How has the reception been for players so far? Have they picked up on anything you didn't foresee? Have they made the game do anything you didn't know it could do?
The response has been overwhelming. We've been working so hard for the last nine months we didn't have the time to sit back and look at what we'd done. I can't tell you how good it feels to emerge from the trenches into the dazzling light of unrestrained adoration from thousands upon thousands of raving fans. The hardcore fans do dig deep, and come up with some very insightful comments. Usually, we're aware of the issues, but it does help us develop a consensus view on the way to deal with them. The modders are already deep into the guts of the game figuring out how to change it. The most surprising thing they've done so far is to make the wonders of the world - things like the pyramids - appear in the distance when you fight a battle nearby. I've no idea how they did that.
What proportion of the team stays working on the game after it's released?
There is a gradual transition from working on patches and updates in to working on the next thing. We don't just forget about it once it's in the box. We listen to the feedback on the forums, and tweak, fix and polish the game ready to issue a new patch. Having half a million people playing the game inevitably finds things that can be improved, and multiplayer is one area we'll keep working on all the way to the next release. At this point about 20 (out of an overall team of 77) people are spending some or all of their time working on the patch.
How does The Creative Assembly manage the transition from one project to the next?
When we finished Shogun we started two new projects in parallel. Medieval was an ambitious evolution of the Shogun technology and codebase, and was a two-year project. Rome was a revolution - new core technology, fresh and clean codebase and a four-year project. The aim was to make sure that we are the ones who make the game that blows away the previous one, and the competition doesn't ever overtake us. Combine that with add-ons and we get a release every year and a head start on a technology curve that is so steep no one else can catch us.
How important for the success of the studio is this policy? Is the idea of 'one game, one
team, viable anymore?
Sure, 'one game, one team' works once, or even twice, but if you just keep churning out the same game with different content your market lead gradually bleeds away and you eventually get left terminally behind - like the Command and Conquer series.
What's next for The Creative Assembly?
We have a huge list of things we'd like to do in future Total War strategy games. Some of these are new technologies, some are new mechanics for gameplay, and some are whole new areas we haven't included in the games so far. Our aim is to make the 'perfect' strategy game that everyone will enjoy. Then comes the next revolutionary design, where the aim is to astound everyone by doing things which are clearly impossible. Like every developer we also have our secret project that we're not talking about yet - but I'm not going to talk about that yet.
Rome: Total War is out now for PC