Medieval 2: Total War Designer Diary #9 - Making Combat Look Good

Lead programmer Ken Turner returns to finish telling us how the combat system in Medieval 2 tries to capture the visceral sensation of battle.

Four years after the release of Medieval: Total War, designer Creative Assembly and Sega are close to releasing the sequel to the popular strategy game that's filled with epic battles. Like all Total War games, Medieval 2 has two layers. The strategic layer is a turn-based one, and it lets you manage your medieval kingdom by building improvements in your provinces and giving movement orders to armies. The real-time tactical layer then gives you direct control of those armies in battle, so you can order your infantry to hold their ground, your knights to charge, and your archers and catapults to rain death down on the enemy. Visually, the battles in Medieval 2 are incredibly more advanced than those in Medieval. Gone are the 2D unit sprites, and in come beautifully detailed 3D models of each man in your army. To tell us a bit more on how this combat system works, we have lead programmer Ken Turner.

Combat System, Part 2

By Ken Turner
Lead Programmer, Creative Assembly Australia

In the first part of the diary on Medieval 2's combat system I described how the combat system creates a balance between good-looking visuals and a strong sense of purpose. To support this balance, we needed a cooperative set of rules. Let's take a look at some of the key rules.

The action in Medieval 2 is a lot more cinematic than in any of its predecessors, thanks to some cool new technology.

A simple rule: All action has consequence. For every combat blow, there is an equally appropriate reaction. Too often, the presentation of melee combat in strategy games is for combatants to stand toe-to-toe and swing wildly at one another until a dice roll somewhere in the bowels of the game logic deems that someone should fall down dead. For Medieval 2, this would be unsatisfying, considering our burly knight models with their hefty attacks. We wanted some smackdown when we hacked down. Soldiers who have been hit will always play a reaction matched on the direction and strength of the attack.

In combat choreography, timing is everything. Hollywood has taught us that if the timing is right and the reaction direction is correct, then we are tricked into believing that the contact actually occurred. Of course, all of this doesn't happen by chance. Combatants will send strike messages to each other to help to negotiate the time of contact. However, sometimes the defender may incorrectly interpret the time to contact if they are fatigued and get hit since they end up reacting too late. This way, tired units naturally will not defend as well as fresh units.

Strangely, the least important factor in combat is docking distance. The distance between the attacker and his target can be out by up to a meter in either direction and it seems fine. This is a giant relief, since trying to dock thousands of guys to their targets (who are probably also in motion) is not an exact science. For Medieval 2, each of the soldiers moves around to preserve his personal space so that he has room to fight and doesn't crowd his friends. This helps the soldiers to look and behave in a more organized way and removes the old unit-blobbing exploit.

The New World also makes an appearance in Medieval 2, and you can send European armies to battle the Aztecs.

Now, the soldiers will step back when crowded from the front and step left or right to try to get around friends to get to the enemy soldiers. If completely blocked in, the soldier will eagerly scan for new targets and openings in the line so that he can advance. We've also stopped infantry and cavalry from charging through friendly lines.

That concludes this diary and our look at the combat system in Medieval 2. Remember, if you find that your soldiers are unruly during your conquest of the known world, remind them that they know the rules and should know better. If they still don't listen, punish them by charging them at some elephants for their insolence.

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37 comments
up_in_the_sky
up_in_the_sky

wow, just been playing it for 2 hours straight and *drools* **** ace!! worth a shot, or if your a total war fan its a must buy!

princegee4
princegee4

i m playing this and guys..its awsome

BounceDK
BounceDK

The new flash feature is actually quite nice. Gives you a quick overview of your forces, the enemy forces and your allies.

gww101
gww101

This is better bigger stronger more fierce and visually stunning theses few word are what Medievals battles are like

mxrdrdaniel
mxrdrdaniel

This game is **** tight can't wait to play it

mangepenge
mangepenge

Well until you chop up the unit detail, effects, landscape, etc. Which varies from beautiful landscapes, with amassing visual when English Sherwood archers launches out battalions of missiles at the foolish french from their ambush spot in the trees, and bombard cannons fire at will at castle walls making them crumble including all units who takes an E.T ride with the shattered bricks . Im buying a new 300 dollar video card just to run those effects at full frame rate. At lowest visuals soldiers turn into blobs, landscape uses fewer textiles, vegetation faints, shadows disappears and the game looses lots of its charm. i got carried away sorry, Yes i believe the game runs way better, at medium visuals you should have few even with an average computer. Its all about ram in these 2k men on screen games...

mangepenge
mangepenge

The game has bin released in europe .... I can run it at medium setings with my standard pentium 4 3.2 Gz 1024 ddr 128 radeon x700 crappy video card

BounceDK
BounceDK

Imho, it runs better than Rome. They did a great job optimizing it.

aimmy79
aimmy79

the total war is neigh....damn! i haven't finished gothic 3 and neverwinter nights 2 yet

cmrdr
cmrdr

Lysgaard, yes you can hit your own men if you are not carefull. and i think this is going to be the best Total War game in the series yet! i am very excited about this!

_Sam_
_Sam_

I've liked all of these Designer Diaries

Lysgaard
Lysgaard

Can you hit youre own troops when you fire missil weapons in to meele?

aragon0510
aragon0510

I can run Rome but maybe I can't run this one

BounceDK
BounceDK

This game is so broke. You'll see when you get it.

princegee4
princegee4

come on release this..........................

natedog7993
natedog7993

This game is going to be the best!!! So on various sites I see the game is coming out on Tuesday and Thursday... does anyone know the correct day I can pick it up at a store? Thanks

merloslacker
merloslacker

I'm shaking, I can't wait till tuesday!!!!!!!

cjcr_alexandru
cjcr_alexandru

Sounds good. And they looks like have fixed some bugs from previous games, which is good.

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

this game has the building elements of aoe and the massiveness of rome total war which is good:D. i hated rome total war because of its lack of building an empire but this game differs quite a bit

YaR222
YaR222

NO ONE WILL EXPECT THE SPANISH INQUISITION!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Taruhan
Taruhan

I can't wwwwaaaaaiiittttttt

recalcitrant1
recalcitrant1

Demo runs smoothly enough with some graphical tweaks on my all in wonder radeon 9800, which is a duff card. My processor is only p4 prescott 2.8ghz with a gig of duff ram. All in all the game runs smoothly and is enjoyable on those specs for me.

Syzgygy
Syzgygy

If you could run Rome, you can run this one.

xcslimjim
xcslimjim

i had to upgrade my computer when rome came out, looks like i'll have to do it again! i'm not saying it like a bad thing though

hampton2003
hampton2003

finally they fix some basic problems in ai, like allied units running through friendly lines. this is all looking very well, and polished too, cant wait!!!!

Drones100
Drones100

I smell a 9.5 or a perfect 10 here.

crazymadman
crazymadman

I can't Wait for this game, combat is 10 times better than the mindless hacking in mark of chaos.

AFWorm
AFWorm

They did a good job on the graphics. Hopefully, their trouble-shooting will smooth out the ai.