As I began my research into the game, Total War: Troy. I was already aware that grand strategy games such as this rely heavily on AI to create memorable stories and to keep the players both challenged and engaged. The AI in Total War: Troy build the bulk of the opposition to the player and as such I knew almost immediately that my artefact would be revolve around this aspect of the game. Once I had come to this conclusion, I set my sights on one of the most ambitious and technically impressive examples of AI generation in a game that I personally had ever seen. The innovative Nemesis system that debuted in The Lord of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor.
The Nemesis System
The Nemesis System is the perfect example of what so many games claimed to do before its arrival, it created the perfect illusion of a living, breathing world that could be shaped by the players actions. I call it an illusion because that’s honestly what it is, it created orc commanders that held vendettas against the player for foiling their plans or mortally wounding them. Or even a lowly orc grunt might be distinguished from the horde of lookalikes for getting a lucky hit on the player. The orcs personality and traits would be assembled from a database that would randomly generate a unique and memorable foe, I personally remember my very first real nemesis, there were many captains who I swept through but there was only one who I couldn’t seem to be rid of. His name escapes me but our fights do not, he was vicious and deadly using a poison weapon that you had to avoid at all costs I remember beating him by exploding a nearby campfire, and I thought that would be it. But he came back horrifically burnt and developed an immunity to this method of finishing him, adding to the list of annoyances I had to deal with when fighting him.
While researching I found the sheer depth and size of the nemesis system to be daunting for me to try and design something similar for Total War, that was until I came across a blog Written by Mike Bithell, a prolific indie game developer famous for narrative adventure games such as Thomas Was Alone. The blog titled “What to Steal: Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system” is immensely interesting and breaks down how he believes the system can be replicated in other games by taking certain elements and incorporating them into the context and environment where the game is set.
He writes, This is a great system. Pretty damn repeatable too, no reason that an indie game couldn’t do this on a text level. This line helped reinvigorate my motivation to try and see how possible it could be to see how this system could translate into the world of ancient Greece.
The End of R&D and further steps into preproduction
Now that I have an idea of what I can do for my artefact, and I’m certainly aware that it is ambitious I must begin planning how I can start developing this system, and in what context it would work inside the world of Total War: Troy.
For this, I think I need to look to blog referenced earlier for tips in creating this system, Mike references four key components on meeting an orc or in our case. “Nemesis” that he says, “are hooked up together to imply way more personality, and emergence, than is actually present.” He lists these components rather simply; a basic name generator that uses very harsh orc sounding names that fit the context of Mordor, but maybe not so much other games, so the name generator must fit the setting to help immerse the player and allow the enemy to sound more believable. Art assets for this enemy and the voice clips of both them and their allies. Now in a full-scale project with a larger budget I believe these aspects to be more feasible to implement however I won’t allow this to deter me, a thematic name generator is more than possible and I can definitely implement voice clips and dialogue in a text format to achieve a similar effect.
If I want to create a mechanic for Total War similar to that of the nemesis system I must try and find a way to incorporate it thematically in the game without it seeming intrusive to the core gameplay and the systems and structure of the game at base, and after a bit of playtime and research I found that the game already has a perfect way to implement such mechanics, The admittedly barebones Hero system, and while there are differences such as each faction only able to have one hero during any one battle, this could be beneficial for such a system as it could make rivalries between commanders and nemesis’s feel more dynamic and inter-personal. The game already facilitates one vs one duels between key figures of each faction.
To create a more believable and immersive sense of character for each of the randomly generated commanders that I have planned to implement I must conduct research to find realistic and historically accurate Greek-reminiscent names to truly fit the world and environment of Total War: Troy. I have found an informative list of ancient Greek masculine names with the usage and meaning of their names described alongside. It can be found here
with this list I plan to implement them inside a name generator inside of unreal and allow it to assign this name with other factors to create the illusion of a detailed character.
Now that I have a matrix of Greek names I’m still missing some key components that would really complete the mechanic that I’m hoping to implement, The models of each of these characters should be different, even in subtle ways like changing the proportions of the body, making them fatter or thinner. Like real people models can come in different shapes and sizes, and they can even accentuate parts of their personality, although designing many different commander models might be outside the scope of this project making various parts of the same model the focal point of that specific character
E.g a character that wears no armour could be described as reckless or foolish, but another character who would wear no armour might be so confident in their skills that they don’t need it, or it just slows them down.
Utilising certain techniques like this to trick the player into thinking that the characters generated are deeper than they appear is the key to creating memorable encounters and memorable characters.