- 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?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: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.
- Continuous Screenshot Competition Wrap-up: Rounds 362-364
- Posted by Possidon on July 22nd, 2020 @ 06:03 a.m.
- The Continuous Screenshot Competition is a highlight of the Scenario Design forum here at AOKH. A simple contest that has been running non-stop since 2006, it aims to showcase some of the most creative and aesthetic map design screenshots that one can create in the scenario editor.
Over the last few years the contest has seen a decline in the number of entries and votes, partially due to a drop in inspiration and falling membership rates here at AOKH, and partly due to neglect from previous contest hosts. Now that has all changed.
Just over a month ago I personally took of the mantle (actually I reclaimed it) to continue the good work of my previous CSC hosts to make this competition great again. Since then, weve seen an amazing increase in the participation and number of screenshots entered into the competition. So, every month or two, I plan to showcase the winning screenshots from each round and offering a few comments on each.
Since our reboot weve had three amazing rounds. The first of these was Traders, chosen by Nowhere. The winner of this round was Charging_Knight with an impressive screenshot of a bustling Arabic city and busy marketplace. Claiming an impressive 10 votes, this impressive screenshot showcases some unique assesses of the Definitive Edition as well as a creative look at a busy market square.
Our second winner was Talon Karrde with the interesting theme of Mamluks vs Mongols. Another screenshot made with the Definitive Edition, this screenshot shows a Mongol emissary giving a warning to the Sultan of the Mamluks. Its was a close round with Talon winning through a tie-breaker against Julius999s more aesthetic approach to the theme.
Finally, our third winner of the month is none other than our reigning champion Julius999. The theme for this round was Forbidden Ground and Julius provides one of the most unique and creative screenshots that the competition has seen in a long time. Utilizing off-grid placement and the terrain later tool of the Definitive Edition, Julius created a formidable Fire Demon emerging from a temple. Down below of is the cult which summoned this beast on this forbidden ground.
Weve had three amazing rounds at the Continuous Screenshot Competition this month and cant wait to see what people come up with over the next few weeks, so why dont you come and join in the fun. The competition is currently accepting for the new theme: What Happens in the Mountains. All you have to do is design a screenshot and post it in the competition thread before the deadline tonight!
- Hidden Gems II: Click Challenge & A Curious Incident at the Abbey
- Posted by Possidon on June 21st, 2020 @ 2:53 p.m.
Click Challenge & A Curious Incident at the Abbey
Sometimes we have days where we are short of time and only have time to play a short scenario or minigame. Other times we look for something unique, something which stretches beyond what a typical scenario would entail.
For my next entry into my Hidden Gems feature Im going to be telling you about two very creative minigames that tick both of these boxes. The first of these is an older minigame that was released in 2007, while the second is much newer and was only released a couple of years ago in 2018. Both of these however, are very ingenious minigames with unique twists, and both an unfortunately fallen under the radar, gather less than 400 downloads each.
Click Challenge - by Sword_of_STORM
The first of these mini games is a unique game which was conceived as an experiment to see just a simple and small a scenario you can make with the editor. Built upon a 6x6 unit sized map, the smallest stable map size you can play on, Click Challenge is a very short but highly creative scenario.
The idea of the game is to use your powers of delete to remove the units which spawn in the map quickly in order to save Count Crapula from being killed. Its not every day that you find a game which encourages the player to delete his own units in order to win. If this concept confuses you then go and download the scenario and find out for yourself.
The minigame is a highly creative piece of design and very simple in its execution. While it may be short, clocking in at under five minutes, its certainly an entertain way to kill some time and see just how small and simple a scenario can be made using the most basic scenario editor.
A Curious Incident at the Abbey - by Al_Kharn the Great
Our second minigame is slightly newer, being released near the end of 2018. Designed by one of AOKs most popular and successful designers of recent times, Al_Kharn the Great, known for scenarios such as Tristan and Iseult, Ragnars Raids and the winning entry to this year's Defend the Spot Contest, The Last Romans. He is also part of the Forgotten Empires campaign team, his works include the Portuguese, Burmese, Bulgarian, Italian, and Indian campaigns featured in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition. With this pedigree it is hard to see how this scenario has gone about unnoticed in the blacksmith with so few downloads.
A Curious Incident at the Abbey is a unique minigame which is sort of like and Age of Empires Race. The concept of the game is to collect all four of the relics scattered around the minigame. The challenge comes from the other player who is also trying to collect the four relics. If both teams have collected a relic then all of the relics get released from the Monasteries and are put back in their starting places. Therefore, the player must collect all four relics without his opponent collecting any. To stop them you must use your small band of soldiers to protect these relics and stop the monks collecting them. If you want to play something that is completely different to anything else you have played in Age of Empires then this is the scenario for you. It creative, enjoyable and provides you with a fun challenge that takes a little more brain power than one would expect
So, there you have it. Two brilliant little scenarios that really stretch the imagination of what an AOK scenario can be. Have you played these two scenarios before? What other creative minigames would you recommend to your fellow players? Let us know down in the comments below.
- Defend the Spot Competition 2020 - Results Announced!
- Posted by HockeySam18 on May 10th, 2020 @ 10:21 a.m.
The results of the 2020 AoKH Defend the Spot Competition are in! In a gripping standoff, Filthydelphia ably edged Bassi and Thanathor for first place with a score of 79/100 points to Bassi's 67/100 points and Thanathor's 64/100 points. This year's contest provided us with an excellent set of entries to enjoy.
Head over to the contest thread to congratulate the winners, and be sure to check out all of the entries:
- The Last Romans by Filthydelphia - Witness the ultimate battle between East and West as you defend the last bastion of the Roman Empire against impossible odds!
- The Battle of Sighnaq by Bassi - In the Tamerlane campaign, you helped Tokhtamysh Khan take control of the White Horde and defeat his rival, Urus Khan. Now, experience Urus' side of the story!
- A Most Unusual Package by Thanathor - Fight through hordes of enemies as you try to escort a very special package through hostile territory in this defend the spot scenario.
- Doorstep to Valhalla by Alkhalim - Defend the Norse settlement against nightly attacks from the Skraelingjar and raid their villages during the day. Utilize a completely custom Viking tech tree and the benefits of worshiping the various Norse deities.
- The Fountain of Youth by MrMew - claim the sought-after water and defend yourself from temple guardians!
- Perdiccas by BOT_Alan - defeat rival factions in a civil war over the Macedonian Empire.
- Defend the Fortress by Blume - With each minute that passes, you will have to defend against an ever-increasing horde. The map also holds a litany of quests and puzzles to be to discovered and solved...if you can survive long enough to solve them.
- Gensokyo - Seasons of Calamity by duyhung2h - Solve the mystery of a curse and engage in an epic conflict between factions.
- Defend the Spot Competition - Less than 1 Week to go!
- Posted by Sebastien on April 23rd, 2020 @ 10:18 p.m.
- We're almost there, just under a week left to get your entry in for the 2020 Defend the Spot Contest! The scenarios are based around one objective, don't allow your base to be destroyed.
Check out the contest thread here and make sure your entry is uploaded to the Blacksmith before midnight April 30th!
- Blacksmith Feature: U Da Prey (04.23.20)
- Posted by Possidon on April 23rd, 2020 @ 3:01 p.m.
Hello, and welcome to the return of AOKHs beloved Blacksmith Feature. For todays feature were going to be looking at something a little bit different. Rather than looking at a particular file Im going to talk about one of my favourite styles of multiplayer games The UDP .
UDP stands for U Da Prey. A UDP scenario is an intense multiplayer scenario which were very popular back in the days of GameRanger and the Zone. The idea of the game that you have 7 players who are the Prey and 1 hunter. The Hunter has an unbelievably large army of over three thousand units covering the entire map, whilst the prey starts with 2 super units which constantly power-up, and have the option to buy more units ford gold they earn for gaining kills.
The objective for the prey is to survive. One of your super powered units will be classed as your prey. This unit must survive to the end of the game. Any other units you have can be used to protect this unit. As prey your main challenge is to withstand the onslaught of attacks from the hunters ginormous army and keep you prey unit alive until the end of the game. After three hours the game is over and any players who prey are still alive are declared the winners.
The hunter in the other hand starts with a gigantic army of over three thousand units. These range from basic trash u its to armies of heroes and stronger elite units. The hunter must micromanage this huge army to hunt down the seven prey and kill them all within three hours. The hunter will be declared the victor if all the prey are dead before the three hours are up.
Finally, there is a second way to finish the game. The hunter is given a highly defended base, usually located near centre of the map. Inside this base is a king unit with a large hit point count. The prey can win the game early by counter attacking the hunter and killing his king.
Throughout the game there are a number of rewards that can be collected by both the hunter and the prey. These rewards consist of new super units, researching technologies and AP/HP upgrades for all your existing units. These are gained by acquiring kills, razings and conversions. All of the preys existing unit also regularly upgrade after every kill and tributes of food, stone and gold are also tributes to the prey. Across the map are shops where the prey can use these resources to buy extra units and upgrades. The hunter is also given a shop and has regular spawns of super units, each spawn being stronger than the last.
There is a whole range of UDP scenarios, with many taking various themes to create an immersive and entertaining atmosphere. Many creative trigger tricks are used to create the highly intense games, with some UDP scenarios amassing over eight thousand triggers.
For the rest of this feature Id like to focus on one particular UDP scenario, which just so happens to be my favourite. Its called The Deathly Cliffs. Originally created by >Heroes< it has been updated and enhanced by KakiharaBeast and uploaded to our Blacksmith.
Of all the amazing UDPs out there, The Deathly Cliffs is certainly the most creative and well-balanced. Set atop a cliff covered map cover wing various different climates, this scenario features many staple UDP features as well as adding a bunch of unique and original ideas. The game use different difficulty dynamics to balance the game effectively between the prey and the hunter and lots of creative trigger tricks, some which would amaze even the most technical scenario designers. As a multiplayer scenario, it is somewhat lacking in the map design and story elements, but The Deathly Cliffs features some of the best map design seen in a UDP.
So, there you have it. U Da Prey scenarios are intense and enjoyable multiplayer scenarios, proving you with hours of entertainment. I cant recommend them enough.
Have you played a UDP before? Whats your favourite? Why not check one of the ones in our Blacksmith our and give it a go with your friends now!
Download The Deathly Cliffs | Browse the Blacksmith for Other UDPs
- Game of the Year 2019 - Results are in!
- Posted by HockeySam18 on March 01st, 2020 @ 05:03 a.m.
Voting has closed and the final results of the 2019 AoKH Game of the Year Awards are in!
Stealing the show were Bassi, Mr. Wednesday, and Lord Basse, who collectively claimed all five awards in the revamped GotY. Special attention is merited by Bassi, who holds the rare distinction of winning Designer of the Year two years running!
An honorable mention goes to Julius999, Rewaider, and Possidon, who appeared prominently in the results and only missed out on titles of their own due to some exemplary work by the aforementioned victors. Congratulations is in order for Possidon, who shocked all by becoming the first designer in AoKH history to complete a project a whopping 8 years in the works!
Head on over to the forum thread to congratulate the winners!
- Re-Revived Community Spotlight I: Filthydelphia
- Posted by Major Helper on February 29th, 2020 @ 03:18 a.m.
The curtains open, revealing a dark stage, with nothing but two red, high backed chairs, illuminated by spotlights. On the left one sits the interviewer, Major Helper, with his legs crossed, leaning his head on his hand. As if only now noticing the audience, he jolts and fixes his posture.
Ah, hello there everybody! It is a pleasure to have you here. As youre all well aware, Ill be conducting tonights interview with Filthydelphia. Hes truly a long, long, LONG-standing member of the HeavenGames community, as well as part of the Forgotten Empires team that we know and love. Without further ado, Filthydelphia!
With a grand sweep of his hand, Major Helper stands up to receive Filthydelphia who appears from the right of the stage amidst the applause, smiling and waving his hand. After a firm handshake, the two men take their seats. As the audience calms down, the interview begins.
Its a pleasure to have you join us tonight. I know it's rather sudden, but how're you feeling about this interview?
Is that the first interview question? *chuckles* Im feeling good about it. Its great to have an opportunity to answer any questions you have and let the community hear a bit of my voice outside of just the campaign scenarios.
Indeed it is, abrupt and kind of awkward as it might be. Glad to hear you're enthused. Let's start with getting to know YOU, first of all. A/S/L?
I'm 34 years old, male, and currently live in Chicago. I live right by the famous "Bean" statue and Lake Michigan is a stone's throw away from me. I can actually see Lake Michigan from my living room window.
Ooh, impressive. As a Finn I know and can certainly appreciate a good lake view. Tell me about yourself in real life. What field do you work and/or study in? What hobbies do you have? What brings you enjoyment in life?
Im currently a second-year Master of Business Administration (MBA) candidate at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, which is the #1 MBA program in the world according to many rankings. Im pretty sure I had nothing to do with that, though! Im also currently a captain in the United States Marine Corps Reserve where I have the honor to command a very large company of about 500 Reserve Marines. Its a maintenance unit so my Marines are everything from truck mechanics to radio repairmen to gunsmiths. I joke that real-time strategy games like Age of Empires are a major reason why I became a logistics officer in the military, but theres definitely a kernel of truth in that. Playing these games growing up, you realize just how important the process of turning resources into combat power and moving men and supplies across the battlefield is to victory. As far as hobbies go, its tough to have many outside of Age of Empires these days with school and my military obligations, not to mention my work with Forgotten Empires! Id say Im fortunate enough to get paid to do my hobby which is to work on such a great franchise and tell the stories Im interested in through the games campaigns, both official and custom works.
Amazing! What came first, army or business studies?
I was a Finance major for my undergrad, worked a bunch of odds jobs, then joined the Marine Corps. I commissioned, meaning that I became an officer, in 2013. I started on my MBA in 2018.
Mm, I see. Do you have a goal to aim for?
Professionally, Id like to continue serving in the reserves as long as I can. Its fulfilling work and Im a patriot at heart. Besides, its definitely great to go away for a weekend once a month and do cool things like military field exercises, weapons ranges, and truck convoys! I suppose when your day job is making video games, you need something pretty out there to spice things up! In the civilian world, I received an offer to work at a major video game publisher this September so Im excited to continue working in this industry! My long-term goal and dream is to become the head of a game development studio.
That's a pretty impressive juxtaposition, honestly. Combining what's typically considered a pretty sit-down job with something that's the absolute opposite. On the other hand, it does make sense too, gotta blow off the steam somewhere. And your long-term goal's certainly not setting the bar too low!
I'd also like to think my military training helps me in designing tactically fun scenarios.
Ah, good point. What sort of games would you be interested in developing, were you to one day achieve your dream?
With Age of Empires, you really see the power that games have in teaching history and other skills. I think there was an article in one of those trendy business management blogs about how someone learned everything they needed to know about running their start-up from Age of Empires! I think video games sometimes have a bad reputation, but theyre awesome tools for learning problem-solving skills and learning about history. When I played games like Age of Empires and Civilization as a kid, it inspired me to read tons of history books! So I would love to develop a brand new historical strategy game, especially one that would introduce something entirely new and different to most gamers. For example, in doing research for the African Kingdoms DLC for Age of Empires II, I learned a lot about West African cultures and mythology and I think a game that brings some of that history to life would be awesome! But regardless of the theme of a game, I cant wait to work on new projects in this industry!
It is certainly undeniable that games have a huge potential to teach people in various subjects, as well as boost their interest in them. Take me (and probably every gamer in a non-English speaking country) for example, there's no way I'd be able to use English as proficiently as I do without games. Its the same with history, too. I doubt I'd know half of what I do without strategy games like AoK and Hearts of Iron 2. So, would your development studio be strictly strategy-game based? Or do you think there's space for other approaches like character driven exploration or some such?
Oh, I dont want to give the impression that Im only interested in strategy games! And certainly, me having my own development studio is far in the future, if it ever happens! Id say any type of game can do the same things that Age of Empires does, which is immersing gamers into a unique and different world and making them want more outside of the game. I think that really describes the most exciting games to be a part of: ones that make players want to invest more time in the game's world even when not playing it. Whether it's learning about the underlying history, or reading novels related to a fictional game, or whatever else! I think every video game developer is thrilled when gamers are still excited even after they leave the main menu. Special props to games that also allow the community to shape the game through UGC like mods or custom scenarios. Games like that really have great communities!
Those are certainly the best kinds of games, regardless of whether they're based on real life or not. I can't even count the amount of hours I can use modding games and researching how to do things more efficiently in them. Since we're already on the topic of games, walk me through the games of your life. What was your first digital game, and when did you play it for the first time? What are the main games that followed and that you held dear? Are you perhaps a PC purist or a consolist? Or is it whatever goes, it's all good in the end?
My first introduction to video games was sometime in 1990 when I was 5 years old. I have no idea what this game was, but my uncle had some sort of pixelated medieval fighting game. Think something like Mortal Kombat but with pixelated men fighting with quarterstaves. I was hooked. In grade school, we played educational games like the original Oregon Trail, Number Munchers, etc. Not long after that, we got a PC at home. I think the first game that really captured my imagination was the Dynamix/Sierra WW1 flight simulator Red Baron. I voraciously read everything I could on WW1 aviation. My introduction to real-time strategy games came with the first Warcraft, but the Age of Empires demo really struck a chord. I remember playing, I think it was the Rise of Rome demo, loving the ancient vibe of the menu and the music. When I saw a lion chase a gazelle past my town center on the first mission, I was hooked. It felt like a real, immersive world on that little screen, like I was transported back to the Stone Age with a world of wonder through the black fog on the game map. I couldnt get enough of it! I guess you can say the rest is history. I have a PC and used to own an XBOX 360. I think if you're primarily a strategy gamer, you need to be on PC, but that distinction has mattered less and less over time and will probably not matter in the future with the technology changes happening over the next several years. And nowadays, you can find some pretty impressive games even on mobile!
Sounds like history has always managed to strike a chord within you! What brought you to HeavenGames? Was it AoEH or AoKH that you first signed up for? What made this place gain a spot in your heart that makes you still visit it, untold years later?
I played Age of Empires before the second game came out so I was first on AoE Heaven back in 1998. Theres a quirk about the HeavenGames websites in that no one is registered before 3/31/1999 because there was a forum update that day that wiped everyones registration data. You can check every user on those two sites and none have a registration date before that, though some of us were certainly around from the earliest days! I think the custom scenario community really is the biggest draw to these sites. It was certainly the reason I got there. You can even find some of my embarrassing first attempts at scenario design hidden in the depths of the AoEH Granary! I stuck around until around 2003. The HD edition of Age of Empires II really is what brought me back at the end of 2013 again, as a scenario designer. Its great to have a community of designers eager to help each other out by answering questions and giving feedback! Were lucky as fans of Age of Empires to have someplace like AoE and AoK Heaven because sites like this are rare for other games. Plus the Blacksmith really is an incredible and valuable resource. You could spend a lifetime playing Age of Kings and only barely scratch the surface of everything thats in the Blacksmith!
Indeed, the community surrounding Age of Empires games is amazingly good, with many talented and creative individuals that have made a huge amount of content that, to this day, gives an untold amount of enjoyment to the players. I'm assuming that scenario design is what got you your job with Forgotten Empires, or am I mistaken? What do you do there?
Im one of the campaign designers on the team. I worked on the African Kingdoms and Rise of the Rajas DLCs for HD, Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, and Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition. Specifically, the campaigns I designed were Almeida (Portuguese), Bayinnaung (Burmese), Ivaylo (Bulgarian), and the remade Sforza (Italian) and Prithiviraj (Indian) campaigns for DE. The latter two have been completely redone from scratch with an all-new story and scenarios. I also worked on about half the scenarios in the DE version of AoE1. I was recruited through AoKHs own HockeySam18 back in early 2015. I was actually deployed overseas for the military at the time but jumped at the opportunity to work on a franchise thats been so dear to me. I think I even created the first outlines for the Almeida campaign originally an Afonso de Albuquerque campaign, in fact when I was overseas! Besides designing campaigns, I try to help the team anywhere else I can. One great thing about Forgotten Empires is that were such a small team and were all passionate fans of our games. Bert, the head of the studio, is open to feedback and ideas from everyone across the team so Id like to think we all contribute in many ways besides our specific roles.
You're clearly an important part of the team, no doubt about that!
At this point, Major Helper takes a look at his wristwatch, raises his eyebrow and takes a swig of water from a bottle hidden behind the chair. Noticing this, Filthydelphia checks to see if he has a bottle too. Finding it, he chugs down half the bottle, clearly parched. After both men have finished getting refreshed, the interview continues.
Whew, we're approaching the end stages of the interview. It has been quite a marathon. Are there other things you'd like to tell about yourself, your work or what you're up to? If yes, fire away, if not, we'll move onto the traditional quick questions.
Well, I do want to plug some of my custom content and my YouTube channel. Ive put out 10 custom scenarios for Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition since the game launched so if you still somehow havent gotten enough campaigns, be sure to check those out by searching for PhillySouljah either at https://www.ageofempires.com or through the in-game mod manager. As for my YouTube channel, Ive been doing a Lets Play series on the campaigns I worked on right now, Im covering Sforza. I talk about the history, the design choices, and even explain why Sforza is the Renaissance Han Solo! So if you want to check those videos out, subscribe to my channel Filthydelphia Creations at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClKwkfFF0iXCo9bn2Zj2iMA! Besides that, that's it. Let's fire away the lightning round!
Make sure to check out his stuff, everybody! It's definitely worth your time. Here come the quick questions, no need to think about them too hard. Feel free to elaborate on your choices if you want to, though!
Red vs. Blue?
Here's one closer to my heart:
Orange vs. Green?
Should've been the first question to totally throw me off! Green.
Nice, good choice!
Chocolate vs. Ice cream?
Invalid. Chocolate ice cream!
City vs. Countryside?
City. I'm in Chicago and used to live in NYC and Philly. Not sure how to survive in a place without a subway system!
Baseball vs. American Football?
Football hands down. Baseball is like a cure for insomnia!
So I hear, never watched it myself. Never watched the Finnish version of baseball, either.
Favorite source of caffeine?
None. I actually don't drink coffee, caffeinated teas, or sodas. Don't drink alcohol or sugary drinks either. I'm totally weird.
Atypical, but certainly interesting!
Happiness vs. Contentedness? *mutters* What a mouthful of a word, contentedness, contentedness *chuckles*
Is this a trick question? Not actually sure what the difference is. Let's go with contentedness, since it seems you get happiness from that word and I'm only here to make you, the interviewer, happy!
Much appreciated! Personally I tend to think contentedness is what one ought to strive for, as happiness is passing, with shifting goalposts, while being content with what you do and how you are, is a state of being. Well, from my point of view, anyways. Here's the last one:
Glass half-full or half-empty?
Half-full. Everything will work out. And even if it doesn't, you have to believe it will.
Thats a fine way to think indeed. Last but not least, you can offer the world something. A bit of life advice, a recommendation for a book/movie/game/whatever, something like that. The words free.
Heres a very important piece of advice: if you havent yet played Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, play it now!
*laughs* A fine businessman to the very end! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. It's been a fun couple of hours.
Thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure.
The men shake their hands and bow to the audience that bursts out in applause. Then, the lights dim and the curtains close, signaling the end of yet another Community Spotlight. The audience eventually calms down and begins to leave while chatting to each other about the contents of the interview.
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