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News Archives - August 2005

AoE3 Preview at CGW

WON_SeR3NiTy has spotted a new preview at 1 Up.com (a.k.a. Computer Gaming World), which goes into detail about Single Player, Native Americans, and the Home City feature, which I'm sure those of you that voted you didn't understand the feature will appreciate...

"That's the point at which you'll have to start making choices before each game: Which 20 shipments do you want to bring in? Says Shelley, 'It's kind of like building different Magic: The Gathering decks. If I'm playing this guy and he favors one strategy, I'll play a particular city with a particular set of shipments because they're particularly good against what I think he's going to do.'" ...

New Blog Entry!

As Elpea reported in the General Discussions forum, a new blog entry has been posted up at the official AoE3 site. The initial subject is Low End Testing, but it gives details on balancing the Portuguese, the Home City, and changes to the Artillery. The largest change is to the Portuguese civ...

"As we get very close to code complete, we are trying once more to reign them in a little bit. Instead of starting a game with two TCs, the Portuguese get a new Covered Wagon each time they age up (Covered Wagons can be moved on the map and converted into TCs)." ...

Poll Roundup

What do you think of the home city setup? Seems like most people love it, though there is still a decent percentage that don't really get the idea yet. If you're such a fellow, check out GameSpy's article on home cities, it should answer most of our questions!

(1086) I love it
(564) It's okay
(96) Don't really care
(107) I don't like it
(343) I...don't understand it

Total: 2196 votes

Boy do we love the Age series, but just how much? Do you plan on getting Age of Empires III on the first day it's released? Answer in our poll!

Two New Previews

ToTheGame and Gamerfeed both have new previews...and both aren't very long. Yeah. So here's a snippet of the one from ToTheGame!

"Finally, the single player campaign seems to be coming along quite well as you play the part of Morgan Black, an honorable knight who only wishes to serve his order to the best of his ability. As he chases down Spaniards, Turks, and pirates you’ll witness some very nice battle scenes with plenty of buildings to destroy, boats to sink, and infantry to kill. The sights and sounds of the battlefield are crisp, clear, and extremely movie-like. Ensemble has done a great job of blending plenty of RTS elements into AOE III and it looks like they’re doing their best to win the hearts of RTS fans everywhere. With what I’ve seen so far, they might do just that."

El Super Preview at G4mers

The fine folks at PlanetAgeofMythology have found a hugantic preview of Age of Empires III at G4mers. It's got all kinds of screenshots, movies, and content, definitely a preview that's worth checking out. Go go go!

Unit Showcase: Musketeer

The fine folks at Ensemble Studios are providing us with weekly exclusives of various units and buildings in Age of Empires III, complete with their renderings, a screenshot, and the in-game description of it. It's a pretty sweet deal right there, gives us a great in-depth look at very specific aspects of the game. This week's exclusive is the backbone of just about any army of the era: the musketeer. Bayonet + gun = cool.

"The Musketeer

The Musketeer is an infantry unit with decent hitpoints and range, and a good attack. Unlike most ranged units, Musketeers have a good attack against cavalry in hand-to-hand fighting. Consider Musketeers more like Pikemen, but with range, rather than archers or other light infantry. Musketeers are available to most Civilizations and are one of the most common units in the game. Musketeers are a good all-around unit, but not outstanding in any particular way. Certain Civilizations, like the British, have unique improvements to Musketeers that make them even better than regular fully upgraded Musketeer infantry."

 

FPH Dutch Warstory

SoggyFrog, Through the Ages' webmaster, has written up a nifty article over at the forums of the infamous Flying Purple Hippos Clan. It's a War Story following a game he played as the Dutch, but it also includes a number of highlights on game features, plus some compiled statistics on both Dutch units and mercenaries. If you want a better glimpse at how games can actually play out in Age of Empires III, this one's a good bet.

My economy was pretty much stretched here, and as he had domination over most of the map, I had to retreat my villagers and rebuild my economy using banks (350 food and wood) for coin and mills (400 wood + improvements) for food. When he started really getting me, I traded in all of my food for the Swiss Pikemen shipment and drove him back again, but lost all my mercenary units in the process. Around here, Napoleon’s attacks started thinning out and my army managed to maintain a firmer position

Three New Previews: Fragland, The Firing Squad, and Next Level Gaming

Looks like the interweb is active with the previewing today, with three of 'em. The first'un is from Fragland, which goes a little like this:

"A Homecity is one of those other major new features and it even adds a persistent flavour to the game. But first things first; in a normal game you can earn different shipments of this nation's capital. These shipments contain military units, new technology, resources or more settlers. They'll be available at your normal base once the shipment is ready. It's an important way of reinforcing your settlement and if you don't pay attention to the Homecity you'll have a very clear disadvantage."

The next preview comes from a personal favorite site of mine: The Firing Squad, mostly because they usually write a more interesting preview than most. Here that one is:

"Home City upgrades were quite welcome and in fact the entire idea is an impressive addition to the singleplayer campaign. Past Ensemble games didn’t quite stimulate the senses very well, with the first two Ages of Empires titles being rather bland, and Age of Mythology dragging on somewhat in some tedious scenario design. This was made all the more evident with the general repetitiveness of the RTS formula and lack of variation in it. From what we’ve seen so far, Age of Empires III spices the scenarios up and cuts them down to more manageable bites."

And finally, we've got another article from Next Level Gaming. Check it out:

"At E3 I got to take a look at the work being done on Age of Empires III, now I have had the chance to get my hands on it and see what it will be like when it comes out (my E3 preview is here). I am just as excited to see the final game now as I was in May (E3). I’m going to be in real trouble when this game comes out. Worst of all, last time I looked Age of Empires III and Civilization IV both come out on the same day… how is that even fair? My family will think I have fallen in a hole, never to return again."

New Screenshots and Videos

Spoiler Alert - To be on the safe side... some of the screenshots appear to come from the single player campaign and may give away the storyline.

DARK_JOAO has found a treasure-trove full of videos and screenshots online at G4Gamers (Screenshots, Videos 1 and 2) and over at PT Gamers PC (Screenshots, Videos 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5; Registration required for videos)

The graphics look great, altho I must warn that the screens appear to come from the press preview build and ES has made many changes to the game (they make between 5-6 builds a day) since. Go check out the screenshots and videos, then tell us what you think!

Home City Rundown at GameSpy

Nobody gets home cities, they can be freakin confusing. So our friends at GameSpy have a scrumptious 3-page article explaining exactly what home cities are and what you can do with them. Read it closely, friends, it should answer about every home city question you have. Wooo!

"If all this talk of "cards" and "decks" is reminiscent of collectible trading card games such as Magic: The Gathering, that's all to the good. That game informed much of Home City dynamic. The Ensemble team understands, though, that there may be a portion of their audience that wonders about how all this seeming randomness will affect a "pure" strategy game. Street dismisses such concerns. "We know some people don't like having jargon like 'cards' in a historical RTS. We figured it was worth adopting some of the terminology from collectible trading card games, though, in order to more easily explain the feature." Street did go on, though. "This is still a strategy game. Skill is still much more important than Home City level. If I play the best player at Ensemble, I'm going to lose regardless of what levels we are." Age of Empires III is scheduled for release November 1, 2005."

Want Thoughts on Age III from a veteran RTS expert?

Then just check out the blog of our very own TheGoodEvil. TGE isn't an Age expert, though he's certainly got his share of accomplishments elsewhere in the RTS community; among others, #1 on Red Alert 1 ladder, won several tournaments in RoN, top 3 player in EE2...he certainly knows his way around RTS games. He usually has at least one blog per day on some aspect of Age III's gaming, one recently being on the Dutch:

"For starters The dutch vils cost coin and not food, that was a wierd shift for me but a fun one. The vils costing coin means you have to be more inventive with your builds. Building early markets are more worth it than with other civs. You can trade some of your early coin for food and age faster, sell some wood or food for coin to get more vils, and also benefit from the market techs earlier (thanks to the shipment tech that makes market upgrades cheaper)."

Good old Dutch, eh? Comment on them in TGE's thread!

Greg Street Chat Log

Our chat with Greg "DeathShrimp" Street has just finished up and we've got the log for everyone to read. The folks there asked some pretty good questions, they got a decent amount of information from Greg. Definitely worth a read, not every day the ES folks chat about the game. Here's the beginning:

<HG_Zen> DeathShrimp, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
<ES_DeathShrimp> I'm Greg Street. I'm a Libra and I like long walks on the beach.
<HG_Socvazius> ...so we can better stalk you...Yum.
<HG_Zen> Soccy, that's just wrong, hehe
<ES_DeathShrimp> I'm the lead designer of AOE3. I've been working at ES for about 500 years.
<HG_Zen> Juan, you're up
<juanrodriguez> I my self will be a Spanish player and I wanted to know how playing as the spanish will benifit me.?
<ES_DeathShrimp> As probably most of you know, the Spanish earn Shipments about 30 faster than other civs. This means they can have a strong early economy by sending Settlers or Crates. Or a strong early military by sending over soldiers. They have the strongest hand infantry in the game and decent cavalry. They also have War Dogs, which are good at clearing out Treasure guardians. When the designers play Spanish we always shout "GARROCHISTA!" at each other, because that's the RG Lancer's name.

Preview at Armchair Empire

The Armchair Empire has their own preview of Age of Empires 3 right-a here. And here's an excerpt:

"The fortunate thing for Ensemble Studios when it comes to the Age of Empires series is that they really don't need to try and reinvent the wheel with every new installment. A few gameplay tweaks here and there, and some new empires to control are plenty to keep most fans of the series very happy. With Age of Empires III, this latest game looks to have quite a few new facets to it that can help to flesh out the franchise in a number of ways, and this coupled with the thorough upgrade to the visuals that this game is getting could make it the game to get this Christmas for a lot of PC gamers."

Greg Street Chat Winners

I get a feeling my clues from the "This Day in History" contest for chatting with Greg Street were possibly a little too vague, since only 5 guys got it correctly as the day that General John Chambliss was killed in the Siege of Petersburg. The Siege of Petersburg did happen that day, which many other people had as their answer, but it also happened every day from June 15th of 1864 until April 2nd of the following year. So I'm thinking that the 5 folks that did get it right on the dot should get two questions each come this Wednesday at 6pm and 10 of those that answered with the siege of petersburg will get to ask questions for the remaining time, in the (random) order of below:

Juan Rodriguez
Josh Stackhouse
Andrew Klarner
Greg Sweeney
Jacob Glass

Russell Davey
Ryan Stone
Alexander from AoE3Paradise.com
Troy Jacobelis
Irish Crusader
Oren Ratowsky
"Nick"
Ronald St. Pierre
Codeman
Jaime Medrano

I'll be sending each of you information on how to get into the chat in the next day or two; anyone on this list that doesn't get to ask a question will get to do so in the next chat that HG has next month. Congrats, dudes!

New Screenshots at IGN

Noflunk has reported spotting a couple new screenshots of Age III at IGN. Check those babies out, folks!

Age of Empires III Demo Definitely Coming

David Pottinger has confirmed in one of our forum threads that a demo of Age III will be available online some time in the future. He knows not when it will be, it will probably be bloody huge, and it definitely won't include multiplayer, but it's coming. Here's what he had to say:

I have no idea when it's going to actually release (or what the form will be) as Marketing's got the ball on that, but we are almost to RC0 on the actual demo. I put out another version for internal testing last night (or was that this morning?)...

I hope you have a fat Internet pipe

Editor Preview and Native American Units

Ever since I got a preview copy I got a lot of questions from fellow scenario designers about the scenario editor in Age3. Since Kumar's preview couldn't cover in much detail (since he did a quick visit to ES while I have a copy of the game running at all times on my computer) I decided to write a new preview, and here it is.

Finally, triggers and effects are just what I expected. There's plenty of new useful conditions and a handful of new effects. Most of these deal with the new features however, like Natives, Home Cities and another feature that was removed (that you guys will soon hear about). New effects include AI controls, Nugget handling effects, and an useful “Unit Make Invulnerable” effect, which allows you to make a unit indestructible. As for conditions, there's a set of new triggers to deal with XP which could be quite useful on RPG scenarios.

Also, a lot of you wanted more details on Native American units. So after writing the preview, I wrote detailed stats, and descriptions straight from the game and posted it right here.

Have fun. :)

Tupi:Tupi Blackwood Archer-Native American Light InfantryCost: 35 Food, 40 WoodHitpoints: 75Speed: 4Resists: .10 rangedSiege Attack: 24, range: 6Volley Ranged Attack: 24, range: 18Hand Attack: 12Build XP: 8Build Limit: 40Description: Long Range, accurate native archer. Good against infantry

Blah

Blah blah blah new preview blah Next Level Gaming blah blah blah likes it blah blah excerpt:

"That should be enough to wet your appetite for the final game, I know I’m looking forward to the final game. Once I get the final working copy of the game I will be sure to let you know how it looks in the end. From the track record of the Age of Empires series I have great expectations for Age of Empires III, and so far it looks like I will not be disappointed."

Bam!

UGO Preview of AoE III

Ah, more previews. UGO is the next one, doesn't give any new info but likes the game, weee!

"The Age of Empires franchise has enough of a following that Ensemble could have made moderate improvements to the Age of Mythology engine, given it a colonial coat of paint and started raking in the dollars. Instead, it looks like they're using Age of Empires III to push the RTS envelope, both in terms of graphics and by adding new elements to a tried-and-true formula. And they're doing it this year; look for the game during the holiday season."

Playing Age of Mythology without using a CD or even fully downloading it?

Looks like it'll be possible. Microsoft has signed with Exent Technologies to provide a "console-like" service to gamers, who will be able to purchase games like Age of Empires or Rise of Nations without using a CD or downloading the entire program. Pretty cool stuff, here's some of the press release:

"BETHESDA, MD -- August 15, 2005 – Microsoft has signed Exent Technologies, the global market leader in secure digital delivery of games on-demand, to be Microsoft’s first worldwide aggregation partner for Games-on-Demand.

Microsoft has granted Exent the right to aggregate Microsoft PC games, including titles from the popular Age of Empires®, Age of Mythology®, Dungeon Siege®, Mechwarrior®, Rise of Nations® and Zoo Tycoon® product lines, making some of the most popular game properties available worldwide for the first time over broadband through Exent’s network of Games-on-Demand service providers.

Exent-powered Games-on-Demand services enable gamers to quickly obtain full-version games without the need to fully download them to their machines. The EXEtender™ technology solution helps players to enjoy a console-like gaming experience on the PC platform."

What are your thoughts on this expansion into downloaded games, minus the CD, manual, box, and all that fun stuff? Talk about it in GaryPayton's forum thread, who spotted the press release first.

GameZone Previews AoE III

GameZone has a brand new preview of Age III without any new information, but they praise the game so nothing to be disappointed about. Here's a snip:

"Even though this game is still in beta, I can say that is looks fantastic. It is amazing how far along graphics for RTS games have come since their inception many years ago. To be completely honest this game, in its current beta form, is starting to rival the graphics for many First-Person Shooters on the market. Yes, the game looks just as good if not better than most of the screenshots you have seen floating around for it. Everything is just dripping with eye candy; it is unbelievable. Another thing that makes the graphics engine so great is the physics behind it as well. If you destroy a building you will see it fall in a more realistic manner that will make you all giddy inside."

E3 AoE III Booth Photos

Okay, yeah, this is pretty late...but we've got some photos of the AoE III booth at E3 up in our gallery. While the booth itself may not be of much interest, we do have some photos of the game itself, which you may want to check out. Since they're photos, they're not of the highest quality, but it's certainly possible to view most everything on it. See for yourself:

Collector's Edition Cover Graphics

Whoo, we're in for all kinds of official announcements today. Microsoft has released the box art for both the regular and the collector's edition of Age of Empires III. , and I've gotta say they're not what I was expecting. Every other Age game has 3 figures on the cover, representing particular people in that time period. This is a much less active cover, but it does fit with the period and does look good. Well, see for yourself and make your own opinion!

 

Updated: DeathShrimp has pointed out that both of these covers are for the collector's edition of the game - the left one is the cover that goes on the disc case, and the right one is the cover that goes on the box. The cover for the regular edition, like every other Age game cover, features 3 figures on the box, representing particular people in the time period. Sorry for the confusion!

Collector's Edition and Release Date Announced

First, the release date. Ladies, Gentlemen, and fellow Agers: Mark your calendars: October 25, 2005.

Second: The Collector's Edition: Even though members of our community has known via Amazon.com and EBWorld.com that an Age of Empires III Collector's Edition is in the works, it was never been officially confirmed, its details unknown ... until now! The Collector's Edition includes a 210-page hardbound art book, a "making of" DVD, an exclusive player's guide, soundtrack CD (sweet!), printed game manual, a poster, and of course, the game itself. It sells for $69.95 - Buy it from Amazon and support HeavenGames.

Check out the official announcement:

It's the ultimate prize for any Age of Empires fan: the Age of Empires III Collector's Edition is packed with premium extras that any Age fan would crave. Packaged in an oversized, beautifully embossed box, the Collector's Edition includes an impressive hardbound 210-page "The Art of Empires" book, a "Making of Age of Empires III" DVD with behind-the-scenes video and commentary, the official Age of Empires III soundtrack, a huge (43-in. x 27-in.) full-color poster of concept art painted by Craig Mullins, an exclusive Age III Player's Guide, and a Collector's Edition Game Manual. This amazing collection, from Microsoft and Ensemble Studios, is the perfect reward for all those years Age fans have built and destroyed countless civilizations, and is available now for pre-order for $69.99.

Age of Empires III is Ensemble Studios' landmark game of discovery and conquest in the New World, featuring spectacular graphics and physics never before seen in a real-time strategy (RTS) game. In Age of Empires III, players assume the role of a European power between 1500 and 1850 A.D. as they struggle to explore, colonize and conquer North and South America. Scheduled for release October 25th, Age of Empires III is the third installment in the award-winning Age of Empires series that has sold more than 16 million copies and defined the historical RTS. By introducing revolutionary new gameplay features like the Home City, the ability to ally with and produce Native American units, awe-inspiring visuals with a fully realized physics engine and more, Age of Empires III will expand upon the legacy of its predecessors and once again set the standard for real-time strategy games.

Ask Greg Street your own burning question on AoE III

HeavenGames is getting the honor to host monthly chats with the Ensemble Studios developers. Although they already answer most of your questions in our bustling forums, such a chat session will more or less guarantee an answer from Ensemble, plus they're a pretty awesome group of people to talk to anyway. This month's developer to chat with will be none other than Greg "DeathShrimp" Street, and it'll happen on August 24th at 6pm Central Time.

Unfortunately, due to the sheer number of people that we expect will want to participate in the chat, we will have to limit the number that can participate to as to maintain some kind of order and make sure that everyone can ask their question. How to choose who will get to participate in the chat? Well, a little contest always works! Just figure out what happened this day in history during AoE III's setting with the following word clues:

Civil War. Petersburg.

Got an idea? Just send it to me at socvazius@heavengames.com. I'll randomly choose something like 20 people (arbitrary number, I'll figure out exactly how many will be able to participate this week) out of those that answered correctly, and they'll be promptly notified by the end of the week. Good luck!

Editor and Campaign Q&A

Our very own veteran scenario designer Kumar Shah is answering the community's questions concerning Age of Empires III's editor and campaign based on his experience with both during his visit to Ensemble Studios just two weeks ago. If you haven't read his actual article on both, check it out; you're free to ask any question that the article doesn't cover. Definitely the best way to learn all you can about the editor at this point. Enjoy!

Preview at IGN

IGN has a preview of AoE III up for the fans to read. It talks about the singleplayer campaign more than most previews have so far, so you could learn a new thing or two from the article. Here's a snippet:

"The actual story of the main campaign is pretty engaging. It begins on the island of Malta as the Knights of St. John defend their home from an Ottoman invasion. The players take on the role of Morgan, a Scottish knight in the order. He's tasked with leading the defense of the knights' central fort during the first mission. While defending the fort, however, he'll also have to find time to head outside of the walls to recover a number of treasures that are scattered across the map."

GameSpot Preview

GameSpot has their own preview of Age of Empires III, but like most of the previews that have been coming out these days, it doesn't really reveal any new information on the game. They do give quite a lot of praise for it, so that's good.

"We've only had a chance to scratch the surface of Age of Empires III, as this is a huge game to explore. There was little doubt beforehand that this was going to be one of the biggest PC games of the year, and after spending time with it, those doubts have all but evaporated. The production values are top notch, the gameplay is there, and the graphics are excellent. After six years on hold, the Age of Empires franchise looks like it's going to come back with a vengeance. Age of Empires III is scheduled to ship this fall."

Battle for Middle Earth 2 Community Day Writeup

The BFME2 community day was a hell of a time, and our Adder has a very detailed account of the 3-day event, from the BFME2 presentations to the community presentations to Medieval Times:

"After this so called "Community Leaders Program" we headed out to a bus that had been chartered to take us to Medieval Times. Medieval Times is, as I later found out, a show and dinner (without those barbaric things called utensils). Basically 6 knights duke it out to become champion of the realm, you're assigned to a knight who you root for during the show. We got the blue knight, some dude who, according to the master of jousts (who later turned out to be the bad guy) had recently been knighted for his valor. Anyway, our knight won the tournament amid thunderous shouts from our section that sounded somewhat like "GO BLUE!!!" "GREEN YOU SUCK!!!" "YOU STINK YELLOW!!!" "I LOVE YOU LADY!!!" and "I WANT TO HAVE YOUR CHILDREN, PRINCESS!!!" Admitidly the last two shouts only came from a usually demure, and certainly demure looking Sergio..."

Certainly worth a read, check it out!

Battle for Middle Earth 2 Scenario Design and Modding Preview

One_Dead_Angel, one of our experienced modders and scen designers here at HeavenGames, also got to check out LoTR: Battle for Middle Earth 2. And with his expertise in the modding/design area of gaming, he's written all about what he learned about the game in that respect. This is definitely worth a look if you're a designer and interested in the game, here's a snip:

"It also looks like they put a lot of work into just creating an easier tool to use. Things like new drop down menu choices for the various parameters you can set, so as to take a lot more of the guess work out of configuring your creation. A scripts searching tool. Tab organization in the object properties. Easier river creation and placement. Wave options to create just about any kind of land/water interaction you want for some serious eye candy. Terrain copy and pasting, which will make creating symmetric multiplayer maps much easier. Post effects which can alter the entire map at once instead of tediously applying texture effects on each tile manually. And of course Hotkeys!"

Poll Roundup

What do you think about the possibility of only one ESO account per CD key? I guess most people don't like it very much, though I can certainly understand Ensemble's reasons for it. Here's the results:

(272) Love it, will stop smurfing
(206) It's alright
(322) Don't care
(531) Don't like it

Total: 1331 votes

The home city is the biggest single addition to Age of Empires 3, what do you think of the home city setup? Answer in our poll!

HeavenGames' Battle for Middle Earth 2 Preview

Last week, I was flown down to the Electronic Arts offices in Los Angeles to check out the recently-announced LoTR: Battle for Middle Earth 2...and got a rediculous amount of information on the game. So now I've got a rediculous amount of information on the game to present to you in a 5-page preview. Check that baby out, now!

"Gandalf action figures, LoTR risk, Gollum edible panties...the Lord of the Rings franchise has to have made the Tolkien family a rediculous amount of money with the fabulously capitalistic practice of merchandising. As though they need another fleet of private jets or another harem of brothel wenches, they have allowed Electronic Arts to use the properties from their books along with New Line's movie properties, following a long period of not letting anyone touch anything from the books on punishment of evisceration. And so we see the merging on book ad movie properties into The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth...2. That's a freaking long name, so it must be good."

New Screenshots from Ensemble

I just got six new Age III screenshots straight from Microsoft, and they're pretty sweet puppies. One shows those often talked about nuggets, another a scene in the campaign, a home city, and all kinds of other fun. Take a look at them, wenches!

Preview at GamingExcellence

The folks at GamingExcellence have written a pretty general preview of Age of Empires III with no exceptional new information, but they praise the game and we always like that! Here's an except:

Although the build we received was incomplete, it definitely offered a glimpse of what Age of Empires III is capable of, some of its new features, and a peak into the final release. Age of Empires III is truly shaping up to be the next-generation real-time strategy benchmark, and will likely live up the unbelievably high expectations when it ships later this year.

I just broke up with my lying, cheating AI

The level at which an AI cheats is a pretty big issue with a lot of gamers. So ES_DrJest clarified everything for us, telling us that only at the highest level of difficulty will the AI be getting a handicap. Right now I've been hearing of maimin_matty having troubles in beating the AI, so it's looking like an expert AI may rip you a new one quite thoroughly. Weee!

"The AI does not cheat on levels Hard and below. Hard will play you straight up, no handicap.

The Expert level, much like the Titan level in AOM, will have a handicap. We don't how much the handicap will be just yet, but right now it's at 50% and giving our balance guys some good games. For reference, the AOM and AOMTT hardest level used a 100% handicap."

New Screenshots and Video at GameSpot

Those fellas at GameSpot have some great media stuff for you all, 25 new screenshots and 5 new movies of the game. Yowza, that's purty good. Check 'em out!

DeathShrimp on Civ Bonuses

To tell you the truth, I never noticed exactly what caused civilizations to have their strengths and weaknesses...in other words, I never noticed that their home city and access to cards was the only thing that gave them their unique attributes, they don't get any inherent bonus at the start of the game. DeathShrimp clarified that issue in our forums, right-a here:

"DS: Not like they had in AOK. The Russian infantry are cheap and weak, so it works like you desribe in that sense, but it's not like Russians have +10% woodchopping and French have +10% seal clubbing. Those are handled through the HC."

Ranged Unit Weapon-Switching

I remember reading about the Japanese Samurai during pre-release Age of Kings and thinking it was completely awesome that they could switch from using their bow to using their katana during battles...and I remember being disappointed when it was taken out of the game. But ES has put that game mechanic into Age III with pretty much all ranged units, so cool beans there! Here's what DeathShrimp said about it:

"DS: There is no ammo tracking. Ranged units just use a hand attack when you are too close to them, or if they are forced into a melee attack (which is not a great idea for actual rifle units without bayonets)."

1UP takes a look at the Lakota

Not much is known about the Native American tribes in AoE III, but Michael Anderson has given me the heads up about a preview at 1UP.com that has shed some light on the Great Plains-dwelling Lakota, who field some impressive units on the battlefield: the heavy Axe Rider and single-time training Dog Soldier. What this shows of the Lakota seems to make the natives appear to be a more integral part in gameplay, as the ability to field such powerful units without the pop cost will probably not be passed up by many gamers. Here's a bit of what they said on the Dog Soldier:

"Even more mighty than the Axe Rider is the Lakota Dog Soldier. Dog Soldiers were an elite military organization of several Native American nations, such as the Cheyenee and Mandan. They were the last line of defense for their tribes and garnered much respect. Dog Soldiers wore long sashes and in battle they would stake these stashes to the ground with sacred arrows and fight without moving from that spot."

Campaign, Cinematics, and Editor Preview

Well the HeavenGames staff that went to Ensemble's community day has just been putting out new content like crazy. The latest installment is from Kumar Shah, who got a look at the game's campaign, cinematics, and hands-on experience with the editor. Being the experienced designer that he is, he's given a unique perspective on all that. Designers everywhere, don't miss this article!

"When you play Age3 you don’t realize the fact that it’s still sort of based of AoM’s engine. When you open the editor, you realize that. The editor UI largely remains unchanged and similar to that of AoM/AoM: TT. The icons organization, menus everything is pretty much the same. Don’t worry, its not just the AoM editor we are getting; ES has added more functionality especially to deal with the new gameplay elements. So we have a native’s editor, herd editor, some new camera effects, new conditions/effects to take care of gameplay options like turning off HCs, etc. The way to make cinematics remains the same. The trigger editor remains the same with new conditions and effects of course. There was some talk about having fixed certain things from the AoM editor, making the editor function much more smoothly but I don’t know what exactly they worked on."

Age III Community Day Writeup and More Thoughts on the Game

Lysimachus has been quite the busy beaver these days, as he's done a write-up of what went on at the Ensemble Studios community day. Here's a short little snippet of the article:

"The next day we headed straight to the lobby, had breakfast, met Socvazius, Kumar Shah, JCL (from Planet AoM), Martin (owner of age-community.net), and Ken Brown (event coordinator) and waited for the fancy black limousine to come and pick us up. After arriving at the large Hotels.com building, we headed straight for the elevators to the top 2 floors owned by ES. Upon arriving, you’d think you were walking into a Star Trek space station instead of a corporation. I mean, these guys really went “all out” in making Ensemble Studios as attractive as possible for their workers! It was an exciting experience trying to run around and take pictures of almost everything you could see. Not long after, Bruce Shelley arrived and took us on a tour of the studio. At the end of the tour, there was no doubt in my mind that these guys truly have their act together. The whole environment is very well organized and professional looking."

If that write-up isn't enough to satisfy your daily Age craving, Lysimachus also has posted his thoughts on Age of Empires III on HeavenGames' preview of the game. He was pleased with the game overall, but you should check out the article to find out why!

"I was fairly pleased with economic management. Initially, the idea of no-drop-off-points felt a little anomalous, but was something to easily get accustomed to. Micromanaging the expansion of your empire, the Home City, and military aspects require plenty of attention, and adding the burden of continuously building a new drop-off-point after resources deplete would most certainly prove a bit overwhelming for the player. "

AoE III Preview at PAoM

Yeah...this is a little late, but Jcl from PlanetAgeofMythology has written about all the fun he had at the Ensemble Studios Community Day that went on a wee bit ago...it's got some game summaries on top of some of the general info about the game, so you oughta check out that baby.

Poll Roundup

What kind of AoE III art assets do you most want to see from ES? Looks like we'll be seeing more unit renderings from ES than building renderings or concept art in HeavenGames' exclusive AoE III asset fun. Here's the results:

(181) Concept art
(749) Unit renderings
(371) Building renderings

Total: 1301 votes

Suggested by OutlandishTeacup: The issue of having only one ESO account per CD key has been heavily discussed in the past week. The advantage of it cutting down smurfing is certainly a good one, though some people still don't like the restrictiveness of it. What do you think about the possibility of only one ESO account per CD key? Answer in our poll!

More Pictures from ES trip

Hey folks, I've uploaded my pictures from our Trip to ES... if you look carefully enough at some of the pictures you may see a few things on the screens that we haven't published yet, like the Deck Builder, and the interface where you pick which cards to spend your upgrade points on. Of course, there's also the obligatory shot of a whiteboard in the background (and a cool picture of ES_Sandyman), but nothing spectacular like the infamous Huns leak from our visit to Microsoft back in 2000 for the oldies that still remember it.

There's a long-running thread in the forum about this as well, where JcL from PAoM, Kumar, Lysimachus, and I have been talking about the trip, what we saw in the game, what we liked and didn't like, amongst other things. Lastly, if you missed it, be sure to check out Socvazius's writeup of the event.

Last, but not least: I just reviewed Kumar's Campaign and Scenario Editor preview ... that'll be coming out soon. I'll be writing my impressions of the whole experience as well - so lots more goodies coming down the line. Stay tuned!

GameSpy Features New Units

There is a new feature on units over at GameSpy, which covers several infantry and cavalry units, as well as an artillery unit:

The Age of Empires series thrives on unit diversity, so the development team kept the grenadier in his earlier role as a unit that hurls grenades into combat. These projectiles have a short range, but do damage in an area that is deadly to infantry and buildings alike. Grenadiers can be used as an early (second Age) siege unit, or as an alternative to skirmishers or cannon. Grenadiers have great hit points and are resistant to ranged attacks, which mean that players who hope to beat them will need to rely on cavalry. To differentiate them from musketeers, grenadiers are treated as artillery units and are trained from the artillery foundry just like cannon. A player who wants an early grenadier army should build artillery foundries an Age earlier than most players.

Go check out the rest of the article now, and when you're through, hop on over to this forum thread to see what others has to say on it, or share your comments on the units.

Props to Hairy Scary Man for spotting the article.

DS on AoE III Game Scores

The scores in a lot of games really are difficult to understand exactly how they were figured, including the past Age games. DeathShrimp explains that is not the case with AoE III, as the score is directly related to the value of:

"all your units, buildings, improvements and your current resource stockpile. Because it includes improvements, a losing player will never hit zero -- you can't take improvements away.

But you do see jumps in score when someone amasses a large army, or gets a lot of improvements."

Sounds good to me!

Ask ES Database

New to Age of Empires III? First time to the site? or gone for a few days and looking for a way to catch up on ES Posts? Well, Maveric_LOL of the Legion of Light clan has compiled a database of Q&A's from our Ask ES thread. The page is neatly organized into categories so you can find just the information you need.

I think it's a great idea, and if you think so too, make sure you let him know in his thread about the database on the forums. Great job, Maveric!

Greg Street on Unit Counters

Greg Street (aka ES_DeathShrimp) has given some insight into how units counter each other in Age of Empires III:

... The place this model breaks down is with the fast units. They lose to the Musketeers and Rodeleros when they stay to fight, but often they just turn and run away. To deal with that contigency we need a fast but very specialized cav-killer. (If it isn't specialized, then you just make those units because they are fast *and* ranged). Camels filled that role in AOK. Dragoons and Cav Archers fill that role in AOE3.

And if you scroll down that thread a little bit, you'll see another message about countering artillery, and a short blurb about the building habits of AoK and Age 3 players:

... In AOK, it was common to have every econ building (University, Blacksmith, etc.) but then just have 12 Archery Ranges to make Arbalests. In AOE3 it's the opposite. Most players have Barracks, Stables and Artillery (even if they focus on one more than the other) but don't get an Arsenal, Church, Livestock Pen or Factory every game. It's cool.

Interesting, indeed. I can vouch for the that last line about not having certain buildings every game - I didn't even get to build a factory when I played during my visit to ES.

Poll Roundup

Do you plan on buying a new computer to play AoE III? Seems like most people don't plan on doing anything to their computer with AoE III, probably because it appears as though ES is trying to optimize the hell out of the game. Here's the results:

(361) Most definitely
(505) Just upgrading my current one
(900) Already have an adequate computer

Total: 1766 votes

This next poll is one that would be in many people's best interests to vote on. Ensemble Studios is offering HeavenGames an exclusive in the form of weekly art assets...they just need to know what the community wants the most so they can accomodate. So, What kind of AoE III art assets do you most want to see from ES? Answer in our poll!