netGameRadio Interview

Here is the transcript of my interview with, discussing Empire: Total War for PC.

netGameRadio speaks with Mark O’Connell about Empire:Total War!

Normski, 13-Feb-09

The Total War series really sets the standard for intense, expansive battlefield action. Acute attention to detail and configurability are two major trademarks of Total War games, on top of that, they never seem to fail at seamlessly immersing gamers in the time period each game is set in.

The Creative Assembly is an English based software developer, with a “branch” office based in Fortitude Valley in Queensland, formed in 1987 by Tim Ansell. Originally it ported DOS games from Amiga and ZX Spectrum they moved on to producing games for Electronic Arts under the EA Games banner.

Since 2000 Creative Assembly have produced a plethora of successful Total War PC games beginning with Shogun:Total War; set in the Sengoku period of Japanese history. The Middle Ages were next with the release of Medieval:Total War and then it was back to the heady days of the Roman empire with Rome:Total War.

In March 2009 they will be releasing (published through SEGA) the fifth instalment in the successful franchise Empire:Total War. netGameRadio were lucky enough to speak with Mark O’Connell, Creative Assembly's PR and Online Manager about the game!

Normski: Where does Empire:Total War take us from previous games and are there any new revolutions in technology that have helped produce the game?

Mark: Empire: Total War has been in development for over four years and features an entirely new engine, making use of the latest advances in technology and tools. Set between 1700 and 1800, players will have to come up with new strategies and approaches when commanding their armies in the period of gunpowder and sail.

Normski: It's been stated that Empire: Total War continues with the turn-based gameplay, was real-time considered or was it always going to be turn-based in keeping with the rest of the Total War series.

Mark: The game features both a turn-based campaign map and real-time land and naval battles. This variety makes the Total War series unique and allows players to feel like they are both the ruler of a great nation and also an admiral or general on a real-time battlefield.

Normski: The 18th and 19th Centuries is quite a large timeline to cover! Were there any things that you wanted in the game but were unable to bring within the time frame you had for production?

Mark: One thing that the team wanted to include is a multiplayer campaign. This much requested feature from the community is still something we’d love to do and will therefore be working on a multiplayer campaign beta after Empire: Total War is released. Details of how to get involved with the beta will be available at at a later date.

Normski: The biggest talking point right now surely has to be the introduction of "proper naval battles". How will naval battles play out in Empire:Total War?

Mark: Naval confrontations play out very differently compared to land battles. When commanding a ship you will have to take into account the wind direction, visibility, line of sight, positioning and formation. Dependent on ship type, you can also use round shot to attack the hull of the ship (which houses the cannon crew and ammunition), grape shot on the decks (where the Admiral delivers his orders) or chain shot at the masts (to potentially destroy the sails). We have put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that this new feature is a lot of fun and can hold its own against the other established modes in the game.

Normski: Will the impact of naval battles influence land battles or other areas of the game?

Mark: There are a number of ways in which naval battles can influence your land effort. If you are transporting troops across the ocean via a ship and they get attacked, it is quite possible to loose massive armies to the sea. If you blockade port or attack a trade route, this is going to affect how much money is coming in and you may no longer have the funds to support your land forces.

Normski: Compared with previous Total War titles, how much of a challenge was it to make Empire: Total War?

Mark: There were a variety of challenges involved in making the game, the biggest of which involved naval battles. While we had proven ourselves with both campaigns and land battles in previous titles, naval battles were new territory and we wanted to ensure that we maintained the same level of depth, gameplay and polish. I am pleased to report that we are very proud of the results!

Normski: Fans of the series will no doubt love the naval experience but land battles really are the "bread and butter" of the Total War series. What developments have gone into ensuring land battles are still as enjoyable as they were in previous Total War games?

Mark: Land battles will offer a compelling and enjoyable experience for fans of our previous titles. Players can employ new tactics such as stacking up against walls, taking cover behind trees, occupying buildings (provided the opposing artillery forces don’t blow them up first) and using the terrain and weather to your advantage. There of hundreds of unit types available, including ranged infantry and artillery, as well as returning favourites such as cavalry and melee units.

Normski: It's clear from previous titles in the Total War series that historical accuracy is of great importance. Is this a trend that is set to continue? If so, what of research was done in order to aid the development of Empire:Total War?

Mark: Using as many primary sources as possible, the team referred to first-hand accounts of Generals and soldiers from the time period to accurately recreate battle and morale conditions. When you start the game in 1700, each faction has an accurate government (including ministers), allies, adversaries and occupied land. In naval battles we licensed original ship designs and accurately modeled them in-game. We even used NASA satellite data to create the campaign map!

Normski: Any sneek peeks into what's next for the Total War series? Is there a particular time period you're likely to turn to next or do you think we'll be looking forward to a refinement of the periods already seen in the series?

Mark: We are fortunate to have the richness of history at our fingertips and there are many time periods that interest the team. We could explore Ancient Greece or Egypt, focus on Asian history, or continue progressing in the 1800’s and beyond. We also get a lot of requests from fans to revisit previous games such as Shogun and Rome. While I cannot yet reveal where we will take Total War next, I can confirm that we have a lot of exciting plans up our sleeves…

Normski: For the first time the Total War series will be available for download through the Valve's Steam. How does deployment through Steam differ from using traditional CD/DVD methods?

Mark: In addition to being available to purchase on DVD, the game is also being distributed via Steam. Once downloaded, Steam also allows us to deliver seamless updates and patches to the game.

Normski: Valve is famous for the achievements that players can attain in their games, will we see achievements in Empire: Total War?

Mark: We have indeed implemented an achievements system into Empire: Total War. We created ones that encourage players to get the most from the game and act as a true badge of honour for those who are skilled enough to unlock them.

As well as featuring fifty different factions there is also an expansive single player campaign, allowing players to choose a faction and forge their own 18th century empire as they see fit! Using their military might, economics, diplomacy or various other methods, players literally have the world at their finger tips all they need to do it take it!

Big thanks go out to SEGA and Mark for talking with us about the games and a reminder to everyone to watch out for our review of Empire:Total War in early March 2009 as part of our new Beyond the Game series!

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