What is a hotseat?
A hotseat, or hotseating, is in principle a mode of gaming where several players play on the same computer, "hot"swapping the controls among them. However, it has quickly evolved into something that can be done online as well, where people upload their save games and pass the turn on. This is the only way to play multiplayer campaigns for Medieval 2 and through some tweak and variance also Rome 1. However, hotseating is primarily attributed to Medieval 2. One person will play their turn, end it, save the game on the next factions turn and then send the file to the appropriate player. This goes on and on until victory is achieved.
Mechanics of a hotseat
Due to the limitations of the game, a hotseat campaign is played quite differently from a normal, single-player campaign. In a hotseat the factions take turn on being controlled by a player, which means that all the factions that are not not on their turn will be controlled by the AI. This means that all interaction a player does to another faction on their turn will be carried over, but the AI will respond in the Opponents players stead. This especially comes to light when fighting battles. As an example, if an English and a French player are at war, and on Englands turn he attacks a French army and chooses to fight it on the battle map, the French army will be controlled by the AI. Therefore the attacker always has the advantage in a hotseat, and why in most hotseats hosted on TWC the rules only allow manual battles against rebels. However, the attacker still has a significant advantage in the ability to reload saves to get a satisfactory result.
When you start a turn in a hotseat you'll be met by a screen with information on the game and requesting a password required to "unlock" the save. This is crucial to prevent other players from snooping on you. In addition, due to the nature of a game the notifications scrolls don't appear when loading a save game, and thus notifications of buildings constructed, units trained, new traits and events will not appear, but must be manually checked.
To prevent cheating the command console is usually disabled from player use, requiring an administrator password to access. With the console enabled one can do a multitude of commands with many listed here. These commands include resetting a players password, turning a faction playable or AI mid-game or adding or removing money from a player. In adition, diplomacy is done a bit differently from single-player. Diplomacy can be done in two ways: The first in which the player sends a diplomat like in single-player. However, the player will not receive an immediate response, but the approached players will instead be met with the offer screen prompted on their turn. The second option is sending a message directly to the player, which contains text. This is done by selecting the faction symbol on the diplomatic screen.
A players usually goes through three steps when playing a hotseat turn.
- Downloading the save file and moving it into the save folder.
- Launching the game, starting the save and actually playing the turn. Here one does everything one would like to do in the game, such as moving troops and agents, building and recruiting, fighting battles as per the hotseats rules and diplomacy.
- Ending the turn, saving the file, uploading it and sending it to the next player.
Setting up a hotseat
While most mods come with the hotseat function included as it came as part of the kingdoms expansion, one should still tweak it before one goes into proper play. To participate in a hotseat no file editing is required, but if you're to start one yourself some editing is adviced. Here therefore is a template for what your settings should end up looking like. The explanation on what the code does is written following the ##. Do note that this is only neccessary if you're to start and administrate the hotseat yourself.
[hotseat] scroll = true ## Enables the start turn scroll in hotseat campaign. turns = false ## Enables the forced separate human faction turns (including diplomacy) in hotseat campaign. disable_console = false ## Enables cheat console in hotseat campaign. admin_password = Whateveryoudlike ## Specifies the password for administrator access to the dev console when console disabled. Only the administrator of the hotseat should know the password, and it's stored in the save file, thus the other players don't need to have the same content in the cfg file. update_ai_camera = true ## Enables camera updates during ai turn in hotseat campaign. disable_papal_elections = true ## Disables voting in papal elections. This is usually disabled as only the first human player in the turn will be able to cast a vote, meaning the AI will vote in place of the other players, thus gaining an unfair advantage. autoresolve_battles = false ## Enables forced autoresolve all battles in hotseat campaign. validate_diplomacy = false ## Enables diplomacy validation for incoming propositions. save_prefs = true ## Enables forced relevant hotseat options to be saved with game, such as the autosave = true ## Autosaves the hotseat game at start of players turn. save_config = true ## Saves the cfg file in save directory containing information about next players turn. close_after_save = false ## Closes medieval II directly after a hotseat autosave. As the turns are usually manually saved with certain wording to easier identify the file this is usually disabled. gamename = Whateveryoudlike ## Subdirectory name for hotseat save games, shows up on the start screen for each players turn. validate_data = true ## Ensures game data files used in previous save match current campaign data files. This is very important to to check that all the players have the same, correctly installed module. allow_validation_failures = false ## Prevents the game loading if savegamne or data validations fail.
Hotseating has a very strong prescense on Total War Center, where several games across several mods are run simultaneously, with Gaming Staff dedicated to keeping things in order. When playing in a hotseat such as on TWC there are several rules in place to ensure fair play, as the AI is quite easy to exploit and abuse. Legend of Total Wars exploit guidecovers only a fraction of the possible exploits, and they are usually banned. The easiest form of cheating would of course be through the developer console, but that it is always locked for players in competitive environments behind an admin password. A typical ruleset can be found in this hotseat.
One important aspect of competitive play is that it's usually all in good fun and friendly. While one does control nations, there should always be a civil and friendly manner, and competing in hotseats is a good way of making friends, should you not let the fighting get over your head. However, there are often tournaments and competitions awarding special prices, which can be tournaments awarding steam gift cards hosted by Youtubers, on discord servers or for special medals on TWC, as indicated by being Official Gaming Staff competitions. These can include Newblood hotseats aimed at newer players or 1v1 Tournaments. However, most hotseats are done with the sole aim of fun, and the commonly used rules help ensure fairness for all, and dedicated admins facilitate a more enjoyable experience for the players.
Playing in a hotseat mode on single-player also has its merits, especially when it comes to testing. The ability to quickly cycle through all factions and turn them AI and see how they develop can be used both for balancing factions and top create a different scenario altogether.
- The Hotseat Subforum on Total War Center, where you can create, host, join and play in a multitude of hotseats with an active dedicated community.
- The Hotseat Guide Index over on Total War Center, showcasing a multitude of guides that are very useful when it comes to learning how to adapt to the new playing style required for multiplayer.
- The Administrator Guide by Dux, explaning how to set up and run your own hotseat
- The TWC Hotsat Chat thread, where anyone is free to ask questions regarding hotseats