Ask Sandy XI

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

Q) Who do you think is better, Stout, Chandler or Hammett?

A) Hammett is the best writer of the three. But Stout is great fun to re-read, not so much as mysteries, but just for the interplay between Wolfe & Goodwin

Q) How about Spillane or Thompson?

A) I think Spillane is a hack, and have read very little Thompson.

Q) Also, in "And Be a Villain", how did Nancylee Shepherd know that the Meltettes were poisoned? That has always bugged me.

A) Hmm. I just read that last month. Did she _know_ they were poisoned? I always assumed she was just giving them a taste-test, just in case.

Q) In Aok how were unit costs assigned? Was it a process of playtesting and then determining a price that "seemed about right" or did you have tables of costs for hit points and attack strengths?

A) We started out with the latter, and then modified it by the former process.

Q) can you supply us with the exact formula concerning a monks single conversion chances ?

A) He has a 33% chance per second. However, he MUST chant for at least 4 seconds (15 seconds vs. a building) before conversion. In effect, this means he frequently gets the guy in 4 seconds, because the chance to succeed is being checked during the first few seconds and if it works, after the 4-second time limit is up, he gets the conversion immediately.

Q) Also how does faith and any other civ bonuses affect conversions as well as how much harder are specific units with a built in resistance to convert ?

A) Faith, being a Teuton, and being a light cav/scout all affect your chances of conversion by halving them.

Q) What is the formula for determaining conversion chances when using multiple monks?

A) Each monk checks for success independently, but there is still a 4-second time limit.

Q) what is the purpouse of this thread?

A) I am a full-time employee of Ensemble Studios. Many forumers like to ask me questions, so much that it was suggested (months ago) that I set up a special "Ask Sandy" thread in which they could do so conveniently. So I did. Many of the questions have to do with our games, but by no means all.

Q) Could we have a program for editing AI in a future X-Pack?

A) I fear we possess neither the time nor the inclination to construct a program for AI editing. You're on your own.

Q) When designing, did you consider a 'flag' unit or structure, that could be used for marking territory?

A) No. We probably don't play enough free-for-all games to have thought it worthwhile. You can use an outpost for this purpose, of course.

Q) When designing, did you consider adding more ambient background sounds?

A) This would not be a design consideration, but a sound/music one.

Q) when playing multiplayer with friends against a team of computer opponents, that the computer will gang-rush the player with the highest score (me!) consistantly, which gets tedious

A) Sorry. I asked to have it changed, and the change would have taken so much time to do that I found other things for the programmers involved to do instead.

Q) Did you/are you considering an upgrade like 'Logistics' from RoR, that would allow twice as many barracks units?

A) No. The Logistics research was an explicit attempt to make barracks units useful in AoE, in which they rarely made an appearance (unless you were Choson). It is our belief that infantry are plenty fine in AoK, and are no longer the puny, rarely-used weak sisters of AoE.

Q) shouldnt this be "Ask Sandy, PartXII" ?

A) Yes.

Q) AoK is slanted towards aggressors. I will not go as far as to say that trebs are broken, but they do provide an enormous advantage to the attacker than the defender.

A) But you, the player, are in charge of whether you are the "attacker" or the "defender". There is no imbalance here.

Q) AoK disables chatting once the player resigns but it still possible for teammates to call each other and relay information. Would it be more wise to disable being able to see your opponents until everyone in the team has resigned? Would this be too complex for a patch?

A) It would not be too complex, but for the vast majority of non-cheating players, it would be an imposition. When most players resign, they want to immediately see what was going on before they turn off the computer and go to bed, or move onto a new game. Making them wait until everybody else had resigned, too, would be mean. Basically, we're willing to suffer the ill effects of a few mean-spirited cheaters in order to benefit the great majority of well-intentioned folk.

Q) for multiplayer game, ( 3 v 3 , 4 v 4 ), is there any rule for put what civ in the inside(middle), what on the outside?

A) It is random.

Q) What is the exact amount of conversanse resistance in the teut team bonus?

A) x2

Q) is it true ES meant to make it almost impossible for surprise attcks (vital for goths, for example) to work efficiently? if so, why did ES include rush civs?

A) We intended to make it difficult, but not impossible.

Q) What are your thoughts on the set-piece scenarios?

A) I love them. Not only do they give you a feeling of progression through a campaign lacking in the normal random-map game, but you get presented with interesting situations and ideas that simply cannot be portrayed in normal games.

Q) Would it be possible to include in any future product a single-player or multi-player 'random set piece scenario' mission that attempts to give each player a random balanced force? Or, better, provide a number of historical battles that the players can fight out?

A) Expect the latter, not the former.

Q) Did you happen to design those big round mean looking monsters in Doom/Doom2?

A) I was influential in their design of the Cacodemon, but was not the sole person responsible. I gave them their name, hit points, attack, etc., And I _did_ design the Pain Elemental in Doom2.

Q) Could God make a rock so big he couldn't lift it?

A) No, He cannot. This question is another version of the old chestnut "what happens if an irresistable force meets an immovable object?" But this question actually contradicts itself. You see, if there is an irresistable force, then that implies the non-existence of any immovable objects. Or, if there exists an immovable object, then there cannot be an irresistable force. Asking this question is kind of like saying "what if there was a man who was 6 feet tall and who wasn't six feet tall?" The answer would be, "There ain't no such man." In the case of the God/rock query, it is my belief that God can generate an irresistable force, which means there is no such thing as an immovable object. But then, as a Mormon, I already believe in a God who is not omnipotent.

Q) Who is the best arm wrestler at ES?

A) Good question. Top choices probably include Chea O'Neill & Ian Fischer.

Q) Please tell us ES, why did you do this???

A) We changed the walk-on-water bug because the beta testers did their job and reported it to us as a problem in the scenario generator.

Q) Where do you put the blame for the Falaise Gap?

A) This is always pointed to as some kind of grand blunder. No one ever seems to remember that the Falaise pocket was a triumph for the allies. The Germans lost hundreds of tanks, trucks, and artillery, and tens of thousands of troops. The fact that a few got away, without their equipment, tired, demoralized, and sometimes wounded, is comparatively trivial. The forward elements that could have closed the gap were mostly light recon stuff, unsuited for holding their own against a determined German assault, with the single exception of the Polish Armored Division that did march into the gap and took it on the chin (but guided shellfire with devastating effect on the fleeing Germans). If someone has to take the blame, I'll put most of it on Bradley, who was normally an excellent commander. His reasons for not closing it made some sense, but probably he missed an opportunity here. Maybe another 20,000 Germans or so could have been captured if he'd been on the ball. On the other hand, that's pretty minor when compared to the 400,000 or so German casualties from the 1944 campaign in France. Another interesting point to note is that pockets like Falaise are almost invariably porous - the Germans almost never could capture _all_ the Russians in a given pocket. Sometimes they couldn't even catch half of them - the Russians would pour out of the backside of the pocket at night between the German panzers and get away to fight again. The fact that the Germans managed to pull off such a feat on the Americans & British once is hardly astounding.

Q) Cosmic Encounters is truly a fantastic game, though I never like lucre, moons, and probably a few other later expansions.

A) I concur. I don't use lucre or moons myself. Or double-powers.

Q) Why did you decide not to let hand canoneers fire out of buildings?

A) Er ... they CAN fire out of buildings.

Q) thanx for all your help sandy.....YOU ROCK!

A) You're welcome and don't call me a rock.

Q) Do team bonuses add if the team is composed of two of the same civ.

A) No. This is a motivation to make sure your team is variegated.

Q) When does the computer see the need to quit - Some quit after the town center and castle are destoryed - Others will continue to play even if they have one mill left and one villager left and no way to get back into the game - Why is this?

A) Basically, the CP has to have no villagers and no way to make more, plus have very few or no military (and no cannon galleons) before he'll resign at Hard, for instance.

Q) The comp is not really hard even on the hardest setting.

A) I can only suggest playing against multiple computer opponents. Or tributing him all your stuff as soon as you build a market and then starting over again from scratch. Or not building any military till you hit Imperial.

Q) LokiSoft has gained a lot of attention for their recent Linux ports of Civ:CTP, Myth II and Heretic II along with annoucements of Linux ports of Heavy Gears II and Quake III: Arena. Have they contacted ES about the Age series? Or would the whole Microsoft-As-Publisher-Thing preclude a port to a non-MS OS?

A) I think I'd rather chew rusty razor blades than have my dev team spend significant time doing an Linux port of a published game. But no, MS wouldn't stop us from doing such a thing.

Q) Do you know about the Bleiburg tragedy in WWII?

A) Not by that name.

Q) Is it hard for a designer to create somthing that must make every gamer on the planet happy?

A) It's not only hard, it's impossible. Even AoK and Doom didn't make every gamer happy.

Q) You seem like a cool guy, are all the other ES dudes this great?

A) The others are far better and more polite to boot. Plus handsomer. But they have a cruddier love life.

Q) Does the great money god "Bill" have any effect in this game on what he wants in it himself? Did he test it? Have you talked to or seen the man in person?

A) Hey, he just quit. So there. But no I have not seen him and I don't think he has much of an effect on us. He has played AoK, though.

Q) Any advice to 2 brothers who are trying to start their way into the gaming industry?

A) Keep day jobs and go for shareware at first. Use the shareware income to supplement your day jobs. When you have a couple sharewares, try to use their success to get a job at a big company, or else use them to fund your own start-up.

Q) What is your opinion (if you have one) about musical artists (such as U2) using their fame as a vehicle to fix what is not right in the world. Lots of people think music should have nothing to do with politics. What say you?

A) I think it is idiotic to expect people NOT to mix politics with everything else they do. Politics is human. Everyone has a perfect right to put a political tone on anything they do, you commie. But people also have the right not to expect musicians or actors to have particularly deep or insightful philosophies. I mean, why would they? I think that people who claim music should have nothing to do with politics are really saying that they disagree with the politics displayed. Hell, I strongly disagree with Chumbawumba's philosophy, but that doesn't stop me listening to their albums.

Q) Have you ever watched the TV show Babylon 5? If not, you should. Everybody should.

A) I never (What never? Hardly ever.) watch TV. I did watch Babylon 5 once because a friend of mine used to write screenplays for it.

Q) Sandyman is the greatest man on earth. Can't you come here to Sweden and replace our idiotic Prime Minister?

A) I'm sure that I'd need to be a Swedish citizen. Which I'm not. Not even Swedish descent. Alas.

Q) I heard you said you were a mormon. What is a mormon?

A) A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. "Mormon" is a nickname, based upon the fact that we consider the Book of Mormon to be holy scripture. (We also acknowledge the Bible as holy scripture, though.)

Q) If I kill someone in the US, then go back to Sweden without getting caught, can I get arrested here, sent to the US, and brought to a death sentence over there?

A) Most nations that lack the death penalty NEVER extradite criminals to nations that DO practice the death penalty, at least if the crime they have been convicted of carries a possible capital sentence. I suspect Sweden is the same.

Q) How many work over at ES? Do you think you will still work there in 15 years?

A) We have about 50 guys. I sure hope I will. My dream plan is to work here until I die.

Q) I plan on becoming a designer, instead of a programmer. The problem is, I don't draw/paint very well. Is that a problem?

A) It hasn't handicapped me.

Q) What languages do you know?

A) English, plus a smattering of Russian and even less Latin. My wife, however, speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French all pretty fluently.

Q) You are doing this answering on your free-time, am I correct? I thought there were people over at ES who did stuff like this. Where are they?

A) Our webmaster does not have time to go onto all the forums and do this. I am doing this in my spare time, yes, or actually whenever one of my projects is temporarily stalled I do this instead of taking a break.

Q) Sandy, has your wife ever caught you watching "Xena: Warrior Princess" and you tried to convince her you were doing "research"?

A) Since I don't watch TV, this particular scenario has not yet played itself out in my household. However, does a video of "Busty She-Gladiators of Ancient Rome" couint?

Q) The scenario Designing community wanted the walk-on-shallows. Surely their opinion should rank higher than Beta testers. What was the problem with it.

A) First off, the people who reported it to us WERE the scenario designing community. They rightly pointed out that if they were designing a scenario, and decided to delete some shallows, then when the scenario played out, units could walk on top of water. This sucked and added an extra step to the design process. NO ONE reported to us that they liked this feature UNTIL after we had fixed it! How the heck were we supposed to read everyone's minds and realize that this was useful for certain types of esoteric scenarios? Our opinion is that having mystery walkable water was clearly an error, even a potential landmine to unwary scenario builders, so get stuffed.

Q) You designed the pain elemental? That was a long time ago, but isnt that the one who raises his arms, makes a creepy, bubbly noise, then zaps you?

A) No, you are thinking of the Arch-Vile, which I also did much of the design work on. The Pain Elemental is the floating bubble-head that, when he dies, explodes into three separate flaming skulls.

Q) What do you think of Masters of Orion 2?

A) I think it is a good idea for a game ruined by a terrible interface.

Q) Sandy says "I believe that, man for man, the Japanese were the best soldiers of the war. (Of a major contestant - if we go by minor nations, then the Tongans were the most highly-decorated nation to fight in the war, and the Gurkhas were probably the most effective.)" I find that very interesting, care to explain?

A) You didn't say what you wanted to explain, so I guess I'll explain about the Japanese. To quote Churchill, "Every army talks about fighting to the last man. The Japanese actually do it." They fought under terrible conditions, often starving to death, sick, and with little or no medical care. In most of their battles against the US from 1943 on, their soldiers fought under no illusions -- _knowing_ they were doomed. The men on Tarawan, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, Saipan, all knew that none of them were getting off the island alive. This does NOT mitigate any of the unspeakable atrocities committed by the Japanese military, but by golly no one fought harder for a worse cause than the noble Japanese. One last good example: I was watching a video interview with a British veteran of Burma, who was talking about the awful jungle war. He mentioned that the food was horrible. "When you'd open a can of bully-beef, you could pour it out, all runny." I felt bad for him until the NEXT interview, which was with a Japanese veteran of Burma. When HE was asked what they ate for rations, he said, "Mostly lizards. Sometimes we could find bamboo shoots in the jungle and cook them too." Now THAT'S a fighting man.

Q) did you get VD his mountain dew?

A) I tried to, but he drove me away kicking and screaming (he was screaming, I was kicking).

Q) I am most interested in the Pacific in WW2. Do you know of any good games covering this period? Which are your favourite WW2 games? Would YOU like to make a game about it, and what would you want to make it about?

A) Good games on the Pacific War? I don't think there are many good computer games on WW2. When I play WW2 games, they're invariably board games, such as World in Flames, Russian Front, War in the Pacific, Panzerblitz, etc., If I had a favorite WW2 game it would probably be World in Flames. If I did a game on it, it would probably be based on air warfare, tank warfare, or the grand strategic overview of the war. The ideal, for me, would be a multiplayer game in which everyone would be on teams representing parts of the various sides. For instance, one player might represent Nimitz, another MacArthur, yet others might be Rundstedt, de Gaulle, etc.

Q) I love the monkey head as much as the next guy, but what does VDML stand for?

A) Okay, I'll fess up, we have a programmer named Dave Lewis working here, and his voice is used for the VMDL dude. I will not tell why he is portrayed naked in the game. That is up to him, but it is based on a real occurrence. (I admit, he was a little smashed at the time.)

Q) I heard that many Mormons don't drink caffeine.

A) It is only coffee and tea that is restricted, not caffeine. For that matter, it's only tea-leaf tea, not herbal teas.

Q) Donuts: is there anything they can't do?

A) You can't dip a cup of hot cocoa in them.

Q) I discovered you like Blizzard games a lot? Have you thought of working for Blizzard?

A) Not in the slightest. I want to beat them at their own game, not join them.

Q) Which Chinese battle event do you prefer the most?

A) My favorite Chinese military event isn't a battle, but the epic naval expedition in the 1500s which traveled all over the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Q) What is your "other" hobby other than computers?

A) I watch old movies, play board games, and read extensively.

Q) Do you play any sport?

A) Going on brisk walks is about it.

Q) Would walking through the forest be a option in x-pack?

A) No. It would utterly alter the game.

Q) Although I admire your historical knowledge, occasionally you are wrong. In answering the question "Q) Do you think Poland was betrayed by the allies?" You wrote that "nobody made them [Britain and France] declare war on Germany on behalf of the Poles, and they did." Actually, both France and Britain gave Poland assurances in March 1939 that they would guarantee Polish sovereignty and help in case of aggression against Poland. Based on these assurance Poland rejected Germans demands. These assurances were again confirmed on August 25, 1939 in an Agreement of Mutual Assistance Between the United Kingdom and Poland. Based on these assurance Poland rejected help form Russians. But when attack came Poles were left "holding the bag." Breaking your word to an ally under such circumstances is definitely a betrayal. BTW, Russians didn't betray Poland, in 1939 they were Nazi's allies (Ribbentrop - Molotov 1939) and fully fulfilled its obligations attacking Poland and more - they murdered tens of thousands of Polish POWs in Katyn and sent hundreds of thousands to Siberia."

A) You know, I have been accused on many occasions in this forum of some historical error, and the number of times I have lost the debate has been few indeed. And this isn't going to be one of them.

Look here. No one made Britain and France guarantee Poland's borders. After they guaranteed them, no one made them declare war on Germany. Sure they'd made assurances to that effect, but they'd made assurances like that to Czechoslovakia, too, and not fulfilled them. So they did NOT betray Poland. When the German attack came, what do you suggest Britain and France should have done? Polish resistance was crushed within 3 weeks. Britain didn't even have any troops of significance in France by that time. The French had an army (not fully mobilized), but their only border with German was the Maginot Line. Do you seriously suggest that the French abandon their super-fortress and race into German territory into the Westwall (which the French believed to be a mighty fortress - mistakenly, it is true, but I'm not arguing the French & British were smart, just that they weren't betraying the Poles). The British DID immediately start convoys, and went aggressively after the German navy.

The Russian invasion of Poland was a betrayal. They were NOT Germany's allies. The non-aggression pact was just that, "non-aggression". Look it up. Don't forget that the Germans had ALSO signed the anti-Comintern pact with Italy & Japan which was strongly anti-Russian, and there's no way the Soviets were going to forget about that. The attack on the Poles from Russia came as a complete surprise, because unexpected. The Russians didn't even declare war. In partial mitigation of the Russian action, the part of Poland they occupied was only a minority Polish population - the bulk of the inhabitants were Byelorus or Ukrainians. That land had been conquered from Russia in a land grab by Poland in the early 1920s, on the basis that since SOME Poles lived there, then Poland ought to own it. But any justification the Russians had is pretty much destroyed by the Katyn massacre.

At least the Russians regretted Katyn later, as reported in a number of sources. The Russians did not send "hundreds of thousands" of Poles to Siberia, but they did keep them in prison camps. What else would you expect? The Poles were soldiers who'd served in an enemy army. When the Germans attacked Russia, the Soviets DID release almost all of their Polish POWs, equipped them and let them fight the Germans. The Poles were, naturally enough, pretty enthusiastic about killing Germans by this time.

Q) I think one of the ironies of that time was that we are lucky the attempted assassination on Hitler was unsuccessful. His subordinates would have been much better leaders, as well as better tacticians. What do you think the world would be like now, if the attempt was successful?

A) I think that Hitler is the Great German Excuse of WW2. Every blunder they made, every outrage they commited, his subordinates could blame it all on him. I do _not_ think that Hitler's famed blunders were the main cause for Germany losing the war, except in the most broad sense (i.e., he _did_ declare war on Russia & the USA, after all).

Q) No one has asked this question, but I think the two best British commanders of WW2 were:

A) Slim and O'Connor. Horrocks was good, too.

Q) check out this post over at fixit's

A) Mr Fixit may have to wait quite a while before seeing the Mighty Montenegrans make an appearance.

Q) don't forget the Finns when thinking of best soldiers. They fought well against massive odds, perhaps tougher odds than the Japanese.

A) The Finns were excellent soldiers, but they did not 1) keep on fighting though suffering from severe malnutrition; 2) go into battle knowing that they were certain to die; 3) win any major campaigns in which they were outnumbered. While they inflicted plenty of Russian casualties at times, they also lost anyway. Whereas the Japanese got to be victorious in Malaya (20,000 Japanese vs. 70,000 British troops) and the Philippines (30,000 Japanese vs. about 60,000 USA & Filipino troops). The only real victory the Finns won was their 1941 offensive, in which they outnumbered the Soviet defenders. No need to flame me back on this. The Finns _were_ great soldiers. Probably the best European soldiers of WW2. Man-for-man, that is. As an army, they had some pretty bad problems (like no anti-tank weapons).

Q) Do you think that the worlds look at Sweden will suffer, now that it was discovered that our secret service was secretly conspiring with Hitler?

A) People who read history are already aware of the Swedish near-alliance with Hitler and the reasons for it. People who don't read, won't ever be aware of it. All Sweden has to worry about are people who read, but don't read history. With any luck, they can deactivate the hostility with a few true stories about genuine Swedish heroes who helped mitigate the Nazi evil, such as the ambassador in Prague.

Q) Do you think it was "good" that Sweden said we were neutral, then helping both sides? Isn't neutrality helping no one?

A) Neutrality can be defined however all the nations involved want it to be.

Q) Can you post an image of your daughter?

A) I'll see what I can do. She's taking a theatre makeup class, and one of her tasks in it is to create and wear a false beard. Maybe I'll use that picture.

Q) Where can I find more info about Mormons?

A) Drop by the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on a Sunday. I promise they'll be friendly and helpful.

Q) Do your programmers at ES sit up all night coding? Also, do they drink a lot of Jolt Cola?

A) No. Sometimes. One of the artists keeps a bottle of scotch in his office, so perhaps they're a bit beyond Jolt.

Q) Is everyone at ES married?

A) Nope. I think almost half of us are still single.

Q) If my unit has 5 armor, and the attacker has 7 attack, does the attacker subtract 2 HP from my unit every time?

A) Yes. However, no matter how high your armor is, the least damage that is ever done is 1.

Q) How could Japanese not have ninjas?

A) When used militarily, ninjas acted just like other soldiers. When used as assassins or spies, the Spy technology reproduces their efforts adequately.

Q) Ambrose's book "D-Day" mentions the German kill-loss ratio and explains it by pointing out that they were mainly on the defense and defense will almost always have a better kill/loss than attack.

A) The Germans actually took higher losses than the Americans & British in France. Which indicates that perhaps the Americans were doing something right.

Q) which ES person are you?

A) Sandy Petersen; game designer extraordinaire

Q) World War II Japanese better man for man than the Australian? No way!

A) Bingfa, you are a dolt. I never said the Japanese were better than the Australians. If you're going to be mad at me for something I said for heaven's sake pick something I actually DID say. So get stuffed.

I said the Japanese were the best troops "of any major power". The Australians, for all their talent, cannot be considered a major power. For heaven's sake the entire population was only 10 million or so at the time. If the Japanese hadn't been thwarted at Coral Sea & Port Moresby, they could have taken over Australia with one hand tied behind their backs. (Yes, the Australians would have killed lots of Japanese first, but that's hardly the point.)

Q) Have you ever read the book animal farm, by george orwell? what did you think of it?

A) It was great. Everyone should be required to read it.

Q) i just wanna know your feelings of the gulf war, and why saddam hussein is such a criminal, when he invaded kuwait in order to get back his "stolen oil" from the borders.

A) Invading another country because you are upset about financial considerations is an evil act. Saddan Hussein has engaged in plenty of evil acts besides invading Kuwait, in any case.

Q) how da heck does a famous designer like u have debt trouble? i guess the things i heard about the designer getting a percentage of the games profets are rumors?

A) Anyone can have debt trouble. And very very few designers get royalties off their games. Most are on salary, like me.

Q) Can you tell me about the Chinese naval expedition to Pacific and Indian Ocean?

A) Cheng Ho is the man. He was a eunuch(!) and a Moslem, and led Chinese expeditions to Sumatra, Palembang, forced all of Malaya & Indonesia to pay tribute to China, invaded and conquered Ceylon, bringing back the royal family of Ceylon to China, sailed to Hormuz, got tribute from all the important nations on the shores of the Indian Ocean, and in a final amazing feat, sailed up the Red Sea and actually was paid tribute by Mecca!! It was the most astounding act ever done by any naval man in the history of the world. And less than a hundred years later, the Chinese fell into indolence and quiescence. They could have conquered the world with a little more oomph. I blame the Ming dynasty. Bunch of narrow-minded tyrants.

Q) What board games do you play?

A) A colossal assortment.

Q) Can you tell me the AoE (Area of Effect) does the Seige Onegar have?

A) I think it's one tile across. Maybe 1.5.

Q) What kind of "old movie" do you watch? Why old movie?

A) All kinds. Because they're good.

Q) Have you play every Blizzard game?

A) No. Have you?

Q) Do you listen to music?

A) Yes. Right now I'm listening to Queen's Night at the Opera. My favorite piece on it is "The Prophet's Song".

Q) Was it possible for the Germans (In WW2)to win? How?

A) Yes. It's a tradition to point out the German mistakes to show how they could have won, but I'd like to show how they could have won in a rather different way. I'll talk about correct Allied decisions instead of bad Axis ones.

1) If Russia had not carefully and skilfully managed the fall and winter campaign of 1941, they would have lost.

2) If Russia had not been able to hold onto the east bank of Stalingrad long enough for their counter-strike forces to get into action, they would have lost their Caucasian oil.

3) If Russia had not carefully prepared and rightly predicted the nature of the German assault in Kursk, they could have lost the fight there.

4) If Russia had not ruthlessly and thoroughly expanded their limited economy so that, even though they had a lower production capacity than Germany, they were able to out-produce her in weapons of war, they would have been overwhelmed.

5) If Marshal Zhukov had not thoroughly trounced the Japanese in 1937, they may have attacked the Russians again in 1941 and prevented the transfer of Siberian reserves to Moscow, saving the day.

6) If America had not insisted on immediately taking land action against the Germans (against British objections), resulting in Operation Torch, and later Avalanche and Overlord, the Germans would have had far more troops available to hurl against the Russians.

7) If Roosevelt had not immediately and thoroughly supported the British with arms, particularly tanks, they would probably have lost the Suez. Shortly after, German tanks would have rolled into Iraq and thence into southern Russia.

8) If Churchill had caved in in 1940 and agreed to a negotiated peace, the Germans would have won the war immediately.

9) If Franco had not refused to join the Axis alliance, Gibraltar would have fallen, then the Suez, then (probably) Russia.

10) If Eisenhower had not managed to hold the Anglo-American alliance together, the German attacks at Argentan could well have shattered the Allied lines and thrown us into the sea, instead of getting the Germans pocketed at Falaise and slaughtered.

Q) Do you like age2toon?

A) I love them

Q) Do you have an opinion on hex-based wargames and their place in the gaming community, and have you played any of these type games?

A) I like them a lot. I think they have no place in computer gaming. I have a hex-based wargame set up at home right now, and will be playing it with my buddy this afternoon.

Q) Do you have a large personal library at home?

A) Yes. I own around 3,000 books.

Q) what do you personally think (your educated opinion) Napoleon could have done to "win" the War for Iberia?

A) The most obvious one is to not overthrow the Bourbons in the first place. Just let the Spanish as they were (which, as it happens, means they were allies of the French -- Napoleon idiotically transformed them from allies to enemies). Then there wouldn't have been any problem at all.

Q) what is your opinion about designing a new building set for the Mongols?

A) I think it would be a waste of effort that could be better spent elsewhere.

Q) have you guys over at ES ever considered haveing the archery ranges and barracks able create unique units? I think this would be so cool because it takes so long to get an army of unique units and they suffer because of it. Sometimes I even try making like 3-4 castles in a row to crank out unique units real fast heh!! If your reply would be that your worried about the unique units being too popular over the normal barrack and archery units then why not just make the normal units more valuable in some other way?

A) Sounds like it's working about right. The unique units are more valuable, but they are slower to produce, so folks are forced to produce regular units too.

Q) If you were to be a cat, where would you most want to be petted?

A) Upper back.

Q) Are you bald?

A) Yes. The way I see it, we were all born with the same amount of hormones. I just don't choose to waste any of mine on growing hair.

Q) Are you bold?

A) Not unthinkingly so.

Q) If I was sneaking around your house, would you:
a) Go out and shoot me. b) Tell me politely to bugger off. or c; Invite me inside

A) I would not invite you inside if you were sneaking around instead of ringing the doorbell like an honest citizen. I would not shoot you without giving you a chance to explain yourself. So I guess the answer is (b).

Q) I know you said that you "stumbled in" on the business, but how exactly did it happen?

A) It is a long and complicated story that I really don't think most people want to hear. It's not like anyone else is going to be able to duplicate the process.

Q) Have you ever been bothered by your neighbour for AOE/AOK related matters?

A) Never. The percentage of game players is low enough that I've not ever had them as neighbors.

Q) If not a game designer, what field of expertise would you pursuit?

A) Entomology.

Q) Do you see peace in the Middle East in the near future? Do you expect Israel to withdraw from Golan Heights in 2 months?

A) I do not see peace in the Mid-East in the near future. Even if somehow Israel were to be able to mollify all its neighbors, there will still be hostility between Iran & Iraq, between Iraq & Saudi Arabia, between Lebanon & Lebanon, etc. I will be pleasantly surprised if Israel withdraws from the Golan in 2 months. I.e., I do not expect it to be accomplished.

Fundamentally, the Israeli position is a difficult one. They want to be a Jewish state, and they have a perfect right to want this. However, because of Israel's economic success and comparative political freedom, they are going to have Palestinians and other Arabs move into their state. Eventually this will mean that the Arab factions within their state may come to dominate it, in which case they're no longer Jewish. If they try to prevent this process by driving out the Palestinians or denying them suffrage, then they are stuck with hostility to their neighbors. And this is, in the long run, untenable - the Arabs already outnumber the Israelis, and are technologically their equal. The only advantages the Israeli military has over its neighbors are a) training and b) political unity. The Arabs' training level has been gradually rising, and the Israelis can't rely on their political disunity forever. So the Israelis HAVE to learn to live peaceably with their neighbors or get wiped out. Yet they also can't exist if they permit Arabs to outnumber them within their own nation. It's a tough problem, to which I see no immediate solution.

The long-range solution, of course, is to ensure that the neighboring states to Israel (particularly the Palestinian state) achieve significant economic success, equal to or greater than Israel's own. This will destroy the gravitational pull that Israel's economy has on immigrants and could possibly bring peace.

Q) What makes Sandyman tick?

A) A clockwork pacemaker.

Q) why has ES chosen not to work with 3D graphics?

A) Er ... when did we choose that? Our next games are all going to be 3-D, so far as I know.

Q) I thought the major point conveyed was the quality of soldier man for man not the major/minor status of his country.

A) Bingfa, I explicitly stated in my initial statement that I was defining the best soldier of the major powers concerned. Australia does not count.

Q) As you admitted no one made England and France make assurance to Poland. They did it on their own will. If they were not prepared to do so they shouldn't have done it. If they would told the truth about it then Poland could have act differently in negotiations with German and Russians. Also, France and England required Poland to delay mobilization (which they claimed might be interpreted as aggressive behaviour) so that, at the time of invasion, only about one-third of her total potential manpower was mobilized. Still, The Poles had held on for twice as long as had been expected and had done more damage to the Germans than the combined British and French forces were to do in 1940. The Germans lost 50,000 men, 697 planes and 993 tanks and armoured cars.

A) England & France suffered from the common problem of democratic nations - an ease in saying the right thing, but a notable difficulty in actually accomplishing it. I do not believe that Poland expected England or France to suddenly launch an attack into Germany's hinterland. Furthermore, I think that France, with English support, WOULD have launched such an attack if Poland had held off as long as France (and Poland) expected her to. Hell, the Polish high command actually expected to win. The Polish soldiers were cocky and fully expected to drive the German forces back. Three weeks was just not enough time for the French to put an attack plan into operation, especially considering that their plan (which was known to the Poles) was to wait for a German attack, then strike back.

I don't know where you get your news that the Poles lasted "twice as long as expected", but it's not so - they crumbled extremely quickly and it was a shock to the French as well as the Poles. (I do not blame the Poles for crumbling - the new style of warfare was a complete stunner to them. The French are to blame for their own collapse, so - they should have expected the armored whirlwind based on what they saw happen to the Poles).

In addition, they did not do more damage to the Germans than did the French. Vs. the French, the Germans lost 90,000 men. Vs. the Poles, they lost 50,000. Also do not forget that when the Germans attacked the French, the Germans had better-quality equipment and more experience than vs. the Poles. The German army made many errors in Poland that were not repeated. I DO agree that the Poles caused more damage to the Germans man-for-man than did the French & British, and I hope that satisfies you.

Q) I did look up the Ribbentrop - Molotov "non-aggression" pact and read it. In addition to the non-aggression stuff it also contained "Secret Additional Protocol" which was basically an agreement for a partition of Poland, which made Germany and Russia allies. It was called "non-aggression" for propaganda purposes and even you fell for it .The secret protocol wasn't of course initially published. That's why the attack was a surprise to the outside world but not to Germans.

A) Look, pal. Your point was that the non-aggression pact was an "alliance". It wasn't. It did include secret protocols, but that didn't make it an alliance. The Russians were not then and never were allies to the Germans, despite their temporarily semi-friendly status during the brief duration of the non-aggression pact.

Q) That land had been conquered from Russia in a land grab by Poland in the early 1920s, on the basis that since SOME Poles lived there, then Poland ought to own it

The land your are probably talking about were not grabbed from Russia mainly based on the fact that just "some Poles lived there" but also because it was grabbed by Russia from Poland during so called "3 partitions of Poland" many years before. (This land changed hands many times before so I am not arguing here who should have had it

A) Give me a break. The partitions of Poland happened in the late 1700s. Can we please not worry about who owned the land 150 years ago? When modern, 20th-century Poland was formed from the ruins of the Tsarist state, the Polish government expressly and aggressively grabbed all the land from the existing state of Russia that they could stake any claim on whatsoever. Their act in so doing turned around and bit them in the butt in 1939. That's what I was saying that that's what I'm sticking to. Does this justify the Russian attack? No, of course not. I have already clarified that I feel the Russian attack on Poland as a wrongful act.

Q) The historical truth is that "The Russians DID send, from captured territories, hundreds of thousands Poles, including mothers and children, to Siberia, and to be precise, Kazakhstan, and other areas deep inside Russia. Historical sources estimate that is was more than a MILLION. Go to a library and look it up

A) we were talking about prisoners of war, pal, not Russian atrocities. In any case, if you look up the RUSSIAN sources, it's much fewer. If we look up the POLISH anti-Russian sources, it's huge. What is the truth? Who the hell knows. My guess is that both the estimates are wrong.

Q) Too many people don't know the historical truth about it or think that "Polish cavalry charged against German tanks " what was actually reported by the Italian press and used as propaganda by the Germans.

A) There was an attack by a Polish cavalry division vs. German armor during the Polish campaign. I do agree that it was used as propaganda by the Germans. This is especially ironic because the Polish cavalry attack was, in fact, a limited success! (Cavalry often did surprisingly well in WW2.).

Q) Since you such a history buff I was wondering what you thought about Canada's involvement in the two world wars.

A) I think they were foolish to get involved in the First World War and were one of the strengths of the Allied side in the Second. I feel really bad about the Dieppe fiasco, but that wasn't so much the fault of the Canadian soldiers as their politicos.

Q) what do you think of starcraft?

A) I think it's a fine game.

Q) Stalin and his murderous ways made Hitler look like a nancy boy. The Nazis were absolute bastards to a select few peoples but Stalin was just an out an out bastard to everyone. He tallied up far more "innocent" kills than Hitler could ever imagine.

A) Not so. Stalin was a complete *******, and he killed plenty of people, but Hitler is still the master. Hitler even managed to kill more Russians than Stalin did, if you count his war on Russia as part of his kills (I would, personally). Note: I am NOT defending Stalin, but it is a common ultra-conservative ploy to try to defend Hitler by blasting Stalin. I'm not saying you're an ultra-conservative, but that's the kind of thing they do. I refuse to defend either one. I agree that Stalin is as evil or, if you like ,more evil than Hitler. But the actual fact of the matter is that he was responsible for the death of fewer people than Hitler. And additionally, Stalin's killings were not the random deaths you imply - the people he killed were all people that he thought, in his paranoia, might be threats to his regime, no matter now small. Hitler was killing people for political, thematic reasons, while Stalin was killing them for pragmatic ones. Which is worse? I can't choose.

Q) What country, in your opinion, has the best lookin women?

A) Of the countries I've visited, I'd have to say Finland.

Q) It seems fairly easy to ID the trainer makers for AoK,AoE and RoR. Any chance that microsoft and/or MS zone would sue the pants off the hack makers?

A) They are doing nothing illegal.

Q) As I understand it, you worked with Dan Bunten (aka Danielle Berry). I consider Bunton to be one of the great (and somewhat unsung, compared to Sid Meier or Richard Garriot) talents in computer-game design. Could you share any interesting memories/anecdotes about Bunten?

A) I have many Bunten anecdotes, but I am too lazy to write them up here. Catch me at E3 or somewhere and I can regale you with a few.

Q) Would you consider "Modem Wars" to be one of the first true RTS's?

A) Maybe even THE first. Then you have "Command HQ", which had not only real-time action, but an economy!

Q) What's up with your obsession with Sweden?

A) I was unaware that I was obsessed with Sweden.

Q) How did the AoE lost units,"Traitor, Hero 13" look like?

A) They most likely did not have unique art, but were just a version of a swordsman or something.

Q) could tell us anything about how the random maps are generated and how the food is suppose to be distrubited on the map

A) The random maps are made via scripts. The food varies with the map, but generally speaking you're supposed to have a clump of berries pretty close by, and then a group of 6 sheep pretty close by. Depending on map size, there may be random berries out there somewhere, and there are always spare sheep out wandering out on the map.

Q) will there be another kind of infantry? I think there should be more than 1 kind.

A) Um. Do you count the pikeman line and the infantry line as the "same kind"? How about berserks, teutonic knights, huskarls, woad raiders, throwing axemen, and samurai? I can count 8 different types of infantry in my crystal ball.

Q) will there be another counter for the fire ship?

A) Demolition ships do a great job on massed fire ships, as do large numbers of galleons, because fire ships do not become more effectively in larger numbers (as do galleons). Heated shot is good vs. them too. The final brilliant way to handle fire ships is to ignore them and build your stuff 3 tiles inland, where the fire ships can't reach them. Fireships are only good vs. ships, and can't threaten your inland world, after all. They're pretty specialized. So they OUGHT to be good vs. other ships.

Q) While I was watching "The Mummy" with Brendan Frasier, I noticed that when the Mummy was talking, it was in Egyptian. It translated what he said and which was "Give me the book of Amun-Ra" On the Rise of Rome Scenario builder, I belive it was spelled Amon-Ra, instead of Amun-Ra. Which is the correct way?

A) The ancient Egyptians did not use the Latin alphabet, of course. They spoke a Semitic tongue, which means that while the consonants of their words remained fixed, the vowels changed according to their case. Naturally enough, alphabetic Semitic languages generally emphasize the consonants of their words, and don't worry about the vowels (since those are so changeable). Thus, both Hebrew & Arabic script have special letters for the consonants, while the vowels are a comparatively modern afterthought, and often are no more than the equivalent of a diacritical mark.

Summing up, the result is that when we are trying to read ancient Egyptian texts, we do not see the word "amon-ra". We see "MN-R" and have to figure out the vowels by ourselves. This is why, for instance, no one is sure what the pronunciation of the ancient Hebrew God was. In the old texts, it's YHWH. In the 16th century, we thought it might be Jehovah. Nowadays we suspect it may have been Yahweh. But the fact is, we have no sure way of telling how any ancient semitic words were pronounced, at least with respect to the vowels. So both Amun-Ra and Amon-Ra are acceptable assumptions.

Q) What do you mean Finland has the best looking women?? Have you been to Sweden?

A) No. I can only judge from the nations to which I've been or which I've met a lot of women from. Sweden falls into neither category.

Q) If your neighbor would bug you about new ES releases, would you tell him what he wanted to know?

A) Yes.

Q) If I would sneak around your house and you caught me, I would most probably excuse myself with wanting to know what will be in the would-be X-Pack.

A) How would skulking around my house find out what is to be in upcoming ES company products? I do all my work at the office. At home all you'd see would be me playing Rayman 2 or something.

Q) Is there some other company that you would rather work with than Microsoft? Or some other than ES?

A) Undecided. No.

Q) Can I consider you the "boss" at ES?

A) Definitely not. I am merely a senior designer. Tony Goodman is the Big Boss, and there are other management personnel to whom I must answer, including my producer, Harter Ryan.

Q) What exactly did u do in quake?

A) Helped create the monsters (named all of 'em, and did up the stats & weapons for most of the rest). Named all the levels. Did the majority of Episode 4. Helped playtest. Championed singleplayer mode.

Q) I wasn't counting pikemen as a line of infantry

A) Why not?

Q) Who's idea was it to include 3 types of house art in each building set?

A) I think it may have been Tony Goodman's. If not, I'd blame Scott Winsett or Brad Crow.

Q) who's idea was it to give each civ it's own voice lines?

A) Final responsibility must go to Chris Rippy.

Q) Recently I got in an argument with a kid from germany who said his grandfather was a nazi officer and claimed that the holocaust as we know it did not happen, and that only about 200,000 people were killed. I asked him how to dispute records and such but I have gotten no real response. I was wondering what your thoughts would be if someone came up and told you this. And who do you hold responsible for this horrible act?

A) Check out http://www.adl.org/hate-patrol/holocaust.html or if you write to The Simon Wiesenthal Center, 9760 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90035, and ask for information about holocaust deniers, you might get a bunch of material. I did.

Holocaust denial is such a foul trend that I strongly advise anyone who is an adherent to NOT post to this forum. I will either ignore you or launch a heated diatribe or drop out of the forum.

Who is responsible for the Holocaust? A complex issue. The most obvious answer, though, is "The National Socialist party". At least certain members of it.