Ask Sandy III

Article written by Sandy Petersen
Originally published on 10-14-1999 ; updated on 03-13-2017
Tags: General Info, Ask Sandyman, Interviews

Q) A way to check the range of units. I would like to be able to click on a ranged attack unit and see a circle indicating its maximum range. This would be useful in placing siege units and towers. Of course the range circle would change based on unit upgrades.

A) This might be useful. One drawback is that a units shots actually sometimes exceed (and sometimes fall short) of their "official" range, depending on unit or target motion, elevation, cosmic rays, etc. And range circles would look kind of nasty.

Q) It would be nice to have a quick way to check for gaps in your walls.

A) Walls are already pretty powerful ...

Q) don't sacrafice the realism of the scene for the ease of strategy

A) Good point.

Q) Someone proposed that double-selecting a control group should center you on this control group. (Long argument as to why this is okay omitted.)

A) This argument was pretty good. It will be considered for the X-Pack (should there be one).

Q) change building interface such that you can have a villager build a structure, then return to doing something else automatically afterward

A) Also taken under advisement. One point, though - you DO get a sound cue for the building's completion.

Q) you can't have a unit as part of two control groups. Have you thought about removing this restriction?

A) This is a brilliant suggestion. I don't know if it can be done,but I'll look into it.

Q) have you considered adding more speech or audible verification to different key events?

A) Yes. The problem is that we already have so many different sound cues that it can get confusing. Research completion, farm expiration, town-under-attack, unit-under-attack, villager creation, military unit creation,ship production, different sounds for each building, etc.,

Q) It's too hard to attack in Feudal and Dark. This sucks.

A) Well, a Dark Age attack isn't impossible, seeing as there are no walls. You just have to find villagers beyond the range of their town center's protection. A Feudal attack does seem hard, though we pulled them off here at ES many times. I'm willing to wait a few weeks and see what strategies are being used by then. I think that, while it's likely that the Feudal defenses are a tad too strong, it's too early to state it as a confirmed fact.

Q) What happened to the nomad style of start?

A) It was hell if you happened to be Chinese. We could put it back I suppose.

Q) militia are available for building but don't seem to be effective for attacking

A) Well ... they're better than villagers.

Q) Is there still an attack bonus when attacking units from the sides or back, or was that taken out before release?

A) The latter. It was too random when you got the bonus, and was no longer a "decision" made by the user.

Q) In the book, it says the farm upgrade Heavy Plow adds "+1 villager food capacity". What does this mean?

A) I think they can carry more food.

Q) If a Cataphract, w/bonus against infantry, goes against a Pikeman, w/cavalry attacking bonus, who wins? Do they both have a large attack against each other?

A) The Cataphract wins, as it happens, bonuses being equal. But yes, they BOTH get an attack bonus.

Q) Why didn't the Byzantines get their own tileset?

A) The same reason the Vikings, Chinese, and Persians didn't get their own tile set.

Q) Also, why do the Goths speak German?

A) We like German.

Q) How do i play mp3 files within the game

A) I have no idea.

Q) I wish one could control some more variables in the random maps, such as resource and wildlife levels

A) Use the random map scripts to do this.

Q) I played a Baltic map where it made a perfect homolog to the Black Sea. Playing on a ocean map with choke points is too fun.

A) Good idea for a new map type. However I must disagree that the Baltic map sans choke points is "too similar to Mediterranean". I think the Baltic map has some significant differences.

Q) Walls and Gates should be capturable.

A) Sure. First I capture the wall, then I delete it. No more need for those messy siege engines.

Q) The Berserk i would gladly pay more for if it was just a bit tougher than its barracks unit counterpart.

A) In general, the Castle Age UUs are inferior to their normal unit equivalents, while the Elite UUs are superior to them. The Berserks are no exception. An elite berserk has a few less hit points than a champion, but it has more armor and a higher attack, plus heals over time. And it only costs 5 gold more.

Q) Like, dude, walls are like, a *****.

A) This is a tough question for me to answer.

Q) what is your favorite architecture style?

A) Near East, without a doubt. Particularly their terrific towers.

Q) Did this ever happen to you sudinly your playing aok happly BOOM aok frezes and it wont un freze.

A) Yes, but we fixed all the occasions on which this happened. At least all the ones we knew about.

Q) I would have quit being a friendly helpful game designer a long, long time ago, unless MS was payin' me by the post response.

A) I have 5 kids, so obviously that has given me much more patience than the average person

Q) Is there a way to set the default aggression level?

A) No. Worth considering, though.

Q) Computer allies give me chat messages like 201 and 203. What do they want?

A) They are sending you very explicit messages that you don't need to care about. When they want tribute, they will explicitly tell you that's what they want. Basically, what they're saying is stuff that makes sense only to other computer players. I might alter what they say in the theoretical X-Pack so it's intelligible. Don't sweat it. Honest.

Q) is there is a way to identiy the drawn people in the credits? I can recognize you and Bruce(he really stands out... what is he freakin' seven feet tall or what?) and maybe Greg, but I've not seen the others.

A) Sure ... I can identify every one of them. I think there are pictures of many ES employees on our website. Good luck picking us out. Bruce is one big dude.

Q) Why does Age of Kings contain cheat possibilities?

A) Programmers, artists, and fans all seem to love cheats. Game designers are not quite so enthusiastic ...

Q) When is the demo coming out? f you don't know then when will you know?

A) I know when MS has told us the demo is coming out. I am not allowed to tell YOU. It is well before Christmas. On the other hand, the last time I depended on MS's date for when something was coming out I got to be renamed Candy@$$.

Q) I would like to know why the knight's weapon was changed back into swords from lances.

A) the animation looked dumb once the knights entered melee, since they had to sit there and keep poking away. The sword looked better in actual combat, since (unlike actual medieval combat), people in AoK don't get killed by a single blow from a charging knight.

Q) how did Death Shrimp go from a doctor of marine biology to a game designer?

A) I recruited him, so 'twas I turned him to the dark side.

Q) Move the sapper tech to FEUDAL, and make it research at the Town Center.

A) We will take this under advisement.

Q) How about a pestilence victory condition?

A) That's not really an RTS-type topic ...

Q) How much do you think taht TAoK will cost in a month & a half?

A) Assuming you mean Total Annihilation: Kingdoms, I just saw it on sale for $19.95. Could have been a loss leader, I suppose.

Q) Can you tell us the story for "Villager Male David Lewis"?

A) Tragically, David Lewis is a full-time employee of Ensemble Studios, and I am stuck working with him on my next project. For his bio, check out the ES website.

Q) What was the reason u made the unit ai attack farms on its own even when there are other buildings in vicinity ?

A) Because you sometimes need to destroy farms, too. They don't take that many hits to KO. If you don't like it, manage your rams. That's what I do.

Q) In the beta when a farm ran out and there was an idle farm next to this the farmer went there to work, now he stands idle why did u change that?

A) Idle farms are pretty rare in AoK.

Q) With cheat u can get this demolition man thing, ever considered bringing it into the game?

A) Not just cheats, either - you can place him in scenarios fair and square. So he IS in the game. And yes, we're considering a more polished version of him in case we do an X-pack.

Q) people now start using tcs as offensive weapons was this taken into account when implementing such strong tcs ?

A) Yes. Remember, you can't build extra TCs until Castle, and you have to garrison it before it's effective.

Q) Is that true only the unique units are different in uniform between civilizations, and not other normal units?

All other normal units are only different in color between different civi , right?

A) Right.

Q) Did you company ever think of making the trade cart able to carry 2-4 slower foot units like Teuton's knight?

A) A land transport unit has been discussed for a proposed X-pack. Doesn't mean it'll get into the game.

Q) Expansion? If/When?

A) Officially unannounced. Soon.

Q) Why is it when I start a singleplayer deathmatch game the computer makes some bogus reason and then resign?

A) Because you are playing on Easiest mode with a high pop cap. There is a known bug (it's my fault, incidentally) that causes this problem. Play on Moderate or higher difficulty, or with a pop cap of 100 or less and this won't happen.

Q) One time the comp said,"The deer fled when my hunters sought them. I resign." What the heck does that mean?

A) It's a joke. The computer always makes an excuse when he resigns (just like a real player). Only the computer's reasons are patently silly - such as "Your player color was better than mine. I resign." Etc. It's just for grins.

Q) I'm curious to know why the restriction was included on so many buildings to not allow units to be garrisoned

A) Because both tactical and strategic decisions in gameplay were made less interesting when we let people garrison in all the different buildings. It became much more interesting (and castles, for instance, became much more useful) when only certain units could hold garrisons.

Q) How about adding a "back" hotkey.

A) I'll look into it.

Q) Why not giving normal buildings higher priority for attacking and only if there arent any buildings in the vicinity rams attack those farms?

A) Rams have a really short LOS, so usually they won't auto-target other buildings anyway. In any case, this comes down to whether its more fun to manage your units or let the computer do all the work. Rams are few in number and easy to keep track of, so I see nothing wrong with letting them target whatever. In any case, if they _didn't_ auto-target farms, someone would be complaining about their attacking houses or mills instead of [insert better target name here].

Q) What's the story behind Villager Male David Lewis?

A) If Dave Lewis doesn't want to post his own bio on the ES website, who am I to pull back the curtain and expose all the sordid details to the public scrutiny?

Q) What happens when you put archers in a bombard tower?

A) Your archers are nice and safe.

Q) i never got to play a multiplayer of age of kings because after one minute of playing it always says...out of sync error, now what does that mean?

A) I think it's self-explanatory.

Q) How do I fix it?

A) How would I know?

Q) How much is a bonus vs buildings, archers, calvary, etc?

A) It is different for every unit that gets the bonus.

Q) I tried to make my own scenarios but the population limit is always set to 75. Is there a way to change that?

A) Not yet.

Q) The time limit victory condition could be greatly improved, if the time limit could be made fully customizable.

A) I will take it under consideration.

Q) Do you think adding a wood gate can be useful? Particularly for Goths?

A) I can think of more useful things to spend art time on ...

Q) Thank you for such a fantastic game.

A) You're very welcome. Thanks for trusting us enough to purchase it.

Q) I think their should be a button you can hold to make each click worth 1,000 in the Market.

A) This is actually under consideration.

Q) I haven't seen your respond to any of the requests I made in my previous post.

A) I read them all and thought they were thoughtful and often insightful. Most were simply amplifications of or arguments for other requests already made and I didn't feel like saying "I will consider it for the patch/X-Pack" yet again. I agree about the double-click group centering function.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I lack the inclination to use this thread as a site for me to discuss in intimate back-and-forth dialogue the ramifications of various game features. Not that I don't love y'all, but that I don't have an infinite amount of time and, once I grasp the implications of a particular suggestion, I find it more productive to discuss it with other ES personnel - which actually affects whether or not it gets into a game!

Q) How about having actual 'kings' or 'queen' units in the game?

A) The problem with units that give bonuses in a radius around them is that it is not easy to tell who gets the bonus and who doesn't. It is not obvious when you look on the screen. There are ways around this, of course, and we've considered them (at one time Relics gave a radius combat bonus, for instance), but in the end we decided that for the clean interface we wanted for AoK, it didn't fit in. As another example, when I was working at id Software, the number one request we kept getting from fans was some kind of inventory system, which is NOT an inherently bad idea. We decided against it for Doom, Doom II, and Quake because having no inventory sped up play, and lightning-fast action is an important part of the Doom/Quake experience.

Q) In the XPack, instead of just saying, "Attack bonus versus buildings," please put down WHAT the numbers actually are (you did it this way for RoR, why get all vague on us now?).

A) Well, to be perfectly honest, we didn't do it in the main AoK game because the numbers weren't finalized until AFTER the manual was printed! That's why the RoR pack was able to have precise numbers, incidentally - it came out almost a year after AoE, and so the numbers had been solid way before the manual needed to get done. Expect more firm numbers in any AoK X-Pack for the same reason!

Q) how does it help ME when the phalanx, hoplite...are 25% faster?

A) It helps you in three major ways: First, it makes your units much less vulnerable to radius-effect siege engines. Second, it reduces the length of time your units have to suffer from arrows before they get up to the target. Third, it increases the number of units that your unit can either run away from or run down. All these are useful, in my opinion. Speed is Life.

Q) Any ideas on possible new civs in the probable X-pack?

A) We have many fine ideas on civs for the probable X-Pack. None will be seen here on the forum until we get the X-Pack further along in production. I will say this, however - I think every single civ we're talking about has been mentioned on the forum at least once as a possibility.

Q) How about a "sally port" in the expansion pack? This would be a one unit wide gate (no siege engine exit?) laid over an existing stone wall, cheaper than a gate, same hit points as the wall segment.

A) What would it be for? A gate only costs 30 stone.

Q) How about "martyrdom" from ROR? Or does it disturb the play balance for high cost units?

A) We have some rather marvelous concepts for new monk research items, but we do not currently plan to add Martyrdom (or the moral equivalent) to the list. Basically, we have two cool monk upgrades in mind. One of them enhances the monks. The other protects against them. And I will not say any more about these so please don't ask.

Q) How about making trebuchets a "crewed" unit?

A) Why?

Q) how have ES players and Beta testers fought against the Teutons using civs other than the Teutons?

A) We have beaten the Teutons with every other civ in the game, often consistently. Our opinion is that a better player will defeat his Teuton-playing buddy, and so victory is dependent upon skill, not civ choice.

Q) What I am really looking for are hints, tips, magical solutions, etc. on how to handle the Teutons played by an opponent of equal (in my case, above average) skill.

A) Well, lots have already been posted in this forum. Here's some basic tips, though -

1 - KEEP MOVING. His super-town centers don't have ballistics until mid-to-late Castle. Take advantage of that with your raiders. In addition, his cavalry is the slowest in the game - your horsies can easily outrun his.

2 - PREDICT HIS ACTIONS. You know he is NOT going for an archer strategy. 90% of the time, a Teuton goes for infantry backed up by archer-killing knights. Respond accordingly. He might try a tower or TC rush. This is not that big of a deal considering how long it takes to build a TC, plus he's got to garrison it. Keep some rams around to KO his TCs if he tries it. Remember that he can outrange onagers, but not bombard cannons or trebuchets or cannon galleons.

3 - TAKE YOUR TIME. One thing about the Teutons - they rarely rush YOU! They are slow to build up, slow to take action, and most of their bonuses are worthless in the first two ages. (Conversion resistance? Better monks? Murder holes? Farms? Not one of these is worth a bit until Castle.) So you know they aren't coming after you, at least not successfully. So you can properly build up. If you decide to pick off some of his villagers with a raid, it is likelier to hurt him than you.

Q) what do you mean that the Teutons have slow horses?

A) The Teutons are one of only two civs who lack Husbandry (the other, Vikings, doesn't care about cavalry). I admit that their cav is as fast as everyone else's up to mid-Castle. Oh, except for the fact that Scouts are slower than Light Cav and Teutons are the only civ that doesn't get Light Cav.

Q) why would you say farms are useless until Castle?

A) Because farming is slow and costs wood, while hunting, fishing, berry-picking, and shepherding are fast and cost nothing. Your friends that start farming in Dark Age are cheating themselves out of many fine food sources. Ask anyone.

Q) there were some Castle shots that did not show up in the final version of AOK.

A) Yep. Too big. If we shrank them, then the gates & windows looked too small.

Q) Mongol's might has been tuned down greatly.

A) I respectfully disagree. Increased ROF for horse archers & increased HP for light cav are significant bonuses. They mean that Mongol horse archers win their archery duels, and that Mongol light cav take 30% longer to kill for enemy archers. That makes one heck of a difference. Add to this their +2 LOS for scouts, which makes them extremely dangerous sheep thieves, and you have a very powerful offensive civ. In addition, they get all foot archers, all infantry, camels, and all siege except the bombard cannon. What possible addition to their offensive power could you be considering? Hand-cannoneers? Paladins? (Sandy snorts derisively.)

Q) Mongol buildings are not historically right for them.

A) NO ONE's building set is historically right for them. Everyone's building set is a mish-mash of different groups from the same general area.

Q) I really hope in the x pack, you guys can have player set the formation on or off( like we had in AOE).

A) ?? There are no formations in AoE at all.

Q) Husbandry affects Cav Archers, right?

A) Right. And Heavy Cav Archers are faster than ordinary Cav Archers. Teutons lack the former.