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Civilization III - Conquests Developer Update: Sengoku - Sword of the Shogun

The Making of 'Sengoku - Sword of the Shogun'


By Michael Fetterman
Associate Producer, Firaxis Games

Civilization III: Conquests features nine professionally created scenarios, which contain concepts never seen before in any Civilization title. The first designer diary in this series provides a glimpse at the design process and decisions made during the development of one of the most prominent Conquests, known as Sengoku: Sword of the Shogun. Sengoku was originally created by Michael Fetterman of Firaxis Games, who was the Associate Producer for both Civilization III and Play the World. The Civilization III: Conquests expansion product containing Sengoku: Sword of the Shogun is scheduled for release in Fall-2003.


In a Nutshell
During the production cycle of Play the World it was obvious to me that the bonus Japanese units had enormous potential. I became determined to create a conquest that would utilize this extra art that we had shipped with the game. My interest in feudal Japan was originally inspired by a number of sources, including: James Clavell’s Shogun, various Akira Kurosawa movies, and Alderac Entertainment Group’s - Legend of the Five Rings role-playing system. These are romanticized sources at best, but at their core lay certain fundamental themes and figures that players can easily identify in a strategy game. First and foremost, is the role of the Shogun as a wise and powerful ruler. Secondly, acting as law-enforcement and military personnel, are the Samurai caste and the warrior code known as “Bushido”. Last, but certainly not least, were the themes of mystery, intrigue, and scandal surrounding the period, personified by Ronin, Ninja, and Foreigners. I knew enough about each of these themes in order to wrap a simple game concept within this unique setting. The object of this particular Conquest is very simple: Unite feudal Japan under your rule by use of brute force and/or diplomatic finesse while competing with other major Japanese families in an arms race to gunpowder.


Behold, Nihon!
While I could have spent a lot of my time attempting to achieve complete accuracy in creating the map of Japan, I was more interested in offering a map that would force its occupants to wrestle for control over critical locations. I achieved this by generously populating the map with the basic resources and luxuries and then punctuating key locations with valuable strategic resources. The purpose behind this was to ensure that no city would be starving, lacking in general development, or wanting for even basic resources. I did not want players to have any need to focus on basic city maintenance since the core of the game that I was designing was rooted in combat, and any other approach would have merely been a distraction in a scenario which encourages players to flaunt their tactical prowess.

Sengoku Mini-Map
Clean Map View

Since a large amount of the map consists of narrow stretches of land it would be an easy task to pound your neighbors into submission fairly early in the game. To combat this, each major strategic resource was placed on mountain terrain and is closely guarded by Ronin-Barbarians who must be eliminated before players are able to freely access any major strategic resource. While this may sound extreme, these steps ensured that no single player could easily dominate prized items such as Jade, Iron, or Saltpeter during the earliest turns of the game. The frequency and strength of the early Ronin in this particular Conquest should also occupy even the most aggressive players. The original concept for the Barbarian race was expanded beyond their use as mindless hordes that interfere at random. The Barbarians in Sengoku have been given an explicit purpose within the context of the scenario and also function as a balancing mechanism.


Lord, Liege, and Lackey
The regicide mode introduced in Play the World inspired the implementation of the King units in Sengoku, otherwise known as “Daimyo” units. Preserving the safety of the King units is typically of paramount importance when playing in a Regicide scenario, but we were determined to encourage players to take some risks with these units rather than hiding them within well-fortified cities. To achieve this, we provided Daimyo with attack values as well as new attack animations, converting them into combat units. Additionally, these Daimyo units are given the opportunity to be upgraded after specific branches of the Tech Tree have been researched. The once-vulnerable King unit can now potentially become a player’s greatest warrior. Similar modifications were made for other units as well, including the addition of bombardment capabilities for all ranged units. These unit modifications breathe new life into unit archetypes that hardcore Civ fans may otherwise take for granted.

Daimyo Unit

While I did not possess intimate working knowledge of the algorithms used to resolve combat in the Civilization III system, it was clear to me that it would be absolutely essential to make all of the base unit stat values relative. By doing so, I managed to establish a hierarchy of unit stats that seemed to work very well within the confines of this particular scenario. Basic swordsmen units, known as Ashigaru, are deployed to combat Barbarians; ranged units, such as the stone-crossbowmen, should consistently defeat Ashigaru; and mounted units should defeat crossbowmen, etc. until contact with the Portuguese is acquired, granting players access to gunpowder-based units which were designed to trump nearly all of their mundane counterparts.


The option to hire some underhanded units in the form of the anonymous Ronin warriors and deadly Ninja units was also made available to the player. Mercenary Ronin units function almost identically to the Privateer units of Civilization III. They benefit from the lack of any national identity and can strike out at enemy holdings without implicating their employer. Similarly, Ninja units are only detectable by the Yamabushi combat monks, or by fully upgraded Daimyo units. In addition to the standard stealth-related abilities, Ninja have been granted an all-new ability, ‘Stealth Attack’, which allows them to select and attack a single target from within a stack of units. While this combination of abilities may seem very powerful, the reality is that these Ninja units would have little chance for success if detected and forced to engage in direct combat with standard troops such as Samurai Warriors.


The Art of War
The very start of the Tech Tree may look familiar to seasoned veterans as it makes use of some of the same fundamental concepts seen in Civilization III such as: Iron Working, Mathematics, Masonry, Religion, and even Pottery. These core technologies are essentially everything a fledgling civilization would need in order to survive on their own. However, once Feudalism has been discovered, the gateway to military might is and the start of the Sengoku era is flung open. It is during this second era that more foreign concepts such as: Kenjutsu - the art of swordplay; Iajutsu - the art of drawing a sword from its scabbard and attacking in the same motion; Bojutsu - the art of simple weapons; and even Bushido – the way of the warrior, are all introduced to the player. While it does borrow certain common elements and early themes from Civilization III, the customized Sengoku tech tree quickly differentiates itself from its bigger brother.

Feudal City
Advisor Window

Similar to the new unit stats, the production costs for all of the Advances in the Tech Tree are also relative to each other. The costs for all of the technological advances found within the tech tree increase as players traverse the eras and some are even weighted further to provide some additional drama. This is done to compensate for the wealth of general resources found on the map. Foreign technologies, such as Gunpowder, dominate the latter third of the Sengoku conquest Tech Tree and acquiring them should be no small feat since they ultimately herald the beginning of the end for the Samurai caste.


Initially, I thought that creating a fully-developed conquest based in feudal Japan would be a relatively simple task – create a customized map, alter some unit values; link to new unit art… and presto, a new game is born! In reality, however, I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew that I wanted this scenario to deliver a completely new look and feel to players; and that meant new maps, tech trees, units, leader heads, icons, and even all-new Civilopedia text entries had to be created. The development of this Conquest consumed most of my spare time for several months as I researched the setting, delved into every aspect of the editor tools, and became intimately familiar with the process by which our staff created assets. I was knee-deep in an enormous array of these game assets and other information when it became clear to me that I was essentially re-inventing the game of Civilization, albeit on a smaller scale.

The isolated nature of feudal Japan worked to my advantage as it allowed me to establish what appear to be a complex set of relationships by using some very simple rules. Strategic resources have become more valuable, the fundamentals for regicide games have been re-invented, and refreshing new unit types were created, and all of this provides even further depth to an already intricate strategy game.

-Michael Fetterman

Click here for the Mesoamerican Design Diary.

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