TechRadar: Your games are renowned for having formidable AI - and this is no different. How is the AI in this latest game different to your past games?
MS: On the battlefield the AI has become significantly stronger is two specific areas. Firstly, and most importantly, comes the introduction of a new way of thinking. Empire's battle AI uses a plan-based approach which means it can dynamically re-assess it's strategy whilst the battle progresses.
Our previous games included a more goal-based approach where the AI would set a target and chase it. Now however, our AI opponent will alter its priorities based on events and act on them. This certainly gives the AI a more human-like feel which is far less predictable than in previous Total War games.
We've compounded this by including the use of "special tactics" which are specific to certain generals and factions. As an example, the French can favour the "Monstrous Column" - a rolling charge of men who try to break through enemy lines; and the Prussians will tend towards the strong group flanking manoeuvres favoured by their special Cavalry units. Again, this will give each faction a much more personalised feel.
TR: The historical tech angle is interesting. We're told that the game uses some weapons that were prototyped at the time, but never made it in to mass production.
MS: Yes, there are a good few examples "The Puckle gun" – widely considered the first machine gun, was never really mass-produced and distributed to armies at the time and yet it is undoubtedly a very cool weapon which we didn't hesitate to make available to the player in the campaign game or in custom/multiplayer battles.
The "Ferguson Rifle" is another example, this breech loading rifle offered superior firepower but was largely overlooked during the period. Again though, we make it available to the player and leave it to them to identify its value as a technology to research and put to use on the battlefield.
TR: Many gamers will probably never realise the painstaking recreation of true historical detail in your games In this case, for example, you populated the whole world with hay bales until you realised that baling machines didn't exist in the 18th century!
MS: Yeah, we couldn't even re-code those hay bales, but had to remove them and replace them with something a little more accurate for the period. As for further examples of this attention to historical detail, perhaps the best can be found within our naval battles and the lengths we've gone to ensure that the ships included are all as accurately modelled.
We used the actual ship plans from the period, with kind permission from the National Maritime Museum, to ensure that we got every deck, every placement, as accurate as possible.