• CSC Image
  • Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition is here! This 20 year old game getting a 2019 makeover breathes some fresh life into the franchise bringing back many fans of the game who have since forgotten their hotkeys. Grab your copy and bring your defeated hostages back to AoKH for them to enjoy our un-rivaled library of this game's ins and outs.

  • -o-
  • Check out the four new civilizations to choose from in the latest "The Last Khans" DLC!
  • CSC Image Bulgarians: “When nomadic Bulgar horsemen approached the Danube in the 7th century and encountered the local Slavic tribes, the stirrups that they brought changed European cavalry warfare forever. Fortify the nearby mountain passes with formidable Kreposts and punish overconfident invaders with powerful combined armies of cavalry, infantry, and siege engines! Your valiant Konniks, the pride of your army, will continue to fight fearlessly even after their horses are felled beneath them.”
  • CSC Image Cumans: “The vast Eurasian plains were home to nomadic tribes whose steppe husbandry and fearsome exploits still live on in the records of their terrified neighbors. Lead the Cuman-Kipchak hordes to war and pillage to your heart’s content, or offer your riders as coveted mercenaries in the service of foreign kings. When an even greater threat looms to the east, will you migrate west and adopt the lifestyle and warcraft of your sedentary neighbors, or vanish before an unstoppable wave of Mongol conquerors?”
  • CSC Image Lithuanians: “The forested boglands east of the Baltic Sea hold more than meets the eye. Coagulate the various Baltic tribes into a Grand Duchy with a new religion, smash invading forces with powerful cavalry and mobile spearmen and javelineers, and assemble the largest empire in late-medieval Europe! The Lithuanian unique unit is the Leitis, a heavy cavalry unit who strikes with such vigor that all armor is useless against his weaponry.”
  • CSC Image Tatars: “For centuries, fierce nomads roamed the Central Asian steppe, periodically launching distant migrations or campaigns to conquer or extort their sedentary neighbors. Don arrow-resistant silk armor and dominate the hills and plains with mobile horsemen and cavalry archers, or join the Mongol hordes and swell the ranks of the Keshiks, honored bodyguards of the Great Khan himself! Dare you follow in the footsteps of Tamerlane and mercilessly conquer an empire from Transoxiana to India, Anatolia, and Russia?”


Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition: New Expansion - Lords of the West - OUT NOW
Posted by Possidon on January 28th, 2021 @ 2:42 p.m.

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition now has a brand new DLC expansion available to buy right now!

It features two new civilizations; the Burgundians and Sicilians, three new campaigns, and also adds new achievements.

Check out the new expansion now on Steam or the Age of Empires Website.
Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition Expansion Coming soon!
Posted by Sebastien on December 21st, 2020 @ 05:15 a.m.

Roughly one year ago we finally got the expansion (and HD update) the game deserved. At the time, the devs made it clear they had no plans for any future civilisation updates in future; and instead were going to focus on content and additional campaigns etc.

Well, turns out that wasn't true as they've recently announced another expansion called, Lords Of The West. Lords of the West will feature not three new campaigns, but an additional TWO civilisations.

Players will now be able to take to the battlefields as either the Sicilians and Burgundians. On top of that, there are three new campaigns in total, and a possible remake of the original Joan of Arc campaign to include the Burgundians.



Rise from a mere duchy to the marvel of Western Europe through economic might, cultural achievement, and the use of advanced military technology and tactics. The Burgundian unique unit is the Coustillier, a cavalry unit that utilizes a powerful shock attack when charging into battle!

Civ Bonuses:

- Cavalry Civilization
- Economic upgrades are available one Age earlier than other civs
- Fallen Knights return 50% of their gold cost

Unique Units:

- Coustillier: Cavalry unit that can charge their attack stat
- Flemish Militia: Heavy infantry unit with a bonus vs cavalry; can only be obtained via the Flemish Revolution technology

Unique Techs:

- Burgundian Vineyards: Convert all food into gold at a 2:1 ratio
- Flemish Revolution: Upgrades all existing Villagers to Flemish Militia


Experience the diverse cultures and martial spirit of the Mediterraneans crossroads as you build one of the most coveted kingdoms in medieval Europe. The Sicilian unique unit is the Serjeant, a hardy infantry unit that can construct the formidable Donjon.

Civ Bonuses:

- Infantry Civilization
- Castles and Town Centers are constructed 100% faster
- Land military units absorb 33% of all incoming bonus damage
- Each Farm upgrade grants Farmers +1 carry capacity

Unique Building:

- Donjon: Unique fortification used to train Serjeants. Units can garrison in the building for protection; Archers and Villagers shoot additional projectiles when garrisoned.

Unique Units:

- Serjeant: Infantry unit which can also construct Donjons

Unique Techs:

- First Crusade: Upon researching, each Town Center spawns a one-time group of 7 Serjeants
- Scutage: Upon researching, each team member receives a one-time payment of 15 gold for each military unit that they own.

The expansion is currently taking pre-orders, and it set to be released on January 26, 2021.
Minigame Compeition 2020 - Deadline Closed
Posted by Possidon on November 09th, 2020 @ 08:01 a.m.

The Deadline for the Minigame Competition has now passed. This year we've received for interesting entries and we can't wait to hear the results. Now it is time to wait for the judges to play through them and write up their results. Stay tuned for more...

Whilst you wait you can play through the entries yourself by downloading them from the blacksmith here.
Re-Revived Community Spotlight II: BF_Tanks
Posted by Major Helper on November 08th, 2020 @ 12:09 a.m.

The heavy curtains shrouding the stage open once again, revealing the familiar stage behind. The interviewer, Major Helper, can be seen standing in the spotlight. After a small yet theatrical bow, he asks the audience to warmly welcome the newest guest, BF_Tanks. As Tanks enters the stage from the right while waving, he is given a pleasing amount of applause. After safely bumping elbows with the interviewer, the duo take seats on the two six feet apart comfy armchairs.

Major Helper:
Well then, how are you feeling, coming to this interview?

Excited! I don't know what to expect, it'll be good fun.

Major Helper:
No doubt, it's fun to talk about yourself every once in a while, after all. Let's start with the general stuff: A/S/L?

I'm 26, a bloke from Scotland.

Major Helper:
A strapping young adult, then. Tell us about yourself outside of the internet, what sort of person are you? What do you study or work on, what hobbies do you have?

Hmm, well, outside of the internet I basically look for reasons to go back on the internet. I've been into computing and gaming for as long as I can remember. I've always loved games that let me create things, so Age of Empires was always a big part of my childhood. I also got into the idea that one day I'd be a game designer and work with Ensemble on some mythical Age of Empires 5 or whatever it would be by then. I was always good with computers, and I like to dabble in programming here and there. I did a computing degree in college, and now I'm studying game design and production in university, though it is quite a bit different than what I was expecting/hoping for. I guess I'm stuck in the past there.

Major Helper:
Did you start with computer games, or were you more consolically oriented at first?

Well, my dad had a PC, so I've always had that exposure to it and I'd often play GTA 1 or Age of Empires with him. I had a couple of consoles before I got my own PC though, so I kinda have a bit of both sides in me.

Major Helper:
GTA 1?! Now there's a retro game. Did you enjoy car games and other more action-packed stuff before strategy games took a hold of you, or was it love at first sight?

Well, I didn't have many options, but I played everything we had. I also played SimCity, Age of Wonders, and Doom. I enjoy them all still. I'd say I had quite a broad spectrum of game genres for the time. By the time I got my own PC, I was getting really into Halo whilst still playing Age of Empires like it was a religion.

Major Helper:
Haha, thats the way. So, generally speaking, you played what your father did?

Yeah, I would play AoE with my dad and my brother. My brother had his own PC. We'd play over LAN and my dad didn't like it because we'd always win. I'd say my dad was a big influence on me doing scenario designing and getting into design and programming in general. He did web development and had a big ol' book about programming games in an arcane language called DarkBASIC. I still have that book, in all its tea-stained glory.

Major Helper:
Oh wow. You mentioned that you've dabbled in programming and other more involved parts of computers and computing even outside of your studies. What's that like, what sorts of languages have you utilized? Lua or something?

I use Lua on a regular basis. I do "work" in C# and I've done a bunch of Java and HTML stuff in college.

Major Helper:
Ground up stuff, or more of the editing and fixing type of stuff? Well, probably both, I'm guessing.

For Lua, it's all mostly from working in mod projects. Java and C# are from the ground up. I've done Android app development in college and that was all "from the ground up". Oh! In college I made a turn-based RPG with a hand-written GUI in Python.

Major Helper:
Coolio! Sounds like you've got a pretty good repertoire of coding skills, then.

Eh, I'm okay at best. There're programmers that I've worked alongside in Uni that are leaps and bounds ahead of me.

Major Helper:
Those are probably the type who live and breathe coding that I keep hearing about. Well, let's come closer to "home" next: when did you first dip a toe within the circles of HG? What brought you to AoKH? Why not tell us about your username, too, while youre at it.

The Blacksmith brought me to AoKH. I was using it to get all the most popular multiplayer scenarios. I would pick them apart and make small edits to them, or make my own maps based on what I'd learned. I didn't actually join the forums for years, and I wasn't going by any particular name. On the MSN Gaming Zone I called myself Tanks_FST. Tanks because I like Tanks, and FST because I wanted to pretend I was in a big clan of map designers or something. I can't remember how it came about, but it stood for "free style terrorists". Years later, I joined Black Forest Studios and BF has been in my name ever since.

Major Helper:
That's a funny "clan" name you come up with. Have you enjoyed your decade plus long stay? What sorts of things do you remember from the years, if any? Also, obligatory Counter-terrorists win!.

I'd say so, but I haven't been consistent with my stay. I've come and went and come back again a couple times. I'd say some of my most vivid memories are from working on (and winning awards for!) Silent Evil and Seas of Egressa with Popeychops, who also quickly became my real-life mate. Other memories include arguing with Aro when he was the dictator (I used to think he was awesome until I actually spoke to him in person) and the hours I sunk into playing classics like Ravenous RPG and Simpsons RPG online with Popey and friends. Oh, and can't forget all the work I did with UserPatch and the modding side of things. Also, that morgoth guy, if that was his name, he's a c***. I remember arguing with him the few times I'd dare go into the Towns Crier. That place is like a whole separate community Weirdos.

Major Helper:
You've been a familiar face 'round these parts for a while. It's good to see you've accumulated various memories. Also, hey, Im from the TC as well, were not THAT strange!

Honestly, I wish I stuck around more, but at the same time I think my periods of being distant have been good for me. It's helped me to keep perspective on things.

Major Helper:
No doubt, many have admittedly burnt out during the years.

I used to think HG was the be-all-end-all AoK community, and that if people knew me there, I was basically famous.

Major Helper:
*theatrical shock* Youre saying we aren't?!

Well, there certainly was a time when HG was the s***, but I think anyone who's been here as long as I have will agree that these days it's like a dusty relic.

Major Helper:
Well, cant argue with that. Now, it's basically a nice thing to have and look, but it's no longer all that useful. Like a wired phone or something. We're still trying hard, though!

Yeah, something like that. It'll be sad when the day comes that the servers get taken offline, but y'know, we have archives of the stuff. The community has a place on Discord and we've all made connections outside of the forums. Take my friendship with Popeychops for instance, he's a good friend and I've been to his place a few times. Good mate to have and I wouldn't have met him if it weren't for AoKH.

Major Helper:
Yeah, we're still doing things to try and keep AoKH afloat and not have all our eggs in one gum-patched basket. Plenty of interaction over Steam as well. And yeah, gaining new friends over the internet has gotten more and more commonplace over the years. Internet spilling into the real life is always something special. Gaining something concrete on top of the usual internet perks.

That's most of my friendships. *laughs* I met my girlfriend whilst I was trolling in an MMO, I met one of my best mates playing the early alpha of Rust of all things, and today I've got an entire family of Canadian friends from a mod team for another game. Eventually we're gonna fly over there and have a big meet.

*enter sudden narrator* It is here that the interview quickly gets side-tracked.

Major Helper:
Ooh, a fellow Garry gamer, I see. Never played Rust myself, but I was an avid Garry's Mod gamer and a long time Facepunch lurker. Wooden Wars was the s***, and racing around self-made tracks.

Gmod is easily my most played Steam game. Got a good thousand plus hours of my life wasted making Source physics glitchy vehicles and stuff. I loved Flood and Dark RP.

Major Helper:
Was Flood that build a base and fight off hordes of zombies mode?

Nah, that's Onslaught. Flood was where you built boats out of parts you bought from a store, and after a time limit the walls came down and the map floods and you fight the other boat teams, the water would kill you. Gmod was my first encounter with Lua too, I made various addons for that.

Major Helper:
Oh right, Onslaught's what I was thinking about. I liked that one as well. Never played Flood, I think. And yeah, same, Gmods the only game where I did Lua editing to adjust some mods to my liking.

I had my own server and everything. Although, *lowers voice, forcing MH to lean in* I conned a guy, making him pay for it for me for a couple months, and then locked him out of access and stopped talking to him.

Major Helper:
*utterly shocked, eyes widen*

The audience has a hard time hearing anything, but it reacts to MH reacting. Small hushed conversations arise as people try to guess whats going on.

I even convinced another server admin that I'd donated for admin, and I made up a fake receipt from PayPal to convince him. He gave me admin rights and all I used it for was spawning in guns in the DarkRP server.

Major Helper:
*flustered reaction intensifies*
Uh, um
*looks around restlessly, spots the venue guards, gestures*
Hey guys, GUYS! We got a self-admitted scammer over here! I cant let this slide as a moderator! GET HIM!!!
*a fierce dust-laden scuffle ensues while the audience begins clamouring for explanation*
*as the spotlight is temporarily moved away from the fight, a money envelope secretly switches owners within the mess*
Uhm, um
*straightens coat and tie, looks at the restless audience*
I apologize, I mustve misheard Mr. Tanks. Nothing questionable to see here! Back to the normal scheduling
*clears throat while turning back to Tanks as the audience begins to quiet down again with scattered discontent muttering*
*coughs* I guess I ought to snoop a little about something to satisfy audience curiosity: what sort of things do you and Pops have gotten up to in real life?

*slicks dishevelled hair back to some semblance of order* Well, I have gone down to London to visit him a couple times. I introduced him to another friend of mine and now they actually hang out more than we do! Im hoping to get him to come up to us at some point, though thatll probably have to wait until after the pandemic. And by us, I mean me and my girlfriend. We're one unit. *sudden mechanical voice* We are Borg.

Major Helper:
*sudden mechanical voice* You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile! *snaps back to normal voice* Do you live in the highlands or more in the city areas like, uhh, Belfast? I must admit my Scottish geography is non-existent

BELFAST?! That's in bloody Ireland!

Major Helper:
Oops. *a brief Google Maps session on the phone later* I may have been thinking about Glasgow, but I have no excuses. *nervous chuckle*

*gives side-eye, then shakes head disappointedly* Well, I live in Dundee now, which is exciting for me because it was the home of Rockstar. We used to live right down the road from DMA Design when I was a few years old. That's how my dad got GTA in the first place, he was an early tester. Before I moved here for university, I lived in the middle of absolute nowhere though. My mum had a thing about never staying in one place for more than a few years, so we'd been up and down the country.

Major Helper:
Would that not have made getting friends difficult?

Sure, I've never had a big friend group IRL. Most of my friends are online anyway. My best mate I met in college, in Morayshire. We've kept in touch ever since, as well as one other friend from my childhood.

Major Helper:
It's pretty impressive to still keep in touch with a childhood friend. Shows something about one's character. Let's go back to internet for a bit: Tell us about your own works and the BF studios.

Hm, well, I've done quite a lot on my own, but only published/finished about 5% of it. I really liked RPG scenarios, and I also liked Blood maps for the sheer mindlessness of it. I would explore ideas of making more in-depth RPG mechanics, or Blood maps with some sort of a twist, like only having monks and needing to convert neutral AI units in the middle of the map to form your army. In BF, I joined as a nobody, but ended up essentially taking over the place.

Major Helper:
Rags to virtual riches, huh?

Well, nah. The old leadership just drifted away, and I was there to take the flag.

Major Helper:
Ah, rather than riches, you're holding down the fort.

Under BF, we released Silent Evil, which is probably still my most finished work. *self-mocking smile* Even with that, though, I had help. I once made an RPG based on the Highlands area I lived in at the time that had some pretty cool eye-candy mechanics, but I never finished it. It would've been pretty revolutionary for the time. It was completely open world. Nowadays, BF is nothing but a tag, though. We haven't really done anything together in years. I put together a site and a Discord for us, and a few of us were actively publishing maps under the BF name, but nothing else really came of it. We like to have our pretend rivalry with StormWind Studios, but even then, I dunno if that's still a thing. Honestly, I'm pretty disconnected from it all.

Major Helper:
The high tides have passed, I guess. What are you yourself up to then, future-wise? Lets start with AoK-related stuff, and then zoom back out to real life.

I've been playing AoK: DE, and I rant about how shitty they treated the map editor and UserPatch in the AoK Discord, but thats about all I do currently. Well, I want to make a "Definitive Edition" of Silent Evil, and I've been ever so slowly laying down the plans for that, but I haven't really spent much time in-editor. Might be something I'd wanna communicate with Popey about, but he's a busy bee these days. Silent Evil sequels are something I've toyed with for a long time, but never finished. Probably for the better, sequels are never as good. I made a spin-off DTS map once, though. That was good fun.

A tiny little HEY, TAKE THAT BACK! can be heard from AoK's audience seats general direction.

Major Helper:
What about IRL? Got any big plans?

I'd like to pass my course, get some job, and work towards releasing my own games. I have some kind of a plan for forming a company, which I've already started down the path towards, but it's slow going right now. Uni is hard. I plan to try kickstarting my card-game and getting it printed and published. Then, my team, "Paper Knights", will really kick off and I can start making games.

Major Helper:
Are you a one-man institution, or do you already have fellow aspirants?

I have me and my girlfriend, my good friend Connor (who I mentioned as the guy who I introduced Popey to), and my German friend Marko. But the last two are kinda unofficial still. I want to make strategy games and FPS/RPG hybrids, off the top of my head. Ever played E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy? That game is woefully underrated, and it is exactly the kind of hybrid game I want to create. For strategy games, I look to Supreme Commander and Earth 2150 for inspiration. And AoK, of course.

Major Helper:
Can't say I've ever heard of E.Y.E.

its like if Deus Ex, Doom, and Half-Life had a baby, and it was French.

Major Helper:
*tries to imagine*
Fast-paced dystopian action with lots of upgrades, with a main baddie who goes "hon hon hon" when he laughs? *chuckles*

Yes, thats almost exactly it. But you can also hack into things, doors, people, have cybernetic abilities, and super legs that can send you flying 50 stories into the air if they're upgraded enough. And magical psionic abilities. It's wild. It's a very mixed bag. It's based on a tabletop game that the developers invented, so the source material is a real hodgepodge of things. It's heavily Warhammer inspired, and the devs even went on to make a Spacehulk game, Spacehulk Deathwing. There're three main characters and all of them are the protagonist.

Major Helper:
So, you're sort of following in their footsteps with the concrete card game and then PC stuff?

Well, kind of. I never really thought of it that way. I don't think their tabletop game was anything much outside of their own personal group, whereas I want everybody and their nan to play my card game.

Major Helper:
Ooh, dreaming big, then. I don't have much experience with card-based games, but are we talking something like Dominion, or something along those lines?

I don't know what I can relate it to. You have a deck of resources and characters, and you fill a field of three cards by drawing from the deck. Each player takes turns to choose which card they want to take and they have to exchange other resources for it, or play characters that have abilities to manipulate the deck, field or other players. The idea is that you're all heroes given a quest, and you collect three resources matching the quest to win it. The first player to win 3 quests wins the game. It's still a work in progress. When we started, it was a solo game where you had to pick cards blindly and deal with whatever thing you picked. If you didn't make an exchange, you'd lose. But we wanted to make it multiplayer. We won the Game Jam with it and got a trophy. In fact, we're the last winners as the jam doesn't run anymore, so we're always gonna be the reigning champions. *laughs* We won it off our simple yet fun gameplay. We had all age groups able to pick up, play, and enjoy the game. It was a big hit, hence why we want to take it further.

Major Helper:
Sounds like an excellent start for the game, I'm definitely rooting for your continued success!

We'll see. We're confident, but we have a lot ahead of us.

Major Helper:
Sounds like you're quite hopeful for the future, which is wonderful to hear!
*takes a peek at the wristwatch*
Now, after all the heavy-hitting questions, its a good idea to end with a lighter note. Rapid-fire question time! WARM UP THOSE VOCAL CORDS!

Bring it on! *fist pump*

Major Helper:
Favourite and least-favourite colours?

Dark blue/purple and green.

Major Helper:
Salty or sweet?

Sweet. Or both, if it's popcorn.

Major Helper:
City or nature?

Uhh, thats tough I love both.

Major Helper:
Both certainly have their good sides. *nods understandingly*
Hot or cold?


Major Helper:
How hot, though?

Not too hot, I'm Scottish after all.

Major Helper:
Thats what I thought!
Heavy lifting or aerobic exercise?


Major Helper:
Sedentary life for the win, huh?
Truth or dare?


Major Helper:
And to cap off this interview: give us a piece of your wisdom or recommend us something. The word is free!

Play more indie-games! Stop buying from triple A publishers, and boycott everything Bethesda does. The hatred I have towards them is immense. Its bad enough that Palpatine might show up any second now and tell me to let it flow through me.
*struggles against the momentary instinct to start rampaging from all the hate*
Instead, play Noita! It's the game of the decade, a technical masterpiece!
*steam billows out of nostrils*

Major Helper:
*very nervously leaning as far away as possible from Tanks*
Um, yes, yes, I can agree with that. Play Noita! It's, its Finnish, after all! Finnish! Finnished, finished

Major Helper suddenly springs up from his armchair, takes a couple steps, and faces the audience. And there we have it, the great, the amazing, the wonderful, BF_Tanks! Lets give him the applause he deserves!. The audience is flummoxed as MH hurriedly walks towards the left of the stage while nervously glancing back at BF_Tanks. The curtains come crashing down. A muffled I didnt finish complaining about the big developers yet! can vaguely be heard as the audience belatedly begins applauding. It was quite eventful this time, huh? seems to be the general sentiment, as the audience begins to gather up their coats to leave. I wonder what the next interview will be like.
Minigame Compeition 2020 - 2 Days to Go!
Posted by Possidon on November 05th, 2020 @ 03:35 a.m.

There's only 2 days to go until the deadline for the 2020 Minigame Competition. Get those final playtests in and upload your campaign to the Blacksmith before 11:59pm (forum time) for you entry to count, and the judging process begins.
Minigame Compeition 2020 - Deadline Extended
Posted by Possidon on October 30th, 2020 @ 12:49 p.m.

The deadline for the Minigame Competition has been extended by an extra week to November 7th.

So keep working on those entries and upload them to the Blacksmith for the deadline and see ho it fairs against the others. We've already got three entries already and we can't wait to play them all.

Find out more at the official competition thread.
Age of Fantasy Mod Screenshot Competition - Prize Included
Posted by Sebastien on October 24th, 2020 @ 08:42 a.m.

From now until the end of the 13th of November (Eastern Daylight Time) the mod author, 77thDemonKnight, is running a screenshot competition entitled "Crossroads".

Currently, the winner will receive $50 USD paid however you prefer.

To enter, simply head over to the AOF Discord, and post your screenshot in the #screenshotcompetition channel.


If you don't know, Age of Fantasy is a total conversion of AOE2:HD (2013) edition, currently available on Steam.

The mod transforms all 31 civilisations into a fantasy epic, with Giants, Dragons, Demons, Wizards and much much more.

There are 11 new architecture sets and plenty of new objects, eye candy, a 100% revamp of terrains and many other graphical additions to get stuck in with.

The mod is currently WIP and under ongoing developement, but is fully playable and available for download from the Steam Workshop. Your screenshots will ultimately help promote the mod and be part of it's official promotional material.

Here is a current screenshot:

Just as a reminder, the deadline is by the end of 13th of November EDT.

The theme is "Crossroads".

The winner will receive $50 USD paid however you prefer.

To enter, simply head over to the AOF Discord, and post your screenshot in the #screenshotcompetition channel.

All are welcome to enter, and good luck!
Hidden Gems III: Queen/Princess & Female Warrior Princess
Posted by Possidon on August 26th, 2020 @ 04:50 a.m.

Queen/Princess & Female Warrior Princess

One of the things that many scenario designers long for is more female characters to use in their scenarios. Female characters are important to add diversity and emphasise character development within a scenarios story, yet the editor only gives us access to a couple of female units to use. In the original editor you have the Joan the Maid/Arc and Female villager characters whilst the HD expansions add the Queen and Yodit characters as well.

Well if youd like to add more and you're prepared to use Mod Packs, then have know fear as there are plenty of female units to download from the Blacksmith. For this months Hidden Gems Feature Im going to be showcasing a few of my favourite female units.

Queen/Princess - by RNineZero
There was much celebration when The Forgotten Expansion added a new queen unit. Many scenario designers finally had a royal looking female unit to use as a character or added piece of eye-candy. If it one loved the new addition. But there were times when I wished that the unit could do more, like attack other units. Thats where this wonderful little unit by RNineZero comes in.

This unit represents a royal queen or princess and is wonderfully designed with an elegant player-coloured dress and smooth animations. Its a wonderful addition if you want to have a scenario about a royal princess or you must want and additional royal unit for eye candy. The unit comes with a number of different icons, including a hero icon so it can be used as a normal unit or a hero.

Female Warrior Princess - by Ballista_Turtle
Sometimes we need a female character that is more equipped for battle. The Joan the Maid unit is commonly used as a main character in scenario but it doesnt really look battle ready for a long adventure across a fantasy world. The Joan of Arc character is more suitable for this, but sometimes you might want an infantry unit rather than cavalry hero. Thats were this unit comes in. An older unit, uploaded in 2002, this female unit closet resembles a medieval knight, but in female form. The unit was modelled in Poser and excellently blends in with the other units in the game. Like the Queen unit above, this unit also has multiple icons, including a hero icon. This unit is a perfect addition to any scenario which has female lead characters, and a welcome change from the Joan of Arc and Joan the Maid units. Its worth noting that this unit was uploaded as a AKX file and therefore the SLPs need extracting from it, there are guides in the University to help with this if you get stuck.

So, there you have it, two unique and interesting hidden gems from the depths of our Blacksmith that you now know exist, if you didnt already. What do you think of them? Have you been seen or used these units before? Go and check them out now!
Minigame Competition 2020
Posted by Possidon on August 11th, 2020 @ 07:53 a.m.

Six Years from the last instalement, 2020 has brought us some form of happiness in the form of a new Minigame Competition. This is a popular contest which sees designers create scenarios built upon tiny maps of a 25x25 size. Do you have what it takes to create AOKHs greatest minigame? Go an sign up a the competition thread and submit your entry to the blacksmith before the deadline on 31st October
Work in Progress Spotlight XXXVI: Sengoku - Total Conversion
Posted by Possidon on July 31st, 2020 @ 09:28 a.m.
Big project announcements are becoming rarer and rarer these days, so when somebody posts a new topic to announce their new ambitious project its only right that the whole community gets excited. The Works-in-Progress Spotlight is an opportunity for the designers of these projects to share a little bit of additional information on these projects and build up the hype for their upcoming release.

This month I sat down with Achesun, Sebastien and Rodion to learn more about one of the most ambitious Mod Packs that AOK has ever seen Sengoku: Total Conversion. Sengoku is a total conversion mod of Age of Empires 2 based on the most dramatic part of the Japanese history known as the Sengoku period, a time when the shogun loses his influence over Japan, and local daimyo fights against each other to secure their power. The mod is designed to be used for the CD version and UserPatch 1.5, and is therefore compatible with GameRanger and Voobly for online multiplayer games.
Could you please introduce us to the team behind the creation of this mod?
Seb: The core team is Achesun, Rodion and myself.

Achesun: Sebs been doing most of the data editing and environmental graphics, Rodions working on most buildings, ships, and siege units, and Im doing the human and animal units.

Seb: We also have Danielpereira to thank for implementing our core .exe changes and without him a lot of our mod wouldn't be possible. Grenadier has also made some critical exe additions as well as implementing the added terrains. There is also CheeseOnToast who made the initial AI and now Marathon, who's developing a new AI and editing some others to work with Sengoku.

Whats the history behind the Mod? How did the concept come about and how did you each get involved?
Achesun: Well, if I remember correctly, it was a long time ago when I was helping the Age of Sherwood community project, I saw in the forums that someone had listed a few potential themes that could be made into good total conversion mods: the crusaders, north European civs, and Sengoku Japan. I found the last one really interesting, but as I was still a newbie modder back then, it would be many years later when I take the idea seriously and started working on something.

In 2015, I was watching a TV drama about Oda Nobunaga, and was reminded the idea of making a Sengoku mod for AOK. I started a thread called "Achesun's Japanese units pack", aiming to create a small mod pack including several Japanese units that could potentially be expended into a bigger project. In 2016, when the mod pack is released, it turned out to be quite popular, so I decided to make more. The plan is no longer to make just a few more Japanese units, but to include a full unit set (including the villagers!). Originally there were only going to be three civs. Since I didn't know how much help I might get, I limited the scope of the mod to just a graphics pack with minor data changes to make it playable. Very luckily Seb and Rodion joined, and we have further expanded the vison of this project.

Seb: Mines not so interesting really. I released a Japanese themed cinematic scenario for the Cutscene Contest once and that inspired me to create a Japanese scenario. At the time I'd started to mod some different assets and started a thread where a bunch of different people contributed some of their own copy and paste assets. That project didn't happen in the end. When I saw Achesuns project I couldn't resist getting involved; so maybe one day I'll finally be able to finish my scenario using the mod.

Rodion: For me Sengoku mod was a nice cause to start learning 3D, and after I posted some results of my work, I got the invitation to become a part of the team. Since that time, I have become more and more involved. Trying to get a visual coherency of all design elements was a challenge for us, and I hope players will find the mods art style enjoyable. We remade everything including User Interface buttons trying to make it look different, but still recognizable Age of Empires style. I also hope that we've managed to keep the balance between historical accuracy and playability too.

As a total conversion I guess theres loss of new and unique features to this Mod that youll love to surprise us with. Are there any particular highlights from the mod that you would like to tell us about?
Seb: Sengoku is essentially a new game using the AOK genie engine as a base. 90% of the game has changed graphics wise. Gameplay is very similar to that which AOK people know and love, with some additions and changes specific to the Sengoku period, such as new meta, different siege weapons and new technologies. We've developed the mod to be both balanced and multiplayer friendly - as well as offer a ton of editor objects and new graphics for the scenario designers and single player gamers

One feature I'm very happy to talk about is the inclusion of extra terrains, a first for an AOK mod. We currently have 151 terrains finalised ready for scenario designers to play with and create maps they never could before. We've also included a huge number of eye candy objects, unique forests and tons of props for creating realistic and vivid scenes. This is especially helpful also for RMS scripters. Not only that, but the mod has extra multiplayer and single player items such as player colour terrains, LOS revealers and waypoint markers. So, I guess the biggest highlight is that fact it's probably going to be the most extensive editor you've probably ever played with.

Were also taking advantage of all the UserPatch 1.5 features as well as our own .exe edits. Now we have features like trainable and upgradable hero's, a 5th resource which is earned by killing enemy units, and another favourite of mine - Ninja Missions. Ninja missions are repeatable technologies you can 'conduct' to sabotage your enemy.

Rodion: There is also a set of editor objects, which allows to recreate some nice interior scenes, like castle rooms and halls or peasant and richer class houses. This includes different types of doors (fully functional), walls, floor types and other indoor eye-candy.

You've said that this is going to have the most extensive scenario editor yet. Do you plan to release any custom campaigns to go along with the Mod?
Seb: Not at first but eventually most definitely yes. I think we all have our own ideas and enthusiasm for some campaigns. The eventual goal is to replace all the original campaigns with Sengoku ones accessible from the main menu, and perhaps have scenarios; too similar to the way age of conquerors had the one-off maps. But this is all further down the line and hopefully will include the best of community creations also.

Achesun: We also have a lot of hero units with unique graphics. If you're a fan of Sengoku themed anime, game, or drama etc., you may be excited to see that we have Sanada Yukimura, Honda Tadakatsu, and many other historical heroes of that you can add into your custom scenarios.

So please tell us a little more about the development of the mod?
Seb: I mean, where do I start? It's been a long road for over three years and since our very first alpha on Feb 11 2017. What started off as a small mod has turned practically into a new game and many things changed or improved along the way. We started off this mod using Turtle Pack and ended up transferring to SLX Studio - which has helped tremendously with our workflow. As the capabilities of UP1.5 and .exe editing came to fruition, more and more ideas got put in. It always seemed like we were almost done but then new things would have to be done, or unknown bugs needed to be fixed. Most recently we had to redo every single unit data ID and tech in game and make sure it fits within unit lines correctly for the AI. A lot of times we've have to rework all the techs completely, or added a whole bunch of new units that need to be added to old techs etc; I think I reworked the blacksmith techs about 10 times each at least. Terrains were a WIP for a long time, and constantly improving. When we found out the ability to add new terrains; that really was a new revelation and required a lot of extra work. Of course, through playtesting a lot has changed, to improve the balance and feel of the game. Some features got dropped, some added. It's been a wild one. Graphics wise most of what you see in the images however has only been done with the last year or so. Just over half way through development we basically scrapped a lot of the old buildings and a lot of the units were redone.

Achesun: We also remade all the horse units 2-3 times because we want to replace the old ones with a more historically accurate Kiso Horse model. The process of remaking all 30+ units takes a long time, but it is our wish to make our mod as polished as we could.

Seb: As we improved our Blender skills the render settings improved so a lot of stuff we also re-rendered or re-did entirely for higher quality. A lot of the siege units and the new ships were done within the last year. We decided to redo all buildings from scratch around September/October 2019 I believe and had them finished around December 2019. The amount of research put into the mod is maybe a negative or positive aspect depending on how you look at it, as a lot of the mod graphics or ideas were changed or removed due to new found references or facts. I think having some scope creep is a thing every project deals with but I think were all happy with the way it turned out. From the beginning it was clear our goal and we all have same wavelength and fit into our 'roles' nicely, working well as a team. I feel like the amount of work will be nothing compared to the reward when we finally release it and quite frankly wouldn't have enjoyed the subpar half-done version we could have released 2 years ago. Burnout was a worry at some points and we took some breaks or time off, but never once did I think we felt like quitting or unreleasing. We've been fortunate to have a lot of people giving advice, giving support or helping along the way; especially some great playtesters. Having a lot of fans on AOKH, ModDB and Discord and getting good feedback I believe will help push us to the finish line.

Historical accuracy seems important to you, having gone out of your way to recreate most of your graphics to match the historical figures. What references have you used in order to make the mod as accurate as you can?
Achesun: Well, we have various sources gathered in a reference channel in discord where we discuss them. As the unit maker, I had to admit that even though we wanted to be as accurate as we can, some unit designs might still be less historically correct as they should be. For example, some upgraded units have bigger shoulder plates to look heavier like they've been upgraded, but in reality, they may not be so distinguishable. Still, it's a better presentation of the military structure of Sengoku Japan. Many mods out theRE actually have a Japanese reskin of all generic Age of empires units. But we decided to recreate the unit lines based on what we know about Sengoku armies.

Seb: Sources include many different books about Sengoku period or specific details; such as religion or weaponry. Magazines, many, many websites, articles, movies, tv dramas and documentaries. Also, Ukiyo-e, photos of or paintings from/around or representing the time period. We really sourced information right down to the fine details such as what type of plates they used, or baskets or types of blacksmithing tools they had etc, and a lot of research went into the buildings to decide on how building graphics and props should look. The more information we found the more we integrated into the mod, so of course we don't guarantee complete historical accuracy and there were still some areas we didn't research enough. Some decisions were made solely for fun and some for gameplay/simplicity purposes; but we did our best given the confines of the engine and tying it into the aoe2 style gameplay.

So Finally, do you have an estimated release date in mind?
Seb: We're aiming for an August/September for a first release. We will of course continue to update it after the first release, adding missing features or making changes depending on balancing and community feedback.
So, there you have it. How excited are you to play this incredible Mod Pack? I for one can't wait. Keep up to date with all the latest updates over at the official Project Thread. And finally, just to tease you even more, here is an exclusive look as some of those awesome features we've just heard about: