Medieval 2: Total War Designer Diary #3 - Battlefields

The upcoming Medieval 2: Total War will feature larger battles--and larger battlefields. Senior artist Brendan Rogers explains.

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Creative Assembly's Total War series has always let you play as some kind of ruler, using a distinctive balance between turn-based strategy to plan your trade and diplomacy, and real-time strategy for the series' massive battles that pit thousands of soldiers against each other. The studio is hard at work on Medieval 2: Total War, the sequel to its excellent 2002 strategy game, and while its designers are busy devising enhanced gameplay options, its artists, like Brendan Rogers of Creative Assembly Australia, are working on better battlefields.

Medieval Battlefields


By Brendan Rogers
Senior artist, Creative Assembly Australia

Greetings. My name is Brendan Rogers, and I'm an environment artist and level designer on Medieval 2: Total War. My main areas of focus on the game are creating art assets for the environments, skies, and siege weapons. In this diary I'm going to take you through the work that went into developing the different environments in Medieval 2.

At the start of the project, we reviewed the graphical features in our previous game, Rome: Total War, and began brainstorming ideas that would let us enhance the realism and graphical detail in Medieval 2. Our aim for the battlefield environments was to capture the range of unique and rich landscapes that are found throughout the world. We wanted players to discover this huge variety of landscapes as they expand their empires and venture into new territories via the battlefield.

You'll fight battles in the great outdoors in this upcoming sequel to Medieval: Total War.
You'll fight battles in the great outdoors in this upcoming sequel to Medieval: Total War.

One of our first tasks was to address the texturing system. Throughout the history of the Total War series we've always striven to achieve a large draw distance on the battlefield. We're doing the same with Medieval 2. So, we decided to create a new texturing system to let us define two textures for each ground type per climate: One for the ground detail up close, such as grass, rock, and dirt, and another, larger texture blended over it to create variation in the land when viewed from a distance.

The detail in the battlefield maps is generated from the campaign world map. That is, if you engage an enemy on a road or near a river, you will see those landmarks on the battle map on which you are fighting. The result is a unique battlefield for each campaign tile that reflects the climate, landscape, and surroundings of the location.

We created a system in Rome: Total War that let us define each climate and assign a set of vegetation to each one. However, we weren't able to fully exploit the vegetation system's capabilities, so for Medieval 2 we created a system that would let us create the many different climates we envisaged.

We carried out research on the types of vegetation that grew in the various climates we wanted to create, and we picked out the most dominant species in each for use on our battlefields. We then put these to use by creating a huge variety of unique climates that can be found throughout the campaign game, from the tropical jungle of the Aztecs to the scorched lands of the East. It's just a shame I didn't get sent on location to these exotic parts of the world for some "firsthand" research. (Maybe next time?)

The overall look of these environments has been boosted by a rendering engine that has been completely overhauled to allow for DirectX 9 and Shader 2 support. All models and vegetation now cast and receive per-pixel shadows from all objects in the game, including the terrain that now casts self-shadows from the position of the sun. Our new lighting system also includes bloom and a radiosity lighting setup that mixes hues from the ground and sky into the directional sunlight.

Our most recent addition to the Medieval 2 engine is the new grass system. This new system ties in directly with the climate and texture setup, which means we can sprout different grass types from the ground texture. This means that for each climate, we can create a different grass type per ground texture. The grass also animates based on the wind speed from the game engine; this creates a realistic staggered sway that you would expect to see in a grassy field.

With the addition of these systems, we can now create a diverse range of climates never before seen in a Total War game and create some truly stunning battlefield environments.

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