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News Archives - June 2005

Preview at 3D Accelerated

3D Accelerated has a preview of AoE III up; pretty generic, but it was happy with what it saw of the game. Talk about it on the forums and you've checked out the article and this excerpt:

"Many sequels followed but I found myself quickly loosing interest in most of them. I couldn’t quite pinpoint why the sequels failed to draw me back into the world of swords and arrows. A large portion of it may be the recycled game play and staleness of the development combined with lacking graphics as many other games started to advance in. So what does Ensemble do to bring me back in? Well, I’m sure it’s not just me, anyway, they create Age of Empires III as one of the most if not the best visually stunning RTS games ever to hit the market."

"For King, For Country, For Higher Res!"

A few days ago a trailer of Age of Empires III was released at GameSpot. The trailer was awesome, but many complained about the quality. Well, complain no more! Idloco has dug deep and found us a much higher resolution version of the trailer. If you speak spanish you can simply go to this page and register. If you don't speak spanish, then check wglmb2's reply for some schooling and instructions how to get it. If you're STILL having trouble, Spacemonk got us a direct download, but it doesn't work on Firefox.

Update: FileFront also released the high-res video that they got straight from Ensemble Studios and Microsoft. So if you don't wish to go through the spanish site, you can get it from FileFront.

Poll Roundup

Despite the fact that ES is moving more towards gameplay depth for the release of the game and plan on balancing it afterwards, Should a game be focused on gameplay depth, or balance? indicates that the community doesn't especially want depth, rather a balance (oh pun) of the two. Here's the results:

(342) Gameplay depth
(178) Balance
(635) Both are about equal

Total: 1155 votes

AoE 3 is reported to have much more intensive military gameplay compared to economic gameplay, what do you think of that? Answer in our poll!

"My E3" - Blog Entry

If you've ever been to E3 you know how chaotic (and fun) it can be. Bruce Shelley shares his experiences in his new Blog Entry at http://ageofempires3.com. Bruce also discusses some balancing that's being done to the villagers and the future of the PC as a gaming platform. Overall it's well worth a read. So read it silly. Then share your own opinion at RiderOfEternity's forum post.

E3 Video at GamePlasma.com

Mel T has given me the heads up about an E3 video at GamePlasma.com. It's a big'un, 9 and a half minutes at 30mb, but surely not too large for the enjoyment of the broadbanders out there.

Enjoy!

Game Developers Conference Video

Yeah, the GDC has been over for a long time, but I guess new stuff is coming out and being found, because a new video from one of ES' talks is up for downloading. It's not for everyone, though, since it's just about the technical workings of AoE III and you need a subscription at the site to download it, but I thought some would be interested in checking it out.

3 New Screenshots at GameSpot

The ever-watchful eye of Xiphoid at PlanetAgeofEmpires caught at GameSpot something pretty much everyone else missed during the fun of the trailer and interview, turns out it's got three new screenshots in its gallery. Check those puppies out!

Want some E3 swag?

At E3, a bunch of free crap is given out in order to attract people to certain booths: swag. As any good gamer would, I got a bunch of stuff myself, and am looking to give out something. How to get some swag? Just send me (socvazius@heavengames.com) a humorous or clever caption for the below photo of myself and Zorro outside the Grauman's Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard taken after the second day of the convention. Ah, it was only a couple weeks before that I was dressed up like that for my senior prom...good times.

What is it? Well, I haven't a clue, but I'll pick something out of my bag of swag and I'll make sure it's one of the better things. Eeee, it'll be a surprise!

Almost forgot, the winner will probably be announced something like next Monday. Luck!

Poll Roundup

Looks like people's views on no tower pushing are mostly positive, according to What do you think of the no tower pushing in AoE III? Cool cool, here's the results:

It's a godsend (372)
It's alright (413)
Don't care (272)
Hate it (192)

Total: 1249 votes

Discussion on focusing on either gameplay depth or balancing has been fairly interesting this week, especially with DeathShrimp's words on the subject. Should a game be focused on gameplay depth, or balance? Answer in our poll!

Bruce Shelley's latest Lifejournal entry

Bruce Shelley has posted a new blog on the official Age of Empires III site. It details the crazy fun that are crunch periods in the gaming industry; what kind of work intensity they deal with, what it accomplishes, the whole shebang.

"Game development has a reputation for being extremely demanding at times, requiring very long hours, and sometimes causing a lot of havoc with personal lives. Our veterans recall that the final ten months or more of the original Age of Empires game was almost a death march of endless long work days, seven days a week. That experience seriously strained our studio culture and personal relationships, and changing it was a high priority task coming out of the postmortem."

However, the more intriguing bit of the article came at the end. Although it's not surprise that ES is in some way working on a new project now, the fact that they've got two going when AoE III isn't even out yet is quite interesting. My guess: AoE III x-pack and their next full game. Guess we'll see!

"Our second prototype is being led by Ian Fischer, the lead designer on Age of Empires II and Age of Mythology. We don’t talk about prototypes until they become real games on the way to being published, but Chris’s team gets to show their project to some MGS execs very soon. Neither prototype team is crunching, but they do answer the call for testers when needed."

Make 1UP Yours

1UP.com has a bunch of new information on the Iroquois, one of the Native American tribes in Age of Empires III...and one of the tribes in the classic novel Indian in the Cupboard. So whether you want to learn more about AoE III or the very best book ever, check out the article. Snippet ahoy:

"The Mantlet is an unusual unit, especially for Native Americans. It is a siege weapon that consists of a huge wooden shield carried by two warriors. Because Iroquois towns were so heavily fortified, siege weapons were sometimes needed. As most siege weapons in AOE3 are fragile, long-range artillery, having the equivalent of a medieval battering ram can be very useful."

E3 Wench Party 2005

E3 is just a confusing mess of flashing lights, and deafening sound, so what developers do to lure confused gamers into their booth isn't amazing gameplay, it's scantily clad women likely from a modeling agency of some sort that probably don't care about the game they're showing at all...but it's not like most gamers mind, and most of the folks from HG certainly didn't. So we've got a gallery of nearly 150 photos making up perhaps the most comprehensive guide to every single booth babe in the convention...we were a determined bunch. Check out the gallery, now!

E3 Halo Meet

This year at E3, all of the Halos - the "board of directors" at HG - we able to make it and had quite a lot of fun finally meeting the folks we've worked with for years. Zen put up a gallery of the craziness that ensued in bringing together 6 nerds, and we apparently did a lot of drugs but I don't really remember:

Mmmm.

AoE3H Forummer Awards

For many American high schoolers, voting on various members of the graduating class for different titles just happened a month or two ago. Johnny got Class Clown, Jessica was Future Rich and Famous...Sergio was Most Likely to Fake a Seizure to get out of a Tax Audit. Well, you get to do that all over again in AoE3H's Forumer Awards. Today's the last time to vote, so be sure to head to the community forum to pick your favorite ES employee, craziest forumer, sexiest forumer...and a bunch of others.

Go go go!

Trailer and Interview at GameSpot

GameSpot got all kinds of delicious exclusivity for Age of Empires III in the form of a trailer and interview with Dave Pottinger. Contrary to how most articles on AoE III have been recently, this one actually has new information! Namely,

"We're dedicating a specific team, post-ship, to manage the community and do updates, which is something we've never done before."

Now that's some scrumptulescent news if I've ever heard any. Considering that the game's depth will apparently require it, it's a damn good thing they're going to consistently update AoE III. They're not just working on multiplayer, though, as they're doing some heavy improvement on the AI...specificially, civilization personalities;

"The goal is to make you feel like you're really playing against Napoleon, snotty attitude and all. His battle tactics will be different from Queen Elizabeth's as well, in an obvious way. It's been an interesting challenge learning how to balance such a high emphasis on personality with the demands of an RTS computer-player AI."

Yum. Of course, we needn't forget about the trailer, which is apparently "totally awesome"...unfortunately, my dialup connection pretty well prohibits my viewing it, so I couldn't say myself. Do check it out, though, and talk about it in the forums.

Gameplay Depth vs. Lack of Balance

Gameplay depth is always the #1 best thing to have in a game no matter what, right? Well, DeathShrimp brings up a very good point that the deeper a game is, the harder it is to balance...and apparently AoE III is far deeper than AoM, meaning it's the most complex game ES has made so far. Luckily, they realize the tradeoff and he seems to infer that they'll do more patches than they've done before, which will pretty well be required to keep the game playable online, considering how happy people are to find and use unbalanced strategies. Here's what he had to say:

"I feel pretty safe saying that AOE3 has a lot more depth than AOM. In fact, it is probably something of a risk. There are so many different combos of civs, strategies, techs (even not including the HC), and maps, that there is the potential for some insane strategies that we weren't able to come up with during testing.

If anything, the design of AOE3 is just going to mandate more patches than we've been able to do before. That doesn't mean it will be buggier -- just that the depth can lead to a lot of unforseen strategies and balance issues."

Poll Roundup

Are you a Macintosh user? Well, turns out even less people 'round here use Macs than I thought, 87 as opposed to the one thousand PC users. Yar, that's a pretty big difference.

[87 votes] You betcha
[1192 votes] Nope

Total: 1279 votes

In AoE III, there's going to be a radius around a town center where an enemy can't construct any building that can shoot, effectively taking out power pushing as a strategy in the game. What do you think of that? Answer in our poll!

Blog Update

http://www.ageofempires3.com has been updated with a juicy (like peanuts) new blog entry. This time Bruce Shelley shares how it was like to prepare for E3 and the experience. 100% worth a look!

The most critical pre-E3 task for us was the creation of special scenarios used on the floor of the show and in small media sessions. For most media and retail representatives the few minutes they had to watch a demo formed their opinion. We needed to quickly, dramatically, and effectively make a very positive impression and get across our key messages. In addition, we have been working on the game for several years now and E3 was our first big opportunity to show off our efforts in public.

Yet another preview: Next Level Gaming

Whew, craploads of these coming around these days. Next Level Gaming's got a preview of Age III for your learning, though not much new is there to learn. Eh, here's an excerpt:

"All right now on to the question I know many of you will be asking, what does it look like? Well they have defiantly invested time into the graphics engine, incorporating elements such as: Tone mapping (balances colors in a scene on the fly), Lighting, bump and specular mapping, water effects, cliffs and riverbeds, and my favorite part, fully destructible 3D environments."

New Preview from Computer and Video Games

The folks at Computer and Video Games got a hands-on try 'round Age of Empires III and have a nice preview to prove it. It sports two new screenshots and a couple bits of new information. Definitely worth checking out.

"THE GOAL IS TO MAKE THE best f****** game ever," says Ensemble technical director Dave 'Potty Mouth' Pottinger, before adding the caveat, "in terms of graphics". Considering that he's talking about a real-time strategy game, this is a particularly bold statement. For so long considered the ugly red-haired stepchild of the gaming family, Ensemble has decided that it's time for the RTS to fight back. Traditionally hidden away in the back of magazines near the personal ads, the developer has set out to create a game so visually stunning as to command front covers. And while we haven't quite afforded it that privilege, we did deign to visit its studios in Dallas, in between eating our own weight in dead cow."

When you're done checking it out, discuss the new stuff in the forums!

Translation of Gamezone21.com Preview

The Korean Gamezone21 preview was a wee bit confusing for most of us, being unskilled in the language. However, dragons89 came to the rescue with a translation of the article; there really isn't any new information, but worth reading for the sake of the fact that it probably took a while for dragons to translate, at least.

Gamebiz Preview

Gamebiz has a relatively short preview of Age of Empires III, but it gives nothing but praise for the game. Here's a snippet:

"Age of Empires III will set a new standard in the RTS genre with game play features, including the concept of a Home City, new civilizations, and an immersive new single-player campaign and amaze players with detail never before seen in an RTS."

New Screenshots at Gamezone21.com

Gamezone21.com has a new preview of Age of Empires III from their experience with it at E3. Problem is, it's not exactly in english, so methinks most of us won't be able to glean much information from it. However, it does have 4 photos of the game, which we can glean information from. Check 'em out!

Thoughts on other games at E3

E3 was freaking insane. I mean, really, flashing lights and scantily-clad women aren't exactly the best things to experience when you're trying to cover so many games you can't even count because the reverberations from the thousands of speakers caused serious damage to your brain. It was impossible to get awesome coverage for every game that I wanted to check out, but I did at least get demos with a number of them. There were four games (Spartan: Total Warrior, Star Wars: Empire at War, Starcraft: Ghost, and Imperator) that I got some exposure to, but not enough to be able to make a fully-fledged preview; I obviously didn't get a whole lot of new information about them, so what I've got is mostly my assessment of the builds that I saw of each game...take them as you will.

"I found out about Imperator just days before E3, but the concept fascinated me enough to squeeze in an hour of gameplay at the expo. This MMORPG is set in a reality where humans have expanded throughout the galaxy. Thing is, it's set in the past...how the hell does that work? Well, it's a reality where the Roman Empire never fell (hence the name, Imperator = Emperor, in Latin); so there were no Dark Ages where technology was lost. Instead, the Romans built upon their existing technology and were able to become a spacefaring civilization far more quickly than we're doing right now."

If you want to check out any of the other articles from E3 or any other previews at all for that matter, just check out HG main's Previews page. Go now!

Four New Videos at 4gamer.net

Xiphoid from PlanetAgeofMythology has a news post about 4 new videos from E3 at a Japanese gaming site called 4gamer.net. Needless to say, it's pretty much impossible to actually navigate around the site, so the links to the videos are below. Download!

Video #1
Video #2
Video #3
Video #4

HeavenGames' Rise of Legends E3 Preview

So you're Big Huge Games. Ignoring the fact that you run on an abstract business model, you've just made mad stacks of money off of a computer game that covers the entire span of human history. What do you do now? You can't very well make another historical game as your previous one already covered it in some way, it wouldn't make too much sense. Instead of history, you look into fiction. Fantasy is pretty cool, but overdone. Science fiction as well. What about some kind of convoluted merging of the two? Well, that's what Big Huge Games managed with Rise of Legends. I got a chance to check it out at E3 (hands-on, and a talk with Graham "Thunder" Somers) and have a preview for you chitlins. Enjoy!

Tower/Town Center Pushing is Out

Since the craziness of the Teutonic Town Center push, people have been wary of seeing shooting buildings being erected in their base. In Age of Mythology, this was slightly combated with the settlement setup, but in Age of Empires III, there will be a radius around town centers that is a no-build zone for any building that can shoot. Here's the scoop from DeathShrimp:

"Rather than use the Settlement model from AOM, there is a restriction around enemy TCs. You just can't build shooting buildings within X meters of their TC. That allows you to still establish a forward base with defenses, but keeps you from towering into someone's actual town."

Poll Roundup

With all of the press coverage of AoE III at E3 (including our own), quite a lot of new stuff has been learned about the game and surely many people's opinions of the game have developed. Has E3 made you more excited about AoE III? Well, more than likely it has, as the majority of the people voting said it did.

Aw yeah! (1100)
Sure (379)
Shrug (240)
Not really, kind of disappointed me (150)

Total: 1869 votes

With all the talk of porting Age of Empires III to Macintosh, the thought of how many people 'round here use Macintoshes. Are you a Macintosh user? Answer in our poll!

AoE III for Macintosh

While this isn't much of a surprise, DeathShrimp says that there are no plans for ES to port AoE III to Macintosh, though it's surely possible that someone else will do the job some time in the future. Since they did it with AoM, I'd assume someone would with AoE III.

"We have never ported a game to the Mac (or LINUX for that matter) ourselves. There are companies that have done that in the past, and if AOE3 is very succesful, I expect someone will want to do it again. I'm not aware of any deal we have currently (i.e. nobody is working on it this minute), but I don't keep tabs on everything that goes on."

Cards Affecting an Entire Team

Turns out that some cards - bonuses attained through Home Cities - can affect an entire team in Age of Empires III. This will make for some very interesting cooperation amongst a team, multiplayer should be a bit more interesting because of it. Here's DeathShrimp's word on it:

"DS: Many of the shipments you can send over affect your whole team! Currently each civ has about 7 of these, and we hope to add more if we can come up with enough good ideas. I really like these team techs because they help to work against always sending the same shipments in the same order every game (as with AOK, the team techs don't stack, so if you and your ally are both Dutch, you can't both send the same team tech). It really changes up your strategy if you're all ready to fish and your ally suddenly improves all of your hunting rates by 10%."

HG's RTW: Barbarian Invasion E3 Preview

I cannot get over how completely awesome Rome: Total War is. I have the game's map of the Medditeranean hanging up on my wall, would kill for a suit of Roman armor, and have gotten two tatoos of flaming pigs on my...thighs. Yeah, thighs. I'm by no means a fanboy; I've not played any other Creative Assembly game and have almost no contact with the developers or any RTW community. I simply adore the game for its loin-tingling splendor. So when I saw the demo booth of Rome: Total War - Barbarian Invasion at E3, you can imagine how much I peed my pants in glee. Now that I've recovered, I've got you all a yummy preview of the game. Enjoy!

Two New Screenshots at GameSpot

Two brand new screenshots of AoE III are up at GameSpot for your marveling, check 'em out!

Preview at Wargamer

The Wargamer has their own preview of Age of Empires III up; it's a fairly generic preview with no new information, but here's an excerpt nonetheless:

"During our preview, we spent some time chatting with Ben Donges, Ensemble's community manager. He showed us the new features the developer has been designing into Age of Empires III; the developer is clearly aiming to keep existing fans happy with some innovative features while drawing in new players with its superb graphics. This latest Age of Empires title is built on an advanced 3D engine, capable of all the technical wizardy gamers have come to expect from strategy titles."

New Age3 Video

GameReplays.org has released a new E3 footage of Age of Empires III. The first part of the video is Rise of Legends, but the second is Age3. The video is actually pretty good and the battle scene at the end is just awesome. Have fun!

Preview at GamesFirst

GamesFirst also has a preview of AoE III...though this one doesn't really reveal any new info on the game. Snip-pet:

"For infantry, there are a number of robust unit formations. “Volley Mode” allows the front line to absorb projectile damage while allowing both rows to fire back. Cherry showed off the “charge” mode, where his soldiers fixed bayonets and added speed while approaching the enemy. Victory is very much dependent on the use of your army this time around, not only in countering and attacking, but knowing when to charge, defend, flank, and bring in artillery."

Not-So-Not-So-Unique Units

While most civilizations won't be sporting 100% unique units in their armies, ES_Scout assures us that the unit diversity in AoE III will still be most impressive. It appears as though the game is going more for an AoM approach to different units; many may be fundamentally the same unit, but have different stats and uses. Here's what she had to say:

"Howdy folks. I'm in the middle of writing up histories and bits of stuff for all of our units and I can tell you - between mercenaries, natives, shared unit, unique units, ships and cannons - there are a TON of units in Age3. And with civ specific upgrades to improve even shared unit lines (like the Redcoats Greg mentioned) there's more variety than you can shake a stick at...

...SO - this means that when I'm training Cossacks, and you're training Hussars, and our opponents are training Dragoons and Spahi, these units have different stats, costs, strengths and weaknesses. Some differences are pronounced, others are more subtle. And you'll get to see them all yourselves... in time."