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News Archives - February 2005

DeathShrimp sheds some light on Home Cities

Home Cities are the topic of discussion for many an Ager, and some misconceptions are being developed about them, especially those concerning how they'll work with a player's level of skill. Greg Street clarifies some of the info on the home cities, which is as follows:

Remember, your Home City level is not a replacement for AOM's rating. It won't work exactly like this, but if it helps, imagine you have a HC level and a rating. We won't make it easy for you to cheat your HC level, but even if you do, you are really only screwing yourself out of content. We will make it nearly impossible to cheat your rating, though.

Another way to think about it is like boxing. There are divisions for different weight categories. The welterweight guys don't fight the heavyweight guys, but you can have a champion welterweight and a less-skilled heavyweight. The only difference is in AOE3, you gain weight the longer you stick with one of your cities. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some players were more skilled using low-level cities, and some players were more skilled using high-level cities. But that doesn't mean skill = level.

Modding in Age of Empires III

Modding has always been a part of the Age community, though some Agers are wanting a more easily modded game with Age of Empires III, similar to that of Neverwinter Nights and Doom 3. DeathShrimp explains why such accomodation for modding wouldn't work that well in AoE III, especially from the perspective of releasing the game sooner rather than later. Here's what he had to say:

"Games like Doom3 are designed with the intent of licensing out the engine down the road. Neverwinter Nights was designed to be a toolkit for end users to make their own adventures. While we generally have no problem with modding (as long as you don't mess up anyone's game or attempt to profit from it), we don't make it a priority the way Doom3 or NWN do.

If we did, we would likely have to cut other features from the game to support that extra development time (or just take longer to ship, which still amounts to more time in the long run). To make that decision, we'd have to be convinced that the loss in sales from that extra time would be made up for by the inclusion of modding. I'm not convinced that would be the case for AOE3, but it might very well be the case in a few years."

Poll Roundup

With the majority of votes going to "higher than AoK" in What population cap would you prefer in AoE III?, I do believe that most of the Age fans will be happy with the population limit of AoE III. While it's not supposed to be at the krazy levels of Rome: Total War, AoE III is still expected to have more than AoK indeed...maybe 300 or 400 units per player.

Higher than AoK (942)
Around AoK's size (320)
AoM's size (107)
Lower than AoM (9)

Total: 1378 votes

Eagle Games announced their production of an Age of Empires III board game to be released later this year. Are you interested in it? Answer in our poll!

Battlefield Briefing

The Game Developers Conference holds a special interest for us Age fans, as Dave Pottinger and Michael Bean will be there to present the smooth engine that's being used on Age of Empires 3, including video of it in action. While we have yet to know if the presentation will be transcribed and published somewhere, I would think that some journalistic publication will do a writeup on it. On the subject of engines, the Havoc physics engine is getting an upgrade to version 3; whether or not the upgrades will be present in AoE III is unknown, I'm still interested to see what it has going for it.

If an interactive computer game with a highly advanced engine doesn't spark your interest, then maybe a good old fashioned board game will. Eagle Games is planning on releasing an Age of Empires III board game following the success of its AoM game; I haven't played it, but it's gotta be good if they're making an AoE III board game. Worth taking a look at, I'd think. If only we could get a board game D&D - AoM style ;)

What's coming next week? Well, the Game Developers Conference will happen, and maybe there'll be some kind of coverage of it. We'll see.

That's it for this week, see you on the battlefield!

Age of Empires 3 Videos to be shown at GDC

Ensemble's Bigdog (Dave Pottinger) announced on our forums that ES will be showing some in-game captured videos of Age of Empires 3, demonstrating graphics, physics, and combat! It's still unknown to me if those videos will be released to the public or downloaded anywhere, but I promise I'll beg! Here's what Dave Pottinger wrote:

We will be showing a trailer made from all ingame video captures. We've got a way-too-big PPT deck to go through (just finished cutting it down to something more manageable). And, we hope to have enough time for a 10 or 15 minute demo on the graphics, physics, and combat.

Ensemble's presentation at the Game Developers Conference will be March 9th, so mark it down on your calender (if it's too crowded, just erase your kids birthday).

Ensemble Attending the Game Developers Converence

Many thanks to Xiph at PlanetAgeofMythology for getting this shiny bit of news: Dave Pottinger and Michael Bean will be at The Game Developers Conference in San Fran to talk about the slick engine that's being used for Age of Empires 3. If anyone's registered for the event, be sure to check out the presentation that those two will give, should be nice.

"This talk will provide a look at the graphics engine powering Age of Empires 3. The Age3 engine (actual engine name TBD) is targeted at the bleeding high end, which is somewhat unique for an RTS (realtime strategy) game. A high level architecture overview will discuss some of the basic implementation differences between doing a high end RTS engine compared to more traditional highend graphics engines. There will be an in-depth analysis on the implementation of low-level features such as water rendering and HDR lighting. Finally, some of the higher order graphical features like physics and group animations will be presented, as well."

Dave Pottinger on Building Graphics

Dave Pottinger has commented a bit on the building graphics in Age of Empires III in a forum thread concerning just that, and he assured the community that certain aspects of the graphics are being improved and do indeed look nice and slick in an active game. ES has always had the best graphics around for RTS games, so I don't doubt it. Here's a snippet:

That said, we are working on improving the quality of things like the color xform (the 'blue part' mentioned above) and whatnot.

And yes, they do look awesome when they get all blown to hell with the physics.

Havok to announce Havok 3 at GDC

Gamesindustry.biz reports that Havok is preparing to unveil Havok 3 at the upcoming Game Developer's Conference. Havok will demonstrate the application suite's new features during an event at GDC:

Havok Complete 3 will include both the latest version of Havok Physics, which introduces a number of innovations that the firm claims will "dramatically reduce game production time", and Havok Animation 3, the company's latest product.

As many of you may know, Ensemble Studios has incorporated Havok into Age of Empires III as its Physics Engine. It'll be interesting to see what new features Havok introduce, and whether those features would sneak into AoE III. GDC takes place at the Moscone West Convention Center in San Francisco between March 7 to 11 of 2005.

DeathShrimp on Requested Triggers

In the insanely long AoE3 Trigger Request Thread, DeathShrimp has commented on the requests. At the least, it's encouraging, as it appears as though some of the requests will indeed be considered. That's all the community's asked, it seems, so that's great. Here's the word from shrimpy:

"This is a really impressive list. You guys have thought about these issues a lot.

I hope it's obvious that we can't all of these ideas and still ship before 2009 (it is an "ultimate" list after all).

My question for you guys is which things are the highest priority? If we get time for editor fixes, what gives you the most bang for the buck?"

Age of Empires III board game in the works

Computer Games Magazine reports that Eagle Games is working on an Age of Empires III board game. As they've already made an AoM game, I'm interested to see how their second Age production will turn out. Here's an excerpt from the article:

"A board game based on Ensemble Studios' upcoming historical RTS game Age of Empires III: Age of Discovery is in the works at Eagle Games.

According to a press release from the game publisher, the board game adaptation of the third game in the long running RTS series will be released sometime in 2005. Eagle Games has previously published a board game based on Ensemble's last RTS title Age of Mythology."

London Bridge is falling down...

Bridges have been a feature of Age games that gamers have hoped to be implemented since Age of Empires. While it may not be implemented in Age III, there is still quite a bit of speculation in the forums. Could they be built, or would they just be already present on the map? How about bridge type; would there be both wooden and stone bridges? Here's MatthewII's thoughts on that:

"I think that bridges should be constructable, but expensive and take a long time to build. I also think that there should be four types of 'bridges':
1. Wooden Bridge: needs only wood, relatively cheap and quick, narrow, weak, inf.+cav. only, can only be built in shallow water.
2. Stone Bridge: needs wood and stone, expensive and huge build time, wide, durable, all troops, can only be build in shallow water.
3. Pontoon Bridge: needs only wood, relatively cheap and quick, narrow, weak, inf.+cav. only, limited length.
4. Ferry: needs wood and stone (landing points, line anchors), expensive but relatively quick, limited capacity, transit time, weak, all troops, limited length."

Got an idea of your own? Post it in the thread!

That Rocket made a loud Bang!

We keep hearing the name rocket...but what is it? FlipBizcut asked the ES folks what was up with the name, and Dave Pottinger explained:

"Rocket was picked specifically to not give away anything about the time period or game type. We needed to call the game something internally, in Redmond, etc. If it's called "Age3" all over the place, it's a little hard to keep things in the bag, so to speak."

Sneaky. While everyone was on the subject of secret agent-style code names, Dave explained why AoM's engine is named BANG!. ...Should I have punctuation follow BANG!? Great Zeus' Beard, how confusing this is.

"The AOM engine was named BANG! because it was the first short name another programmer and I came up with when we sat down to start writing it. We spent about 5 minutes of time thinking about that one"

Preview at ActionTrip

ActionTrip has a preview of Age of Empires III up for some fun reading; it doesn't cover a whole lot of stuff we don't already know, but could still be worth checking out. Here's a snippet from the ActionArticle:

"Everybody remembers their first time. I remember mine, how about you?

The first time you rode a bike, the first time you tasted a fine steak, the first time you kissed the woman (or man) of your dreams, and the first time you … well, I'll leave that to the imagination - but the first time I was going for was the first time you played Age of Empires."

Poll Roundup

What are you most looking forward to in AoE 3? Looks like the traditional Age gameplay tops the list for most people; considering the success of AoK, it's not surprising. I'm definitely looking forward to that. Here's the results:

[756 votes] Traditional Age Gameplay
[202 votes] Havok physics engine
[96 votes] Rocket Graphics Engine
[164 votes] Scenario Design/Modding
[62 votes] Other

Total: 1280 votes

A lot of talk has gone on in the forums concerning Age of Empires III's population cap. What population cap would you prefer in AoE III? You want huge armies? Small squads? Answer in our poll!

Rushing vs. Turtling vs. Booming in Age of Empires III

In a forum thread, Dave Pottinger addresses the viability in AoE III of the three basic methods in play in RTS games: rushing, booming, and turtling. He says that ES is working hard to make them all viable for this game (much like the gameplay of AoK, as opposed to the largely rushing-geared gameplay that AoM had. I'd definitely like this, as I found the versatility that a player had in AoK quite a bit of fun. Here's the scoop from him:

"Actually, what we've said is that we like *both* aggressive fighting and defensive buildup. Rushing vs. Booming vs. Turtling is a very important game dynamic to us. We've worked (and continue to work) very hard to ensure that all 3 are truly viable in Rocket. It's been a big design goal from the start of the project."

Battlefield Briefing

Many apologies for my not posting at all in the past week, Real LifeTM work has finally caught up to me after these 4 months or so of college prep stuff that I've been doing; spent the entire week dealing with that. But good comrade Elpea has held up the fort and done a fine job, so it's all good. Anyway, tons of stuff has gone on; DoJo_Yohan found some new info about Age of Empires III in a Belgian magazine, which indicates the indian tribes we'll have as well as some other fun stuff. Total Video Games also released new information with their interview with Greg Street, who has been everywhere with interviews. Greg indicates that AoE III will have larger armies than AoM or even AoK, definitely good news. He elaborated on the population cap in a post in our bustling forums, which won't have any kind of method of "stealing population" from the enemy like in AoM.

If you've been interested in how things are going to go with AoE III's in-game multiplayer server will be, ES addressed it in a forum post:

"We are working on the technical issues with ESO and making it a really good place to hang out. We have a very large team working on ESO right now to make it tighter and more functional. I can't give a bunch details about it but I personally find it much more functional than the current ESO. It is a great leap forward that should make the community very happy."

So things are looking good with that; I'm definitely interested in how it'll turn out. Multiplayer's always been a huge part of the Age series, so a good multiplayer server makes a decent amount of sense. And with the team of experts that ES has, I'm sure it'll indeed be good.

What's coming next week? Well, I'll be back to posting, but I couldn't really tell what's gonna pop up. I'll keep ya'll updated.

That's it for this week, see you on the battlefield!

Big new feature?

Just when you thought Ensemble was done with awesome surprises.. they prove otherwise. On a topic by Mythos_Ruler in our forums, discussing an aspect about the Single Player campaign; ES_DeathShrimp stops by and replies:

We could have put a whole programmer on skirt animation, I suppose, but I'm not sure it's the same bang for the buck as water.

We went with a more action/adventure storyline because it was more fun to tell a single story arc the way we did with AOM, rather than have a handful of "George Washington" campaigns, especially for this time period, which just didn't produce a bunch of household names like "Genghis Khan" (no disrespect to George of course).

Besides, there is this other feature in the game targeted directly at the historical gamer who doesn't care about the trials and tribulations of some fictitious Arkantos-like hero. You know I'll say that we can't talk about it yet, but it's our biggest new feature after the Home City (and graphics in general).

What is especially interesting is the last part of that post.. big new feature for historical buffs? What could it be? If you have any guesses or speculations, you can come down to the topic and discuss this interesting new announcement.

ES_DeathShrimp on Population Cap!

Ensemble Studios' Greg "DeathShrimp" Street went on the forums and replied to a topic by Joker II on population limit.. and oh boy, I read it 12.7 (first time caused me to spit out my coffee, so I had to start over) times just to make sure I wasn't dreaming! DeathShrimp starts off explaining why there's a population limit in AoEIII, he then gives the exciting part of the post:

Now, what are we doing with the pop cap of AOE3?

1) It will be higher than AOK, but not Rome: Total War high. That's just a different kind of game.

2) It won't use an AOM system, where you have to steal pop from the enemy in order to have a larger army. (Though there are some fun ways to "cheat" above the pop cap that we can't talk about yet.)

3) We'll almost certainly make you pay multiple pop slots for some soldiers. We learned on AOK with Elephants and Cataphracts that it just isn't fair to require you to field 10 soldiers of one type to beat 1 soldier of another type. If the pop cap is 100, and I have 100 Elephants and you need 1000 Pike to counter that, I guess it's just gg. The other solution is to make Elephants about as strong as Pike, but where's the fun in that?

4) We don't know what the pop cap is yet. We keep adjusting it all the time. I will tell you some of our guys think the armies are too large already. :)

Holy kittens! You may think I'm over-excited and all, but imagine huge(big? massive?) armies clashing with all the crazy Havok physics, what a pretty sight *tear drops*

Interesting Part from the Shacknews Interview

nifty_PS2MAN has pointed out a very interesting part from the Shacknews interview. When asked if there are any new interesting things to make naval battles more impressive, ES answers:

In our previous Age games, frankly the naval action was kind of a let-down. Many people avoided playing naval maps because they hated our ship model so much. We have solved the problem in this game, and not only do people get nice big ships (unlike before), but the ships are fun to use and have interesting special abilities. One type can produce units for instance - so you can park it on an enemy shore kind of like a mobile forward base.

Naval battles have always been a great deal of challenge for RTS designers, it should really be interesting to see how Ensemble Pulls this one off.

ES_DeathShrimp comments on Rushing and Booming

Forummer First_Timothy made an interesting topic at our forums. First_Timothy asked how Rushing and Turtling would be like with Home Cities. Greg "DeathShrimp" Street (AoEIII's Lead Designer) replied to the thread, here's a piece:

We just have to strike a balance, your HC benefits from some combination of number of games played and minutes of games played. If you play a lot of very short games, that shouldn't penalize your HC, and neither should it penalize you if you like those epic, two hour games. We're trying to structure things so that you play to have fun, not obsess about gaming the HC leveling rate.

To read DeathShimp's entire reply and discuss this topic, visit First_Timothy's forum thread.

Shacknews Age of Empires III Interview

Shacknews has posted a nice Interview with Ensemble Studios about Age of Empires III. The interview is a nice read overall, here's an interesting piece:

We don’t have a shelf date yet, but the game is on schedule to be available this fall. We worked for a long time in secret before announcing Age of Empires III, because we didn’t want fan fatigue to set in while waiting and waiting for the product. We made sure we were in the home stretch before we started talking about the game too much.

I guess the older July release dates are officially scrapped (not very believable in the first place). You can find the interview here.

Possible Release date?

Most of you probably know GameStop had posted a release date for AOEIII (7/15/05), it seemed rather early however. Today however, while I was looking at Gamespot and it seems they have changed it to 11/01/2005. Could this possibly be a release date?

AoE3Planet "Guess the release date" Contest

AoE3Planet (not to be confused with the Planet fansite network) announced they are doing a "Guess the release date" contest. All you have to do to enter is post on their forums and guess the release date for Age of Empires III, the winning prize is a nice $200!

Ensemble Talks about AoEIII's ESO

The community at AoTSanctuary came together and wrote a letter with ESO suggestions to Ensemble. The letter contained interesting and useful ideas about the online multiplayer, here's an interesting part of ES's reply:

We are working on the technical issues with ESO and making it a really good place to hang out. We have a very large team working on ESO right now to make it tighter and more functional. I can't give a bunch details about it but I personally find it much more functional than the current ESO. It is a great leap forward that should make the community very happy.

KS_Rockstar, the guy who compiled the letter to ES, posted the entire reply at this thread at AoTSactuary.

New Interview at Total Video Games

Total Video Games has done another interview with Ensemble's Lead Designer, Greg Street. This interview is a bit more informative than most, and asks some really interesting questions. Here is an interesting quote:

We do use a lot of the tools from AOM, such as a heavily modified scenario editor and random map scripting language, but we’ve added several new tools as well, such as our proprietary particle tool and animation manager.

Being a Scenario Design and Modder, I'm certainly excited with the news that the Scenario Editor is much more powerful, while the other tools such as the animation manager might not be included, I can still hope :). Greg Street then comments on AoEIII's graphics:

Graphically, we’ve incorporated a lot of advanced features, such as shaders, realtime projected shadows, and bump and specular maps. It’s been widely discussed that we dedicated an entire programmer’s time just to making the water look good (and almost the same amount of time on our cliffs). We incorporated the Havok engine to handle our physics. This lets us do everything from having trees slide down a hill when they are chopped down, to having infantry get thrown when they are hit by a cannon blast, to having the shingles fly off the Town Centre when it gets hit by a Mortar shell. It’s hard to enumerate all the details. Dead Musketeers leave their muskets behind on the battlefield. Turtles crawl out of ponds to sun themselves on logs. Bison slowly migrate around the map, but stop to graze or lie down in the sun.

Really interesting eye-candy, that level of detail is certainly nice news that Ensemble is taking care of *everything*. Continuing on, Greg Street then answers a question which forummers have asked a lot, Army Size and Economic Depth:

AOEIII will continue to have a lot of economic depth, and will continue to let players manage large armies (more the size of AOK armies than AOM armies)

That's very good news, although there will be one less resource, Ensemble will stick to economic depth. Finally, a question that as far as I'm concerned, hasn't been asked before. Greg Street is asked about the AI (Artificial Intelligence) behind AoEIII, here's what Mr.Street had to say:

As far as what we have planned for AOEIII, the big drive is to make the AI fun to play against. We think we know how to make a challenging AI, so now we want to make one that is fun.

Those are just some of the interesting bits from the interview, for the entire 3-pages interview, click here.

New Information on PC Gameplay(Dutch) Magazine!

Forummer DoJo_Yohan went on a search through many magazines in Belgium to find anything Age of Empires 3 related, finding one magazine that did have a preview, and some new information! Here's what Dojo_Yohan posted:

Well I took the time to find some game mags today, and see if I could fine some articles about AoE3. It was disappointing to see only 1 (one!) mag (out of the 6+) talk about AoE3. But they released some new info, and I think you might like it

Don't ask in what mag it was, it was Dutch (language) and from Belgium.

So there we go:

  • 4 names on Indian Tribes: Sioux, Comanche, Cherokee and Iroquois.
  • Indian Tribes work the following way. You can take the time to ally with a tribe, and then you can get a few benefits. You can get unique units, unique weapons (don't ask how this will work, possibly armory techs?) and unique abilities from the natives. The abilities will somewhat be like the GP's from AoM (AoT), and there is one example of it. You can push back the Fog of War if you ally yourself with indians. Those can be used once in a while (so not only once, and possibly you don't have to pay for it).
  • The 3 resources are Food, Wood and Money (old news) and resources are right in your bank once you gather them. (old news as well)
  • Some new (basic) info on the Home City Concept. As your Home City levels up, the city will grow and with more people in the streets etc. (cosmic changes), but also once you gain a level, you can get new units, new upgrades and new abilities. Your Home City will also provide economic bonusses to the colonised land, and it will ship you troops and goods. You can also get historic buildings, which give you advantages (nothing more specific). Home Cities will have a level cap (online) and while matchmaking, you are channeled to people of your own strenght.
  • Online modes probably will contain FFA and Team vs. Team, says the mag.

What's really interesting about the "new" information is the name of 4 tribes, the Sioux, Comanche, Cherokee and Iroquois. You can visit DoJo_Yohan's post here.

Poll Roundup

Age of Empires III Heaven is always working to improve your experience here at the website, so we asked the community What is your current horizontal screen resolution? It looks like 1024 is the most popular resolution, and we'll be working on our layout with that information. Thanks!

(13 votes) 640
(93 votes) 800
(596 votes) 1024
(414 votes) 1280
(24 votes) 1400
(111 votes) 1600

Total: 1251 votes

Suggested by ScottishFinn: Age of Empires III is going to have many new and exciting things from what we know of it so far, What are you most looking forward to in AoE 3? The Havok engine? Scenario design? Answer in our poll!

Battlefield Briefing

After this week, I get the feeling that the Ensemble Studios staff loves forumming just as much as we do. The two big guys on the staff, Greg Street and David Pottinger, posted like madmen. From what was posted, it is apparent that ES considers designing and modding in Age of Empires III to be important, good news for that community. Formations are supposed to have some "cool stuff," which is as cryptic as it is intriguing. The way LOS works also has some interesting changes, but nothing was disclosed. The game also seems to be optimized pretty well, as us dialup users shouldn't have a problem in playing the game as long as we don't try to crash it with 8 player bloods or something along those lines. All in all, I think we had a pretty nice week of forumming.

Not much happened besides the insane amount of ES posts, though FileFront did post a new preview of AoE III. It didn't cover anything new, but it's worth reading if you're new to the game.

What's coming next week? Well, ES indicates that we'll be seeing some new stuff released by them some time soon, so hopefully that'll be next week.

That's it for this week, see you on the battlefield!

More posts from Ensemble

Ensemble's Technical Director, Dave Pottinger has answered quite a few topics at our forums. Mr. Pottinger started with answering FD2's suggestion on LOS obstructions (with line of sight being obstructed by buildings.. etc), Pottinger answered:

Yeah, things like this are always on the wishlist/things-we-consider list. It always comes down to a tradeoff between "Hey that's cool/neat/more realistic" vs. "Hey's that's not so fun".

That said, we've done some nifty things with LOS this game, so we have changed it up some

What he means by "some" of course is not yet known. Pottinger then went on to answer another thread; a topic by The_cool_one commenting on how no new information was release much after the few days after the announcement, Pottinger replied:

Now, it not exactly true that we announced and have then gone dark... We announced a month-ish ago. I know that Greg and I have done at least 6 or 7 interviews since then (I think almost all have shown up). That's actually quite a bit of data right after the announce of any major game.

That said, things will start picking up in a bit.

Pottinger reasured that new information will be coming out soon on another thread, this time on a thread by Czar Nehawk asking how AoE3 will treat combat formations. Pottinger replied:

We'll be rolling out some more info on combat stuff soon; I think everyone here will be pretty excited.

I think it's a mutual feeling that we're ALL already excited! Anyway, Dave Pottinger then answers yet another topic, this time larissimus discusses home cities; Pottinger drops by and replies:

The Home City's changing all the time

And in response to a comment on the thread, he answers:

Rocket should work fine enough on 56K, assuming you are reasonable about the number of players.

We're all quite thankful Ensemble's Dave Pottinger dropped by to clear those questions up. And on a final note to ES employeers, keep munching those lunchables and doing that awesome job!

New Preview at FileFront

Filefront has written a preview on Age of Empires III. The preview covers nothing new, nor it has new screenshots, but if you're still interested, you can check it out.

Now...ES on Gameplay

Scenario design, ES' games...now AoE III gameplay is the subject of discussion for Ensemble's staff. David "Bigdog" Pottinger indicates in this thread that the game's formations will have some "cool stuff." That could include attack/defense bonuses, unit-unique formations, or the like. Can't say I'm not intrigued.

DeathShrimp has that followed up with a response to GaryPayton's interesting thread in the General Discussions forum about the balancing of physical & mental skill and luck to create a quality game. It goes without saying that ES' games - with their random maps and other such mechanisms - do require a higher level of skill than other RTS games, but here's what he said:

"We find that even around the office, we have two types of players: the ones that want to win because they execute a strategy perfectly (which corresponds to your physical skill) and those that want to win because they played smarter (which corresponds to your mental skill). Part of playing smarter involves responding to changing conditions (the luck part) which can be anything from switching strategies because of starting resources or changing unit lines because of what the enemy trained..."

"...We've also made a concerted effort to make "smart playing" even more important in AOE3 than in our previous games. Part of that is because starting conditions can be so random. I'm the kind of player that likes to get something different every time, and enjoys having to adapt to the unpredictable. Not everyone agrees of course. We still have players who will immediately resign AOE if they get the dreaded hill berries."

More of DeathShrimp on the Editor

Greg "DeathShrimp" Street from Ensemble has made a rather lengthy post in our forums, replying to several questions made by the forumers concerning Age of Empires III's scenario editor. Among many issues, it appears as though Home Cities will be used in every aspect of the game, including custom scenarios. Here's a bit more of what he had to say on design, check out the thread for the rest:

"Forumer: How important is the designing/modding community to you? How much support do you think ES will give the independent content community for AoE3 after the game's release? Are we talking Warcraft (None) or Nevwinter Nights (constant)?"

"DS: I would expect the same kinds of abilities you had on AOK and AOM. Designing / modding is important to us because we know that it extends the life of the game, but we don't treat it at the level of a "back of the box" feature. What I mean is that NWN was designed largely to be a tool that end-users could use to make their own adventures. Games like Doom are designed with re-licensing the engine in mind, so it is easier to plug in content. Our main goal is to make an RTS game that plays a certain way set in a certain period. We'll squeeze in as many features as we can to let you guys alter the game the way you want, but we wouldn't e.g. risk the memory footprint of the game, or compromise the anti-cheating stuff, or risk stability of the software, or the schedule to do so."

Ensemble Self-Assessment

DeathShrimp has been posting up a storm these days, this time about what he thought of the games that he's been making for so many years now. It's fairly interesting to get the insider's view on his own product, worth checking out.

"Forumer: What did you think of the positive and negative feedback?"

"DS: To be honest, it's nothing compared to the internal critique we do through ourselves. ES is a company of passionate gamers, and that applies to our development process. If someone doesn't like something, you're going to hear about it. It's a sometimes painful and inefficient process, but you can't argue with the results. The negative feedback from the fans that's hardest on us I think is: that we're only in this to make money (we're here to make great games), that Microsoft tells us what to do (they don't), that the game is easy to balance and the errors glaring and obvious (both false), or that we don't care about the fans."

K.J. Shands Outfitter, your one stop shop for all...Shands?

This blessed, partially completed USS Enterprise-D model contains the winner of the latest contest here at AoE III Heaven. But before we get to the name, here's where the winner found K.J. Shands Outfitter:

For everyone that didn't get it (including a very frustrated Angel Elpea), it was under your noses all the time. The sneaky one that did get it, though, is:

Red Storm, just send me your mailing info and you the deal with that. Congrats!

Where do you find...

Okay, this might sound a little cryptic, but it is definitely related to Age of Empires III. If you can tell me where:

K.J. Shands Outfitter

Is located, I'll throw your name into a hat (or other container of some sort) for the chance to win an AoM T-shirt. Just send your answer to my email at socvazius@heavengames.com. Good luck!

Poll Roundup

What do you think of the new site? Well, it seems like most of y'all like the site quite a bit, with nearly the majority thinking that Age of Empires III Heaven is cooler than The Fonz. While it may be debatable as to whether this site is indeed cooler than Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli, he does give it two thumbs up:

(532 votes) Cooler than The Fonz!
(533 votes) It's alright
(138 votes) Meh
(118 votes) Don't really like it

Total: 1321 votes

Age of Empires III Heaven is still (and will continue to be) being worked on to be the best possible Age site for you all, and right now we're especially working on its layout. As such, What is your current horizontal screen resolution? We'll use the results of this poll to better design AoE III Heaven for your viewing, so please help us out by voting in the poll.

Battlefield Briefing

Ah, the feel and smell of a crisp, shiny new site. This is the inaugural Battlefield Briefing of Age of Empires 3 Heaven, and it contains a whole lot of news because a ton went on last week. Ensemble Studios staffers were all about posting in our forums (which already are just as active as Age of Mythology Heaven, getting tons of new posts each day), we see at least one post by them a day. And with those posts ranging from AoE III's scenario editor to what they do at work to historical adherence, the community should be fairly pleased. If those posts don't satisfy your hunger for Age knowledge, maybe HeavenGames' exclusive interview with Greg "DeathShrimp" Street and Dave "Bigdog" Pottinger will. And if none of that works, SuperTr00pers DK4U recommends Lunchables. They're succulent morsels of food, they are.

Based on extensive surveys and observations costing millions of dollars, HeavenGames has decided that people do indeed like getting free stuff. So I gave two AoM t-shirts out last week for the most observant (and luckiest) members of the community: Blackmoon and Austin Miller. Do you want a shirt, or maybe something else? Well, you're gonna have to keep your eyes latched onto the monitor to catch the next contest I have here at Age of Empires III Heaven.

What's coming next week? More articles from us, and definitely another contest or too.

That's it for this week, see you on the (Colonial) battlefield!

Gamers.com Preview

Gamers.com has written up a preview of Age of Empires III; although it doesn't cover anything new, it gives nothing but praise for what they've seen of the game so far. Here's a snippet from the article:

"Age of Empires III will very likely be just as much a statement as it is a game, not only because it will become a new standard for PC visuals, but it will also take the RTS genre and thrust it into the spotlight like never before, and I predict that many of us who shy away from these types of games will discover what we've been missing out on. The New World is yours for the taking. Rewrite history."

Thanks to OutThere for spotting this morsel of news, by the way.

Dave Pottinger comments on the editor

Ensemble Studios' Dave Pottinger dropped by the forums and commented the Scenario Editor:

You'll be happy to know that we've spent a lot of time on the editor for Rocket. That said, editing 3D worlds is just inherently a harder problem than editing a 2D world.

Developing an editor for a game like Rocket is also an exercise in making tradeoffs between designer and programmer time. We always strive for excellent tools, but, in the end, there are times when it's "good enough" because we can't spend more programming resources on the editor and still get the actual game done.

There are some cool new editor features coming though :)

Being a scenario designer myself, excitement has overtaken me, I simply cannot wait!

Territory, United States...Illinois.

Yesterday in history, February 3rd, an important event happened in 1809, the Illinois Territory was established. Likely thanks to our good friends at Wikipedia, there were a ton of correct entries, making the sacred Reebok Premier Lite running shoe quite packed with names. Out of all those names, this one was drawn:

An Age of Mythology t-shirt shall be awarded to Austin Miller, who just needs to send me his mailing info and I'll get the t-shirt sent to him right away. Congrats, dude!

Ever wonder what the blue guys do all day?

No, not the smurfs, Ensemble Studios staffers. Well, some forumers have been interested to know just what a day in the life of an ES'er is like, what are the things that they do each day. SuperTr00pers D4KU appears to have quite the intereresting time at ES:

"Today I had a lunchables, a pudding snack, and a juice. It was awesome."

Whereas Dave Pottinger seems to not be treated with a delicious Lunchables:

* Tied off some combat code I started ayer...
* Email
* Started redo of major game feature
* Email
* Meeting about big secret thing
* Triage new bugs for the rest of the programmers
* Email
* Lunch
* Finish redo of major game feature
* Email
* Playtest CPAI
* Meeting about another big secret thing
* Playtest game with the aforementioned new major game feature
* Talk about Demo Rocket for some Redmond folks
* Email
* Playtest game again

All in all, days seem pretty interesting for a fellow from ES; best as I can tell, this "big secret thing" has something to do with a prepackaged good produced by Kraft Foods, Inc. Think about it.

Trigger Wishlist

It's never to early to start thinking about scenario design for HeavenGames' Age scen design community. Long-time designer Tevious has started an AoE III trigger request thread, a list of triggers that the community would like ES to consider putting into the scenario editor. Do you have any triggers you want in the editor? Well, post it in the thread!

This Day in History...

You like history? Well, I'd assume so, since you like the Age series. Well, I'm here to put your history knowledge through some hurdles by challenging you all to finding out just what important event happened this day, February 3rd, in history during the time period covered by Age of Empires III. To aid you in your search, I will have two words exclusively associated with the event in question:

Territory, United States

If you think you know what event happened today in history that's associated with those words, send me the event and its year to socvazius@heavengames.com. I'll draw the names of those correct from a hat, and he who is drawn shall receive an AoM t-shirt. Good luck!

Who Spies?...

In that hat lies a name I shall draw. There was a surprisingly large number of correct entries, next time I better make it harder. An AoM t-shirt will be awarded to the drawn name, which is:

So Mister Blackmoon, send me your mailing info so I can ship your brand new (okay, it's been sitting in a box for a while...shhh) t-shirt to your abode, ready for wearing on arrival. Congrats!

DeathShrimp Comments on AoE III's Historical Accuracy

The Age of Empires series is based on history, obviously. However, how strongly it the games should adhere to past events is an issue that some disagree on. DeathShrimp from Ensemble Studios gave the community an idea of how ES sees adherence to history, in particular, concerning specific events. It makes sense, just needed to be outrightly said, I'd think. Here is what he said:

"Our games are about possibilities. We start you with a civilization that hopefully has some of the historical flavor of that civilization at the point of which you take it over. But the rest is up to you.

Say we put Mongols in AOE3 (and I think I can safely confirm that isn't goint to happen). You might have an uphill battle fighting the Spanish navies, and your technology might not be comparable with the British, but can anyone really say that there was 100% certainty that the Mongols couldn't have become a world power again with the right leader? (Heck, no one really expected it the first time it happened).

We don't force you to relive history. We let you make the decisions. Otherwise, a colonial game would be pretty pointless because Britain would get the north and Spain the south. Eventually, they would lose even these colonies except for a few small islands. Who wants to play a game where you know you're destined to lose?"

I Spy...

What the bloody 'ell is that thing? Well, it's your job to figure that out. This super enlarged image was cropped from one graphic from one of the released screenshots, and the first sleuth to figure out what it comes from (the graphic, not necessarily the screenshot) wins a shiny (or not so shiny) AoM T-shirt. Those that think they know what it is should send their guess to me at socvazius@heavengames.com, this time tomorrow I'll pull a name from a hat from those that figured it out...and if no one figures it out then, I'll give a clue.

What are you doing still reading this news post? Get 'ta steppin!

Age of Empires DS?

Forummer Firebird has found an interesting article at gamesarefun.com about a possible Age of Empires port to the Nintendo DS. While it's still a rumor, the source seems pretty reliable. Here's a quote from the article:

Well, it seems that dvdboxoffice.com has listed yet another DS game: Age of Empires DS. Next to the game's name is a "Just Announced" icon. The release date listed is October 26, and the publisher listed is Majesco, though that may just be the site's "default" publisher (i.e. they don't know).

Seems interesting, I hope it's true.

ES_DeathShrimp Talks About Home Cities

ES Employee DeathShrimp answered yet another big question related to AoE3's Home City and Techtree and how they will be like, here's what he had to say about it:

[The Question being "Will you be able to research everything at your Home City?"]

If you mean: is the only research you do at the HC, then the answer is no. There are "normal" AOK-style techs in the New World. There are also a lot of "not normal" techs in the New World too.
If you mean: are there exclusive upgrades, such that you can pick between A or B, and if you choose B, then A forever goes away, the answer is no (at least not at the current time). The HC techtree system can get pretty complicated as it is, so we thought that added bit of depth (cool though it might be) might be too much.
If you mean: can you get every possible upgrade and "max out" your Home City, we're not sure of the answer to that yet. Off the top of my head, I'd say "Yes, but it would be really, really hard."

In our playtesting, players eventually reach a point of diminishing returns at which they are more interested in starting a new city than just getting one more upgrade in their existing HC. But that's largely a function of playtesting -- we break things, we wipe Home Cities, we change units or civs around so there is some shiny new object players are after. Plus, there are a ton of really hardcore players out there who might make it their mission to get every tech in their HC once we ship. Obviously, it depends a great deal on how many upgrades a city can have, and how fast you earn those upgrades, and it's just too soon to answer those questions reliably.