The future of Total War

The problem with consoles hasn't been controllers, it's been power.

Eurogamer has spoken to Creative Assembly studio director Mike Simpson about the future of Total War. What new historical settings are under discussion? Will there be more remakes? What about consoles? Those questions, and more, are answered in the article below.

Total War and consoles

It's never been a question of how you would control a Total War game on console that's held the core series back - the stumbling block has always been power.

"Total War on console, the reason it's not there has never been about control. There has never been a control reason not to have the game on console - that's not the problem. It's a difficult design problem, trying to figure out how to control a game like that with a pad, but even that is a solvable problem - it just requires some clever design," Simpson told Eurogamer (later acknowledging that SmartGlass and touch-screen controls would "make it much easier").

"We couldn't fit a Total War battlefield, with 10,000 guys, into any of the consoles. It just doesn't work.

"You can't fit a gallon into a pint pot, it doesn't go.

"That's clearly been the main constraint. Now, it may be that at some point in the future, some of those constraints disappear, and at that point, then yeah, some possibilities open up. I'm not saying that we'll actually go down those routes - it depends how things turn out.

"They're not there at the moment - those routes don't exist. They may, or may not, turn up in the future."

When Creative Assembly reassesses the suitability of Total War for the next generation consoles from Microsoft and Sony is "an interesting question". "Not yet, is the answer to that," Simpson said. "We're not in a position to do that yet."

"You can't fit a gallon into a pint pot, it doesn't go."

Mike Simpson, on putting Total War on consoles

Wii U is something Simpson hasn't "particularly" looked at. "But lots of other people look at that stuff," he said, "so it all goes in, into the mix."

Total War sequelitis

Medieval 2: Total War was the first Total War sequel, but it wasn't a proper one - Creative Assembly Australia made it while Creative Assembly Horsham (HQ) started from scratch with Empire: Total War. Therefore, Shogun 2 was the first proper Total War sequel, and very fine it was. Now, Creative Assembly has announced Rome 2, another sequel. So, where will it stop?

"I'm comfortable doing it up to a certain extent," Simpson told us. "So much changed between original Shogun and doing Shogun 2 that we thought we could do a lot better. There were all sorts of things we couldn't do in the original game that we can do now, and we wanted to go back and revisit that. And the same is true of Rome.

"I doubt we'll have the appetite to go back and visit anything a third time - I very much doubt we'll ever do that. I'll never say never, but that certainly wouldn't be high on our list, going back a third time."

When asked whether this ruled out Medieval 3, a wily Simpson said, "to be absolutely honest, we haven't decided what we're going to do next, after Rome 2 - which period we're going to do next".

"Yeah, I'm sure it's a possibility, but me personally, it wouldn't be my first choice. But I've got to argue with the rest of the team and persuade them that that's the case."

"I doubt we'll have the appetite to go back and visit anything a third time - I very much doubt we'll ever do that."

Mike Simpson, studio director, Creative Assembly

Revisiting Empire: Total War "is probably on the list somewhere", and will be discussed in "due course". "But like I said," Simpson said, "we haven't really had those discussions yet."

New Total War games and historical settings

Creative Assembly doesn't wait until one Total War project has been finished before discussing the next. "We never stop talking about them," Simpson revealed. "We're constantly discussing what to do next."

"We have a list of all of the things we want to do, and we argue about the order we're going to do them in, so pretty much everything you can imagine is on that list. Various different ideas for things we could do with Total War are in various different states at any point of time."

That list is revisited "all the time", and is big enough that Simpson "can't see an end to it".

"It's one of the things that I like about Total War," he told us. "I don't think we'll ever run out of content for it, and we'll always be able to do new and interesting things."

The historical periods Total War has covered so far are Medieval/feudal Japan (Shogun, Shogun 2), Medieval Europe (Medieval, Medieval 2), Ancient Rome (Rome, soon Rome 2) and the 18th Century (Empire, Napoleon). So, which other historical periods does Creative Assembly look at for Total War?

Late 18th century is, so far, as modern as Total War has been.

"Lots; all of them!" exclaimed Simpson. "Pretty much everything you can imagine is on that list of things that we would consider. And that's all the way from almost pre-historic, all the way through to futuristic.

"Most of those actually fall away fairly quickly. We're not going to do Dinosaurs: Total War," he said, even though it was popular in the office "for a while".

But it would be it would be the absolute triceratops - It would be incredible!

"Pretty much everything you can imagine is on that list of things that we would consider. And that's all the way from almost pre-historic, all the way through to futuristic.",

Mike Simpson, on possible Total War settings

"It probably would," he rebounded, "but that's not really what we're about. So, that one falls off.

"I guess we aspire, in the long run, to visiting every area that fits the Total War ethos: anything that's an interesting period from a historical point of view; has lots of factions vying for control and any of them could have won; and has a period of technological change that drives a tech tree. Those are the three components that we require, and there are still many, many periods of history that satisfy that, that we haven't visited yet."

Creative Assembly is owned by Sega, as are game rights to the Alien franchise. Has something off-the-wall like Alien: Total War ever been talked about?

"Like I said, we think about all sorts of things," Simpson surprised us, "but that's probably closer to the dinosaurs end of scale rather than what we actually do.

"You'd be surprised at some of the things that have been seriously considered!"

Winds of change in the next five years

Creative Assembly talked about its 25-year history at Rezzed, but we can't show you our recording because it had pre-pre-alpha gameplay footage of Rome 2, which the studio's understandably not ready to share with the internet. Beyond the core Total War games and their expansions, Creative Assembly has made console spin-offs Spartan: Total Warrior and Viking: Battle for Asgard. So, there's been a console presence at Horsham HQ for years, and it lives on with the Alien project. Stormrise, incidentally, was Creative Assembly Australia game. That studio became Sega Studios Australia and made the London Olympics game.

Rome 2 is scheduled for late 2013, probably autumn. The Alien game doesn't have a release date. There's also a small mobile team at Creative Assembly that made Total War Battles. Consider those three teams, and the next five years looks fairly well mapped out for Creative Assembly - maybe Rome 2 expansion pack fits that time-frame.

But when we asked Mike Simpson about where Creative Assembly will be in five years, he suggested there were more things afoot.

The well-received Total War: Battles. Expect more from CA's mobile team.

"We'll have a whole bunch of new games out there; we will have explored lots of areas we've not been in before, especially from a gameplay point of view and content point of view; we might have expanded out in some interesting directions."

Mike Simpson, on the next five years

"That's another five years, which isn't actually that long. We'll have a whole bunch of new games out there; we will have explored lots of areas we've not been in before, especially from a gameplay point of view and content point of view; we might have expanded out in some interesting directions," Simpson said.

Does that mean Creative Assembly has more games than Rome 2, than Alien, than another mobile game?

"Not that we've announced yet, no," Simpson deflected.

What are the areas Simpson talked about exploring?

"I'm just saying that the industry's changing quite a lot, and there are all sorts of interesting things happening, and we're part of that," he answered.

"The next five years are going to be quite interesting."

Total War mobile

Total War Battles was "great", Eurogamer declared, and Creative Assembly was "very happy" with how it went down.

"It certainly sold well," Simpson said, "and it isn't finished selling yet, which is one of the things about games on these platforms - if you make a good game, it'll be around for a very long time.

"That's one of the features of Total War: the games just keep selling for years and years. We still sell - most of the games on the back catalogue are still available to buy.

The Total War Battles game used the Shogun 2 setting. Does that mean there will be a Battles game based on Rome 2?

"We haven't made a decision yet on what we do next with that team," Simpson said, "but we will do something."

For now, the plan is to keep supporting Total War Battles, and to push it out onto Android and other platforms. In "theory", those other platforms could include PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, "but it's not something we're currently doing".

Live action Total War: Rome 2! It's all we're allowed to show you for the moment.

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