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Brian Reynolds Interview - Part 1 - July 2007

With the release of Age of Empires 3: The Asian Dynasties coming out this fall, we asked Brian Reynolds from Big Huge Games a few questions regarding the new expansion pack.

HeavenGames: First off, can you please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at Big Huge Games?

Brian Reynolds: My name is Brian Reynolds, and I'm the CEO and Creative Director at Big Huge Games. My job is a bit hard to describe, but essentially it's making sure that each of our products contains the maximum amount of fun and excitement. Over the course of a project I'm engaged in a wide variety of activities, such as brainstorming, prototyping, coding, playing, balancing and so on.

HG: What's it like working with another studio? Is it difficult to get software back and forth as well as communication?

Brian Reynolds: It has gone really well. Fortunately, both BHG and ES have great internet pipelines, and we can move stuff back and forth pretty quickly. We create incremental versions of the game each day - so that balance testers in both studios can stay synced up with the latest version. I think everyone involved has been happy with the way things have gone.

HG: Will there be new abilities available to certain units (Asian leaders), and if so what are these new abilities?

Brian Reynolds: The Japanese Daimyo unit is pretty awesome: you have to ship him, or get him from a wonder, but he's like a walking barracks able to train troops right in the field-and even better he can receive home city shipments directly. Imagine shipping Samurai right into the middle of battle. The Daimyo also "buffs" nearby troops. Of course the Shogun unit is even more powerful!

All of the Asian civs begin with Monk units instead of Explorers, and in the case of Japan and India you start with two, so you can choose to keep them together for power or split them up for exploration. Monks aren't able to "snipe" treasure guardians, but they can stun them. Many of the monks have powerful martial arts abilities and can gain critical hits in combat. The Indian Brahmin monks ride elephants and provide combat healing.

HG: Are the European and Native American civilizations getting anything new to play with? Units? Techs? Cards?

Brian Reynolds: European and Native American civs aren't getting any new cards/units/techs, partially because with a second expansion we didn't want to create new levels of confusion between players who owned one expansion but not the other, and so forth. Of course you'll be able to play the old civs on the many new Asian maps.

HG: Can you tell us anything about some new information regarding units or buildings?

Brian Reynolds: Obviously some of the most exciting new buildings are the Wonders, which I'll talk more about below in your question about them.

Another important Asian building is the Consulate, which allows you to pick a European civ with which to form a diplomatic relationship. By allying with a particular power you'll gain occasional access to techs and armies from that power - you'll be accumulating "Export" which is a new and unique Asian resource representing the Tea, Silk, and Spice which Asians had and Europeans craved. Export accumulates slowly based on the total number of villagers you have in the game, and you do have a limited ability to increase your "Export rate" by lowering your gather rate of other resources. When you accumulate enough Export you can spend it to trigger a military intervention by your European friends, or to purchase one of their technologies. So Asians will have access to a wide variety of European techs, powers, and units, but in relatively small doses. Imagine allying with the Dutch, and receiving a Bank, followed by a shipment of Ruyters and Culverins.

HG: Can you tell us anything about Elephants? If India will have them and what types?

Brian Reynolds: India has not just one but many types of Elephants! The elephant units have many different roles, ranging from the Mahout which has the traditional "extremely heavy cavalry" role that the Age 2 elephant units had, to the Siege Elephant which has a massive gun mounted on top.

HG: How many new maps will there be? Minor Natives?

Brian Reynolds: We can't yet reveal the number of multiplayer maps that will be available, but we can tell you that they represent locations in southern and eastern Asia. There are also some new map mechanics, such as the ability to capture the already-established trade sites on the Silk Road map and "water treasures" on some of the coastal maps.

There are six minor native types on the maps; most representing local Asian native groups (e.g. Sufi, Shaolin) but there is also a Jesuit mission.

HG: View part two here.