As the Total War: Warhammer 3 Immortal Empires beta kicks off, PCGamesN, live at Gamescom 2022, talks to lead designer Mitch Heastie about player feedback, settlements, and changes to races and emergent narrative that are coming to the Creative Assembly strategy game. We asked about responses to the beta, balancing the Confederation, and a range of other additions and changes planned for the next Warhammer instalment. Here’s what Heastie had to say.
PCGN: What is some of the key player feedback you’ve had and what are your plans for that?
Mitch Heastie: This being a beta there are balance changes that are going to be needed. As soon as we can get metrics on players, we can get going on that. We have a few new things, like the endgames. One thing we have already seen is players asking for more variety. One of the top things we’ve seen is people asking ‘where is the Skaven? Where’s Chaos?’ That is something we’ll get to work on for future patches.
What is one of the main things that you want to focus on going forward?
The one I would usually reference is skill trees. Before release I played 30 hours solid. The one thing that was lacking was skill trees. They need a lot of care and attention. We need to get those up to speed with some of the new balance philosophies we have for Warhammer 3.
How about the feedback you’ve had about the Confederation, and balancing that?
I’ve seen the feedback about Confederation being too difficult for what players want. It’s a tricky one, because you go too far and players can just own the whole map, but too easy and you may as well turn the feature off. It’s a little too harsh at the moment. There are some changes coming in patch 2.1 that we’ve already put in place, which should make Confederations a little more approachable.
How about with settlers and settlements?
It’s something we were already aware of, knowing how settlers were quite close together, and you can jump from settlement to settlement – minor settlement battle to minor settlement battle. So on that we do have something coming. I would say probably top of the list; top of the list of the things we want to action.
What are some of the biggest developmental challenges you’ve faced so far?
One of the biggest challenges of Immortal Empires was naturally bringing the old content that we made maybe like five years ago and putting that into essentially a new game. And Warhammer 3 has some pretty substantial changes. In technical terms, the one I always reference is multiplayer. You take dwarfs, for example. When we made them, we had no concept of eight-player, synchronous-turn multiplayer.
So that’s one of the features of the old stuff that we’re trying to make new. That is one of the big challenges of Immortal Empires. And obviously, just the sheer amount of content as well. There were always going to be things that we were going to miss, like maybe this skill tree just doesn’t make sense in Warhammer 3 any more. Maybe we’ve missed stuff like that, but, again, that’s why it’s out as a beta.
Are there any other major anxieties, from a developer standpoint, about Warhammer 3?
Well I think the other thing we saw was, maybe people weren’t so happy about the performance of Warhammer 3. So, that was one of the really hot topics that we tried to focus on, for the release. And it’s not just the frame rate. You know, Immortal Empires is 92%, bigger than Mortal Empires, so obviously, we had to put a big focus on not only performance in terms of framerate, but also really had to make sure that the turn times were within what players were willing to play with. We’re really happy with how both of those have turned out. I think a lot of performance stuff has been sort of resolved.
How are you planning to keep supporting the game after launch?
I mean, the topic of performance, it’s not like a one-time thing. It’s constant. It’s ongoing forever. So just like in Mortal Empires, if you remember the potion of speed update, that was that was well into Mortal Empires. And that was us saying, like, ‘okay, let’s make a patch. Let’s make it performance focused’. So, if there are big gains to be had in the future, we’ll definitely be looking at them.
And again, we’re always playing late if the players are saying turn times are too long or the frame rate isn’t where it should be. That’s something we’re just going to look at as ongoing forever. You can always get more frames, you can always be quicker.
Are you planning to rework any of the races, Norsca for example?
For Immortal Empires, we did a little bit of a rework for them. Certainly not on the scale of Chaos but we tried to touch up some of the more core stuff there. I think they are top of the list. Maybe them and Lizardmen are the two that we always sort of reference. I think it’s almost wrong to think of it in terms of like a 1.0 rework, a 2.0, because it’s more just we have a general idea of sentiment around a race.
So whether we’ve done ten reworks on the faction, if players aren’t happy with that, then it might be justification for another rework. It’s not about how many times we’ve done it in the past. It’s kind of about where this race currently sits. Bretonnia is a good example. We kind of touched them up quite a few times, but that’s not to say they won’t be again in the future. Hopefully by now, players know that we support games for a long time. We’d like to add a lot of stuff, paid and free updates and free content drops. So you can expect to see all of that in Warhammer 3.
Thinking about some of the races and factions, what do you think makes a good race, and how do you judge that?
You know, whenever we make a DLC, we always like to look back at Tomb Kings, because I think that set a really good framework for what is a good race. They have a really strong roster, you know. All the way from the sort of the chaff units, you have like really good units that you’re looking forward to sort of working towards and playing with. So that’s always really good from a roster side. If you have a good roster, you’re almost all the way there for a race.
If you talk to Mike Simpson, our creative director, something he’s always said is that a really good way to design is to sort of take a rule set, and then for new content make exceptions to the rules. So that’s something I think we have tried to do. Something people already know, but like, here’s a different way to interact with it.
And what for you is the main element or the crux of that core gameplay?
I suppose it’s like the emergent narrative part of the game. It’s like the stories that people create for themselves. I always love it when you go into Reddit, and you see just a crazy story about some general who sort of worked his way up, and he fought this battle, and he died heroically. And that’s just something that’s emerged from the game for the player.
It’s unique to them. I think something we’d like to reinforce more is that emergent narrative part of the game and you, as a player, feeling that this is your group of guys. They’ve been with me from the start. That’s just such a strong, strong element. We want more of that.
In terms of upcoming content, is there anything you can talk about?
No concrete plans that I can share. We have rough ideas of what isn’t in the game yet, a roadmap in our head. We know what we would like to put in the game. It’s just a case of seeing where we go.
And how about some of the hints and teases that we have seen so far?
Our writers and even our designers really like to add hints and teases, some of them true, some of them not. So if you see a hint, don’t take it as a guarantee. But equally we do like to foreshadow some things that are coming soon.
You can read all about our Total War: Warhammer 3 Immortal Empires beta first impressions, or, if you’re thinking of getting into the strategy game yourself, you should take a look at the best Total War: Warhammer 3 starting positions, and our guide to the Total War: Warhammer 3 Immortal Empires map. PCGamesN is reporting live from Gamescom 2022 and will continue bringing you exclusives on the huge range of games revealed there.