Archived News From January 2000

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!

BravenIrish Interviewed
Posted by Washizu on January 31st, 2000 @ 5:40 a.m.
BravenIrish, a long time buddy of ours from the AOK Battlefield has just been interviewed by The Lost Isle of AOE!
Q)How long have you been involved with web design? What got you interested in it?

A) 3 years. I got interested in it because it's a pallet to paint on. A pallet that the world can see for free. If you ever want to express yourself, webdesign is your thing!
Read the whole interview here.

New Age of Kings Site
Posted by Washizu on January 30th, 2000 @ 5:33 p.m.
If you're looking for AOK info, and you're not sure where to look, check out Azoic's Age of Kings Directory. It features a large searchable database of over 120 Age of Kings fan sites to help you find strategies, downloads, news, etc. Azoic is a long time friend of Heaven, so stop by and tell him Washizu sent you!
New Cherubs!
Posted by Washizu on January 30th, 2000 @ 2:05 a.m.
Age of Kings Heaven proudly presents its newest additions to the staff, cherubs Wild1234, ejustin, and InSaNiTy! They will be handling the downloads, so make sure you use our submission form for all your AOK creations.

For scenarios, campaigns, AI Files, utilities, and recorded games, use this form.

Congrats guys, glad to have you on!
Mrfixitonline DM Tourney News
Posted by Washizu on January 29th, 2000 @ 11:25 p.m.
You'll definitely want to check this out.
At http://MrFixitOnline.com the EWO
DM Tourney has begun with 170 participants! Recorded games of every match
will be posted as they are played!

Also, a comprehensive beginner guide to the first five minutes of a
DeathMatch game (called "Survival" has been posted with detailed
explainations and a sample recorded DM Frank opening. This article will
show you how to stay alive at the beginning of a DM game!
Correction
Posted by Washizu on January 27th, 2000 @ 11:07 p.m.
In my post about Age of Kings shipping 2 million copies (not a tiny sum Mr. Bigglesworth), I congratulated ES and mentioned that soon they'd be outselling Britney Spears, however, I spelled her name wrong and was promptly corrected by one of her biggest fans, Daniel. I apologize to Miss Spears, and say thanks to Dan for alerting me to this problem.
Pharaoh Heaven Contest
Posted by Washizu on January 27th, 2000 @ 8:32 p.m.
Angel Reckless Rodent has just announced a contest over at Pharaoh Heaven. The prizes include copies of Pharaoh autographed by the developers at Impressions! Check it out here.
AOK Ships 2 Million!
Posted by Washizu on January 27th, 2000 @ 8:29 p.m.
Microsoft press release:

"AGE OF EMPIRES II: THE AGE OF KINGS" CROWNED NO. 1 ON HOLIDAY SALES CHARTS AROUND THE WORLD

Microsoft Ships Over 2 Million Copies of Award-Winning Real-Time PC
Strategy Game Worldwide

REDMOND, Wash. - Jan. 27, 2000 - Microsoft Corp. today announced it has
shipped over 2 million copies of the "Age of Empires(r) II: The Age of
Kings(TM)" game worldwide. One of the most anticipated games to be released
in 1999, "Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings" quickly climbed the sales
charts worldwide, reaching the top position in the United States, Japan,
the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia and Korea.

"More satisfying than earning critical awards and recognition is the great
response that new and hard-core gamers have shown for `Age of Empires II,'"
said Ed Fries, general manager for the Games Group at Microsoft. "We put a
lot of time into making this a game both die-hard fans and new gamers would
love. We would like to thank them for helping make `Age of Empires II' a
success."

In addition to being the top-selling PC game, "Age of Empires II" is
emerging as one of the most critically acclaimed games of the year,
achieving perfect and near-perfect reviews and winning numerous awards,
including GameSpot's Strategy Game of the Year, GamePower's Best of '99
Strategy Game, PC Gamer's Editor's Choice, and Computer Gaming World's
Editor's Choice. "Age of Empires II" is also one of the most popular retail
games on the MSN(TM) Gaming Zone (http://www.zone.com/), attracting up to
half a million unique users per month since its release.

"Age of Empires II" is the sequel to the award-winning strategy game, "Age
of Empires." "Age of Empires II" spans 1,000 years, from the fall of Rome
to the Middle Ages, and challenges players to lead one of 13 civilizations
into greatness. Developed by Ensemble Studios of Dallas, "Age of Empires
II" retains the epic scope and accessibility that has helped the "Age of
Empires" game series distribute over 3 million licensed copies worldwide.
Featuring the design expertise of Bruce Shelley, co-creator of such game
classics as "Civilization" and "Railroad Tycoon," the game combines
stunning graphics with the drama and intrigue of the Middle Ages.

"Age of Empires II" features new and improved design features that quickly
engage the casual player while offering more intense and engrossing
gameplay to satisfy the hard-core audience. Beginning with minimal
resources, players are challenged to build their nations into great
civilizations and defeat the enemy by making strategic decisions throughout
the game. Each of the 13 civilizations represented in "Age of Empires II,"
including the Mongols, Celts, Vikings and Japanese, features distinctive
attributes, buildings and technologies and a unique combat unit based on
its historical counterpart. In addition, "Age of Empires II" features five
campaigns based on the adventures of prominent historical figures,
including Joan of Arc, William Wallace and Ghengis Khan, that draw players
deeper into the game as they march alongside the hero to victory.

"Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings" supports multiplayer Internet gaming
for up to eight players on the MSN Gaming Zone. The estimated retail price
of "Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings" is $54.95 (U.S.). More information
is available at the official Web site,
http://www.microsoft.com/games/age2/, or on the Ensemble Studios Web site
for developers at http://www.ensemblestudios.com/.
I may be wrong here, but I believe it reached 2 million sales MUCH faster than AOE did. Congrats ES! Pretty soon you'll be outselling Brittany Spears!
Last Time I Promise
Posted by Washizu on January 27th, 2000 @ 8:23 p.m.
Hehe, this will be the last time I talk about the "walk on water" discussion (read back a few days and AOE Heaven for details if you're interested.) It turns out that Ingo was not the first person to discover that the patch does not ruin campaigns and scenarios using Jesus like characters. I'll let him explain.
first of all, I regard it as a big compliment to see my email posted on
the main page - thanks for doing that!

I'm glad that the Walk on Water debate is calming down now. Now all
that's left to clarify is the "who-is-to-credit-for-which"-issue. :-)
Although I'm the one who spread the news and put an end to the debate,
it wasn't me who discovered it in the first place. It was
Lotus_Esprit_V8, aka Vladislav. He wrote me an email and told me that my
campaigns still worked with the RoR patch. After that, I finally dared
to download the patch and check it out for myself. I mentioned this in
the AoE and AoK Designer Forum when I posted the news,

[ link ]

but not in the ES_Sandyman thread where you probably read it first.

When I emailed you last time, I hadn't read the AoK main page for
several days. I didn't know that I had been mentioned there, and that
people were thinking that it was me who *discovered* how the patch
really works. I used to think it was clear that Lotus_Esprit was the one who found it first, while I was just the one went to share the info as fast as possible. Thus, the main credit clearly goes to him! :-) Could you clarify this on the main page, please?

Thanks in advance

Ingo


Thanks Ingo! If you don't know, Ingo Van Thiel is one of the top scenario/campaign designers. He currently has the highest rated campaign in the blacksmith with The Quest, rated 5.0 by Cherub Rasher.
Walk on Water Continued
Posted by Washizu on January 25th, 2000 @ 11:51 p.m.
I got the following letter from Ingo van Thiel:
Hallo Angel Washizu,

Ronin posted me a double of his email to you. In this email, he quoted
"...if you guys are going to rant like this again, please make sure you
do it with accurate information...." As he sent that email to you, I
assume that it was your quote.

I feel I should take part in this discussion, because I think I
understand both your motives and Ronin's anger. This email is intended
to defuse the situation.

Your motives are keeping AoK heaven in good relations with ES_Sandyman
and Ensemble Studios. Naturally, you see these good relations endangered
if people raise such a storm of protest, or in your words, "rant."

In this Walk on Water misunderstanding, mistakes have been made on all
sides. At the outset, there was an incorrect piece of information. I
don't know where it came from, but it was posted at AoE heaven.

The next mistake happened on the side of people like me who raised that
storm of protest. We should not have relied on the info, but have
downloaded the patch and should have checked if it really does what it
was supposed to do.

How could this happen? How can dozens of people protest, without ever
counter-checking?

I guess the reason for this obvious. Everybody who was shocked by the
announcement did not dare to download the patch, for fear of ruining all
downloaded campaigns on their computers. Take me, for instance. I
thought "maybe I should download the patch and see if it really does all
that... but then I've got a scenario where a unit stands on water right
at the start... maybe my computer will crash if I start that scenario
now..." These are the thoughts that went through my mind, and I guess
that's what other people thought. This way, the misunderstanding could
last several days.

The third mistake happened on the side of ES: They defended the patch
for exactly that function, and they did not bring light into the matter
either. They said "yup, that's what the patch does, now accept it" - and
thus, they contributed to the misunderstanding. Maybe the patch was
supposed to do exactly that, but maybe, by lucky coincidence, it didn't
quite work as ES intended.

My point is that it is quite fruitless to continue this discussion and
to bear grudges against any party. As it was me who spread the good news
and put an end to the whole misunderstanding, I hope that my voice has
an impact.

Warm regards

Ingo


Thanks to Ingo and a few others for writing in their thoughts on this. I guess maybe I was being a little harsh when I criticized the fans for getting angry about the campaigns they thought were ruined, but I still think it was uncalled for. It's past now and I think we can learn a few things about the incident, and I say congrats to the designers here! People were mad when they thought they wouldn't be able to experience your work!
Walk on Water Still Works
Posted by Washizu on January 24th, 2000 @ 12:05 a.m.
Recently, a lot of comotion was stirred up about the new Age of Empires/Rise of Rome patch, and its fix of the "walk on water" bug was used extensively by scenario designers. It turns out old campaigns and scenarios using this bug are still completely playable, which was not was thought initially. Thanks to Ingo for clearing this up, and without coming down on certain fans too much, if you guys are going to rant like this again, please make sure you do it with accurate information.

Lastly, remember to have fun with your games, that's what they're here for!
Rise of Rome World Championships!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Washizu on January 22nd, 2000 @ 10:23 a.m.
This may come as a surprise to all of you (it certainly did to me), but Mrfixitonline.com is hosting the grand daddy of tournaments for Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome! There are $10,000 in prizes and a full $5,000 will go to the winner. That's quite a chunk of change, even compared to the MS Gaming Zone's Rumble for Rome in the fall of 1998. If you want to learn more about this upcoming tournament, check out http://mrfixitonline.com
PlanetAOE Launched
Posted by Washizu on January 22nd, 2000 @ 10:15 a.m.
Our old friend Xiphoid is heading up the GameSpy Industries newest site, Planet Age of Empires. Go check it out and tell Xiphoid that Washizu says hi.
AOKH Forumers Keep
Posted by Washizu on January 21st, 2000 @ 11:57 p.m.
Chuppo and a number of other forumers here at AOKH have been busy working on a site for forumers to find old strategy posts, download recorded games, and just hang out. To learn more about it, check out this thread thread.
The Brazillian Empire Tourney
Posted by Washizu on January 21st, 2000 @ 11:44 p.m.
This comes from TBE_Banana:
Our clan (TBE - The brazilian Empire), one of the oldest brazilian clans, existing since 1997, is organizating a torney inter-clans in AoK. The major clans of Brazil will be in this tourney, and I think this is the biggest we saw in Brazil since the release of Age of Empires.
The tourney is based on rounds; each round the clans make movements in a map of our contry, on the purpose of conquer the states. The clan that dominates half of total states win the tourney. Its like the game WAR (not exactly this, but like), but games of AoK play the role of cubes.

The games played will be avaiable later for download, and all the world will be able to see how we brazilian guys play :-)

Our home page is located at www.tbe.com.br and unfortunately the unique language on there is portuguese (You probably understood why, reading this email with this english that a 3 years old children laughs - too bad lol).

Thanks by your attencion, if u think this could be a good notice to heaven, will be a honor to us to have a notice of our country on your famous site.
Zone Spotlight Tournament
Posted by Washizu on January 21st, 2000 @ 11:35 p.m.
Saw this on the Ensemble Studios Website.
MSN Gaming Zone Spotlight Tournament for Age of Kings!
Sign up in the morning or afternoon, play in the evening! After signing up, be sure to arrive in the Spotlight Room by 4PM (PST) to check -in! Event Starts - 1/21/00

Contest Description from the the Zone.

A Spotlight Tournament (the "Tournament") is an interactive, skill-based tournament in which Competitors will compete in a series of elimination rounds in accordance with Rule 3 below until winners for all prizes are determined. Spotlight Tournaments are single-player events in which Competitors compete against each other one-on-one. Competitors will compete in a series of single-elimination rounds until four (4) Finalists are determined. The four (4) Finalists will compete against each other in the Final Round, which will comprise a series of elimination rounds until a Champion is determined.

Game Type: Regicide
Map Type: Random Map
Map Size: Medium 2 v 2
Difficulty: Moderate
Resources: High
Population : 75
Game Speed: Fast
Reveal Map: Explored
Starting Age: Castle
Victory: N/A
Time: N/A
Team Together: Enable
Lock Speed: Disable
Lock Teams: Enable
Allow Cheats: Disable
All Techs: Disable
Record Game: NO

This Spotlight Tournament is a game of Age of Kings. This Tournament will be played in accordance with Gaming Zone Terms and Conditions set out at the Zone. Each pair of Competitors will compete against each other in the game environment provided. The winner of the Tournament will be the Competitor who has one every Round that he/she has competed in or has advanced in the manner provided by these rules.

Prizes
Prizes shall be awarded as follows:

(1) Grand Prize: MSN Gold Prize Package: MSN Gaming Zone Denim Shirt, an MSN Gaming Zone mouse pad, and an MSN Gaming Zone deck of cards.
(1) Finalist: MSN Silver Premium Prize Package: MSN Gaming Zone sweatshirt.
(2) Semi-Finalists: MSN Bronze Premium Prize Package: MSN Gaming Zone T-shirt.
If you would like to view the full set of rules, please go directly to: Tournament Rules.
AI Alert
Posted by Washizu on January 19th, 2000 @ 8:48 p.m.
If you are into Age of Kings AI programming, you'll really want to check this out at mrfixitonline.com.
Some great new content is now on-line at http://MrFixitOnline.com including:

  • A detailed primer on Artificial Intelligence in AoK by Pharaon
  • Calculating the "Real Cost" of Resources by Council_of_Elders
  • Pre-Castle Costs Data Table by Council_of_Elders

And, of course, the DM Tourney is still allowing sign ups, with $500 in
prize money and over 110 people signed up (of all levels), come over and
join up today! You can also see who is currently signed up and their DM
skill level.

Mr.Fixit
Also, ES_Sandyman gave it a high endorsement in the forum:
Go to MrFixit's web site. There, he has a simple extraction routine that anybody can use to decompress all the AI personality files that are used in Age of Kings. I strongly recommend any serious designers to check this out, and to feel free to use or cut-and-paste bits of the Age of Kings .per files in their own scenarios.
Correction
Posted by Washizu on January 19th, 2000 @ 8:46 p.m.
I posted yesterday that ES_BigAl was Chris Rippy, but it is in fact his brother Stephen Rippy. Sorry for the mix up. Mr. Rippy had this to say when he awarded the Age Music CD.
Howdy!

Lots of good tries. "Dawn of Man" was one of the original names of AoE, and Genie is AoE's engine. But the correct answer is......

"WinTank," a first-person tank shooter. VikingBrad is now the proud owner of a "Music From the Ages" CD. VikingBrad, please email me your address so I can ship it to you.
Thanks for playing! We'll do it again soon!
ES_BigAl Contest
Posted by Washizu on January 19th, 2000 @ 2:30 a.m.
Chris Rippy, aka BigAl of Ensemble Studios, has made the following annoucement in the forum.
I'll have a trivia contest...

The first person that can describe to me what Ensemble Studios' very first game project was gets a shiny new "Music From the Ages" CD.

Hint: It's not Age of Empires.
Hint 2: I've talked about it before.
Hint 3: It was not published.

Good luck!

Reply with the answer in this thread!
Alice Petersen Picture
Posted by Washizu on January 18th, 2000 @ 3:00 a.m.
The big news today is that ES_Sandyman posted a picture of his 19 year old daughter Alice Petersen at the request of forumers. He asks that no weirdos check out the picture and I'll be enforcing that request heavily. Check it out here, she's quite pretty.
New Sitemap
Posted by Washizu on January 14th, 2000 @ 10:04 p.m.
I rounded up all the links I could find on the site and put them into a listing for you guys. So now, if you ever have trouble finding something, just check out this site map.
AOKH Mailbag
Posted by Washizu on January 14th, 2000 @ 9:21 p.m.
The first edition of the AOKH mailbag is up! It's a place where we can publicly answer your questions, especially ones heard day in and day out. This time around, I just posted a few random e-mails I recieved, but other times there will be a theme. The theme for next time is, "If you could change 3 things in AOK, what would they be?" Send your letters to me, Angel Washizu. Make sure the subject heading says "AOKH Mailbag".
Attention Clans and Tourney Players
Posted by Washizu on January 14th, 2000 @ 9:33 a.m.
Here are two very cool things you guys can get involved with to play AOK competitively.
The Skillfactor is a league-independent ranking table for clans, released as a module for NECST. It is currently keeping track of the following games played by about 1500 listed clans so far:

Ages of Empires, Ages of Empires 2, Action Quake 2, Alien versus Predator, Brood War, Command & Conquer 2, Command & Conquer 3, Counterstrike, Diablo, Diablo 2, Dune 2000, Delta Force, Delta Force 2, Drakan, Everquest, Halflife, Jedi Knight, Kingpin, Quake, Quake 1 CTF, Quake 2, Quake 2 CTF, Quake 2 Rocket Arena, Quake 3 Arena, Quake 3 CTF, Quake World, Rainbow 6, Rainbow Six 2, QW Rocket Arena,
Rocket Arena 2, Starcraft, Sin, Starsiege Tribes, Team Fortress, Team Fortress 2, Team Fortress Classic, Unreal, Unreal Tournament, Warcraft, Warcraft 2.

The ranking is calculated for national as well as for international tables. The more clans take part, the more accurately the tables will show which clans in the world are among the tops. Since even old clanmatches that happened months (or even years) ago can be submitted, statistics of which games were played how often at a specific time can be generated.

With NECST in background, also features like displaying players that are currently online and direct access to IRC channels (for direct challenging or whatever) are easily possible and will be integrated ASAP.

The goal of The Skillfactor is to create a worldwide clan-table, based on all matches ever played to create a rank which gives more realistic info and not just allegations.
http://www.theskillfactor.com

And here is the other one.
Total War Network (http://www.totalwar.net/aok) is hosting a 32 player 1v1 Landlocked tournament. The only thing you are safe from are the sharks. If you have a clan of 8 or more people you can sign up for our Map Combat. You and your clan will battle to defend your territories and to take over enemy territory.
AOK Review
Posted by Washizu on January 14th, 2000 @ 9:29 a.m.
Ok ok, I haven't posted one of these in a looong time, but here is another AOK review. Thanks to Ivan for sending it in.
I have visited the site on which you work, ageofkings.com, frequently, and I
find it to be the most comprehensive AoK sites on the net.
I do have some news for you! There is a review of Age of Kings, albeit a
little late. It is quite informative and well done, in fact, it was written
by a die-hard fan of Age of Empires I and II.
Aok received a score of 92.5%, or 37/40.
Here is the URL: http://www.lithus.com/rts/aok.htm
Kaban's New AOK Site
Posted by Washizu on January 14th, 2000 @ 9:26 a.m.
Long time ager Kaban has a new Age of Kings site. The most interesting thing on there is a place where you can vote for your favorite agers in different categories including "most unique", "best all around", "funniest". It's kind of like the senior standouts we had in my high school year book. Check out the site here.
Updated Sections
Posted by Washizu on January 13th, 2000 @ 8:52 a.m.
I've been working on updating some areas of the site. Recently, I had to add 4 more questions to the "Seven Deadly Sins" (FAQ), and turn them into the "11 Deadly Sins". The new questions which I hope you guys won't ask anymore are...
8. How do you set the population higher than 75 is user created scenarios/campaigns?

Currently you cannot do this, but it may be fixed in a patch or in the (rumored) expansion pack.

9. How can I play multiplayer AOK on two machines with just one CD?

Boot up AOK on one machine, take the CD out and boot it up on the other. You need one CD for every 3 machines in the game.

10. How can I make a backup copy of AOK? It gets an error when I try to copy it in my CD burner.

Microsoft used copy protection on the CD and you can not copy it in normal CD burners. If you have a problem with this, do not blame us, their URL is right here [ http://www.microsoft.com ]

11. When will AOK be out for the Mac?

I have no idea whether it will be out for the Mac at all, let alone when. AOE came out for the Mac, so that is a good sign that AOK will, but certainly no garuntee
The other section I updated is the Quotes from the Sandyman page. There are 11 new pages for your viewing pleasure, so grab a snack and sit down!
AOE/ROR Patch Released!
Posted by Washizu on January 11th, 2000 @ 7:38 p.m.
Here it is fellow agers, the long awaited patch for both Age of Empires and the Rise of Rome Expansion Pack available today exclusively at AOE Heaven! Wondering what the changes are? Shang villagers costs have been increased, as well as their starting food, Phoenician wood chopping rates have been reduced, the idle villagers key (.) from Age of Kings was put in, and a host of bug fixes prevent trainers and cheats from being used. Head right here to download it and read the official list of changes.
Forum Woes
Posted by Washizu on January 10th, 2000 @ 8:22 p.m.
If you're having problems connecting to the forum via your old bookmarks or the text links above, the address was changed during some fixes. Bookmark them again and they should work fine.

Also, thanks to anyone who participated in the Games of Encouragement charity drive.
New mrfixitonline.com Tournament
Posted by Washizu on January 10th, 2000 @ 8:10 p.m.
Once again, the event maestro of AOK, mrfixit and his crew of editors are putting together a great Deathmatch tournament. Here are the details from fixit himself.
MrFixitOnline.com proudly announces a new Tournament: the Eyes Wide Open
DeathMatch Tourney! (EWODM)

For both skilled DM'ers and newbies alike, test your Age of Kings deathmatch
skills against the top players around.

The prizes:
$200 for 1st place!
$100 for 2nd place!
$50 for 3rd place!
A $50 consolation prize to a randomly chosen player (who didn't win a prize)
who competes in all the rounds.
And of course, bragging rights!

The Settings:
1 versus 1 Deathmatch
No cheats
Post-Imperial Age Start*
Tiny Arabia*
Default (1.5) speed*
No Full Tech Tree*
* These settings can be changed if both parties agree.

Rules and Information:
Signups will be from Jan 12th to Jan 26th on MrFixitOnline.com and everyone
is welcome to play! (even non-DMers).
All games must be recorded using the full retail version of Age of Kings,
then uploaded to the site for all to see.
Full rules and information will be available by Jan 12th on
MrFixitOnline.com . We look forward to seeing you there!

Format:
The tournament format will be a swiss-system, where every players gets to
play every round. No one is ever eliminated! You are guarranteed to get play
a lot of games.

There is also a new DM Forum for Deathmatch discussion at href="http://MrFixitOnline.com">http://MrFixitOnline.com so come join
the fun!

Mr.Fixit
Blacksmith (Map Making) news
Posted by Zen on January 9th, 2000 @ 10:54 a.m.
BIG NEWS TODAY!!! The new official Blacksmith submission form is now available! The new page will help us keep the Blacksmith and the Market more up to date since the form automates some of our work. On that note, if you have submitted a scenario, campaign, recorded game or utility to me but do not see it in the site yet, please resubmit the file using the new form - be sure to specify "Yes" on the resubmit line so I know that it's a file I've already received. People that use the form will get preferential treatment since it is about 10 times easier for me to update the site if you've completed a form. Of course, please use the new form for ALL future submissions. I will still accept them if they are emailed directly to me but it will take much longer to get them on the site. Thx to everyone for continuing to be patient.

Go to our Blacksmith section
24/100
Posted by Reckless Rodent on January 8th, 2000 @ 4:02 p.m.
In GameSpot UK's roundup of the 100 best games of the last millenium, Age of Empires and Age of Kings reached 24th spot, beating the likes of TA and Diablo.

If you want to find out more, then you can do so here.
Strategy Game of the Year
Posted by Reckless Rodent on January 8th, 2000 @ 12:51 a.m.
Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings has been selected as the Best Strategy Game of 1999 in GameSpot's Games of the Year feature. Here's why:

Age of Empires II is that rare game that vaulted ahead of its competition not because of cutting-edge technology but because of old-fashioned gameplay. Age II hones the balance and expands the core gameplay of the original Age of Empires to make it much more fun, more varied, and generally more interesting. The 13 unique civilizations, the many different counterbalancing military units, the expanded technology tree, the elaborate unit formations, and the game's emphasis on combined arms all echo last year's winner, StarCraft, and made Age of Empires II stand out even among 1999's startling variety of great strategy games.

If for any reason you disagree with this or other winners, you can have your say in the Readers' Choice ballot.
Getting an ISE?
Posted by Reckless Rodent on January 7th, 2000 @ 11:06 p.m.
Angel Zen sent this to all HGS visitors by means of express Reckymail(TM):

If you are getting "Error 500: Internal Server Error" messages while accessing any part of the forums, please refresh the page a minute or two later. Please note that if you were posting/replying you might get a message about "duplicate messages being detected". That's normal - your post made it. If it still gives you the same message, please write an email to Angel Zen ( zen@heavengames.com ), and include in the email which forum you were using, and what you were doing at the time of the error. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Over to the Sandynator
Posted by Reckless Rodent on January 7th, 2000 @ 8:40 p.m.
Having started a new thread for forumers to post their questions, the Sandyman answered some of the remaining questions from the previous thread. Snippet time:

Q) How do you feel about the recent release of the Quake 1 source code under the GPL?
A) I think it’s terrific. I wish MS would do things like that.

Q) What impact does this, and other forums, have in your (et al.) game design and programming decisions.
A) A great deal.

Q) The inclusion of the Joan of Arc campaign was the “hook” to get me involved in AOK. Was that a purposeful move by Ensemble to get more women involved in game play?
A) No, it was based upon the fact that we thought Joan of Arc was absolutely terrific and the most remarkable military leader in the history of the Earth. I promise we never thought of it as a ploy to get more women involved. Though if it did that, I’m very pleased. Gaming needs women.

That's 3 answers out of a whole plethora - if you want to read the rest, then you can do so here.
AOK Screensaver
Posted by Reckless Rodent on January 7th, 2000 @ 9:52 a.m.
Archangel over at Ensemble Studios reports that Microsoft UK has come up with a screensaver for AOK.

This is great news for all you Agers out there who would love to play AOK at work, but just don't want to risk the boss seeing. Now, you can put this on your work PC and be transprted back to AOKland while you're working .

Anyway, irrespective of where you want to use it, you can get the thing here (1.1MB).
Zoiks...
Posted by Reckless Rodent on January 6th, 2000 @ 8:42 p.m.
Only hours after his last visit, ES_Sandyman has struck again. Guess it's a quiet day in the ES offices... .

Q) What's your zone name?
A) Sandyman

Q) Why does skirmishers have minimum range?
A) To make them even less effective against infantry.

Q) Is there anybody that is better than you on AoK?
A) Emphatically yes. In fact, most game designers are not particularly expert in gameplay. To have the kind of mindset that makes a good designer, you also get a mindset that prevents you from becoming too obsessed & skilled with any one game. Perhaps the problem with us is that we’re too concerned with having fun and analyzing gameplay than with figuring out the nitty-gritty details of exactly when to produce our 7th woodcutter. Basically, the designers at ES are all in the mid- to upper-mid range of quality, compared to our co-workers. Tim Deen, who will soon be demoted to designer from programmer, has in the past been an expert player, but I fully expect his play skills to begin deteriorating once he makes the switch.

To view the rest of his comments, take a look here (same thread as last time).
The acolytes gather...
Posted by Reckless Rodent on January 6th, 2000 @ 9:12 a.m.
In a dark corner of the AOKH forums, a small circle forms around a cloaked figure. They have waited several days for this - another Day of Enlightenment. Yes everyone, the Sandyman has made another appearence:

Q) don't you ever silently weep when you think of titles like "M.U.L.E.", "Elite", "The Bard's Tale", "Civilization", "Ultima IV" or "Dune2"?
A) Those were great games. But some of them at least had bigger teams than you might suspect (Civilization, for one). I can’t help think that if Dan Bunten had done M.U.L.E. with a bigger team, the game might have been even more fun. The problem is not in a big team, it is in having big managerial interference. This can happen even in a small team, though.

Q) why would I use the chu ko nus rather than an arabelest?
A) They have more hit points, cost less gold, and do more damage. Even amortized over their slower fire rate, I tihnk you’ll find they do more damage.

Q) What happened to Dave Pottinger?
A) He got promoted to Director of Technology.

Q) What are some of the most fun times you have had playing AoK? Any memorable battle stories?
A) I had a pretty terrific game this very morning. We were playing 4x4 on a map which had a C-shaped land mass. My town was located way out in the middle of nowhere, while my allies were all bunched together on one arm of the “C”. I’d chosen Random civ, and gotten stuck with Byzantine (which was a problem because in this playtest, cataphracts were forbidden – don’t ask why, I can’t tell you). I decided to use horse archers as my main unit, walled in, and started pumping them out. I went up fairly quickly through the ages, and the enemy did not attack me, though I was in their midst. Instead they amassed their armies against my allies. I sent help to my pals in the form of fully-upgraded heavy cav archers, but kept losing to huge swarms of vile enemy chu-ko-nu. About an hour into the game, the enemy decided to wipe me out, and came after me with everything they had. I screamed for help, but my allies were (apparently) busy with something else, and no one came. So I evacuated my town ASAP, running my villagers off to a new town center foundation. Tragically, my villagers ran right past two unseen enemy castles, and I lost them all. Except 1 single lonely woman in a friendly town, mining gold. I had one unit left in all the world. It looked pretty grim. I had her build a town center, and start pumping out villagers – I could do it, because my opponents hadn’t destroyed all my houses (once I cut and ran, they figured I was out). I had plenty of food (over 2000), and started mining & chopping wood, as well as pumping more horse archers out of my (undestroyed) archery range back in my old town. I also started making light cav to handle the enemy chucks. I was able to build up a big army, and participate in the final destruction of the foe. But my timeline sure looked lame – I shrank to nothing halfway through, then grew back out to a huge force.

You can read the rest (and there's loads more) in this thread.
PC Data Top 10
Posted by Reckless Rodent on January 6th, 2000 @ 9:02 a.m.
Age of Kings continues to perform well on the PC Data list of the best selling software in the US. They've just released their charts for the week of 12th December. I'll only post the top 5, but here it is:

1 Who Wants To Be A Millionaire by Disney
2 MP Roller Coaster Tycoon by Hasbro Interactive
3 Microsoft Age Of Empires II: Age of Kings by Microsoft
4 Quake III Arena by Activision
5 Barbie Generation Girl Gotta Groove by Mattel Interactive

More from the Sandyman
Posted by Reckless Rodent on January 5th, 2000 @ 4:58 p.m.
Everybody chant "There's only one ES_Sandyman,one ES_Sandyman...".

Ok, perhaps not. Anyway, the man in blue who just loves to keep us all informed had answered yet more questions from the AOKH forumers. Here are a couple of the jucier answers:

Q) Do you consider doing anything about wonders ? They are under-used because useless.
A) We like the wonders fine. We know that there are heaps of folks who like them, and we know there are heaps of folks who hate playing with wonders. That’s fine with us. The game is supposed to support multiple play styles.

Q) whose voice do we hear in the taunt "I'll beat you back to Age of Empires"?
A) Roy Rabey

Q) Are you considering to include a Civ from the Adriatic coast into the X-pack?
A) We are planning to ONLY have civs from the Adriatic coast in the X-Pack. Namely, Albania, Dalmatia, Austria-Hungary, and Montenegro. Hope you like them.

If you want to ask the Sandyman something (hey, who doesn't ), then you can do so in this thread.
Bruce Shelley Speaks
Posted by Reckless Rodent on January 5th, 2000 @ 10:42 a.m.
Here's a little article which has been up for a while, but which Angel Washizu hasn't mentioned. It's part of Gamespot's Millenium Gaming feature, and it's an interview with ES's Bruse Shelley, in which he talks about his vision of the future of gaming, as well as so much more. Here's a little snippet:

How would you like to be Sid Meier's protégé? Maybe you should ask Bruce Shelley, who worked with Meier for five years at MicroProse, co-designing classics such as Civilization and Railroad Tycoon. Now, having come into his own at Ensemble Studios with the Age of Empires series, Shelley, who has been designing games since 1980 and enjoys collecting Boy Scout memorabilia in his spare time, has shown that a fun and compelling game can also be historically accurate. From living through the Bronze Age of the ancient world to recreating the plight of French heroine Joan of Arc in Age of Empires II, Shelley has brought a new level of depth to real-time strategy.
Microsoft Mononpoly
Posted by Washizu on January 5th, 2000 @ 5:30 a.m.
Looks like a friend of the US Department of Justice has had a little fun with Parker Bros. legendary game Monopoly. Ensemble Studios even got its own property! hehe.

Proceed directly here. Do no pass go, do not collect $200. (thanks to Angel Zen)
Information on the Trebuchet!
Posted by Washizu on January 5th, 2000 @ 5:27 a.m.
Wow, check out this great info from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.
Trebuchets — giant, gravity-powered catapults — are said to have revolutionized siege warfare eight centuries ago, but did these war machines really bring down castle walls? More than 50 craftsmen were assembled in Scotland by NOVA to build a replica and find out. The episode on trebuchets will air on PBS on February 1 as part of a miniseries on experimental archaeology.
Check it out here (thanks to Dr. of Defense)
Gamers Choice Awards
Posted by Washizu on January 5th, 2000 @ 5:24 a.m.
Well, looks like we're all still in one piece following the transition over to '00. Gamer's Voice is having a blowout award ceremony for the games of 1999.
Greetings --

Gamer's Voice is currently soliciting nominations for several award
categories for our Gamer's Choice Awards for 1999. Nominations
will be accepted through January 16, 2000 and the final ballot will
be available for voting the week of January 17, 2000.

This year's categories include Best Game of 1999 as well as the
Best of the following: Action, Adventure, Role-Playing, Board &
Puzzle, Kids & Family, Sports, Strategy, Simulation, Wargame,
Multiplayer/Online, Game Controller, and PC Accessory.

The URL for submitting nominations is below. Gamers will find
there all instructions required for nominations.

http://www.gamersvoice.com/special/gca-1999-nom.asp

Thanks for a great 1999!

Kevin L. Kitchens
Editor,
Gamer's Voice