Medieval 2: Total War Designer Diary #6 - Mission Design

Designer Penny Sweetser tells us how you'll be pursuing missions for the pope, nobles, assassins' guilds, and more in this epic strategy game.

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While many real-time strategy games rely on the familiar formula of resource gathering, base building, and army crushing, the Total War series has stood apart for its more epic take on world conquest. Like the board game Risk, Total War games let you try and conquer a region one territory at a time by shifting armies around on a map. When oppposing armies meet, you can then participate in gigantic real-time battles where thousands of soldiers fight and die for you. While your ultimate goal in Medieval 2: Total War is the conquest of Europe, you'll also have plenty to do on the side. That's because you'll be tasked with all sorts of missions from a variety of organizations. Accomplish the missions and you'll be rewarded, but fail them and you may earn the displeasure, and even the wrath, of some powerful organizations. To explain, we have designer Penny Sweetser. Medieval 2 is scheduled to ship in November.

On a Mission

By Penny Sweetser
Game Designer, Creative Assembly Australia

Hi, I'm Penny Sweetser, a game designer on Medieval 2: Total War. One of my main areas of work is designing the campaign game mechanics, including the design and implementation of the missions that are assigned to the player. In this diary, I'm going to take you through some of the work myself and the team has done in this particular area.

Missions come from a variety of organizations, including the pope, nobles, and guilds.
Missions come from a variety of organizations, including the pope, nobles, and guilds.

In Rome: Total War, the player was assigned various missions by the Roman Senate. These missions were designed to give players interesting, small, side objectives to pursue to help them on their way to achieving the main objective of the game: global domination. The main campaign can be quite overwhelming, so these missions helped to give the player concrete objectives, as well as give flavor to the game in the form of the Senate.

In Medieval 2, we wanted to extend the mission system to provide more medieval flavor and add greater variety to the types of missions assigned. To do so, we decided to create an array of different entities that would issue the player missions. Each one would have different goals and motivations and assign different types of missions accordingly. In Medieval 2, the player is issued missions from the pope, a council of nobles, and guilds, as well as other factions.

The pope is an important presence in the game and is always watching over the shoulder of Catholic factions to ensure they are on the right path. He expects that players will pay proper respect to their faith by building churches, recruiting priests to preach, keeping the peace with fellow Catholics, and ensuring that their people remain properly loyal to the Catholic faith. The pope issues missions to players to try and ensure that these goals are met. However, the pope himself is the leader of a faction and has his own biases toward different factions depending on their diplomatic relations with him and their dedication to Catholicism. Consequently, he can be particularly harsh on factions that have not been keeping the faith and turn a blind eye to those who are paying their dues. He assigns missions, rewards, and penalties accordingly.

The council of nobles is an entity within the player's faction, made up of men of importance within the kingdom. As such, they generally have the best interests of the player in mind. They give missions to the player to help them expand their territory and maintain diplomatic relations with other factions. However, their actions are sometimes motivated by more personal reasons, and they can issue missions to further their own ends.

The mission generator will offer a greater variety of tasks than seen in Rome: Total War, but expect to see the familiar blockade mission, as well.
The mission generator will offer a greater variety of tasks than seen in Rome: Total War, but expect to see the familiar blockade mission, as well.

There are various types of guilds in the game that can offer to establish guild halls in the player's settlements. Depending on how a kingdom is run and how the settlements are governed, different guilds will be attracted to different regions. Once these guilds are established in the player's settlements, they begin making requests of the player in exchange for certain benefits. Missions that are given by guilds reflect the goals and motivations of the specific guilds. Some of the available guilds include the assassins' guild, the Templar's chapter house, and the explorers' guild.

The player will also receive demands or requests from other factions. These can come from individuals within the faction, seeking external help to further themselves within the faction, or from the faction as a whole. If the player makes an agreement with another faction to carry out a certain action in the future (for example, attack another faction), this agreement will become a mission, and players will receive their rewards when the action is completed.

The mission system itself has been improved from Rome: Total War to provide the player with the most relevant and varied set of missions throughout the game. When a new mission needs to be issued, each mission in the system is evaluated to determine if there is a valid target. Then each valid mission is issued with a score, based on a set of criteria, such as the best available target for the mission, time since this mission was last given, time in the game, the mission giver's attitude to the player, and the player's current assets (for example, money, available agents, and so on). The result is that the player gets an interesting set of varied, achievable, and relevant missions throughout the course of the campaign.

A mission journal will keep you up-to-date on all your various missions.
A mission journal will keep you up-to-date on all your various missions.

The presentation of the missions have been improved to make them a more prominent and usable part of the game. A Missions button has been added to the user interface, which brings up a dedicated missions scroll, outlining the player's active missions, with information about time remaining, mission goals, rewards, and penalties. Players can also click on any of their active missions to highlight and zoom to the mission target on the map.

After we had a chance to play the campaign game with the new missions, we were able to tune the difficulty, duration, and rewards associated with each mission. It was important to try to balance out the mission system so different types of missions were assigned with the right frequency and that the player receives new and interesting challenges throughout the game. Also, since one of our campaign programmers, Scott Lowther, did such a good job in creating the missions system, we were able to easily add in some new missions and mission variations. The missions in Medieval 2 will give the player a rich, varied, and challenging game-playing experience.

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