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Spartan: Total Warrior

Platform(s): GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Creative Assembly

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'Spartan: Total Warrior' (NGC/PS2/Xbox) - Developer Q&A

by Matt Mefford on Sept. 1, 2005 @ 12:25 a.m. PDT

Spartan: Total Warrior will engulf the player into the midst of titanic clashes between mighty armies, blending mythical beasts and legendary monsters into the fray. Brutal combat meets epic warfare on the battlefields of the ancient world as you fight for your life, your freedom and your honor.

WorthPlaying: Can you give us an overview of your character, his plight, and the allies working alongside of him?

SB : The Spartan is raised as (and assumes he is) a normal Spartan warrior, but gradually his true self is revealed – he has God-given powers and Herculean strength. The Greek Gods guide him on a journey to rid Sparta of the invading Roman Army – a journey which culminates at the dark heart of the Empire; the Colisseum in Rome itself. The fate of Sparta is in his hands. Actually, it’s in *your* hands.

He has 2 main allies that are there from the start of the game – a pair of Spartan brothers called Castor and Pollux. These two are very useful for directing the Spartan through the game, aswell as their advanced fighting skills. There’s also a female warrior from the Amazonian tribe; she’s pretty dapper with a pair of Amazon shuriken! All of them have advanced AI so that they tend to stick with the Spartan, to protect and assist. They’re just the sort of mates you want have around.

In addition to the named NPCs, you get an entire Spartan Army to assist you. You can’t issue them orders as this isn’t an RTS, but they will fight to their deaths for their country, alongside you.

WP: Many regard the Spartans to be the most warlike and combat-proficient of all the Greeks. What sort of powers and special abilities did it take to set “The Spartan” apart from the rest?

SB : So, you can see why we chose the Spartans as a culture to take on the Roman Empire – Spartans were raised in the army from early childhood until their 20’s. Even after (arranged) marriage, they lived in barracks with their fellow soldiers. They really were a warrior race, unparalleled and unprecedented.

This gave us a great starting point for having our own Spartan appear the way he does – muscle-bound and heroic. To give him an extra edge (and thus aid their own side of the fight), the Greek Gods appear to him and instil him with their own awesome powers. Thus he has access to lightning attacks, earth-based quakes, fire-inspired powers, aswell as Rage Attacks, a multiple arrow-firing bow, and a shield to use defensively *and* offensively.

WP: A number of people have made the comparison between God of War and Spartan: Total Warrior. What are the key differences that make Spartan a completely different game experience?

SB : It’s a completely different genre of game. Spartan: Total Warrior features these epic, cinematic battles with hundreds of characters appearing onscreen. The key difference is that this is a true many vs many epic combat game.

You’ll find yourself up against 60 different unit types, including centurions, grunts, assassins, barbarians, berserkers, Thracian gladiators, Samnite gladiators, archers, zombies, and so many more. Each one fights with a unique style, has an individual weapon and defence strategy, so the player continuously has to try new tactics.

It’s an intense experience, which drags the player right into the heart of the massive battle.

WP: One thing to note is the matter of historical accuracy. Whereas Rome: Total War went to great lengths to stay true to the armies of the time, Spartan takes historical liberties. How difficult was it to break with the traditions set by the Total War series to create this new franchise?

SB : What better way to break away from tradition than to create a whole new franchise? This means that we’re not abandoning our Total War games at all, and we can still keep on making the historically accurate games that we’re known and loved for. We have a whole different team working on each project, so it’s not like we have to switch between one and the other. Each game type (Total War/Total Warrior) will get the same amount of good CA lovin’ as Total War always has.

It was actually pretty fun to have more of a free reign, historically speaking. When the game was designed, the team could come up with anachronistic machines and gadgets that would boost gameplay and just look cool. The Roman Infernus troops come to mind here – they’re these huge heavies who waddle round with a whole tank of naphtha strapped to their backs, who are always trying to torch you and watch your burning body flail around. There are some fantastical elements, though we have tried to root most additions in myth or fables that existed in Ancient Greece.

WP: Kudos on releasing on all 3 current-gen consoles simultaneously. How difficult was it meet a single release date across all platforms?

SB : We have three different programming teams (one on each console), so that each version of the game has been created from the ground up for its own console. Not only does each console get the very best version of the game this way, but also the release dates can be synchronised. It’s not fair to give it a head start on one console – and we’d probably get accused of nepotism *grins*

WP: How difficult was it for you to get 170 soldiers on screen (at any given time) on a PS2?

SB : The game’s been in development for three years, and it’s been a constant challenge to get the game to the state it’s in. It was a matter of pushing the boundaries of what we thought the consoles could do – every time a good result was achieved (like getting an extra 20 more NPCs on screen), we had a starting point to improve on that to accomplish something even better.
Each NPC onscreen is modelled individually (rather than being streamed off the disc), and each one has a unique fighting style, weapon, attack pattern, and defence strategy to make them into a complete warrior who will fight to the very death.

Basically, we’re fortunate enough to work for a company full of perfectionists and people who love what they’re working on. It means that often Team Spartan will stay until midnight and work every weekend, just to make sure the game reaches the zenith of perfection.

WP: A lot of consumers seem to think the GameCube is underpowered compared to the other two consoles. It’s not until they play a game like this that they realize just how truly capable it is. Were your experiences in porting Spartan to the GC favorable? Is so, how did it rank in comparison to the other two?

SB : I’m afraid I’m going to have to slap you for using the word “porting” there. This game is not ported! Our GC and Xbox programmers would take great offence to that! They’ve painstakingly coded Spartan: Total Warrior individually on each system. There are advantages to not porting a game. It allows the team to create the optimum version of the game for that specific console. Amazingly, the data is the same across all three consoles; the systems seem to stand up to the beating that our 170+ NPCs onscreen (not to mention the fully interactive 3D environments, 130,000 polys per frame, constant 60 fps, etc) gave them. The team really has pushed the boundaries of what all three consoles can do.
There are slight differences between the versions where we were able to utilise unique features of the consoles to perfect the game even more; so the GC has Depth of Field Perspective and High Range Dynamic Lighting Effects, while the PS2 and Xbox benefit from other additions.

WP: A number of consumers have (prematurely) stated their discontent with Spartan not having Cooperative play. In your defense, how much more difficult would it have been to include this game type and still ship on time?

SB : We wanted to concentrate on the single player experience for this first incarnation of the Total Warrior series, in order to maximise the individual’s gameplay. We want *you* to be the Spartan. The storyline reflects this solitary focus.

WP: Regarding Arena Battle Modes, it sounds like you went “old-school” for this game-type. Thus far, everyone in the community seems to be looking forward to it. How much fun has this mode been for you in the CA offices? Does it get people to stop what they’re doing and see who’s got the highest score?

SB : The interesting thing is that the Arena mode was developed because everyone who played Spartan found the combat so much fun and so satisfying. Everyone wanted to just be able to fight, fight, fight and not worry about objectives and missions – so we came up with the Arena mode to satisfy that demand.

Arena mode is a great laugh – it’s an arcadey skirmish into the world of Spartan. It’s a great way to learn about the different enemies’ strategies and improve your own tactics, but it’s also hilarious for some round robin, hot-seating, bishy-bashy action!

We have a running competition in the office where we post up our high scores on the newsgroups – it’s really competitive and people even play through their lunch breaks just to get to the top of the HiScore table. I think the fact that we’re all still playing it (and loving it!) 2 years down the line is a great testament to its appeal, addictiveness and longevity!

WP: The preview with Talos reminded me of the film Jason and the Argonauts. Can we expect to see large-scale NPCs like this throughout the game, and any chance we can control them?

SB : There are plenty of other legendary creatures in the game – Spartan: Total Warrior is set in Ancient Greece, and some of the myths set in the same era are just too compelling and attractive to leave out of such a game.

In some cases we’ve enhanced the original stories with our own modern twists, which allows for innovative gameplay. However, there are always nods to the original fables that should amuse (and assist) all you literary types.

We’ve taken some inspiration from other areas of Ray Harryhausen films, so you’ll be meeting swarms of skeletons and shuffling zombies. Of course, these aren’t just for shock value – the player has to constantly adapt his fighting style and strategy to deal with each new enemy type. You’ll find that certain weapons, teamed up with certain Powers of the Gods or Rage attacks, will defeat some enemies far more efficiently and brutally than others.

WP: Is it true that a sequel is already in the works?

Dude, if I told you I’d have to kill you. And I really don’t want to have to kill anyone else this week – there’s already a plethora of Roman corpses piling up inside my PS2, and they’re starting to smell.

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