Archived News From June 1998

Due to the old age of most of these news items, all hyperlinks have been disabled. It is also not possible to comment on any of news. They are presented in their current form purely for your reading pleasure - it's the closest thing to a time machine we can offer you!

To Cheat or not to Cheat
Posted by Omnivac on June 30th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

Cheats will definitely be in Age of Kings for those who like them. Not only will they be new ones, but we are promised funnier ones.

We plan to have cheats. If nothing else, it helps me do the testing around here. Cheats for the final version usually go in at the very end. They'll be different from before, but I think more "fun" one's will go in. The guys in the office have been watching a lot of "MP: The Holy Grail" lately...

Chris Campbell
QA Director, Ensemble Studios Corp.

Watching too much Monty Python? I usually don't care about cheats in a game, but these will be something to look for. Can you say Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, Deadly Killer Rabbits or the Knights of Nee. Then what about a "Trojan Rabbit"? Or a Black Knight that you must kill "5 times". These will be funny indeed to any MP:THG fans for sure (I must admit I kinda expected it). <g>

The news from June 26, 1998 and June 27, 1998 could not be recovered.
Third Ensemble in-house interview
Posted by Omnivac on June 23rd, 1998 (Time Unknown)

Stephen Rippy is interviewed and talks about the past (how he got to work at ES) and the future (music and sounds in computer games). Naturally, the present hasn't been forgotten and you can learn what is his "normal" workday at ES among other things, and some thoughts about Age of Empires and Age of Kings.

The idea for Age II is to narrow the focus a little bit. There will still be elements of multiculturalism, but the melodies will be much more authentic to the game’s time period. Mark Terrano is incredibly knowledgeable about this stuff, and he has graciously allowed me access to his vast CD collection. So, a lot of lutes, flutes, and a few fat drum loops thrown in for good measure. Maybe ;-).

Stephen Rippy
Music Director, Ensemble Studios Corp.

Don't just read this small excerpt, jump right into the interview at the Ensemble Studios site.

Can you spell incredible? F-O-R-S-A-K-E-N
Posted by Omnivac on June 23rd, 1998 (Time Unknown)
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Pushing the 3D first-person-perspective shooter genre to an all-new level, Forsaken features fantastic 360 degrees freedom of movement. Players take on the ruthless role of one of 15 fearsome mercenaries who, astride their anti-gravity pioncycles, have to battle through 15 hostile levels utilizing an impressive arsenal of 25 weapons.

Okay, what this has to do with Age of Kings? Maybe if you go to our host GameStats News Network, you'll understand when you enter their latest contest. Take a chance to win a free copy of Forsaken, a T-Shirt or a DeepWater's Halo (more commonly known as a frisbee).

CGW 8 page blow-out
Posted by Omnivac on June 22nd, 1998 (Time Unknown)

The huge Age of Empires II 8 page blow-out from the July issue of Computer Gaming World can be found at Gamespot UK. So for any of you who missed the mag, head on over there to read it all. Well, almost all of it. Thanks to Tanx of Preservation Nebula for the news.

More than meet the eyes
Posted by Omnivac on June 22nd, 1998 (Time Unknown)

Getting more info a screenshot can give, or BravenIrish hallucinations. Thanks to his good imagination in the forum, he will get you excited with the last weekly theme shots from Ensemble Studios. Where some saw only images of farmers, BravenIrish put on his Sherlock's hat and "dissected" them with a good analysis.

If the garrisoned troops are taken out in the two towers, and with a strong enough military presence covering the gate, this area seems to be a likely target. Blue can go ahead and use defensive trebs, more than likely only succeding in destroying his own farms and buildings. Archers can be used for defence, but offensive trebs should have a better range. Then the only thing blue can do is attack with an equall or superior force (keeping in mind that a formation will not be able to assemble outside the gate in time to counter an allready placed offensive formation and it's obvious that a full formation would never fit through a single gate). - BravenIrish

You can read the entire post from BravenIrish here, as well as the following thread.

Chris meet the fans
Posted by Omnivac on June 22nd, 1998 (Time Unknown)

Saturday, July 11th, Chris Campbell and maybe other members of the ES staff will be under siege by hordes of fans, on an IRC channel battleground. Use your spies at AOE2.com for the latest details and if you miss the information, be sure Heaven will tribute it to you. Be there and don't forget your treb...your questions. <g>

Lead Programmer is pipebombed
Posted by Omnivac on June 22nd, 1998 (Time Unknown)

Angelo Laudon answers a few questions from Mist's Town own "psychopath", Pipebomber. I guess every site has a strange webmaster. No, no. I'm not making references to Angel DeepWater here. <g>

Yes, there will be animals you can hunt such as deer, wolves, and wild boars. You may also be able to hunt birds. Fishing may include dolphins.

Siege weapons will be more realistic in Age 2. There will be large siege weapons called trebuchets which cannot move around the map unless you pack them up. Then you have to unpack them where you want to perform the siege. We will do whatever turns out to be fun and balanced for the direct hit from a catapult.

Angelo Laudon
Lead Programer, Ensemble Studios Corp.

Hop in over at Mist's Town and read the full interview.

New ICQ out
Posted by Omnivac on June 22nd, 1998 (Time Unknown)

The latest version of ICQ is out on Stroud's CWS Apps. Download version 1.30 here!. For those of you who are afraid of the AOL deal, it's only rumours running around on the net. No official press releases have been made so NO! you don't get charge 10 cents/message or other silly things like that. If such "silly" things should happen, be sure you will be notified.

Links that should clear things up a little, thanks to dgenius. Go to ZDNN and Inter@ctive Week for more details.

UGO Award Winners
Posted by Omnivac on June 22nd, 1998 (Time Unknown)

UGO announced their Best of E3 Award Winners today. Age of Kings didn't win any prizes, but it's not surprising given its early stage. Early stage that amazed a lot of people anyway. Awards will come later you can bet on that.

On another note, Half-Life won the Best Action Game, and Baldur's Gate the Best RPG Game. Quite good given that it's two games I await with anticipation. Baldur's Gate should be on the must buy list of every role playing game fans.

New ES in-house interview
Posted by Omnivac on June 20th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

A new in-house interview from Ensemble Studios, this time with Chris Campbell. From Mystery Science Theater 3000 to playtesting Age of Empires II, get it all here...

From the interview:
We have a playtesting session every afternoon. The designers and I will work out on what items we want to focus on. For example, a question that might pop up would be "Are the towers too strong?" So we would play a game where everyone would build several towers and we would then proceed to take them out with various assigned units. After each playtest, we have a feedback session where people will talk about what needs changed or adjusted. Sometimes, I’ll walk around and take notes and observe everyone playing.

Chris Campbell
Q.A. Director, Ensemble Studios Corp.

Be sure to stop by his Video Game Stumper too, to test your knowledge of video games. It's for game developers only and you cannot answer any questions. It's worth a look though. Besides, Chris talked to DeepWater in his E3 interview about maybe making it available to the fans. So start practicing today and get used to Chris' tough questions.

Chris also has been kind enough to answer a few questions from the folks at AoE2.com so make it another stop to increases your Aok lore.

Weekly Theme Shots added
Posted by Omnivac on June 19th, 1998 (Time Unknown)
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Farming is the first theme of Ensemble Studios' weekly installment. Each new themes will be posted every Friday from now on. The two new screenshots have found a home in Heaven and you can find them in the images section. You can also click on the pic right here to view it in its full splendor if you can't wait any longer.

Playtesters needed. Play AoE and get paid!
Posted by Omnivac on June 19th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

Getting paid while playing Age of Empires? Not a dream any longer! Microsoft are looking to hire a few people to help out the test team with play testing. The lucky ones will have the enviable position of getting to play and test out the next versions of the Age of Empires product line and get paid for it. If you can handle playing games for a living and think you're a pro, fills out the application!

Currently seeking experienced Age of Empires players in the greater Seattle area to fill short term (2-4 months) positions as playtesters for forthcoming Age of Empires product. Candidates must be, able to work on site in Redmond, WA, and able to commit to the entire term of contract.

Ideal candidate will be an expert Age of Empires player, and have fully developed multiplayer strategies and tactics. Experience with other strategy games a big plus. Strong communication skills are required.

We are looking for creative players, and people who can transfer their play experiences into constructive feedback. Successful candidate will LOVE playing Age of Empires.

Position reports to Age of Empires playtest coordinator, and will be responsible for playing the game, followed by providing specific and formal feedback on units, civilizations, scenarios, strategies, and general play experience.

Temporary job, employed by Volt Computer, runs for 2-4 months and candidate must be available to work on-site during normal business hours 9-5pm daily.

Return completed applications & resumes:
Email: agejob@microsoft.com
Fax: (425) 936-7329 / Attn: Mark Thomas (REDW/A)
Mail: One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052
Attn: Mark Thomas (REDW/A)

The Bigdog Barks
Posted by Omnivac on June 18th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

Here's the latest details about seasons, weather, animal breeding, terrains and randomness from ES Engine Lead, Dave "Bigdog" Pottinger. Speaking of randomness, this leads us directly to a new voting poll. Be sure to voice your opinion.

Seasons are on our wishlist. The tilesets demand quite a bit of graphics, though, so it's unsure whether we'll do them or not.

Weather is out; not really doable the way that we want in the AOE2 engine.

Animal breeding and tree planting isn't probably going to get in (a little too low-level for the game we're shooting for:). Resource regrowth is something that we're definitely testing.

We tried the civ advantages on different terrains during AOE1 (Egypt had a desert combat bonus for a really long time). In the end, it was cool, but just made the random map generation too difficult of a problem to solve (i.e. if you're not going to be guaranteed that half of everyone's town is on desert, why would you want to be Egyptian? If you do guarantee things like that, then the randomness slowly seeps out of your random map generator:).

Dave C. Pottinger
Engine Lead, Ensemble Studios Corp.

Interview with Mark Terrano
Posted by Omnivac on June 18th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

In a series of In-House Interviews at Ensemble Studios, you can read now the first installement with Mark Terrano, Lead designer of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. Learn how he landed his dream job and plans to continue forever (Age of Empires XVI: Age of Nano-Techlords, with holographic projection is on his agenda, hehe), his love of medieval music, useful hints for wannabe designers and the usual Aok tidbits:

The larger scale of the buildings and attention to the art really make Age2 an immersive experience - I know that with AoE sometimes I just would wander around the world, fishing, chopping trees, and exploring - just because it was interesting to watch: Age2 is even better in that regard. We focused on removing some of the micro-management and giving the player more time to strategize and do the fun things in the game. Giving an 'economic' player (they sometimes call it a feeder player) more to do to build a real economy is an important change as well.

Mark Terrano
Lead Designer, Ensemble Studios Corp.

Head on over Ensemble Studios and read the full interview.

Screenshot of the Week
Posted by Omnivac on June 18th, 1998 (Time Unknown)
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Starting this Friday, don't miss the weekly theme (screen) shot of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings at Ensemble Studios. This week theme shoot will feature farming.

The vote is cast
Posted by Omnivac on June 18th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

Thanks for taking the time to visit the voting polls. From now on, at least one poll will always be active (2 weeks duration) for you to vote. It will cover many topics, and some questions from the ES staff will sneak in from time to time to know what makes you tick on diverse subjects. With not much further a do, here's the result of the last three.

With the civs revealed at E3, the ones you look forward the most are the Vikings (23%), the Germans (16%) and the British (14%). Falling in the middle are the Japanese (9%), the Celts (7%), the Byzantines (7%), the Goths (4%), the Chinese (4%) And the Mongols (4%). The last ones, but not the least are the the Turks (3%), the Saracens (1%), the Persians (1%) and the Franks (1%). Naturally, this will all change when you'll have the game in your hands. <g>
Omnivac's vote: The Goths.

With the uncertain future of the raider civilizations, almost everyone hope to see them in the game. 77% of you wants that ES do their best to implement them and only 5% thinks that it's a bad idea. 7% don't care whether they're in or not while 9% had absolutely no idea what this poll was about. The main concern is that it will be unbalanced. I must precise that we don't know all the facts and while it looks powerful, in the end it will be balanced. For example, since they're kinda like nomad, don't expect to build mighty fortifications and great castles with them.
Omnivac's vote: Hope they're in.

Lastly, 61% of you thinks people will refer to Age of Empires II: Age of Kings as AoE2. The runner-up was AoK with 31%, and then Age2 with 6%.
Omnivac's vote: AoK, and RoR for the AoE expansion pack.

Designing the Trebuchet
Posted by Omnivac on June 17th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

Here is the Trebuchet in various design stages, by the talented artists of Ensemble Studios. You can admire all the work involved and the patience required. While it took approximatively 2 weeks to have the trebuchet game-ready, it is always an on-going process as the graphics are polished more and more for the final release. You can expect some changes in the upcoming months. - Omnivac

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The wired frame Unit

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Textures are applied to give the object realistic color and shading

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The Rendered Unit

Vidguy Hangs up His Halo
Posted by Vidguy on June 16th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

I have some GREAT news and some not so great news to share with everyone.

The GREAT news is that as of tonight, I'm working for the communications company that does PR for Microsoft Games, Arbuthnot Communications. My title is Online Development Specialist ... but what that really means is that my role will be workin with the webmasters of Fan Sites for all of Microsoft's Games (ie: Age of Empires ). It's a VERY exciting and fun position, one that I'm very much looking forward to.

Now the sad news. :(

Well because I'm working so closely with other fan sites it would be a definite conflict of interest for me to stay onboard with Heaven :( So it's with deep regret that as of tonight, I must take my leave from these glorious websites. :(

That being said, I will still be:

  • playing AOE with y'all
  • supplying Heaven with AOE/AOK information from MS, as that is my job now ;)
  • be on ICQ for any questions and help
  • killing Omnivac's priests with my Assy Chariot Archers

That last one is always my favourite and will never change....even with spiked chariots!

Will miss all the fun we had, but keep this Heaven dream alive.....this is and always will be the best damn AOE site on the web! See you on the battlefiled! :) - Vidguy

Another "Best of E3"
Posted by Vidguy on June 15th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

There's another post-E3 summary on Gamespot:

The GameSpot editors spent the last week debating over the most promising games shown at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Inside, you'll find the ten most promising original games and the ten most promising sequels.

You can also skip right to the section that deals with Age of Empires II as well. - Vidguy

Screen-a-week?
Posted by Vidguy on June 14th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

A couple of interesting items were posted this weekend on the ES website:

Starting sometime this week, we will be posting a weekly screen shot from Age of Empires® II: Age of Kings™. Watch this page for more information in the coming days.

There is also a very quick little form on the page where you can submit your question to any area of the ES Team. You can also ask THEM about beta testing and not us Angels! :)

So pop over to the ES website and let your voices be heard. - Vidguy

MS Games Mentions Heaven
Posted by Vidguy on June 12th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

Just received the Microsoft Monthly Games Mailer - June 1998 in my inbox and lo and behold, Heaven gets a mention in their E3 section:

E3. Never before have two characters meant so much to the computer gaming industry. The mere utterance of this term brings to mind countless mental images and fond memories. To try and bring a emblance of sanity to all of this information, we compiled a small list of articles and editorials discussing in detail several Microsoft titles that were on display at this year's show.

It goes on to mention press coverage and it provides a link to our very own Heaven @E3 section! There is also some brand new information on the new Xpack for AoE, but I don't want to steal the thunder of AOE Heaven. There's info posted on their news page about that. - Vidguy

Bruce Shelley is interviewed by CGW
Posted by Omnivac on June 12th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

If the printed copy of the July issue of Computer Gaming World has evaded you so far, the interview with Bruce Shelley is online at Gamespot. Here's Bruce talking about the campaigns...

Campaigns and scenarios are still in the planning stage. Some ideas we are considering concern Arthur of Britain against the Saxons, the Hundred Years War (England versus France), the Crusades, the Vikings, the Mongols, the unification of Japan, and Charlemagne.

You can read the whole interview here!

Omnivac

Water Everywhere
Posted by Vidguy on June 11th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

Some excellent discussion going on in the AOKH forums right now. Here's a great post from Sean "Lord Soth" Wolfe about the amazing water scenes:

Well the water isnt animating at this time. But it sure will. What you are seeing is super tile art work, what we did was make huge bitmaps that cover large areas. This can give the game a better look (same is done with the grass, hills etc.). Ships will rock back and forth too. We have alot of artwork/animations planned, it will take us some time to finish but you wont be disappointed.

I can't wait to see this. I can almost hear the waves lapping up against the shoreline, the seaguls squaking as they circle the docks....the fishermen ducking for cover from ....wait...ok...that's enough realism for now! - Vidguy

What do you think of the new news format?
Posted by Vidguy on June 11th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

So do you like it? Most of the responses have been favourable, but we want to hear from more of you.

Do you like this new format? Our argument is that it allows us to make larger stories and make them available in all their glory with links, images and more.

The argument against is that you only have headlines on the news page and have to click to actually read more about the story.

Which camp are you in? Is our argument ok? Are the naysayers just lazy? *smile* Drop me a line at webmaster@ageofkings.com and let me know! Or go vote in our newest voting poll on the subject here. - Vidguy

Nominations for the Best of E3 Award.
Posted by Vidguy on June 11th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

Unified Gamers Online (E3.net) has announced their nominations for the Best of E3 Show Awards. Voted on by 27 journalists from 22 top gaming magazines, these nominees represent the best the industry had to offer at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. The winners will be announced on Monday, June 22.

Age of Empires II: Age of Kings is nominated in the Best RTS Game category. It is up against some stiff competition from the likes of C&C2 and Myth2. Be sure to check back on June 22 for the results! - Vidguy

New Screenshots?
Posted by Vidguy on June 11th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

I have had a few queries about this and figured I'd set the record straight!

The new "screenshots" are really "Artist Renderings" of what gameplay will look like. I asked one of the 3d Animators at ES, Chea (Truck) O'Neill" what was involved in putting stuff like this together:

"We use 3D Studio MAX 2 for modelling the buildings, units, etc. We use Adobe Photoshop for texture maps, and we do clean-up work on the actual game art in AutoDesk's Animator Pro."

So make sure you click on the "Images" link to check them out if you haven't already! - Vidguy

AOK Heaven Gets a Facelift
Posted by Vidguy on June 11th, 1998 (Time Unknown)

Well, after many, many hours and many sleepless nights, the team at Age of Kings Heaven has revamped the ENTIRE web site to make things easier for you to find and to provide some "eye-candy" for the fans.

It's been a lot of work, but we hope that you think that it is worth it. Starting today you may have noticed a new way we are displaying the news. Quite a few people suggested that we move the news page to the first, main page like we do in AOE Heaven. We listened, and we even took it one step further! Some of our posts were getting quite long and often resembled stories in their own right. We also have been adding more Angels who will help us keep you updated on all the late breaking news and information regarding Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. So to do this, we decided to put just the headlines of the daily news on the main page (Town Crier) with a link to the full story from there.

What do you think about this new way of gathering and disseminating the news to you? We want to hear from you. Send your comments or suggestions to Omnivac or myself because we would love to hear what you think.

Don't forget to have a GOOD look around at our new digs and if you were living in a cave over the last day or so, you might want to check out our new Screenshots and Units pictures that ES just released. - Vidguy

The news from June 1, 1998 to June 9, 1998 could not be recovered.