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Posted on Mar 14, 2011 in Electronic Games

Total War: Shogun 2 Interview

By Nuccio Africanus

Total War: Shogun 2.  PC Game Interview.  Publisher: SEGA.  Developer: The Creative Assembly. 

The Sengoku period in Japan was a climatic era where social upheaval led to the destabilization of central power, which led to a century and a half of constant military struggle between rival clans. The struggle only ended with the complete military conquest of all rival factions, which led to the emergence of the supreme military figure, the Shogun. The Total War series has always embodied periods of turmoil with numerous factions vying for power, waging warfare of seemingly limitless scope. What better period than the Sengoku period to embody Total War’s newest title Total War: Shogun 2 which releases on March 15, 2011.

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16th century Japan was the setting for the Total War series’ debut title, Shogun: Total War, which released in 2000. The series and the developers, The Creative Assembly, gained recognition and prestige with this groundbreaking strategy title. After several highly successful games and sequels in the series, this year The Creative Assembly returns to their roots with Total War: Shogun 2. The sequel will still offer the immensely in-depth single-player campaign known with the addition of a totally re-worked multiplayer game. Besides providing balanced multiplayer gameplay not found in previous Total War titles, Shogun 2 offers an avatar interactive map, match made battles that set players up according to skill level, new multiplayer campaign modes including a co-op campaign, and clan competition system that allows clans to compete and earn special unit abilities in an interactive multiplayer arena.

Furthermore, the clan competition allows 25 clans to compete on a virtual map of Japan. Clans compete for provinces that boost their tier rating allowing them to move to new higher tiers once the season ends. Likewise if your clan fails to do well in your tier then your clan will be moved down to a lower tier. Match made battles and team battles give your clan points and clan tokens that add to your prestige and power.

ArmchairGeneral.com (ACG): Tell us a bit about The Creative Assembly and the team that is currently developing  Total War: Shogun 2. Are the rumors of your company’s expansion true?

Craig Laycock (CL): Absolutely, at the moment we’re on only one floor, we have about a 160 people on the team now, we are expanding to the floor below as well. The counsel team is going to move down to the new floor so they can work on a “top secret” project and also so we can expand the Total War team. So … yeah, we are really getting bigger and better, we have come a long way. If you look at the original Shogun game, we had about maybe 10 to 20 people working on the game at any one time during the development. For Rome we had about 40 working on the game. And for Shogun 2 at its peak we had probably 120 to 130 people working on the game. So with each game we are always getting bigger and we are always getting better.

ACG: I am very impressed with the traditional artwork in the game. Why was it so important to have teams of artists creating elaborate traditional artwork that parallels the Sengoku period of feudal Japan? Moreover, The Creative Assembly had musicians create music from the period. How many unique scores will be heard in Shogun 2?

CL: That’s a very good question. I will address all the individual points here. But first actually most of the traditional-looking artwork found in the game was created by one guy, a guy named Roland who made most of the traditional pictures through woodblock artwork. Roland actually went away for six months and learned this art style. And we feel that sending Roland away was well worth it. The amount of positive feedback we have received about the artwork has been tremendous. Actually we have had people come to us wondering if we got those pictures from books and museums, asking us how we got permission to use those art pieces. But in all actuality it really is all Roland’s work. Yes, Roland put in a tremendous amount of time and energy into each piece and was able to produce a large array of pieces in a very short time and its all really, really good! I mean Shogun 2 is really an art like project, we kinda let the artists do their own thing, many concepts and aspects of the game like the 2D and 3D campaign map are driven by the artists. In terms of Musicians, we had Jeff Van Dike back for Shogun 2 of course. A hugely respected name in the community, he did the music for Rome: Total War. He also won a BAFTA for his music in the original Shogun: Total War. I can’t remember the precise number of songs in Shogun 2, but know that they are all awesome!

ACG: Some of the released images show land in the upper-corner of the mini-map, ostensibly Korea. Is there any significance to including this? Does this imply anything in regard to future expansions for Total War: Shogun 2?

CL: No, I wouldn’t read too much into that. It just geographically made sense to add that land mass. If we didn’t add that land mass it would be conspicuous by its absence. So we have included it for that reason. Having said that we will be adding extra stuff for Shogun probably in the future, don’t rule that out, so definitely keep your eyes peeled in that regard.

ACG: How moddable will Shogun 2 be compared to Napoleon and other games of the series?

CL: The first thing to remember is that Empire was the first game in the series to be built on the Warscape engine, and the Warscape engine is something we built from the ground up. Warscape was greatly polished with Napoleon. With Shogun 2, we really refined the engine. During that same time the modding community has been making their own tools from the Warscape engine. So the tool set that the community has developed is really solid now. To the point where modding for Shogun 2 right out of the box will be better than Empire a year after release, there is a lot of possibility there. The big names in the modding community seem confident that they can do a lot of retrofit mods right out of the box. We are also possibly planning a modding workshops that will teach people how to more easily mod the game.

ACG: From what I have read (and from the rumors little birds twitter into my ear) it seems that Shogun 2 will become the first true multiplayer Total War game; not just a single-player game with a multiplayer option. Will Total War: Shogun 2 be a leader in strategy multiplayer gaming? If so, how will the multiplayer game play be balanced?

CL: That’s a good question, we have obviously put a lot of effort into the multiplayer for Shogun 2 this time around, the multiplayer is absolutely massive. I have said it before, that saying Shogun 2’s multiplayer is extensive is like saying Neptune is far away. We have new features like cooperative multiplayer campaign. We’ve got the avatar progress map, the clan competition, the head-to-head campaign, plus the standard 1 v 1, 2 v 2, 3 v 3, 4 v 4 for the land and naval battles. We actually have so many new features that it is hard for us to explain the amount of new stuff in the multiplayer because of its wide range. Multiplayer has definitely been a focus, and we hope people play it, and live it. We’re hoping people will. The clan competition in particular has the potential to be absolutely massive. We will wait and see how multiplayer goes and then adjust and balance it from what we observe. But we have had immense feedback so far on the balancing, and we will keep critiquing in an effort to reach perfection.

ACG: The new avatar system found in Shogun 2 multiplayer seems like an excellent addition. Players now have their own personal general that is called an Avatar. How will Avatars work? Will players be able to use avatars in the multiplayer game?

CL: Basically, your avatar is your representative in the game. He is your general, you can pick his color scheme, you can select his armor, you can change his appearance. And he is your representation in battles. So in the avatar progression map you can move from battle, to battle, to battle, with your avatar. And as you enter a battle, any progress you make, say you defeat your opponent that in battle that will count toward you avatar’s experience points. Your avatar’s experience points allow him to unlock skills and abilities that aid him and your avatar in battle. Your avatar is also represented in the clan competition so he will also be represented there. Your avatar can utilize skill trees, retainers, and can collect armor sets, yep all kinds of stuff. Again the avatar system is huge and wide ranging.

ACG: What are plans to match players by skill level?

CL: The matchmaking system by default will try to match you with someone with the appropriate skill level. I mean it will try and find someone of equal skill to play against you. You can choose not to go through the matchmaking system and do things manually, but for the best experience and bonuses to your avatar and clans progress you will want to go through the matchmaking system.

ACG: In Shogun 2 family trees make a return. What new roles might family members and Daimyo play in the game? Will the player or A.I. have the ability to manipulate other clan’s family trees through the diplomacy menu?

CL: Yes, in Shogun 2 there is a whole family tree system. We really wanted to bring that back because it really brings some attachment to your characters. If you have a Daimyo without any heirs and you need to send him into a battle, then you’re going to be absolutely scared stiff about possibly losing him. And we really love that! The whole diplomacy system has been expanded as well. So you can do things like give your daimyo’s son or daughter to a clan in exchange for their word on an agreement in diplomacy and the A.I. can do this as well. So the A.I. can operate now on many different levels through diplomacy as well as the player with the huge diversity of diplomatic options.

ACG: How are European powers such as the Dutch and Portuguese portrayed in Total War: Shogun 2? Can a player merely trade with them or can they actually fight them? If combat with the Europeans is possible will it be on sea as well as land?

CL: Well, trading is a very big thing with them. There is the potential avenue of getting gunpowder through trading with them for starters. But there is the possibility to fight with them as well. There is a black ship which will appear every now and then and you can capture that ship. It’s a nice addition; it’s a very powerful ship. If you capture it you can get a lot of coin for it or you could easily use it yourself.

ACG: What role will religion play in the game and has it been expanded from the original game?

CL: Yeah, religion is going to play a big role this time around. Buddhism and Christianity, you’ll have a lot of those two rubbing up against each other. It’s your goal in the campaign to manage that the best you can. Christianity gives you easier access to gunpowder and units like the missionary but it also usually causes unrest so you should manage the spread of Christianity wisely.

ACG: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

CL: The “anything” I would like to add is the fact that Total War: Shogun 2 is available at all good retailers and online at steam this March 15, 2011. Check the Total War Steam FAQ web page for more information on the exact activation time in your region. Bye!

About the Author:
Nuccio Africanus is the alter ego of author and famed Total War player John Nuccio, who was given the infamous nickname by his Latin teacher, after demolishing said teacher in a battle of Rome Total War. The defeated academic remarked that Nuccio’s tactics were second only to the legendary Roman General Scipio Africanus himself. The alter ego took on a life of its own in Total War series forums, where Nuccio Africanus is widely known for his threads and blogs on strategy gaming—as well as for his humorous antics. The self-proclaimed demi-god is working on a children’s book as well as a board wargame that will hopefully be published in the near future.

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  1. Shogun 2 “multiplayer is absolutely massive,” modding out of the box “better than Empire,” says dev | VG247 - [...] in an interview with Armchair General, Laycock said a lot of effort was put into the multiplayer in Shogun…

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