Archived News From November 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!

GIN Review Of The Conquerors...
Posted by Thunder on November 30th, 2000 @ 7:18 p.m.
No, I was not stuck in the Tavern swilling gin! (a little early for that yet) The folks at Game Industry News have whipped up a review of the expansion pack. (thanks Blue's News) It's short, and very, very sweet:
"In my original review, I gave Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings, 5 GiN Gems, our highest rating, and it also went on to win GiN's Real Time Strategy Game of the Year Award for 1999. As I have nothing but praise for the Conquerors Expansion I am naturally going to give it 5 GiN Gems too. I just wish I could give it a bit of a higher rating to denote its improvement over the original."

Source - GIN Conquerors Review

Yah, it's getting kind of late for reviews. I suppose most of the people who really want the Conquerors Expansion already have it, but with the buying season upon us, those that have gone without might want to keep this at the top of their list. ...mmmmmm gin... ; )
New To AOKH's Tavern: Adventurer's Corner!
Posted by Thunder on November 30th, 2000 @ 7:00 p.m.
I recieved a rum soaked message from Angel Chris a short time ago, announcing the opening of a brand new section in the AOKH Tavern dedicated to sharing your war stories. Here's the good word:
"Your (drunken) Barkeep has been working on the new side room to everyone's favourite Tavern, and it is now available for public viewing! Adventurers, Bards, or just plain Patron, you are intvited to take a seat, and listen or share your experiences. War Stories, Fiction, everything is welcome and everyone will always lend an ear to what you have to say.

So take another swig of my ale and move your lazy self to the back room. Now."
- Angel Chris


There you have it! Do drop by and have a look see. ...bah, who needs sleep? ; )
LBO 2000 Tournament!
Posted by Thunder on November 30th, 2000 @ 12:37 a.m.
Not only is there a new tournament in town, but also some groovy flash action! (not the opening of your coat variety) Legacy, Last Battle Of 2000 is a tournament for the original Age of Empires, the Rise of Rome Expansion, and the Conquerors Expansion as well. These will be full on 3 on 3 random map rumbles to boot! You've only got until December 2nd to register, so get your team together quick.

There's already a few pretty darned good players signed up, so it'll definately be worth the price of admission. ($0) Thanks to Archangel at ES for the link. ...aha, I don't see any restrictions on age or location for this event... ; )
Zone Tournament Starts Tomorrow!
Posted by Thunder on November 29th, 2000 @ 5:39 p.m.
The Zone's Artic Blast Conquerors Tournament is set to get underway tomorrow with almost 500 registered players in the first prelim round! (including our own Cherub Socratieus, best of luck!) There's still time to get yourself signed up to do battle in one of the four prelim rounds and have a shot at winning some nifty prizes such as....a $100 American Express Cheque!

You may want to sign up for a prelim round two, three, or four if possible as there are quite a few less players to compete against in those rounds. (still over well over 100 in each of them) Good luck to one and all, and please remember to take off your mittens before starting your games. ...unless you're feelin' lucky! ; )
Rolfe Clan Tourney Underway!
Posted by Thunder on November 29th, 2000 @ 5:16 p.m.
The battles have begun, and the gang at the Rolfe Clan are posting the recorded games for one and all to download! Drop by to see who's been taking a beating in the early going, and head to their downloads section for more RML tourney recorded games.

Have some feedback for them on the recorded games? Rolfe_WJ_2 set up a thread in our forum, this one here, for just that! ...watched the AI wars recorded game...the early going is quite impressive as the Alltooeasy team double teams an enemy! A matchup of some top draw scripts! ; )
Battlefield Denver Wrap Up...
Posted by Thunder on November 29th, 2000 @ 8:30 a.m.
My bud, GrafM gave me a shout tonight and pointed out Rookkev's write up on the fan event that took place in Denver CO. awhile back. Head on over to AoK Battlefield to check out his take on the gathering, the games, and the battles!

The battlefield folks now have their forums up and running once again, so pop by and have a chat. ...doh, have the find me password... ; )
Game 1!
Posted by Washizu on November 29th, 2000 @ 6:27 a.m.
Game 1 of AI Wars is now available in the Blacksmith for downloading. The first round match up between AllTooEasy and RML125 was a ferocious and interesting battle. I won't reveal the winner for those of you who want to watch the game for themselves first (the winner of the game will be announced in a day or two to everyone else), but I will reveal which civs were drawn by each team and what map type was chosen randomly for the game:

Map Type: Arabia
AllTooEasy (player 1, team 1) drew the Britons
AllTooEasy (player 2, team 1) drew the Japanese
RML125 (player 3, team 2) drew the Vikings
RML125 (player 4, team 2) drew the Koreans

Get the recorded game right here!
Reviewers Love Conquistadors!
Posted by Thunder on November 28th, 2000 @ 8:38 p.m.
While reading PlayNOW's review of the Conquerors expansion pack, I ran into a little phrase that I've read in several other reviews:
"Certainly units like the Spanish Conquistador (a cavalry unit with a hand cannon), would seem to be immensely powerful."

Source - PlayNOW Reviews Conquerors

Several other reviews called them overpowering, and unbalanced. Having just played the Spanish in a game in which I had a couple of Castles up, I can laugh out loud at this. For one thing, Conquistadors are very expensive, 60 food and 70 gold. For another, you can only make them at Castles, rather hard to mass them.

Yes, they are a grand unit, quite handy indeed, however, having just witnessed a group of my Conquistadors and Cavaliers get overwhelmed by a bunch of cheap Byzantine counter units it only reminds us that this is the ultimate game of rock, paper, scissors, spearmen, pikemen, knights, archers, etc etc etc. ...with rock getting an attack bonus vs scissors and scissors gettings an attack bonus vs paper, but paper beats rock so it's best to have a mixed unit army of rock and scissors... ; )
AI Wars - Round #1 Pairings
Posted by Rasher on November 28th, 2000 @ 6:58 a.m.
We are cleared for takeoff in Round #1 of the AI Wars! The matchups for the first round have been announced, and all is ready for us to begin the Wars!
It should be a great tournament, and a number of top AI designers are participating. Look for some pretty sweet recorded games to be posted following the conclusion of the AI Wars.
The pairings can be found here
Good luck to all who entered, and let the games begin!
Pretty Town Competition Update!
Posted by Thunder on November 28th, 2000 @ 6:27 a.m.
Hey, it's the Foz! Cherub Fozby sends along an update on the forum Pretty Town Competition, in which you design a lovely town using the scenario editor and give a tour for the player:
"The AOKH Forummers' Pretty Town Competition which started late September is nearing its expiry date. The deadline has been moved forward to Friday December the 15th to encourage those lazy tendancies along. To find out more visit the Competition thread in either the Outside Discussion or Scenario Design forums. Come on people, get those creative juices flowing and pitch in to make this competition work!" - Cherub Fozby

You'll be able to use all of the goodies added to the scenario editor in the expansion pack like haystacks and signs and tombstones and all the rest! Good luck everybody. ...if your town is so pretty it hurts, grab some pain killers and enter this contest! ; )
Campaign Contest Site Up and Running!
Posted by Rasher on November 27th, 2000 @ 6:27 a.m.
The official page for the Destiny of a Dynasty - AoKH Campaign Contest is up and running, thanks to the efforts of Angel Zen.
You can find the site here. Submission forms and procedure details shall be added shortly, and for now all the information you need to get started on your campaign can be found on the Contest Page. Read the official rules, get an idea of what the campaign is all about, check out the way-cool prizes, have a look at who will be judging the contest, and get some hints and tips from the Scenario Design Forum. The only thing that's left is for you to start designing!
Random Rumblings...
Posted by Thunder on November 26th, 2000 @ 10:08 a.m.
Right off the top, one of our forums has just surpassed the 200 000 post mark! Thanks to Da Bomb for dropping me a line with the amazing news, and congrats to Angel Rasher who sent the Outside Discussion forum to the momentous mark with his post.

On a different note, I got to sneak in a game with some friends today between studying, and had a grand time. It was random civilizations 2 on 2 and I ended up with Spanish, not my favourite. Thankfully I had Angel AoErat on my team to help me knock the rust off of my game. He provided all of the offence while I got my sputtering economy going.

Teams: Cherub Socrateius (Byzantine) & Xynon (Mongol) vs Angel AoErat (Franks) & me (Spain)
Map: Yucatan (hope that's spelled ok)

I go for my standard fast feudal, but when I find Socrateius is beside me, I assume that he is the Mongol enemy and that he will be hitting me in feudal, so I play defensive. He takes quite a long time to reach feudal, and I see a missed oppurtunity there but gear up for a knight rush. I castle first but run into pallisades with spearmen waiting on the other side and give up on that idea, switching to a boom.

Meanwhile, my partner, AoErat, hits Xynon with a bunch of his Frank knights and does some serious damage. He draws the attention of both players and gets chased off by a swarm of pikemen. Xynon has had enough of a beating, and resigns shortly afterward.

My sputtering economy recovers from my fast feudal to carry me into the Imperial age. With Xynon gone, AoErat and I attack Socrateius from two sides, and I realize that he is actually Byzantine as his Cataphracts rush in to kill several of my Trebuchets. My strategy changes yet again as I switch from going for Champions to Paladins.

After some very stiff Byzantine resistance, AoErat, who never feels the need to go to the Imerial Age, and I are able to rush into Soc's town and finally sack it. GG all!

Lesson learned? Changing strategies isn't bad, but changing strategies too many times can lead to a little too much sitting around, as I did in that game. Letting a Byzantine player get to the Imperial Age is very dangerous!

Have a great thanksgiving, if you're celebrating that sorta thing, and see ya on the battlefield. ...what, no recorded game? Definately not! Playing the Spanish is bad enough, no need to have people watch that disaster... ; )
Weekend Reading...
Posted by Thunder on November 25th, 2000 @ 1:42 a.m.
No surprise, but people are still finding interesting tid bits in AoK that you won't read about in the game manual. Winston started this thread quite some time ago and quite a few people have added their findings to it.

You'll be able to find more interesting reading, guides, and hot forum topics in the AOKH Tavern. Drop by and pay Angel Chris (the drunken barkeep) and the rest of the barflies a visit. ...another item you won't find in the manual...cheats...I think...not sure on that, never read the manual...or the directions on how to put that broekn down TV stand together... ; )
Punks Growing By Leaps And Bounds...
Posted by Thunder on November 24th, 2000 @ 7:52 p.m.
The SCN Punks have had a lot going on of late. New people hired, new jobs posted, new pages updated and now a new site hosted. New job? Quite right! They are looking for a publicist with great writing skills to help keep everyone up to date on their projects. Visit them for latest! ...Washizu is off for the weekend...it's Thanksgiving for him, and for some of you I'm sure, have a good one! ; )
Getting In The Games Biz...
Posted by Thunder on November 23rd, 2000 @ 9:47 a.m.
Many gamers, and non games for that matter, have that dream. Ya know, where they get paid to make, test, and tweak games all day. Cliff Bleszinski, stud muffin at lil' ol' Epic Games (heard of Unreal Tournament?) has put together a look at how people get their foot in the door and on their way to a job in the industry. He's posted it on his personal site, www.cliffyb.com:
"I’ve decided to finally write this up to help everyone out. I would have killed for something like this when I was the young guy emailing the developer!

Shane Caudle (Art Director) and I see a lot of resumes. And I get, on average, 3 or more emails a day from game industry hopefuls. This document is going to focus on Artists and Level Designers. (I’ll talk to Tim and Polge about what they’re looking for when they pick out programmers and update this site accordingly.)"


Source - How to get hired

It's an enlightening read, and many of the things Cliff mentions have been reiterated by people at other games companies as well. He has posted a few other articles on his site that may also be of interest to you, so drop by and poke around a bit. ...don't stare too long at the picture of Cliff in the bunny suit...or else... ; )
AIWars Delay
Posted by Zen on November 23rd, 2000 @ 8:00 a.m.
An announcement from Rasher:

Well, it has been nearly a month since the AI Wars deadline has passed, and to some it may have appeared the contest was on permanent leave.

However, the reason for the delay is simple: an error occured somewhere during the submissions process, and a number of entries were not properly recieved. We have been spending the last period of time attempting to sort out the error, and get the contest up and running again as quickly as possible.

If you have entered the contest, please check your email from an email from Angel Rasher regarding the AI Wars. If you have recieved one, please resubmit your entry as quickly as possible. If you have not recieved an email, then there is no need to worry: either your entry has been recieved, or your email adress was not valid.

We thank you for your patience as we attempt to get the contest back and running!

Sybex Strat Guide Update...
Posted by Thunder on November 22nd, 2000 @ 6:45 p.m.
The gang at Sybex have put together a free online update for everybody that covers the new game types. They give some tips, advice, and potential strategies for King of the Hill, Defend the Wonder, Last Man Standing (read shimo), and the Wonder Race. You can find the update over at Sybex Games. (thanks Voodoo Extreme) ...yah gotta like the price! ; )
Angel Rasher On Strike...
Posted by Thunder on November 22nd, 2000 @ 8:22 a.m.
Our own Angel Rasher has joined the Strike Team, which is working campaigns and scenarios for the upcoming RTS Empire Earth! Rasher will feel quite at home I'm sure in the company of several other great scenario designers who've left their mark here with Age of Kings scenarios, such as Yogurt and another HG staffer Cherub Lobby.

Big thank you to Angel Park at Empire Earth Heaven for giving us the goods on this story, and do drop by EEH for the full press release from Stainless Steel Studios on their new Strike Team member. ...rock on Rasher... ; )
Speak Of The Devil...
Posted by Thunder on November 22nd, 2000 @ 3:01 a.m.
**Update**
You can download the new map right here: ES@Pilgrims

More random map scripts coming our way Agers! The gang at Ensemble Studios are preparing a brand new script which will be available for download tomorrow. Not only that, Mike "Capn" Kidd will have a new strategy to share that will get you off to a flying start on this new map, entitled ES@Pilgrims:
"Brief Teaser about the Map

Greg Street: Somewhere on the other side of the map is a huge continent, with wolves, turkeys, deer and boars, and many resources. Your starting island's meager resources are barely enough to get you started, so transporting to the new world is going to have to happen early."

It seems the ES gang are in a teasing mood, providing a few more tastey tid bits about the upcoming strategy. Drop by the ES news for the full monty! ...no need to shield your eyes... ; )
Random Map Script Blitz!
Posted by Washizu on November 21st, 2000 @ 7:35 a.m.
Well, you guys have done it. We now have a total of 156 random map scripts available for downloading. Just today, we received this message from award winning scenario designer Kyle Leach:
These new random map scripts are great! They are the best player-generated material to hit AOE/AOK since people first started posting custom scenarios. I check into the Blacksmith everyday to see what's new. It's like having access to a daily add-on pack for AOK. Talk about adding a fresh and exciting element to the game. These maps are great. They give you all of the eye candy that you expect with a custom map, but with the surprise element of a random game. Thumbs up to Vauxhall, RF_Gandalf, Mr ED, and others for cranking out such a flurry of good maps. I have something new and exciting to play at home every night!
Also, some credit must go to ES for including this great feature! Anything that extends the life of a game increases the likelyhood of the gamer purchasing the developer's future games.
AOK Heaven Tavern Opens!
Posted by Thunder on November 21st, 2000 @ 6:29 a.m.
Heaven's newest Angel, Angel Chris, has sent word that a brand new section is open to drown your sorrows in, and even help you find your way around our extensive forums. Take it away oh winged one:
"As of today, no more questions about the forum staff. No more questions about why 'ForumXYZ' was closed. No questions shall remained unanswered now that the Tavern has opened!

The Tavern will the meeting place, or simply put the information center for the forums. Warning, Guides, Tips, Contests, everything conscerning the forums are here!

Head over to the Tavern now, take a look around but don't disturb the patrons!
- Angel Chris

Do drop by and pay him a visit! He'll pour you a drink, and show you the latest hot topics and news in the craziness that is our forums.

You'll find some great posts in the forums, such as Dubya's guide to terms and common strategies in AoK, a must see! ...no drinking on the job Angel Chris... ; )
Fried Brains On Bug Reports...
Posted by Thunder on November 21st, 2000 @ 2:55 a.m.
Sleep deprivation and being over worked can lead to some aweful things. Brain lag, loss of concentration, vomitting, and all sorts of other oddities. Mike "Capn" Kidd has shared an example of such effects by posting a bug report from the Studios in the local forum here:
"Last week, the RTS3 group at ES finished up a 2-week crunch period to reach one of our development milestones. It seems that some people get a little slap-happy after a few days of 10AM - midnight shifts, but I'll let you be the judge.

The following is a trancript of an actual bug log entered in our system today. Alex is the QA lead, Rob is the lead programmer, and Paul is the programmer that is creating the nitty-gritty communcation stuff. Without further introduction, here it is:"
-Mike Kidd

Source - our forum

The bug report, which is entitled Bug Summary: Telepathy over internet does not work, is a rather ... interesting read. Wiggle your funny bone over the above source link to read the bug report in it's entirety. ...over worked? nah, I can't relate...I can remember the last time I had more than 3 hours sleep...it was in class just now ; )
Shelley And Kidd Q&A!
Posted by Thunder on November 21st, 2000 @ 0:33 a.m.
A couple of ES folks have been cornered for some Q&A action at MGON. Bruce Shelley and AI Designer Mike "Capn" Kidd answer a variety of questions on RTS3, patches, and the Conquerors.
"Are you working on a patch for the expansion pack currently? If so, what issues are you fixing?
[Mike Kidd] We haven't announced any decisions on a patch yet. We are watching the fan sites and bug reports closely, there are a number of small items that would be good to fix in a patch. One is certainly the visibility in snow, especially on the minimap. Similarly, the Teuton bonus for researching Faith doesn't work properly."


Source - MGON ES Q&A

It's three pages of questions and answers with a pair of ES blokes, can't ask for too much more than that. Bruce Shelley is his usual cautious self when he is refering to future projects, so they just touch (softly) on RTS3, a good read at anyrate though! (will next year never come?) ...gotta run, presenting my project to the class in 20 mins! ; )
Ol' Caesar III Heaven Surpasses 500k!
Posted by Thunder on November 20th, 2000 @ 5:53 p.m.
Our hearty congratulations to the Angels and Cherubs of Caesar III Heaven, which broke the 500000 visitor mark earlier today! If you happenned to be lucky enough to be the 500000th visitor and captured a screenshot to boot, be sure to send it in to Angel RR and I'm sure he'll gladly reward you with some fitting tribute. ...I missed it by 27...doh ; )
Planet AoE's Arcade Challenge!
Posted by Thunder on November 20th, 2000 @ 5:46 p.m.
Tomorrow evening will see Xiphoid, webmaster at Planet AoE, heading to the Conquerors lobby at GameSpy Arcade to take on Agers in some FFA King of the Hill action! If you come out on top of the heap, you will win a copy of Red Alert 2. Mark Tuesday 4pm PST/7pm EST on your calenders for some KOTH. ...a full on 8 player FFA...better break out your lucky rabbit's foot! ; )
Wizards of the Coast Employee... I Salute You!
Posted by Washizu on November 20th, 2000 @ 8:35 a.m.
The other day I was in the Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, VA. I stopped into the new Wizards of the Coast store with the intention to buy Baldur's Gate 2. One of the employees was frolicking around the store playing with one of those Yo Yo Balls. If you don't know what a Yo Yo Ball is, I think the name is pretty self explanatory unless you don't know what a Yo Yo is. Anyway, the employee was trying to convince me to buy the $65 BG Collectors Edition when he hit himself with the Yo Yo Ball. Now, this would be embarrassing enough by itself. Trying to make a sale, and looking like a dork by losing control of your Yo Yo Ball, but the Wizards employee managed to hit himself right in the crotch. Ouch. Everyone in the store that saw it laughed like crazy, and the event surely made my day.

So, Wizards of the Coast employee... I salute you and hope you got a raise later that day.
AoE Card Game At eGroups...
Posted by Thunder on November 20th, 2000 @ 7:09 a.m.
Many thanks to Conquestadoor who has been very interested in the new Age of Empires Card Game! He dropped me a line with the address of an eGroups account where you can exchange your ideas and thoughts on the subject. Conquestadoor even mentioned that the Lead Designer of the game has even contributed to the discussion! If you're interested, visit http://www.egroups.com/group/aoe-ecg.

For those of you who aren't familiar with these eGroups, they are something like forums, but you post to a group e-mail list. All you have to do is subscribe to be on the list. There's already quite a few members there, jump on in. ...kewl, great to see the designers involved like this...if you're already signed into egroups though, you will have to sign out to view the aoe-ecg page... ; )
Eagle Warriors: Bonuses For And Against...
Posted by Thunder on November 19th, 2000 @ 10:33 p.m.
Eagle Warriors are a strange unit to be sure. They run softly, carry a big stick, and have bonuses against an amazing number of different units. In a recent forum post, Omega1239 was curious as to just what all of their bonuses were. Siege, Monks, and Cavalry are all effected by at least a small attack bonus from these units, and they are naturally good against Archers to boot! Then a little something unexpected turned up:
"All infantry should get +2 against Eagle Warriors." - Greg Street

Source - Our Forum

Regular infantry is good against Eagle Warriors anyway, but that nice little bonus paints an even better picture. Our thanks to Greg "DeathShrimp" Street for pointing that one out! Sure, it may be a modest bonus, but it certainly swings an already favourable match up further towards regular infantry. Click on ye olde source link above to visit the forum thread in question, which adds further detail on Eagle Warrior bonuses. ...+1 pierce armour for infantry has convinced me to use them far more often as well...LongSwords can take out TCs pretty darned well now ; )
The Search for News
Posted by Washizu on November 19th, 2000 @ 10:15 a.m.
AOK was released well over a year ago. The Conquerors expansion has been released (and it's still selling well I might add). News isn't all that hard to find for the game with events and new random maps being developed all the time, not to mention a healthy number of graphic modifications, scenarios, campaigns, etc. Most of the news, however, gets posted immediately by my new partner in justice, Angel Thunder. So what is a news Angel to do? Yes folks, I have resorted to just typing "Age of Empires" into the Google Search Engine.

The results may astound you...

  • AOEHappy.com: I don't know what this is, and I don't think I want to know.
  • Age of Empires ICQ community: Not bad for finding players.
  • ZYXPHRATL: A classic AOE story written about villagers and their daily routines. Long time ager's will definitely remember this.
  • Some info unrelated to the game on Arabnet.
  • Smartgirl.com's hard hitting review:
    Q: What was the worst thing about it?

    A: You have to have cheats just to see the whole map or to get rid of the fog, otherwise it is pretty good.

  • Hmm... anyone up for Sim Siege?
  • SmartGirl.com's review of the AOE expansion pack, The Rise of Rome:
    Q: How did you feel about the sounds/audio?

    A: AWESOME!!!

    Q: Anything else?

    A: The game is about Rome.

  • An ad for the AOE Gold Edition maiking the claim you can "Build Roman, Greek, or some other 10,000 years old kingdom with possibility of high-resolution, above 800x600 pixels, and great ancient melodies." There's nothing better than 10,000 year old great ancient melodies.

I hope you enjoyed my findings on Google.com.
Dealing Out The Hurt In AoE...
Posted by Thunder on November 19th, 2000 @ 6:23 a.m.
Literally. The official Age of Empires card game now has an official website, but it is largely under development at the moment. Be sure to drop in on them when they are all dressed up!

Thanks to Ensemble Studios webmaster Mike "Archangel" McCart for this bit of good news. Speaking of dressing up, the ES site has undergone some changes of late and is looking mighty fine! Archy has also posted news of a couple of new Conquerors reviews, drop by to see the latest changes to the site. ...treated myself to the BraveHeart DVD today, a grand movie..."Well we did ne get dressed up for nothing" ; )
Lil' Mongol On The Prairies...
Posted by Thunder on November 17th, 2000 @ 7:45 p.m.
The latest poll at Ensemble Studios asks us to pick our most beloved new random map type that they have created to date. Hovering around the bottom of the list right now is their latest map, ES@Prairie, which seems quite a lot like Arabia on the surface.

I chose Mongols, my pet civilization since way back when, and launched a game on the prairies. Right out of the starting blocks you know you aren't on Arabia. Click here to see a mapshot of my starting area. This map caters to the Mongol player for sure. The pairs of deer near the Town Centers at start up are a real gift, as the 50% faster Mongol hunters can strip their bones in no time flat! (I imagine China's extra villes would make for a heck of a fast start as well) I was able to keep up constant villager production on deer alone, later switching to boar and turkeys.

Berries are scarce, but the two scouts at start up make finding food no problem at all. Turkeys are fairly easy to find, but only in ones or twos. Boar are sometimes scarce, which can throw a wrench into your plans, and small tree clumps can become as important as gold clumps if the game stretches into the later ages.

Perhaps the map is a little flat and too Arabia like for some people. It seems tailor made for the Mongols and rushing, which are both right up my alley.

Try out an ES map or two if you haven't yet, you may find a gem that suits you just right. ...Why do Prairie Dogs howl so much? ...no trees on the prairies... ; )
Win AoE Collector's Edition Prize Pack!
Posted by Thunder on November 17th, 2000 @ 9:06 a.m.
You could win one of ten prize packs from the super cool gang at PC Gameworld! (thanks MFO) The prize packs consist of a copy of the AoE Collectors edition signed by Bruce Shelley and other unspecified members of the ES crew, and an AoE hat.

Who do you have to kill for all of that? No one! (no killing please...it's just not a good idea) You'll be tested with a few Age related questions that are just dead easy. You have until December 15, so make sure you enter to win! ...it's officially winter...have had to start scraping ice from my windshield... ; (
Interesting AOK League
Posted by Washizu on November 16th, 2000 @ 6:41 p.m.
Tired of lamers, cheaters, and the like? Do you live in Europe and tire of playing games with opponents in PST, CST, and EST? Tired of the intercontinental lag associated with such games? Maybe you should wake up and check out the Masters of AOE:
Hi Washizu !

I don't think that you get too many mails from this Part of the World ;-) First i would like to introduce me to you. I am one of the leading founders and organizers of the oldest, most traditional and i think biggest AoK-Tournament in the world. Our Tournament -Site is called "AoE-Masters" (www.masterszone.de) an it celebrates its two Year Birthday this week. Since November 1998 the Masters operates without any interuption and has build a special tradition. The main
reason why most of you americans maybe don't know about us is that we are still a striktly german-speaking Page. But here are some facts about our Master which shows its unique standing in the European-Age-Community:

Over 650 active and regular Players playing continiously in the last two years

Over 5.000 Masters-Games were played until now

Even it is a striktly german-based page players from 15 different Nations (even USA) are playing in the Masters

Nearly 300.000 Pageviews every month

The Mastersforum is with over 1.260 registered players one of the biggest AoK-Forums in Europe

Every Masters-Round is based on a real historical Background. The Backgroundstories are filling a book with over 400 pages yet (and stil growing ;-) )

For better understanding here are some more basic rules and facts of our Masters:

- The Masters is played in three week rounds. For every round we have fixed gamedays (Tue, Thu, Fri, Sun) and times (20.00 and 22.00 european central time). On every date a Operator of the Masters chose randomly (computer based) 3v3 and 2v2 matches from all players who want to play at that time. The matches then are shown on the ?Masters-Zone?-Site a little bit later.There you can join in a mini-chat and see who has to host the game.

- Because the Masters has a relatively high playing and social level (no verbal-idiots, cheaters, boneheads who can't lose and so on) every new registered player first has to join a few Tutor-Game-Days (everey Wednesday 20.00 ect) where our operators can see how good a player is and if his human behaviors are o.k. for the masters.

- For every victory in a Mastersgame a player then gets around 15 Ratingpoints, for every loss ?15 Ratingpoints. In every actual round he also gets three points for a win an -2 for a loss( see "Rundentabelle").

- After 10 gamedays in three weeks, the 16 players with the most points are playing for the Masterstitle in a classic american playoff-mode (2v2 Teams exept the 1v1 final). The winner of the final gets an introduction into the AoE-Masters ?Hall of Fame?. The whole Tournament is just for the honour ! We are playing our XXXIII.Round ("Life of Mohammed") now.

- Every Mastersround is based on a real historic event or battle, which means that the settings for every round are different and the maps and civs are determined by the historic event (for example: Battle of Hastings, Manzikert, Camlann, Seabattle of Sluis, Life of Cortes, Battle of Naseby and so on)

- Every Player has the opportunity to discuss every game of the last four gamedays after it is played with all other players in a special section (?Spielergebnisse?) and see how all the other games went.

-The Masters also has three different special columnists. A graduated historian (me BTW ;-) ) who writes all the historic backgrounds for every round and the ?Did you knows?, another one who describes the game in satiric stories (?From lions, wolves and other difficulties?) and finally one of the best german speaking players (fast_doc) who writes helping strategies for newbies and better players (?What the doc orders?)

-The Gamespeed is always SLOW (all the Time with no exeptions !). The Pop-Limit is different, but always between 100-200

- The Masterspages also have state of the art download archive where anybody can download many memorable games and Mastersplayoffgames off the last rounds and discuss them afterwards. A special statistic section (?Ranglisten?) where every possible statistic of the Mastersplayers can be found, a newssection, a ?Ager of the Week?-Award and so on.

Maybe all that could/would be a good headline for your pages ?! And if you have some questions just mail me back. BTW my Zone and (more important) Masters-Nick
is SD_CHARGER
Their site can be found here....actually, I get plenty of email from that part of the world AOK is a pretty multinational game.
Campaign Contests!
Posted by Thunder on November 16th, 2000 @ 8:36 a.m.
There's a pair of Age campaign contests going on here in Heaven at the moment, and there's still time to get involved in either or both of them!

The first Age site, Age of Empires Heaven have just extended the deadline in their contest. You now have until December 15th to get your entry in for the AOEH Campaign Contest. That is, of course, for the original Age of Empires game, not the Rise of Rome expansion or Age of Kings.

Our own Conquerors Campaign Contest was revealed some time ago by Angel Rasher in the scenario design forum. Very soon we hope to have the official webpage up for that contest, so keep an eye out for it, and be sure to get cracking on your campaign! ...thanks to those who sent in names for ES's engine...my personal fav is "TIMMY!" ...submitted by an unknown person with a grand sense of humour... ; )
BANG! ...Poof...
Posted by Thunder on November 15th, 2000 @ 9:48 a.m.
It looks like Ensemble Studios' BANG! engine is no longer BANG!, or that is to say it is being given a new name. In a recent forum post, RTS3 Lead Programmer Rob "Xemu" Fermier addressed this issue in responce to a bit of bad information that was passed out at a recent chat event along with a link to a product of the same explosive name:
"FYI, that BANG! is a totally separate thing than what we're developing for RTS3. An unfortunate collision of names (along with BANG! Gunship Elite) so I imagine we'll come up with a more marketing-cool name at some point on the future." - Rob Fermier

So the new RTS3 engine will have a swanky new title just as soon as some poor marketing person gets let out of his/her office with something acceptable, dynamic, and equally explosive. Thanks for helping to set things straight Rob!

Have you got what it takes to come up with a great new name for this engine? Let's hear it! ...for inspiration, watch that old Batman TV series with Adam West...any fight scene will reveal a ton of potential names...SPLAT! SNUH! ZORT! BLAT!...it's a gold mine I tells ya! ; )
DirectX 8.0 ALREADY Out
Posted by Washizu on November 14th, 2000 @ 6:45 p.m.
Thanks to Imr Der for pointing out that DirectX 8.0 is already available. Microsoft must not have updated their keyword searchable downloads directory and I assumed that it wasn't out yet.

Download the latest version of DirectX right here.
New RM Script: Welcome To The Prairies!
Posted by Thunder on November 14th, 2000 @ 6:25 p.m.
As the name suggests, Ensemble Studios latest random map script creates wide open maps, great for the offensive minded player. This script was created by programmer Jon Peters, who describes the map this way:
"Life can be harsh on the open prairie--food is often scarce, or at least patchy, and there aren't a lot of natural defenses to protect your city from predators or rival nations. Fortunately, your 2 Scouts can cover a lot of ground looking for flocks of wild turkey or herds of deer. Prairie is a wide-open map, with only a tiny bit of water offering slightly more protection than your average Arabia. The big difference is in the allocation of resources. Each player has 2 puny berry bushes near their Town Center. All other food must be caught on the hoof. There are large patches of deer, boar and turkeys scattered about the map, but you are going to have to leave the safety of your Town Center to locate them. At least the initial berries give your villagers something to occupy their time while your Scouts charge around the area looking for more food. Later on in the game, wood becomes the limiting resource, and battles may occur over the copses of trees."


Source - ES Random Map Scripts

Two scouts, the more to be raided by. In the case of the Turks, they'll also get two free Light Cavalry if they make it to the Castle Age, although you'd have to be pretty brave to take the Turks on a wide open map like that.

The folks at the studios are also looking for some feedback on their maps. Their latest poll, which you can find on the main page, asks: "What New Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion Random Map Online Download do you enjoy playing the most?" Drop by and give them your two cents, so you can point them down the road of creating cool RM scripts that you enjoy the most. ...I have yet to play on them all, but I won a game on Capricious, so I am biased... ; )
DirectX 8.0 Soon Available
Posted by Washizu on November 14th, 2000 @ 3:05 a.m.
The latest version of DirectX will be released shortly. The software developer kits have been available since 11/9. Here are some of the more interesting improvements:
- Better support for NATs, Firewalls, and Proxy Servers
- Application defined payloads on session enumerations and replies
- Revised addressing scheme that is URL ruled based designed to be human readable and portable
- The use of I/O completion ports in Windows 200
- Improved ease of use through the removal of obtuse services, for example groups within groups

The DirectPlay Voice interfaces allow you to quickly and easily establish voice communications over an existing DirectPlay8 or DirectPlay4 session.

DirectPlay Voice provides the following features:
- Peer to peer, forwarding server, and mixing server voice topologies
- A variety of codecs from 1.2kbit/sec to 64kbit/sec, that can be used royalty free in DirectPlay Voice.
- Voice detection to automatically trigger voice transmission
- Automatic gain control to automatically adjust the recording volume level
- Adaptive queuing that provides a smooth speech stream with minimum latency over different and changing network conditions
- Integration with DirectSound & DirectSoundCapture
- Sound Hardware Test wizard
- Support for IDirectPlay8 and IDirectPlay4 transport sessions
The full release notes can be found here....DirectX 8.0 will also be used in the XBox!
GameSpy Arcade 1.0: The Grand Finale...
Posted by Thunder on November 14th, 2000 @ 1:08 a.m.
The extra long beta period for GameSpy Arcade is now officially over with the release of version 1.0. For Agers that haven't used this program yet, it's similar to the Zone match making software. You enter a lobby for the game of your choice and you can create or join existing games within that lobby. There's also the standard chat windows as well as PlayerSpy, which let's you send messages to your friends and it also shows what they are up to. At anyrate, here's the official press release on the subject:
"After an extremely successful beta period, we're unleashing the full version of the Arcade software upon the public. With support for over 160 peer-to-peer and dedicated server games (everything from Age of Empires II to Baldur's Gate II to Half-Life and Quake), instant messaging, chat, buddy tracking, integrated Web browsing and direct access to the rapidly expanding Arcade community, GameSpy Arcade is a must-have for any gamer -- casual or hardcore.

If you're already using Arcade, you'll find that the software will auto-update to version 1.0. If you haven't grabbed Arcade yet, you can download both the fully registered version and the trial version from the Arcade download page, courtesy of FilePlanet. What are you waiting for? Grab it now. It's time to play."


Source - GameSpy Arcade

You may have noticed a few events of late, including our own tournament, taking place on GS Arcade. It is quite user friendly, tournament friendly, and certainly worth a try! ...and they will surely be adding support for new games as they come out...like Warcraft III...*drool* ; )..
Age Story Contest!
Posted by Thunder on November 13th, 2000 @ 10:21 p.m.
Story tellers and Age collectors will be drooling with this news! Ogre, webmonster at ye olde aoe2.com, has launched a brand new contest that is bound to be entertaining for all:
"Do you feel like winning a copy of the new Age of Empires Collector's
Edition? Do you feel more importantly like winning a copy of the new Age of
Empires Collector's Edition signed by the legendary game designer Bruce
Shelley? Well you have come to the right place then! We at AoE2.com are
giving away one signed copy to the lucky winner of our new contest. The contest is Ogre thinks will be fun for everyone. Here is the idea below:

All you have to do now is come up with a cool fictional Age story. By this I mean you must come up with a story related to Age of Empires. Keep inmind it does not have to be very long."

Story contests are always a blast! Make em laugh, make em cry, and win yourself a heck of a cool prize. For all of the details, where to submit your entry, and a list of the full rules be sure to visit the aoe2.com story contest page. ...all of my stories in grade school started off with: "It was a dark and stormy night..." ; )
Ice Age Tournament!
Posted by Thunder on November 13th, 2000 @ 4:26 p.m.
Yet another tournament is already set to begin on the MSN Gaming Zone! Here is the announcement in the MS Games Monthly Mailer:
"Time to rethink those game winning Age strategies and practice up, because the Zone is about to roll out a brand new Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion tournament. Just in time for the holiday season, this latest tournament opens for registration on November 15th, with the first preliminary tournament getting underway November 30th."

As part of your first place prize, you'll receive a $100 American Express Cheque ($100us), which is nothing to sneeze at! A little something to line your pocket right before the holidays, now how can you beat that? The settings are still a mystery and will remain so until they are announced at the beginning of each preliminary round. For the full details, check out the Arctic Blast Tournament page and good luck to everyone! ...remember to read the fine print about having to be 13 or older, and a resident of the US or Canada... ; )
Hearing Punks?
Posted by Thunder on November 13th, 2000 @ 8:12 a.m.
The scenario wizards of the SCN Punk team are looking for some new members. They are searching for some talented individuals to aid them with the audio portions of their campaigns and scenarios. If you're up for some voice recording, or sound editing and engineering, visit them today and drop them a line.

While you're there, check out some of their killer scenarios for Age of Kings! ...first they say the RTS genre is dead, now it's not dead and Commandos II is going to break new ground? Oh lord...warning, another RTS related GameCenter article...thanks Planet AoE for the link... ; )
New_Legion Wins KOHH Tournament!
Posted by Thunder on November 13th, 2000 @ 4:00 a.m.
A big congrats to New_Legion who took on hz_Farmer in the finals for the King of Heaven Hill Tournament! hz_Farmer had sheep troubles that put a kink in his early build up, but he recovered to put some serious pressure on New_Legion as the counter wound down in this Viking (Farmer) vs Goths (Legion) match up. Our runners up are Sarmis_Blakikat and AZT_KnightOwl!

Thanks to all those who participated in the tournament, and you can check out the recorded games right here! (I highly recommend watching Legion and Farmers games) We had many drop outs and kinks, but all will serve to make our next tournament bigger and better. See you on the Battlefield! ...thanks to Sarmis_Bluenose as well for helping out... ; )
Blind Dates, Migrations, And Thinking Blue...
Posted by Thunder on November 12th, 2000 @ 0:46 a.m.
There's lots of great reading at Mr.Fixit Online. Blue_Myriddn shares his thoughts on his thoughts. He's written up what goes on inside his head while he's playing a game. Now, they also have a right up on one of my most hated map types, Migration. It allows for a variety of strats to succeed, one of the reasons I despise it. It's a map for people who know what they're doing, unlike myself.

MFO has also started up a brand new kinky event. How would you like to be paired up with the expert of your dreams? Check out MFO's Blind Date tourney. ...that's just sinful... ; )
TG Conquerors Tournament!
Posted by Thunder on November 11th, 2000 @ 6:50 a.m.
Whew, here's a tournament that will surely attract some attention. How could it not with a $1000 cash prize for first place? Here's a big ol' press release on the subject, (thanks Angel Zen) but if you've got dollar signs flashing in your eyes you can click here for more information:
"Dallas, TX - November 10th, 2000 - Twin Galaxies Electronic Gamers League(TGEGL) today launched the latest tourney in their inaugural online series, featuring Microsoft's real-time strategy hit, Age of Empires II, developed by Ensemble Studios. Play kicks off on November 22nd, when gamers will begin competing for $2000 in prize monies which will be split amongst the top six players.

Age of Empires II is the first RTS game to be selected by the TGEGL Commissioner, Jeff Gross. Commenting on the game selection, Jeff said: "Having served the FPS communities with Unreal Tournament, Rogue Spear and Quake III Arena, we felt that it was due time to reach out to a new gaming community and give these players both the opportunity to compete at the highest level and get the recognition they deserve. I look forward to connecting with the players of this genre and crowning the champions."

The TGEGL, a division of Twin Galaxies, operates online and live game championship tournaments for computer and console games. Visit www.twingalaxies.com and stay tuned to the upcoming 2001 tournament session. For further information on both the offline and live tournament series, contact Jeff Gross, TGEGL Commissioner, at jeffg@twingalaxies.com, or tel:972-315-2826."


Jump on in Agers! I took a quick scan through their "terms and conditions" and found that it doesn't matter what country you're in, as long as it's legal, you can compete. If you're under 18 years of age, you need a parent's consent though. Good luck all! ...I saw the AoE Collectors Edition for sale at my local EB finally, for $104.99 cdn pesos... ; )
The REAL Campaign Conflict
Posted by Washizu on November 10th, 2000 @ 8:11 p.m.
And you thought they were fighting over who won the election! Gamespy has the real store on Bush and Gore's feud:

http://www.gamespy.com/fargo/november00/AOEPresident/

and I thought Gore would go for the Chinese! Also, Bush must be pulling to play on the Texas map.
Tournament Brackets Set!
Posted by Thunder on November 10th, 2000 @ 8:01 p.m.
Registration has officially closed in the King of Heaven Hill Tournament, and the match-ups for the first round have now been set up. Drop by the brackets section of the tourney info. page to see who has been paired up with who, and tomorrow they do battle! ...shake hands and come out swinging! ; )
AI Wars update
Posted by Washizu on November 10th, 2000 @ 7:04 p.m.
Just to let you know, that we are carefully going through the entries at the moment to ensure that all the rules were followed. We don't have an ETA of when the matches will begin, but it will hopefully be soon.
Off to UVA
Posted by Washizu on November 10th, 2000 @ 7:02 p.m.
I'll be out for the weekend attending the Mid Atlantic ACM programming competition at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. I wouldn't have mentioned it, but I thought some of you guys might also be going. If you are, keep an eye out for anyone from American University. I have no idea what the layout from this event will be, but if you run into me, I'll probably be wearing my E3 shirt My name is Ben Garvey, btw.
Campaign Contest: Destiny Of A Dynasty!
Posted by Thunder on November 10th, 2000 @ 6:53 p.m.
This morning Angel Rasher has posted news in the scenario design forum of a new contest here in Heaven! The prizes include a swanky Ensemble Studios watch...but you know what time it is, time to whack out a superb campaign! You have until January 30, 2001 to submit your entry, so plenty of time to do your research:
"Campaigns must contain 3 scenarios, no more or less, and be designed under Age of Kings: The Conquerors (AoK:TC). They must be reasonably accurately based on any event or series of events relating to the Chinese Empire in the time period covered by AoK and AoK:TC, (approximately 500A.D. – 1600 A.D.)" - Angel Rasher

Source - "Destiny of a Dynasty - AoKH Chinese Campaign Contest"!

Click on ye olde source link above to be taken to the full information post on the subject. A few folks from Ensemble Studios will also be involved as judges for this event, so show em what you're made of! Good luck to all, and keep an eye out for an official webpage for this contest to surface soon. ...that's all for now, see you here tomorrow, same Age time, same Age channel...oh dear, feel free to boo and hiss that one ; )
Tournament Registration Deadline Coming Up...
Posted by Thunder on November 10th, 2000 @ 10:11 a.m.
In just seven hours, at 1100 EST (11am), registration will be closed in our King of Heaven Hill Tournament. Make sure that your name is added to the registered players list by sending your GameSpy Arcade user name and e-mail address to thunder@heavengames.com.

For those of you already registered, the bracket for round one will be posted by 1500 EST (3pm) tomorrow. Rounds two and three will be played on Sunday, November 12. Good luck all! ...just found an advertisement for the Conquerors at Futureshop (Canada only store I think) for $27.99 after a $20 mail in rebate...not too shabby! (prices in cdn pesos) There may be mail in rebates in your area too, shop around... ; )
Rumble In The Rockies, An ST_HotPants Production!
Posted by Thunder on November 10th, 2000 @ 8:37 a.m.
No it's not some cheapo "B" movie! ST_HotPants, of MFO has put together a great write up on the recent night of Age in Denver. The LAN event was hosted by ES webmaster Mike "Archangel" McCart, and was open to Age fans in the area. There were pictures, Age goods, and lag free games! Read up on who showed up, how the games turned out, and how a yet to be released RM script called "Prarie" plays.

It seems that Mike "Archangel" McCart has a taste for this lag free gaming. In a news post tonight in which he answered some questions about this event, he raised the possibility of more "Fan Community Events" in the future! ...assuming there's a LAN available to handle a buncha blood thirsty Agers! muhahaha ; )
Domain Name Investigation...
Posted by Thunder on November 10th, 2000 @ 2:16 a.m.
The inquisitive one, Xynon from aoe2.com, has put together an interesting piece on what domain names have been gobbled up for possible use. Not just any names, names held by Ensemble Studios folk. They've compiled quite the collection, including several "Age of..." names:
"We all are trying to salvage any information we can on Ensemble Studios' new games and trying to dig up something that will surely break some new ground. Well, I've must have gone on a Sherlock Holmes kick because I have something that hasn't been covered anywhere else on the net. In this article I will discuss the possible names of Ensemble Studios' new RTS and the other game in the works which is quite possibly, an RPG game. This article also has comments from the Community Manager Mike "Archangel" McCart and the console- loving, programmer Paul "winter" Bettner. Also we have an exclusive list of over 50 domains that ES has registered. "
Source - What's In A Name?

Whew, it's a long list, but with names like "AgeofTitans.com", it really gets ya thinking. Perhaps RTS3's future name is listed in there somewhere? Word is that we will have to wait until February of next year to find out any more on the subject, in an official capacity anyway. ...hmmm, ...maybe Xynon should be working on finding out who won the US election... ; )
Registered Players Update...
Posted by Thunder on November 9th, 2000 @ 7:57 p.m.
A couple of big names have stepped up to the challenge and will be battling for the crown this weekend. DBD_Jinx, _RCF_Joe, and several others are the most recent addtions to our registered players list.

There's now slightly less than 24 hours to get yourself registered for this event. You can find registration information and the registered players list at: Tournament Information

The Future of Artificial Intelligence...
Posted by Thunder on November 9th, 2000 @ 10:14 a.m.
In part II of a great read on the state of Artificial Intelligence in the game industry at Gamasutra, Dave "BigDog" Pottinger of Ensemble Studios shares his take on where AI is headed. He discusses current games that have made big strides in the area of AI, such as Unreal Tournament, as well as upcoming games and how they will build on or surpass these advances, even mentioning RTS3 several times:
"In our RTS3 project, we're going to use the XS scripting language to control the level of difficulty. Since we have an idea of how long we'd like each game to take, our AI designers can check things such as game time, how many of the CP's units have been killed, how many of the human player's units were killed by the CP, or the score of the game to see who's "winning." Armed with that information, they can scale back the quality of the AI to make sure the game doesn't drag out long after the outcome is really determined. If you start to augment that ability with other features such as game history logging, you have the makings of a good opponent that quickly scales to your initial difficulty level and continues to give you a challenging game even as you get better." - Dave Pottinger

Source - Game AI: The State of the Industry, Part II

If that seems a little dry for you, don't let that stop you from checking out this great article. The Conquerors AI is also mentioned several times, as well as whether AI should cheat or not, and just what makes an AI fun to play against. It adds up to some good clues as to what we may see in Ensemble's future games! ...they really hit the nail on the head when discussing what makes an AI fun to play against. Great article BigDog! ; )
Just How Fast Is Your Connection?
Posted by Thunder on November 9th, 2000 @ 8:56 a.m.
After finding out today that the Baldur's Gate II demo is an astonishing 640mb, that's six-hundred and forty megabytes, (thanks GoneGold) this interesting topic in the forums is all the more timely. SoT_Master posted a link to a site that tests out just how fast your connection is. If you're interested in seeing if your cable modem is living up to the company's figures, or just how slow your dial-up connection is, try the Speed Test. It is actually quite accurate and just a quicky.

After you've found out just how fast, or slow, your connection is, try doing the math and see how long it would take to download 640mb! ...I'm almost speechless...640mb demo...hahaha! By the time I've finished downloading it, the game would be last years news... ; )
Registered Players List...
Posted by Thunder on November 8th, 2000 @ 9:18 p.m.
The list of players currently registered to participate in the KOHH Tournament is now up. At the moment, all registered players will win a prize of some sort! You can view the list in the round one brackets section of the Tournament information page, and there's still plenty of time to get your name added.

If you have sent in your registration information and have not received a confirmation e-mail yet, your information was not received. Send your registration info. (GameSpy Arcade user name and e-mail address) to thunder@heavengames.com and that'll get you squared away. ...finally finished Deus Ex a few days ago...saw Rob Fermier of ES listed in the credits...he's been moonlighting at Ion Storm! ; )
Tourney Talk!
Posted by Thunder on November 8th, 2000 @ 10:49 a.m.
Registration in the King of Heaven Hill Tournament is well underway! I had an interesting question put to me in the forums that should probably be addressed here as well. The question had to do with some tournaments which were for US/Canada residents only. Well, this tournament is open to everyone! There are no restrictions on where you have to live in the world in order to enter, nor how old you have to be. Just show up and have some fun!

A complete list of all rules, prizes, and registration information can be found right here. Be sure to keep your eye on that page as it will soon be updated with the names of Agers who have registered so far. It's a short list at the moment, so get yourself entered to win some great prizes! ...no location discrimination here! Did I ever tell you about the time that the *cough* Zone *cough* booted me out of a tournament for daring to play in their 2 on 2 event with a Turk? Sheesh! ; )
More Denver Fallout...
Posted by Thunder on November 8th, 2000 @ 9:59 a.m.
The recent gathering of Age folk in Denver CO. for a LAN event hosted by Mike "Archangel" McCart meant for a great time for many. Now we can be just a little bit more jealous as several pictures from the night of Conquerors games have been posted at Ensemble's News page. They had quite the cool LAN setup, and a pretty good turn out from the looks of things.

Will the Archangel fly into your home town and throw a similar Age bash? Well, that's about as likely to happen as a Woad Raider being outrun by a Teutonic Knight with two broken legs, a broken hip...and a rock tied around his neck, a big rock, lead maybe, but I digress. ...ok, the graphics in Zeus may not be super duper, but it's getting such great reviews I am grabbing the demo right now... ; )
King Of Heaven Hill Tournament!
Posted by Thunder on November 7th, 2000 @ 6:01 p.m.
It's time to polish your sword Agers and get ready to fight for King of the Hill! Age of Kings Heaven presents the King of Heaven Hill Tournament which will be held starting November 11 on GameSpy Arcade. This 1 on 1 single elimination Age of Empires II: The Conquerors event will weed out would be rulers, and crown the true King of the hill. For full details on game settings, prizes, and how to register visit: Tournament Information

Registration ends at 11am EST (EST = GMT-5) on November 10, so do not delay. ...and away we go... ; )
Sandy Talks To The Trees...
Posted by Thunder on November 7th, 2000 @ 6:40 a.m.
Webmaster at ye olde Fruits of the Poisonous Tree clan site, FOPT_Strawberry, has sent word of an interview with Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen. Strawberry and Sandyman had a chit chat on the Zone about consoles, games, and such things. Head to the FOPT page to eavesdrop on their chat. ...and crank the volume! Those FOPT fellas must love their midis... ; )
LAN Event In Denver...
Posted by Thunder on November 6th, 2000 @ 9:48 p.m.
On Saturday Agers in the Denver area were treated to a night of games and gifts by Ensemble Studios webmaster Mike "Archangel" McCart. Forumer fhertlein has posted his take on the events that night including a teaser about an upcoming ES map:
"The handouts of hats, t-shirts and Music from the Ages CDs were great, but that was nothing compared to playing TC against/with other fans (without any lag, hehe) and having a great time.

We were able to play another ES@map that has not been released. Plays similar to Arabia. I enjoyed it thoroughly."
-fhertlein

Playing a multiplayer game with no lag, can you imagine that? fhertlein did his best to get some information on RTS3 out of the Archangel, but that wasn't going anywhere. (where'd I put my thumb screws? ; ) Click here for the full post, including how the games went. ...hands up of Agers who are now moving to Denver... ; )
In The Community...
Posted by Thunder on November 6th, 2000 @ 9:19 p.m.
A couple of noteworthy events for you today. Firstly, the folks at MFO have put together a guide for the Aztec civilization. Darq_FX gives you the goods on how to use this civ to it's fullest potential.

It also looks like good ol' AoK Battlefield has survived yet another bout with a *cough*cruddy*cough* host. This site has been around since the dark ages, but has been forced to pick up and move...countless times now. I hope the gang at Evil Avatar give them a good home. ...mmmmm, Sheep... ; )
Last AOE Card Game Update
Posted by Washizu on November 6th, 2000 @ 6:36 a.m.
Just got this from the folks at Gamers.com:
The final update to the Gamers.com "Age of Empires Shuffle" feature about the Age of Empires Expandable Card Game has been completed. Today we added the final images to the gallery, including the Imperial Age cards, and a picture of the uncut Ultra-Rare foil sheet. Check it ou at: http://www.gamers.com/s/feature/001027-age/index
Ante up and ride!
Multiplayer AOK Issues
Posted by Washizu on November 6th, 2000 @ 6:05 a.m.
A little while ago, a reader asked for a solution to his problem regarding multiplayer games of AOK using his high speed internet connection (cable, DSL, etc.), and the multiple PC's on his LAN. Ensemble's mulitplayer netcode programmer Paul "winter" Bettner sent me the following message today to explain why there are some difficulties in setting up games with different connection types:
There really isn't any way to get around the problem he describes, right now. You can't play from behind a network-translating gateway (such as Wingate, or any NAT-type gateway) with more than one person. It'll work fine if it's just one person behind the gateway trying to play some other people across the internet, or if all the players are behind the gateway; But you can't have multiple people behind the gateway, trying to play a person or persons on the other side.

If you're interested to know the details, the real root of the problem is the total lack of standardization between NAT solution-providers. Consider this scenario: Player 1 and player 2 are behind a NAT, and they want to play with player 3 who is behind his own NAT. Say that player 1 hosts the game and player 2 connects in. There is no way that player 3 can find player 2, because there is no standardized way to figure out what port the NATs are going to generate for the virtual connection between 2 and 3. There are scenarios where it could potentially work, but doesn't, such as if player 3 was not behind his own NAT (in that case you could tell player 2 that he has to initiate the connection to 3, rather than the other way around.) but DirectPlay doesn't currently support this, and you'd still have the same problems if two NATs were involved anyway.

So, that's the long answer. The short answer is, it is not supported in the current version of DirectPlay because of the lack of standards between NAT providers.

Last I heard, DirectPlay 8 is actually going to support a NAT standard and fix the problem, but only under WinME and Whistler (this is because they are solving the problem at the OS level, by creating a NAT addressing standard there.) So, upgrading to WinME might solve the problem once DirectPlay 8 is released. Unfortunately, this problem will probably always exist under win95/98 for games that have already been released (such as Age1/2.) I'll let you know as I find out more (regarding dplay 8 and ME.) - Paul "winter" Bettner
Thanks for the answer Paul! Hopefully, you're getting some use out of that PS2!
Forumer's Thoughts On The Strategic Commander...
Posted by Thunder on November 5th, 2000 @ 8:33 a.m.
A couple of forumers have shared their experiences with Microsoft's Sidewinder Strategic Commander. Both Talynne and JimR have been working on their profiles for AoE II, and you can read up on their thoughts here in our forum. It seems that they both have found that it requires a lot of practice to master.

Of course, Angel_Washizu wrote up a big ol' review on the subject as well. If you missed that just click here to check out his two page article. ...Congrats to Caesar III Heaven which is very close to reaching the 500k visitor mark! Take a screenshot if you're that lucky visitor, you just may get a reward from Angel RR... ; )
Answers From The Man...
Posted by Thunder on November 3rd, 2000 @ 8:59 p.m.
Yep, he's dropped in on heaven once again. Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen has paid a visit to our forums and answered a few questions, those that he is allowed to anyway. His lips are locked up tight when it comes to the non rts project he's working on, but he comments on the PS2, the Korean civ, and more:
"Q) Is AOK:TC still played by the ES folks?

A) We play it almost every single day. We playtest the new maps that we’ve been releasing, like Metropolis, Graveyards, etc. Tried any? Also we have been playtesting a new handicapping system that we plan to implement in RTS3."
- Sandy Petersen

Source - Ask Sandy

Ah yes! If you missed our news post yesterday (it's gone way down there somewhere with all that other news...whew!) about the new map from ES, Metropolis, just head to the ES Random Maps page for the latest one!

For some reason Sandy likes to take weekends off, and is busy working for a living, so he may not get to answer your question if you've posted one. Thanks for dropping by Sandy! ...here's wishing a happy 27th birthday to my big brother, Lightning... ; )
How Do Programmers Get ES Jobs?
Posted by Thunder on November 3rd, 2000 @ 6:00 p.m.
The latest ES Programmers Journal entry deals with the long, looong, interview process that programmers have to go through in order to get on board at the Studios. Dave "Big Dog" Pottinger gives us details on this exhaustive process that is designed to make sure that not only do programmers know their stuff and are dedicated, but that they also get along with everybody. I'm sure that is a driving force in all of their interviews no matter what position you're going for. ...if they ever have a position open up for fly on the wall, it's MINE... ; )
Interview Pt 3: Herb Marselas!
Posted by Thunder on November 3rd, 2000 @ 5:32 p.m.
The final interview in Evil Avatar's three part series with a trio of folks from Ensemble Studios in now live. Herb "Captain Insano" Marselas gives you the specs on his three, yes three, machines he works on daily and this teaser about RTS3:
"What kinds of features are you planning in RTS3?

HM: Well, the big one has to be the leap from 2D to 3D. Other than that, let's just say that you can count on us meeting and exceeding the gameplay expectations we've set with AoK and The Conquerors.

It's funny actually. The other day I was cruising by the desk of one of our artists here and I noticed he had some game art I hadn't seen up on his desktop. I initially thought that he was running Photoshop or 3DS MAX to do mock-ups of features, but then it started to move and I noticed he was actually in the RTS3 scenario editor. I was like "Oh my God!"

It's one thing to be a programmer and get a feature in with your lousy programmer art, but when you see the artists here put the real models and textures into the game it's just amazing."


Source - EA Interviews Herb Marselas

Now, if that doesn't make you want to run down to Dallas and throw yourself kicking and screaming at Herb's feet to see RTS3, I don't know what will! A great interview Agers, not to be missed. After you've read it, you can also enter their contest to win some great Age goodies too.

If you missed the either or both of the first two interviews, not to worry. Click here for the first interview with Greg "DeathShrimp" Street, and click here for ES interview part two with artist Duncan "Reverend" McKissick. All in all, a fantastic week of interviews thanks to the evil ones at Evil Avatar! ...ok, slap a name on RTS3 and ship it now! I've gotta see it... ; )
AoE Collectors Edtion Has Crossed The Pond...
Posted by Thunder on November 3rd, 2000 @ 8:43 a.m.
According to MFO staffer Breydel, the thing that will be on many Ager's birthday and Christmas lists this year, the AoE Collectors Edition, is now in Europe. He spotted it at a store in Belgium, so check with your local retailer to see if they have their shipment in! ...sheesh, if it's in Europe it must be here in Vancouver Canada somewhere...I must have gone to the only Electronics Boutique that doesn't have it yet! ; )
Conquest: Frontier Wars Cancelled
Posted by Washizu on November 3rd, 2000 @ 6:25 a.m.
The Microsoft/Digital Anvil game, Conquest: Frontier Wars, has been cancelled and removed from Microsoft Games's official site according to Bluesnews.com. C:FW was a space RTS game that resembled Starcraft somewhat.
...maybe those hackers deleted all the source code to it
Civ With Best Launch Music?
Posted by Thunder on November 3rd, 2000 @ 4:43 a.m.
You click the "I'm ready" button and prepare to walk over the enemy. As the game launches you hear a unique but familiar tune, a little something to boil your blood for this battle. ...enough melodrama? Ok. I stumbled onto this topic in the forum tonight, one I've thought about a bit myself. Which civilization has the best launch music? It appears that the Mongol's chants are both loved and hated, although they are certainly one of my favs. The Goths have a pretty cool launch tune as well, one of the best in this Agers opinion. Drop in on this thread in the forum to share your two cents. ...Aztec one isn't half bad either...and the Huns is pretty cool...whew, a good thing I don't choose my civ by music, I'd never make up my mind ; )
New Random Map From ES: Metropolis!
Posted by Thunder on November 3rd, 2000 @ 0:56 a.m.
Designer Greg "DeathShrimp" Street has finished his latest Random Map script for us to download! As is usual, this map script is a little unusual. Here's the goods:
"So you think you have mastered the opening moves of Age of Kings? You think you can hit the hotkeys to build 3 villagers within the first seconds of launch? You think that there is no variation in your opening moves? Forget all that when you play Metropolis. This frenetic map puts you in control of THREE towns! That's right--you get 3 Town Centers, 3 sets of villagers, 3 Scouts and 3 sets of resources! I considered calling this map 'Decaffeinated'"

Source - ES Random Maps

There, that should throw a wrench into your plans for conqueroring the world. Drop by the ES maps page for the full description and of course mapshots! ...hmmm, that'll sure change the opening minutes of a DM game too...which town to raid first? ; )
How RTS3 Is Stacking Up...
Posted by Thunder on November 2nd, 2000 @ 6:33 p.m.
It's no mystery that the gang at Ensemble Studios are working on another Real Time Strategy game, their third, hence the codename RTS3. Designer Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen recently dropped by our forums and spent a little time answering a few questions. He talked about his Halloween costume and how RTS3 stacks up against the competition at this stage in its development:
"A) If RTS3 is your concern, I’ll say this. I’ve been keenly watching other upcoming RTS games and RTS3’s screenshots hold up very well vs. the potential rivals. Now, it’s possible that the screenshots they’ve posted aren’t their best, or that their graphics will improve between now and release (RTS3’s will too). Also, screenshots say nothing about the quality of game play – a terrifically fun game may not translate well to a screenshot. All I can say is that what they’ve released so far is inferior artistically to RTS3’s current state. I can also say that RTS3 is really fun to play as of right now. Actually I’ll make one caveat. The cinematics for Warcraft 3 are simply outstanding -- way beyond anything we’ve done. Warcraft 3’s screenshots, however, are less amazing. In any case, I plan to purchase and hope to enjoy Warcraft 3, Empire Earth, the upcoming Dune game, etc." - Sandy Petersen

Source - Ask Sandy

The folks at Blizzard sure do know how to work in a good movie to a game, one of the things that made Starcraft single player really cool. Click on the source link above if you wish to share your thoughts, questions, comments, or just to find out what Sandy was wearing for Halloween. ...yes, I admit it! I played Starcraft...but that was just during AOK's development... ; )
AOKB MIA?
Posted by Washizu on November 2nd, 2000 @ 9:46 a.m.
One of the longest running AOK sites, The AOK Battlefield, seems to be strangely unreachable at the moment. Its usual URL, http://aokbattlefield.warzone.com, now points to WarZone.com. Hopefully, this is only a temporary situation.
Sarmis Clan Redesign
Posted by Washizu on November 2nd, 2000 @ 9:42 a.m.
I've been informed that the Sarmis Clan has redone their website. It has an interesting castle layout, and I suggest you check it out here.
Multiplayer AOK Question
Posted by Washizu on November 2nd, 2000 @ 9:39 a.m.
I got an email asking about playing AOK over the net with a single IP address for multiple computers. Does anyone know if this is possible?
Do you know any way of creating a networked game from a cable\dsl router, and be able to have a client from the same LAN connect to it as well as a client from the internet?

I recently purchased a Cable\DSL router to share my broadband internet connection, and have been trying to get a game started on my LAN, but also allow a client from the Internet connect.

I haven't had any luch so far, and was wondering if you have heard of anyone doing this successfully?

I appreciate any direction that you may be able to guide me in. - Bob Blais
Greg Street, The Strategic Commander...
Posted by Thunder on November 2nd, 2000 @ 1:27 a.m.
Designer Greg "DeathShrimp" Street has just been interviewed by the folks at MS Sidewinder. He talks about their Strategic Commander, how he got involved in game design, and much more:
"What was your first reaction when you heard about Strategic Commander?

While it was easy to see the need for a peripheral to help issue commands in a strategy game, I was concerned that the sheer number of buttons needed would make the controller difficult to use.  Happily, I think the ultimate design of the Strategic Commander skirted this problem entirely. The guys around the office who have tried it have found it to be intuitive and they quickly learn to rely on it."


Source - Greg Street Interview


If you haven't already, you can also check out Angel Washizu's own thoughts on the Strategic Commander as well. ...eeeeek, class is starting, gotta run! ; )
Invitation From Archangel...
Posted by Thunder on November 1st, 2000 @ 8:56 p.m.
The always busy webmaster at Ensemble Studios, Mike "Archangel" McCart is taking a bit of a breather in Denver CO this weekend. What would a little time off be without same fun though? If you're in the Denver area, you'll definately want to check his invitation to drop by a local area gaming joint to play on their LAN! You can earn yourself a t-shirt or other prize taking him on in a game, and AoK Battlefield's RookKev lives in the area so he'll likely be showing up for a bash up or two. Heed Archangel's invitation to come out and play! Drop by the ES news page for all the deatails. ...make sure you let him know you're coming! ; )
Gamers.com Reveals AoE Card Game!
Posted by Thunder on November 1st, 2000 @ 7:06 p.m.
You may well have heard about an Age of Empires card game that's been in the works for awhile now, but the fellas at Gamers.com have the goods on it. Their card game gurus give the game a look and had a card gamer go up against a player of the PC game. The card game starts off much like the PC game, in the Dark Age, and you continue to advance through ages as it progresses.
"So we plunged into the Dark Age, and started building our civilizations up. You start the game with a Town Center, and three buildings of your choice, which are placed facedown (to conceal them from your opponents' view). In the case of the starter decks, the three starting buildings are provided for you: a Lumber Camp, a Mill and a House."

Source - Gamers.com reveals AoE card game


Once you've read through their game and impressions, there is a huge image gallery full of cards to gander at! A very revealing article, something definately worth checking out if you're interested in the game. ...hmmmm, thank goodness I have a PC so I can play the real deal...ooo, bad pun, sorry! ; )
EA Interviews Duncan McKissick In Pt 2!
Posted by Thunder on November 1st, 2000 @ 6:44 p.m.
The evil ones at evilavatar.com have their second of three interviews posted right now. ES artist Duncan McKissick is their latest target, and they discuss all sorts of stuff such as how he got into the industry, what programs they use, and how the art process works at the studios:
"How does the process work at Ensemble when it comes to an artist getting from concept to implementation?

DM: Now, it starts with Ian (our designer) to come up with a, oh let's say a monkey. Ian tells me he needs a monkey, I task it our to out sketch artists and they create a drawing. Ian and I look over it, make changes if needed and buy off on it. From there I task it out to a model\texture artist. They model it, it gets looked over for optimizing and animation, we make changes if needed and then it gets textured. After the texture, it goes to the animator, we critique the animation, then into the game. Not very exciting is it?"


Source - ES interview Duncan McKissick


A great interview! Duncan also mentions that he is the art lead in "the next game in the series :}", something that will definately be keeping him busy. ...nice knowing you Duncan, let us know when they let you out of your office after crunch time... ; )
AI Wars Contest Closed To Entries...
Posted by Thunder on November 1st, 2000 @ 6:28 p.m.
The deadline has passed to enter our AI Wars contest. The AI scripts have to be checked over to make sure they all meet the requirements, and then the battles will begin! Good luck to all who entered and stay tuned for news of the winners, and how these AIs tackled each other on the field. ...I'll wager we might get to see a recorded game or two as well of AIs duking it out... ; )
Empire Earth, Now With Yogurt!
Posted by Thunder on November 1st, 2000 @ 9:35 a.m.
Thanks to Angel Park over at Empire Earth Heaven for posting this great bit of news! Scenario designer Yogurt, who's works include some awesome Age of Kings scenarios such as Christmas Morning and Final Hour which you can find in our Blacksmith, has joined the EE Strike Team. He'll be working with the other great scenario designers like Steve Ryan, also known as our own Cherub Lobby, on scenarios for Empire Earth! Congrats to Yogurt on his new job!

The folks at EEH have posted the full press release on this announcement, drop by to read the full story. ...sheesh, who would have thought Yogurt lived so close to ol' me! Drop by Vancouver sometime dude, I'll buy ya a bee...erm, beverage... ; )
Harvest Moon Finals: Kaiser_Willhelm Howls...
Posted by Thunder on November 1st, 2000 @ 6:51 a.m.
The finals in the Zone's Harvest Moon Tournament have concluded with Kaiser_Willhelm taking first place. You may remember him from the recent World Cyber Games in Korea where he did pretty well, but didn't make top spot. He'll be taking home an Age of Empires Collectors Edition as part of his prize package.

As a side note, I dropped by my local Electronics Boutique here in Vancover, Canada, (Lougheed Mall to be precise) and elbowed my way through all the people trying out the PS2 to try and find the Collectors Edition. Not only did they not have it, the employee I asked had no idea when they would get it in. So, although Angel Washizu has seen it in stores in the US, it's taking a little bit to migrate north of the border. ...serves me right for asking a guy wearing a PS2 t-shirt... ; )