Creative Assembly släppte nyligen det andra spelet i sin Total War serie. Ettan, Shogun - Total War, och uppföljaren Medieval - Total War räknas som de kanske mest verklighetstrogna strategispelen med medeltida slag. FragZone har fått en intervju med Mike Simpson som står bakom spelet.

FZ: Tell us what you do and how you are involved in Medieval: Total War?

Mike Simpson: I’m the Development Director at CA – as well as the designer and project lead on Medieval: Total War.

FZ: When you decided to do a sequel to Shogun: Total War, was there any other era and geographical region you considered, other than the one we will see in Medieval. And why did you choose the one you now use.

Mike Simpson: Medieval Europe was always going to be the setting for the sequel. There were a number of reasons for this. Firstly, this was the setting that fans of Shogun: Total War most wanted. Secondly, it was an incredibly exciting and vibrant period of history. The game starts in 1087 and ends in 1453. This means weÂ’ve incorporated the Crusades, the Hundred Years War between England and France, the battles of William Wallace (Braveheart), Genghis Khan and the Mongol Invasions, the Spanish reconquista and so much more. As well as the colourful nature of the period it was also, importantly, a time when the 12 major nations were very evenly balanced. This makes for great gameplay. Thirdly, we were keen to introduce siege weaponry to the Total War series - and allow players to smash mighty castles into rubble. The game covers the development of ballista, catapults, trebuchets etc and, with the advent of gunpowder, the emergence of the awesome siege cannons that finally made saw the end of the traditional castle.

FZ: What new content will we see in Medieval, other than new units and maps?

Mike Simpson: One of the most obvious new features is the introduction of the Spectacular Castle Assaults. We’ve also added RPG elements to the full campaign – so Kings and generals now have stats that determine their various strengths, weaknesses and personality traits (vices and virtues). This adds a lot of flavour and individual personality to your various Kings, Generals and Heirs. Famous characters from the period will also appear throughout the campaign, such as Joan of Arc, El Cid etc. Religion is also now a major part of the game. Players will now have to learn how to deal with the pope. Players will also be able to launch crusades against other non-catholic factions (or catholic factions as well, if the pope has seen fit to ex-communicate that faction). Crusades are a completely different way of sending an army across the map to do battle – and it adds a lot of variety to the strategies you can use. The addition of navies and the establishment of trade routes is another notable addition. Throughout the entire campaign game there are hundreds of these kinds of additions that really help to make the turn-based Empire Building portion an awesome game in its own right.

WeÂ’ve also given the Epic Battles a significant facelift. The units are now four times more detailed and weÂ’ve added new interface features that make controlling the massive armies even easier. With over 100 different unit types and 400 maps, every single battle is a new strategic experience.

Overall, weÂ’ve paid a lot of attention to making the player feel fully immersed in the game. Players will become attached to their favourite generals and heirs and because every battlemap accurately reflects the type of terrain in that part of Europe/North Africa, when players fight the Epic Battles they really feel like theyÂ’re leading a crusade to the Holy land or taking on the Mongols in the Russian Steppes.

FZ: What improvements will we be able to see in the graphical engine?

Mike Simpson: We’ve increased the graphics quality across the board – up to 4 times the detail level on the men, higher res ground textures, bigger battlefields and 10 times the variety of units. We’ve also put a lot of work in to collapsing walls and buildings, smoke, fire and general pyrotechnics. The sky was the limit (and we improved that too!).

FZ: What wars and what parts of the world will we see in Medieval?

Mike Simpson: IÂ’ve already mentioned a few of the famous wars of the period that weÂ’ve included. The map itself extends across the whole of Europe, across the Mediterranean and across North Africa. Overall there are over 90 land regions and 30 sea regions to conquer. This is approximately twice as big as Shogun.

FZ: What problems arise when you develop realistic strategy games like Total War?

Mike Simpson: There are several. Firstly the game is very complex, but that complexity has to be largely hidden from the user. This makes UI design a major challenge. The complexity also brings technical problems – the code base becomes huge, the number of programmers involved increases, and managing it and keeping bugs under control become a major headache. Testing and balancing are also a challenge – it takes a vast amount of time to do a full test sweep through the game, and this makes testing and balancing a slow process. It’s also an open ended one – there’s no end to the amount of time you can spend on this.

FZ: How much historical research was needed for Medieval and how historically accurate are the units and battles in the game?

Mike Simpson: We did an incredible amount of research – and the game is very historically accurate as a result. The history is woven into the gameplay, however, so players will learn it as they play the game without even realising it. Keeping the units historically accurate was actually an excellent aid when it came to balancing the units and factions because they were very evenly balanced in real life.

FZ: What support does Medieval have for multiplayer?

Mike Simpson: Up to 8 players will be able to fight Epic Battles over a LAN or the internet. Internet play will be run through Gamespy.

FZ: In Shogun some assassins (Geishas) was said to be too powerful and not very realistic. Has these complaints been addressed somehow?

Mike Simpson: This issue has been addressed in a number of ways. Firstly, there is no equivalent unit in Medieval - so players will have to use experienced assassins for higher level assassinations. Secondly, with the introduction of Vices and Virtues, some generals will become more resistant to assassination. For example, if a general has the trait of being ‘paranoid’ he will be even more difficult to assassinate – because he’s constantly on the alert etc.

FZ: What kind of new tactical environments (i.e. like bridges) can we expect?

Mike Simpson: Medieval has all the tactical environments seen in Shogun – and then some. There are still bridges, mountains, coastlands etc but the introduction of the Spectacular Castle Assaults is the most notable new addition. Catapults, cannons, mortars etc can now pound castle walls into rubble – whilst the castles themselves can be upgraded to have artillery towers, gun towers, palisades etc. This means that a castle assault is a completely different kind of battle. Attackers can’t just sit around shooting holes in the castle walls all day though - because the castle will be dishing out defensive fire and sending out raiding parties to attack lightly defended artillery. Multiplayer battles with up to 7 armies assaulting a castle are awesome. Some of the new weather effects – like sandstorms and snowstorms – also add another dimension.

FZ: What role will siege weapons play? And can any of these be used in standard field battles?

Mike Simpson: Siege weapons are an important new addition to battlefield tactics. As well as the aforementioned castle assaults, siege weapons can be deployed in standard field battles. Some of these (such as the Serpentine and mortar) are better for attacking troops, than others. Siege weapons can also destroy towns and villages – increasing the offending general’s ‘dread’ stat.

FZ: What made you choose to develop games like Shogun and Medieval, rather than more traditional strategy games?

Mike Simpson: I am a player of games – all types, all genres. There are a number of fundamental principles of gameplay, and these can be applied in any situation. There’s no reason to stick to a tried and tested formula if you understand this. It’s much more interesting to work on new forms and new combinations of gameplay, and it produces a more interesting game at the end of the day. That’s what the players want.

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