After its May 24 release, Total War: WARHAMMER quickly became the Creative Assembly’s fastest-selling Total War title ever — according to SteamSpy, more than 742,000 players have purchased the game. We awarded it a 9/10. In the month it’s been out, modders and YouTubers have been busily creating content for it, showcasing massive battles , tweaking game mechanics, and even adding wholly new units and factions.
We got a chance to talk with Al Bickham, Creative Assembly’s studio communications manager, about the game’s reception and where the team plans on taking players in the future.
Total War: WARHAMMER has met pretty universal praise from critics and high sales numbers. Was the move away from recorded, real history something you worried about for the franchise? What’s been the team’s feeling about its reception? Relief? Joy? Validation?
All of the above to be honest! There’s always an element of risk when you try something new, and high fantasy is, fair to say, something of a departure from the kinds of scenarios we’ve traditionally tackled. But one thing we knew instinctively and right from the start was that Warhammer and Total War would be the perfect marriage. Plus, we’re an ambitious bunch. And we absolutely believed that the Warhammer Fantasy Battles universe hadn’t yet had its definitive PC strategy game. That’s what we set out to make, and we’ve made a good start with part 1. There’s so much more of the world to explore, and we’re cracking on with that right now.
Total War has featured DLC expansions for a while now – are you ready to talk about any of the additions you’ll be offering to the game? Will there be a blood and gore pack for Warhammer?
We’re basing the game and its DLC and follow-ups on the 8th Edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. That gives us a massive scope for expanding the game, and in that regard the gloves are off – there’s so much we’re planning to do. We’ve always said that if there’s an army book in 8th Edition, then we’re going to build that race into the game at some stage. And I think we’ll add to that whenever we see an opportunity to do so. As for the red stuff… I believe the state of Estalia, just to the south of Bretonnia, serves up a particularly good Claret. To spill it would be positively… barbarous.
WARHAMMER introduces monstrous and flying units to the Total War mix. What kinds of surprises have you seen from the player community in terms of how these new kinds of units are used?
There are some prolific, enormously skilled YouTubers making Total War content out there, and some of the videos we’ve seen made using TW:WH have been nothing short of riotous. Armies composed of nothing but Giants, swatting guys aside like ten-pins; 40-unit bat swarms blocking out the sun; multitudes of Goblin Doom Divers raining down like a storm of giggling bombs. People have been creating scenes of pure insanity, and having so much fun with what they’re doing, it’s a joy for us to see.
Talk a bit about the community engagement strategy you’ve used for this game. I’ve enjoyed watching Total War videos for a while now, and with Warhammer, you guys are creating videos that feature fan-made game mods. How important are modders, streamers, and YouTubers to your games’ lifecycles, and what do they offer your business model? How has this changed since Total War first began?
On a basic (and somewhat obvious) level, our community is our life-blood. If they weren’t buying and playing our games, we’d be looking for different job. But our community is also staggeringly diverse in the ways it looks at our games, and the desires it has around them. Modders aren’t afraid to ‘break’ the game – to change things so far beyond the given or intended design that it becomes something new, and often, that’s something that other players will find desirable.
After all, people make mods because they want to change a specific thing to suit their gameplay desires. This results in some amazing mods, and that gives us a more diverse view about what we can do, or what we should be doing. Most importantly, mods make the game itself more diverse… only without our input and the development-cost implications that would have on the price of the game. In short, it’s free, new content or features that people can install to modify the game to suit their tastes, and that can only be a good thing for players.