Interviews

Looking back... Medieval II: Total War

Martin Korda revisits the Medieval II battlefields with The Creative Assembly Australia

Having ably assisted the UK office with the development of Rome: Total War and its expansion Barbarian Invasion, The Creative Assembly Australia set about Medieval II: Total War, a game that not only had to follow but improve upon its ground-breaking predecessors. The team are now working on the forthcoming Medieval II expansion pack Kingdoms, so we caught up with designer Dan Toose and senior programmer Dan Glastonbury to find out their thoughts on the company's first major solo project...

EXTENDING THE EMPIRE
Glastonbury: We had a completely new game engine from the original Medieval, which allowed us to move the battle engine from being sprite-based to 3D models. Having these 3D models meant we could have far more visual detail over Medieval. With regards to building on Rome, the aim was to create a far more 'Hollywood' feel, so we added the variation in unit models, better combat choreography and better light controls. From a production perspective, we really focused on quality and I think the look of the game is a testament to that, as well as to the quality of our artists.

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STATE AGENTS
Toose: We wanted to give the player more ways to influence their finances, diplomacy and religion, but at the same time without creating any sort of heinous micro-management. The new agents like merchants and princesses are really simple to use, and that was a key part of the philosophy in adding things to the game. The new agents were a means of adding more depth without getting bogged down.

Glastonbury: Princesses were a part of the medieval experience that we felt couldn't be left out. By adding the other agent types, we tried to capture the feel for the era. At the time, the three merchant city-states of Milan, Venice and Genoa were very powerful; by adding merchants, we wanted to capture that. This was the same for heretics and inquisitors.

STONE CIRCLES
Toose: Having multiple layers of defence for castles was the ideal way to make settlements that were genuinely difficult to siege. We're making castle walls even stronger in the expansion Kingdoms, so you may need several cracks at the bigger castles to succeed.

Glastonbury: Siege battles in Rome were too easy: besieging a castle is very hard, especially if the people in the castle have a good food supply. We wanted to have multi-turn campaign sieges, where it would take several turns to complete the battle one layer of defences at a time. In-between the battles, each side would be able to restock and regroup. We got the multiple defence layers into the battle engine, but the multi-turn sieges didn't make it.

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CITIES AND FORTRESSES
Glastonbury: Unlike games such as Civilization, in Total War each city isn't easily maxed out, so you have to really choose which ones are going to be economic or military powerhouses. Adding castles reinforces this and you really want to have
a powerful castle near the battlefront to keep your armies supplied with good troops.

Toose: By having two types of settlements we gave the player a lot more choice about how they gear any given region. Castles produce a better spread of units, but cities make far more money. You need a combination of both to have the most effective empire.

SHIPPING BUGS
Glastonbury: Since we started with the Rome code as the base for Medieval II, we were able to address the areas we felt gave us issues. But Total War games are by their very nature, huge undertakings. With a code-base the size of Medieval II there are always going to be bugs that we don't discover until the code is out in the wild.

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