Dev Diaries (ETW)


The World of Empire: Total War

October 16, 2008 by Mike Brunton

Mike Brunton has been working in the games industry since the reign of George II (1727-1760) and, as a result, boasts of a fine collection of wigs, steenkirks, and tricornes. His speech and creative work is largely meteorological in these lesser days, consisting as it does of an enormous amount of wind. He has also worked on most of the TW games to date and if you’ve ever tittered at a general’s speech before a battle, he’s to blame.

One of the small pleasures of coming to work each morning at Creative Assembly is the chance to read all the email that comes in from chaps who are very keen to help me with in all kinds of ways. Each day, I’m given the chance to invest in all kinds of sure-fire share deals, enlarge my reproductive organs, spend money on the charms of comely young ladies, buy medicines that are guaranteed to cure all kinds of ills I never even dreamed that I had, and a hundred other services that I never even knew I needed. This, strangely, is a very 1700s start to a day. And it helps with the mindset of the Empire: Total War period too.

Had I been walking down a street in London on my way to some sort of gainful employment in, say, 1720, I would have faced much the same barrage of dodgy offers. Jobbing stock dealers would have been keen to part me from my guineas in exchange for investments in mad schemes to gather moonbeams, or plant colonies in the Americas (I know, the America idea sounds mad, but apparently it worked). Young and not-so-young “actresses” (of both sexes) would have been willing to let me sample their bosomy charms, for a financial consideration. Apothecaries and physicians would have vied for my money to cure all manner of afflictions (and if I wasn’t ill to start with, I would be when they finished). The main difference between walking down the London byway and cleaning up the spam would have been the smell: the stench in 18th Century London was enough to wilt your cravat. The smell was appalling even before William Herschel discovered Uranus in 1781 (come on, bottom jokes are always funny). Oh, and I could have popped into a coffee shop to meet my fellows and indulge in a dish or two of very expensive, and highly fashionable, coffee.

In other words, the 18th century sometimes looks rather modern. When we started looking at the Empire period this was one of the things that struck us. We were also struck by the fact that people spent quite a lot of effort and most of the century trying to kill each other in wars, or in inventing better ways to kill each other. This is very Total War. Wars were fought for national honour, vengeance, control of natural resources, and for what is now called “regime change”. This is also very Total War. Science and the whole “Enlightenment thing” got going, and were immediately condemned by some as ungodly. And nearly everyone in Britain must have been very drunk.

This last point is quite interesting and, if you are a liver, rather scary. Given the amount of drink they threw down their throats, it is a wonder the Georgians could stand up, let alone go out and conquer the world! The population of London – including children – seems to have drunk around 4 pints of gin, week in, week out. That’s on top of the other tipples like ale, claret, port, porter, beer, sack, rum, brandy, cider, untaxed “gin” (well, they called it that) from backstreet gin mills, and (had they been around at the time) brake fluid, aftershave and surgical spirit. When Londoners got gin, they rioted. When Londoners ran out of gin, they rioted. In between, they threw cobblestones at passing Frenchmen. This did not count as proper rioting, just patriotism. Actually, you have to blame the Dutch for all the gin. William of Orange was on the British throne in 1700 so it became patriotic to sink a glass or two of Dutch gin. William himself was fond of a bucket of the stuff himself, and he didn’t mind when stones were hurled in the general direction of a French fop. Frenchmen were always fops and dandies and prided themselves on their fashion sense. Even French peasants wore stylish rags and called themselves the “sans culottes”. Only in France would a lack of trousers be class warfare!

When they weren’t fighting each other (and that wasn’t very often, to be honest), the Europeans packed their booze and set out to see the world, and then conquer it. They took their wars with them, and European armies fought each other in every corner of the globe with and without local allies. The Seven Years War, for example, was a global conflict, and saw battles in the Americas, in India and in almost every sea between.

Ho hum, the modern world… Next time round, we’ll have a look at some of the colourful characters who changed the world, and take in a bit of corruption, consider trade, look at a robot tiger (no, really) and briefly discuss life, the universe and everything.

Wars of Empire: Total War

October 16, 2008 by Mike Brunton

It’s now time to turn a bleary and gin-sodden eye (drinking gin is a large part of “method designing” for Empire Total War) to matters military in the 18th century and in particular land warfare in the period. I can promise that the next few instalments are not going to be a detailed history lesson – hurrah! – but more a gallop through the subject – huzzah! – while backhanding matters of interest with a sabre – swish! – from time to time.

So what happens to armies and warfare during the Empire period? That depends on the army, and even the continent, involved in warfare. The French and English/British still fought like two cats in a sack, but where they fought was very different. Their soldiers would face each other in the Rhineland, the backwoods of America and the steamy heat of India. This is a function of what today is termed “power projection” (or “putting your army in some other blokes’ country and making an awful mess over there”). This was what the Europeans learned to do during the 18th century: they could ship troops halfway round the world and fight on their own terms. Doing this involved naval power (so that’s why there are naval battles in Empire: Total War!), and that’s a subject for another day; here we’re looking at land warfare.

Firstly, don’t run away with the idea that the 18th Century is one of unbridled expansion for the Europeans, backed up by muskets, bayonets and the guts to use them effectively. The effectiveness of European armies varied from decade to decade as lessons in warfare were learned, copied by enemies, and then discarded in favour of a new idea. European armies didn’t always have it their own way. In the Balkans, the Turks may have been slightly old-fashioned but their Janissary armies were no laughing matter for anyone facing them, even if they could be beaten. In India, more than one nasty shock awaited the Western invaders as elephants (and what’s a Total War game these days without some heffalumps?), rockets and imported European artillery (along with imported European gunners) were turned against them. The cannons made by Indians weren’t all that bad either, even if they did go in for a lot of decorative fiddly bits. The use of massed rocket attacks impressed the British so much that they copied them as the Congreve rocket system, and then turned them on their own enemies in later wars (without, it has to be said, very much success). In North America a completely new style of light skirmishing warfare was required for success in the dense forests of the eastern seaboard. In short, depending on where you’re fighting, you’ll have a different experience in the game.

Not only had the nature of warfare changed, but its context and purposes too. Any medieval monarch could have understood the “why” of the War of the Spanish Succession: to stop the French Bourbons putting one of their relatives on the throne of Spain. Less than a hundred years later, the Bourbons’ problems, guillotine-wise, brought their power to a sudden, painful and cravat-ruining halt. Once they were gone, the French Republic was engaged in a very different kind of war of survival. Other powers (for which read “the rich, powerful and well bred”) wanted the infection of revolutionary Republicanism cut from the European body politic before it could do any more damage (the bloody progress of events shocked supporters of the infant Republic). Napoleon Bonaparte’s seizure of power (and his conscious aping of Roman precedent) merely confirmed the view that a new, dark tyranny (of the unwashed masses, if nothing else) that threatened the natural order of things had arrived. The concept of a war of ideas – republicanism, liberty, patriotism, tyranny, equality, freedom – had arrived.

If the French Revolution hadn’t happened in France, the rest of European civilization probably wouldn’t have been so bothered by the whole business. Hang on, then it would have been the French Revolution… Still, revolutions are going to be possible; you might even be able to engineer one. Back to the point: It was almost an article of faith that the French were the pre-eminent experts in war, and fielded the finest army in Europe. The French army did suffer defeat on occasion, but it remained a mighty instrument of policy. It defined “soldiering” for generations: young men who wished to be soldiers went to France to learn the serious business of killing. Both of Britain’s greatest generals, John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough (yes, same family as Winston), and Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington (yes, the boots man), had French connections early in their careers. Churchill even received a commendation from Louis XIV for his bravery in leading a forlorn hope. He might have purchased his first commission from his profits as the Duchess of Buckingham’s toy boy, but John had guts! Young Arthur was quite a bit more respectable (or a stuffy prig) as he attended a French military academy after his schooldays at Eton.

We’ll return to this gallop across land warfare in the next part of this developer diary. In the meantime, I’m off to polish my Patriotic Fund sword. Here’s to a bloody battle, or the pox!

Land Battles in the Old Regime and the early Enlightenment

October 16, 2008 by Jamie Ferguson

Hi there,

My name is Jamie Ferguson. I’m a senior game designer on the Total War series. Some of you may know me from the official forums where I show up, from time to time. In this two-part diary I’m going to be talking about both the historical background of war in the 18th century and its game implementation and impact on the Land battles of Empire: Total War.

Well, where do you start? Drinking a soldier’s 2-pint ration of grog (an 18th Century concoction of water, rum, sugar and limejuice) might get you in the mood but won’t help with keeping a clear understanding of things. We could just talk about the various features of battle in Empire Total War, but that wouldn’t really give anyone an insight as to why they are there. So bear with me as I’m going to include some background to the why and wherefores of Empire: Total War.

The first myth we have to destroy, as a developer of Empire, is the common and preconceived idea that 18th century warfare was “slow”, “plodding”, and just involved “blokes standing in a line and then blasting away at each other. Warfare in any period can be stripped to it’s most basic form. In previous Total War games – Shogun, Rome and Medieval, we’ve explored a wide variety of historical warfare and unlocked an enormous amount of fun through the strategic possibilities presented by each period. This is certainly the case with Empire – the land battles in this game will be the most spectacular and strategically varied we’ve ever created.

The reality of 18th century warfare was far from simplistic. It was based around a rapidly changing world, full of new and developing technologies, both in warfare and society. This was the era of the Enlightenment, the Agricultural Revolution and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The “old way” of doing things was being shaken to its foundations by new thinking, new writing, new weapons and anything else that seemed new. Battles in the Empire period were just as likely to become free flowing, and sometimes, chaotic affairs, as they were in any period before or since. Just as in history, a player in Empire will have to consider the formations and positioning of units at the beginning and during a battle. These will be important because manoeuvre, counter manoeuvre and tactical planning of well-timed attacks are a vital element of successful combat. Denying the enemy space for manoeuvre is, as a result, also essential. The principles then, are easy to grasp.

"All that is advantageous to the enemy is disadvantageous to you, and all that is useful to you damages the enemy" Vegetius

What is often forgotten is that the fast, dispersed and mobile warfare of the modern age is only possible because of electronic communications and modern weaponry. In the Empire period troops had to be within telescope range of the commanding general and musket armed troops needed to be used en-masse and at close range. After all smooth bore muskets were very unreliable and inaccurate, especially at the beginning of this period. Many a battle was lost for the want of a competent officer in the right place at the right time or the infantry lines becoming too raged and dispersed. To reflect this in Empire, your armies’ performance will be affected by your general’s proximity to his troops. Spread your forces too far and you might have problems on your flanks. Leave your forces to thinly spread and their fire becomes ineffective. All of this will require a successful player to think on their feet and be aware of the ebb and flow of the battle. The player is going to have to be aware of the use of combined arms (Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry and their formations) in order to get good results on the battlefield. Just lining up your troops and firing away at the enemy isn’t going to win unless the enemy are seriously outnumbered or you are protected by the walls of a fort against an enemy devoid of artillery.

"No man is to be employed in the field who is not trained and tested in discipline" - Vegetius

“Is that’s all that’s different?” You ask. Well, as many of our fans know, Total War games follow a Revolution/Evolution cycle. Empire is our revolution and appropriately enough revolutions were taking place on the battlefield, as well as in the streets and fashion houses of cities in the 18th Century.

So although, in 1700, there were still some, old style, 17th Century levy troops of pike-armed men and armoured heavy cavalry, their time was coming to an end. Even if the threat of being stabbed by a foot or two of sharp metal was still a good way of making the enemy blink, a massed volley of lead musket balls was an even more effective method of removing your opponents. Increasingly so, as musket weaponry was now beginning to be mass-produced and allowed standing armies of relatively cheap but combat effective troops. As a result new and, sometimes experimental, unit types were becoming common. For example Dragoons, Musket-armed Grenadiers, light infantry and line infantry and mobile artillery were becoming a permanent feature of standing armies. A far cry from the previous melee based armies of Total War. The armies the player starts with at the beginning of Empire will reflect this transitional phase. And it will up to the player to modernise, improve and build up their army. Failing to invest in research or improving your military infrastructure might result in your army being outclassed by its opponents.

"Let him who desires peace prepare for war." Vegetius

Unlike previous Total War games troops won’t only be a result of the buildings you construct. We wanted to create that feeling of revolution, change and innovation that was such a strong feature of the period throughout the game. For example; the soldiers that fought in this period were often a reflection of the government that they fought for. As a result unit availability won’t just be based on a faction or culture. They will also reflect your nation’s government type as well as its scientific and technological research. Revolutionary or Republican units aren’t going to be available to an Absolute monarchy and Imperial Household Guards aren’t going to be available to a Republic. The same also goes for technological advancement. A rifled musket unit isn’t going to be available unless you research all the right elements that make mass produced rifled barrels (as opposed to smooth bore muskets) possible.

In previous Total War games when you got something new you had to hire completely new units to take advantage of that new item. Although there are still cases where this is true, we now also have improvements that automatically get rolled out across your nation’s armies and navies. For example bayonet improvements starting with the “Plug” bayonet and moving through to the final “Socket” version that improve your musket troop’s melee ability and also gradually become less of a hindrance to your units’ ability to fire. There will be researchable innovations in military drills, such as the Prussian firing drills, that increase your units’ rate of fire. Or improvements in construction like the copper bottoming of ships, that make them less prone to fouling and thus faster moving. All of these will be rolled out to existing units, automatically.

Blimey! So much to talk about and so little time and space to tell you all about it. I guess I’m going to have to leave us there, waiting for the next part of this diary where I shall talk more about the actual units and the ways that the player can effect changes to the battlefield itself. Speak to you soon.


Mike Brunton

Forced to work for a living by the lack of an obscenely huge inheritance, Mike Brunton has turned his talents to games, words and much else besides. Now entering his second childhood, he has never had a proper job outside the games industry, has worked on all the Total War titles to date, and shows no signs of going away even though he has been asked several times. Mike is also considering moving to Tunbridge Wells so that he can write proper letters to the Daily Telegraph expressing his deep-seated disgust with the world. He is particularly disgusted that no one stopped him using the word "cunnywarren" in Viking Invasion. Mike worked on Shogun: Total War; STW Mongol Invasion; Medieval: Total War; MTW Viking Invasion; Rome: Total War; RTW Barbarian Invasion; and Medieval 2: Total War.

Jamie Ferguson

Jamie Ferguson is a former civil servant, an international man of mystery and slightly delusional.

Granted strange powers by an Indian fakir he knows much about plumbing supplies. He also has an unnatural delight in the minutiae of history and likes nothing better than swooning over a good, well-crafted technology tree or army list.

His hobbies include giggling and guffawing, drinking vintage brake fluid and frightening capybaras (when he can get them). He has also been known to howl, very gently, at streetlights because "the moon can't hear me."

Jamie did what he describes as "bugger all" on MTW Viking Invasion; but he definitely was in the office when Rome: Total War; and RTW Barbarian Invasion were done. Oh yes. He did stuff. Some of it wasn't nice at all.

Jamie is currently working very hard on Empire: Total War and takes time to relax by building scale models of fighter aircraft, tanks and sailing ships. He has also been known to spend too much time playing online poker, solitaire, chess and mmorpgs, sometimes simultaneously.