Archived News From August 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!

Age of Kings Patch!
Posted by Washizu on August 31st, 2000 @ 10:34 p.m.
The long awaited patch to Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings is now available over at Ensemble Studios. The main changes in the patch relate to the Town Center, raising its cost to 275 wood and 100 stone, plus allowing for line of sight bonuses instead of attack range bonuses. The file size runs at 2.52Mb and is currently only for the English language version. Here is the full list of changes and information:
The Age of Kings 2.0a patch (English-only for the moment) is now live and available.

http://www.ensemblestudios.com/patches.shtml

A. Version Compatibility
If you are playing a multiplayer game, all players must be using the same version of Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings. For example, you cannot play a multiplayer game between Age of Kings 2.0 and Age of Kings 2.0a.

Recorded games can only be played using the same version of Age of Kings that was used to record the game. For example, you cannot play an Age of Kings 2.0 recorded game using Age of Kings 2.0a.

To play an Age of Kings 2.0 recorded game after installing the Age of Kings 2.0a update, you must temporarily revert to Age of Kings 2.0.

To play an Age of Kings 2.0 recorded game:

1. In the Program Files\Microsoft Games\Age of Empires II folder (or wherever you installed the game), create an Age2 folder.

2. Copy the following files from your Age of Kings 2.0 disc to the new Age2 folder:

00000409.016
00000409.256
CLCD16.DLL
CLCD32.DLL
CLOKSPL.EXE
DPLAYERX.DLL
DRVMGT.DLL
EMPIRES2.EXE (from the Game folder on the disc)
EMPIRES2.ICD (from the Game folder on the disc)

3. Create a shortcut to Program Files\Microsoft Games\Age of Empires II\Age2\Empires2.EXE, with the Start In folder set to Program Files\Microsoft Games\Age of Empires II.

4. Start Age of Kings 2.0 using the new shortcut, then play the Age of Kings 2.0 recorded game.

B. Balance Changes

Town Center Changes - The following changes have been made to the Town Center:

The resource cost to build a Town Center has been increased by 100 stone.
The time to build a Town Center has been increased.
Missile technologies available at the Blacksmith (Fletching, Bodkin Arrow, and Bracer) no longer increase the range of the Town Center.
For the Teutons, the Town Center no longer has increased range.
For the Britons, the 50% decrease in the cost to build a Town Center now applies only to wood,and this reduction in wood cost is not available until Castle Age.

C. Enhancements

Single-Player Performance Improvements - The performance of single-player campaign games has been improved, especially on lower-end computers.

Limited Pauses - The total number of pauses available to each player in a multiplayer game is now limited. The total number of pauses remaining is displayed each time the game is paused.

Display Name of Out of Sync Player - In a multiplayer game with three or more players, if a player goes out of sync, that player's name is displayed in the out of sync message on all computers.

D. Bug Fixes

Stability Improvements - A number of crashes and multiplayer out of sync bugs have been fixed, resulting in improved game stability.

Computer Player Resigning Bug - The computer player will no longer resign after a few minutes of play. (Previously available in the AI Update.)

Fish Trap Bug - You can no longer build a Fish Trap on top of an existing fish resource.

Fishing Ship Bug - You can no longer use a Fishing Ship to construct buildings other than a Fish Trap.

Flare and Waypoint Bug - The game no longer crashes when you set a flare or waypoint location at the very Southern-most point on the map.

Cooperative Farming Bug - When you take over a Farm foundation built by an ally, you can no longer extract more than the standard amount of food from that Farm.

Farming on Forest Bug - You can no longer build a Farm or Wall on top of a partially cut section of forest.

Unit Ignoring Orders Bug - Units no longer ignore orders under some circumstances.

Multiplayer Restore From Zone Bug - The ability to save and restore a disconnected or out of sync multiplayer game on the Zone has been improved.

Foundation Outline Bug - Building foundations now have outlines, so you can now click on them when they are behind trees or other objects.

Trebuchet Firing Bug - Trebuchets no longer miss targets that are on a different elevation.

Single-Player Campaign After Regicide Bug - A single-player game will no longer automatically end immediately after a multiplayer game of Regicide was played.

Computer Player Bugs - The behavior of the computer player in multiplayer games has been improved.

Scenario Editor Bugs - A number of Scenario Editor bugs have been fixed.

E. Uninstalling Age of Kings 2.0a
To uninstall Age of Kings 2.0a and revert to Age of Kings 2.0:


1. From the Start menu, choose Programs -> Microsoft Games -> Age of Empires II -> Uninstall Age of Empires II. When Setup asks if you want to delete all user-created files, it is recommended that you choose No.

2. Install version 2.0 from the Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings 2.0 disc.
Note, that if you have the AOK expansion, The Conquerors, you need not download the patch unless you want to play the unexpanded Age of Kings.

Grab the patch here from Ensemble.

If you have problems getting in there, it is also available at Microsoft.

It looks like it might be a pain to have to copy your data files all around if you want to watch old recorded games, so my plea to the utility authors out there, make this easy! It wouldn't be too hard to automate the process listed above to revert back to v2.0 and a lot of people would probably use a utility that did that.
More AoK: TC Reviews
Posted by Zen on August 30th, 2000 @ 10:31 a.m.
More AoK: TC reviews are popping up all over the net. Here are some more:

Head-2-Head Gaming
First, I am impressed with the villagers. Maybe I am just crazy but I feel that the villagers now actually do work and do not need to be babysat. When I put them to building something, they do it and they do it until it is done. I recall getting really p-oed at the villagers for just standing there like they needed daytimers or something...ok so I am exaggerating, but I have noticed a change in their attitudes as of late.

pc.ign.com
This expansion pack adds new features and removes a lot of the headaches of the original game.
AoK Dragon Recruiting team members
Posted by Zen on August 30th, 2000 @ 10:22 a.m.
I just got a message from Rodrigo of the AoK Dragon design team. They're looking for 4 experienced Modpack Designers, 3 RM Script writers, 2 Uility Experts, 4 AI Experts, 2 voice/sound artists, and 2 graphic designers [Editor: and 4 turtle doves?]. If you think you have the stuff, email rodrigo_hdt@hotmail.com.
Speak German?
Posted by Zen on August 29th, 2000 @ 10:10 p.m.
Then you might want to check out this German review of AoK: TC at gamesweb.com.
AOK Cart Interview with the Drunk Monk
Posted by Washizu on August 29th, 2000 @ 10:04 p.m.
Just got this from The Cartographer on his latest interview:

Hello Heavenly Washizu.

I'm sending you this letter because of some news over at AoK Cartographer (http://cartographer.gameglow.com). I have made an interview with the great man behind Rage of the Drunk Monk, and soon also Rage of the Dutch Fisherman. That's right, Ex-T (aka DeKont). I was just wondering if maybe you could post about over at Heaven.

You can find the whole interview at here.
AOK:TC Reviews
Posted by Washizu on August 29th, 2000 @ 9:36 p.m.
Hey folks, in case you were wondering, thanks to the Verizon strike, I won't be getting a phone installed anytime soon in my new place. I'll try as hard as possible to make sure this page gets updated often.

There are some more Conquerors Reviews available:
  • Strategy Gaming
    Pros: 4 new campaigns, improved farming, lots of new units/technologies/civilizations, improved AI, other miscellaneous improvements.

    Cons: Save game filenames are uninformative.

    Overall: 9

  • Gamepro
    This game is still a piece of cake to control. With the new villager "awareness" there's very little jumping around to keep at work.

  • Gamerankings
    A good measure of an expansion pack is deciding how likely you are to play the base game with out it. In the case of Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion, my answer would be VERY UNLIKLEY! You would have to take this expansion away from me kicking and screaming.

University Updates
Posted by Zen on August 29th, 2000 @ 7:08 a.m.
Cherub Socrates has updated the University with a bunch of articles. Amongst them are walkthoughs, and an interesting article called "Psychological Manipulative Techniques". Have fun messing with your enemies' minds!
New Blacksmith feature
Posted by Zen on August 29th, 2000 @ 7:01 a.m.
Our resident download guru Angel Spineman has coded in a new feature in the Blacksmith to differentiate between files created for use under the original version of AoK, and files created for use under AoK: TC. You can get the full story on the update here.
New Random Maps available on September 1st
Posted by Zen on August 29th, 2000 @ 6:44 a.m.
From ES:
Beginning September 1st, Lead Conquerors Designer Greg Street will made available the first of a series of new Random Map types for Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion.


You can read more about it here.
Official AoK: TC Korean Website up
Posted by Zen on August 29th, 2000 @ 6:39 a.m.
We know there are a few of yous in our forums that speak Korean, or live in Korea... so here's one for ya:

http://www.microsoft.com/Korea/games/conquerors/default.asp
AoK Farewell Party
Posted by THS on August 26th, 2000 @ 0:13 a.m.
Well, there are a lot of people who have TC now and for this forum party on August 26th, 2000, in the evening we will have a farewell party to AoK. Most of the forummers will be playing TC once they get it and it's time to say goodbye. Age of Kings was the perfect game, balanced, historically based, and most of all, fun.

Game Room: Fiefdom
Password: HUNTER

Please password protect your games with the pass HUNTER. Label your games Forum Party. See you on the battlefield!

Just Picked it Up
Posted by Washizu on August 25th, 2000 @ 10:51 p.m.
I preordered The Conquerors from a local Electronics Boutique, and even though reports started coming in of seeing TC on the shelves yesterday, I still had no word on its arrival from EB. I went today to see if they had it, and they didn't. so I asked for my $10 deposit back. Without any hassle, they promptly returned it, which was nice because I didn't have my preorder slip or anything. I walked upstairs toward the Software Etc. and sure enough, their shelves were filled with copies of TC. This was very surprising because EB usually always beats out other retailers, but the battle over shoppers at the Deptford Mall in Deptford, NJ was won by Software Etc.

Once again, the store where I purchased AOK:TC for $29.95 was:

Software Etc. of the Deptford Mall
Deptford, NJ

They were also offering a 20% discount on the official strategy guide if you purchased it along with AOK:TC. I passed on it for now, but will probably get my hands on a copy later. It had a nice pull out poster of a full map screenshot in the back cover. The screen shot is the one you can download from Ensemble.
Sound the Trumpets!!!
Posted by Washizu on August 25th, 2000 @ 5:58 a.m.
Age of Kings: The Conquerors is on store shelves! Here's the official Microsoft press release:
****************************
MEDIA ALERT: AUGUST 24, 2000
****************************

AGE OF EMPIRES II: THE CONQUERORS EXPANSION STORMS ONTO STORE SHELVES

Microsoft today announced that Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion, developed by Ensemble Studios, has started to appear on store shelves. There have been several reports of its availability at locations throughout the United States and full domestic distribution is expected by the end of thi month. Additionally, Ensemble Studios continues "The Conquerors Designe Journal" series in September, with the addition of articles designed to help players expand their gameplay experience.

In September, Ensemble Studios will take a look at how gamers can customize random maps for play against computer or human opponents. The Random Map Scripting article, penned by lead designer Greg Street, will teach players how to define their land size, add terrain, such as lakes and forests, and add in objects such as buildings or additional villagers, to create their own customized battle ground. To support Random Map scripting, Ensemble will also offer a series of new, downloadable Random Maps for use with the Conquerors Expansion. Beginning with the first article on Random Map
Scripting on September 1, the design articles will be available for download at: http://www.ageofkings.net/openjournal2/.

The Conquerors Expansion features five new civilizations: the Huns, Aztecs, Mayans, Koreans, and Spanish, along with four new historically based campaigns and over ten new units. Each civilization has unique attributes, buildings, and technologies, as well as unique combat units based on its historical counterpart. "Smart villagers," who go to work immediately and efficiently after constructing a drop-off building, and farm queues, which allow the gamer to automatically replant exhausted farms, add realism and ease-of-play to the gaming experience. Continuing to build on the Age of Empires franchise, the Conquerors Expansion showcases the expertise of Bruce Shelley, and offers the most feature-rich expansion pack created to date.

Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion has an estimated street price of US$29.95. For more information on the game, visit the official Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/games/conquerors/ or the Ensemble Studios Web site at http://www.ensemblestudios.com/.
Also, the Zone now has lobbies for the Conquerors. Check them out here.
AOE2.com Gets New Look
Posted by Washizu on August 24th, 2000 @ 6:50 a.m.
If you haven't checked it out yet, Ogre has redesigned AOE2.com with a brand new look. It's really nice looking, as with all of Ogre's designs, so make sure you stop over there:

AOE2.com
History Forum Survival Guide
Posted by Washizu on August 24th, 2000 @ 6:43 a.m.
Cherub Dimitrios is trying to get a volunteer to help him write a History Forum survival guide. If you can help him out, and are a frequent poster in our history forum, head here.
Swedish AOK Players?
Posted by Washizu on August 24th, 2000 @ 6:38 a.m.
If there are any agers who hail from Sweden, they might want to check this out:
http://www.xsreality.com are going to run a Swedish qualifer for Battletop's "World Cyber Games Championship" in Korea.

As one of the games is AoK, I'm trying to find out some information on the swedish Age of Kings scene - if there is such a thing, so that we know where to advertise, how many people to expect and so forth. I know there are some good AoK players in sweden, and so we'd like to invite them to this qualifier. We only learnt earlier today that we could organise this event, so details are a little sketchy at the moment. We are hoping to hire a gaming cafe in Stockholm and run the AoK tournament run concurrently wit Fifa and Quake 3 on the 23rd and 24th of September.

Do you know if AoK is big in Sweden? Are we likely to get enough people for a 32 or 16 man tournament - there will be prizes for the qualifier, as well as the opportunity to be flown to Korea for the finals of course. Are ther any AoK sites in sweden that you know of?

When there are more concrete details to the qualifier, I shall let you know.

A press release for the UK Qualifer, which has more information on the
finals as well, can be found here:
http://www.barrysworld.com/news/pressreleases/bigl/default.asp
A little information on XSReality here:
http://www.xsreality.com/?action=aboutus

Cheers,
Andrew West
Daishi
http://www.xsreality.com
If you can help this guy out, give a shout here.
Gamecenter (yes, again)
Posted by Washizu on August 24th, 2000 @ 5:09 a.m.
These will be the last letters I post in response to the infamous Gamecenter article:
Hey Washizu,
Fist off, i'd like to say how good your expansion pack preveiw was. One of the best on the net!

Second, Game Center really does suck. Not only do they diss strategy
games in general, they're making fools out of themselves. But you knew that, what I e-mailed you to say is that Computer Gaming World put Black and White on its cover and has a section devoted to "The New Face Of Strategy" with five games that take radical approaches to the classic strategy genre. Black and White, Freedom Ridge, Sigma, Tropico, and Republic are all ground braking strategy games. While not RTS' in the Warcraft and C&C (and AOK for that matter) sense of the phrase, thats the point. The most exciting one (Black and White) is the cloest thing to an RTS, and its looks absolutley mind blowing! So Game Center really has no idea what they talking about and should try and stick to what they know, crapy console games and AOHell.
Thanks for your time,
Luke (a.k.a.- Coldline)
Great points. One thing about Black and White... I have seen real game play of B&W at E3, and let me tell you, I still couldn't figure out what this game is about. It certainly is interesting, with big monster animals fighting, dancing, etc on an island complete with terrain and weather, but as for what you are supposed to do or accomplish, I'm not quite sure. I guess we'll all find out together.
Strategy games will never die. Each year many people get introduced to strategy games and get obsessed with them, including me. My first strategy game was WarCraft II, when starcraft game out i was obseesed with it. But when i got aoe, i wanted the expansion, and then the sequal, and now that i have all three i want the expansion to aok. I know many kids like me, in fact i have had many kids ask me to copy AOK for them.

How can a few people put down what millions love?

Sinceraly,
En
Their argument was hardly convincing, and when they say the genre is "dead", it really means they just don't like any of the new games. That's what it really amounts to. RTS games are selling well and will be in the future. Just look at Empire Earth, Warcraft 3, RTS 3 (well, we know RTS3 will be good, not much to look at now though hehe), Cossacks, etc. Never heard of Cossacks? Well... you don't know what you're missing.

Play the game that is slowly turning heads in Heaven.
Gamestar vote
Posted by Washizu on August 24th, 2000 @ 4:43 a.m.
I got this yesterday:
Dear Washizu,
the German gaming-magazine GameStar is thinking about starting a German Age of Kings-server. GameStar started a vote about this on its website. Unfortunatly, this vote is placed in the "multiplayer"-section, where the only content is about 3D-shooter (CS, UT, TF).
We won't have any chance to stand against these shooter-freaks without some help.

We all would be glad, if you posted this Url somewhere!
URL: http://www.gamestar.de/multiplayer/turnier.htm

thanks in the name of the German Age of Kings-community,
Coca (Daniel)
The thing I am wondering about this is what they mean by setting up an AOK "server". AOK is a peer to peer game, and only needs games to be matched up with no need for a dedicated server.
Korean Gaming
Posted by Washizu on August 24th, 2000 @ 4:38 a.m.
I've always heard about the emerging Korean game market, but this is the first article I've read about it. Very interesting stuff! Thanks to ES webmaster Mike McCart for pointing it out:
"Everybody plays games here," said Guillaume Patry, a 17-year-old Quebec native who moved to Seoul to play games for money. "In Canada, no one is going to respect you because you play games. Here, the situation is the opposite. You can go to a night club and tell people you play games and they think that's cool."

The number of game developers has tripled to 450 in the last year. such as "StarCraft," which helped spark the growing interest in games, becoming the best-selling title in Korea with more than 1.4 million copies sold.
We will see how well AOK:TC fares with the Korean civ now added to the game. Read the whole article here.
More TC Previews
Posted by Washizu on August 24th, 2000 @ 4:30 a.m.
Once again, there are some Conquerors previews out there to satisfy your thirst for gaming knowledge. Here is today's pair:

  • Gamespot UK
  • Betabytes
Sync Errors in AOK
Posted by Washizu on August 23rd, 2000 @ 9:48 a.m.
ES programmer Matt "The Optimizer" Pritchard made a post over in the Mr Fixit Online forum about Out of Sync errors, and what they have done to prevent them from happening during normal gameplay:
Out of Syncs that occure for no apparent reason should be greatly reduced in AoK:TC and 1.0a patched AOK.

ES Programmers found a condition that has caused out-of-syncs to occure in every game since AoE. It has nothing to do with the actual AoE/RoR/AoK/TC code, but everything to do with having (1) a different CPU (Model or Brand) (2) a different OS version, (3) different drivers or even possibly (4) different programs running in the background.

This would explain why reports of Out-of-Sync games were higher when different brands of CPU's were involved (especially AMD K6's).

The problem was discovered when two Dell systems, one a Pentium II running Win98, the other a Pentium III running Win2K, were asked a simple math problem (a floating point multiply) ... and they couldn't agree on the results (double ut-oh time!).

It turns out that various software components (OS, Drivers, etc) mess with the FPU control registers, tweaking the way the FPU operates, and they don't always default to or restore things the same way a differently configured machine might. (I.e. there is no seriously enforced standard for this very mundane detail)

It turns out that only a very small percentage of calculations are affected (perhaps one in a million - maybe more, maybe less - we don't know exactly) but all it takes is 1 bad number (in one of the right spots) to make an AoE/AoK game go out of sync.

Making this hard for ES developers to detect is the fact most OOS testing occurs using identically configured machines to eliminate variance factors.

Code has been added to AoK:TC and the AOK Patch to set the FPU into a specific state when processing the game simulation. All of the testing we were able to do showed an improvment in multiplayer game stability.

What I am wanting you to do is this: Keep track of your games played over time and see if the percentage of games that go Out of Sync changes. Being aware of this particular problem and giving us feedback after you've played a bunch of games will let ES and MS know what progress has been made, and of course, if something new needs to be looked at. - Matt Pritchard
This is great news for people who frequently get dropped from games due to an OOS error, and haven't been cheating. Thanks for letting everyone know about it Matt.
Gamer's Alliance on TC
Posted by Washizu on August 22nd, 2000 @ 7:26 p.m.
Part 3 of the GA-Strategy AOK:TC preview has been released. They have tons of screenshots and info from lead designer, Greg "Deathshrimp" Street on the changes made to various units and civs:
Byzantines
The Byzantines pay some outrageous costs to develop their Cataphract into a marginal Unique Unit. Despite the Cataphract’s damage to infantry, the cheap cost of Pikemen (and now Halberdiers) could counter the Cataphract too easily. To mitigate this, we took away most of the bonus damage that Pikemen do to Cataphracts. We also increased the Cataphract rate of attack and damage done to infantry. These tweaks coupled with the Byzantine Unique Technology (Logistica allows the Cataphract to do 6 points of trample damage to all units around it) make the Cataphract the infantry-killing machine it was originally designed to be. Cataphracts can still be countered by Camels or Paladins, though the Byzantine’s own cheap Camels makes the latter strategy risky.
Read the whole preview here.
New Previews:
Posted by Washizu on August 22nd, 2000 @ 7:12 p.m.
Here's a list of some of the new AOK:TC previews:
  • Gamesfirst
  • Electric Playground
  • MPOG
Taming Atilla the Hun
Posted by Washizu on August 22nd, 2000 @ 7:09 p.m.
Gamasutra has yet another article on game optimization for AOK: The Conquerors. Written by ES programmer Herb Marselas, it details how they tamed expanding system requirements, especially in the Atilla the Hun campaign:
In the case of TC, the data presented comes specifically from analyzing the performance of a new single player campaign based on Attila the Hun. The problem is that one of the scenarios only runs at a few frames per second on the minimum platform.

Read the whole article here.
Gamecenter Backlash
Posted by Washizu on August 22nd, 2000 @ 6:50 p.m.
I got a few e-mails concerning the recent Gamecenter article I mentioned about the deaths of a few gaming genres, including Real Time Strategy. Needless to say, most of you agreed with me, and not Gamecenter:
Sir,
What right have they to write of the destruction of such a game genre. Games sell to a certain group of people. Most people have never heard of Chrono Trigger or Civilazation II or even Mega Man, yet talk to the people who have played them and they will argue that each game has struck a certain cord in them.

Video games are not made for everyone. Just like some sports will not cater to every person. (I for one cannot stand golf, yet if it pleases someone let them play.) Video games are also like sports in the way that not everyone enjoys a game as much as the next person, that is why so few people know of many video games. And taking that a step further; just as not everyone enjoys a good video game, not everyone enjoys the same kind of games. I love Chrono Trigger and many of the Final Fantasy games, but I could never play them and many games (like Kings Quest) I can barely stand.

However, each game fulfills a certain nitch; a certain personality. I have no clue why I am so emmersed in RTS games, but those games seem to entertain me for hours on end. This makes the article's arguements seem like very dullwitted. Take the first paragraph.

In the first paragraph it states:

"The real-time strategy genre has been near death's door numerous times over the past few years, and yet it continues to survive, with new games coming out on a fairly regular basis. That said, we still think this genre is in a lot of trouble for one reason--complete and utter lack of innovation."

To really poke holes in the arguement, it would be best to disect it into its two sentences. The first sentence is very funny. It talks about how the genre has been nearly killed and yet has managed to survive by numerous games being released. Doesn't that sound a bit contradictory? Think about it. If games have no real meaning if to do nothing else but stimulate an audience who buys and, keep in mind, BUYS THAT GENRE ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY. Wouldn't the people buying the game stop buying it? I mean, we learn very little about history or societal behaviors through video games (I mean other than Compton's Encyclopedia or Carmen Sandiago) in comparison with movies or books
(which can teach a great deal of such things). This is because those who control the later medias are the creators to an extent, where the former media is controled and created by the player. If something survives in the gaming industry, it is because it is a good idea. No idea can survive in the gaming industry if it doesn't sell. Which leads into the second argument. The "lack of innovation" in the RTS games. First off, games evolve slowly and many take ideas away from their predessors but change is often slow and very seldom does a radical idea come along. But, then if one looks at Age of Kings and the points enumerated by ageofkings.com, then we are left seeing
that there are many innovations brought about in that game.

The second paragraph underlines the main problem that the writer has
about the genre; but it is obvious that the person's distain comes not from a study of the RTS games in depth, but rather a view of an outsider to the genre who does not understand its apeal.

"The fact of the matter is that most RTS games are modeled after Command & Conquer or Warcraft, and it's getting really, really tiresome. The next time we see a cut scene that documents humanity's destruction by an errant bomb or at the hands of a bunch of aliens, the stream of vomit coming out of our office will be visible a mile away. We want original games that remind us how great this genre can be; we want gameplay that makes us forget the world outside even exists."

The fact of the mater is that what defines a genre is its prototype. These games were the prototype, if a game does not fit into this style than obviously it is not a strategy game or action game or what not. And the part about the future-type setting of the games is totally not the case with many RTS games. Besides each game has to have a setting.

In the last paragraph, one can almost see the writer smirking at his
accomplishment. But after analyisis, one understands that it only underlines his obliviousness to knowing what the genre is about.

"Sadly, those hopes are fading fast. Game developers need to take a long, hard look at the RTS genre and decide if they want the genre to collapse under the weight of its mediocrity or if they want it to rise out of the ashes."

Sincerely,
An Avid Adict to AOK2.

P.S. I apologize about any gramatical or spelling errors in the rebuttle.
Very nice comeback. Here's another response I got to the article.
I read the Gamecenter article on the death of RTS games, and even went as far as reading the other genres that it claims are dying. I have only one question. With all the genres dying, what games will be left? They seem to have declared most everything dead.
Paul
It seems that way doesn't it? I think we have to realize that there will always be good games and crappy games, and even though sometimes more crappy games get released for a certain genre, it doesn't necessarily mean no one can make a good game of that type.
nice article in regards to yer response on troll of the week. You bring up some nice valid points. Not everyone can run a site like you guys keep up the good work

Aleks
aka
iBaLkiD
Thanks! Someone has to stand up for good RTS games
Letters to Washizu
Posted by Washizu on August 22nd, 2000 @ 6:18 p.m.
I'm once again going to answer some letters I got right here for everyone to read. Hopefully, a few of you are wondering the same things:
Dear Washizu,

I read your write-up on AOK, and what it would it be to have Indians
from India in the new Conquerors pack. I guess it would have been great.

I dont know if you are associated with Ensemble Studios, but i guess
they missed out on one of the oldest civ's. when they thought of the
game. If you are associated with Ensemble Studio then please do let me
know why this happened? Is there a possibility for them to be added.

Your feedback would be a great help. By the way I am from Bombay, India. An addict of AOE and AOK. Work with a software company here and play for 5hrs. every day after work.

Regards,
S.Vijay.
Personally, I think the Indians would have been a very interesting addition to AOK:TC. The problem for Ensemble Studios in adding new civs was that they could only do one new building set, so that means only one new part of the world. If the Indians were in, the Mayans and Aztecs would have been out.
Well, I need to contact ES, I don't know how, if you know how can you please send them this message for me.

"I read DeathShrimp's article and the part about the Zulu's, he's right, you couldn't get Zulu Arbalests and Paladins, so why the Zulu's?, they were at their hight of power in the 1800's anyway, so I thought maybe the Zimbabweans, they existed in the Aok time period, they could build great walls, they new about iron, they were excellent farmers, they were great traders, they had strong ships, I'm sure they had some kind of siege weapons, and it would be fair to add them because there are no African civs. Now I know that the expansion is already made, so maybe there could be either another expansion or just a patch or maybe a whole new game.

Sounds wacky, I know, but it could be cool,

PS. Maybe they could have Sangoma's for their unique unit?

Thanks Washizu,
Tiger
Seems like a lot of people were pulling for other civs to get into the expansion. A second expansion pack is not an impossibility, although I think it's very unlikely we'll see one, but not many people will mind since (hopefully) we'll have heard more about RTS3 by then. If you haven't heard of RTS3, it is the current title of Ensemble's next strategy game using their smoking 3D engine, titled Bang! The title will definitely change, as it is just a stand in title for the moment. As far as I know, the genie engine will no longer be used by Ensemble, but time will tell if Bang! will be used for other games besides RTS3. Personally, I think it will.
Can I ask what the whole Angel thing is about I am new to this site so I'm
not to sure.....
-Graham
ZoneName- Esrid
Here at Age of Kings Heaven, the site is run by a team of Angels and Cherubs. They are our titles really. Angels are higher up than cherubs and have access to the site, and cherubs help Angels, usually with content related duties or forum moderating.
Hi - I heard that there are four additional campaigns on top of new Expansion campaigns... could you address this? Is this true?
As far as I know, this isn't true, although there will be hundreds of fan created scenarios and campaigns for you to download once the expansion pack has been out out for a few weeks.

That's it for this edition of Letters to Washizu.
The Conquerors Preview at AOKH
Posted by Washizu on August 21st, 2000 @ 8:19 a.m.
We've posted a preview/review of Age of Kings: The Conquerors Expansion right here, so be sure to take a good look at what you'll be getting if you decide to pick up a copy. With 9 pages of info, plus screenshots, it's one of the most detailed on the net.

AOK Heaven's Conquerors Preview:
http://aok.heavengames.com/expansion/preview.shtml
Thunder Takes on GameCenter
Posted by Washizu on August 19th, 2000 @ 8:26 a.m.
It seems I'm not the only one with a bone to pick with the writers at GameCenter. Thunder of the AOK Battlefield has been disputing their claim that the Spanish will rule AOK:TC. Head over to the AOKB to see why Thunder says this just isn't the case.
Gamerush TC Preview
Posted by Washizu on August 19th, 2000 @ 8:23 a.m.
Gamerush has posted a TC preview that is worth checking out (how many AREN'T worth it? ):
With the gameplay enhancements, which we really do think make the game a more enjoyable playing experience, the five new civilizations and new challenging campaigns, there's enough in this package to keep multiplayer and single player gamers happy for quite some time. Overall Age of Empires II: The Conquerors is a worthy addition the AOE series, no doubt an essential purchase for AOE fans and keep the game alive for quite some time to come.
Read the whole preview here.
Troll of the Week
Posted by Washizu on August 19th, 2000 @ 6:15 a.m.
Thanks to Angel Zen for sending this over. Gamecenter has posted an article on the death of several gaming genres, including RTS:
The fact of the matter is that most RTS games are modeled after Command & Conquer or Warcraft, and it's getting really, really tiresome. The next time we see a cut scene that documents humanity's destruction by an errant bomb or at the hands of a bunch of aliens, the stream of vomit coming out of our office will be visible a mile away. We want original games that remind us how great this genre can be; we want gameplay that makes us forget the world outside even exists.

It must be nice to be able to write about gaming genres that you barely even play. Only one mention was given to a specific game that was released in the last year. He's not pulling punches with quotes like "think this genre is in a lot of trouble for one reason--complete and utter lack of innovation."

I'll list off for you the innovations of AOK and the AOK expansion:
  • Expanded resource models
  • Game recordings
  • Historical themes
  • Age advancement instead of just building progression
  • Varied, interesting, and playable Random Maps
  • AI scripting
  • Multiple formation types
  • Full map screenshots
  • In game scripting sequences (no cut scenes that the gamecenter guys hate)


Also, if the RTS genre is dead, then how did AOK win 3 interactive achievement awards this year at E3? Read the article I'm ranting about here.
Congrats to Jace!
Posted by Washizu on August 19th, 2000 @ 6:03 a.m.
Jace sent in this screenshot of the 3 millionth visitor first, so he wins the Heaven t-shirt from us, and a Conquerors t-shirt that ES webmaster Mike "Archangel" McCart generously promised the winner. Jace, send in your address to me, and I'll forward it to Mike.
We've Passed 3,000,000
Posted by THS on August 18th, 2000 @ 2:59 p.m.
We have passed 3,000,000 visitors at Age of Kings Heaven. If anyone has gotten a shot close to 3,000,000 feel free to send it in to me or Washizu. The person with the screen shot closest to 3,000,000 will get an HGS t-shirt. Good luck, maybe my 3,000,084 will be close enough.
Poor Geo-cities
Posted by Washizu on August 18th, 2000 @ 6:26 a.m.
They lost their last good site. I always assumed that Sim Mayor stayed on his free Geo-cities account for some reason I didn't know, but I guess he was just awaiting the call from GameGlow.com. The Age of Kings Place is the newest addition to a lineup of great Age sites on the GG network, and Sim Mayor is heading it up. Congrats from Heaven.
Gamespy & IGN View the Conquerors
Posted by Washizu on August 18th, 2000 @ 6:22 a.m.
Two previews are out for you all to check out. The first is from Gamespy:
In addition to a unique unit, each civilization now features a unique technology. Coupling Berserkergang with the Vikings' Berzerks (increasing their regeneration rate), or the Turks' Artillery unique with scores of bombard cannons (increasing range), or the Chinese tech Rocketry with their Chu Ko Nu (increasing piercing attack), can further enhance a civilizations strengths. While the unique technologies are far from a dramatic change in the essence of the series, they do quite a bit in terms of adding an additional tactic into nearly every game.


And the great IGN network posts a sweet preview of AOK:TC:
Like all good expansions, Conquerors offers several changes to the existing game. First off, many of the civilizations have been fine-tuned to better balance gameplay. The British get a break on building Town Centers, Byzantine monks heal faster, Viking docks are slightly more expensive, and so forth. Small changes have been made to the units in the game, most significantly in increases to the effectiveness of horse archers. Pikemen are less effective now against camels than against traditional cavalry and Samurai move a little bit faster. On the building side of things, Town Centers are now more expensive but their offensive value can be upgraded at the Blacksmith. Outposts are a little less expensive to produce. For the most part, the changes are pretty slight but veterans of Age of Kings will definitely notice them.

There's a New Gun in Town
Posted by Washizu on August 18th, 2000 @ 6:11 a.m.
Daily Radar has an interesting write up for an upcoming RTS game called, America: No Peace Beyond The Line. Instead of the typical RTS themes, America centers on the Wild West and lets you control civs like the Desperados, the Mexicans, the Native Americans, etc. What's even stranger is that it's being developed by a German game studio publisher named Data Becker.

Read more about America: No Peace Beyond the Line here. Thanks to ES webmaster Mike McCart for sending me the URL.
AI Wars
Posted by Washizu on August 16th, 2000 @ 6:12 a.m.
Age of Kings Heaven is proud to announce a unique online tournament featuring Age of Kings AI scripts as the contestants. In order to participate, authors must submit their AI scripts via our online form before October 1st, 2000. Prizes will be offered to the top 4 finishing competitors, who may choose between a selection of prizes, including Age of Kings: The Conquerors expansion hats, shirts, etc., as well as Scenario Design Toolkit books by Sybex Publishing, copies of Age of Kings, and more. Note, this contest will use the expansion to Age of Kings, titled The Conquerors, which will be available August 25th in the US and in mid september everywhere else.

For more detailed info, check out...
Age of Kings Heaven Presents AI WARS:
http://aok.heavengames.com/aiwars/

Feel free to use this graphic to link to the tournament:
http://aok.heavengames.com/pics/forthenews/aibutton.jpg

Age of Kings and Age of Kings: The Conquerors are games by Ensemble Studios and Microsoft.
3 Million Strong! (almost)
Posted by Washizu on August 15th, 2000 @ 6:24 a.m.
If you check out the ole counter on the left, you'll see we're rapidly approaching 3 million! If you happen to see it bump up to the big three followed by six zeros, make sure you snag a screenshot. Anyone remember who snagged the shot of the 2 millionth visitor? I do
Quick AOK News Round Up
Posted by Washizu on August 15th, 2000 @ 6:12 a.m.
Ok fellow agers, my time is on a tight schedule and and I'm conserving space with this news broadcast. Remember that guy that talked really fast in the Fed Ex commercials? I think he did Micro Machine ads as well. Anyway, this news should be read as if that guy was doing the talking...

MrFixit Online contemplates the Mayans.

Archangel at Ensemble Studios needs the help of an ager that is fluent in Korean as well as English. If you are, drop him a line here

If you are a Korean player and want to convert your English speaking copy of AOK to your native langage, head here.

Planet Age of Empires takes a look at ram garrisoning here.
Funny Ad
Posted by Washizu on August 15th, 2000 @ 5:57 a.m.
If you see this ad floating around our pages, make sure you click on it. I laughed out loud the first time I saw it, and I'm sure you will, too. Great one gamedealer!
Digital Fan Interviews Deathshrimp
Posted by Washizu on August 12th, 2000 @ 7:58 p.m.
Thanks to Hoosier for sending this my way. DigitalFan has interviewed Greg "Deathshrimp" Street about the Conquerors expansion pack, available in just a few weeks!
Digital Fan: Are there any plans to continue with an AOE3?

Greg Street: We have not announced any plans. Certainly, we would not abandon a successful franchise, but there are a lot of other games that the ES team would like to eventually do. Microsoft owns the rights to the Age of Empires name, so they have the ultimate decision in the future of the series. The designers tossed around the idea of Age of Empires III: Age of Lava Creatures, but the artists and programmers weren't as excited about it for some reason.
Hehe, in Age of Lava creatures, I guess there would be a Hawaiian civ that gathered favor from the Gods by throwing young ladies into volcanoes.
Expansion Changes to Existing Civs
Posted by Washizu on August 12th, 2000 @ 7:51 p.m.
Lead designer on the expansion pack, Greg "Deathshrimp" Street adds another terrific article to the Ensemble Studios Designer Journal. This one centers on the changes to some of the exisitng civs and units. Head here if you want to hear why hand cannoneers and cav archers are better in the x-pack, and why everyone at ES seems to like the Saracens in long games:
Q: But why would I ever want to use Bombard Cannons if Trebs are so much better?

A: Bombard Cannons are pretty fast and stand up to attacking better. Nothing beats a Treb when you are firing from a protected area into enemy buildings. But when you don’t have the benefit of a protected area, Bombards are a better choice.

Back when Bombards had the original Turkish hitpoint bonus, Captn Kidd would load them in a Transport, sail around and quickly unload them to level enemy buildings. By the time your troops got to the Bombards, he just loaded them back on the ship. You just can’t do that with Trebuchets.
That sneaky Kidd. Always thinking of something crazy.
AOK:TC Demo Now Available!
Posted by Washizu on August 12th, 2000 @ 0:19 a.m.
What are you waiting for? It's here! Microsoft was slow to post it, but Gamespot has come through and made our day:

Age of Kings: The Conquerors Trial Version (36 Megabytes)

Trial Version features:
In the trial version gamers can play the first scenario of the Montezuma campaign, which is one of four new campaigns found in the full retail version. Two new units, the Jaguar Warrior and the Plumed Archer; and two new technologies, the Garland Wars and El Dorado, are also included in the trial version. Additionally, players can experience the Mayan and Aztec civilizations -- new civilizations only available in Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion. The trial version also contains an all-new game type, King of the Hill.
Trial Version Available Today!
Posted by Washizu on August 11th, 2000 @ 7:40 a.m.
As of this minute, the trial version is still unavailable, but according to Microsoft, it will be released to the net today. When it is available, you'll be able to find it on Microsoft's official Conquerors page.

That page can be found here:
http://www.microsoft.com/games/conquerors/

See you on the trial battlefield!
AOK Tournament
Posted by Washizu on August 11th, 2000 @ 7:37 a.m.
Just got word of this AOK tourney starting up:
Dear Sir,

I have looked at your site and realized that you were probably the angel that took care of the news..so boy do i have news for you!!!

Myself and my clan are hosting Age of Kings 2000, the largest AOK Tournament ever!!!!! And i need your help. Our website is still under construction. But it is usable. They just can't join from the website.

I need your help like this...
1.) list the tournament as a large event because it is
2.) list my name and e-mail address to join
3.) list my e-mail address and information needed to join:

First Name
Last Name
Zone Name
E-Mail

Partner's First Name
Partner's Last Name
Partner's Zone Name
Partner's E-mail

4.) list that they can register them selves first as long as they register their partner at some point in time.

5.) list our website at http://www.pcpages.com/aok2000

Thank you so much for your help and i hope you accept. If you do, you will not regret it, this is truly going to be the biggest AOK event of the year!!!!!

P.S. the tournament is going to be August 18, 19 , and 20th.

Thank You For Your Time,
Eric Burke
ERWE_Leader (Zone Name)
You heard the man, register today at http://www.pcpages.com/aok2000
Taking out the Jags
Posted by Washizu on August 11th, 2000 @ 7:33 a.m.
Merlin, of AOE2.com has written a piece on the Aztec unique unit, the Jaguar Warrior (see? I called it the Jaguar Warrior, not the Jaguar Man this time! You can stop the hate mail ):
http://AoE2.com features Jag Wars, an article about the Aztec Unique unit, the Jaguar Warrior, and the accompanying Aztec Unique Tech, Garland Wars, which increases the attack of all infantry units. After playing lots of AoE2 : The Conquerors during
the Beta stage, the urge came upon me to take the Jaguar Warrior through a few exercises. Why? Because I every time I unleashed some of these little predators they seemed to mow down enemy forces very effectively. Is it all in how you use them, or are they just too strong? Here is the illustrated story of these unofficial, imprecise and less then clinical tests. We hope you enjoy the article. We also apologize for not having an appropriate symphony soundtrack, nor do we serve popcorn, but at least we don't charge much.M
PAOE: Winners and Previews
Posted by Washizu on August 11th, 2000 @ 7:28 a.m.
Xiphoid from Planet Age of Empires has posted the winners from his scenario contest:
1st The Forbidden City
by Inquizative of the AoK Dragon Scenario Design Team
I've played a lot of scenarios and this ranks up there with the best of them. Great story, well thoughtout map layout and game-play flow. A perfect 10.

2nd Minamoto Yorimoto - The First Shogun
by DAC
Another great scenario, good story and a nice map layout. It was quite challenging and had a good fun factor.

3rd Yoshiie
by Ralph Berendsen
There was a close race for third but this scenario pulled through with a great story and straightforward and enjoyable play.
Head here to grab the files.

Also, his AOK:TC preview details all the new improvements in Age of Kings: The Conquerors:
Today Planet Age of Empires of the GameSpy Network took a look at the overall game that the upcoming Age of Kings: The Conquerors is and we've got a seven page preview, offering up the generic preview material, but also an in-depth look at the new civilizations, technologies, units, and single and multi-player play. Included in the preview are in-game screenshots of each of the unique and regular new units and each technology icon. We also rated the game in the areas of new content added, single-player, artificial intelligence, and multi-player, giving it an overall mark of 9.5 out of 10. Find the preview here.
Ogre Scopes out the Scout
Posted by Washizu on August 11th, 2000 @ 7:21 a.m.
Ogre, from ThroughtheAges.com has done an interview with scenario designer, Karen Sparks. A terrific addition to the studios team this year, Karen has helped a great deal in spicing up the Conquerors campaigns.
Ogre: I noticed that there were some mini challenges in a few of the scenarios. Were these planned to be in these campaigns all along or were they a last minute addition?

Karen: The optional objectives were planned from the beginning. We intentionally varied the types of scenarios within a campaign where Build Up And Fight, the core of AoK play, was the most common basic scenario type. Optional objectives served the double purpose of giving players more to do (if they so choose) while adding depth and variety to the scenarios.
Karen seems like she's on her way up in the game designing business. I'd take her over Killcreek any day Read the whole interview here.
My Horse for a Stimulated Kingdom...
Posted by Washizu on August 11th, 2000 @ 6:51 a.m.
A tragedy has fallen over the Age community. One of its promising new sites, AOKingdom.com, has closed its doors after its updates halted on July 27th. It its place, a cryptic message is left:
Goodbye to the AoKingdom.com you previously knew, in about a month you will find something new and innovational in its place.


Who knows what the webmaster, Da_Stimulator, has in store?
AOK:TC Trial available for download...8/11/00 - That's tomorrow!
Posted by Zen on August 10th, 2000 @ 9:17 p.m.
Yes! Wahoo! Just got this from ES:
MONTEZUMA'S REVENGE! AGE OF EMPIRES II: THE CONQUERORS EXPANSION TRIAL VERSION AVAILABLE TOMORROW

Alright!

Microsoft today announced that the trial version for Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion, the award-winning add-on to Age of Empires II: Age of Kings, will be available for download tomorrow athttp://www.microsoft.com/games/conquerors/.

In the trial version gamers can play the first scenario of the Montezuma campaign, which is one of four new campaigns found in the full retail version. Two new units, the Jaguar Warrior and the Plumed Archer; and two new technologies, the Garland Wars and El Dorado, are also included in the trial version. Additionally, players can experience the Mayan and Aztec civilizations -- new civilizations only available in Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion. The trial version also contains an all-new game type, King of the Hill.

The full retail version of the Conquerors Expansion features five new civilizations: the Huns, Aztecs, Mayans, Koreans, and Spanish, along with four new historically based campaigns and over ten new units. Each civilization has unique attributes, buildings, and technologies, as well as unique combat units based on its historical counterpart. "Smart villagers," who go to work immediately and efficiently after constructing a drop-off building, and farm queues, which allow the gamer to automatically replant exhausted farms, add realism and ease-of-play to the gaming experience. Continuing to build on the Age of Empires franchise, the Conquerors Expansion showcases the expertise of Bruce Shelley, and offers the most feature-rich expansion pack created to date.

Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion will be available at retail locations throughout North America in late August for an anticipated street price of US$29.95. More information is available at the game's official Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/games/conquerors/, or on the Ensemble Studios Web site.
Ogre's Campaign Showcase
Posted by Washizu on August 10th, 2000 @ 7:21 a.m.
Ok, I'm getting tired, so this will be my last news post for the night. There's a lot below, so make sure you get it all in.

Our good friend Ogre from Through the Ages has posted his latest campaign showcase on my favorite of the new campaigns:
"Noryang Point will take even the best Ager and make them wish they had never put the game CD in the drive. All right so maybe it is not that bad but it sure is difficult to win without cheating. You start off in the imperial age with high resources. Probably I would have to say that this is the only thing that truly helps you out. The Japanese also start attacking you. So your attention is drawn away from gathering resources. And you will need to gather resources in order to defend your homeland. The object of the scenario is for you to conquer the Japanese. To do this you will need plenty of Turtle Ships. Finding out how to get the turtle ships is the interesting part of the scenario. However Ogre is not going to tell you how you go about doing that. Instead I am going to let you find out when you get the game."
Read the rest of it at Through the Ages.

Ok, this angel needs to rest his wings.
Mod Pack Studio 1.0 Released
Posted by Washizu on August 10th, 2000 @ 7:11 a.m.
A lot of the modpack authors already know about this little program, but the masses are about to see the best AOK art editing tool in existence. It's called Mod Pack Studio and it's helping to create an army of cool new modpacks, including Star Wars and South Park. The author, j_c_a, has been putting a lot of work in to get his program running, so check it out.

Heck, some of the Ensemble guys might want to even give it a shot for some simple editing
ES_dCypher is Quite the Quaker
Posted by Washizu on August 10th, 2000 @ 7:04 a.m.
Ensemble Studios 3D artist Chris Van Doren, or as he's known at the top of the Q3A frag count, dCypher, participated in the grand tournament at this week's QuakeCon. Unfortunatly, he didn't win the tournament, but made some impressive victories against thalion and QGz|Twiggy. Check out the bracket here.

Way to go Chris and thanks to Planet AOE where I saw this first.
Sandy Petersen Interviewed
Posted by Washizu on August 10th, 2000 @ 6:54 a.m.
I'm a bit late with this one, but ES game designer Sandy Petersen was interviewed by StrategyZone.org. This interview, as any with Sandy, was just terrific, so make sure you check it out.
StrategyZone: ID Software offers full support for editing their games while the AoE series is very limited when it comes to editing, why?

Sandy Petersen: Two reasons.

Reason One - the Age of Empires software is, technically, owned by MicroSoft. Therefore, we cannot legally or ethically give away support for this game series -- we don't own the rights. If our next game is owned by Ensemble Studios, you'll probably see a different attitude towards this.

Reason Two - Making architecture too open can sometimes benefit cheating, which is a real killer for game fun. We want our games to be accessible, insofar as we can do so without giving aid & comfort to cheaters. This only applies to multiplayer, of course -- we don't care about singleplayer cheating. The effects of cheating on Diablo and Quake was dire enough that we turn a coldly rational eye on anything we do with regards to letting players change the game.
Read the whole interview.
Case Studies
Posted by Washizu on August 10th, 2000 @ 6:48 a.m.
Here's a randomly enjoyable news post for you. At this week's QuakeCon, a little contest was held by PlanetQuake to see who had the best case for their PC. Personally, my favorite was the one in the suitcase, but the glow in the dark head was also pretty cool...

Check out the finalists here.
Zone Spotlight Tournament
Posted by Washizu on August 10th, 2000 @ 6:43 a.m.
Just a quick reminder, the Zone is having a Spotlight Tournament on August 11th.
Sign up today then come back August 11 for your chance to win great prizes! After signing up, please arrive in the Spotlight Room by 4PM (PST) to check-in (required).
I really wish someone at the Zone would send these announcements out to the fansites in something other than their lengthy "In the Zone" newsletter. I notice a lot of the fansites miss posting news of the Zone's AOK events, and I think a heads up in advance would get more people into the spotlight tournaments.
Game Optimization
Posted by Washizu on August 10th, 2000 @ 6:31 a.m.
How many companies can say they have two Herbs on the payroll? Not many, but Ensemble Studios does. 1/2 of the Herbs wrote an article on Game Optimization for Gamasutra.
Sometimes we found that an algorithm, though optimal for the situation, was executing too often. In one case, unit pathing had been highly optimized, but it was being called too often by other subsystems. In these cases, we fixed the problem by capping the number of times the code could be called by other systems or by capping the amount of time the code could spend executing. Alternately, we might change the al-gorithm so its processing could occur over multiple game updates instead of all at once. - ES programmer Herb Marselas
I'll tell you, Gamasutra sure has had its fair share of great articles from game developers this year. I hope they keep it up.

The other Herb is interface artist Herb Ellwood, by the way.
Sandy's Daily Hell
Posted by Washizu on August 10th, 2000 @ 6:09 a.m.
Reposted from our forum a while back, the ES studios journal has an article detailing 12 and a half hours of designer Sandy Petersen's life. There is action ("I speed down the highway..."), suspense ("the only time I have to get her a Mother's Day present is Right Now"), tragedy ("our hound has decided to break all of my children's hearts forever"), and even romance ("I pick her up and chain her to the front door").

Read what being a legendary game designer is REALLY like here.
The Golden Age
Posted by Washizu on August 10th, 2000 @ 5:55 a.m.
Now that gold copies of AOK:TC have been reaching the hands of webmasters from all over the net, previews are being done left and right. Here's a list of some of the recent ones:

Evil Avatar:
The gameplay isn't far removed from the killer gameplay that made Age of Kings such a smash success, but for die hard AoK players, it is a "must have" and in a game where players can build unique strategies based around their favorite civilizations, the addition of five new civilizations, over ten new units and more maps gives you a chance to experience Age of Empires II again for the first time.

Gamespot:
The expansion also makes various improvements to the game's interface and the artificial intelligence. For instance, villagers now automatically begin harvesting a resource after they construct the corresponding mine, and siege weapons won't automatically attack an enemy target in the midst of friendly troops.

JeuxVideo.com (in french):
Quasiment un an après son papa, l’add-on de Age of Empires 2 va pointer le bout de son nez et nous proposer de nombreuses nouveautés dans tous les domaines. Il est vrai que les campagnes étaient assez vite terminées et que la qualité était telle qu’on devait se rattraper en s’acharnant des heures durant sur le mode solo classique ou le multijoueur.

Gamesmania Germany (in German):
Von Atilla, dem Hunnenkönig

Die Geschichts-kundigen Entwickler integrierten vier neue Kampagnen in das Add-On. Dabei widmet sich die vierte nicht einem bestimmten Volk, sondern stellt eine Sammlung historischer Schlachten dar, die vom berühmten Eroberern geführt wurden, wie beispielweise Agincourt, Manzikert oder Hastings.

Need a translator, or just a good laugh? Try Alta Vista's babel fish.

Gamepro:
You'll see five new civilizations (The Huns, Spanish, Mayans, Aztecs and Koreans), and new maps such as Ghost Lake, Mongolia, Scandinavia, and Oasis should provide many more hours of enjoyment. There will also be new winter and tropical terrains, as well as new game types, including King of the Hill, Wonder Race, and Defend the Wonder.


As always, the BEST places to find Conquerors info are on fan sites. Many of the following have war stories posted in their news:

AOK Battlefield
AOE2.com
Mr Fixit Online
Planet Age of Empires
Through the Ages

For the most complete AOK:TC fact sheet on the net, try Gandalf and Broaclander's AOK:TC guide.

AOK: TC gold! Really!
Posted by Zen on August 8th, 2000 @ 8:13 p.m.
Age of Empires II: The Conquerers has gone gold! This time the announcement came from ES itself The official release date of the game is August 25th, 2000, and the demo will be out on August 14th. C'ya on the battlefield!
MEDIA ALERT: AUGUST 8, 2000

Microsoft today announced that Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion, the award-winning sequel to Age of Empires II: Age of Kings, has gone gold. This means that the product is complete and is expected to hit store shelves in the U.S. in late August. To celebrate the game's final code, Ensemble Studios, developers of the Age of Empires franchise, is showcasing "The Conquerors Designer Journal", a weekly diary focusing on this highly anticipated game.

The Conquerors Expansion features five new civilizations: the Huns, Aztecs, Mayans, Koreans, and Spanish, along with four new historically based campaigns and over ten new units. Each civilization has unique attributes, buildings, and technologies, as well as unique combat units based on its historical counterpart. "Smart villagers," who go to work immediately and efficiently after constructing a drop-off building, and farm queues, which allow the gamer to automatically replant exhausted farms, add realism and ease-of-play to the gaming experience. Continuing to build on the Age of Empires franchise, the Conquerors Expansion showcases the expertise of Bruce Shelley, and offers the most feature-rich expansion pack created to date.

"The Conquerors Designer Journal" gives gamers insight into new game types, instructions on customizing their own map scripts, and information on civilizations revitalized from the original Age of Empires II. The journal is available at: The Conquerors Designer Journal

Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion will be available at retail locations throughout North America in late August for an anticipated street price of US$29.95. More information is available at the game's official Web site or on the Ensemble Studios Web site.
You can also grab some great Conquerors wallpaper, featuring the new civs and their wonders, here. It's on my desktop at work ;)
What AOK:TC Might Have Been
Posted by Washizu on August 8th, 2000 @ 5:19 a.m.
What if instead of the Mayans and the Koreans we were all getting excited to play the Indians? It might have been the ones from India or North America, too! Confused? You won't be when you read about some of the expansion pack possibilities that ES considered for the expansion pack before deciding on a conquerors theme.

Check it out here.

Sidenote: Sandy Petersen once said that ES would have probably named the expansion pack something other than "The Conquerors" had they realized the standard abbreviation would become "TC". TC is, of course, the abbreviation of "Town Center", the building ES got the most criticism over in AOK.
Conquerors Week at Gamespot UK
Posted by Washizu on August 8th, 2000 @ 0:32 a.m.
LordTheRon brings news of an entire week devoted to Age of Kings: The Conquerors Expansion pack over at Gamespot UK. They also stated that the European release date is September 14th, a little under 3 weeks after the current US release date.

Their current AOK:TC info can be found here.
Correction!
Posted by Washizu on August 7th, 2000 @ 11:42 p.m.
Contrary to rumors surrounding the completion of Age of Kings: The Conquerors, according to Mike "Archangel" McCart, it has NOT been sent to Microsoft for production. A few sites, including Rich LaPorte's GoneGold, reported this by mistake.

Microsoft will make an announcement when AOK:TC has "gone gold" and you can be sure to hear about it here they do.
AOK:TC Battle Stories
Posted by Washizu on August 6th, 2000 @ 4:40 p.m.
There are some new AOK:TC battle stories and screenshots posted over at Planet AOE and the AOK Battlefield, which also has their second Conquerors AVI available for download.

Also, if you're interested in the single player campaigns, IGN.com is showcasing the Atilla the Hun campaign.

My intuition is telling me that all age fans should stay tuned... there may be a big announcement regarding the progress of Age of Kings: The Conquerors very soon. ;)
AoK: TC Preview
Posted by THS on August 6th, 2000 @ 2:51 a.m.
Ogre has finished his review of AoK: TC.
"The brand spanking new units include the hussar, petard, and halberdier.
Each of these was created for a specific purpose. In Age of Kings there was
no upgrade for light cavalry. Now however the hussar has been created to
fulfill this role. The halberdier is an upgrade from the pikeman. He is
particularly good against mounted units and war elephants. Last but not
least we come to the petard. For the most part the petard is a demolition
ship on land. On his shoulder he carries a keg of gunpowder. He is like a
walking bomb. The damage he causes from his explosives is pretty impressive
when he is in number. When not in numbers he is less impressive. Also use
him only against buildings in my opinion. Otherwise you will just end up
wasting your resources. Now lets move onto the new technologies."
Check it out here.
South Park Mod
Posted by Washizu on August 5th, 2000 @ 10:21 p.m.
I just got word from the scenario design team known as Moloch and CPL_Buddha, creators of one of my favorite AOK scenarios, Omaha1247 a.d., that they're busy working on a new SouthPark AOK mod titled, The Cartman Wars:
The Cartman Wars

This mod will include all your favorite southpark characters, buildings and landscape. In the tradition of southpark expect the unexpected, and cheezy art work. There is no expected time for release. Just when we feel like finishing it (about 2 mos).

Pretty cool eh? I sure think so.
Crimson Skies Beta
Posted by Washizu on August 5th, 2000 @ 10:00 p.m.
I got a chance to play some Crimson Skies at E3, and let me tell you, this game is a LOT of fun. It was one of the best Microsoft Games being shown for sure, so if you'd like to get into the beta, hurry up and sign up:
**************************
MEDIA ALERT AUGUST 3, 2000
**************************


CRIMSON SKIES BETA SIGN-UP

Microsoft today announced that at an undisclosed time on Friday, August 4, gamers will be able to sign up for the chance to win a preview beta copy of Crimson Skies at http://www.microsoft.com/games/crimsonskies/, or any of the over 15 participating sites around the Web. Crimson Skies combines the
heart-pumping action of air combat with the swashbuckling feel of an Errol Flynn adventure movie.

A select group of gamers will win exclusive beta copies for this highly anticipated game. Would-be air pirates will want to check the sites frequently, as the forms will be posted at an unspecified time. The official Crimson Skies site will also list all of the participating sites hosting the sign-up form. Ten lucky winners will be chosen from each participating site, along with 50 winners randomly selected from all entries.

Beta winners will have the chance to experience the daring adventures of Nathan Zachary and his band of air pirates months before the game hits store shelves. Crimson Skies beta winners will receive:

* A copy of the Crimson Skies beta and manual
* Access to the Zone.com beta lobby for multiplayer mayhem
* Access to a private message board to provide feedback on the game
* Exclusive private chat with with John Howard, the game's designer, to discuss gameplay tips and tricks

Whew!
Posted by Washizu on August 5th, 2000 @ 9:56 p.m.
This week I had a crazy video problem, where I was stuck in 640x480 resolution and a max of 16 colors (as opposed to the 24 million I'm used to!). Just in case anyone else has this problem, I have a Creative 3D Blaster (w/Nvidia TNT2 Ultra) video card. I reflashed my BIOS with a program I got from Creative, and then installed the latest Nvidia Detonator drivers. Hope this helps if you're in video hell.

Thanks to Angel THS for posting news of the AOK:TC trial version that will be available August 14th. Hopefully, I'll get to post some more AOK:TC screenshots and scenario editor objects.
Age of Kings Expansion Trial Version!
Posted by THS on August 4th, 2000 @ 0:43 a.m.
The free AoK: TC trial version will be out on August 14, before the full version comes out in September. Here is what it will include:

-Mayans
-Aztecs
-Yucatan Multiplayer King of the Hill
-Montezuma Single Player

You can download it soon here.

Thanks to GPA_Chooch709 for pointing this out.
Clash of the Titans
Posted by Washizu on August 2nd, 2000 @ 5:04 a.m.
I got this from Drop Kick Murphy over at MrFixit Online:
MrFixitOnline.com (MFO) announced today the launch of its latest tournament, "The Clash of the Titans". This is an invite only tournament consisting of THE TOP 32 ACTIVE PLAYERS IN THE WORLD! The list of participants was selected carefully by the staff of MFO and DevilZ_Vasago, a highly talented and well known personality in the Ager community.

It is set to begin on August 3rd and scheduled to finish on August 28th. The timing of the tournament is essentially symbolic farewell sendoff to the AOK series as we eagerly await Ensemble Studios highly touted expansion to the Age series, Age of Kings: The Conquerors, which is tentatively scheduled for an August 25th release.

Settings:

- This is a 1v1 Invitation Only Tourney (32 players).

- Players will be matched according to a seeding system determined by MFO.

- No Teutons unless they come up under random civ. No other restrictions.

- Map is Random Map and matches are best 2 out of 3 games.

- You may pick your civ, but you may not use the same civ twice. Note: Random is considered a "civ" and may only be used once.

Prizes:
$500 in prize money will be given out in this tourney (wow!) with the following breakdown: $250 – First Prize, $150 – Second Prize, $50 – to each semi finalist.

The tournament is sure to be a rousing success as the fans get to watch the recorded matches, through the use of Ensemble's pioneering recorded game function, as soon as the games are completed. MFO will also have a team of experts watch the games and write up a full analysis for the viewers to read. This will give them a better idea of which specific strategies were being used, and an idea of how to improve their own game in the future. This event will offer the most intense AOK game recordings and analysis ever published.

Defend the Wonder
Posted by Washizu on August 2nd, 2000 @ 4:29 a.m.
The battle lines were drawn and several webmasters faced off in a heated game of "Defend the Wonder", one of the cool new game types in AOK: The Conquerors. Thunder of the AOK Battlefield and Xiphoid from Planet Age of Empires put up a terrific defense for Thunder's Korean wonder, while Arbuthnot Communication's Steve "Vidguy" Cherrier, Ensemble Studios webmaster Mike "Archangel" McCart, and I spent all our energy trying to destroy it. In my experience, Defend the Wonder games seem to run in favor of the attackers, so when we loaded up the random map and it happened to be islands, I thought we would it easy. My elite cannon galleons could easily knock this thing down couldn't they?

Archy was the first to attack, and this had to be very disheartening to the opposition. A transport full of tarkans (the Hun unique unit with a bonus vs buildings) nearly knocked down the wonder by themselves. Even archer fire from a nearby castle and some war wagons had a hard time killing the tarkans before the wonder lost half it's hitpoints. At this point, the game seemed almost laughable.

I made a number of elite cannon galleons, and send them to a harbor on Thunder's island that allowed me to get in range of the wonder. After many shots were fired, the wonder was once again nearly destroyed, but was barely saved in time by castle fire and galleys. Ok, I started to get a bit frustrated, but I assumed that with Vidguy's help, this would be no problem, so I started sending my next group of cannon galleons over along with some fire ships to dispose of the galleys. It was there I ran into a big snag in my plans... the Elite Turtle Ship.

These boats totally own fire ships and cannon galleons. The only things you can use against them are heavy demo ships. Regular demo ships are not even any good. Luckily Vidguy made enough heavy demo ships to take down a line of Turtle Boats, but I still couldn't knock down the wonder. Each time we'd repeat the same cycle of attacking and getting pushed back, only to have Tunder repair the wonder and bring it back to full health. Archy landed on Thunder's island, but without enough siege weapons, he couldn't push through.

In a last ditch effort which proved to nearly work, I sent three trebuchets with some elite samurai over to the island in a transport and landed them on the undefended north side. I targeted the wonder with the trebs and waited for them to get in range. When the first one unpacked, it blocked the other two from getting closer, ruining my chances of a quick kill. The unpacked trebuchet did more damage than anything all game, but it was not enough. Time ran out on us, giving Thunder and Xiphoid an unlikely victory. Congratulations guys, it was well earned.
AOK Battle Stories
Posted by Washizu on August 2nd, 2000 @ 3:24 a.m.
A number of AOK sites have been posting AOK:TC battle stories that have been played this week. Be sure to check here later tonight for one on AOKH (I've been trying to get one posted all week, but keep getting interrupted to play!).

The AOK Battlefield has not only some game summaries, but an AVI of some of the new units in action.

Ogre's Through the Ages also has some game summaries up and ready for your consumption.
Gravely Appreciated!
Posted by Washizu on August 1st, 2000 @ 2:31 a.m.
I'm sure this scenario object will find its way into a number of AOKampaigns. Graveyards are a frequently requested eye-candy addition, and ES came through in the expansion pack. They have two types, the crosses and the headstones, and are chosen randomly each time you click.
And The Sign Says "Harter Ryan"
Posted by Washizu on August 1st, 2000 @ 2:25 a.m.
I was surprised at how few of you could read the road sign included in the AOK:TC scenario editor. One of the more amusing answers was "Homer Simpson". The name on the sign was "Harter Ryan", who just happens to be the producer for AOK and a really nice guy. A guy named Land was the first to send in the correct answer