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Creative Assembly: Innovation is crucial to franchise survival

Studio director Mike Simpson underlines importance of staying fresh to avoid getting "bored silly"

Sega Europe development studio, The Creative Assembly, is set to release the much-anticipated latest title in the hugely popular Total War series with Empire later this week - but has no intention of resting on its laurels, regardless of continued success in the strategy genre.

That's according to studio director Mike Simpson, who told GamesIndustry.biz that continued innovation is vital to the company in order to avoid the fate of some other studios whose franchises faded over time.

"I think that's one of our core principles, to make sure we're doing something new with each release, even if it's just an add-on, or evolutionary step, we still make sure there are new features in there," he said.

"I think that's one of the flaws of the other big RTS franchises is that they stay pretty static - they don't change from game to game, they just give you more of the same. Their popularity tends to decline over time, and eventually they die.

"We're very aware that we don't want to do that, we want to keep going forward and make sure that the game's new and fresh to play. Apart from anything else, it's got to be new and fresh to write - we'd get bored silly making the same game over again," he added.

Empire: Total War is the fifth instalment in the Total War series, following on from titles set in ancient Japan, medieval Europe and the Roman Empire, with the latest game set to feature full naval encounters for the first time.

"We make games that we want to play, and naval battles is something that we've always wanted to do," he explained. "We couldn't do it on Shogun or any of the others really, because it's such a big leap forward in terms of tech. But we had the opportunity to do it with Empire.

"I think the thing that stopped us before was that we didn't want to do something half-arsed. If we did naval battles, they've got to be better than anybody else's naval battle - even if that's all they're doing. It all has to stand up, so we put a lot of effort into it and it's all worked out pretty well. It's definitely satisfied our aspirations for Master & Commander-style naval battles."

Empire: Total War has been in development for three years, and will be released in partnership with Valve's digital distribution platform Steam. The first part of the GamesIndustry.biz interview with Mike Simpson is available now.

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