The inclusion of intra-faction political conflict in Total War: Rome 2 was the biggest challenge during development, as The Creative Assembly sought to translate a political war into a game mechanic, developers told Polygon during a preview of the game at E3.
"We just had to add it," explained campaign designer Dominique Starr. "It's something that marks this period in history. The in-fighting, the treachery and backstabbing, despite the fact that these seemed like united empires conquering huge swathes of land across Europe. There were tons of people trying to gain power over others, and we felt not representing that would be a huge mistake."
Starr said The Creative Assembly wanted the political system to feel organic and challenge players to balance these conflicts, both from within and without their diplomatic circle.
The "meat and potatoes" of Rome 2 is building up your army and marching them across the world, engaging directly in brutal warfare. Simulating a political conflict that is less physical and more mentally manipulative was a challenge to turn into an enjoyable game mechanic, said Starr.
"We're trying to simulate this internal tension in a way that compliments but doesn't necessarily interfere with the standard strategy gameplay," Starr said. "That was pretty tough for us."
"We're trying to simulate this internal tension in a way that compliments but doesn't necessarily interfere with the standard strategy gameplay."
Lead batte designer Jamie Ferguson added that conveying the ideas and thoughts of the period's politics without creating an overly-complicated mechanic was a challenge. Players needed to be able to understand the time period without having to wade through convoluted systems to get to gameplay.
"For example, the Roman ideas of pride and luck are very mystical sounding when you put them in Latin terms, but we had to put those into something the player can simply understand and use," he said.
Starr said Total War: Rome 2's campaign is the largest the studio has ever made, around four times as large as the map in Total War: Rome. Players will trek through territories spanning The Ancient World from Western Spain to modern-day Afghanistan, covering the Scottish Highlands down to the tip of the Arabian peninsula.
"We spent a lot of time focusing on a single culture and really tightening the gameplay," Starr said. "We wanted to take what we had and turn it all the way up to 11. It's a massive land mass with many different cultures, and we wanted to represent the epic struggles of the ancient world in as much detail as we could."
"From listening to our fanbase, we know they want something big with this next game," added Ferguson. "We thought it was something we could deliver, based on the history of the period. The Roman Empire almost did span the entire continent of Europe and into the Middle East, and we wanted to give players that feeling of how fast and evolving the ancient world was."
Total War: Rome 2 will launch for Windows PC on Sept. 3. The Creative Assembly is currently looking into a Mac version.