Ask Sandy X

Article written by Sandy Petersen
Originally published on 01-07-2000 ; updated on 03-13-2017
Tags: General Info, Ask Sandyman, Interviews

Q) don't U play AOK in mulitplayer over the Internet?

A) Of course not. When I play AoK, it's invariably over ES's LAN.

Q) Personally, how would you rank the civs regardless of which map you played in?

A) This question is too vague. If you mean which civ do I think has the best chance to win, I guess I think it depends on the map type, number of players, opposing civs, game type, map size, etc. If you mean which civ is the most fun for me to play it depends a lot on what civs I've been playing a lot lately. For instance, I like the Goths, but if I've been playing them for the last 3-4 games in a row, I get sick of them and have to try someone else. Most of the time I pick Random for my civ, so I guess I like it best.

Q) Not that I am advocating piracy, but by your response it is assumed that the game developer receives a royalty for the number of copies of sold. I was under the impression that development was not a commission-based field and that the distributors (M$) soak up the sales profits.

A) This is true for most games. AoK however, has such excellent sales that most of our income actually comes from royalties.

Q) If I am correct, then who cares about the opportunity cost of the lost sale. You received your salary for the work.

A) But even if piracy "only" hurts the publisher, the demise and retirement of such publishers clearly hurts the game industry. In any case, piracy is theft. Any defense of piracy is a defense of theft. (I am not claiming here that the person who wrote the question to which I am replying was defending piracy.)

Q) Why is it not possible to have a key that lists totals for each unit type?

A) It IS possible. But since there are so many different types of units, the display would probably fill up most of the screen.

Q) Weak 2's (except clubs and NT of course), Old-style stayman, Gerber, Blackwood, Jacoby, and Kaplan. Quite rusty tho, but once a German friend of mine and I took all 13 tricks on an opponent's 3 NT bid.

A) Weak 2's, weak no-trump, Stayman, Blackwood. My most glorious moment in bridge was false-carding an opponent out of his cold grand slam.

Q) I've been wanting to get one of those "Music From the Ages" discs for a long time but I never got the fortune of winning one.

A) You have my sympathy. Maybe you'll get one sometime soon. I have noticed a lot of comments about the AoK music, and I urge y'all who love the music to start up a separate thread for Big Al himself. I promise he'll read it and respond. I feel bad for him having to search through 150 postings in my thread to find the ones dedicated to him.

Q) Have you read a lot on the Napoleonic Era? The First Empire, or the Revolution, or the 100 Days, anything like that? I am a huge fan of Napoleon (and of Age of Kings), and I was just wondering if you have read up on the early 19th century Europe?"

A) I have read a fair amount on it (maybe a dozen books), but do not consider myself an expert in that time period.

Q) Thank you! By the way, I think it would be a GREAT idea if ES had an employee such as yourself set up to work online with gamers and customers in forums.

A) Just as long as it isn't me.

Q) what i want to know is in the xpac did u refine the record game controls a little better?

A) We have not announced the existence of an X-Pack.

Q) if I move to the states someday, can I get a job at ES?

A) It's extremely difficult. We are notoriously picky, and keenly interested in keeping the company lean. And we have astoundingly low turnover. Only two employees have left us voluntarily, and one of them came back!

Q) One of my best friends is pirating software, and then selling them for 40:-(about 4.79$) to all kinds of persons. I know this is wrong also, but he's a very good friend other wise... do you think I should...turn him in...? I've already talked to him about stopping this, but he won't do it.I feel bad about knowing it and not doing anything about, but it might feel worse to tell on him...what should I do...? I have pirated software myself before...but I stopped 2 years ago. Now I only buy legally. Please...help me Sandy. You're my only hope.

A) If I only cared about legalities and royalties (which some forumers seem to think), I would tell you to turn him in. But friendship is important, too, and I know I would find it very hard to turn in one of my friends who was doing something illegal or immoral. I urge you to try reasoning with him some more. Point out that he is certain to be caught sooner or later. If he is adamant, I can only say to let your conscience be your guide. Moral conflicts like this are what make us strong, if we make the correct choice. I cannot make this choice for you. Frankly, I advise prayer. God knows what you should do far better than I, and He will tell you.

Q) About the Zone - you said you were aware of the problems and could do nothing. Can you give me some hope that MS is aware of the problems and wants to fix it?

A) I wish I could. I occasionally hear rumors that the Zone is planning to clean up its act. Maybe one of these rumors is true, but I have to admit that their record to date is less than pristine.

Q) I read your posts and find really interestng and useful info about how things like conversions are done, and how CKNs damage vs. other archers. I wonder if you could have that info put in a book/guide for the next X-pack (if there is one).

A) I do not have time to write such a book. Anyone who does should be able to get access to the same stuff I take my information from.

Q) what significance do the Tower of Flies and the Cursed Tower have? Why were they put into the Map Editor?

A) They appear in the final Saladin scenario. They were the names given to two of the towers defending Acre from the crusaders. Pretty cool, eh? God's Own Sling and Bad Neighbor are the names of two of the trebuchets built by the crusaders to bombard the city.

Q) I LOVE the spies tech.

A) Me too. It's the greatest. And self-balancing, too!

Q) Thanks to the campaigns and History Menu, I knew the answer to several questions regarding Genghis Khan and the Mongolians! Thanks ES!

A) You are most welcome. Bruce Shelley gets the credit here.

Q) How did you get started in the game industry, Sandyman?

A) I backed into it by accident. I got my start as a part-time job to support myself in graduate school.

Q) I just want to say that Croatia was never a part of Serbia.

A) On the other hand, it was part of a Serb-dominated Yugoslavia for many decades.

Q) What was it like working at id software on Doom and Quake?

A) Working for id was a lot like blazing an exciting new trail through the woods and then keeping on blazing that trail until you've worn it down to a great big rut.

Q) How do you feel about the recent release of the Quake 1 source code under the GPL?

A) I think it's terrific. I wish MS would do things like that.

Q) You seem to have a positive influence on games, to say the least - have you considered going back to 3d shooters at all?

A) Already? I just got out of that niche 2 years ago! I may go back someday.

Q) Will the Xpac include a Swiss civ?

A) The existence of any X-Pack Is Not Yet Announced. This includes civs, units, features, etc.,

Q) Wasnt the phalanx just too cool?

A) GIve me the mighty Roman legion any day. Or the Swedish crosses, for that matter.

Q) Could you comment on the role of fear on the battlefield?

A) Napoleon (who ought to know), said it best. "The morale is to the material as 3 to 1."

Q) You're saying that buying a cracked cd is stealing. I totally agree, however I DO use a cracked cd. Why? Cause I can't find any noncracked ones in Turkey. What should I do?

A) If you can't find an uncracked cd you can't find an uncracked cd. I recommend you use the cracked cd, but order a copy of the good cd from MS or a mail order house. That way you can keep playing the game, but you won't be a thief!

Q) What is your job at ES?

A) Look me up at the ES website!

Q) could u please explain your definition of science.

A) Science as a formal discipine is a methodology for discovering truth. It consists of

1) observing reality.

2) making a hypothesis that fits the facts.

3) devising and carrying out an experiment or an observation to test the hypothesis.

4) revising the hypothesis based upon the experiment's results.

Loosely, "science" is used to refer to anything which isn't an art, a craft, a tradition, etc. I sometimes use science in this loose manner, too. Truth can be discovered without the use of this methodology. In fact, there are certain truths which are impossible to detect using scientific methodology. As one simple, yet profound example, the entirety of mathematics is based upon a wholly different system of truth analysis – that of logical argument and generating proofs. I am NOT denigrating science here – it is certainly a useful tool, and my college and graduate career was based in the hard sciences (entomology, in fact). Most scientists are totally aware of the limitations of science. It is generally only non-scientists who do not understand that science cannot discover the answers to some things.

Q) What impact does this, and other forums, have in your (et al.) game design and programming decisions.

A) A great deal.

Q) The inclusion of the Joan of Arc campaign was the "hook" to get me involved in AOK. Was that a purposeful move by Ensemble to get more women involved in game play?

A) No, it was based upon the fact that we thought Joan of Arc was absolutely terrific and the most remarkable military leader in the history of the Earth. I promise we never thought of it as a ploy to get more women involved. Though if it did that, I'm very pleased. Gaming needs women.

Q) Have you read the threads "That's my story and I sticking to it" or the "A Novel Strategy Guide"?

A) Yes. My comments? I love this kind of stuff. Creations such as the Quake Clans, Agetoons, etc., all these kind of things show that people love a game and are willing to add to it in ways that we, the designers, never dreamed of. It shows that the game is not something handed down from Mount Sinai by us to the the lowly peons, but instead, that the game and its culture is really a joint effort, in which the players' effort and love is even more important and creative than we drones at ES.

Q) Can I assume, due to your historical knowledge, you know my screen name's story?

A) You have stumped me at the moment. The only Black Agnes I can think of is an evil water-witch from Wales, and surely that's not whom you're emulating. Enlighten me.

Q) Does the computer generate random maps on the fly?

A) Yes. There is special random generation code that creates the maps from nothing. Tim Deen gets the credit.

Q) How much did system requirements affect the design of AoK? Did Ensemble back off from adding new features in order to keep the game "runnable" on older systems?

A) It was always in the back of our minds. I would say that we didn't really leave out any features because of system problems. Probably we kept some things toned down, though. For instance, there's no "500" pop cap, because we knew it would clog everyone's system.

Q) What happened to breeding livestock?

A) It was a pain and in practice identical to farming so is gone now.

Q) Would Ensemble consider an "expert" versus "standard" edition or game setting? I'm talking about interface.

A) I thought we had one. Click on the "expert" button.

Q) Why was unit experience rejected?

A) We don't like it. We dislike having to remember which units are "good" and which ones are "bad". The unit upgrades make sufficient difference for us.

Q) Was the idea of a player rotating the screen 45° ever considered?

A) Not seriously. We would have had to do four times the building art, for instance. And our elevation system (which is not true 3-D), would have its limitations exposed dramatically. Especially for the cliffs.

Q) Something else that I enjoy about RTII is the ability to zoom in and out.

A) You can kind of do this in AoK, by changing the screen resolution.

Q) How did ES and MS come into a partnership? Was this their idea for the game and you guys agreed to make it or was it your idea and you needed financial support?

A) The game was our idea. We invited MS to be our publisher. The marriage, while occasionally rocky, has proved a success.

Q) could you lend any advice on where I should focus my studies? What computer language is AoK programmed in? What other areas of computers should I study? What should I do on my own to self-develope skills to help me be a games programmer?

A) Actually I'm not a programmer. Almost every game I've worked on has been programmed in some version of C. Here at ES over the last year, we've hired 3-D programmers, AI specialists, database guys, communications guys, and generalists, so I would say there is no one thing that you need to specialize in.

Q) Do damage upgrades (i.e., chemistry + blacksmith upgrades), upgrade the first arrow only, or do they also affect the volley arrows of the chu-ko-nu?

A) I believe they do, but it doesn't make much difference, since any unit with at least 2 piercing armor (or 1 piercing & all armor upgrades) only takes 1 damage from an equally-upgraded chu-ko-nu volley arrow.

Q) What is the exact mechanics/math behind ballistics?

A) If the arrow "hits" (i.e., got a "hit" result when it was loosed), it will land in the exact same spot that the target would have been if it had kept moving in the exact same direction and speed when the missile was launched. Without ballistics, a "hit" indicates that the shot hits in the exact spot where the target was standing when it was launched.

Q) You have mentioned an X-pack, although you say there will not be one. In the last thread, although I suspect that you were not serious, you said, "We are planning to ONLY have civs from the Adriatic coast."

A) Warning, Will Robinson! Humor alert!

Q) Does the video card of the host make a difference on the peers?

A) Not as far as I know.

Q) Does AoK take advantage of 3d card technology?

A) There is no 3-D in AoK.

Q) Did ES ever entertain having a dedicated server similar to FPS?

A) Such would be proprietary information.

Q) Give my compliments to the person(s) who designed the trebuchet and bombard cannon art and animations, those are just so fun to watch in action, makes you feel like you are in the game. And who is the person who designed the art for those units?

A) The guys who designed the trebuchet art were Brad Crow & Duncan McKissick.

Q) My friend and I are betting on what would be the bonuses of a possible Polish Civilization.

A) Here is what _I_ would do for them: if you are playing the Poles …

1) You always get to be the best player color.

2) Other players have to say "Sir" when they are chatting to you.

3) You never get the turtle during multiplayer.

4) All your unit names have "-ski" tacked onto the end. Thus, you don't have a militiaman or scout, but a militiamanski, a scoutski, etc.

5) Your buildings' art style looks as if it's Imperial from the very start of the game.

6) Your unique unit is the Prevaricating Traveler. He has an inverse line of sight equal to that a scout, but it _erases_ the map from the view of all players.

Q) How many times did the art people re-do the trebuchet?

A) Two major times. Then there was some clean-up.

Q) I'm going to have to take issue with your assertion that science is insufficient to discover truth in some areas.

A) Differ away. My assertion is unchanged. I might add that I share it with most prominent scientists whom I've spoken with or whose books I've read. You're in the minority opinion here, bub.

Q) as a Mormon and Returned Missionary myself, I am quite convinced that LDS theology and the Theory of Evolution are incompatible.

A) I completely and utterly deny this. When will Mormons start reading the scriptures for what they _say_ instead of obeying old worn-out traditions? I regard myself as an adherent to the old-fashioned Mormon ideal, as exemplified by Brigham Young's remark that "We cling to truth wherever we find it, and discard all that is not truth."

Q) why when playing DM you are unable to research the "spies" technology?

A) Because at the game's start you have very few villagers, and Spies cost depends upon villager number. Since you can get to Imperial very quickly while your opponents still have only a limited number of villagers you could easily research Spy and thus ruin the gameplay.

Q) I've heard some of the sound effects from Aok on TV before so how many sound effects did you guys make yourself.

A) Some of the sounds are definitely public domain. Others are in-house. For instance, the dying female villager screams, for instance, are all made by Stephen "Big_Al" Rippy's lovely wife.

Q) Would it be possible in future versions (i know, they haven't been announced) to queue units simultaneously if multiple military buildings were selected?

A) It might be.

Q) somewhere else I have asked you about what the Teutons are saying when tasked. You told me it is German with an old dialect. I asked many people studying German and its history. They confirmed it is German. It is called "Mittelhochdeutsch", this can be translated like "Lower-High-German".

Q) Yippee! I was right. I had hoped so. Thanks very much for the information!

Q) Why do Goths Rock?

A) I wrote two or three pages of text on why I like Goths, which was published on rhe web. It must be available somewhere. Can any other forumers help this guy?

Q) Why do the deer have to run away?

A) If you wait, they'll return.

Q) Are you going to add any more animal food sources if you make an expac?

A) I promised not to tell.

Q) When people from ES play the game do they get the same times as people from the zone?

A) Depends on the player.

Q) The Saracren's are a very underused civ,if you make a expac, will you buff them up so their more appealing to players?

A) If _I_ did an X-Pak, I would buff up, not the saracens, but horse archers in general. I view them as the problem. The Saracens are not inherently an inferior civ, in my opinion.

Q) Why was fishing toned downed in aok?

A) To give players more of a choice when deciding what to do with their villagers. If one food source is far better than any other, you destroy player choice.

Q) Which civ did you like making while you were producing the game?

A) I was not in charge of making any of the civs in AoK. I just suggested them.

Q) Which one of the 5 campaigns was the most fun to make?

A) Greg Street made all the campaigns. I think he enjoyed Joan most.

Q) Also, do you think Genghis Khan is more of a hero or a villain?

A) I think he was a villain. He boiled people alive at his wedding party, after all. I realize that he was also a brilliant diplomat, an inspiring leader, and a cunning tactician and strategist, but to do as much harm as he did requires great talent.

Q) What do you think of auto-farming?

A) First, I hate micromanagement. Second, I want the player to be in total control.

Q) how about a population limit setting that takes away the population limit.

A) You have trouble at 200? We can't really do a "no limit" population cap for a number of reasons which will probably be obvious if you sit back and think about it.

Q) Do you actually read many of the topics on this forum? Or do you just go straight to this thread everytime? Because I noticed you replied to one of Vaidency's threads a while back. Was that just a random thread you chose, or do you customarily read a few threads everytime you answer questions?

A) I rarely check out other threads. Maybe once a week.

Q) Has this forum given you any ideas that you've put in [deleted] that you didn't think of yourselves?

A) Yes.

Q) I read somewhere that if a priest carries a relic into battle your men will fight stronger.

A) This is no longer true.

Q) could you consider getting rid of berries.

A) Not in any potential x-pack. It would change the game too much.

Q) When will you be able to tell us more about AoK X-Pack?

A) If we were doing an X-Pak, I would be able to say more about it after an exclusive on it had appeared in a game magazine or sebsite.

Q) What was the reason you guys picked the civs in AoK?

A) We felt that they were (1) important during the middle ages, (2) had interesting histories, and (3) were recognizable by the general public.

Q) there was one cartoon character,Actor ect. to describe you who would it be?

A) Peter Lorre

Q) What AoK unit would you have wanted to be?

A) The relic.

Q) If I should want to go into the career of video game designing what abilities would I need?

A) Either game design talent, programming skill, artistic ability, or a musical bent.

Q) What would (you) suggest the minimum age is to start in making a game that will be on the shelves?

A) You need to be either finished with college, or possess non-college experience and training that is the equivalent.

Q) What is the education and preparation needed to work in this field?

A) Game folks are generally well-educated and ill-prepared.

Q) Good quote with Napoleon on Morale. A very important tool indeed. Something the Spanish peasant armies of the early Iberian Campaign should have learned. The Imperial army leveling their bayonets and the Spanish fled just like that. But that is a different story from a different time. (No offense whatsoever to the Spanish, they helped the British defeat the French, but their early performances were rather half-hazard and uninspiring.)

A) The Spanish forces were irregulars during this time. They served brilliantly as guerrillas, raiding French supply lines, keeping French garrisons penned up in town, spying on the French, and providing information to the British and Portuguese. The British, who were generally blinkered with the idea that the only way to win a war was to march into combat in straight lines, didn't ever really understand what the Spanish were doing, but the Spanish contribution was probably greater than the British one to the Peninsular war. Without Spanish assistance, the British and Portuguese would have been kicked out of Spain by 1810. On the other hand, the Spanish could have fought their guerrilla war for decades without ever actually kicking out the French (guerrilla wars have a tendency to drag on forever – it takes conventional war to finish the job). So both allies worked together quite well, without ever quite realizing what each other was doing.

Q) For the Random Civ generator, does it have something to do with random number codes.

A) Yup. It just picks a random number. The only constraint is that it will not pick the same civ twice for the same team.

Q) As mentioned before, I am a Napoleonic fan, but do you personally find the Medevial/Ancient periods more interesting than the Colonial or Napoleonic?

A) Me personally? Give me the American Civil War and WW2 any day.

Q) Lithuania was really powerful back when AOK took place, it even extended to the Black Sea. So my question is: WHY ISN'T LITHUANIA GOING TO BE ON THE X-Pack?

A) There are lots of really powerful civs that won't make it into any X-Pack. Consider – there are probably 100 or more different civs from the dark and middle ages that deserve recognition, ranging from the Tibetans to the Khmers to the Hurons to the Moghuls to the Moors. Sure Lithuania was kind of cool for a while during the middle ages, but since we have maybe 100 civs to choose from, of which Lithuania is only one, and not a particularly well-known one at that, I would have to guess the odds are pretty slim that Lithuania will make it. This doesn't mean I'm prejudiced against Balts or anything – after all, my own nation of the USA isn't making it into the game either.

Q) Where can we get the X-Pack (if/when it comes out)?

A) If we do an X-Pack I'm sure it will be available at better computer and hobby stores near you. Plus it'll be for sale at amazon.com and joints like that.

Q) What is AOE 3 going to be about (setting/time)? When is it planned to come out?

A) These are extremely deep dark secrets that I am forbidden to declare.

Q) I just wanna first say that because of u and es.... i dont have a life..where u like this when u were a teen

A) Well … not as a result of computer games (we didn't have any).

Q) and also im thinking of becoming a game designer... how many years (if any) did u go to college?)..

A) Seven.

Q) i bet u make over 500,000 dollars.

A) Boy are YOU wrong. I make only the feeblest fraction of that. I drive a 1996 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. My home is worth about $200,000 and is not yet paid for. My daughter, who is attending college, has to have a part-time job to make ends meet. This despite the fact that her rent is only $100 a month.

Q) Why cant i come to ES?

A) We don't have time to give tours to curious droppers-in.

Q) why don't you have any jobs that can be filled by interns ? Don't you divide your games into discrete programming tasks ?

A) Sure, but the people who do the discrete tasks already know what's going on with the game. It takes 3-6 months to train a new game company hire to the point that he is finally able to contribute. By the time we'd trained an intern, he'd be gone.

Q) what did the whole development of AoK cost?

A) I believe that is proprietary. But I will say that it cost more than $1,000,000 and less than $10,000,000.

Q) Why can't the boats go under the bridge?

A) It's not a real bridge. It's just land tiles with different-looking art.

Q) Why isn't there "dark dirts" in the game?

A) ??

Q) Why isn't there Asian style road?

A) Asian cobblestone roads look different? I bet their dirt roads don't.

Q) Does ES want you to come to this thread or you just like it here?

A) I like it here.

Q) What game do you expect the most?

A) Diablo 2. Or maybe Banjo-Tooie.

Q) Why is Bombard Cannon more expansive than Trebuchet and deal less damage?

A) Because it fires faster and can move and is way more accurate.

Q) Would there be Mulan campaign in the expansion pack? I thought of this because you mention about more women.

A) I don't know if Mulan herself would appear. It's an interesting thought, though.

Q) Why does playing hardest give the computer the ability to use cheats? Why cannot make it something like playing against a expert?

A) We made the "Hard" level of play as skilled as we could get it. Hardest, to be more difficult than Hard, needed to get extra goodies. The computer doesn't actually get to use cheats in Hardest – it just gets 500 extra food, wood, gold, and stone every time it goes up an age.

Q) Is the ES planning to do something else than Age of Empires I, II, III

A) Absolutely yes.

Q) Do you like imaginary games more than historical games?? Why?

A) I like them both.

Q) Do you get all of your games with huge discounts?

A) Just the ones published by Microsoft.

Q) Why does Joan of Arc gets a unique horse and look and appearance?

A) We had art time to do it.

Q) once in a while they would show a 3D mesh of a civ's UU, it looked like it was done in 3D Studio... am I correct? was that what was used to do the intro?

A) Yep, it was 3-D Studio. I don't know if that was used for the intro, though.

Q) could U send me the 3D artist's email?

A) I try not to hand out our guys' e-mail addresses. No offense.

Q) Why does Red Alert have no pop limit while rest of the strategy game has pop limit?

A) Red Alert has a pop limit. It's just very high. I guarantee you that if you just built and built and built there would come a point in Red Alert where the game would hang.

Q) Y did U drop the Robin Hood idea?

A) Players hated being beaten up by CP outlaws. It also made games less fair. I mean if I'm playing a head-to-head against you, and suddenly one of my trade carts is killed, I'm out a crapload of wood and gold and how is that fair? You didn't even do it – it was just my hard luck.

Q) Could you make an onager boat in any possible x-pack?

A) If your ships are losing vs. archers it's because you're not building enough ships. Any number of galleons will trounce twice their number of elite longbowmen, and cost only 3/8 as much gold.

Q) When you select the map type could you also make it so you can choose the percentage of trees/elevation/water like in Sim City 2000?

A) That sort of information is already included within the map files we're using.

Q) If there is an expansion pack, will you include a sort of mounted hand cannoner ?

A) If there was, the answer would be maybe.

Q) Will you make voices for the new civs ???

A) If there was, then yes, of course.

Q) How many has AoK sold worldwide ???

A) Over 2 million. So far.

Q) Still with my pc gamer of april 1999. The size was more reallistic at this time than now. Why did you changed the size ?

A) The buildings were so large that they cluttered up the screen and were hard to place on the maps. They were (get this) Not Fun.

Q) One of microsoft's producer said there was going to be fans campaign and scenario inclued in the game. Where are them?

A) We bear no responsibility for anything MS's producers say.

Q) would it have the Polish civ becuase it was one of the strongest civ in the 1600 hundreds and they were the civ that held off the Muslims and Genghis Khan from entering Europe.

A) While the Poles were strong for many centuries, they did not keep the Muslims nor the Mongols from entering Europe. The Muslims were held off by the Spanish in the west and the Byzantines until about 1200 A.D., when the Hungarians became the main barrier vs. eastern Islam. The Mongols trounced the Poles when they fought them, then moved south against the Hungarians & Romanians, who were joined by extra Poles, Germans, and Bohemians. This polyglot force was also trounced by the Mongols, who then returned to Mongolia to elect the next Khan. This not to say the Polish were puny fighters – EVERYONE got trounced by the Mongols pretty consistently up until the battle of Ain Jalut when the Mamelukes finally got to be the first nation ever to beat the Mongols. True, the Mamelukes heavily outnumbered the Mongol army, which was mostly composed of non-Mongols, but they still get the credit.

Q) Why is it so secretive whatever you are working on?

A) Because MS's marketeers want to give exclusive rights to the first gaming magazines/sites they go to. How can they give away an "exclusive" that has been discussed openly on the web for months?

Q) When you guys were developing the game, did you realise it was going to be so damn ADDICTIVE?

A) Seeing as we were playing it constantly in our spare and work time, I can safely say we had an inkling. We actually had to forbid people to play it at certain times so we could get the game done.

Q) Just wanted to let you know I was very excited to read that you want to beef-up (price down?) the cav archer line of units! Huzzah!

A) You're welcome.

Q) has your team considered making sheep a trainable unit at the mill?

A) Not trainable. At one time we thought about having them reproduce. But then we had idle villagers standing around waiting for the sheep to bear young. Plus our artists blanched at the thought of doing the sheep-birth animation. Anyway, it is highly unlikely that we would make sheep replaceable in an X-Pack.

Q) What was your second choice for the Persian UU?

A) We wanted to have multipurpose cavalry (lame name, I know) which could both shoot arrows and engage in melee.

Q) Does your knowledge of middle eastern history come even close to the amount of knowledge u have about Eauropean history, and if so what aspect of middle eastern do u enjoy reading about and knowing about the most?

A) I would have to say that I know far less about mid-East history than about European, but that I probably know more about mid-East history than most westerners. My favorite mid-East stuff are the great hero/villains like Baibars, Tamerlane, Kitboga, and so forth. Also mid-Eastern politics is full of terrific stuff.

Q) Why didn't you make this game less addictive? Why couldn't you make it so people get bored in a month or so and buy a new game?

A) We're trying to keep you entertained long enough so you'll still remember how much you liked AoK when our next game comes out, so you'll buy it.

Q) Could we have a way to set a map location? Something like ALT-Fn to set a map view to a spot on the map, then Fn to view it.

A) Isn't clicking on the mini-map fast enough?

Q) before AOK came out I read on a site (not sure which) that the forest grows back after awhile. Whas this ever planned? If so, Why was it dropped?

A) Yes, it was planned very early on. It was dropped because it was useless, and ahistorical.

Q) Congratulations on winning Gamespot's RTS Game of the Year! Well-deserved. Did you have any parties, or do you guys always take good and bad press with a grain of salt?

A) We have parties based on fan acclaim, rather than press acclaim. I.e., we have parties for selling X million copies, which represents fan acceptance. Of course, we're thrilled about the Gamespot victory. Like most ego-crazed folks, we accept uncritically all praise and denigrate all hostile press.

Q) Thanks for the great game but I have to point out that your info on Jeanne d'Arc appears to be a good 5-10 years out of date.

A) I respond: pshaw. There are no new documents from the time. There are no new reports from the time. It is an archeological/historical situation, not a case where amazing new facts can be generated. I've heard about the new historians who've tried to downgrade Joan (pardon me for using the English bastardized spelling, but it's a habit), and regard them as just another crop of historical revisionists, like the group that, during the 1970s, strove valiantly to dethrone George Washington as a skilled general (there has been a major historical backlash demonstrating just that he was, in fact, pretty doggone good). You have to remember that any young new historian has to make a name for himself, and if he tries to do it by discussing something non-controversial, he won't get anywhere. Therefore, the best course to seek is to look up some glorious historical icon and look for tarnish. There are still plenty of top historians who are well-aware of the existence of the Relief of Orleans and the few carping newcomers who attempt to pretend otherwise are, in my opinion, only one or two steps steps on the evolutionary ladder above the morons who feign that Hitler's Holocaust never happened.

The fact that parts of Joan's tale are unverifiable, or worse, untrue, does not render the whole of the legend false, as some people seem to like to believe. The fact that George Washington never threw a dollar across the Delaware doesn't mean he was not a very physically strong individual. He was. The fact that he never cut down a cherry tree as a youth does not alter the fact that he was famously honest. Likewise, the fact that Joan of Arc has accrued a few legends over the centuries does not render the whole of the tale unbelievable. Particularly the parts about the relief of Orleans. So there. Nyaah nyaah nyaah.

Q) Do you think seige towers should be in the game?

A) No. They were not that common in the medieval era and were more a feature of the ancient world.

Q) How about an archer with a giant shield?

A) The giant shield is called a Pavis.

Q) Why didn't Ensemble include motte and bailey "castles?"

A) Because they wouldn't look like castles to the average person, who would just be puzzled what these Wild West-style forts were doing in a medieval game.

Q) You mentioned that random civs are assigned based on a number, but that the same two civs are not assigned on the same team. Will you add a feature that will allow for the limitation of which civs are randomly chosen?

A) You mean, making "random civs" non-random? Isn't that an oxymoron?

Q) what do you personally think of a +1 piercing armor upgrade (in an eventual expansion) for the LIGHT CAVALRY?

A) Light cavalry already get 2 points of piercing armor. That's only 1 less than a paladin. Light cav from a civ with full armor upgrades can get up to 6 points of piercing armor. As far as light cav upgrades go, however, watch this space.

Q) Do Elite Berserks heal themselves quicker than the normal Berserks?

A) No.

Q) Do you know/know where to find a place to find all of the attack bonuses for each unit that has them?

A) try MrFixit's web site. It has tons of info and is a really good site.

Q) For Architecture and Masonry, I have noticed it increases the Armor, P Armor, and one other type of armor, I think its B armor... I think thats its... if thats not it maybe you know... but what is this mystery armor protect from?

A) Building damage. Some units do extra Building damage, and B armor protects vs. this.

Q) Did you hear about the Siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Turks? The Polish reenforcements slaughtered the Turk army thanks to their amazing Winged Hussars.

A) Certainly, but when I said that the Poles were not able to save Europe from the Moslems or the Mongols, I was not referring to the Ottoman Turks, even though they are technically Moslems. It's not quite the same thing as the initial jihad that hit the Byzantines & Visigothic Spain around 700-800 A.D. In addition, while the Poles made a big difference at the siege of Vienna, there would have been no siege without the Austrians & Hungarianas. Also, during the majority of the wars vs. the Turks, the Poles took no part, or had only a minor role. Not to denigrate the Poles – they engaged in heated wars against many tough opponents. Just not usually vs. Islamic or Central Asian foes.

Q) After the fall of Rome and into the Dark Age, did military tactics get worse with everything else?

A) Tactics did become more primitive for a long time with the ascendancy of armored cavalry. However, the art of strategy was still practiced and at times got even more adept than before. One problem in the Middle Ages, however, was that with the ascendancy of a hereditary nobility, you had no guarantee that the man in charge of an army was competent. Especially if he happened to be the king.

Q) the momentous importance of the Papal Interdict or Excommunication has come up repeatedly. Would ES consider involving the Interdict as at least a single-player trigger effect?

A) Which player would get to do it? Which other players could he affect? What difference should it make? There are lots of questions to be considered with such a power, and it might be so broad as to be outside the scope of a mere X-Pack.

Q) could economic sanctions be added to the game?

A) I don't see how. Trade with one's enemies is already pretty limited in AoK.

Q) World War 2 was, in my opinion again, the last "great" (in no way am I implying somehow that war is cool or anything) war.

A) What makes a war a full-scale conflict? Is it number of casualties? If so, how many? Is it the number of nations involved? If so, how many? WW2 certainly qualifies at any level. But the Korean war was pretty hefty, too with four nations heavily involved (N & S Korea, the US, and China), and many more peripherally involved. On the other hand, the US did not have their sovereignty threatened during that war, and neither did China, at least after MacArthur was removed. Certainly Korea was more than a brushfire war.

Q) But the Spanish weren't all that good at open battle. They were pretty good with their city-warfare. Fighting house-for-house in Salamanca and other cities. But they had difficulty in outmanuevering/defeating Imperial forces in the field up through 1810.

A) On the other hand, so did almost everybody else! The French kicked everybody's butt in land battles. Their only major defeats were 1) to the English/Portuguese alliance in Spain, and that was largely because of intelligence & logistic problems caused by the Spanish. 2) to the Russians in 1812 and that was because of the Russian strategy, not victory in battle. 3) to everybody else in Europe in 1813-15, because they (the French) were outnumbered about five to one after losing all their horses and most of their troops in Russia. So blasting the poor Spanish for losing in open-field land battles to the French is kind of unfair, I feel.

Q) Were their any civs that were seriously considered, or even partially drawn-up (or whatever), but were dropped before the final stages of Age of Kings?

A) Not really.

Q) Why does Mamaluke have attacking bonus vs cavalries?

A) Because they're camels.

Q) When I upgrade hoarding, only the castle that I upgraded gets the 1000 HP.

A) Warning: Drug Humor Alert! Do not read this reply if mild humor related to criminal abuse of drugs may seduce you into a life of depravity!

Only the castle you upgraded gets the 1000 HP? My theory is you are smoking a really big rock of crack, because the upgrade system is class-based. We don't even have the power, as designers, to make an upgrade work on only a single building.

End Drug Humor Alert!

Q) What "bonus" who multipurpose horse does??

A) There are no multipurpose cavalry in the game. They were removed.

Q) Why do you invite Microsoft to publish the game?? Don't you have more profits if you publish it yourself?

A) Not if we don't already own a printing plant, our own distribution network, warehouses, etc.

Q) Is ES going to plan RPG games?

A) Not yet announced.

Q) Why are you expecting Diablo II?

A) I liked Diablo. I think Blizzard has a lot of talent. I have high hopes for Diablo II. That's all.

Q) How do you get all countries native tongue? (Like you have to find a chinese speaking person, french...teuton..)

A) Yes, exactly like that.

Q) Who is the person that you often AoK with?

A) No one person. Anyone else in the company would do.

Q) Shouldn't Bombard Cannon have large explosion area

A) It shoots a big rock, not an explosive shell.

Q) Would you use a Bombard Cannon to attack a well-defended city rather than Seige Ram and Trebuchet? (Such as a city with 10 bombard tower)

A) It depends on (1) my civ and (2) the defending civ. I would certainly not use siege rams vs. bombard towers.

Q) Do you think trap is a good idea?

A) No. They were not tactically important during battles in the middle ages (or anytime, really).

Q) Why isn't there snow in the game?

A) Watch this space.

Q) What is your daily schedule? (wake up at 10:00 am, brush your teeth.....etc)

A) I can't believe you actually want to know that kind of stuff. Here 'tis tho, dull as it may sound.

7:30 wake up. Go on a brisk walk with wife & pooch.

8:15 shower & dress

8:30 leave for work.

9-9:30 arrive at work

6:30-8:00 leave work

11:00 sit up reading, play console games, or chase wife around bedframe.

12:00 go to sleep

Q) Champs are popular in RM games but not in DM.

A) I read your entire article. You said in the article itself that champions were often used in DM, though not champion-only armies and not by you. That's fine with me. In AoE you'd NEVER see swordsmen except vs. Choson.

Q) Turks were supposed to be the replacement for hitites, they bummed out in DM where they should thrive and i imagine nobody plays them in RM. If the Jannisaries were maybe made 5 gold cheaper and the bombard cannon have a faster fire rate or something useful like that, then they could be more useful. Also the exclusion of pikes/skirmishers is an almost unimaginable weakness.

A) They have camels, their bombard cannons have 50% more hit points, and my understanding is that they do in fact get played from time to time in RMs.

Q) How long does it take you to type up those threads?

A) Too long. If I had any sense, I'd stop.

Q) How often do you dread coming to this forum answering questions?

A) When I dread it, I don't come.

Q) When you finally announce you're working on [deleted], will you share with us some ideas you got from us forumers?

A) If I remember. After all, it's not like I write down where I get ideas from. They ferment and simmer in the back of my subconscious until they emerge again in some new format.

Q) Did the toning down of the TC in the [deleted] idea come from a forumer?

A) The actual technique we're using is based on internal testing and imagination. The toning down in the first place is based on the vast outcry from the web.

Q) how come U can't make moats?

A) Because the game engine won't support changing terrain (like making ditches).

Q) What do you think were the most efficient: the greatest roman armies or the best mongols armies?

A) Well, I'm not sure efficiency is a virtue when it comes to military matters. A steam ship is incredibly inefficient when compared to a sailing ship, but it defeats it in battle. The greatest Roman armies would doubtless have been defeated by the best Mongol armies, as witness the general trend of Roman defeats at the hands of mounted archers. On the other hand, the Byzantines evolved from the Romans and they learned how to fight back against mounted archers and beat them. But it was a gradual process.

Q) And are we my friends and I the only ones to wish for a "true" neutral setting as described in the manual ?

A) Probably. L

Q) I have discovered pirated AoK CDs on the "unofficial" market. Do you want a copy to have a look at how it is done despite the copy-prevention measures by MS?

A) We know how it's done We could do it ourselves if we wanted to! But please send your report to piracy@microsoft.com and they will do a hardball number on the pirates. Arr, matey!

Q) I consider AOK as classic a game as chess. One area where chess differs is that you may offer your opponent a draw. Would it be feasible to have a "Offer Hand in Draw" button alongside the Resign button?

A) I suppose. Who else would like such a button?

Q) Since you've ignored many, many questions about what the heck is a battle event, is the secret behind it a MS contractual obligation to allow a magazine an exclusive to reveal the secret?

A) No. It's just been published (in this forum) several times already and is too boring and long for me to want to explain it.

Q) Why is the Vikings the only one NOT to be in any campaigns?

A) Because I am descended from the noble Norse and begged fervently for my mighty ancestors to be spared the ignominity of appearance in a campaign for a mere game. (j/k)

Q) Have you or anyone else at ES thought to make certain civs better played on certain map types?

A) Certain civs DO play better on certain map types. It's just not necessarily the same map types that their native terrain consists of. L

Q) Next time you go by the Coke machine, could you grab me a Mountain Dew?

A) How can you be a real ES person, dCypher? You don't even have a mighty blue name. I spit upon your puny pretensions.

Q) Some forumers and me are upset about the fact that the "bug" that let units walk on deleted shallows have removed. Can you tell me why the "bug" have removed?

A) I think you've answered your own question here.

Q) Was including weather in the game ever considered?

A) only in the most general sense. In reality, no one ever fought battles in the rain or snow (yes, battles were called on account of rain), and night time actions were extremely rare. The only real exceptions to this were during sieges (which you couldn't very well let up as a result of weather). Modern wars give us a false view of how things were, because all modern wars are, in effect, sieges, in which the combat continues unceasingly along front lines, and so a modern soldier has to fight in all kinds of weather. But this wasn't the case in the olden days.

Q) Any chance of increasing the maximum size of a selected group of units from the present 40?

A) dunno. I'll ask.

Q) Could you make the sheep less attractive?

A) They make me all hot and bothered, too. Maybe that's why my game falls apart after the Dark Age.

Q) Is there something in the game that makes some civs' trebuchets less accurate?

A) Trebuchets, across the board, have an accuracy of 15%. This means that 85% of the time, a trebuchet shot lands ranbomly in a 3x3 tile area centered on the target site. So they usually hit castles & town centers, sometimes miss houses, and frequently miss individual units. Get Siege Engineers to add +1 range to your trebs.