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Creative Assembly: We conduct "Metacritic analysis" throughout development

Studio aims for 90% average on ratings compiler

Creative Assembly's Tim Heaton has revealed just how important Metacritic ratings are to the Total War developer, laying bare the 'brutal' nature of the studio's development process.

Speaking to Gamasutra, Heaton explained that the team develops with a target of a 90 per cent average rating from the review aggregation service constantly in mind, and is willing to sacrifice almost complete game features very late in the process if they're deemed to be below standard.

Currently, the studio's Metacritic rating sits at 76 per cent, with several high scores for the Total War series pulled down by the low scoring Stormrise, actually produced at Creative Assembly Australia.

"We do what we call 'Metacritic analysis,'" says Heaton. "So we will break those features down into subsets, and we both look at it from a player's point of view, and a reviewer's point of view, and we'll weigh certain features as to how we see players and reviewers look at them, and they'll build up to a 100 percent score, and then we'll judge where we feel we are on those individual feature sets, and see the momentum on those and the velocity on those, too.

"And so if we see one flat line and it's not where we want it to be, we then will cut it. Well, we'll cut it really late in the day. I think teams are really scared about doing 90 percent of the work and then cutting it. It's kind of like, 'Well, it's nearly finished; I... I've done all the work! Please don't cut it! I'm sure I can make it better.' And we're fairly brutal on that."

That level of 'brutality' also extends to assessing the effects of PR events and other factors which could affect the perception of the studio and its games, says Heaton.

"We build into that also, on that Metacritic analysis, external events. So if we think we've done a really great PR job, if there's an individual event that we've done really good, we might add, you know, a .5 percent Metacritic. If we think it's fucked up or somebody's not done their job right, or miscommunicated something, or whatever, we'll see that in our Metacritic analysis. And we share that with Sega on a weekly basis, so that they can figure out how we're doing, too."

The process, although occasionally having temporarily negative impacts on staff morale, generally improves self-perception, says Heaton, as an excellent final product outweighs seeing a work wasted on a cut feature.

For more on Creative Assembly's development process, see GamesIndustry International's latest interview with Tim Heaton, here.

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Dan Pearson