Archived News From February 2002

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!

New Beginnings: SBC Clan...
Posted by Thunder on February 28th, 2002 @ 10:24 a.m.
Just when we thought we got rid of him...erm, those of you looking to join up with a group to play some games with will be interested in this. SBC_Destroyer needs to link up with some good players to form a brand new clan:
"Hey everyone, it is the former SKD_Destroyer. I have left SKD and I am starting my own clan, THE SBC clan. I am looking for members, Intermediate to Expert players only please. If you would like to join please come to my forum and post. I am also looking for a great webmaster. If you are a good webmaster and would like to join please post here. www.sbc.proboards7.com" - SBC_Destroyer
He's looking for some pretty skilled players obviously, so if you're just starting out, you may want to look for another group to join. There are quite a few out there, you can be sure!

Being a member of a clan does certainly have its advantages, such as having allies you know you can rely on and who's style is familiar to you. This can make team games a heck of a lot more fun, and worthwhile. ...any former members of MiC still kicking around? ...t'was the first clan I was ever in...nice bunch... ; )
MFO's Latest...
Posted by Thunder on February 28th, 2002 @ 8:36 a.m.
None other than Mr.Fixit, has dropped us a note with some of the interesting additions, articles, and events available at his site, Mr.Fixit Online. Here is what's on tap at the infamous MFO:
"MFO PRESS RELEASE ­ 2/27/02

Been a while again since the last press release. Some fun stuff going on at MFO including:

MFO GAINS WYSIWYG EDITOR
When you post at MFO, you can now use a cool "wysiwyg" editor which makes adding HTML a snap.

MFO’s RTS PIPELINE
MFO has compiled a list of RTS games for 2002 ­ check out our lineup: http://www.rtscentral.com/readPosting.asp?PostingId=728189

WARCRAFT3 FORUM
MFO just opened up a WarCraft3 forum at: http://www.rtscentral.com/getPostings.asp?ForumId=1433"
- Mr.Fixit
That pipeline article is a good read, listing all sorts of great titles for this year. You'll probably be surprised at how many RTS titles are in the works! The MFO crew also has events and reviews a plenty for lots of games, stop in and see what's new. ...missed out on the WC3 beta...if you got in, you're my new best friend! ; )
IGF Goodies!
Posted by Thunder on February 27th, 2002 @ 11:20 p.m.
The International Games Festival is going strong! New information and artwork is going up right now at games sites across the internet, including AOM Heaven. Drop by there for news of system requirements for that new game from Ensemble Studios, new screenshots, and the full press release on upcoming games from Microsoft!

At the Official IGF site you even have the chance to win a copy of the AOE II: Gold Edition! Enter to win on their sweepstakes page. ...PII 450, certainly not as high as many were predicting... ; )
ES Spotlight On Geddon!
Posted by Thunder on February 27th, 2002 @ 8:22 p.m.
Over at the lovely Ensemble Studios site, they have another spotlight feature up on one of their employees. Today it's newcomer Lance "Geddon" Hoke who puts his best foot forward. Keep your hands where we can see 'em Lance:
"Full Name: Lance Hoke
Internet Handle: Geddon
Joined Ensemble Studios: August 2001
Job Title: Art Producer
Home Town: Garland, Texas

Most Embarrassing Moment:
Almost getting shot by police in high school during a game of "water gun tag" (back when water guns looked like real guns)."


Source - ES News
Lance's write-up includes a very interesting short bio, and a quote that must not be missed. Be sure to stop in and read it in full. ...hmmm, AOM icons on his monitor? ...could be, check out his pic... ; )
GameSpy's Strategy Week cont.
Posted by Thunder on February 27th, 2002 @ 6:18 p.m.
Another day, another article on strategy games as the GameSpy crew take a long hard look at this genre. Today's article discusses some of the differences between strategy games themselves. What makes a game a strategy game? It's not a particularly exciting read, but sets us up for a look into turn-based games tomorrow. ...*yawn*...check out this upcoming strat game, just announced yesterday: Rise of Nations... ; )
Ladder Double Feature!
Posted by Thunder on February 26th, 2002 @ 11:15 a.m.
He's back! Tonto_Alyantis has returned from his trip with a recorded game, hand picked as the Ladder Game o' the Week! This game features a Hun versus Goth match-up, where the Goth player launches into a man-at-arms attack.

Speaking of the Goths, remember the Goths Festival? Players on the AOKH Ladder earned an extra point by winning a game playing as the Goths, and lost one less point when they were defeated playing as the Goths. Well start practicing for Aztec Fest! The same rules apply towards points, and it will run from March 1st until the end of March 3rd. Best of luck all! ...grand, need all the help I can get... ; )
GameSpy's Strat Week Day II...
Posted by Thunder on February 26th, 2002 @ 11:00 a.m.
There are more little green people in Las Vegas right now than you can shake a stick at! The GameSpy gang are busy looking, playing, and talking about Microsoft's upcoming game line-up in that swinging town right now, but that hasn't stopped them from carrying on with their strategy week. Day two brings us the second part of their look at the RTS genre, taking us from Warcraft up to the present. They mention the Age of Empires series along the way of course, as well as many other stand out RTS titles.

Tomorrow, all signs point to them switching gears to a discussion of turn based games. ...hmmm, perhaps a good way to wrap-up their strat week would be with a nice hands on preview of Age of Mythology... ; )
AOKH Ladder Standings...
Posted by Thunder on February 26th, 2002 @ 3:08 a.m.
He may still be the champ, but he's having to work for it. Gary__Payton is still on the top rung of our AOKH Ladder, but several players have come very close to knocking him off. Here's how the players stack up for the moment:
  1. 205: Gary__Payton
  2. 186: Chichiri
  3. 184: Pezeteros_ [aka redhair_LOLITA]
  4. 176: Flank
  5. 175: _Final_Boss_
  6. 173: Lady_Woogy
  7. 157: IR_Evil
  8. 154: Myll_Slaghter
  9. 152: StorM_Country
  10. 151: Gibbon [aka MoFo_GoBo]

Source - AOKH Ladder

Our fantastic ladder manager, Dark Side of Day, has also given us his picks for Ladder Warriors of the week. A trio of determined players made the list this week, and although their ratings may not be sky high at the moment, they are playing tons of games against quality players. Watch out for these three: Kumar_Shah, S_A_S, and LGD_Matthias, who no longer can enter rookie tournaments. Good luck to all of you in your games this week! ...105: Thunder... ; )
GameSpy's Strategy Week!
Posted by Thunder on February 25th, 2002 @ 9:39 p.m.
The little green men and or women of GameSpy have kicked off their week long look at the strategy genre with a look at the beginnings of realt-time strategy. This promises to be an interesting week:
"Strategy is a mainstay of computer gaming. From Civilization to Empire Earth, gamers have long plopped down their bucks for a chance to better Napoleon, mine Tiberium, or ride with Joan of Arc. This week we are going to take a look at strategy gaming with prolific strategy guide author and long time strategy game buff, Mark H. Walker. Mark will look at the history of both real-time and turn based strategy, compare the two, and provide some insight as to what our strategy future holds. We start with part one of the history of real-time strategy."

Source - GameSpy: Strategy Gaming: Part I -- A Primer
It's a pretty brief primer, taking us up to about the time of Warcraft. Probably the most interesting thing mentioned is not part of the article actually. On GameSpy's main page they mention that Microsoft is showing off their upcoming line-up of games in Las Vegas this week, and they are going for a look see! MS publishes some pretty heavy weight titles, perhaps you've heard of Age of Empires? No doubt Ensemble Studios' current project, Age of Mythology, will be there too, so keep your eyes peeled for mentions of that! ...you live in Las Vegas and want to go and see MS's upcoming games? ...tough cookies, it's press only... : \
Arbalet Cup Update...
Posted by Thunder on February 25th, 2002 @ 9:27 a.m.
Webmaster FOPT_Strawberry, of the FOPT Clan page, sends word on a huge tournament that will be taking place over March. Registration for the Arbalet Cup will be closing on February 27th, so make sure you have yourself entered to compete. Not only is the field full of impressive players, but there's also the little matter of the $5000 US in prize money. Take it away Strawberry:
"At this moment 525 Gamers from 50 (!) countries have signed up. Out of these 377 have already been accepted (which means their info was correct and their email-address has been validated).

As you can imagine the money (no less than US $3000 plus a large cup for the champion) attracts many top-players; among them top-zone player Arch_Koven_, WCG 2000 - Champion Mozory, WCG 2001 - Champion _IamKmkm, MS-Tournament - Champion CNS_Grunt and basically everyone else with a reputation in AOK.

Registration closes on Wednesday, February 27th. Once again we encourage ANY interested gamer to join this event and help us prove how active and alive the community still is.

To take part in the tournament please visit http://www.fopt-clan.de and click on the official "Arbalet-Cup"-Banner for more info. After that you can sign up in the "Arbalet-Cup" - Forum. Registration is free and easy so don´t be shy.

Attending the tournament there are several small competitions. For example we draw 2 x Warcraft III and 2 FOPT Coffee-Cups by lots among all players. Further more you can win training lessons with expert-players _IamChris (Zone-Rating: 2438) and The_Steam_ (Zone-Rating: 2351). And last but not least all games from the tournament will be offered for public download and discussion in our forums.

As you can see the "Arbalet-Cup" offers a lot even if you are not going to win it! ;-)"
- FOPT_Strawberry
Records: Gary__Payton vs readhair_LOLITA!
Posted by Thunder on February 23rd, 2002 @ 8:07 a.m.
Our current AOKH Ladder champion, Gary__Payton, has been working hard of late to keep his title. You can find a couple of great examples of his play in the recorded games section, as he played against another very good player in redhair_LOLITA. The two records show Gary being defeated by some awesome arabia play by red, and then taking the rematch to retain his title. Very good games by both players, and very entertaining to watch! ...it's going to take some serious skill to take that title away from Gary... ; )
The Duke AI v1.4...
Posted by Thunder on February 23rd, 2002 @ 7:54 a.m.
The infamous AI known as "The Duke" has had an upgrade! DarkAngelBGE has just submitted v1.4 of his hard fighting AI to us, with many improvements and tweaks over the previous version. It is certainly one of the most complex AIs you'll go up against, or team with:
"Here is the new version of the duke. The Duke-AI got new amazing strategies which work like the following: Unit A is the counter unit of the counter-unit of Unit B and unit B is the counter-unit of the counter-unit of Unit A. For example: The AI attacks with Pikemen and Archers. The archers are good against ranged units who can easily wipe out the pikemen and the pikemen can easily defeat the cavalry, which is strong against archers. The strategies are better and the AI is much better because of that. Just test the biggest AI-project created so far and review it!"
Link: The Duke AI v1.4
       The Duke-AI Homepage
Forum Party Tomorrow...
Posted by Thunder on February 23rd, 2002 @ 3:32 a.m.
If you can tear yourself away from the bronze medal hockey game tomorrow, come and join us for a few fun games of AOK with fellow forumers. There won't be any tournaments at the party tomorrow, just ladder games and some fun team craziness. All are invited, so bring a friend and stop by for a few! Where? When? Check out the Forum Party Post for all the details.

See you on the battlefield! ...canada vs usa final on sunday in hockey...too close to call, but it looks like russia has the bronze... ; )
ES Spotlight On Gx_Iron!
Posted by Thunder on February 22nd, 2002 @ 11:33 p.m.
It's been quite awhile since the last Ensemble Studios spotlight feature on one of their team members, but the drought has ended today with Jerry "Gx_Iron" Terry. The name is surely familiar to most of you, as the US representative at the MS Conquerors tournament back in November. Shortly after his strong showing there, the ES folks snapped him up to help test Age of Mythology:
"Full Name: Jerry Terry
Internet Handle: Gx_Iron
Joined Ensemble Studios: Jan 1, 2002
Job Title: Software Test Engineer
Home Town: Warwick, NY

Favorite Computer Games:
Any RPG with a good storyline and characters you can relate to, any RTS that a lot of people play online, Baseball Stars and Tecmo Bowl for Nintendo

Favorite Website:
espn.com, planetageofempires.com, mrfixitonline.com

Anything Else You Desire To Ramble On About:
AOM looks great, and I’m really looking forward to getting it into the hands of the community. Hi mom. Love you New York, love you Jay."


Source - ES News
Always great to see an Age fan and player who steps up to a position at the studios. Be sure to read Jerry's full write-up, which includes a biography that tugs at your ol' heart strings. ...Dawson’s Creek? ...bet he's not paying much attention to Dawson... ; )
Cherry At ConDFW...
Posted by Thunder on February 22nd, 2002 @ 9:33 p.m.
One of the talented artists working on Age of Mythology at Ensemble Studios will be a literary science fiction convention this weekend in Dallas that looks like fun. It's David Cherry of course, who has had quite the career outside of the studios. You can take a look at some of his fantastic works on his personal site and find out more information about the convention on the Official ConDFW site. Drop in and see what David is up to if you can, and thanks to Archangel for the heads up. ...warning, news updates will be sporadic during Olympic hockey games... ; )
Blacksmith Feature: The Sims...
Posted by Thunder on February 22nd, 2002 @ 2:37 a.m.
This week's featured scenario from our Blacksmith comes from designer DoAOK_OpenSource, a designer who hasn't done a great many works, but put quite an effort into this creation.

The Sims — I found this scenario while poking around in the Blacksmith, and thought it was a cool example of all the different things you can do with the scenario editor, in addition to being a nice change of pace. Those of you who've played the game of the same name may get a kick out of this. DoAOK_OpenSource describes this creation in this way: "In this scenario you are given the chance to live Age of Empires as a citizen of a massive city. You sleep, eat, work, and buy what you need. The scenario includes interaction with the city's people, city entertainment, real city movements, and an occasional joke."

Eventhough the designer admits that the scenario is incomplete , a ton of work as already gone into it. There are an amazing number of triggers that allow you in interact with the citizens of the city. You control a lone Huskarl, your sim dude, and must explore the vast city in search of places to eat and job opportunities. You can work in the harbor, join the foreign legion, trade goods on the open market, and more to earn gold.

While you explore the vast city, that is very well designed, you can get information from police officers, villagers, and all sorts of workers on jobs and events that are going on in the area. This really serves to give the impression that the city is alive, and adding to this are trade carts and messengers that travel the roads, and workers such as ship builders who are doing their own daily jobs.

The lone review on this scenario was pretty rough, giving it a 2.2 out of five. I found the 64kb download worth the trouble, and quite enjoyed poking around the city for jobs and other tasks. Some better directions in the objectives and from citizens themselves would have helped, but on the whole, a nice change of pace. ...stay away from the rat burgers and beer... ; )
AOM's Opening Movie...
Posted by Thunder on February 21st, 2002 @ 10:36 a.m.
An article on Ensemble Studios' next RTS game, Age of Mythology, has just been posted at GameSpy. It covers the creation of the opening cinematic for the game and is written by the producer of the title, David "RIPMAN" Rippy. It is highlighted by some sketches of scenes from the movie, as well as an approximate date for the movie's release to the public, which is well before the slated release date for the game! (September 2002) All of the details can be had at AOM Heaven. ...crazy counter-strike players create a 32 player high player tower...need to see the pic... ; )
Zanzard's Immobile AI...
Posted by Thunder on February 20th, 2002 @ 7:51 a.m.
Scenario designer— and expert contest winner— Zanzard Lothar, has come out with a new version of the very popular and very useful AI script that makes computer controlled units stand still. Without such an AI script, which have been used in countless scenarios, they tend to wonder or begin gathering resources in the case of villagers. This can throw a wrench into the plans of a scenario designer who needs units to stay in a certain location, or formation.

The new version, dubbed the ADVANCED Immobile Units AI, is much more than the previous script. It contains comment lines and information that have been added to encourage and assist scenario designers in the making of their own AI scripts, which can greatly improve scenarios. Drop by Zanzard's post and read up on this new script. ...wow, thanks for sharing dude... ; )
Yet Another Virus...
Posted by Thunder on February 19th, 2002 @ 9:10 p.m.
Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date folks, because here comes another one! The Yarner worm arrives by e-mail as an attachment, like so many others. The folks at ZDNet are on top of things and have provided a great article. Be sure to stop in and read it in full for more information:
"Yarner (w32.yarner.a@mm) appears to be a newsletter about Trojan horses from a legitimate security site, but is actually a dangerous worm. Yarner is a Windows PE EXE file about 434K in size, written in Delphi. It uses its own e-mail engine to send copies of itself to others. Once executed, the worm deletes the Windows directory on infected computers.

At present, the infections are limited to Germany, however, a new variation could be produced in English or any other language. Because of the dangerous potential of this worm, Yarner ranks a 7 on the ZDNet Virus Meter."


Source - ZDNet: Dangerous Yarner worm spells bad news
Ladder Game O'The Week...
Posted by Thunder on February 19th, 2002 @ 12:05 a.m.
Ladder warrior Tonto_Alyantis has posted a cool recorded game which is his pick for the ladder game of the week. It is a 1on1 showdown between Qazitory and Loke, who are two pretty good players indeed!

Played a great ladder game recently? Had an awesome comeback or pulled off a crippling rush? Well zip the recording, and send it to Tonto_Alyantis, so that he might share it with the world.

There are also some good recordings available in our ol' records section, featuring some of the top players on the ladder, includng the champ. ...please zip your recorded games before sending them to Alyantis...we don't need his mail-box self destructing... ; )
New 2oons...
Posted by Thunder on February 19th, 2002 @ 11:44 a.m.
Three new galleries (80-82) of Age2oons have been added during the night, filled with submissions from fans. There are now over eighty galleries and nearly 250 toons on display, and hopefully more than a few will tickle your funny bone. Many thanks to everyone for your submissions!

If you've sent in a 2oon and don't see it amongst the latest ones added, it's likely that it was over our 50kb size limit. A great many submissions have been closer to 150kb, which makes posting and viewing them a hassle. Just making your 2oon a smaller size can work wonders in reducing the file size. Keep em coming! ...played with the file size on a few hilarious 2oons so they could be added... ; )
AOKH Ladder Standings...
Posted by Thunder on February 18th, 2002 @ 8:23 p.m.
Goth fest has wrapped up on the good ol' Ladder, and since it was such a nice twist and an insentive to play a different civilization, there are ideas flying around for another such event. lil_boweezie_ kicked things off in this post, so stop in if you have an idea for an event to shake things up on the ladder.

The ladder standings haven't changed a great deal, although you'll notice that it now takes a heck of a lot of points to get into the top ten. Gary__Payton still reigns supreme as the ladder champion:
  1. 207: Gary__Payton
  2. 205: _Chichiri_
  3. 175: _Final_Boss
  4. 173: Flank
  5. 169: Lady_Woogy
  6. 162: Pezeteros_ [aka redhair_LOLITA]
  7. 154: IR_Evil/154: Myll_Slaghter
  8. 152: StorM_Country
  9. 151: Time_Itself
  10. 144: Evil_Viking [aka SLAYER_SERVANT]

Source - AOKH Ladder

As is tradition, Dark Side of Day has chosen his Ladder Warriors of the week, highlighting those players who took a hard run at moving up in the ranks over the past seven days. LGD_Matthias tops the list, as he took his lumps as well as dished out some hurt on many good players over the week, followed by BrandNewCar, who has proven that scenario reviewers can kick butt in multiplayer. Last but certainly not least on the list is IR_Evil, ladder addict. Good gaming guys! ...hmm, looks like _Final_Boss is back terrorizing the ladder...watch yourself Gary! ; )
Tournament Winner: Enriquillo!
Posted by Thunder on February 17th, 2002 @ 10:05 p.m.
Many thanks to all of you who turned out for the rookie tournament yesterday! Aside from a bit of a bumpy start, totally my fault, things went quite smoothly. Enriquillo seems to be gaining back some of his form, and was able to defeat SKD_Earthworm in the finals. Congrats to Enriquillo, who will now be benefiting from some 1on1 coaching from the instructors of our Training Camp.

We also had a random draw for an AOK strategy guide, in which all tournament participants were entered. It is quite fitting that the other player who made it to the finals, SKD_Earthworm, has had his name drawn! Congrats to you Earthworm! Please send me your name and mailing address so we can ship out your strategy guide as soon as possible. ...plans are in the works for another tournament for all to join in on...although it may not happen for a couple of weeks... ; )
Wedding Bells!
Posted by Thunder on February 16th, 2002 @ 0:02 a.m.
Congratulations to Matt "maimin_matty" Scadding, infamous expert Ager, on his impending wedding! Player_Theta passed along to good news that he will be getting hitched in September of this year, finally making an honest woman out of his long time girlfriend, Angie. You da man Matt! ...but we all know who really wears the pants... ; )
Forum Party Tomorrow...
Posted by Thunder on February 15th, 2002 @ 11:51 p.m.
Aside from the usual craziness that occurs at our weekly Forum Party, we will be having a tournament just for inexperienced players. Drop in for sign-ups for that event, ladder games, or a few just for fun games with friends. You'll find more information on all of these events in our trusty Forum Party Post.

Remember that only players who meet the requirements can sign-up for the rookie tournament. See you at 12pm EST (9am PST, 5pm GMT) for registration! ...good luck all... ; )
Arbalet Cup Registration...
Posted by Thunder on February 15th, 2002 @ 7:22 p.m.
The webmaster of the FOPT Clan site, FOPT_Strawberry, has sent word that registration is open from now until February 27th for the 1v1 Arbalet Cup tournament. There is a total of $5000 (US) in prize money up for grabs, with $3000 of it going to the winner. This event is open to absolutely everybody, so get in on the action! The big cash prize is bound to draw a talented field. For full event rules, playing times, and sign-up information, head to http://www.fopt-clan.de. ...may the best arab win! ; )
AOKH Ladder: Goth Fest Begins!
Posted by Thunder on February 15th, 2002 @ 9:21 a.m.
The Gothic Festival has begun on the AOKH Ladder, and will run until the end of February 17th! What does this mean for ladder players? If you play a ladder game as the Goths during this period, you'll get one of these benefits:

1) If you win, you will get an bonus point

2) If you lose, you will lose one less point


Make sure you mention that you played as the Goths during this period in order to reap the benefits of the Goth Fest. Good luck to everybody, and let the infantry flood flow! ...Goths...my least fav civ to play against... ; )
Blacksmith Feature - Gyda's Challenge...
Posted by Thunder on February 15th, 2002 @ 3:33 a.m.
Today's featured Blacksmith campaign is a creation by long time Age designer Ingo van Thiel. He has been creating top notch scenarios since way back in the original Age of Empires days, and has put out several fantastic Age II campaigns. You'll find more of Ingo's works in the Best of AOK listing, which features only the top rated works.

Gyda's Challenge — This is a fitting campaign for Valentine's Day. It takes place in Norway, and is built around the story of a princess by the name of Gyda who is less than impressed with a suitor, Harald Fairhair. Ingo explains the situation like this, "Harald Fairhair was the first Viking king to unite the small kingdoms of Norway. Legend has it that a proud princess provoked him into doing so: Gyda, daughter of Erik of Hordaland. She told Harald's messengers that she would not marry him unless he became king of all Norway. The messengers returned, expecting that Harald would order them to dishonor Gyda to punish her for her pride. But to their surprise, Harald accepted the challenge. He swore he would not cut his hair before all of Norway was under his command."

This campaign is short but sweet. You start out delivering a marriage proposal to Gyda on behalf of Harald. You must infiltrate her father's kingdom in order to get to the Princess, who issues the seemingly impossible challenge.
Harald Fairhair accepts, and at this point you take charge of his armies, and must unite Norway. Rather than just wiping out all opposition though, you are given specific targets in the kingdoms of the other Norwegian rulers. These objectives vary, from assassinations to taking out symbols of power, and serve to spice things up.

The map, in true Ingo fashion, is beautiful. The snowy mountainous terrain is wonderfully crafted, great to look at, and doesn't get in the way too much when you are playing, a failing in countless scenarios.

Although the campaign is just one scenario long, it is an entertaining and enthralling adventure. It was submitted to the Blacksmith in May of last year, doesn't contain a lot of bells and whistles, but is great fun to play. Well done Ingo! ...love a good campaign that has some variety, rather than just building up or RPG elements... ; )
GeForce4 Charity Auction...
Posted by Thunder on February 14th, 2002 @ 7:00 p.m.
Just can't wait to smack a brand new GeForce4 video card in your system? nVidia has put three of the new cards up for auction here on eBay. They are all the blazing Ti 4600 version, and all of the current bids are over $1000. It sounds like a heck of a lot ot be paying for a new card, but it's actually a charity auction:
"NVIDIA Charity Auction
Help out a great cause and get the latest NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti 4600 Graphics Processor weeks before it is available to anyone else. NVIDIA Corporation is dedicated to building and maintaining a supportive relationship with the personal and professional communities in which we live and work.

As part of this commitment, we are happy to provide 3 GeForce4 fun packs for charity auction to raise funds for the Children's Health Council. Your payment is tax deductible with all proceeds going to the Children's Health Council (CHC). The CHC is a nonprofit community agency serving San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. For nearly 50 years, the CHC has been helping children and their families overcome developmental challenges through a unique blend of education and therapy."


Source - eBay
A great idea, and a great way for video card fanatics to snag the latest and greatest card for themselves, providing they've got the big bucks! Drop in and make a bid if you can. ...those bidders are either mighty generous, or bloody fanatics... ; )
Ogre's Retouch...
Posted by Thunder on February 14th, 2002 @ 7:32 a.m.
We hadn't heard from Ogre for quite awhile. He locked himself away, deep inside his cave, hard at work on something or other. Well today he emerged and let us in on his big project:
"For almost two months now, the Ogre has toiled away in his lair, trying to make Through The Ages better. He calls it a retouch since the design hasn't strayed too far from the original. The main part of the work has been the content. The content has been completely renovated. It now feels fresh and new. The Age of Mythology section has grown in size and will continue to do so as more information is released. Also the site address has changed back to http://throughtheages.com. It is no longer http://tta.ogresnet.com, however you can still get to the new site from this address. Ogre is very happy with the new site and hopes you are too, so please drop by and visit." - Ogre
Eventhough he doesn't call it a redesign, he has played around with the look of the site, which is lovely as always. Have a poke around and check out his new content. Not to worry, he generally doesn't bite. ...he's more the blunt weapon type... ; )
Chichiri's Smoking Hot Keys!
Posted by Thunder on February 13th, 2002 @ 11:07 p.m.
One of the talented instructors in our Training Camp, Chichiri, has shared his custom hotkey setup with everybody. You may be surprised at just how many functions he's got tied to his mouse. If his setup isn't quite to your liking, it may at least inspire some creative changes to your own.

Thanks for sharing Chichiri! ...possible second x-pack civ?... ; )
Dungeon Siege Heaven!
Posted by Thunder on February 13th, 2002 @ 4:01 a.m.
Our Angel Zen has sent out a press release with the big news that HG has just launched Dungeon Siege Heaven! My pal Angel FarmGirl is running the show over there, on a great looking site for what promises to be a great game. HG covering an RPG? DS isn't just any RPG:
"HEAVENGAMES LAUNCHES DUNGEON SIEGE HEAVEN
February 12, 2001 - HeavenGames LLC announced today that it has launched Dungeon Siege Heaven ( http://ds.heavengames.com ), the first in HeavenGame's lineup of sites dedicated to Role-Playing Games.

Due in store shelves across America in April 2002, 'Dungeon Siege' combines the immersive elements of a role-playing game with over-the-top intensity and non-stop action. 'Dungeon Siege' plunges you into a continuous 3-D fantasy world where you face off against an army of evil that has been unleashed. You begin as a humble farmer, and as you travel through the world and gain new skills, you can gather a party of up to eight characters to aid you.

'Dungeon Siege' also features the Siege Editor. The editor gives you the freedom to rework nearly every aspect of the game, making 'Dungeon Siege' not only a game, but also a role-playing platform for those who want to create their own characters, spells, dungeons - even entire worlds. You can post these user-created files to Dungeon Siege Heaven, making them available for anyone to download and explore, or play as a multiplayer game

Dungeon Siege Heaven will be dedicated to featuring extensive coverage of Dungeon Siege as the game is being developed, and will bring you the latest news on the game, as well as chats with developers in the forums."
I made the most of my chance to play DS at E3 last year, and it is an amazing game. Gorgeous, intuitive, massive, customizable, and did I mention gorgeous? It is the best RPG I've played, hands down. Be sure to stop by and visit Angel FarmGirl and Dungeon Siege Heaven! ...Angel FarmGirl...the only person to finish the DS demo at E3... ; )
Furious FOPT Action!
Posted by Thunder on February 13th, 2002 @ 3:20 a.m.
The tournaments are underway and the action is fast and ferious over at the FOPT Clan site. FOPT_Strawberry has sent us the results from the first of their events, but there's plenty more where that came from:
"'ReFF´s AOK Rumble' - hosted by FOPT - was a great success. World´s top-AOK´ers met for 7 hours of intense gaming on the mother of maps: 1v1 Arabia.

After all aluba007 (Taiwan) took home the victory and US $500. _riZen_Capoch_ (Argentina) came in 2nd (US $250) and Ach_Vile_ (Malaysia) placed 3rd (US $125). The field of players was so tough that even Arch_Koven_, top zone-rated player in the world, and _IamKmkm, winner of the last World Cyber Games, were eliminated early!

You can find brackets and results on our homepage. Of course we also offer all recorded games for public download. To download games from FOPT you need to register an account for our forum and log in. Then just go to "ReFF´s AOK Rumble" - forum and get them from there.

On Friday, February 15th, sign up for the biggest Online-Tournament in history of the Age of Empires - series, the Arbalet-Cup, will begin. Expected 300+ players from all over the world will battle for no less than US $5000 (!) in hard cash. Stay tuned!

For the Arbalet-Cup we plan on doing several attending competitions with little prizes for the public. I will let you know about details soon."
- FOPT_Strawberry
AOKH Ladder Standings...
Posted by Thunder on February 12th, 2002 @ 1:22 a.m.
Before we get to the top ten players on the ladder, here is a heads up on an upcoming twist to ladder play. To spice things up, February 15 - 17 will be the Gothic Festival on the AOKH Ladder! If you play as the Goths during these days, you will gain an extra point for every ladder game you win, and lose one less point for every ladder game you lose. Not a bad deal, and not a bad civ to be playing either. Make sure you mention that you played as the Goths during these days in order to get the benefit of the points!

Now, Gary__Payton still sits on top of the ladder, as the champion for another week. He did lose a game to _Chichiri_ last week, but in order to lose the championship it must be two games in a row, and Gary won the rematch! Here are the standings, with Gary firmly at the top:
  1. 195: Gary__Payton [champion until defeated]
  2. 199: _Chichiri_
  3. 169: _Final_Boss/169: IR_Evil
  4. 164: Lady_Woogy
  5. 154: StorM_Country
  6. 153: Flank
  7. 151: Time_Itself
  8. 148: Pezeteros_ [aka redhair_LOLITA]
  9. 144: Evil_Viking [aka SLAYER_SERVANT]
  10. 143: Myll_Slaghter

Source - AOKH Ladder

It looks like Gary is taking a run at _Final_Boss' record reign as ladder champ. He's fighting hard to keep that title! Ladder manager Dark Side of Day has also made his picks for the Ladder Warriors of the week, with Qazitory topping the list, along with S_A_S, who's been playing up a storm lately, and Tonto_Alyantis, once again making the list. Congrats fellers, and get some practice in with the Goths for your upcoming matches! ...Turk Fest? That would be torture... ; )
GameSpot's History Of RTS...
Posted by Thunder on February 11th, 2002 @ 10:48 a.m.
Good ol' Ben Garvey [aka Angel Washizu] passed along a link to a couple of great articles by the crew at GameSpot which detail the history of the real-time strategy genre. Part I of the article starts back at the very roots of this type of game, and those classics such as Dune II and Warcraft. I believe I recall reading this article quite some time ago, but it's well worth a nostalgic second look. They even take the time to rip the original AOE, a game that even the original Gspot reviewer didn't like much. Thankfully we all could live with the minor flaws in the game and saw past them to the great gameplay.

Now, Part II I must have missed, because it was new to me. They cover the RTS games that were released from 1999 onwards, including AOK and the Conquerors:
"Age of Empires II made just about everyone's list for the best games of 1999, and its superb expansion pack, The Conquerors, almost merits a full page on its own. Many people are calling the combination of Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings and The Conquerors the best real-time strategy game ever."

Source - History of RTS Games: Part II
Whether or not you feel the combination makes for the best ever, it's certain that the Ensemble Studios crew got a lot of things right. It's still hard to find another RTS with as much replay value, and another x-pack with as many tweaks and great additions. If you missed these articles and are a RTS fan, make sure you check them out: History of RTS Games - Part I, Part II ...AOE & the ROR x-pack are a pretty damn sweet pair too...worth a mention if they were the basis for the greatest RTS ever eh? ; )
Rookie Tournament Update!
Posted by Thunder on February 11th, 2002 @ 10:13 a.m.
The instructors of our Training Camp have offered their services to the lucky winner of our upcoming Rookie Tournament! The winner will be rewarded with some 1on1 time with the instructors, who will dish out a little free advice and tips on how to improve your game.

The tournament will be taking place on February 16, that's this Saturday. You'll find more information on the requirements and settings in this post.

Oh, and a great many thanks to Flank, who's been storming up the AOKH Ladder, for volunteering to help out with the Training Camp! ...and many thanks to Vidguy for correcting my spelling of PC gamer et all...you know you're a nut when you mispell two letter acronyms... ; )
AOKH Ladder 1000...
Posted by Thunder on February 11th, 2002 @ 8:35 a.m.
There is quite a bit of action on the ladder these days! In fact, there have now been over 1000 ladder games played since it was started. Believe it or not, our ladder manager Dark Side of Day has kept track of all ladder games since the very start, including the results. Check out the first 1000 Ladder Games post in the forum and see how you and your pals have faired. ...one game played...one loss for me... ; )



CompUSA's Big Tourney$
Posted by Thunder on February 10th, 2002 @ 8:29 a.m.
If you're in the USA, keep your eyes open for ways to cash in from CompUSA! They will be running tournaments in several cities through-out the US, and are offering some major cash prizes, including the shot at picking up a million dollar cheque. AOK is one of several games involved in these events, with prize money for the top 100 finishers! There is a registration fee, and a 500 player limit on the AOK events. You'll find more information at CompUSA's Gamefixx.com or in the March issue of PC gamer magazine.

Many thanks to Zam Zap and Player_Theta for the dual heads up on this great news! ...cha...ching! ; )
AOM Civilization Showcases!
Posted by Thunder on February 9th, 2002 @ 8:39 a.m.
Remember the fantastic civilization showcases that GameSpot did for AOK? Well they are quite busy revealing a bunch of information about Ensemble Studios' next game, Age of Mythology right now! Their new showcase series for that game just kicked off today! Head to AOM Heaven for links and in-depth fanatical coverage. ...they reveal a fair bit of basic gameplay info that was top-secret until now...a must read! ; )
Forum Party Tomorrow...
Posted by Thunder on February 9th, 2002 @ 0:53 a.m.
That sound of plodding hooves signals the impending start of our weekly Forum Party! All are invited to stop by the Zone tomorrow for a few fun games, or a few competitive ladder games. For those of you who are interested in taking part in our Rookie Tournament next Saturday, February 16, this will be a good time to get in a practice game or two if you can. For more information, such as the ever important where and when, head to the Forum Party Post.

See you on the battlefield! ...Nooooomad anyone? ; )
Blacksmith Feature - Nyctophobia...
Posted by Thunder on February 8th, 2002 @ 2:24 a.m.
For just the second installment in our weekly feature that highlights some of the great downloads in the Blacksmith, we focus on one of the most recent AOK creations from the SCN Punk team. This group of designers, voice actors, and RMS designers, has created some very highly acclaimed works over the years, and have had a great influence in the scenario design community with veterans and newcomers alike.

Nyctophobia - This campaign was released in early December, 2001, with SCN Punker Mark Stoker as the designer behind it. The setting is the jungle of Central America, and the feuding tribes that reside there. A great threat forces these tribes into an alliance that is their only hope for survival:
"The mighty city of Chichen Itza had prospered for many generations. Under the rule of a succession of strong and competent kings, Chichen Itza's influence spread across the Mayan homelands, making the city the most dominant in all the Yucatan.

Then came the day the prophets had been forewarning about for hundreds of years: the day the barbaric Toltec invaders first arrived from over the horizon. With the Toltecs came despair and destruction never witnessed before by the Mayans. The grand city of Edzna, under the rule of the great King Nopaltzin, fell to the Toltecs without a struggle. Edzna was razed to the ground, and all its inhabitants, including King Nopaltzin, were sacrificed to the gods.

When news of this horrifying defeat spread throughout the Yucatan, King Gucumatz of Chichen Itza knew he would not be able to hold off the Toltecs himself; he would need support from the rival Mayan city-states to defeat the Toltecs. Without more ado Gucumatz sent messengers to all of the rival Mayan kings, asking for help. The other Mayan kings were reluctant to form an alliance with Chichen Itza, but they knew too well that it was their only hope for survival. Eventually every key Mayan city joined the alliance with Chichen Itza: Uxmal, Izamal, Sayil, even Chichen Itza's archenemy Mayapan joined the alliance. And thus began the bloodiest war in the history of the Mayans... "


Source - Nyctophobia
As a major fan of Aztec and Mayan history myself, the story, although fictional, drew me right in and is indeed one of the major highlights of this campaign. As the first scenario begins, you are immediately thrown into the action as the warrior Tlanextic, a Plumed Archer. The Toltec armies, largely made up of Jaguar Warriors which look fantastic in the jungle covered maps, are quite busy wiping out everyone and everything in their path. You are running for your life and on the defensive for much of the campaign, with great sound effects such as music that add to the atmosphere. Further adding to the campaign are the lovely maps, which feature the lush jungles you would expect in such a setting, but aren't dull or flat. And if that isn't enough for you, the campaign will actually play out quite differently depending on the path you choose, which was enough to convince me to replay it several times.

In need of more convincing? Check out BrandNewCar's review of Nyctophobia. Perfect 5.0 scores are not easy to come by, but this project was slapped with that very honour. ...my one complaint...it's too short! ...always leave em wanting more I s'pose... ; )
AOKH Rookie Tournament!
Posted by Thunder on February 7th, 2002 @ 9:33 a.m.
Are you getting beat up on the AOKH Ladder? Have you been learning the ropes in the AOKH Training Camp and looking to put your skills to the test? Well Agers, we have an event for you! On February 16th, you will have the chance to play in a tournament with players that are at a similar skill level, and possibly win yourself an AOK strategy guide while you're at it. Click here for all of the details, including start time and where to sign-up. Good luck all!

Link: AOKH Rookie Tournament
Odd MS Game...
Posted by Thunder on February 6th, 2002 @ 11:08 p.m.
The Microsoft people have a rather interesting game coming out shortly that will certainly remind people of those viruses that are floating around. The name of the game is Terrarium, and the object is to create a piece of code, or "creature" as they call them, that will propagate within various other Terrariums:
"The best way to think of Terrarium, says Microsoft developer tools product manager Gavin King, is as a game like Age of Empires. The word Terrarium means a glass case for small animals, or a sealed globe for plants. In the Terrarium world, each creature represents a piece of code. Once written, it goes out into the world to do battle and the gamer has no further control over it.

"Each player has their own Terrarium client, and once they have written their code it is left to wander around in their client," said King, explaining the fundamentals of the game. A ball rolls around the Terrarium client and if it lands on a piece of code (or creature), said King, it copies (or teleports in Terrarium parlance) that code to between 15 and 20 other Terrariums on the Internet.

The code, which can be written in any .Net language -- such as C#, Visual Basic.Net or C++.Net -- is translated into Microsoft's .Net low-level assembly language, called Intermediate Language, or IL."


Source - ZDNet: Microsoft game is a code-eating battle
Worried? Well, any creature that attempts to perform any sort of hanky panky outside the Terrarium environment is killed immediately, so this crazy game should make for some good clean fun.

The game will run for three weeks starting on February 13th, and whoever has the greatest number of creatures at the end of the run will no doubt win a bit of fame. Check out the full article for more information on how you can get involved. ...congrats to bobpfef on another baby on the way... ; )
ES Spotlight On Alicia!
Posted by Thunder on February 6th, 2002 @ 1:29 a.m.
We start this week's spotlight off with a real rookie, and another Sims fan to boot. Alicia Bishop has just joined the Ensemble Studios team, but is already working on some interesting stuff:
"Full Name: Alicia Bishop Mueller
Joined Ensemble Studios: January 2002
Job Title: Admin
Home Town: Duncanville, Texas

Currently Working On:
Planning DICE, GDC & E3

Most Embarrassing Moment:
Tripping in the hall in front of the managing partner’s office of the law firm I worked in. Twice."


Source - ES News
Those are some major projects that Alicia is involved in. I'm not sure what "DICE" is, but the GDC is the Game Developers Conference. A few members of the ES team are going to be presenting there including AOM's lead programmer Rob Fermier and the bossman, Tony Goodman. Of course, E3 is the massive Electronic Entertainment Expo which is held in May every year. The press who are lucky enough to attend this year will be getting an eye full of Age of Mythology! ...in all it's nearly completed glory by then too I imagine... ; )
Shay's New Nick...
Posted by Thunder on February 4th, 2002 @ 10:56 p.m.
Yes, we have a winner! Shay Girard has selected a nickname from the fifty or so suggestions that were sent in, and she sends a huge THANKS to everybody who provided a creative entry. Shay will now be known as Shay "Slim_Shaydy" Girard!

The winning entry was sent in by Aza who will be receiving his handy HG pen and More Music From The Ages CD as soon as he sends me his mailing address. Congratulations Aza and many thanks to our judge for this contest, Ensemble Studios' own Slim_Shaydy!

Here are a few creative or interesting suggestions that were some of my favs:

Shashoozie [bless you -Thunder]

'Gray Radish'. Why? Because it's an anagram to Shay Girard

The Fed

NightSHAYde - THIS IS FROM WOADIE IF I DON'T GET THE CD I WILL KILL YOU THUNDER!
...Stephen Rippy must be proud...people will kill for these CDs... ; )
AOKH Ladder Standings...
Posted by Thunder on February 4th, 2002 @ 7:01 a.m.
It was a crazy week on the ladder! There were two changes in the championship, first with Myll_Barka taking the title from _Final_Boss_, and then losing it a short while later to our current champ, Gary__Payton. Here are how things look on the ladder at the moment:
  1. 188: Gary__Payton
  2. 178: _Chichiri_
  3. 172: Darq_LadyWoogy
  4. 169: _Final_Boss
  5. 157: IR_Evil
  6. 148: Pezeteros_ [aka redhair_LOLITA]
  7. 144: Evil_Viking [aka SLAYER_SERVANT]
  8. 143: Myll_Barka
  9. 142: Doink
  10. 139: StorM_Country/139: Time_Itself

Source - AOKH Ladder

Our ladder manager, Dark Side of Day, has also made his weekly picks for the warriors of the week. Those players who just plain old played their hearts out and took on all comers. Tonto_Alyantis topped the list once again this week, joined by IR_Evil, DontWallMyTC and Chichiri, who has been going hard after the champ, Gary__Payton. Best of luck to all of you in your quest to climb the ladder! You can check out the full list of ladder warriors for this week here. ...HG staff can play on the ladder now, to look me up for some easy points... ; )
Contest - Shay's Nickname!
Posted by Thunder on February 2nd, 2002 @ 3:24 a.m.
Ensemble Studios' own Shay Girard would like a bit of help. She wants a nickname and hasn't had much luck finding one she likes on her own. Believe it or not, she would like some suggestions. Brave isn't she? For some inspiration, be sure to read her spotlight article from yesterday, and then send in your proposed nickname for Shay to thunder@heavengames.com. Shay herself will be choosing which of these suggestions she will adopt as her nickname, so make them good ones!

Prize: The author of the winning nick will be awarded an always handy HeavenGames pen, and a More Music From The Ages CD!

Deadline: The contest is open to absolutely everybody, except HG staff. Entries must be submitted by 12noon EST, Febraury 4th. (9am PST, 5pm GMT) All entries must be sent to thunder@heavengames.com.

Good luck folks!
Forum Party Tomorrow...
Posted by Thunder on February 2nd, 2002 @ 3:17 a.m.
If you're looking for a few games tomorrow, make sure you join us at our Forum Party! We'll be gathering on the Zone and beating each other up in some friendly matches. If you're a fan of RM or NOmad games, stop on by. All of the details can be had in the Forum Party Post.

See you on the battlefield! ...ladder players are still welcome of course... ; )
$FOPT Events$
Posted by Thunder on February 1st, 2002 @ 9:14 p.m.
Be quick about it and you have the chance to win some serious cash with your AOK skills! FOPT_Strawberry sends word of a total of $9000 in prize money that's split amongst three major events. Chew on this:
  • On Saturday February 9th, beginning at 20:00 h GMT, we host "ReFF´s AOK Rumble", an Online 1v1 Arabia Tournament with $1000 Prize-Money. Sign up is open from now at http://www.fopt-clan.de where you will also find more info. Unlike our previous tournaments this one is open for everyone so don´t worry about your skill-level - just join the fun. Please note that we are limiting the number of players to 150. Once we have reached this registration will close and you will have to wait for the next tournament.

  • Beginning on February 15th with the public sign up "Arbalet-Cup", the biggest Online - Tournament in history of the Age of Empires - series, will kick off. Prize-Money for this one is incredible US $5000 (!) for this one. Again this tournament is open for everyone.

  • FOPT and some friends have teamed up to found the "RTS-League" for Age of Kings and Empire Earth. RTS-League is an international clan-league with a Prize-Money of $3000 per season. Season 2 for AOK with 20 clans in 2 divisions and season 1 for EE with 12 clans in 1 division have just been launched. Read more about this project at http://www.rts-league.com.

  • Last but not least i would like to mention our new forums at http://www.fopt-clan.de. We have upgraded our servers so from now everyone will be able to - for example - post his recorded games on our site. You can access the new boards directly via this link: http://www.fopt-clan.de/forum/index.php - FOPT_Strawberry
Best Sellers Of 2001...
Posted by Thunder on February 1st, 2002 @ 3:14 a.m.
A very interesting article at Gamers.com has listed the top twenty best selling PC games for the year 2001. Despite being released two years ago, Age of Kings continues to sell very well, cracking the top ten! The Conquerors expansion pack also made the list, taking the #18 spot:

1. The Sims (EA)
2. RollerCoaster Tycoon (Infogrames)
3. Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone (EA)
4. Diablo 2 Expansion: Lord of Destruction (Vivendi)
5. The Sims: House Party Expansion (EA)
6. The Sims: Livin' Large Expansion (EA)
7. The Sims: Hot Date Expansion (EA)
8. Diablo 2 (Vivendi)
9. Sim Theme Park (EA)
10. Age Of Empires 2: Age of Kings (Microsoft)

Source - PC Game Sales Up in Down Year

I did mention that The Sims was selling well, and there you see it outselling every other PC game. Electronic Arts obviously had a great year! Half of the games in the top 20 list are published by big bad EA. ...thanks Gaming Groove for the kick in the direction of this article... ; )