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News Archives - January 2005

HeavenGames' Exclusive Interview with Ensemble Studios

Just in time for its opening, Age of Empires III Heaven scored an interview with the big cheeses of the team: lead designer Greg Street and lead programmer Dave Pottinger. The questions mainly just deal with the graphics, gameplay, and some various subjects; they reveal a decent amount about the game, at least to a degree that wouldn't violate whatever NDA's that our developer friends are most definitely restricted by. It's definitely an interesting read, check it out!

Socvazius: How do you think the game's graphics and performance would be right now if the original AoM-version BANG! engine was used, without its near total overhaul?

Ensemble Studios: It's hard to say. We've built Age3 with the new graphics engine in mind from the start... We set out with the goal of creating the best looking game ever. Obviously the fans will decide if we succeeded there or not, but, either way, that decision has dramatically colored the development of Age3. As a result, it's hard to separate out Age3 and the engine/graphics work; they're tied together. For example, a lot of the new combat concepts and physics features were added because we felt we had to raise the bar across the entire game once we saw how nicely the graphics were turning out. As Age3 started with BANG 1.0, we could have easily just left well-enough alone and not touched systems that already worked. But, since we had to change a lot of the engine to add the new renderer, the physics system, etc., we were able to do better versions of older systems like pathing and unit AI. If we hadn't pushed Age3 so hard, those systems wouldn't have changed much. As most programmers know, you can write better versions of systems the second time around. That's very much the case in all of the things that changed in Age3. In the end, we couldn't be happier with the results of the work.

HeavenGames Unveils Age of Empires III Heaven

The wait is finally over, guys. HeavenGames has finished work Age of Empires III Heaven, with information available for everyone to see. I can't say much more than the shiny press release can, so read read read:

January 31, 2005 - HeavenGames LLC announced today that it has launched Age of Empires III Heaven, the latest in its series of special-interest sites for Real Time Strategy & Citybuilding games.

Currently in development, Age of Empires III is a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game developed by Ensemble Studios/Microsoft. The game takes place during the discovery and colonization of the New World, covering events from Columbus' discovery of the Indies until the American Civil War. It features eight unique civilizations, including the Spanish, French, and Britis. Age of Empires III's graphics are being developed with the intention of being the best graphics of any game in any genre ever, which are portrayed in a fully 3D world with vertex shaders, pixel shaders, and an advanced physics engine.

Age of Empires III Heaven will be dedicated to featuring extensive coverage of Age of Empires III as the game is being developed. It will bring you the latest news on the game, as well as chats with developers in the forums.

AoE III Heaven will be operated by a veteran staff of five. They are Sergio "Socvazius" Prado, Site Director; Sarah "Angel Sunny" Green, Content Writer; Aaron "Angel Aro" Patterson, Content Writer; Ian "TheShadowDawn" Lyell, Content Writer; Luciano "Elpea" Pereira, Technical Assistant. All have been actively involved in the gaming community for more than 4 years.

ABOUT HEAVENGAMES, LLC
HeavenGames LLC, based in Lombard, Illinois, is a privately-owned web-content publisher geared towards the creation of special-interest sites for Real-Time Strategy and City-Builder games. Its sites, contents, vast amounts of resources, as well as a dedicated staff & management team make HeavenGame's sites the premier destination for gamers worldwide.

New AoE III Interview at GameSpy

GameSpy snagged an interview with Ensemble Studios; it's 4 pages long and covers quite a bit of interesting info. Check it out, here's a snippet:

Street: Gamers who are used to modern weapons in first-person shooters sometimes have a misperception that the invention of gunpowder immediately changed the face of warfare. It was a gradual transition, not a revolution, and the biggest benefit in equipping troops with muskets was that it produced a less expensive army, not that muskets somehow owned the battle field. So the short answer is that units with firearms are just one leg of the rock-paper-scissors, and they can be beaten, just as they were in real life.

Age of Empires III News

Gamestop has put up a pre-order option for Age of Empires III, their date states that AoE III will be released 7/15/05, which seems pretty real!

Also, GaryPayton has spotted an article from the Inquirer about Age of Empires III:

THE NEXT version of acclaimed strategy title Age of Empires will have full Direct X 9 functionality and will support Shader Model 3.0.

The series, developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft Game Studios, is one of the most-loved Real Time Strategy series' currently available. According to an interview at IGN, the latest title will have some graphical features pioneered in the latest generation of first person shooters.

The article goes on to say that Nvidia cards will most likely support the game better than ATI cards, probably due to the "The Way It's Meant To Be Played" scheme AoE III is part of.

Age of Empires III on Gamespy's "Most Wanted Games of 2005" List

WhoAskedU spotted Age of Empires III on the Gamespy's Most Wanted Games of 2005 feature article, which unfortunately doesn't give any new information on the game. However, seeing it on that list despite the fact that minimal info has been revealed thus far is pretty cool, sure our blue friends will like that. Here's a snip:

"Unfortunately, more concrete details on Age of Empires III aren't available. We don't know how the team has altered the game's combat, for example, or precisely what the "improvements" to the economic system actually entail. Based on the colossal number of hours we, and other real-time strategy fanatics have put into previous Ensemble games, all we had to hear was that there was another Age of Empires game in the works to have it become one of our most wanted."

Atlantean-esque resource dropoffs?

Red Storm noticed something quite interesting in one of the AoE III screenshots in our gallery. It has a villager chopping down a tree, but what's interesting is the animal-drawn cart beside it. ES hasn't explained exactly how AoE III was going to deal with no dropoff points, but one in a similar manner to the Atlanteans is pretty likely.

Germans Possibly in Age of Empires III

Lief Ericson made a nice spot in one of the screenshots of Age of Empires III that indicates that the Germans will be in the game. There appears to be a German flag in the shot, and considering that they were involved with Colonialism, it wouldn't be surprising to see those Hessians in AoE III. Forumers have found the flag in other screenshots as well, further solidifying the speculation. Good eyes, dudes!

Hard Evidence of Portugal in Age of Empires III found

While it's pretty much assumed, DarkL_Fred realized that in this bit of concept art, the flag in the background is Portuguese. We know absolutely nothing else about them, but it's good to know the likelihood that Portugal will be in Age of Empires 3. Good find, Fred!

Remastered Age of Empires III Theme

BlumenKohl, resident cauliflower, has taken the Age of Empires III theme that ES posted on their site and remastered it. I've gotta say, I'm fairly impressed by the remastering, it sounds pretty damn good. Drop by the thread and check it out!

Age of Empires III Theme Song on ES Site

Ensemble has always been known for making some high-quality musical scores for their games, and AoE 3 seems to be no exception. They've posted the game's theme song on the official site; it's quite nice, still has the Age feel with a new colonial twist. Check it out!

Age of Empires III Screenshots Mirror

The official Age of Empires III site is being hammered from everyone trying to get their first look at AoE3 right now - so getting hi-res versions of the screenshots on the site has been a test in patience. Well, wait no longer - here's a mirror of the screenshots in their full 1600x1200 glory!

Age of Empires III Announced!

The wait is finally over! Age of Empires III is finally announced!, and tons of high-res screenshots released, go check it out!

*passes out*

Eye Candy Madness

We've created a new gallery to start collecting all the screenshots, units, artwork, etc. from Age of Empires III. *drooooool*

"This game is a ******* visual ORGASM!" - Angel Chris

Screenshot Madness

Centurion_13 found a deliciously large number of screenshots on gamer.nl. There are fifteen of those bad boys up there, showing night scenes, ships, and armies. Very slick stuff there. Contrary to what you might think, despite the fact that it is a Dutch site, you can still understand the screenshots. Novel idea!

What Vertex Shader 3.0 will do for Age of Empires III

Vertex Shader 3.0 is something that people don't hear every day and probably aren't particularly familiar with what it could do for a video game. WhoAskedU answers the questions about the shader, explaining that it will smooth out all of the graphics in a game while not putting any more work on a CPU. Sounds like a good situation to me.

"Of course, when you look at this screen shot, you can easily see VS3 at work in the ripples, reflections, and shadows (on units and on the ground). If we had a movie, you could see VS3 at work in the unit's animations. You would be able to see the "skin" of the unit flex and slide across its "muscles." In in game cinematic, you'll probably be able to see units blink, snarl, talk, and any facial expressions imaginable."

IGN Previews Age of Empires III

IGN posted a preview of Age of Empires III (which unlike what we thought, won't be subtitled Age of Discovery). The preview contains an interview with ES, and the first three screenshots on the web! Make sure to check it out!

Also, I've updated my "Everything we know about Age of Empires III" thread, with tons of new information!

Second-to-Last Timeline Installment?

ES has posted their (almost positively) last date before they announce Age of Empires III: 2003 - Age of Mythology: The Titans. Really hoping that they make the announcement tomorrow, along with their own release date...maybe it'll actually end up being this fall. We'll see!

Cry Havok! And Let Slip the Dogs of War ...

The Havok physics engine is oft-used in FPS games; most notably in Ghost Recon 2 and Half-Life 2. As you would expect, this means that AoE3 will have some hardcore realistic physics: units sail through the air after an explosion, those explosions happen very realistically, and all that fun stuff. Thanks to Immortal God for the news on the Havoc engine and PAoM for the link ot the Havok site, which lists some of the features of the engine:

Since the PC Gamer provides such information to those that purchase it, I won't be posting any more information from it besides this (fairly large news that requires no elaboration from the magazine) and the cover image. We'll be getting the official stuff from ES soon, no doubt, so no worries. Thanks to Ricardo from Atomix Magazine for the Halo 2 correction :-)