficulties in practice in making it possible, and we do have some work to do to package up the tools.

We are intending to come up with a more comprehensive long term strategy on encouraging and facilitating mods, and will talk more about this soon, but for now I can say for sure that the Napoleon unit editor tools remain a priority. The tools are currently scheduled for release in the first half of 2011, this is of course dependent on how Shogun 2 progresses, and we will keep you updated.

We haven’t and won’t forget this, hence putting a date to it. For now Shogun 2 remains our top priority.

Thanks,

Mike

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Napoleon: Total War – The Peninsular Campaign

Hello and welcome to our exclusive Generals guide to Napoleon: Total War – The Peninsular Campaign.

The Peninsular War saw some of the 19th Century’s most formidable powers clash in an almighty fight for supremacy in the Spanish Peninsula. Yet it wasn’t a conflict noted for the dominating power of huge armies, but for the emergence of a new type of warfare.

France’s grip on the Peninsula wore thin under the constant harassment, unrest and ambushes brought on by Spanish guerrilla action in the region.

Set against a backdrop of David and Goliath battles – sometimes of individual men fighting against the machine of war – guerrilla warfare has, for the first time, arrived in a Total War™ title. Take arms!

For full details on Napoleon: Total War – The Peninsular Campaign, plus a trailer and 10 screenshots, please visit www.totalwar.com.

Understanding the differences

Veteran Total War™ players will find more of the same warfare they know and love, but also a new challenge: increased unrest and harassment is par for the course in The Peninsular Campaign.

In order to best maximise your chances of victory, you must first understand and harness this new style of play. This useful guide will help you get to grips with a few of the new features.

Political alignment

War is a battle of minds as well as hearts. Understanding this is the key to victory in this campaign. As the French, you should strive to win the propaganda war by stirring up Pro-French nationalism. As the Spanish or British, you should subvert this by promoting Anti-French sentiment. This can be achieved using The Peninsular Campaign’s new agents and technologies.

Agents

There are three new types of agent in The Peninsular Campaign:

Priests are used by the Spanish and Portuguese nations and are spawned from religious buildings. They are used to convince the population to align themselves with the liberating British armies. This occurs simply by their presence in a region or inside a town or city. Priests can also spy passively when in the immediate proximity of an enemy and detect and reveal the position of foreign spies. Furthermore, placing these agents in a settlement will have a direct impact on the region’s public order. Friendly regions benefit from a boost in happiness; enemy regions suffer a penalty as these agents spread propaganda.

Provocateurs are either Spanish resistance members working for Great Britain in the Peninsula, or pro-Bonaparte Spaniards working for the Emperor. Their role is to persuade the local inhabitants to support either anti- or pro- French sentiment, depending on which faction you are playing. Placing these units in friendly or enemy settlements will also raise or lower happiness respectively.

Guerrilleros are fundamentally Spy agents. Their Harass ability allows them to disrupt an enemy unit with added attrition effects. They can also infiltrate enemy units, assassinate generals, incite unrest and passively spy.

Units

There’s also a new type of military unit in this campaign. Guerrilla units can be obtained by liberating Spanish regions from the French. If you’re playing as France, watch out for them – they more than likely already have you surrounded…

Guerrillas are best used as harassing, mobile forces. The key to their success is their mobility and ability to undermine the best enemy plans. In battles, for instance, they can deploy outside their standard deployment zone in order to subvert the enemy. The element of surprise is yours! They can also hide in trees and scrubland.

Keep a look out for historical guerrilla units, based on legendary bands of guerrillas from the 19th century.

Supply

The British, in their unwavering fight against Napoleon, have committed considerable resources to vanquishing the French presence on the Peninsula, but supplying the front lines of a war on distant shores is no simple logistical task.

The British must ship in troops from overseas. As a result, they require supply ports.

The British can also receive new troops by liberating regions from French rule and handing them back to the Spanish. As a token of thanks and support, British armies will receive additional support from Guerrilla units to prop up their numbers.

Technology

New technologies can be found in The Peninsular Campaign to support you in your goals, enabling you to increase your income, spread propaganda, boost recruitment and more. Embracing technology will help you turn the tide of war against your enemy.

Liberation

When vanquishing a French-held region, British players have the option to “liberate” the region, handing it back to the Spanish. In exchange for this, the player will receive Guerrilla units to help their cause.

Trade

Trade nodes provide a significant source of income to fuel your war efforts. The regions in the Spanish Peninsula have been war-ravaged since 1808 and wealth is low. As a result, shipping in supplies from colonies and protectorates in Europe, the Americas and the Mediterranean is critical to your success.

There are two types of trade node: high value and low value. High value trade nodes bring in more money, but can have fewer ships occupying them (4). Low value trade nodes are less lucrative, but can be crammed with more trade ships (8). It is your choice how you occupy these. Choose wisely!

Military Funding

Once per year, your faction will receive additional funding from allies or the homeland to aid your campaign. A lump-sum of cash can be just the ticket when trying to churn out an offensive force, but beware of spending everything and finding yourself in a position where you no longer have the funds to support your newly-acquired troops.

Multiplayer

In The Peninsular Campaign, two players can play online or over a network, either working co-operatively to eliminate the French or working against each other to win supremacy in the region.

Useful tips

You’re almost ready to mount your charger. But before that, take a look at these useful tips:

  • Manage your population and keep a firm eye on unrest. Keep your own nationals happy and try to subvert the happiness of your enemy’s populace as much as you can.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of trade. Money is scarce and an essential component in the machine of war.
  • Don’t be disheartened if you lose a region, either due to invasion or unrest – 19th century warfare was a constantly-changing tumult – so if you lose a battle, there’s every chance you’ll still win the war.

For all the latest Total War information, stay tuned to www.totalwar.com, and become a fan on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks,

Mark O’Connell
The Creative Assembly

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Shogun 2: Total War Q&A

Here is an exclusive interview Total War’s Lead Designer James Russell regarding the recently announced Shogun 2: Total War.

It has been a decade since Shogun launched the Total War series. What were the reasons for returning to where it all began for Shogun 2: Total War?

In many ways, Empire: TW represented the expansion of Total War to its greatest extent in terms of global, geopolitical scale – and that fitted the reach of the great powers of that era. What we are excited about with Shogun 2 is to taking things back to a more contained, pre-modern environment where we can really focus on characters & immersion – and in a fresh setting, away from the map of Europe. Rather than having to portray many different cultures across the world, we can delve deeply into portraying one culture in beautiful detail. The game will still be epic in scale – but in terms of story and depth rather than by encompassing much of the world in geographic scope.

Feudal Japan is an incredibly evocative setting with so much great content for the game: bushido (the Way of the Warrior), mighty warlords leading vast samurai armies into battle; huge castles and epic sieges in unique landscapes like nothing you’ve seen in Europe.

Chronologically, where does Shogun 2: Total War fit in the timeline of the original game?

As in Shogun: TW, the setting we have is during Japan’s Sengoku Jidai: the warring states period in the 16th century, before the Tokugawa Shogunate asserted its complete control and ended the anarchy.

We have chosen this setting now for the same reasons we chose it a decade ago: it was a time of epic struggle between the feudal lords of rival clans across Japan. With the breakdown of central authority, there was constant warfare and any one of many clans could have ended up winning. It’s the perfect setting for a Total War game where the player can choose one of many factions all competing for the final victory in what was the most turbulent period of Japanese history.

It was the time when a uniquely Japanese samurai culture was forged. It was also a time of great change: for example, first contact with Europeans saw the introduction of Christianity and later the first large-scale use of firearms in Japanese armies. This opens up lots of interesting gameplay choices for the player that are unique to this specific period.

How has the Total War series progressed since the original game and what will this bring to the sequel?

Clearly, PC technology has come on so far in the last ten years, and we can do things that were simply impossible before: the game engines for both campaign and battle have been completely revolutionised (and re-written) several times over since the original game which had sprites in battle and a 2D campaign map. Now we can portray huge samurai armies in all their glory with a new and improved battle graphics engine that looks utterly stunning. On the campaign side, we will depict the unique geography of Japan with the most beautiful map we have ever produced. We are constantly looking at ways to improve the game, and each new project gives us the opportunity to push into new territory.

The Total War team consulted with Professor Stephen Turnbull during the production of Shogun: Total War. Will you also be working with any experts in the field for Shogun 2?

Well we’re actually working with Stephen again this time round, and he’s been involved from very early in the project. He’s been to see us in the studio (his journey down, carrying authentic pieces of samurai armour raised a few eyebrows on the train!); we are talking to him regularly about planned features and game content – he’s been a fantastic help for us: not only making sure we stay on the right path, but also giving us a lot of inspiration (watching all the Kurosawa movies helps a lot too!).

As a studio, we have much lower staff turnover than many in the industry, and there are still a fair few people working on Total War who have been here from the very beginning, not least Mike Simpson.

Empire: Total War introduced naval warfare to the series. Is there a chance that the feature will return to make an impact on feudal Japan?

Of course – Japan is an island nation, and the sea is never far away. One thing to emphasise is that the way naval battles were fought in Japan during this period is very different from the bigger-is-better artillery-fests of the 18th century European contests we represented in Empire. Japanese ships of the era were full of samurai swordsmen and archers, so we’re focusing a lot on boarding systems and stone-scissors-paper interplay between different ship types. Another big addition is the inclusion of land masses at sea: this provides new terrain-based tactical play as well as helping orient the player. We think we can make naval battles in Shogun feel very fresh & new – and be more fun to play than ever before.

What other areas of the game might see major changes with Shogun 2?

When we begin development, as a team we immerse ourselves in the period and the setting that we are trying to bring to life in the game. We develop features that reflect the battles and the military & economic dilemmas of the time (as well as making for great gameplay).

On the campaign map this means we fold in the importance of honour, treachery, clan & family, and many other aspects of being a warlord in feudal Japan. Of course, we need a completely new set of agents and agent abilities too.

On the battle side, special, historically accurate, hero characters can help turn the tide of battle. We’re also giving siege mechanics a complete overhaul: Japanese castles are very different from European castles, and we’re working hard to make the layouts look convincingly Japanese as well as playing well.

We’re also planning some very exciting things for the multiplayer part of the game, so watch this space!

What do you want to achieve overall with Shogun 2: Total War?

We really want to make Shogun 2 a thing of beauty, and the most immersive Total War game ever. We are focusing on pushing gameplay depth and polish rather than raw ‘size’ or scope: doing more with less.

Internally, we are calling these things together (beauty, depth, polish and immersion) the Zen of Total War. We are absolutely committed to making Shogun 2 the most breathtaking Total War experience ever.

Thank you for your time!

Stay tuned to www.TotalWar.com for all the latest Shogun 2: Total War information, and be sure to become a fan on Facebook and Twitter.

Best regards,

Mark O’Connell
The Creative Assembly

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Battle of Waterloo Diary

Here is a war diary documenting an epic encounter at the alternate Battle of Waterloo. This battle is available in the FREE Imperial Guard DLC for Napoleon: Total War!

Battle of Waterloo

June 18th, 1815

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

When Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, leader of the allied forces, came up against the might of Napoleon’s army, it was with a very real belief that the engagement could be truly decisive. This was to be the battle to end all battles, a red letter day in history, and a moment for heroes to be made. The Napoleonic Wars were coming to an end.

In Napoleon: Total War, gamers had the option to play as France in this key battle and, with it, change the outcome of history. Now, with the release of the Imperial Guard Pack, players have the option of commanding the allied army and condemning the pesky Frenchman to his exile once and for all. It was a challenge I found too hard to resist.

So here I stand, on the Brussels road, south of Waterloo. Most of my army is assembled on the reverse slope. There they will be relatively safe from Napoleon’s deadly artillery. The rest of my army is at Hougoumant on the right, with Jaegers hidden in the orchard. I also have units in the centre and on my left. It’s crucial I hold these armies; they will dictate the flow of battle.

Napoleon’s artillery is truly deadly, so I will do my best to stay out of their reach and neutralise them as quickly as possible. I’m hoping Prussian reinforcements arrive at some point, so if I can win the numbers battle until then I’ll be happy.

“Our men are running, sir!”

I’m not winning the numbers battle.

My rifles are starting to get chewed up by the advancing, deadly French fusiliers of line. They know it’s all or nothing and are advancing with great impetus. I order my rifles to occupy the nearby building, hoping to lure the French to my position. My defences are all set up around the ridge surrounding the house, so if Napoleon’s men are drawn to that location, they’re likely to take a pounding. Sadly, they’re not having any of it.

If this battle is going to be won, and if my men are to stand tall, then I need to take positive action. Sitting back and letting the French artillery have their way is going to be suicide – and I cannot simply rely on Blücher’s tired Prussian soldiers to come to my aid. I expect they’ll join the battle from the other side of the field, so their presence is unlikely to protect my front lines – if they even arrive at all.

I take the initiative. I group some of my cavalry under the leadership of the Earl of Uxbridge and order them to flank the advancing French fusiliers. Preoccupied with their advance, the French barely have time to turn face-on to my cavalry when they are hit hard. Their units immediately suffer a huge morale dent as my experienced troops send fusiliers flying through the air.

Having neutralised the threat of the fusiliers, I turn the Duke’s attention to Napoleon’s 8 and 12lber artillery. Onward they rush, and manage to deal some damage to the cannon. Napoleon responds by sending his lethal Dutch guard lancers to intercept the cavalry. Weakened by canister shot, my good Duke crumbles under the French attack.

The Duke has done well, though. He’s eliminated the fusilier advance and disabled two French artillery units.

Onward come the Dutch guard, and my defences must quickly adapt. I march my finest foot soldiers down the hill to face the oncoming French and form square as they begin their charge. Almost impenetrable to the cavalry, my foot soldiers hold firm. The Dutch lancers begin to rout and opportunity begins to knock.

“CHARGE!!!”

Not before Michel Ney himself starts his charge, however. His powerful cavalry unit makes short work of one of my scuttling line infantry units, which was desperately trying to reform after a heavy artillery bombardment. Bringing a unit of lethal Empress Dragoons alongside him, Ney moves up and turns his attention to my now-advancing foot soldiers.

I form square again, but not quite in time. Ney’s charge deals a great deal of damage to my men and they start looking like they might rout. I respond by bringing the Duke of Wellington himself into the fore. I hover over the inspire and rally buttons, eagerly awaiting the advance of Wellington’s general’s aura. Wellington reaches the front just in time, and my troops receive a huge morale boost, spurred on by the Duke’s presence.

As the rain begins to fall, the Prussians join the battle. It’s suddenly looking grim for the French, and Napoleon himself. Still, however, he comes. Using all of his remaining units, Napoleon charges the Prussians, leading the line personally.

Meanwhile, I recover any units I can to take out the remaining French artillery, which is still raining down terror on my lines.

Blücher prevails, Napoleon falls. As the general falls from his horse, I sense he knows his empire has fallen. What will become of him now is down to the top brass, but I’ve done my job and, after a long and hard battle, consider him defeated.

He was a man after all.

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Napoleon: Total War – Italian Campaign Diary

The mountains loom over the terrain.

Grey rocky slopes, newly green with the grass of spring.

The land is always watching.

A massive explosion reverberates around the stone, carrying from valley to valley. Then another. And another.

Huge chunks of rock rain from the slopes as the mountains themselves are shaken by cannon fire.

Dust and smoke drift through the pass carrying with it the screams of the dead and dying.

In the fading light of the day the dust brings with it silhouettes, shadows of men carrying one another, tripping and falling; dragging comrades to the safety of the valley.

The bloody mess of a man emerges from the dust, his face caked in grime. Thick crimson streaks scar his face; some of it is his own blood. A bandage has been haphazardly applied to his forehead; already it is crimson from his wounds.

His uniform is tattered and torn, his feet bare. He wears the blue and white colours of France but there is neither pride nor bravery in his expression.  With a great effort he lifts himself and his rifle over a pile of rock and slides down the short, gentle slope the other side.

He comes to a rest and lets his rifle fall by his side. Others soon join him.

He closes his eyes and succumbs to exhaustion. His thoughts lead to home, to his village in the west. Would that he were there, not here. Anywhere but here.

Here is the northernmost tip of Italy, the land that bore the Roman Empire forth to crush the barbarians, the land that saw the armies of Caesar tame the world.

Here is the now forgotten war.

Looking to his left he sees a group of men huddled, trying to start a fire amidst the ash of the ground and the sparse vegetation of the Italian spring.

They can’t get the kindling to light and night is approaching. They look emaciated.

He has been here for too long. Fighting the enemies of the revolution, fighting for the ‘glory’ of France. And nobody in France even notices, nobody even cares. The war in Germany consumes the militaries resources and the nation’s attention. They are the forgotten few. The broken band that is the Armee d’Italie.

Another defeat like today’s at the hands of the joint Austrian-Piedmont force and this campaign will have no men left to fight it.

He hates the Austrians enough to know he will die here. To know he will die fighting them. The old order of France has been swept away and Europe’s kings, emperors and aristocrats fear it. They fear the great revolution that equalises all men and gives title to none other than those who earn it.

He had thought to earn his here.

To fight and win glory for the new world that France will create.

But looking now he is unsure. They have barely any men, and their commanders are no better than the aristocratic generals of old. Leading them into seemingly senseless blunders day after day. They simply hold. They go no further and retreat not a foot. They are content to die here.

Amongst these damned mountains.

There is a spark and he sees the men to his left smile as the first lick of flame begins their small fire.

Today sees the arrival of a new General, yet another erstwhile commander from Paris. A nobody who has nothing of himself, either in personal stature or indeed in renown.

“I heard he stopped the royalist revolts in the south.” Whispers one soldier as he warms his hands over the growing fire.

“Stories. He will arrive, do little, say much and abandon us.” Remarks another, cynically.

His hands are blackened from soot and grit as he extends them, palms out, to the fire.

“He doesn’t look like much of a soldier.” Sighs the first figure.

The fire pops loudly and sends an ember into the sky.

With that he turns from the group and looks to the tents that house the officers. They too are torn and in poor repair.

With effort he pulls himself to his feet, resting on his rifle to do so. He must command his small unit, what remains of it, and he needs information on the supply situation. If they cannot eat, they cannot fight.

He barely registers the pain in his feet as he steps over razor like stones and rocks. Walking in the fading light to the closest tent. Ready for more bad news and ill received words.

He coughs politely, then enters.

Before him is a man, short in stature, with his back to the entrance. He pours over a map of the position, identifying the Austrian cannon positions and asking questions of his officers.

He recognises Massena, much famed for his victory at Loano. He knows also Pierre Augereau. The officer peasant.

He stands straight as Augereau slams his fist onto the table and remarks in characteristically blunt terms that the situation here is dire.

Finally the remaining figure turns to face him.

He is momentarily lost for words. He is struck by some quiet confidence, by some, power.

There is something about him.

He stammers…“General, the men are injured, tired and unfed. We must withdraw to more fertile ground and find provision.”

The General regards him for a moment.  A youthful, soft face with piercing eyes. Dark hair swept over his brow.

He feels like the man is looking into him, like he is somehow reading the fear and failure he portends.

“Stand straight.”

“I will see to it you are fed. And I will see to it we crush the Piedmont Austrian alliance on these very slopes.”

This young upstart from Paris looks at him flatly as he delivers the words.

It is at that moment that he realises. This General really believes he can do it. He honestly believes he can drive the mighty Austrian army from the very doorstep of southern France.

He feels something he hasn’t in a long time. Hope.

This man can do it. This man can actually change things here.

“Go and tell your men to be ready to assemble, for I will inspect the army, I will feed it, and then we will engage our enemies and defeat them utterly.”

The General turns back toward the map, ready to move the first of his armies against the first of his nation’s foes.

History is about to be written.

“You will not die here soldier. You will be born here.”

The officer takes a step back, regarding the generals back as he does so.

“I am General Napoleon Bonaparte. And I will lead you.”

The war for Italy has begun.

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Why Napoleon? – By Mike Simpson

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.

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Battle AI – By Mike Simpson

Just before the end of Empire the lead Battle AI programmer left CA to return to his family up north. Unfortunately, thanks to Mr Wilberforce’s efforts 200 years ago we couldn’t stop him. It left us with a battle AI, which at that stage, struggled to beat good players in a fair fight, and was pretty much at the mercy of great players, even with a level of handicap (I call it cheating) that is all too obvious.

Since then we’ve had our most talented programmers pick up where he left off, but becoming the master of a chunk of code that took almost three years to write is not an instant thing.  In the updates so far we’ve got rid of some of the worst behaviours that are close to the surface, and have started to tackle deeper issues like unstable decision loops that cause the AI to mill around rather than hold its line and fire.  We’re also starting to add new behaviours, for example taking better advantage of hilly terrain. These improvements take the code further than we’ve been able before and will be there for Napoleon  but we’re not sure yet whether we’ll be able to reverse them back in to Empire in a future update – the code has moved on. If we can we will.

Our overall aim with the improvements is first to get rid of any erratic behaviour, second to improve general performance to the point where the obvious handicaps can be removed, and then to add a greater variety of ‘smart’ behaviours.  None of these have a fixed finish line – it’s a process of continual improvement, and each game will get AI better than the last one.  Including Napoleon.

Progress is frustratingly slow but thankfully rewriting the Rome: Total War codebase has left us with a clean codebase that is easier to work on, and an architecture that has way more potential than Rome’s. The main difference is the shift to a goal oriented planning system rather than a static system that has no long term plans. This has yet to fully pay off.  But it will. When it does I’ll talk about it again.

Battle AI is not rocket science – its way, way harder than that. It’s so difficult that very few strategy games attempt it. Most use simple scripts of canned behaviour that fire when you bump in to them, and very simple swarming behaviours. They’re limited, and are “gamey” rather than real world. What I mean by that is that the tactics you use to beat them are something that you have to learn for each game or sometimes each scenario/level, and bear no relation to reality. What we strive for is a game where real world tactics actually work. It’s not the easiest path to take, but it is the most rewarding.

If you’re a genius C++ programmer, you understand exactly how difficult this problem is, but still think it’s the most interesting code problem in the world, apply for a job. We’ll find space for you.

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Who is this game for anyway? – By Mike Simpson

Our guiding principle with design is that we make the game we want to play, and trust that other people will like it. That inevitably means we make the TW games for the hardcore fans rather than for the more casual gamers that are possibly the majority of our customers. We believe that if we succeed in making a game that the fans like it will by definition be a great game, and the because of its quality casual players will like it too, so long as we make it accessible. We need both groups (casual and hardcore) to get enough money in to allow us to keep making the games, so one of the tightropes we walk is the balance between accessibility and depth. Great design manages both, and that’s what we strive for (occasionally successfully!).

We do however also have another customer who we make the game for, and in one particular way they are the most important of all. It’s our publisher, who is driven by the grim necessity of commercial reality. Those necessities tend to be short term compared with the dev time of a game or the lifetime of a series. They are also necessities that we cannot ignore – if we do it’s Game Over. Empire: Total War happened the only way it could – it had to be in a box in Feb 09.  Damned stressful for all concerned, but it’s so much a fact of life it’s almost not worth talking about.

I think some people think that when “commercial reality” wins, they lose. If the car parks at Sega or CA were full of Ferraris, I might agree. But they are not.  When “commercial reality” wins, we live to make another game.

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