Eurogamer: You must do a bit of that, though - trying on equipment, swishing swords, dressing up.
Mike Simpson: That's not compulsory, but we do have samurai swords sitting around the office. We use them in the motion capture a lot. There's a very fine pair of samurai swords that one of the clans gave to us.
Eurogamer: Is it weird going back to Shogun 1?
Mike Simpson: No it's not weird, but we didn't think we would go back - there were plenty of other things we wanted to do first. But going back is like going back to an old friend. It's probably our - it's certainly my favourite period. It's the coolest of all of them. It has the most interesting units, it has the coolest content. The whole of that era and setting is more alien than most of the other periods.
Eurogamer: Shogun II has hero units, has blossoms, has thunderstorms - dramatic stuff. Are you hamming it up?
Mike Simpson: Oh yes. It's absolutely important to ham it up! It's supposed to be fun. I mean, it is fun. If there's ever a contest between something that's fun and something that's historical, fun will win.
Eurogamer: What's the best unit you've got in Shogun II - what's the most powerful unit?
Mike Simpson: There's a lot of unit customisation in the game, so you can probably take any two or three or four of the top units and customise them up to be the best unit. But the hero units are probably the most powerful, but they're quite small, so they can be swarmed. There's no simple answer to that question.
Eurogamer: What's the most ridiculous thing that you've got in Shogun II?
Mike Simpson: Samurai with rocket launchers! That sounds more ridiculous than it actually is, because they did have them, and they generally caused mayhem and fear.
Eurogamer: What's the reaction been like to Shogun II from the fans - are you looking forward to showing it off to people?
Mike Simpson: It's without a doubt the best-looking Total War game we've made. Art and style has been a big focus for the project, making something with artistic merit as well as being a great game. So, yeah, we are looking forward to showing it off.
Eurogamer: When you made Shogun, PCs were like calculators. What can you do now that you couldn't then?
Mike Simpson: Making the battlefields real. When we first started we had little tiny sprite men who didn't look very good - in fact, they were pretty shocking. Battlefields were all like golf courses, all rolling hills because that's basically all we could do. Gradually, as the technology has progressed, we brought more trees in and started to put some rockiness into the terrain and rivers in. And gradually these cartoons have become more like real worlds. Every step along the way we go a bit further in that direction, to the point now where instead of those tiny horrible-looking sprites, each of the thousands of characters on screen looks like a character would in a much smaller gamer. It looks perfect, and you can see out across a massive landscape. That's the idea we've had right from the start, but how we succeed in doing that has changed dramatically. We probably do have something like 200-times the processing power that we had back on Shogun 1.
Eurogamer: Over the years you've added various new features to the Total War series. The big ones I can think of are naval battles and campaign multiplayer. Are there still any massive features you've yet to integrate?
Mike Simpson: Yes, there probably are. We've talked a lot about what they might be. We have three games in one: the campaign, the field battles and naval battles. But there are whole new games we could do, not that we would any time soon. There's loads more stuff, actually.
Eurogamer: Can you give us a tease of one of these things?
Mike Simpson: I can tell you what we're not going to do! [Laughs] We're not going to do a beat-'em-up where you can do one-on-one challenges.
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Eurogamer: Duels between agents?
Mike Simpson: We're not going to do that either. But you could conceive of a whole new game with that. But that's something that we're not going to do as it would take up too much of the players' time. That's a valuable resource, and we already flirt with using it too much.
Eurogamer: You've promised big things for Shogun II multiplayer. Can you say what they are?
Mike Simpson: Not yet.
Eurogamer: Are they new things?
Mike Simpson: Well the challenge that I set the group that's been working on multiplayer was to revolutionise the way it's played. With a lot of PC games you get more people playing the multiplayer than you do the single-player, but ours is the other way around. We wanted to even that up a bit to the point where multiplayer was an equal partner with the rest of the game. That's what we're trying to do.
Eurogamer: The game's due out in 2011 - what's left to do?
Mike Simpson: We're actually at the interesting stage where we've got our feature set as was first planned and we're kind of linking them; deciding which bits worked really well, which bits worked less well. Some features we'll delete, some features we'll redraft to make them work better. This is actually the most interesting part of the project - trying to get it work well together.
Mike Simpson is creative director of Creative Assembly and the godfather of Total War.