Position:QA Coordinator
Release Date:2009-03-04  2009-03-03
Genre:Real Time Strategy

Empire: Total War

The BAFTA Award winning (Strategy game of the year 2010) critically acclaimed masterpiece and emperor of the strategy genre was developed on a brand new engine by The Creative Assembly and released in March 2009. Empire broke new ground, focusing for the first time on epic Naval Battles and ranged combat in land battles. Empire's scale and un-paralleled scope is stunning to behold.

About the Game

Empire: Total War is the fifth instalment in the Total War series, which focuses on the early modern period of the 18th century.

Following a similar style of interface and play to earlier Total War titles, players choose a contemporary 18th century faction and set out to ensure that faction's domination over the known world through military force, politics, diplomacy, espionage and economics. Although the campaign element of the game is turn-based, players can direct battles in real-time. Empire: Total War is the first game in the series to allow naval battles to be conducted in real-time. In addition to the standard campaign mode, the game includes a special campaign that follows the development of the United States from the settlement of Jamestown to the American War of Independence. Players may also engage in recreations of several historical battles from the early modern era.

Empire: Total War received acclaim from reviewers upon release; several critics commended it as one of the foremost strategy titles of recent times. Praise was bestowed upon the extensive strategy breadth, accurate historical challenges and visual effects. The real-time land battles, with a far greater focus on gunpowder weaponry than earlier Total War titles, were thought to be successfully implemented. Criticisms focused on shortcomings with the game's artificial intelligence and on the real-time naval battles, the latter of which were perceived to be difficult to control and co-ordinate. The game was a commercial success, topping sales charts within the week of release.

Skills and Experiences

This was the first game I worked on after transferring from SEGA Europe to The Creative Assembly. The engine had been in development for a couple of years by this point, and when I began working on this game it was at a pre-alpha stage.

The scale of the game presented a challenge in itself. From a testing point of view, there was a lot of ground to cover. Due to my previous work with SEGA, we collaborated in developing a highly effective testing procedure, where The Creative Assembly's internal QA department tested daily builds, and the best build from each week was sent to SEGA for a week long testing phase. This meant we covered the game with long term and short term testing, to maintain coverage of both new check-ins and deeper gameplay testing.

In my role as QA Coordinator on this project, I was responsible for the day to day task allocations for The Creative Assembly’s internal QA team, and also coordinating and sending build to SEGA Europe’s QA team. I developed a "Sweep Test" which was a quick test of the games major functions that was performed on every build. This provided a quick turnaround, so we could decide if the build was suitable for longer play-throughs etc. This enabled us to judge the stability and capability of each build as quickly as possible and from there decide which areas of the game to test on each build. This proved a very successful technique, and allowed SEGA Europe to run much longer test plans that covered the build in more detail over a longer period of time.

On this project, I was also responsible for maintaining a "Must fix" system. On top of the normal bug classifications, due to time constraints and the scale of the project, we had to define the fewest bugs that needed to be fixed in order to release the game. The "Must fix" list enabled the development team to focus on a smaller more defined list of bugs rather than swathes of class A and B bugs.

Empire Total War was also the first Total War game designed for STEAM and Games for Windows. I was responsible for testing these systems and ensuring the delivery method of STEAM and certification of Games for Windows passed. Both were a learning experience and both proved successful.

There have to date also been 5 Downloadable Content releases for Empire Total War (Elite Units of the East, Elite Units of America, The Warpath Campaign, Elite Units of the West and Special Forces & Bonus content). I coordinated the quality assurance on each of these releases and ensured that every release was to the highest quality within the time frame provided.