Strategy Informer:Since the new generation of Total War games that started with Empire, Creative Assembly have been experimenting more with the DLC space. I know there was some confusion as to whether Napoleon was an expansion itself or a separate game - but that aside, are we going to see the likes of Barbarian Invasion or Viking Invasion again? Or is the future in smaller downloadable content packs?
Jamie Ferguson: I think there's room for all of those things - it shouldn't be the case off "oh well we're going to do this and ignore this", and it also depends on what the players are looking for. We've found that there's multiple markets as to what players want. For some people they just want some extra stuff to throw into the existing campaign, and others want to expand on that experience and go deeper, or wider. So I would say we'd probably do a bit of both - there ARE some lessons we learned, with Napoleon we really mined every possible unit combinations and unit types that you could possible throw at a game. I think moving forward we'd possibly look at something that doesn't just add to your unit roster or your build queue, but something that also adds to the entire gaming experience.
Strategy Informer:Obviously Creative Assembly has a long-standing history with the modding community. I think it's fair to say that things have been a bit rocky since Empire, the tools weren't showing up-
Jamie Ferguson: Yeah it wasn't something that was ever intentional. I think we kind off... you know sometimes you can upset your friends without meaning to. What we were trying to do was create a game that would run faster but at the same time was moving things forward and looking good. I think the unintentional result of that was that in some ways it was harder to mod. Things are starting to move on though, people are getting familiar with the new file formats, and are really starting to unlock new areas and getting into the details.
But we are planning to launch an SDK for Napoleon in the near future, we want people to know we're not abandoning our old games. We want people to continue playing them as well as Shogun. We want people to constantly look at Total War as a continuing on-going experience. It's not like when we move on they have to move on and not touch it again. We'll give them the kind of support that they need to get that going.
Strategy Informer:Will an SDK for Shogun 2 be in the works as well?
Jamie Ferguson: I wouldn't rule it out. I don't know when or in what form that would take, but it's something we will probably be looking at as well.
Strategy Informer:Do you think it's better to, not prevent, but delay modding ability somewhat so that people get a chance with the game you made before tearing into it themselves?
Jamie Ferguson: It's not a deliberate attempt to prevent people. But the reality is that the tools we use for development aren't the wonderful things people on the outside think they are. They might find themselves more frustrated rather than enlightened by the experience. But also whilst we're actually working on something... without a programmer there to support you, you'd just be left hanging. That's ok if you're in the studio, you can just turn around to someone who knows and ask them for help. We have to work all that out, makes things fit, make things work, and when you're producing a game you can't do all that as well as make a toolset for the layman to use. It just doubles the work load. It's a balance between making the game and making a modding set... but then we'd go out of business because we didn't spend enough time making a game that would pay the bills.
It's a very hard balancing act, but it was a lot easier with Rome because everything was very open text files. Everything was very simple and straight forward, but the downside of that was when we were moving forward with all the new content we were producing, especially the size of the content, it became increasingly hard to get it all to run at any decent speed, along with the standard and quality people expect from a Total War game.
Strategy Informer:Those are all really valid points - but the internet being the internet, there's bound to people who just don't get that. Have you ever wanted to just go, "Hey, here's what we use, you try doing better" and then watching them flail about?
Jamie Ferguson: *laughs* I think that might actually do more damage, I don't think it would have helped at all. I think people would probably just make people angry and make them think we were withholding something from them. We're not, the only thing we would have withheld would be programming support. Our programmers are really important to us and they actually have to work on the next game.
Strategy Informer: So how do you cope with that "Damned if you do, Damned if you don't" reality?
Jamie Ferguson: You just have to grin and bear it. It's not something you really... we never wanted to be in that situation. You know you look at some of the forums, you post things, and some of the more paranoid think we're deliberately trying to keep them from doing things - we're not. What the modders do is an affirmation of what we do, it makes us proud that they want to do that and expand upon it and do the things that we just don't have the time to do. And in the case of some of the mods we don't even have the licenses to do! But for someone doing it for personal reasons that's fine, we want them to have that fun experience.
Strategy Informer:A big thing about Empire and Napoleon was that it was the first time you introduced scripted/story driven campaigns. They seem to be absent from Shogun 2 - was that a failed experiment?
Jamie Ferguson: No, there is actually a storyline behind each faction as you play them. We issues the player Dilemmas - critical decisions that you have to make as that faction. You have the rivalries between all the factions within Japan, which also creates a story line. With the family tree there's another element that adds a story, loyalty, honour... diplomacy and how other factions behave towards you. The way you use your general you can role-play with that and decide what kind of general he is, in both single player and multiplayer. Same applies to agents too. All of these things add a narrative to the tale, and combined with the event log the player can have a rich tapestry of events and create their own tale.
Strategy Informer:These are all really good points, and I'd say very good steps for the series. But surely you can agree that these are not the same as the Road to Independence campaign, the mini-campaigns you could do in Napoleon... Was there a deliberate decision not to include that type of thing in Shogun 2? Did it not fit? Was it not well received...?
Jamie Ferguson: No it was certainly well received, we just didn't think it fit with what we were trying to do with the period. The whole point the Sengoku period, we could have just said oh you play the guy who won. But we really wanted to add in 'what ifs'... what if one of the other factions won? All of them at one point or another were pretenders, if not front-runners. We wanted the player to be able to make their own choices and decide who they want to be as the ruler of Japan.
Total War: Shogun 2 is definitely one of our most anticipated games of 2011, and talking to Jamie hasn't done anything to change that. It's good to see them being more honest over what really was an odd period post-Empire, but now it seems that finally they're delivering the game they'd planned with this new generation. Sharpen those Samurai swords, and don't forget to check out our hands-on preview.