Archived News From March 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!

RCF_Darket Passed Away
Posted by Washizu on March 31st, 2000 @ 10:08 p.m.
Sadly, one of the RCF clan's members, Wendy Sue Parker aka RCF_Darket passed away in a car accident last February at the age of 23. She had a two year old son named Zac, who will always miss her along with many friends in the Age community. If you knew her, or just want to offer your condolences, you can visit the clan's message board here.
Papa Thorfinn
Posted by Washizu on March 31st, 2000 @ 9:51 p.m.
I've just been informed that Angel Thorfinn is now a dad for the second time with his new baby girl, Sara Nicole Tristyn Jerde. She was born on March 31, at 11:39 GMT, and is 7 lbs. 8 oz. Tristyn was the name of his wife's D&D character, just like Thorfinn is the middle name of their other son

Congrats to the proud parents from everyone in Heaven!
News for Friday
Posted by Washizu on March 31st, 2000 @ 11:10 a.m.
Hey folks, after the flurry of AOK:TC news in previous weeks, it has sort of slowed down. Not that there isn't anything worth posting.. far from it! Check these out:

Greg "Deathshrimp" Street has posted his Ten Commandments of Scenario Design at Ensemble Studios. Here's the first commandment!
1. Lead Players By The Nose.

Players should always know what they are supposed to do next. Scenario designers almost always err on the side of assuming that players will eventually figure out “the trick” given enough time and restarts. Yuck.

The reality is that most of your players are part of the MTV generation and have a very short attention span. Players like a challenge, but as soon as they become frustrated they are likely to put your scenario down and return to Um Jammer Lammy or whatever.
Hey, Um Jammer Lammy is my favorite group! I love their videos!

Some kids got a tour of Ensemble Studios by AOK Producer Harter Ryan, and seemed to have a great time of drinking and gaming... drinking soda and playing PC games of course

AOK Designer and resident Dallas area game God, Bruce Shelley, participated in a conference at the Massachusettes Institute of Technology on the growing popularity of games and the art of designing them.
MODERATOR: Yeah. How do you measure what players want out of a game?

SHELLEY: Well, what players want is what I want and my colleagues want as players. I didn't go to school to study game design, I just played games all my life. And I got in this business because I wanted to do the games that didn't exist. This game doesn't exist. I want to play it. We're going to make it.
Read the whole transcript here.

The last of the news I'll get from Archy is that you can pick up some Age of Kings wallpaper, and even a screen saver.

The Ager's HQ has a cool interview with one of the top AOK clans.
At Ager's HQ an exclusive interview with the Sarmis clan! The Sarmis clan features almost a year of experience with great members and website. This week Xynon interviewed Sarmis_Dionysos and Sarmis_Parmenio. They shared their opinions on topics of leaders and age matters concerning clans. This interview also turns the page in the chapters interview with well-know Age of Kings clans. Click here here read the details.

Xynon: What triggered you to join Sarmis?

Sarmis_Parmenio: When you play with guys, there are times when they'll "ride to your rescue", almost like they've done something for you in real life. It forms a bond that’s stronger, and quicker to forge, than a pen friends thing...its like you can rely on each other although its only a game of course, but it DOES form a bond. "



Make sure you get in your MS Scenario Contest entries to me before April 7th.

Here's a question to you AI writers out there... has anyone created an AI that can Feudal in well under 15:00? If so, let me know I've been working on some AI scripting, and it's a lot of fun.

Well, that's it for today, or at least until I hear of some more news. By the way, if you're having problems with your forum password, we apologize, but chances are you'll need to re-register. Have a good weekend!

AOK:TC News at Avault
Posted by Washizu on March 28th, 2000 @ 10:08 p.m.
The Adrenaline Vault has posted an article following their encounter with AOK Designer Bruce Shelley. While not many new things were revealed, we did get a clarification on some known features:
One example is an online game similar to Capture the Hill. Shelley describes it as a battle over a neutral wonder that exists in the center of a map. A single person or a team must grab the wonder and possess it for a set period of time to win. This could be on a land or water map, depending on the parameters chosen at the start.

Ensemble is also implementing a number of changes that will alter the essence of the action, including changes to the interface. For example, the developers are adding farm queues so that food production can be more automated. Another example is allowing people to garrison battering rams. Garrisoned rams will move faster and do more damage, while protecting units inside from missile fire. Furthermore, each civilization in the game--18 at that point--will have a unique technology that gives it an advantage in battle.

Ensemble is clutching a number of details close to its chest, including information pertaining to the new civilizations and units. Shelley did disclose that the added civilizations would bring new things, not warmed over ideas, to the game, and that the units, which are still in development, will enhance the careful balancing act in Age of Kings. In terms of the story, Shelley would go no further than to reveal that they hope to surprise people with some interesting characters from history.
Read the whole article here.
AOK News Day
Posted by Washizu on March 27th, 2000 @ 10:08 p.m.
Hey agers, I'm going to try to fit a lot of stuff in a small space today. I've been up just a tad too long and I want to get some sleep, but before I do, let's see what's on the news pallete today:

Sandy Petersen tells us why he can't give as much information as he'd like to the forumers of AOKH and the aging community, and he reveals that the former Heaven Angel is the dearest to his heart in that respect...
Q) If you told us the full information on the x-pack what would happen?
A) In order of decreasing importance:

1 -- Mike McCart would get justifiably angry at me.
2 – all non-Heaven’s Web fansites would get justifiably POed at me for handing out info here that they were not allowed to post there.
3 -- Magazines would be less interested in getting the “scoop”, which means that we’d get fewer articles devoted to the X-Pack in the various media; this might lessen the X-Pack’s sales.
4 – Microsoft’s marketing department would get mad at me.



He also made a few comments on why you wouldn't see Zebras in AOK:TC, even if the Zulus were in it:
Q) I hope the X-Pac 'll have special units like the elephs for Persia. Why not elephs for India ? Or Zebra for the zoulous ? Why not a "magic" civilisation with magician, skeletton armies, ... ? Is it possible ?
A) Well, insofar as the Magic civs, no, it’s not possible. If we include India, I’m sure we’d do elephant archers. If we include the Zulus, however, we would not include zebras – zebras aren’t domestic animals.


You can read the whole thread here.

I need to make a correction in the story contest winners. Dark Overlord was actually the author of one of the winning stories, not courtjester. The problem arose when two people submitted stories as The Courtjestor, and then one of them wanted to switch to Dark Overlord, and surprisingly enough I chose the wrong one to switch. All my bumbling can't ruin his great story though!

MrFixitOnline.com has a great feature with their "20 Most Popular Articles".

American Beauty may have won the oscar last night, but you HAVE to check out this Medieval Beauty of a poster over at ES Web. Read how to get one here. Annete Benning was robbed by the way. She got beat by a boy for Best Actress! ahhh... it's a shame she came home empty handed, she was terrific. Ok, ok... back to AOK stuff.

I have been inundated with people wanting to change their forum names or have them dropped so they can re-register. Changing your name is something we're considering for the future, but if you sent in a request recently, chances are it slipped through the cracks (they've been big lately), especially all you tonto_ guys. Do you have clan matches against the Lone_Agers?

Remember! Scenarios have to be in to me by April 7th if you want to participate in the MS contest.

Wow, didn't I say I was going to make this short... zzz...
Story Contest Results!!!
Posted by Washizu on March 25th, 2000 @ 11:49 p.m.
First of all, I'd like to apologize for taking so long to get this contest squared away. I'm happy to say that the winners have finally been determined:

Best Stories
One Ensemble Studios hat, one official strategy guide by Sybex, and one AOK poster:

Nuts to Us
by Courtjestor

English Rednecks in France
by form1

Great Stories
One official strategy guide by Sybex, and one AOK poster:

A Perfect Ambush
by shane88

The Revenge of Fatboy King
by Oren Auster

Story
by Dracunulus

There are a number of Honorable Mentions as well, who won an AOK poster:

Nathan
SuperPeon
JKA_Odin
Ronin
paramedic
emad
elansu
Dark Overlord
Shane Eric Downing
Archdeacon
Epsilon
Zanzard Loather
Kevinjp
Jack Banh
id0ntexist
Chubby2k

The prizes have been sent out, so if you don't recieve it in a week or so, let me know ASAP. To read all of these great stories, head here. Thanks to everyone who participated, and thanks to Sybex and Ensemble Studios for donating the prizes.
Prize Pics!
Posted by Washizu on March 24th, 2000 @ 9:52 a.m.
Check out this snazzy jpg of the prizes you could win in the MS Scenario Contest! Remember to get your submissions into me before April 7th!

AOK News
Posted by Washizu on March 24th, 2000 @ 2:00 a.m.
You can download the materials used in a presentation made by AOK Desinger, Mark Terrano, Lead Artist Brad Crow and Lead Artist Scott Winsett at the Game Developers Conference here. I'll warn you, it's a big file (16 mb).

The great Sandito clarified a few things on farm queues, random maps, and why the AOK:TC civs won't be annouced until E3.
Q) Do items in the queue inhibit the use of upgrade buttons like in the other buildings?
A) Items in the farm queue do not inhibit the use of upgrade buttons. This is because all the mills access the same queue, so if you kept your farms queued up, you’d NEVER have a chance to improve your farms.

Q) Is there going to be any improments for the civs there already are, expect the UT?
A) All of them get at least one of the new units and at least one of the new technologies, not counting the UT.

Q) Can you tell and describe what other random maps will be.
A) To an extent: one has lots of animal food. Another is almost impossible to wall off. There are others.

Q) Then, on that King-of-the-hill type game, what the Wonder will be: a randomly choosed Wonder of one of the civilizations in the game.
A) Yes, a random Wonder from one of the civs.

Q) For what reasons they don't allow you to announce the name of the civs in the x-pack?
A) I can’t imagine. I think it’s stupid. I suppose they think none of the magazines or websites would want to have articles about the civs if they were pre-announced or something.

More Influential Agers
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 20th, 2000 @ 9:33 p.m.
I just received this from The_Cerebrum over at The Lost Isle:

The Lost Isle of AoE|AoK has just completed another Influential Ager Interview, with Ogre, of Ogre AoK Network. Influential Agers is an ongoing series of interviews with Agers who have made a significant contribution to the Age community over the last few years.

You can take a look at the interview here.
The Worst AOK Civ?
Posted by Washizu on March 20th, 2000 @ 5:53 p.m.
Hey guys, I'm back at the news helm at AOKH after a sorely needed week of lounging around on the Pacific coast. Many thanks go to the Reckless one for his help with news this week. I also have to thank my dear friends at United Airlines for extending my stay in the Los Angelos airport yesterday an additional 11 hours, ensuring an energetic Monday morning for this angel. What's that you say? Get to the AOK news? The Sandy-one himself lets us know just why the Teutons are the worst of all the civs:
If you DO find a game in which they're not banned, one of two things happens:

1) you win, and the other players mock your victory, pointing out that you were Teutons, so you had this big edge. Obviously it wasn't your skill that won. So you don't get to gloat over your enemies after your victory.

2) you lose, in which case everyone scorns you. "He played Teutons and he STILL lost." So either way you get screwed.


New methods...
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 17th, 2000 @ 9:44 p.m.
If anyone tells you that Sandyman is stuck in his ways, then refer them to this forum thread, in which our favourite boy in blue uses a new method of question answering:

Will the Unique Tech be researched in the Castle?
Will any of the UTs AFFECT pikeman in any way?
Do you believe that if the Old Guard had been commited immediately after Marechal Ney's half dozen or so cavalry attacks on the British center, the center would have been broken?
Are there any improvements to triggers?
Will the expac be shimo-friendlier?

ANSWER)Yes, to all.

Oh, for those of you missing the old Q/A format, there are some thrown in for old time's sake .
Well, I'd like to start by thanking...
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 16th, 2000 @ 6:56 p.m.
Time for a gratuitously self-congratulary post on behalf of Angel Washizu here. I just received the following email:

Hi there!
Internetworld (a printed internet-magazine in the Nordic countries, read by many) has awarded the "Best gaming site of the month" to Age of Kings Heaven, receiving 10/10 points. The motivation was that you provided masses of information on AoK, in example civ descriptions and scenario design help.
Congratulations!

Thanks go out to Odin for reporting that to me. Well done to Angel Washizu and the whole AOKH crew (me excluded - I'm just standing in ). Well deserved!
Desktop in Need of some Spice?
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 16th, 2000 @ 6:38 p.m.
If your desktop background is looking a bit dowdy, then why not apice it up with some AOK-related gubbins? AOE2.de has a selection of wallpapers available for you to grab should you be interested...
Tra La La...
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 16th, 2000 @ 6:36 p.m.
ES_Sandyman has been posting again:

Q) 'The Conquerors', are we to believe this directly relates to the new civs? I know that in RoR each new civ was very closely connected to the whole Roman theme. Would it be reasonable therefore to assume the new ones will all have had some part in large-scale conquering?
A) Yes. However, I do have to admit that at least one of the new civs was “involved” in conquering from the wrong end (i.e., it got conquered).

There's a load more here.
More X-pack Stuff
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 15th, 2000 @ 8:41 a.m.
This thread is the place to be for all the latest chat about the x-pack...

Q) Is this the best job you ever had, or what!?
A) I’ve been a professional game designer through most of my adult life (since 1981), so I may not be the best person to ask this question, as I don’t have much grounds for comparison. But I do love it.

Q) What pop is the x-pack being play-tested and/or balanced around?
A) We are trying it at several different caps, but the “main” pop cap that we aim at is 75.

Q) Is the technology that the new civ is missing a technology only found in the Xpack?
A) Maybe.

Q) If a smart vill is told to build a military building, will he go to a resource when he is done building it?
A) No.

Of course, that's the latest round of Q&A with ES_Sandyman .
AOK and 3DSMAX3
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 15th, 2000 @ 8:38 a.m.
Something else from Chez Archangel for you this morning. This will be especially interesting to those of you with an interest in animation and modeling. Here's the obligatory snippet:

Microsoft wanted Age of Empires II to be able to run on as many PCs as possible, even those with lower end graphics cards and a minimum of memory, but without sacrificing visual quality. This presented Ensemble Studios with a daunting challenge. How can you enhance the already stunning Age of Empires graphics but keep the footprint small enough for older machines, and still work with a reasonable budget and deliver on time?

The entire article is called "Ensemble Studios brings Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings to life with 3D Studio MAX R3", and can be found here.
MS Scenario Contest Update
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 14th, 2000 @ 7:46 p.m.
So, you read the announcement of the AOK Scenario Design Contest a couple of days ago, and are now eager to see what you have to do, right? Well, here you go:

Name: Age of Empires 2 Scenario Design Contest

Details: A winner will be chosen from each of the 10 fan sites. Fans must submit their scenario by April 7 to Age of Kings Heaven (http://www.ageofkings.com). The custom scenario must be based on the Charlemagne era of history. The Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say about Charlemagne:

"As king of the Franks, Charlemagne conquered the Lombard kingdom in Italy, subdued the Saxons, annexed Bavaria to his kingdom, fought campaigns in Spain and Hungary, and, with the exception of the Kingdom of Asturias in Spain, southern Italy, and the British Isles, united in one superstate practically all the Christian lands of western Europe. In 800 he assumed the title of emperor. (He is known as Charles I of the Holy Roman Empire, as well as Charles I of France.) Besides expanding its political power, he also brought about a cultural renaissance in his empire. Although this imperium survived its founder by only one generation, the medieval kingdoms of France and Germany derived all their constitutional traditions from Charles's monarchy. Throughout medieval Europe, the person of Charles was considered the prototype of a Christian king and emperor."

The winning scenario from Age of Kings Heaven will be sent to Microsoft and Ensemble Studios, along with the other nine winners, where it will be judged by Bruce Shelley and Greg Street. The grand prize winner will be announced during the first week of May.

Dates:

March 13 - Contest launches
April 7 - Deadline for scenario submission
April 15 - 10 sites submit winning scenario to Microsoft
April 17 - 10 Winners will be announced by Microsoft (one from each site)
1st Week of May - Microsoft to announce Grand Prize Winner

Prizes:

Each participating site winner will win a prize package which includes a selection of Microsoft hardware (Intellimouse Explorer and Natural Internet Keyboard) and Microsoft Games.

The grand prize winner will have his/her scenario included in the upcoming Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion and five framed 18x24 Age II prints autographed by Bruce Shelley.

Just 1 note I'll add here - send all entries to Angel Washizu if you want to be sure it'll get processed properly.
Guess Who's Been Posting...
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 14th, 2000 @ 10:21 a.m.
Fresh from his posting about garrisonable rams (see below), ES_Sandyman landed in this thread, ready to dish out more some more clarification on the subject of the x-pack:

Q) Are the new civs compatible with the existing 13 in the sense of full upgradable form Dark to Imperial?
A) the new civs are fully upgradable. In the same way that we created an imperial “Goth” and “Celt”, we would have done the same for any new desirable civ that did not historically reach the same apex as some of the others.

Q) So all the new civs get a Unique tech too right?
A) Right

Q) will any of the real world maps be in areas where the new civs will be?
A) Of course.

There's a ton more in the thread...click here to read the rest.
Sandyman On Rams
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 14th, 2000 @ 10:17 a.m.
No, Sandyman hasn't started talking about sheep; he's dropped some more info our way about those garrisonable rams you'll find in the AOK x-pack:

1) foot UUs can garrison in a ram. Including TKs.
2) ram cost is NOT decreased in the X-Pack. That's 160 wood & 75 gold for a unit that can be destroyed in less than 15 seconds by a few men-at-arms.

3) rams cannot carry very many units.

4) A Teuton who makes 1 ram for every half-dozen or fewer TKs is a Teuton without very many resources.

5) If you want to move TKs fast, use transport ships. They're cheaper, carry far more, move faster, and are almost as resistant to arrows (8 piercing armor).

We have found our best ram-cargoes to be either pikes or champions. Pikes are good if they're using horses vs. the rams, and champions have great shock value if they are foolish enough to attack the ram with villagers.

Ye Olde Threade for that is here.
RTS Domain Poll
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 13th, 2000 @ 11:02 p.m.
The folks over at RTS Domain are currently holding a poll asking what their visitors think was the best RTS game of 1999.

Age of Kings is, of course, amongst the nominees, but is currently a wee bit behind the current leader, Homeworld. So, head over there and put the record straight .
MFO Smackdown Friday
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 13th, 2000 @ 9:51 p.m.
I spotted over at Archangel's place that MrFixitOnline has an event running this Friday, the MFO Smackdown. 2030 (that's 8:30pm, for those of you not runningon military time) Eastern Standard Time this Friday, that's March 17th, is the time and date to put in your diary.

Click here to find out more information, or head over here to register at MrFixitOnline, sonething you have to have done in order to participate in the Smackdown.
AOE3 for the X-box?
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 13th, 2000 @ 6:47 p.m.
Here's an interesting piece of speculation that I spotted on the AOK Battlefield. It concerns a piece in this Q&A about Microsoft's upcoming console, the X-Box:

Q: Have any X-Box titles been announced yet?
A: Officially no - unofficially Age Of Empires III (a 3D version of the original Age Of Empires), Black Pearl, Cartoon Mayhem, Links PGA Golf and VIP.

So, speculation or based on sound evidence? Time will tell, I suppose...
If it's a news post...
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 13th, 2000 @ 6:38 p.m.
...then it must be because the forums have been visited by a certain game designer. Sandyman has started a new thread should anyone wish to ask him questions about the X-pack. Before starting this new thread, he added a few more tidbits in the old thread (you can read it here, but don't bother posting there because it's nearly reached the magic 150):

Q) How surprised do you think AoK players will be with the tactical and strategic play of AoK:TC?
A) About as much as with RoR.

Q) What kind of adjustments do you think a good AoK player will have to make to be a good AoK:TC player? Will they be big ones?
A) They’ll have to learn to deal with a world in which the civ and unit balances have all subtly altered. Plus they’ll have to learn to deal with a bunch of new civs & units. And because we’ve altered some of the old units to make them more popular, they will have to learn to deal with some units that were only rarely encountered in the past. (Example: before Rise of Rome, you rarely saw chariots. After Rise of Rome, they were common.) If a player’s skill is based on memorizing exactly how many farmers he needs 3 minutes into the Feudal Age, and just how many stables he needs to pull off a Knight Rush, and that sort of thing, he’s in for a rude awakening. But if his skill is based on talent, intelligence, and comprehending the underpinnings of the game, then he will not have to make a big adjustment.
Sandy Strikes Again
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 13th, 2000 @ 11:29 a.m.
Well, here's something that was posted in this thread yesterday, but which I was holding back to today in case there wasn't any other news to post (yeah, smart move RR ). ES_Sandyman has taken another ride on everybody's favourite forum train, has checked the tickets, and dished out the following snippets:

Q) in the X-pac, would ES have wild elephants, just like in AoE?
A) Only if the “new region” we open up is an area in which people hunted wild elephants for food.

Q) since you could use the AoE CD to play RoR, and the RoR CD to play AoE, will you be able to do the same with the AoK-xpack?
A) My understanding is that this will be the case. This could change, though. (Or I could have misunderstood.)
It's contest day!
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 13th, 2000 @ 9:39 a.m.
Well, we've already had news of MS's scenario design contest (see below), and now we've got something from everyone's favourite battlefield, the AoK Battlefield. Here's the dope, as sent to me this morning by Thunder:

Down on your luck? Can't get yourself a copy of Age of Kings or find one of those nifty limited edtion AoK Music CDs? Well my friends, write us, explaining why you should be lucky enough to win a copy of [ Age of Kings or the AoK Music CD ] on St.Pattys Day in 100 words or less! Two winners will be announced on St. Patrick's Day! Drop by AoK Battlefield for more information.
Scen Design Contest at MS!
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 13th, 2000 @ 9:36 a.m.
Are you up for winning a copy of the AOK X-pack? Hmm...I think I can probably guess the answer to that . Anyway, here is your chance, as MS are holding a scenario design contest for all you Agers out there. Here are some more details:

Design your own Age of Empires II scenario and enter it into the Age II Scenario Design Contest and you just might win a chance to have it included in the upcoming Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion.

Other prizes include a selection of Microsoft hardware (Intellimouse Explorer and Natural Internet Keyboard), Microsoft Games, and five framed 18x24 Age II prints autographed by Bruce Shelley.

Start designing now, and stay tuned right here for a list of the 10 participating fan sites that will judge the first round entries. Ten winners will be selected in the first round, with Ensemble Studios selecting one grand prizewinner from those 10 first-round winners. You must have your scenario completed and submitted to one of the participating fan sites by April 7.

Lastly, since the winning scenario will be included in the Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion, Ensemble Studios has requested that all scenario submissions follow a Charlemagne theme.

For more information on Charlemagne, be sure to read through the Charlemagne article available online from MSN Encarta.

Thanks to Cherub Rasher and Brad for the simultaneous heads up.
Scen Contest Extended
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 12th, 2000 @ 8:15 p.m.
I just received the following:

Ogre's AoK Network has recently undergone a major renavation. It now is much cleaner and faster to load. Plus there is more content on the site to help your Age experience.

Also Ogre would like to announce that his scenario design contest has been extended through until April 1st. The prize you could win is a free official Age of Kings strategy guide.
Sandy On Music
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 12th, 2000 @ 10:43 a.m.
More forum posting from the man who ensures all small children have sweet dreams (or was that the Sandman...anyway):

Q) Does Big Al have some more great tunes in the x-pack?
A) Indubitably. We just got to hear them for the first time this week. However, I believe that Big Al’s ally (whose on-line handle I am sadly unfamiliar with, but whose name is Kevin McMullan) has also done some of the music for it.

Q) Do you think there needs to be more stone on the maps?
A) No.

Q) Have you ever though of doing a Warcraft type thing with the Genie engine, i.e adding a fantasy setting, monsters, and spells, to the mix. Would ES have any interest in exploring this type of thing, possibly via an X-pac?
A) Not via an X-pack, that’s for sure.

There's a ton more stuff in this thread.
TC Q&A
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 11th, 2000 @ 7:09 p.m.
Some more Q&A about the upcoming X-pack from Sandyman in a couple of threads. First off, we have the following comments in the Remember ROR? thread:

Q) are the real world maps only multiplayer maps?
A) No.

Q) Will the Units heal inside rams like when you garrison inside a Castle or TC?
A) No.

And then we have more in the nephew of daughter of second cousin of X-pack info thread (something like that anyway ):

Q) is trade or diplomicy changed in any way ?
A) Yes.

Q) is there a type of unit that is mounted on a horse or camel and dismounts and fights when it reaches a certain hp.
A) No.

Q) How many time a full garrisoned ram will speed up?
A) Its speed is increased by 0.1 tile per second per footman inside the ram.
Sandyman on map types
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 11th, 2000 @ 7:01 p.m.
Sandyman has been hitting the forums again today. In this thread, he comments about some of the various map types found in AOK:

On Migration, the initial sheep herd can be anywhere on your island. It is not particularly stationed near your town center. This is why it sometimes seems so far away. If I don't find my sheep within 30 seconds or so I usually start shore-fishing (usually possible with this map).

More can be found if you follow this link.
Hunsters?
Posted by Washizu on March 11th, 2000 @ 2:56 a.m.
I saw this post over at MrFixitonline.com. According to The_Sheriff, he did not write "Give Huns" on the dry erase board.
Part of the message was erased. It used to say, give hunters new sound effects while they are hunting boars .-The_Sheriff
Hmm.... something tells me he might be trying to cover this up, and if he is, that's a good explanation Kevin! ;) I guess we'll have to wait until E3 to know for sure. Anyone placing bets?

I know I am supposed to be on spring break, but I saw this and had to post it. Be nice to the Rodent or he may have to get Reckless.
More Sandyman snippets
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 10th, 2000 @ 7:41 p.m.
During his morning coffee break, there's nothing that ES_Sandyman likes to do more than have a little rummage around in the AOKH forums and throw out more scraps of meat to the waiting masses. He's done a bunch more Q&A in a couple of threads...

First off, we have this thread:

Q) Will the Xpack come with a new foldout that includes all of the new units and stuff?
A) This is MS’s decision. However, we at ES, including myself specifically, are lobbying heavily for it. E-mail them and let them know your attitude.

Q) If a ram that is garrisoned is loaded on a transport ship, does the ram and all garrisoned units count, or just the ram ?
A) The former.

Q) What happens if you have farms qued at your mill and you lose all your mills?
A) You cannot access your farm queue until you have rebuilt a mill. Previously-queued farms are still used to replace expired farms.

He then took a trip on the big forum train and got off at the station corresponding to this thread:

Q) Any chance of having new Naval Units in the Game?
A) There is always a chance.

Q) And will the majority of the new map types (not the real world maps) play like Black Forest, where a 'Random Map' won't chose them?
A) All of the new map types are accessible via a Random Map selection. None of the Real World maps are accessible in this manner.

Q) what takes the longest in making a game/expansion: Thinking about the new units/ideas / implementing them / Play testing / Balancing the X-Pack
A) It’s a toss-up between playtesting & programming/fixing bugs.

Q) You've said that you have been playing AoK:TC for the last two months now. When I hear this I'm surprised the release date is still so far away.
A) Just because we are able to play it here doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near fit for release. Honest.

Well, for one thing, all these forum posts mean it's less hard for me to find news to post
What? No Papal State?
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 10th, 2000 @ 7:35 p.m.
The Sandyman is at it again. This time, he's commenting on the likelihood of any equivalent of the Papal States appearing in AOK:TC:

Q) can we expect a papal civ?
A) I think it’s safe to say that MS’s lawyers would all have heart attacks and die if they saw we’d proposed a papal civ. I mean, these are the guys who blanched at giving Janissaries tall hats.

That, and more speculation about what civs will appear in the x-pack, can be found in this thread.
Not him again...
Posted by Reckless Rodent on March 10th, 2000 @ 9:32 a.m.
Hi everyone. HGS's emergency newsie here, just popping in to say that I'm going to be doing news here for the next week while Angel Washizu is on a well-deserved spring break, living it up in California.

So, if you have news that you'd like posting within the next week, the don't bother sending it to him - he won't get it. Instead, give me a buzz about it.
AOK: TC News
Posted by Washizu on March 10th, 2000 @ 4:23 a.m.
Here are the latest tidbits recieved from the Sandyman himself:
  • At least one new civ will have good monks.
  • He only has one wife
  • No new siege weapons, although maybe some upgrades
Q) Do any of the upcoming 5 civs have nice monks
A) And how.

Q) Are there going to be other siege weapons in the siege workshop?
A) No. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other improvements to siege beyond garrisoned rams. There are.

Q) what is the most annoying question you get asked?
A) AoK locks up on me. How do I fix it.

Q) The women around me prefer me bearded. They say they see less of me that way. Same story?
A) Jeez I hope not. Never thought of that. Could certainly explain it.

Q) How do I get rid of fire ants?
A) In your yard, you can’t. They’re there to stay. In your house, you can get these little poisoned stakes and plant them at 1-2 foot intervals all around your foundation. In your refrigerator, junk it and buy a new one. Take off the old door first, so a little kid doesn’t get trapped in it.

Q) why do you ignore my posts ? dont you like me ?
A) Didn’t know I was. I usually don’t look at the names of the people whose questions I’m answering since I do so many at once.

Q) How much influence does Microsoft excert of ES when it comes to developing AOK? Do they give you free creative license, insist on major changes or work as part of your extended team.
A) We have full power on our games. They sometimes ask for changes (never major ones), and if the changes don’t bother us too much, we make them. For instance, they asked us to make the janissaries hats shorter and to take out the dolphins. While many of us here at ES thought those requests inane, we couldn’t see how they’d hurt gameplay and went ahead and did them. Their playtest team definitely works in support of ours.

Q) Since farms will be qued at the mill, does this make farming around TCs ineffective?
A) Sure, just the same way that you don’t dare place barracks or archery ranges too far from the blacksmith To tell the truth, I still put MY farms around my town center, and so does everyone else. There’s always a mill somewhere to use to queue up the farms, and you don’t have to do it that often.

Q) Will the Huns have the Elite Pikemen upgrade, or will only the Flems get the EPikes?
A) Why would we add an Elite Pikeman upgrade? And when did we say we were going to have either Huns OR Flemish in the X-Pack? Hey! This is an evil trick to get me to admit something! Stop it!

Q) Macemen. Light soldiers with those cool little spiked balls. They just have to be in AOK:TC
A) Oh no they don’t. Besides, there have got to be tons cooler things to add than guys wielding clubs.

Q) Do you wonder how we could be so obbessed with a game and think we should all get a life?
A) Of course not. After AoK got released, my life revolved around Monster Rancher 2 for several weeks. I’m one of you guys.

Q) Will garrisoned rams be able to load up allied units
A) Dunno. Never tried it. I see no reason why not. I bet it works just as with transports.

Q) Will someone with AOK & AOK:TC be able to play multi-player game with someone with AOK & patch ?
A) If you are using The Conquerors, you will not be able to play vs. anyone who does not also have The Conquerors installed on their hard drive. However, The Conquerors leaves your old AoK startup available so you can choose to play the “old way” if you like with your less up-to-date buddies.

Basically, it will work just like RoR did, if you remember that.

Read the whole thread here, you might learn a bit more than you'd ever thought you would about Sandy's beard.
The Wololo Brothers!
Posted by Washizu on March 10th, 2000 @ 1:39 a.m.
Many people enjoyed the music of the amazing Wololo Brothers and they now have their own website over at aoe2.de, one of the best German AOK sites. They have letters posted from fans including Sandy Petersen, Chris Rippy, and even me, Angel Washizu, along with their fantastic ancient-techno music
AOE for the Dreamcast?
Posted by Washizu on March 9th, 2000 @ 9:12 p.m.
Thanks to strike_steel for pointing out an interesting pre-order link found on the infamous cdmag article featuring the The Sheriff's picture. If you look all the way down at the bottom, you can pre-order Age of Empires for $46.99 on the Dreamcast and it gives March of 2000 as a release date!
Influential Agers Continued
Posted by Washizu on March 9th, 2000 @ 8:42 p.m.
For you webmasters just starting out AOK sites, take some notes from The_Cerebrum over at the Lost Isle of AOE | AOK. He has a ton of great interviews with "influential agers", and has been promoting them well!
The Lost Isle of AoE | AoK has just completed an interview with Maiming_Matty (probably the best player in Age) and Joseph Knight, the maker of SLP studio, the program that let's users view AoK DRS files. These interview are part of an ongoing feature at my site, called Influential Agers."

I say take notes, because many people ask me how to get started on their site or what they should do to get more people to visit, and 9 times out of 10, the site just has information found on just about every AOK site out there. Cerebrum has been working hard on getting a interviews with interesting people, and their popularity proves my point.
The Huns in AOK:TC?
Posted by Washizu on March 9th, 2000 @ 2:50 a.m.
The new Columbo of the AOK community has to be KiNG_MiNoS. Reading this article on cdmag, he noticed something written on the wall behind the infamous MS playtester, Kevin "The_Sheriff" Holme. Written fairly clearly on the dry erase board it says, "Give Huns". What exactly Kevin wanted to give the Huns is unclear, but now we unofficialy know that the Huns are in AOK:TC!

I blew up the area a bit so you can get a better glimpse of the text. Great job KiNG_MiNoS! Sandy commented on the revelation by saying, "Dang. Incidentally, The Sheriff works for MS, not ES."

Who are the Huns? Wakasaki_Rocky from the forum had this to say about them:
Nomadic people who originated in north-central Asia. Although in customs they resemble the MONGOLS and MAGYARS, they appear not to have been related ethnically to other groups. Short and somewhat Mongolic in appearance, the Huns were organized into ravaging military hordes riding small, rapid horses. In the 3d cent. B.C. they invaded China, where part of the GREAT WALL was built to exclude them. They appeared in the Volga valley c.372; the Goths were pushed west, where they destroyed the Roman Empire. Most of European Russia, Poland, and Germany paid tribute to ATTILA, the greatest Hun king. Defeated (451) in Gaul, the Huns ravaged Italy until Attila's death (453), after which little is known of them.
Want to comment on this bit of news? Head to our forum.
AOK Gamasutra Article
Posted by Washizu on March 8th, 2000 @ 5:00 p.m.
Ok, I know every once in a while I say, "Hey this is a must read article" and maybe you click on it and read the first page, or maybe you just go back to the Zone, but this really is a must read article if you're interested in how ES, and more specifically ES programmer Matt Pritchard, thinks the development of AOK went. To anyone like me who followed this great game intensely from its first annoucement to the final release, you'll love it. Matt comments on everything from pushing the release date back a year, to poor game patching, to warezed versions of AOK, to setting their own goals and trying to meet them.
The success of AoE is something that a lot of people in this business have not experienced. It exceeded our wildest dreams and allowed our company to take charge of our destiny. I remember when we got our first AoE royalty check — I had never held a multi-million dollar check before. That was great. We all got caught up in how good we were doing. Over time an attitude of invincibility set in. With a success like AoE, it’s easy to forget what it was like to wonder if we were going to be in business the next year.

Outstanding article Matt. It's extremely honest.
AOK Postmortem

Thanks to Angel Reckless Rodent for sending it to me this morning.
AOK:TC Scenario Editor
Posted by Washizu on March 8th, 2000 @ 4:33 p.m.
Until now, not much had been said about any possible changes to the scenario editor in Age of Kings: The Conqerors. AOK scenario designer Greg "Deathshrimp" Street posted the expected allowance of custom scenarios to have population limits greater than 75 (thank you! I get the most e-mails about this one ), but also mentioned something very suprising about custom units and heroes:
BTW I doubt very much that there will be such a feature because it is still using the same engine and ES have already said they can't do this currently.

That is true. (Or, rather, our programmers could probably do anything given enough time, but this kind of feature would take a LOT of time.) I promise that the next full game will not have these limitations.

In the meantime, what if we gave you a few triggers to change unit attributes such as name, hitpoints and damage? I know it is not the same as adding all new units, but you could do RPG-style scenarios or turn hero units into outrageous engines of destructions should you so choose.

Sounds great! I can hear scenario designers feverishly working on scenarios where their heroes must complete some type of quest to recieve their super-power upgrades
AOK: TC Updates
Posted by Washizu on March 8th, 2000 @ 9:09 a.m.
Sandy Petersen of Ensemble Studios has just let us know the following:

1. Farm queues are used from the mill.
2. You will be able to sell more than just one increment of food/wood/gold in the expansion pack's market, which will be especially helpful in late game situations.

To see all of what Sandy had to say, head over here.

*hoping I won't spell anything wrong in my less than satisfactory condition*
Today's Roundup
Posted by Washizu on March 7th, 2000 @ 8:25 p.m.
No earth shattering news today on AOK:TC, but Sandy did post a few more clarifications. Here are some of the more notable ones:
A) Sandy do you think make the ram more attack strength with more garrisoned units is a good idea? I can see the Ram go faster, but more garrisoned units make it more powerful will shift the balance of the game a bit.. That means you have to build millitary buildings to defend, you can't just go with market, blacksmith, Towncenters, Seige Workshop build up anymore.. Your ungarrisoned Ram will get crushed by Castle attackers with Garrisoned Rams.. In this way, the advantage goes to the attacker. You can't just concentrate on building towncenters and villagers boom to a 100+ villager economy.
A) I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Q) The Aztecs had no contact with any of the existing 13 civs.
A) As opposed to the famous Jap/Goth wars, for instance. Or Franco-Persian.

Q) El Cid in expansion pack?
A) IF we had the Spanish in the X-Pack, then El Cid would be a highly logical choice for a campaign. That said, Babur the Tiger would be a great choice for a Moghul campaign; Vlad the Impaler for a Romanian campaign; and Alexander Nevsky for a Slavic campaign.

Q) is it only villagers who are able to garrison in rams?
A) Villagers cannot garrison in rams for two reasons; 1 – to keep forward-building from getting any easier and 2 – to simplify the interface. When you click a villager on a ram, it’s always to repair it, you see.

Q) I am glad to hear that the Xpac is incorporating some TZAR like features
A) No one here has played, or even closely looked at, Tzar, so far as I know.

Q) They ungarrison after you attack the ram with Hand to Hand combat units. Suicide a Scout Cav and they are easy pickings.
A) Not so. They ungarrison when you tell them to. Or if the ram is destroyed in combat they!
!
automatically bail out. A scout cav would not make them automatically hop out. However, you could order them to hop out, kill the scout, then hop back in.

Q) If units inside Rams are protected from all damage until ejection, there is a possibility that Rams will be used simply to take troops through enemy lines.
A) This is precisely what it’s being used for and we love it for this function. They only carry a handful of troops, and cost a bundle, so they’re really not that effective as troop transports.

Q) Will there be a pallisade gate added?
A) No.

Q) How much has the ES team grown since the early days in AoE?
A) When I came here, there were about 20 guys. Now there are about 50. We fill an entire floor of the building and half of the floor below.

Q) Does ES have stock I could buy?
A) ES does not have publicly traded stock, and may never. It is our opinion that small game companies do terrible in the stock market because the market doesn’t understand the game industry. A typical small game company has No Income for a year and a half, then a big boom. Stockbrokers can’t handle this. They want a steady increase, not a boom-or-bust, so the company’s stock goes down the toilet.


You don't have to tell me that! I have lost over 50% over a year's time on stock I purchased in a certain game company. Luckily I made it back from other investments To read all of Sandy's post, head over here.
Expansion Info Update
Posted by Washizu on March 7th, 2000 @ 2:33 a.m.
If you're wondering whether you've missed any tidbits of expansion pack information, have no fear! Age of Kings Heaven has all the latest facts posted in our Known Facts about Age of Kings: The Conquerers expansion pack.

The newest revelations:
1. "Smart Villagers"
2. Garrisoning inside Rams
3. Over 12 New Map Types
4. and more!
1..2...3... PUSH THAT RAM!
Posted by Washizu on March 6th, 2000 @ 11:21 p.m.
Wouldn't it be cool to load your guys underneath battering rams and have them head towards towers protected from archer fire? Ensemble Studios must think so, too, because they're adding it in AOK:TC according to Gamespot UK. I don't know about you guys, but that's a huge surprise to me!
You can now start putting men inside your battering rams and load them up for battle and they'll protect the men as they approach a castle or tower. The battering ram will speed up with more men inside pushing it and they'll come and start fighting if something attacks it. - AOK Designer Bruce Shelley

Big thanks to Zanzard for alerting me to the fact that Thunder of the AOK Battlefield had found this great piece of information!

12 New Map Types!
Posted by Washizu on March 6th, 2000 @ 11:13 p.m.
Sandy Petersen fills us in on the number of random map types! There will be twelve including the new geographical maps. Read more about it and his thoughts on powering up Cavalry Archers in his latest post.
More AOK:TC Comments
Posted by Washizu on March 6th, 2000 @ 6:14 p.m.
One more quick heads up from the Sandyman on the AOK expansion pack.
It is NOT just a matter of the X-Pack being "big on offense". It has lots of new defensive techniques too -- they just don't involve the town center. You'll have to rely on other things for your defenses; counterunits, walls, castles, towers, etc., not necessarily in that order.

Should be interesting
Farm Queues Added
Posted by Washizu on March 6th, 2000 @ 6:11 p.m.
This just in! Sandy Petersen has just confirmed that farm queues are in Age of Kings: The Conquerers! Also, an even more amazing development is the introduction of "smart villagers". Basically what this means is, you build a lumber camp and after the villagers are done, they start chopping wood automatically! When two villagers are building a wall, they start on opposite ends and work to the middle!!! This is really going to change gameplay. Sandy assures that this does not make games easier for newbies in the sense that they will be able to beat experts. Experts will always have the upper hand, because now they can spend their "expertise" on other things.
Some of this information has already been released, but this is a convenient place to see it gathered together.

1. The X-Pack contains five new civilizations.

2. At least some of the civilizations are located in a new region, never before explored in an Age product.

3. There are four new campaigns.

4. We have numerous new maps and game types.

4-a. One new map type includes the Real World maps, which are based on actual regions, such as Japan or Byzantium or Great Britain. These maps have their resources randomized (so that you won't know where the gold or woods are), but the land & water & elevation layouts are fixed. There are a number of Real World maps.

4-b. Another new map type is the Oasis, which is kind of like a Mediterranean or Baltic, except with trees in the middle instead of water. While there are straggler trees as well, almost all the wood supply is in the nigh-inexhaustible central grove. This is a good map for raiding, and is not as easy to wal!
!
l off as a "true" Mediterranean.

4-c. The "capture-the-flag" game type is actually King of the Hill.

4-d. Yet another new map type is Mongolia, which is an all-land map with tons of cliffs & elevations. It is a lot like Arabia, except you can wall off.

5. Each Civ in the game, even the original ones, will have a unique research item. At least one civ gets two unique research items. And of course all the new civs get at least one new unique unit.

6. There are numerous new features. More than were in RoR. In fact, we've done more of _everything_ than we did in RoR. More civs, more map types, more game types (well, RoR had no new game types, so that wasn't hard), more units, etc.

6-a. One good example of a new game feature, which will probably be controversial among some people, are farm queues, which makes rebuilding your farms much easier. We have playtested this a LOT, with some very skilled players, and it's pretty obvious that it does not save the newbie from !
!
the skilled player. It just lets the skilled player spend more time on other options, primarily military, and if anything increases his advantage. Incidentally, the queues are done in an intelligent manner which does not force you to "search" through your farms to find out which ones are queued up. Farm queues turn out to make basically no difference in Dark & Feudal, not much in Castle, but are a great benefit in Imperial, when we want to spend our time fighting, not managing farms.

6-b. Another example of a new game feature are the new Smart Villagers. What does this mean? Well, first off it means that after your villagers construct a new drop site, they then automatically deposit any resources they were carrying and go to work on the appropriate new resource (example: if they construct a lumber camp, they'll go for the nearest wood; if they construct a mining camp, they'll go for gold or stone, whichever is nearest). Second, it means that if you target a bunch of untaske!
!
d villagers on a group of idle farms, they'll space themselves out among the farms. Third, it means that when you target two villagers to construct a wall segment, one goes to each end of the wall and they work inward towards the middle (if you target more than 2 villagers, they space themselves out along the wall). We had some debate about the value of this and how much it would hamper expert-player micromanagement, but after playing with the Smart Villagers, no one was able to go back to the old system. As with farm queues, it turns out that experts still kick butt on newbies. And there are still plenty of little optimizations that you can do with your villagers. Don't worry on that account.

Pretty amazing eh? You can also check out the thread here.
New Layout at AOKH
Posted by Washizu on March 5th, 2000 @ 10:38 p.m.
I hope you guys like the few changes we've put in recently. You can now hide both the sitemap and the age2oon for quicker loading times. We also have a listing of all the current contests going on. If you are holding an AOK related contest, make sure you let me know.

Very soon, we'll be adding a few more features to AOK Heaven, so stay tuned! Thanks to Angel Zen for many of the new changes.

You've probably noticed that the downloads section is getting plenty of updates lately. It's due to the fine work of Cherub ejustin and Cherub InSaNiTy in the Blacksmith. Keep up the good work guys!

Lastly, the Knights of the Round Table is once again open for posting after a brief closing. Make sure you read the new forum rules posted by Angel Zen.
Dance it up to Age of Empires!
Posted by Washizu on March 4th, 2000 @ 8:55 p.m.
Throwing a party any time soon? Playing this track submitted by Ardeaem is sure to impress the ladies (or gentlemen) at your next get together.
AOK Punk Team Maps the DRS
Posted by Washizu on March 4th, 2000 @ 7:43 p.m.
Got a message from Park305 today pointing me to the AOK Punk website. They've successfully mapped the graphics.drs file after so many people requested it. Head on over to their Map Design section and get it! "What is this exactly?" you might ask. Basically, it tells you what files correspond to the game's graphics once the .drs is unzipped. For example:

GRA00009 Dead archer decomposing
GRA00022 Asian Archery Dark, Feudal Age
GRA00023 Turks Archery Range Dark, Feudal Age
GRA00024 European Archery Range Dark, Feudal Age
GRA00033 Goths Arhcery Range Castle Age & up

I'm sure many upcoming modpack designers will love this resource. Here is a challenge to modpack designers:

Many people were a little disappointed to see the same cliffs from AOE/ROR appear in AOK. The graphics for cliffs are at GRA00226, so lets see if someone can create a realistic and interesting cliff graphic for AOK!
Gamecenter Expansion Info
Posted by Washizu on March 4th, 2000 @ 5:24 p.m.
Gamecenter posted their Gamestock report on the AOK Expansion Pack. Here's some of the more interesting revelations:
Ensemble will also add some new map types with this expansion. "As an example, we're adding an Oasis map," Shelley said. "In this kind of map, all the trees will be in the center and players will contest for these resources." New multiplayer game types will include a capture-the-flag variant that places a neutral wonder in the middle of the map. The player who successfully controls the wonder for a set period of time wins the game.

Each of the 18 civilizations will get a unique technology as well. "The Franks, for example, might get an ax that they can research and throw farther, and do more damage with it," Shelley said.

In addition to these changes, the game's interface will be tweaked a bit. Many gamers will be happy to learn that farm queues are being added. One of the few complaints players had about Age of Kings was having to manually reassign workers to rebuild an exhausted farm. In the expansion, players will be allowed to purchase new farms in advance of their being used, and when a farm is exhausted, a new one is taken from the farm queue. In other words, as long as the player spends enough money, he will never have idle farmers again. "We try to listen to the players," said Shelley. "They let us know when we may have made a mistake, and we try to fix it."

Will we ever see a fantasy or sci-fi variant of the Age of Empires series? "We've certainly looked at those possibilities," said Shelley. "But in a series of recent focus groups we conducted with people who have played Age of Kings, fantasy and science fiction were at the bottom of the list of what the people in the focus group were interested in."

That wonder controlling game sounds like a lot of fun! Read the whole article here.
Aztec Argument
Posted by Washizu on March 4th, 2000 @ 5:21 p.m.
Recently, some forumers have been discussing the possibility of an Aztec civilization in the upcoming AOK expansion, The Conquerers. Sandy Petersen made an interesting post in defense of these native Americans:
Field_General, suffice it to say you don't know what you are talking about when you mention the Aztecs.

They were NOT pushovers, they were NOT doormats, and the outcome of the Spanish Conquest was NOT a foregone conclusion. The Spanish knew this, and knew they'd gotten off lucky. Cortez was a very lucky and very smart man. I've said it before but I'll repeat some of my stuff here for those of you who'd rather believe stereotypes than bother to go out and actually read the truth about some of these ancient groups.

The Aztecs were a highly-organized, militaristic urban culture. Example: Tenochtitlan was larger than _any_ Spanish city of the time. The Spanish were astounded by the magnitude and power of the Aztecs.

All my examples are from Spanish sources -- they ought to know.

1) Aztec melee weapons - the Spanish reported that an Aztec club-sword could "cut off the head of a horse in one blow". Try that with any steel sword. You will fail. (The Aztec weapons could do this because their edge was several orders of magnitude sharper than it is physically possible to polish steel.)

2) Aztec missile weapons - the Spanish reported that Aztec obsidian and flint arrowheads could penetrate chain mail better than the bodkin-pointed Spanish crossbows. In addition, an Aztec slingers could shatter a sword blade at ten paces. No Spanish weapon could do that.

3) Aztec armor - the Aztecs wore quilted cotton armor and carried excellent shields. The Spanish originally wore breastplates & chainmail, but shortly after arriving in Mexico, they stopped using their armor (except for helmets) and adopted the Aztec armor. I think this is a pretty good measure of just how well-protected the Aztecs were, since the Spanish preferred it to their own ...

Yes, the Spanish defeated them rapidly, but this was the result of an astonishing concatenation of events that has never happened before (or after) in history. That's why the conquest of Mexico was so famous -- not because the Aztecs were so weak, but because they were so strong. (And the few hundred Spanish who conquered the Aztecs had over 60,000 Tlaxlocan Indian allies to help them.)

RTS3 Screenshot
Posted by Washizu on March 3rd, 2000 @ 11:50 p.m.
Major credit goes to borgboy over at the AgerHQ for getting a screenshot of the upcoming Ensemble Studios 3D engine. Many of you probably already have it in your possesion and don't even know it. I do, and if you have the offical strategy guide with Bruce Shelley on the cover, turn to page 362.

If you don't have the guide, or are too lazy to look it up, you should definitely check out borgy's RTS3 guide. It's got a lot of great info.
Expanding Expansion Info
Posted by Washizu on March 3rd, 2000 @ 11:35 p.m.
News of the Age of Kings expansion: The Conquerers, ironically abbreviated to AOK:TC by most fans, has energized the forums and created quite an exciting atmosphere here at Heaven.

Recently, the Pharaoh Heaven posted news of a Pharoah expansion, centering on none other than Cleopatra herself.

Sandy Petersen keeps sending so much info to the fans via our forums, it's difficult to keep up! Here is his latest set of Q/A, which can be found here.
Q) Will the existing civs get a special "Unique Tech"?
A) Yes. Read the Gamespot article. Every civ gets a unique research item, from Briton to Viking. In many cases, the unique researches address specific weaknesses in particular civs.

Q) Will there be new techs in general that are available to several/all civs?
A) Remember Rise of Rome?

Q) Have the teutons been changed at all, or was it unnessesary to change them because town centers in general were changed?
A) Why would it matter?

Q) will the x-pack require any new computer requirements?
A) I sure hope not.

Q) How many new art sets will be added to the x-pack Sandy?
A) Well, if you mean architecture styles, the answer is “Either zero or one.”

Q) Apparently there is a new random map type called Oasis where most of the Wood is located in the central area.
A) Yep. It’s great, too. It’s not like Gold Rush, though – it’s more like an inverse Mediterranean in which you can’t use the central zone as a highway. It is a wonderful map if you like raiding.

Q) Has it even been considered to add a Slovak civilization?
A) Never. Slavs have been considered, but not Slovaks as such.

Q) I think a greater variation in distance and supply would help take the game away from formula starts.
A) While this is no doubt true, it would also lead to more “bad starts” in which one player or another got screwed by his initial position. We have addressed this, however, as many of the new map types have [b]extremely[b] different configurations respect to fundamental starting resources.

Q) Is the patch part of the X-pack or will a patch be made available to fix AoK without the need of buying the X-pack?
A) I’m not sure how I can say it any more clearly than I have already done in this very thread. But I will try one more time. Yes, the patch is part of the X-pack. Yes, the patch will be also available to fix certain AoK bugs without needing to buy the X-Pack. The patch will not fix every little imbalance that people have noticed in AoK, as many of these have been fixed by new technologies, units, etc., particularly the new unique researches. However, the more notorious problems and outright bugs will be addressed.

Q) Does the X-pack take the place of "Age of Exploration"?
A) Does anything in the Gamespot imply that it might? I think not.

Q) I wonder if my devil advocates approach, my whinging, my criticism, my insults, my jumping up and down, my screaming about the TC and forever farms, my constant complaints about the bugs inthe editor, and my relentless hope that the players of this game would not smooth over the bad and rough bits in the game instead of calling out the mind numbing 'catch cries' "this game rules/rulz/rawkz is da best...add all the non thinking dribble posts quotes." Helped stimulate the minds in this forum and made people get in the face of those who count to make the X Pac the best it can be.
A) Well, frankly, Bingfa, while I find you often intellectually stimulating, I am a firm believer that debates can be carried on just as firmly and far more usefully while yet adhering to standards of polite conversation.


New Map Types
Posted by Washizu on March 3rd, 2000 @ 7:00 p.m.
Sandy once again comes through with new revelations. The Rise of Rome expansion featured less than 5 new map types, but according to the Sandyman, AOK: TC will feature no less than a half-dozen new venues for world conquest (that's 6 or more for anyone who wasn't sure what a dozen was).
I don't think it's giving too much away to state that there are, at this time, more than a half-dozen new map types in the X-Pack, not counting the new real world maps.

The real world maps are, in and of themselves, quite different from the normal AoK gaming experience, because you know what the map looks like when you're playing it. You won't know exactly where the resources are, of course, but the overall layout, location of rivers, oceans, islands, etc., is known.



I'm predicting that a lot of the new map types will center on new types of terrain, and not just combinations of the current terrain.
New Architecture?
Posted by Washizu on March 3rd, 2000 @ 4:42 a.m.
The Sandyman comments on whether there will be any new building sets in AOK:TC.
I do not recall ever saying that we would not create a new architecture style for the X-Pack. I did say once or twice that an Indian civ "would require a new art set" and that we would only create a new art set if we got a lot of bang for our buck, which would imply more than one Indian civ (Moghuls? Pathans? Guptas? Plenty exist). The downside is that the various Indian cultures are rather obscure to the majority of our fans, and we'd generally prefer better-known ones. Not invariably, but usually.

I also said that you could expect the X-Pack to be "comparable" to the Rise of Rome pack. THAT one had a new architecture style, so if we didn't do that this time around, we'd have to do something else equally impressive.

Well, if there isn't a new building set (which there might be), the artists wouldn't have all that much to do. Some alternative jobs for the great 2D and 3D artists at ES:

1. New Terrain
2. New Units
3. New Unit Animations (maybe some more idle or death animations ;))
4. New Animals

Note: This is all PURE speculation of the possibilities that might occur in the expansion.
Minimizing Micromanagement
Posted by Washizu on March 3rd, 2000 @ 4:40 a.m.
Will things like auto-rebuilding farms make games miserable for newbies? The Sandyman gives a piece of his mind to detractors of any new automated AOK actions.
My belief is that, whatever features we put into the X-Pack (Out4Blood has already made reference to it) to require less micromanagement on the part of the players will

1) make the game easier to control for newbies. This will be good for them.

2) let skilled players spend more time on other, more interesting things. This will be good for THEM.

Example: if there were farm queues of some sort, then everyone would spend less time managing their farms. But skilled players would still be more skilled, they'd just be using that skill to micromanage archers or monks or something.

Before we put production queues into RoR, there was a lot of debate (at least in-house) about how this would let newbies get too much of an advantage and besides what would you do in the Dark Age if you didn't have to constantly go back to your town center and rebuild? But once it went in, everyone became a convert and loves it. You still have stuff to do in Dark Age in RoR -- in fact more, because you can follow your scout around. I hope, Enkrates, that what we do in the X-Pack you will love as much as Out4Blood does.

One of my favorite things about AOK is the gathering points. I can't imagine playing an Age game without em. The great thing about AOK's economy is that you can collect resources in many interesting ways, but if you're using the same one over and over again, what is the fun in rebuilding a farm. Imagine if you had to click on a fishing ship to move to the next fish infested tile, or move a gold miner to the next gold tile, even if they were right next to each other.
New QA Lead at Ensemble Studios
Posted by Washizu on March 2nd, 2000 @ 8:44 p.m.
This was about the only thing I'd once again interrupt my cram session for two exams today. Ensemble Studios has been without a Quality Assurance lead since Chris Cambell left ES a few months ago. Now that the expansion pack will need extensive testing, they had to get just the man for the job... and boy did they ever. Their new QA Lead is none other than Lord_Captian_Kidd, winner of the quick castle contest last fall. Head on over to mrfixitonline.com and wish him well!
Sandyman Breaks the Silence
Posted by Washizu on March 2nd, 2000 @ 4:50 p.m.
Following the greatest day-after-leap-day in Age history, questions quickly arise to the new features promised in an Age of Kings Expansion. ES_Sandyman breaks his vow of silence on a few items that were mentioned by Amer Ajami of Gamespot. Here is what he had to say:
Gamestock: "The Conquerors will add five brand-new civilizations in addition to Age of King's existing races, each of which will now possess a unique technology or skill."
ES_Sandyman: the "unique technology or skill" is a researchable item, of course. So every civ has a special new research item that only it gets. These are, unsurprisingly, designed to work well with that civ's other bonuses & units.

Gamestock: "Other additions in the expansion pack include four new hero-oriented campaigns"
ES_Sandyman: But one of the campaigns is "The Conquerors", and consists of unrelated, but famous, historical battles & campaigns (such as Hastings & Manzikert). If I told you the names of the other campaigns, you would also then know the names of many new civs. So I can't. Yet.

Gamestock: "and an expanded multiplayer component that includes capture-the-flag matches "
ES_Sandyman: It's not capture the flag in the traditional sense. This was perhaps an unfortunate wording on Gamestock's part. But there are some pretty interesting new game types in the X-Pack.

Gamestock: "and maps with geographical outlines of Japan, England, France, and other countries."
Es_Sandyman: the maps chosen for inclusion were generally selected because they made an interesting playfield, NOT because lots of forum members happened to live there. So I beg our more nationalistic Forum members not to be deeply offended upon discovering that their homeland was left off.

He also went on to say in another thread that the "big scoop" will be at E3, and that one of the forumers had correctly identified one of the new civs. He didn't say who was right, but it must be one of these:

1. Spain
2. The Moors
3. Korea
4. The Zulus
5. India
6. Poland
7. Russia
8. Hungary
9. Bulgaria
10. The Aztecs
11. The Bedouins
12. Holland
13. The Sheep of Death (doubful)

That really narrows it down now, doesn't it? ;) As always, send me new Expansion info ASA friggin P!

Oh, and Sandy... care to make a wager on the release date of the expansion ;) hahahaha...

Scenario designer Greg Street popped in to say "We will take the opportunity to fix some of the editor bugs as well as add a few new toys. I'll tell you all about it as soon as they let me!"
AOK Expansion News!!!!!!!!!
Posted by Washizu on March 2nd, 2000 @ 5:16 a.m.
Thanks to our own Cherubs Insanity and THS for pointing it out. Gamespot has released the name of the expansion pack for Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings!

Age of Kings: The Conquerers:


According to Gamespot, it will have the following features:
1. "Five new civilizations each of which will now possess a unique technology or skill."
2. "Four new hero-oriented campaigns and an expanded multiplayer component that includes capture-the-flag matches and maps with geographical outlines of Japan, England, France, and other countries."

This is incredible news! If you see any additional information, let me know ASA friggin P!
AOE2.com Contest
Posted by Washizu on March 2nd, 2000 @ 4:13 a.m.
Got this from Merlin at AOE2.com
AoE2.com is hosting a new contest to win Sybex Scenario Design Toolkits! All you have to do is submit your AoE2:The Age of Kings Theme Campaigns to Merlin@AoE2.com and we will announce the winners on March 14th.

To qualify there must be a least 2 scenarios strung together, to form a story or theme of some kind. Entries will be judged on the detail of their stories or themes, how well that is tied into the game, and the quality of the game play itself. Bigger is not necessarily better, but full use of the custom messages, maps and triggers can show which are the best of the best custom AoE2 campaigns.

Any existing Age of Kings custom scenarios can be submitted, no matter where else they might be listed or if it has won contests before. The only qualifying rule is "no single scenario entries", and all the best Theme Campaigns will be supplied for download at GameTropics.com after the contest closes.

There will be 5 'Best Of the Best' finalists, and all five winners will get a copy of the AoE2 Scenario Design Toolkit. If you have a collection of AoE2 Campaigns already, zip up the whole batch and send it in! Good luck to everyone, and thanx again to www.Sybex.com for donating prizes.
Game Stock Scoop!!!!
Posted by Washizu on March 2nd, 2000 @ 3:55 a.m.
I recieved a bit of very interesting info from a reliable source that at this year's GameStock, it was announced that Microsoft will be publishing a game designed by Alex Garden of Homeworld fame. He's been called "the next Sid Meier" by Computer Gaming World Magazine and has made a significant impact on the gaming industry. I'm excited already!
Shimo Style AOK
Posted by Washizu on March 2nd, 2000 @ 2:21 a.m.
Hey, last night I had my first experience in the much acclaimed Shimo-Style Age of Kings. I have to say, it was a lot of fun, and I nearly achieved victory at the end, but I was overcome by a large group of Light Cavalry and Cannon Galleys, who promptly slaughtered my king. Even though the chat won't be inlcuded, I think the recorded game should be interesting to watch, because I know on at least a few occasions, players were massing huge armies near the borders of their land and demanding tribute for safety. Let's hope Shimo uploads this one to the recorded game section, since he was one of the last left in the game. Some of the more notable things lost in the chat was one player's king commiting suicide after losing his kingdom.
Gamestock 2000!
Posted by Washizu on March 1st, 2000 @ 6:17 a.m.
This year's Gamestock might not be as Age related as last year's, but it looks promising. Dungeon Siege looks very interesting.

MICROSOFT PROVIDES FANS WITH "VIRTUAL PASS" TO GAMESTOCK 2000

Microsoft announced today that fans of their upcoming games will be able to attend Gamestock events online again this year. Gamestock, a private event held every year to introduce press from around the world to the company's new lineup of games, will be opened up to the public via the Internet. Gamestock 2000 takes place on February 29 and March 1, and fans are invited to an inside look at the big show with several unique online events.

Included in the 2000 lineup are: MechWarrior 4, Crimson Skies, Loose Cannon, Motocross Madness 2, Dungeon Siege and nearly a dozen other titles. Online Gamestock events open to the public include:

* Gamestock Cup Sweepstakes

Starts today! Fans can test their computer and arcade gaming knowledge with ten trivia questions, and become eligible to win some fantastic prizes in the second annual Gamestock Cup Sweepstakes. In the Sweepstakes, fans can enter to win a Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer Mouse, Microsoft Games, and automatic entry into several upcoming Microsoft Games beta programs -- including Starlancer, Motocross Madness 2, Crimson Skies and more.

* Official Gamestock 2000 Web Site

On March 1, the official Gamestock 2000 Web site will go live. Complete with screenshots, game introductions, and feature lists, this site will give gamers the scoop on all of Microsoft's upcoming game titles.

* Superchat on the Zone

Additionally, on March 1 at 5:00 p.m. PST, the MSN Gaming Zone will host a Superchat. Fans can log on, tune in, and talk shop with Microsoft game developers -- including Chris Taylor of Gas Powered Games (Dungeon Siege), Jordan Weisman of Microsoft games (Crimson Skies), Tony Zurovec of Digital Anvil (Loose Cannon), Dave McCoy of Microsoft games (MechWarrior 4), Robb Rinard of Rainbow Studios (Motocross Madness 2), and Tucker Hatfield of Microsoft games (Flight Simulator and Combat Flight Simulator).

Gamestock 2000 - Peace, Love, and Games once again.