|The Creative Assembly (1987–2005)|
|Industry||Video game industry|
|Founded||18 August 1987|
|Headquarters||Horsham, West Sussex, United Kingdom|
Number of locations
|Products||Total War series
Number of employees
|Subsidiaries||Creative Assembly Sofia|
Creative Assembly is a British video game developer established in 1987, based in Horsham, West Sussex. In its early years, the company worked on porting games to MS-DOS from Amiga and ZX Spectrum platforms, later working with Electronic Arts to produce a variety of games under the EA Sports brand. In 1999, the company had sufficient resources to attempt a new and original project, proceeding to develop the strategy computer game Shogun: Total War which was a critical and commercial hit, and is regarded as a benchmark strategy game. Subsequent titles in the Total War series built on the success of Shogun: Total War, increasing the company's critical and commercial success.
In March 2005, Creative Assembly was acquired by Sega as a subsidiary. An Australian branch was operated from Fortitude Valley, Queensland as Sega Studios Australia. Under Sega, further Total War titles were developed, and Creative Assembly entered the console market with action-adventure games such as Spartan: Total Warrior, Viking: Battle for Asgard and Alien: Isolation.
Creative Assembly was founded on 18 August 1987 as a limited company. The founder, Tim Ansell, had begun professional computer programming in 1985, working on video game titles for the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and Atari 800. Initially, Ansell kept the company small so he could personally work on computer programming. The company's early work, often produced personally by Ansell, involved porting games from the Amiga platform to DOS, such as the 1989 titles Geoff Crammond's Stunt Car Racer and Shadow of the Beast by Psygnosis. Creative Assembly began work with Electronic Arts in 1993, producing titles under the EA Sports label, starting with the DOS version of the early FIFA games. With EA Sports, Creative Assembly was able to produce low development risk products bearing official league endorsements. The company's products included Rugby World Cup titles for 1995 and 2001, the game for the 1999 Cricket World Cup and the Australian Football League games for 1998 and 1999, of which the AFL 98 title was particularly successful in the Australian market. When it became clear that the company needed to expand further, Ansell employed Michael Simpson in 1996 as creative director. Simpson, a microchip designer turned video game designer, later became the driving force for the creative design of the Total War series. Ansell left Creative Assembly after Sega acquired the developer in 2005, later on, Tim Heaton took over as studio director.
Early Total War titles (1999–2004)
As a result of their success in sports titles, by 1999 Creative Assembly had sufficient resources and backing from Electronic Arts to develop more high risk titles in other genres. The result was Shogun: Total War, the company's breakthrough title. A blend of real-time tactics and turn-based gameplay, Shogun: Total War was announced in early 1999. The game focused the Sengoku period of Japanese feudal history, and upon its release in June 2000 it was met with critical acclaim. The game won multiple industry awards and became regarded as one of the benchmark strategy video games. Inhouse composer Jeff van Dyck won both a BAFTA and an EMMA award for his work on the game's soundtrack. In May 2001, Creative Assembly announced The Mongol Invasion, an expansion pack focusing on the earlier Mongol invasions of Japan. Released in August 2001, the expansion pack also received a positive response.
Soon after, Creative Assembly broke away from Electronic Arts, instead using Activision as a publisher and distributor. In August 2001, Creative Assembly announced a second Total War, set in the Middle Ages. Medieval: Total War was of a larger scope than Shogun: Total War, spanning a larger time period and the entirety of Medieval Europe. Released in August 2002, the game was a greater success than Shogun: Total War, becoming the best-selling video game in the UK for the first two weeks, and the fourth best-selling game in the US market in its first week. As with Shogun: Total War, Medieval: Total War won multiple industry awards, and was named the top game of 2002 by PC Gamer. Creative Assembly was awarded the European Computer Trade Show PC Game Developer of the Year award. Viking Invasion, an expansion pack focusing on the Viking invasions of Britain in the Dark Ages, was released in May 2003.
A third Total War title was announced in January 2003. Entitled Rome: Total War, the game featured a new game engine to Shogun: Total War and Medieval: Total War, and redesigned the approach to the series. Set during the rise of the Roman Empire, the game's code was used for two television shows: the BBC's Time Commanders and the History Channel's Decisive Battles. Upon release in September 2004, the game was given praise, becoming one of the year's top ten best-selling titles. Jeff van Dyck was again nominated for a BAFTA award for the game's soundtrack.
Buyout and later games (2005–2016)
Despite speculation that Activision might buy Creative Assembly, as the publisher had done with previous successful developers under its wing, the Japanese company Sega announced on 9 March 2005 that they had sealed an acquisition deal with Creative Assembly, purchasing all issued shares in the company. Sega explained that the acquisition was to strengthen Sega Europe's presence in the European and North American video game markets. All preceding titles in the Total War series had been exclusively computer games. By July 2005, Sega had acquired the publishing rights to Rome: Total War from Activision, and built on the brand strategy by releasing two expansion packs: Barbarian Invasion in September 2005 and Alexander in September 2006. Spartan: Total Warrior was released in October 2005 on Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube, receiving a mixed reception from critics.
Medieval II: Total War, the fourth title in the franchise, was announced in January 2006. It was a remake of the earlier Medieval: Total War using the new assets and technology behind Rome: Total War. The game was released in November 2006, and although not as successful as Rome: Total War, Medieval II: Total War was still a critical and commercial hit, holding a place in the UK games charts in November 2006, and in the US charts until the end of January 2007. An expansion pack, Kingdoms, was announced in March 2007. The expansion received a positive reception from critics upon release in August 2007.
At the Games Convention in August 2007, Creative Assembly announced new titles. The first, Viking: Battle for Asgard, was a console-exclusive title, similar in style to Spartan: Total Warrior, but focusing on Norse mythology. The game was released in March 2008. It received an average reception from critics in the industry. The second title was a fifth Total War installment, Empire: Total War, set in the early modern period of the 18th century and early 19th century. As was the case with Rome: Total War, Empire: Total War features a redesigned approach to the series and a new game engine. It was released in March 2009, receiving high praise, selling double the number of units sold of Medieval II: Total War and Rome: Total War. However, numerous significant issues were pointed out by critics after the release. Though there were numerous patches, not all of these were addressed by the abandonment of support for the game, which caused many to question Sega's influence on Creative Assembly. In July 2008, Creative Assembly announced Stormrise. Unlike previous historically-based games, Stormrise is a science fiction real-time strategy game developed for both consoles and PC, released in 2009. Stormrise received negative and mediocre responses, with criticisms focusing on broken pathfinding and the game's flawed control scheme (designed with the intent to create an easy interface for consoles).
The Australian branch of the Creative Assembly ported the first three Sonic the Hedgehog games and the Sonic & Knuckles lock-on games to Sonic Classic Collection. This compilation received overall positive reviews from Aussie-Nintendo and Official Nintendo Magazine, but criticised some speed issues when playing, rarely speeding up or slowing down and some graphical and sound glitches. Reviewers also criticised the removal of multiplayer in the games, previously available in earlier versions of the games.
In 2010, the company released Napoleon: Total War, based on the exploits of Napoleon Bonaparte to generally favourable reviews that praised the tightly scripted elements of a smaller, more focussed campaign than its globe-spanning predecessor, Empire Total War.
On 3 September 2013, Creative Assembly released Total War: Rome II. The game uses an updated Warscape engine and suffered from technical issues shortly after release which eventually led to Creative Assembly's creative director, Mike Simpson, apologising publicly for the widespread technical issues. In the ten months following release, Creative Assembly released fourteen patches for the game, solving most technical issues and balancing gameplay. As of July 2014, the game currently stands at a rating of 76/100 on Metacritic by critics.
In 2016, the company released the game Total War: Warhammer, which is set to be the first game in a trilogy. Currently they are developing the following games: Total War: Arena and Total War Battles: Kingdom, which are free-to-play games set in the Total War universe.
Expansion (2017 onwards)
In February 2017, the studio released Halo Wars 2, which received positive reviews. In March 2017 Creative Assembly announced the acquisition of Crytek Black Sea which was shut down in December 2016. This was the first studio opened by Creative Assembly abroad. The studio has been re-named to Creative Assembly Sofia.
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