James Russell believes that videogames are among the most sophisticated software available.
Anyone who's ever programmed one can tell you that it's not easy to make a videogame, but is it really that much more involved that creating, say, a word processor? Both are sophisticated pieces of software designed by a team of dedicated individuals, but according to James Russell, the lead designer of Total War: Rome 2, the game is probably going to win out in terms of complexity. Between millions of lines of code, thousands of assets and animation, and extreme visibility of mistakes, videogames are high-stakes, high-reward software all around.
"Games are arguably the most sophisticated and complex forms of software out there these days," says Russell. To illustrate his point, he discusses some of the finer points of Total War: Rome 2's programming. The game has 3,000,000 lines of code, 6000 polygons and 4000 animations per character, 5000 sound effects, 500,000 written words, and 100 voice actors. Not only does this far outstrip the specs for previous Total War entries, but it provides a good estimate for how staggeringly complicated a AAA PC title in the current market can get. Furthermore, slight errors in the game's code can cause some pretty wild bugs, from inappropriate Centurion nudity to camels of bizarre proportions.
Not surprisingly, Russell says that this whole process is "epically expensive." While the Total War series still courts a "go big or go home" mentality, other PC studios have been keeping expenses low and gaming projects more modest. There may be room on the market for both models, or one could eventually swallow the other, not unlike Caesar expanding the Roman territories.