Total War Battles: Shogun lead designer says developers should stress design over tech

Creative Assembly: 70% of games fall short

Creative Assembly’s Renaud Charpentier says that seventy percent of games just aren’t good enough.

Charpentier was lead designer for Total War Battles: Shogun, the mobile adaptation of the classic Total War franchise.

"When you look at the market, probably 20 to 30 per cent of the games are confident, and maybe 60 to 70 per cent are not good enough," he told Edge at Unite 2012.

"Usually, they run. Most of them don’t crash – most are competent technically. Most of them look okay or even good, but they play like shit."

His remarks followed a session in which he, Nick Farley and Mattijs Van Delden spoke of the importance of prototyping early in a game’s lifecycle.

"Their biggest risk is not on the tech, not on the art, it’s on the design," continued Charpentier.

"You have to front-load that: it has to drive many of the other decisions."

"Hopefully that’s something we manage to do at Creative Assembly, and that we managed to do with Battles, but it’s still something that I think is lacking and it has to change."

"We can’t keep releasing games that anyone can tell are not interesting to play after 30 minutes when 20 or 30 people spent two years working on them. It doesn’t make any sense."

Graphics can be polished, engines can be optimised, but there’s not much that can be done to fix bad gameplay at the end of a development cycle.

"It’s not about writing a 100-page document of design that is totally useless, no one will read and will be out of date by the time they do," says Charpentier. "It’s about crafting the game.

"For that you need tech that is ready. I’ve [faced this problem] in previous teams, where I would have wanted to prototype, but the engineer tells you the animation system for combat won’t be ready in four months. What do you do? You’re blocked. You can’t be absolutely sure that certain timings will work, certain controls."

To Charpentier the importance of prototyping your gameplay early is clear; it gives developers a chance to fix design without having to wait for a polished graphics engine.

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