Interview: A Game of Colleges

Game of Colleges Image credit: James Bailie
Compscis from AGOC Image credit: James Bailie
Geologists from AGOC Image credit: James Bailie
Sociologists from AGOC Image credit: James Bailie
ASNACs from AGOC Image credit: James Bailie

Tom Ruddle: I'm here with James Bailie, a History student at Pembroke College, who is developing a Cambridge-themed modification to the 2005 strategy game Rome: Total War called A Game of Colleges.  So firstly, what's the big idea behind A Game of Colleges

James Bailie: I've changed the game from the original Roman setting to feature Cambridge colleges duking it out in medieval backstabbing style. The player chooses between 8 different college alliances, such as the Sainsbury's Pact (consisting of Jesus, Christ's and Sidney) or the Exarchate (consisting of Homerton and Hughes Hall).

In the campaign mode, each alliance starts with only owning those colleges and must expand until they rule all of Cambridge, by making moves every turn to occupy areas (such as the Market Square), build buildings, train troops and, of course, battle other alliances. When one unit engages another, the game zooms in to show the troops and now military decisions must be made in real time.

TR: Obviously in the original game, the troops were Greek archers and the like, but what are the troops in A Game of Colleges?

JB: We've mostly based the troops on students of different subjects. At the lowest level, you have simple units like Arts Undergraduate, who runs around and hits people with their placard, but after training, you can get mid-range units, like crossbow-wielding engineers or Classicist legionnaires, all the way up to the geologist's War Mammoth, which requires the highest level of training and ownership of the Downing Site. Although my favourite has to be the Mathmos – the code I used for their attacking style – even I don't know how it works, which I think is pretty typical for Mathmos, as no-one knows how they work.

TR: What other features have you added that you are really proud of?

JB: I have to say, I love working on the backstory behind why these colleges are working together in the first place, especially as to why Magdelene is working with St. John's, which I have received hate mail for! The graphics are a bit of a slog, but they're also coming together nicely.

TR: Where did the idea for this game come from – what started you on this path to madness?

JB: Where most ideas start: Overheard in Cambridge. There was a big thread about which college would win in a fight, when someone (possibly from Homerton) made the fateful post of “Wouldn't this be good as a Total War game?”. I already had more experience than I'd like to admit with Total War mods, so this had to happen!

TR: What are you working on now?

JB: I'm plugging on towards a new release by building up troop rosters. I plan on releasing repeatedly so I can choose to continue on this or give it up, but I have an end point in mind. I'm currently working on the top tier mad science units, such as the aforementioned War Mammoth and the palaeontologists' Triceratops Riders. I'm also working on the librarians, who have their own separate story as they quite clearly mess with the fabric of reality, and bonus-giving student societies, such as the Assassins' Guild, who assassinate enemy fellows, and the Drinking Society, which is the Naked Fanatic unit from the original game with a tie around their neck – but I need a lot more ideas for this, so get in touch!

TR: So how can people get involved or get hold of the game?

JB: We have a Facebook page, like it to keep updated. We also have a forum where you can give your input and see what's being worked on – it's the nerve centre! You do need to have Rome: Total War to download it, which you can get from Steam or elsewhere.

TR: Finally, one funny experience that you've had with your mod?

JB: It's obvious – the first time I played with the Muso unit. I'm not saying Epic Sax Guy, but Epic Sax Guy. 

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