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News Archives - April 2005

Five Ages, Countless Strategies

If the news for this week couldn't get better, Gamespy has released their second to last article of their extensive hands-on coverage of AoE III. Withthe five ages within the game (Discovery, Colonial, Fortress, Industrial and Imperial), the article describes both some strategies and the strengths/weaknessesof each age in a concise three-page analysis. If that isn't enough, the article even goes further to describe some of the units in the game, including the elusive Explorer:

"Players begin with a town center, a small group of colonists, and an explorer. The Explorer unit is unique: aside from having a good line of sight and a special ability letting him snipe environmental hazards in a single shot, he can't be killed by the enemy. If another player defeats your Explorer, he'll crumple to the ground but he'll still be alive. He'll remain 'captured' like that so long as enemies are near him. You can either ransom him back to your town center (literally paying the other player some gold), or you can rescue him by killing all the nearby enemies and allowing him to heal back up."

An Explorer who never dies, heroically heals himself, and can snipe out environmental hazards in one shot? I certainly can't be reading a history textbook, but I wont say that prospect doesn't look fun! What's coming next from Gamespy? It looks as though the last article may be on the civilizations within the game. Keep tuned, I know I am. And reading textbooks is fun... no really...

An Interview with the Empire Makers

Coming a day early, Gamespy has released their latest article (one of the three mentioned yesterday), this time on an extensive interview with AoE III's game designers and technical leads. Spanning twelve pages, the interview includes information on the design process, the AOE III time period, combat issues, the Home City, Rushing, formations and, as Greg Street points out, even a 5th age:

"We have this fifth age that's kind of the game-ender age. It's really really expensive to get to, but once you've reached it, the bonuses you get there are just really incredible. So if you ever get into those stalemate games, where you can't quite budge it, someone can just go to the fifth age and that usually ends the stalemate."

But, then, could this mean that players will rush to get to the fifth age? Well, don't worry too much, Dave Pottinger sums up the answer to that question quite nicely:

"Now, if the only way to play the game is to Boom to the third age or to the fourth, then we really screwed up. We definitely want people to get to the third and fourth age. One of the things as we've found out through playtesting, actually, is that propping up the Rush is more of a valid strategy [than in previous games]. We've actually had a hard time getting people out of the early ages. It's so seductive. Let's say Greg builds some musketeers, and he comes over and fights me and he gets some experience points. He gets another shipment, so he sends over more musketeers. I kill his guys, so I get experience, and I'm almost right there so I send some musketeers back at him... We found that more and more people are almost getting stuck in that age--"

Finally a game where getting to the last age may not be the best option to take! Now if only Saturday could come sooner, we'd be able to see what goodies lie within the next two Gamespy articles. And what's this I hear about a video?

Updated Release Date?

It would seem that after (or in GameSpot's case, shortly before) Gamespy's first part of their exclusive hands-on with AoE III, a number of gamingsites have changed the release date of the game to November 1st. While not official, it's definitely good news for those who are looking forward to a pre-Christmas, mid-autumn release. Judging by previous ES games, a mid-autumn release is not unlikely considering the all threeprevious ES games were released in the same time frame. Release date, Eh, precious, Eh?

Gamespy Lays the Bombshell - An Exclusive Hands-On

What can be said? You come online, expecting perhaps a new preview, a tidbit of information, at most you may discover something entirely new and exciting about AoE III, but certainly you weren't expecting 2 new articles and 5 new screenshots, each stocked full of the information you've been dying for. That's the beauty of Gamespy. Gamespy has released two new articles - one a preview, the other an interview on the sounds in AoE III - both of which describeaspects of the game which have only previously been mentioned minimally: the two additional civs (Ottomans and the Russians), how the Home City works, the importance of trade centers, the features of the sound, oh heck, why not just let Stephen Rippy describe it in his own words:

"We've recently turned on a feature that allows artillery to be audible as a low rumble from halfway across the map. It's really eerie to be working away in your town and then suddenly hear the end of the world off in the distance - at that point you know it's just a matter of time! Musically, recording the "you lost" track was something. It's all choral with some Latin text and big harmonies, so it sets a certain mood. We mixed it late one evening after a long day's work, and hearing the last bit of reverb trail off, I thought, "wow, it's great to be able to work on this."

Wow, indeed! What can be said is that AoE III is looking better and better! It leaves much to the imagination what will be revealed in Gamespy's next three articles this Saturday.

The Drop-off Point Debate

In response to a debate on the lack of drop-off points in AoE III, ES_DeathShrimp has recently commented on the reasons why ES opted to remove them from the game:

"There is a lot for a player to do in AOEIII, especially early on in the game. Because the other things you're doing are generally more fun, clicking a villager to build a dropsite is one thing we thought we could do without. Visiting the HC screen is probably the biggest change here, but there are others.

Several of our resource options don't make sense with dropsites. Farms never really had a dropsite in AOK or AOM -- everyone just built them around their TC. Because there was no walk time, there was no strategic choice to do anything different really."

Could this mean less economic micromanagement and more militaristic micromanagement? Your guess is as good as mine, but it does suggest that economic strategies may be considerably different with AoE III than in previous ES games.

Why Was ES Acquired by Microsoft?

Admit it, deep down it has been eating away at you - Why would a game developing company want to be acquired by another company? ES_PieThief and ES_DeathShrimp have gone on a nostalgic trip back in time to when Microsoft acquired Ensemble Studios in 2001, and have been able to give us some of their reasons for it:

"Our president and a group of shareholders (including many ES employees) owned the company (but it still wasn't publicly traded). As for why you'd want to be acquired, here are a few reasons:

1) You don't have to worry about making payroll in the off-years when you aren't shipping a game.

2) You don't have to spend so much time and energy whining and dining potential publishers to do your game."

For up and coming gaming developers, it's sound advice for those seeking to become highly successful members of the gaming industry... or for those who are a tad bit too obsessed with ES! Wait.. what..

Poll Roundup

With AoK being ported for the DS andGizmo, do you plan to get either? Seems like most don't, but there still is a decent percentage that will. I would get the DS because a portable gaming system would be pretty sweet, but instead I'm going to spend my money on love and sunshine dust. Here's the results:

(122) Sure!
(124) Maybe
(633) Nope

Total: 879 votes

The community is already interested in talking about scenario design; do you plan on doing it? Answer in our poll! Thanks to PhatFish for the suggestion!

Battlefield Briefing

Formations have always been an integral part of warfare in history, and Ensemble is making it an integral part of warfare in Age of Empires 3, as explained in Gamespy's preview of the game that was released last week. It revealed this information along with several other juicy giblets for our gaming hungry bellies, along with several new screenshots. eToychest didn't cover as much new information. but it's interview is worth reading nonetheless.

If you're looking for some Age community fun, Elpea's toon thread has been getting some fairly funny posts; if you've got an idea for a toon yourself, be sure to post it! And for yet more funnies, the ever-humorous Fargo has a satire on the ultimate RTS game.

What's coming next week? I'm gonna be gone at the end of the week yet again for a college visit, so the rest of the AoE3H staff will be maintaining things while I learn how to properly skip classes.

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

New Interview at eToychest

Well, it's not quite new, but I just found it, so yeah! eToychest's interview with ES doesn't reveal anything astounding like the past CVG interview or anything, but ES talk about some interesting things:

"Is terrain going to be playing a larger role in tactics this time around? For instance, will there be spots too rocky for siege machines that infantry and/or cavalry can get across?

Tactics in general are much more important than they have been in our previous games. We're currently focusing a lot more on different orders to give your troops, such as whether musketeers fire in volleys, break and attack, or fix bayonets and charge. Assuming we can keep that system from getting too complicated, we'll add things like a downhill charging bonus or increased damage from firing from higher ground."

Increased tactics for strategy games is always good in my book, though it sometimes can result in some balance problems. Guess we'll have to play the game to see if everything's balanced okay.

Odd Angel In

Ben "Washizu" Garvey - one of HeavenGames' former Age Heaven webmasters - has made quite a musician of himself as an acoustic guitarist in the Philly area. He's stuck with some form of gaming, it seems, as he has a game of manipulation and skill called Odd Man In on his website. It's done pretty well so far, worth checking out. Yes, late news post; I forgot to publish the bloody thing :-p

Of Eye Candy and Raw Materials

Cruising in the forums, ES_Bigdog and ES_Deathshrimp have been responding to a few concerns since the last gamespy preview. Bigdog, discussing eye candy and it's functional purposes (or lack thereof), has given input on the thought process behind eye candy creation:

"On the subject of using tents (assuming they are eye candy) as variations on houses during games... It comes down to what we call "Unit Recognition". The ideal RTS game from a UnitRecog standpoint has no variation because that makes it harder to understand what the thing is on-screen. If you learn what a house looks like, it's easier to grok that another house is a house if it looks like the first house. But, that's not exactly fun, either because variation is nice, too. So, we try to strike a good balance. It's very unlikely that we'd have a tent as a house variation because the tent doesn't look enough like a house to be used in that way"

Deathshrimp, on the other hand, has provided a surprising revelation in regards to how some resources may be acquired:

"Without knowing the actual images you're looking at, it's likely you're seeing resources delivered from your Home City. Those resources don't go directly into your stockpile -- that's too nice of a bonus and too hard for other players to deny you."

I dare say AoE III is surprising fans more and more each day!

Fargo's a Smooth Smoothie, You Know...

... or so his latest PlanetFargo would lead us to believe! Gamespy's Fargo has recently penned a comical satire in an attempt to produce the ultimate RTS game following the latest in industry 'trends.' It's quite funny, a recommended read for every strategy fan:

"Fargo: So give it a shot! I'm dying to see what you think. Right click on that stone-age peasant there to get a menu of different menus that you can bring up. Over here it shows you his state of mind, how hungry he is, his age, his wounds, his hairstyle, eye color, and a short two paragraph summary of his political beliefs and religious and ideological leanings."

I will say one thing, untapped "The Sims" resource waiting to be marketed to. ;)

New Gamespy Preview and Screenshots

As PlatinumKnight pointed out on our forums, Gamespy has posted a preview on Age of Empires III. The preview covers what we already generally know but with a few new interesting things, such as this:

Combat itself is very dependent on formations, as it often was during this time period. Managing your formations is a huge part of the game. If you set a large group of musketeers into a "volley" formation, they'll line up, take a shot, then step back so that another row can shoot. This is as opposed to a "Charge" formation, where they'll fix bayonets and rush forward. A good army will have a good mix of different units. The musketeers described above are vulnerable to skirmishers (as the Brits found out during the Revolutionary War), but they're good for defending against cavalry. Calvary, meanwhile, can mow down skirmishers.

Yup, real combat formations! I can imagine the battlefield right now.. *drools*. Also interesting to point out is this piece:

You can bring huge field pieces into battle, which are devastating against large groups of infantry, but susceptible to a cavalry charge. It's also interesting to note that artillery is now needed whenever you wish to destroy enemy settlements. That's right: no longer will a guy with a spear bring down a town center by poking it for 10 minutes. You'll need to bring in (and protect!) the big guns.

Does that mean we'll have Artillery on the first age? Leave us your thoughts on PlatinumKnight's thread.

AoE 3 Holland Quiz

AoE Holland has a neat quiz (plus a couple other cool downloads) on Age of Empires III for you all to check out; oughta take a look at it if you want to test your age knowledge!

New AoE 3 Fansite

Quick news post: Another fansite for Age of Empires III has started up: AoE3.ne1. Worth checking out!

Stronghold 2 Heaven Opens

The latest site to join our Heavenly family is Stronghold 2 Heaven, up and ready to cover everything about the castle-based game by FireFly. I haven't played the game yet, but Jayhawk and Merepatra tell me that it's something of a mix of Age of Kings and the Citybuilder games, so it should be of some interest to you Agers. And they're going to be running the site, so it's definitely in good hands.

"Stronghold 2 Heaven will offer you information about the game, walkthroughs and soon we will be opening the download section which we hope will be home to as big a collection of Stronghold 2 maps and scenarios as Stronghold Heaven has for the original game.

Staff wise we had a few changes which includes the addition of Stratego but also sees Merepatra in all new colours. Yes, as you have probably guessed, she's going to be (co-)seraph of the site, which should mean that your questions and suggestions will be acted upon that much quicker."

New Fansite from the Netherlands

AgeofEmpires3.nl is the latest fansite from the Netherlands for AoE III. So if you're up for some practicing of the northern european languages, check it out!

It's all explained...

From now on I'll be hosting a weekly (or I'll try to make it weekly) Age 3 fan cartoon spotlights. Basicly, you visit my thread on our forums and post your own Age of Empires III toon. I'll then pick my favorite for the week and post it here on the news. I'll start this week with a toon by Theris264. Theris pokes fun at our webmaster Soccy's obsession by explaining a big historical mystery of Age3's time. It's all explained...

Poll Roundup

It looks like most people want a civ editor in AoE 3, according to the results of Do you want a civ editor in AoE 3? Customizability is one of the biggest aspects of a game that hardcore gamers want, so that's not too surprising. Here's the results of the poll:

[779 votes] You bet
[280 votes] Sure
[296 votes] Eh, don't care
[165 votes] No!

Total: 1520 votes

With AoK being ported to the DS and Gizmo, some agers are sure to go out and get their hands on one of them. Will you? Answer in our poll!

Battlefield Briefing

While I was busy college'ing it up, it looks like a lot has gone on with Age of Empires 3 news. Kumar Shah got ahold of the high resolution GDC video and documented the most important and interesting aspects of the game taken from the video, showing things like battle xp. Battle xp is especially fascinating because it seems to encourage fighting to help further advance your civilization, should be cool to see how it turns out. Even more information was milked from CVG's interview of Greg Street where we learned about the personalities of different civilization AIs... here's hoping those AIs are capable of taking on exceptionally skilled players.

'Round these parts, 5 whole truckloads of new information was added to our content database, in the Units and Buildings sections in particular. I can say with certainty that the rest of our content will be up to date pretty soon, it'll more or less depend on how our CMS likes to cooperate with us. Fun!

What's coming next week? Well, I think I'm gonna have a contest or something going on, so keep your eyes out for that.

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

What's coming soon from ES?

Dave Pottinger has given us some clues as to what's coming from the glorious land of Ensemble Studios in the near future...besides E3, ES has 3 things coming and we know it's not going to be a demo...one of which may be related to the site's redesign. It's all just a jumbled mess to me, but what an exciting mess it is!

"Anyhow, it won't be a demo. E3's one of the big things, the other 2 are big unveilings before E3. And, I actually forgot about a 4th big thing, too, which has quite a bit to do with this thread's topic.."

Cannons are Cool

At least, that's what SuperTr00pers DK4U thinks; he wants to know if anyone else in the community feels the same way, or differently, or whatever. What do you think of those giant guns on wheels? Well, post in the thread, you ninny!

"Cannons are probably my favorite unit in the game. Now my favorite unit changes depending on what strategy I just found or what map I am on but cannons have a visceral appeal that is just hard to explain unless you have played the game or watched them at work.

Anyway I wanted to get your feelings about cannons. What do you think of when you think of cannons? Any random thoughts are welcome. Let’s try and keep this thread positive though. Stories and picture are always a plus too."

Age of Empires III Steam Skin

If you're a fan of computer games, there's a pretty big chance you've come across games like Counter-Strike and Half Life. If you play those games online, you've most likely used a little program called Steam. Forummer rodgers24888 has made a really nice Age of Empires III skin for Steam users, the skin looks really good, something for all Age fans :). You can visit rodgers24888's thread and drop him a comment (and also download his skin) here.

Website Updates

The staff of Age of Empires III Heaven have been working really hard on updating all the newest info on Age3. Our Units and Buildings section have been updated to include all the information from every single article out there, even the GDC Video. We're currently working on our other sections (Civilizations, FAQ, etc..) and those should be done soon enough. If you have any questions or concerns, visit our Website Feedback forums and drop us a comment :).

CVG's Interview with Greg Street - Part 2

Back for round two, Computer and Video Games has published the second half of its interview with AoE III lead designer Greg Street. The interview answers a wide range of questions, among topics such as combat, unit diversity, multiplayer, the future of the Age of Empires series and even AoE III's "killer feature."

"There are a lot of units in the game. I haven't counted lately, but it's easily more units than AOK had. Part of this is because of the Home City - we want to make sure players have plenty of content they can unlock over time. Part of it is just to get away from having all "guys with guns." We have lots of Native American warriors, which is great for unit diversity. We also allow archaic units like pike and crossbows to stick around later than they actually did historically. We have more cavalry than ever actually fought in North or South America. Because having lots of units is fun."

More units and more unit diversity than any previous game in the Age of Empires series? It leaves much to be imagined as to how the battles will play out.

Poll Roundup

Should Nomad be the default starting situation for AoE III? Seems like most people want Nomad to be how games normally start out; considering the great popularity of it in AoK, that's not too out of the ordinary. The randomness will hurt how competitive players can be, though it will probably increase the fun...interesting tradeoff. Here's the results:

(709) Heck yes!
(606) It'd be alright
(324) Don't care
(483) No no no

Total: 2122 votes

The subject of civilization editors has been the topic of discussion in the community recently; do you want a civ editor in AoE 3? Answer in our poll!

CVG's Interview with Greg Street - Part 1

Thanks for the heads up from RiderOfEternity, it would seem that Computer and Video Games has released its first part interview with AoE III's lead designer, Greg Street. Among the questions, there is information given on AoE III's economy, campaign and the thought processes behind creating the game:

"In addition to the campaign, we are devoting a lot of effort to the single-player random map skirmish-style game. You'll be able to earn levels for your Home City in single-player mode. We are working to make our computer opponents fun to play against. The British opponent looks and acts differently from the Spanish opponent. We talk about the AI more in terms of its personality now rather than how effective or ineffective it is at beating you. And of course we have a robust multiplayer component as always."

AI's with a greater personality? Unique AI's per civilization? Skirmish-Style? Oh My! Ensemble Studios definitely has been revolutionizing the RTS genre!

A Deeper Look at the First AoE III Video

Being the wonderful guy that he is, Kumar Shah was able to subscribe and download the AoE III GDC video at a higher resolution. From the video he has produced some screenshots and notes, with help from Elpea, which have released some startling information:

"You gain "Battle XP" in battle when you kill an enemy unit as seen below. It can be assumed that "Battle XP" is one of the factors related to advancement of Home Cities. So more units you kill the better."

Battle XP? Indeed, it's not the next version of Windows, yet it seems just as enticing. It's one feature I'm sure many fans will look forward to! Well, go check out his thread, already!

Battlefield Briefing

The wait for an Age of Empires III video ended last week with a low resolution video from the Game Developers Conference; although it wasn't sharp and stunning, it still gives you a good idea how things are going to look in the game. A couple new screenshots of the GDC were also found on an Asian site, so check that out too. But if you're wanting to see what goes on in the video before taking the time to download it, Sunshine has practically a second-by-second account of the video. Yow.

The news of Age of Kings being ported to the DS and Gizmondo has been pretty excitedly read by quite a few agers that'll want some portable Age action...can't say I blame them, I do love the game (like this: <3 awww). Depending on the success of this, the possibility of Age of Kings being ported to more systems could increase...if they were able to create a console version of the game with an actual workable interface, I would love them forever.

What's coming next week? Gotta say, dunno. I'm gonna be visiting a college to check things out on campus for a couple days at the end of the week, so Elpea, Sunny, and the rest of the crew should be keeping ya'll up-to-date on happenings.

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

Eagle Games Age Boardgame Change

Thanks to Theris for pointing out this one: the Eagle Games site has changed the name of its developing Age series board game many times in the past couple months, and this time it is:

Age of Empires
October 2005

Before it was AoD, does this mean that they got rid of the incorrect name and are still doing a colonial-era board game or they're doing one of the original AoE? Guess we'll see!

First Age of Empires III Video!

This time it's real! multiplayer.it has released a video with Age of Empires III's GDC presentation, the video is pretty low resolution but you get the idea. Don't waste any time and rush to see the sweetness so great that any resolution is wonderful!

A new site has been colonized

A new site has joined the family of Age 3 fansites: The Colony. It's being led by Joshua Siewert and plans to be up-to-date and active for all your Age needs. Welcome to the community, guys!

Civ Editor in Age games?

One of the biggest pleas most hardcore gamers have for games is customizability, and for RTS games civilization customizability is one thing that we don't see that often. pospher talks about a civ editor in an Age game, and I've gotta say that it seems pretty attractive. The problems with such an editor, however, is the fact that it would take work away from ES dealing with the actual game, which is a problem indeed. What do you think?

"2. More ideas, more outside the box thinking. Certainly, one of the stupid factors in previous AOE version was that ES historians made certain historical innacuracies (like when this government actually tried to jail some ES personnel for historical innacuracies) and justified the mistake by saying "oh, but we can't do anything for the fun factor", "oh, but so what?", "oh, but we already have too much civ". Nobody cares, they were wrong. So rather than arguing against irrefutable facts, why not join them?"

New GDC Pics

daydreamer has found an Oriental site with a new writeup on the GDC. Although I'm going to take a wild guess and say that the majority of you all wouldn't be able to read the article, but it does have a couple new pictures of AoE III, including unit ragdoll effects and river flow. They're pretty fascinating (and hilarious, in the case of the ragdoll effects), so check the article out!

Age of Empires Going Portable, Part 2

It seems as the Nintendo DS won't be the only portable where Age of Empires: Age of Kings will be remade to; Gizmondo owners will also be able to play Age of Kings, according to Gamespot. Not much info about how the portable version of the classic will be like, all we know so far is that it will be a Turn-Based-Strategy game and will be released this year.

Havok officially announces its use in AoE III

Eh, this isn't exactly new news, but Havok has just officially announced that its physics engine will be used in AoE III. Here's a snip from the article on IGN:

"April 4, 2005 - In case the visual technology in Age of Empires III wasn't enough to make your pants tighter, Havok sent out word today that developer Ensemble will use Havok's advanced physics engine (Half-Life 2's Source engine used it, for instance) in the upcoming RTS sequel."

AoK for DS?

A lot of excitement is being had over the announcement that Age of Kings is being ported for the DS. While a past porting of AoK didn't go well, ES assures us that they're actually in control of this one and it shouldn't go the same way. Seems pretty interesting, I've been looking at a DS myself...just one more reason to get one. Here's the scoop from D4KU:

"Just to let you know it is Age of Kings for the DS. I dont think we would put out a new "Age of" exclusively for a hand held system.

If turn based games are not your thing you will probably not like it. However with the cool touch screen and stylus I think it will be a fun game to play just because of the ability to grab units and move them with a pen. However I like turn based action.

Many RTS games have been ported to PS2 and other consoles and have just not done good. The controls and interface really hold them back. Blizzard, Redwood, and ES have had their issues with console RTS games. In the future this may change."

New Screenshot at CGW Online

Thanks to PAoM for catching this morsel. CGW Online has a little blurb on Age of Empires III; though it doesn't cover any new info, it's got a new screenshot that's worth checking out. So...check it out!

Diabolical Dromedaries of Death

Turns out camels actually had machine guns mounted on their backs...this is something I did not know. Another thing I did not know is that ES is thingking about having those camels as a cheat unit in the game, a very cool cheat unit. Camels plus guns always equal death. By the way, sorry about not posting much recently, I've been having some CMS problems that were just cleared up, so it's all good now.

We found an image similar to the gatling camel early on in the project. From then on, that image was used in anything associated with the game. If anyone's taking bets on a cheat unit, my money's on that one.

I wonder if the two-humped Bactrian camels in Asia get dual gatling guns?

Is ES Working On Another Game, Too?

Out of Planet Age of Mythology comes a news article of mythic proportions. Xemu, an employee of Ensemble Studios, has actively described his experiences with AoE III; although he is not on the AoE III team:

"I'm not actually directly involved on Age 3, though I do playtest regularly and stay pretty closely in tune with how the project is going (both from a technical and design perspective). I'm quite looking forward to playtesting more in the upcoming months. It's always fun to play our games in development -- I have some very fond memories of Age of Myth playtests."

It has been suggested in the community that Xemu's wording of his article brings up the idea that ES is currently working on another project, as well as the AoE III project, however it can't be for certain either way at the moment.