Interview: Andy Hall, writer of Total War: Warhammer
Andy Hall is the Lead Writer on the highly anticipated Total War: Warhammer from Creative Assembly. He was kind enough to take a few minutes off to chat with us about the game that has both Total War and Warhammer Fantasy Battles fans collectively throwing their credit cards at him and screaming, “Take my money!”
Andy is a 16-year Games Worksop veteran who worked with the likes of Jervis Johnson, Gav Thorpe and Rick Priestley on many games such as Blood Bowl, Warmaster and Inquisitor when at the Specialist Games studio and then as editor of Fanatic Magazine. After a five year stint on White Dwarf, he left GW and worked on numerous Warhammer-flavoured computer games including Warhammer Quest, Blood Bowl 2 and Vermintide. He’s now full-time at Creative Assembly as Lead Writer on Total War: Warhammer.
Let’s get chatting about the game I can’t wait to set eyes on!
[GdM] Throughout the Total War series on loading screens we often see quotes meant to inspire, guide and warn. I always got such a huge kick out of them. With so many books, short stories, and fluff pieces already written in the Warhammer world, were you able to use a few choice quotes that we may recognise or did you need to come up with new ones?
[AH] Wow, I’ve done what must be well over 50 interviews for this project so far and no one’s asked me about loading screen quotes before! To answer – there’s a few new ones I’ve written, but the vast majority are taken from existing material in a scatter gun approach. The loading screen is a good way to show just how deep this world is, and so having a random sample of factoids and quotes from the full spectrum of the Old World alludes to that.
We’ve also got hints about battle and campaign game play in there, summaries of the spell lores, and keep an eye on the loading screens going into Quest Battles they may offer hints on what to expect as well as a narrative summary of your goal.
[GdM] What heroes can we expect to hear from?
[AH] Bretonnians, Dwarfs, brave Empire men, Orcs, of course. Mannfred has a few choice select quotes, that guy is a real blow hard.
[GdM] Do you have a favourite quote you can share with us?
[AH] ‘Oi, dat’s my leg!’ – perturbed Goblin.
[GdM] And what about those that you came up with yourself?
[AH] ‘Life is a cancer, but I have the cure, death ever-lasting.’ I think that’s one of Kemmler’s.
[GdM] Warhammer is an intensely detailed game and world. In an article on ign.com, Stace Harman discusses the exceptional detail the creators went into to ensure a completely unique playing experience for each race. How much input did you have into the creation of those races and uniqueness, and was it difficult to come up with four initial engaging narrative experiences for the one map?
[AH] Yeah, I was recruited early in the project, I’d left GW the previous year and was just finishing work on Warhammer Quest, Blood Bowl 2 and Vermintide, when CA asked me to join. So I had some influence over how the races worked. However, real credit belongs to Ian Roxburgh, our game director, for really laying down the challenge on our campaign and battle designers to make this more than a mere Total War re-skin. This game breathes Warhammer and I hope that I made a small contribution towards that.
[GdM] Which race was the most fun to write?
[AH] It has to be Greenskins. Writing Orc scripts, there’s nothing quite like it. All credit to Rick Preistley, and so many other writers in that early GW era for making Orcs hooligan Milwall fans.
[GdM] Which is your favourite to play, and why?
[AH] Perhaps surprisingly, I’ve really been enjoying the Dwarfs, it’s their Grudge mechanic that really keeps you doing the ‘just one more turn’ thing. I’m an Empire player on the table top (and Skaven…) but I’m saving Franz’s lads for my ‘release’ play through.
[GdM] With four awesome races coming out with the initial release, and two planned expansions on the way, what other races will be added and when can we expect to see them?
[AH] The plan is to get all sixteen armies (and, yes, I mean 16 despite there being 15 army books…) in the game by journey’s end. As to the order in which they appear, well, you’ll have to wait and see.
[GdM] Can you give us any indication of what sort of stories we’ll get to play through with those races?
[AH] In Total War you make your own stories, that is kinda the point, playing out the ‘what ifs’ of that race. What if Franz invaded Bretonnia? What if Mannfred does create an eternal, deathless Empire? My own personal agenda is to reclaim Marienburg for the Empire. It’s always rankled me that the corrupt Bugomeisters bought themselves secession. That’s something I intend to put right on my Empire play through! Saying all that we do have a broad narrative structure – an overarching plot – that is kind of a first for Total War and there are the Quest Chains for the Legendary Lords and that will continue for all the races going forward, with the quests and narratives adapting to the style of each race.
[GdM] One of the things I’m most excited about are the Legendary Lords, described on the Total War Wiki as “named characters from Warhammer Lore”. Two come out for each race with the initial release, with more to follow as DLCs and Free Content. Which Legendary Lords did you enjoy putting into the game the most and how did you integrate their storylines and history into the narrative?
[AH] Heinrich Kemmler was my favourite to write because he’s a senile old git, who thinks of his Undead minions as his ‘children’. His battle speeches were great fun to write. The Quest Chains are linked to their iconic magic items, that’s how you unlock them in the game. The stories themselves for these are either new, or refashioned from their origins in the background. In a few instances we’ve had to tweak timelines to get it to work, but as the game doesn’t advance in years, I think we get away with it. A good example of a new quest, of new material, for example, is Karl Franz’s quest for Ghal Maraz. In our game, he’s just become Emperor, and so perfectly entitled to wield the Warhammer, so what I did was make Karl not feel worthy of Ghal Maraz until he has performed a great battle – at Black Fire Pass – such a momentous victory there will set the seeds of uniting the Electors behind Franz’s reign and so then he does feel he can wield the Warhammer both as a symbol of his office and as a weapon. And so it unlocks in the game.
[GdM] Will we see such renown characters as the Bretonian Green Knight, Aenarion the Defender, Malus Darkblade, Archaon, or Sigmar (to name but a few)?
[AH] You’re not going to see Sigmar! As to the others… Stay tuned.
[GdM] Will there be more than two Legendary Lords per race in the future?
[AH] Yes, Chaos already has three – Sigvald, Kholek and, of course, Archaon.
[GdM] With so much lore already existing, were you able to integrate stories of famous battles and other occurrences through easter eggs or simple nods to other storylines?
[AH] Yes, the game is littered with Easter Eggs for the lore-fiend. Keep an eye on traits, achievements, building and tech tree descriptions in the game guide.
[GdM] Were there any bits of lore you wish you could have put in but just couldn’t?
[AH] Not couldn’t… But couldn’t put in yet. By the time we’re done I think we’ll be very comprehensive!
[GdM] Tabletop gamers are habitual list-tinkerers and love kitting out lords and heroes, something that seems to have thankfully made it into Total War: Warhammer. There are magic items and huge skill trees to build on the smaller generals’ skill trees of Rome: Total War II, which feels far more representative of Warhammer army lists tabletop gamers will be used to. Will these characters have the immense impact on the Total War field of battle that they can on the tabletop?
[AH] Gods, yes! You’re effectively dealing with superheroes here. Some of our Legendary Lords are immortal power houses and that’s how they play out on the battlefield. Mannfred should be able to walk up to a unit of gobble and wipe them out single-handedly. The fact you can develop them further or create your own from scratch is icing on the cake. You have 30 skill points (gained by committing them in battle) and that allows you to really customise your Lords and Heroes, just like in table top.
[GdM] The maps in the current play-throughs look gorgeously detailed, far more so that previous Total War games. Were artists known for their previous Warhammer art used in the creation of the scenery and did you get to work with them on creative briefs?
[AH] We have a great stable of artists at CA and they just launched into bringing this world to life whole-heartedly. We obviously have 30 years of artistic endeavour from Games Workshop to be inspired by. More skulls! Was a catchphrase I and our art lead, Chris Waller used a lot, as well as references from the likes of John Blanche and many others.
[GdM] Are there any plans to release maps of famous battles as one-offs?
[AH] Not currently.
[GdM] Warhammer and Total War feels like a beautiful match up on the same awesomeness-tier as salt and caramel or beer and the Aussie summer. What are you most excited about with this release?
[AH] So much. This game is what was happening in my head when I was an eleven-year-old boy pushing miniatures around a table. The static nature of models means they can only be representative. Our game makes it visceral; makes it real. That’s why I am proud to have had a minor part in creating it.
[GdM] Thanks for chatting with me Andy!
Total War: Warhammer hit the shelves on the 24th of May, 2016 and can be ordered for $59.99USD over on the steam store.