Total War: WARHAMMER III – State of the Game (October ’22)
Greetings, Total War: WARHAMMER III fans! Welcome to State of the Game, which is our deep dive into all things Total War.
We’re thrilled to see all the positive comments about Update 2.2, but we know that the beast never rests and lots of you are already rightly excited about what comes next – yes, Update 2.3 is already in the works, and yes, it will be out soon! There’s a little bit more on all of that below, but for now we do hope you enjoy our other offerings in this latest State of the Game.
As always, our dialogue with our players is absolutely vital to the health of the game, and is an absolutely essential element of the Total War Experience. Please do let us know what you think about this blog, the game or anything else Total War via the channels below:
Today we talk to our developers about two topics that always seem to get you chatting. Firstly, we catch up with Senior Designer Craig Kirby about the past, present and future of Endgame Scenarios in Total War. We also talk to Lead Campaign Designer Mark Sinclair about WARHAMMER III’s recent issues with Settlement Battles, what’s been done about them and what the future holds.
Let’s get going!
ENDGAME SCENARIOS – PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE
You’re a lord of war. A master tactician. You’ve led your near endless hordes of troops to glory and you sit proudly on the throne that’s rightfully yours, the bodies of your enemies strewn all around. That’s what Total War is all about, right? To a point, yes, but it’s also about raising the stakes. That’s why as you approach your moment of triumph, all hell breaks loose and joyous success threatens to collapse into bitter defeat.
“We were like, what if we just massively overpower these factions and give them bonuses we would never normally give them and just see what happens?” Senior Designer Craig Kirby says when discussing how the idea for Endgame Scenarios came about. “They are basically just interesting, crazy events inspired by WARHAMMER lore.”
To what extent each scenario is based on existing lore varies. Some are variations on existing story themes, such as the Wood Elf event (which is based on the Wild Hunt). However, others are chosen for no reason other than they’re cool! “The Dwarf’s Scenario is really just making up an excuse for them to go attack their neighbours, because the Dwarfs don’t really get enough excuse to kick off – it feels like they should be the bad guys, but they never are, right?” Kirby explains. “Games Workshop told us it’s their favourite scenario, so it just goes to show!”
WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER
Come a little closer and lean in – we’ve got a secret to tell you. Sometimes, the things that end up being the best part of a video game come about almost by accident. Endgame Scenarios, for example, didn’t even exist until about two weeks before development of Immortal Empires was locked down.
“We realised that we needed something for the endgame,” Kirby states. “We had loads of ideas going back and forth, but it ultimately lots of people were busy on all the other stuff they had to focus on. I was brought onto the team to help ship Immortal Empires and I was like ‘look, I’ll take it – I don’t mind going a bit crazy’. I think it might have been the last feature we added to Immortal Empires.”
Beyond the Dwarfs and Update 2.2’s Skaven (more on that below!) there are several possibilities as to where the developers will turn for their next Endgame Scenario – and it’s safe to say they’re not short of options, with a long list of scenario ideas having already been approved by Games Workshop.
“So here’s one I really like: We hear a lot about the Lizardmen’s ‘great plan’, but what exactly is it?” Kirby says. “This idea in particular is going to be a lot of fun to make because we can do some wacky stuff, getting the Lizardmen doing things they wouldn’t normally do. We’ve also got this one idea knocking about that basically asks what if Karl Franz becomes the ultimate endgame? What if we have the Empire of Man? Let’s take the traditional good guys and make them the bad guys!”
However, Endgame Scenarios have to appeal to players beyond simply relying on their affection for the lore. From a gameplay perspective, their appeal has always focused on the enjoyment of taking the rulebook that would normally govern the game and ripping it up.
“As a designer, my favourite thing to do is to create a set of rules and then make something that breaks those rules,” Kirby outlines. “If players take any one bit of Endgame Scenarios and ask ‘why did they make that?’ the answer is nearly always going to be ‘because it’s cool and it’s fun, right?’
“We focus in on races that never normally get to fight you, we make them stupidly big, we give them bonuses that they shouldn’t get and we then see if the player can handle it. And the rewards are potentially huge. Beat up the faction leader? Then why not confederate them? Now all those OP armies they’ve just been smacking you over the head with are yours!”
Update 2.2 brought with it a brand new Endgame Scenario that will be very recognisable to WARHAMMER fans – the rodentia-themed Vermintide! And the developers were very keen to ensure that dedicated players faced every bit the same challenge as everyone else.
“We’ve noticed that most high-level players like to trigger the Endgame Scenario early, which means in the case of Vermintide that the Skaven have bad tech and their buildings will suck,” Kirby says. “So we were just like ‘OK, when the Endgame starts, let’s max out Skaven’s tech!’.”
Of course, even those who aren’t as hot with their WARHAMMER knowledge may well recognise the ‘Vermintide’ moniker thanks to Fatshark’s popular first person online game series of the same name – which, incidentally, has plenty of admirers among the Total War development team.
“We really like their game, and hopefully they like ours!” Kirby adds. “Fans of the Fatshark games should definitely keep their eyes peeled for an Easter Egg or two…”
Of course, rules exist for a reason, and in game development it’s often incredibly important to stick to the rules that are understood by the player. Because of this, the whole concept of Endgame Scenarios poses a risk that has to be mitigated – and this is achieved through the system’s in-built customisation options.
“Customisation is absolutely key,” Kirby adds. “Whenever you’re doing something which is wacky and outside the normal sandbox rules, you should give the player the option to tailor it, even if that means turning it off.”
The team was also acutely aware of the danger Endgame Scenarios present. While a challenging curveball delights a lot of players, the developers were also very aware that some commanders who had toiled over a campaign for dozens of hours or more may not appreciate the possibility of everything falling apart at the last. That’s why customisation was a hugely important part of the feature’s development.
“I always say that if we release a piece of content and someone loves 80% of it but hates 20% of it, then ultimately what we’ve achieved is to release a piece of content that they hate,” Kirby says. “Give them the ability to customise it, however, and it can become something they love, and with almost no extra work.
“We know that it’s quite a Marmite feature – some people love it, some people hate it, and that’s where the idea of customisation came from. And we’ll be adding more customisation options in upcoming patches, too.”
LOVE TO THE MODDERS
The creativity of modders brings so much to the world of Total War. It’s for that reasons that, from the off, developers ensured that Endgame Scenarios were built in such a way as to allow modders to easily add their own Scenarios.
This dynamic design was also the reasons why the next big addition to Endgame Scenario functionality took a little longer to arrive than we might have liked. Check out the ‘Looking Ahead’ section below for more…
As well as working to ensure that Endgame Scenarios remain customisable and something that works for all players, the developers are also adamant that they will remain accessible to all players, too.
“I’ve seen people speculate that, for example, we’d not yet made a Skaven Endgame Scenario because we were holding it back for an appropriate piece of DLC, but that has never been the plan for any of this content,” Kirby outlines. “These are meant to be a feature for all players.
“The philosophy for us has always been clear – even if you don’t own a DLC, you can still encounter that faction in the map and you can still fight against them. Endgames, in particular, are a doubling down on that idea, and the hope is that eventually, at some point, every single faction in the game will be represented in some kind of Endgame or Endgame-like scenario. We want to show off the cool stuff we have!”
SETTLEMENT BATTLES – UNSETTLING THE BALANCE
We’re all aware that Settlements had become a bit of a sticky issue in WARHAMMER III. Update 2.2 strove to address the situation by reducing the frequency with which players will encounter Settlement battles. Whether it went far enough will ultimately be for players to decide.
We spoke with Lead Campaign Designer Mark Sinclair about Settlement Battles in WARHAMMER III, and what the future has in store.
So, what are the issues players have faced with Settlement Battles?
MARK SINCLAIR: WARHAMMER III has two different types of Settlement Battles – Minor, which are unwalled and unfortified, and Walled, which are the big siege battles. There are a lot of Settlements on the Immortal Empires map and they’re quite densely packed, especially in the Empire area.
What this meant for players was that the majority of their battles could end up being Minor Settlements, and they weren’t getting as many land battles as they would have liked. Our design was less of an issue in Realms of Chaos because the Settlements were more spaced out.
Was the issue not picked up during development?
MS: To be honest it’s something we thought could happen, and we had planned to address it sooner. Ultimately, uncertainty combined with us not wanting to second guess how players might feel about it. Plus, as Immortal Empires was launching in Beta, we knew there would be lots of scope for gauging reaction and making changes accordingly.
What changes were introduced in Update 2.2?
MS: The default now is that when players fight over a Minor Settlement, it will now take the form of a regular, open land battle, where you’re outmanoeuvring the enemy and not worrying about penetrating city defences. This should swing the balance back more towards the land battles.
To get a Minor Settlement battle now, players have to upgrade their city in a specific way via a Garrison upgrade. The option isn’t found in every city, so the ratio of land battles to Minor Settlement battles is going to be a lot better. I think players will have a better experience with it now.
Will this whole experience shape how the team approaches Settlement Battles in the future?
MS: It’s definitely been a learning experience. The Settlement design was new to WARHAMMER III and we of course wanted to promote it and get it in the hands of players, but we can now see that we pushed too far too quickly. In the future we need to potentially be a bit more careful with new designs and think very hard before putting it front and centre and risking upsetting the existing balance – after all, we never want to take something people love away from them.
Land battles are the standard, the bread and butter, the thing people are familiar with – in retrospect it should not have been a surprise to us that players were so attached to them.
SETTLEMENTS POST UPDATE 2.2
In the wake of the changes made in Update 2.2, we’re aware that some players felt the changes made to Settlements went too far. We’re also aware that other players are largely happy with the update, so we’re in the process of evaluating everything people have told us and deciding on the next steps.
The Settlement changes have also raised some other issues:
We’re aware that there’s a general feeling among some players that garrisons are uniformly weak across the board, and that this problem has only become more pronounced since walls were removed from so many sieges. We’re in the process of looking again at garrison effectiveness, and will let you all know if changes are decided upon.
Players have pointed out that the Settlement changes have a more notable impact on Bretonnia as they are reliant on tier upgrades for Settlement walls. In addition, Bretonnia already has the weakest garrisons in the game. This double-hit of factors has left the faction feeling weaker than it was before, although it’s also true to say that this is thematically fitting, such is their tendency to veer away from technology and lean heavily into the use of destitute peasants. We’re looking at all this very hard right now to try and find the right balance.
With Update 2.2 now in the hands of players, our attention turns to what’s next. The truth is that while we’re close, we’re still in the process of finalising the whats and whens of WARHAMMER III’s next few months, and we’re going to delve deeper into the specifics of all that in our next State of the Game, which we will have with you before the end of the year. So not long to wait!
Until then, however, here’s a very brief overview of what to expect:
WARHAMMER III’s next update approaches rapidly, with our developers currently finalising things as you read these very words. 2.3’s going to be in your hands in the near future, and will be the game’s final patch of 2022. Expect some housekeeping in the wake of 2.2, and while it won’t be as huge as that update, it’s growing all the time and you can still look forward to lots of tweaks and improvements.
Multiplayer Endgame Scenarios
You asked for it, now you’re getting it. The multiplayer iteration of Endgame Scenarios is being re-jigged to get all the same functionality as the single player version! And the even better news is that development is very nearly done, meaning it should be in your hands pretty soon!
Yep, it’s very nearly that time of year once again. There’s Christmas ads everywhere, those weird neighbours at the end of the street have already got the inflatable snowman and Father Christmas up in the front garden, and we still have no idea what to buy mum this year.
In terms of WARHAMMER III, Update 3.0 will most likely be dropping some time in Q2 2023, as will Regiments of Renown IV. We’re also evaluating the possibility of an additional update before then, although nothing’s set in stone.
We’ll have more info on all of this next time out.
CPU & GPU Advice
We also wanted to slip in a quick note regarding CPU and GPU temperatures. We’ve received a few isolated reports of users experiencing some excessive heat when playing WARHAMMER III. Should this effect you in any way, then please do reach out to SEGA Support at the link below.
We hope you enjoyed this edition of State of the Game. As we said, we’ll be back with one more before the end of the year, where we’ll be taking a more detailed look at WARHAMMER III’s roadmap heading into 2023.
Community feedback is absolutely vital for the health of our game, both for the ongoing Immortal Empires Beta and for WARHAMMER III as a whole. Please do reach out to us on one of the channels above with your thoughts – there’s no better way to improve our game than by learning from your experience.
— The Total War Team
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