Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a preview event for A Total War Saga: TROY. After which, I was offered the chance to interview one of the developers from Creative Assembly Sofia, the studio working on TROY. My questions generally catered to the combat that I had experienced during my hands-on with TROY, but I threw in a couple questions regarding certain systems and mechanics they mentioned earlier during a presentation.
A Total War Saga: TROY will launch exclusively on the Epic Game Store on August 13, and will be available for free for the first 24 hours of launch.
Hello! I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to speak with me today.
Vasilev: Sure! First of all, my name is Milcho Vasilev, I’m a Senior Game Designer at Creative Assembly Sofia and I’m working on our first standalone game Total War Saga: TROY. I focus mostly on the battle sides of stuff. As you probably played in the demo, you see that it’s mostly just battles.
So, I don’t know if you’re able to give any further insight into this, but why did the team decide for a truth behind the myth approach when it comes to these mythical units rather than going for just full-on myth, like in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey?
Vasilev: Well, we were thinking a lot about this when we were first designing the game. We knew that we couldn’t do purely historical stuff because the source material for that period is pretty scarce. We don’t have too many records about how warfare would be conducted at that time because this is the late Bronze Age, this is the furthest in time that Total War has ever gone as a game. So we were really thinking about how we should portray that, but since the Saga titles are usually focused on single conflicts in time, which are historical, it was soon discovered that what Homer wrote in his Iliad and Odyssey might have had some truth behind it because we managed to find Troy we found Mycenean remains. We know that probably even though it didn’t happen the way Homer described it, it has some truth to it.
We decided that it would be an interesting way - and a new way - to see how those myths were actually born in the first place, like what inspired those myths for us to be telling them now as we are. For example with the centaur, there weren’t much people riding horses at that time because it’s so early in time – in the Bronze Age – but there probably was some tribe somewhere which utilized horses a lot for transportation, for daily work, and probably even for combat which was something unheard of at the time. And that’s why we get the myth of half-horses and half-humans because some may have said that, “those people are one with their horse – they do everything with their horse.” This is what we think the myth might have started as. We decided that it would be a really cool way to incorporate all those things into the game and try to see to unravel the mysteries of the myths to the players in front of them and show them the reality that the Bronze Age probably was.
During the preview build, in particular on Hector’s side, I had a lot of fun in utilizing the archers: hiding them in the tall grass, and then using them to flank Achilles forces and it just absolutely decimated them. What was the process like in balancing out these different units, especially when taking into account these new terrains?
Vasilev: So we knew that it was going to be a lot of infantry against infantry fighting because this was the Bronze Age and this was how they mainly conducted warfare. We knew we wanted to make sure that the infantry fighting feels right and feels fun to the player. What we wanted to do is to make sure that different infantry type units offered different gameplay opportunities to the players. So that’s why we made those units that are able to hide in tall grass for example, or units that would stride faster through mud and would not get stuck into it but would not be as strong in hand-to-hand combat. So we want to appeal different factions to different player types.
You have some of the factions like Hector who relies on very, very strong defensive units; who are able to hold a strong line and able to keep formations even under extreme circumstances. They’re really, really tough to break down and defeat them in straight-on combat you need to figure out a way to outflank them, to use the terrain to your advantage. And there are other factions like Achilles, who uses a much more aggressive approach with units which are really, really fast and able to quickly surround the enemy; to turn around them and use the terrain to their advantage by moving around them while they’re moving straight through it without getting stuck in it.
Were there any proposed terrain types that didn’t make it into TROY, that maybe just weren’t feasible?
Vasilev: Well, we were considering other terrain types. For example we were considering adding sharp rocks as a terrain type which would hinder chariots and some of the mounted units like the Centaur. But in the end we decided that we didn’t have enough mounted units for it to be utilized much. At times it was really hard to make sure the graphics of the sharp rocks were visible enough for the players to understand that this is a terrain type, because terrain types can have a huge impact to gameplay. We wanted to make sure that players can recognize them at a glance. With the forest, it’s really easy – when you see a forest, you know that you can hide your units there. This is why one of them didn’t make it. There were probably others, like we were thinking about Marsh terrain and, but this is ancient Greece and they’re not really famous for their marshes.
Absolutely. Yeah, I noticed that while I was playing, I couldn’t recognize the tall grass at first just because it was a new concept to me but when I finally it I was, “oh yeah, okay, there it is” and it was easier to spot from then on. Do you have a unit that’s your personal favorite in troy?
Vasilev: A unit? Well, this is an interesting question. Personally, I have a type of unit that I like a lot, but I wouldn’t say one unit in particular. I love some of Achilles’s really fast, light infantry that can outmaneuver enemies and can do feint attacks by trying to charge at the enemy but then pulling back at the last possible moment; just to make sure it causes disarray in the enemy’s ranks without actually engaging, and keeping your enemies on their toes all the time because they don’t fatigue fast. I’m talking mostly about the Aegenian runners I guess, but there are other units that can fulfill that same role.
Like I was saying earlier about the preview I did use Hector’s defensive forces to kind of hold that line and then circle around with the archers so I like the ranged units a lot.
Vasilev: When utilized properly, they can be quite powerful because the shields protect units only from the front and from the right – so if you manage to get them on their left flank or in the back, archers can do some devastating damage even to shielded units.
Yeah, I noticed that; it was great. So, do you guys have any plans for any post-launch content right now, like adding a new faction or new units?
Vasilev: Well, right now we are focused on releasing the main game and we want to see first how people will react to what we’ve done since, again, this is our first standalone title. We have a lot of new features and not so much in battle as in campaign we have also a lot of new features, but we will be revealing them and speaking more about them soon. So right now, we are not really thinking that much about adding other factions and so on, but we are of course open to feedback and if players really think that something would be really cool to be added to the game, we’re open to it.
Cool, I was just curious based on Sofia’s previous history after they got picked up by Creative Assembly and with their work on Rome II.
Vasilev: Yeah, we’ve done mostly DLCs for that.
So, speaking on seeing how players will react to this game, what are some of the measurements of success that you guys at the studio will be looking at? Sales, I’m sure, but does the team have a different metric that you guys are going to be looking at – like review scores?
Vasilev: Well, of course, every team is looking at review scores because this is something that is a huge morale boost for the team. Especially since this is a game that, as I’ve said multiple times already, it’s the first standalone game we are doing as a studio and it’s a subject that is really close to us because we’ve all grown up with those stories about Troy. So we are really, really hoping that players will receive it well and will like it.
I hope they do as well, I hope there’s not any stigma against the Saga title or this period of history style. That said, what other time periods or historical events, like the Trojan War, would you personally like to design a Total War game around?
Vasilev: There’s so many periods in the history of humankind where you can place Total War games; so many interesting conflicts throughout all the ages. I know we’ve joked about Total War Stoneage before. I mean, it’s a hard question to answer because there’s just so many around all the time periods. Right now, this is the one that we really wanted to do the most, because we all decided that “Yes, Troy is the thing that we want to do.” In the future, who knows – we will see.
Do you have a rough time estimate for how many hours it would take as a player for a full campaign playthrough of TROY?
Vasilev: That’s really dependent on the way players play the game because as you know in our Total War games - the whole franchise - you can, for example, either play your battles or auto-resolve them if you want to save time. If you just auto-resolve all your battles it can take much, much less time than if you try and play all of them and win every single battle. Also, the game is still pretty sandboxy, so you can try to do all sorts of different shenanigans in your playthrough and they might take different amounts of time.
It’s really hard to put a rough estimate about much time it would take to do one campaign. Then we have 8 different factions with different faction mechanics, different units, different starting locations, and different heroes, which offer a different experience. Players can try out one faction then switch to another, try out them, and this again can amount to numerous amounts of hours. What I can say is that we are aiming that completing one campaign should be somewhere between 100 to 150, maybe up to 200 turns for a player. How much time you take to do those turns, well that’s entirely up to you.
I know we’re getting close to time so last question. What was, from the design perspective, the reason for utilizing the different resources in TROY, like wood and bronze, instead of just gold?
Vasilev: Well this was one of the things that we wanted to try out in Total War TROY, since it’s a Saga game we are able to experiment with those new mechanics. We thought that this is going to be a perfect fit for Total War TROY because this is the Bronze Age, and in the Bronze Age they didn’t really use one particular resource to trade for everything like they would later use with gold most of the time, and now we deal with money. Usually they would just exchange goods between each other, like they would exchange food for wood, or they would always exchange what they had for what they didn’t have.
So in Troy it made perfect sense for us to make it so that we have five different resources which are needed for different things. Like you need food to make sure your army is staying healthy and growing, and you can recruit units and so on, but you need wood and stone to be able to build buildings and improve upon your cities. We also have gold, but it’s also a specialized resource which is used only, for example, elite types of units which require to be paid or for donating to the Gods, which also play a role in Total War TROY.
We know at the time people were very, very religious and not in the sense that we are right now but they truly believed that the Gods were walking among them and were part of their daily lives. We have this whole new Divine Will system in which players are able to gain the favor of different Gods if they want, depending on what favor they get they might receive different buffs. Like, using a lot of Gold and Food to make a huge feast in celebrating Ares, you can later then gain a huge boon in the next battle you are fighting because you have Ares on your side due to that tribute made to him and the feast that you organized.
I’m definitely excited to see how that Divine Will is implemented in the game and how that can affect change in battles. Well it looks like our time is up, thank you very much!
Vasilev: Yeah, Thank you too!