The Creative Assembly is a British video game developer established in 1987 by Tim Ansell and based in the West Sussex town of Horsham. An Australian branch is also operated from Fortitude Valley, Queensland. In its early years, the company worked on porting games to 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. Shogun: Total War was highly successful for the Creative Assembly and is regarded as one of the benchmark strategy games. Subsequent titles in the Total War series built on the triumph of Shogun: Total War, increasing the company's critical and commercial success.
In March 2005, the Creative Assembly was acquired by Japanese giant Sega as a European subsidiary. Under Sega, further Total War titles were developed, and the Creative Assembly entered the console market with action-adventure games such as Spartan: Total Warrior and Viking: Battle for Asgard. The company's most recent products are Napoleon: Total War and the real-time strategy title, Stormrise.
The 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 and ZX Spectrum platforms to DOS, such as the 1989 titles Geoff Crammond's Stunt Car Racer and Shadow of the Beast by Psygnosis. The 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, The Creative Assembly was able to produce low development risk products bearing official league endorsements. The company's products included official Rugby World Cup titles for 1995 and 2001, the official game for the 1999 Cricket World Cup and the Australian Football League games for 1998 and 1999, of which the AFL98 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 studio director. Simpson, a microchip designer turned video game designer, later became the driving force for the creative design of the Total War series.
Early Total War titles
As a result of their success in sports titles, by 1999 the Creative Assembly had sufficient resources and backing from Electronic Arts to develop more high risk titles in other genres. The result of this was Shogun: Total War, the company's breakthrough title. A blend of real-time tactics and turn-based gameplay, Shogun: Total War was first announced in early 1999. The game focused the Sengoku period of Japanese feudal history, and upon release its 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, the 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, the Creative Assembly broke away from Electronic Arts, instead using Activision as a publisher and distributor. In August 2001, the Creative Assembly announced a second Total War video game, this time set in the Middle Ages. Medieval: Total War was of a larger scope than Shogun: Total War, spanning a larger time period and the entire 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, unseating Valve Software's Half-Life. The Creative Assembly itself was also 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 an entirely 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 near universal 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
Despite speculation that Activision might buy the Creative Assembly, as the publisher has done for previous successful developers under its wing, the Japanese company Sega announced on 9 March 2005 that they had sealed an acquisition deal with the 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. Sega's impact on the Creative Assembly was quickly made clear with the coinciding announcement of Spartan: Total Warrior, a console-exclusive spin-off of the Total War series. Spartan: Total Warrior was the Creative Assembly's first console title; 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 the game was followed by two expansion packs: Barbarian Invasion was released in September 2005 and showed the decline of the Roman Empire, while Alexander was released in September 2006 and focused on the exploits of Alexander the Great. Spartan: Total Warrior was released in October 2005 on Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube, receiving a favourable reception from critics.
A fourth Total War outing was announced in January 2006. The new title, Medieval II: Total War, was a remake of 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. Its campaigns focused on four areas: the Crusades in the Holy Land, the Northern Crusades of the Teutonic Knights, the conquering of New Spain and the medieval wars in the British Isles. The expansion received a positive reception from critics upon release in August 2007.
At the Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany in August 2007, the Creative Assembly simultaneously announced new titles. The first, Viking: Battle for Asgard, was another console-exclusive title, similar in style to Spartan: Total Warrior, but focusing on Norse mythology. The game was released in March 2008 but only 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 1700s and early 1800s. 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 from many within the industry, selling double the amount of units sold for Medieval II: Total War and Rome: Total War. In July 2008, the Creative Assembly announced another title, 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, but this is due to the fact that the DS is just emulating the games. Reviewers also criticised the removal of multiplayer in the games, previously available in earlier versions of the games.
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