Ask Sandy XIII

Article written by Sandy Petersen
Originally published on 02-07-2000 ; updated on 03-13-2017
Tags: General Info, Ask Sandyman, Interviews

Q) cheers for the support on the Republican issue! [the forumer is not talking about the American political party, but the British anti-Royalists].

A) You're welcome. The U.S.A. fought two wars to get rid of a hereditary nobility and I've always been puzzled by people who seem to like having same. The two wars, incidentally, were the American Revolution, which got rid of official hereditary noblemen, and the American Civil War, which got (mostly) rid of the racial "nobility" which has marred so much of U.S. history.

Q) Why do Americans still use the Imperial system of measurement?

A) Three reasons:

1) we suck

2) we are very conservative socially

3) we have such a strong economy that other nations are willing to abide by our antiquated standards when they export goods to us (or at least print both English & Metric measurements on their products).

In other words, we still use the English system (we don't call it the Imperial system, incidentally, and yes I know the English no longer use it) because, quite simply, we can.

Q) Do you see ES making an American Civil War game at some point in the future

A) jeez I wish. I'm a major Civil War fan. Don't tantalize me like that.

Q) Do you think ES will make games that will be Age games "in name only"?

A) I hope not. I hope that we have the courage to rename such games and make them a new line, instead of still using the tired old "Age" terminology in hopes of getting additional sales.

Q) Have you seen The Matrix? If so did you like it?

A) I liked all of it except for Keanu Reaves.

Q) Do you think that we are living in a "dreamworld"?

A) No.

Q) Do you think that it would be possible for men to develop such an intelligent machine, that would be able to takeover the planet, or at least try to do so?

A) I do not believe in intelligent machines. I cite the Chinese Room thought experiment (which you can look up) as my reasons why. Of course, humanity could make a machine to destroy humanity, but we already have done so, in the form of thermonuclear weapons.

Q) What do you think? I feel that games are going to need to change/evolve to suit the internet, rather than plugging in the existing game formats. They need to be friendly to the new, and challenging to the obsessed.

A) I think that the world of Internet games is going to utterly change when console machines start becoming net-capable. You will no longer see boring hard-core garbage like Ultima Online, and there will be a lot more action.

I do agree with you that singleplayer games will still continue to exist.

Q) why is everyone insulting us English?

A) If you look carefully, you'll see that most of the people insulting the English are English themselves. This is a long-standing British tradition.

Q) My arguments on the subject would be just as sound to me as Sandy's are to him.

A) I deny this. There can be absolutely no doubt that spelling which is closer to phonetic is superior. There can also be no doubt that spelling Color with a "u" is further from phonetic. Just because Commonwealth English tends to be slightly more old-fashioned does not make it "more real" or "more natural". I am perfectly prepared to admit to all kinds of idiocies that linger on in American English, but only a completely closed mind could fail to see those few areas in which we have progressed beyond the British. And I totally agree that the metric system is superior.

Q) What happened to good old freedom of speech? Spell it however the hell you want to spell it.

A) Spelling has nothing to do with freedom of speech. Freedom of speech lets you say whatever you like. Spelling is about letting people _understand_ what you say. I never prevent ANYONE from spelling any word in any way they like. With people using spellings like "calvery" "maimlekus" however, sometimes it's hard to tell what they mean.

Q) What would you classify as the greatest discovery of the last century? Theory of relativity perhaps?

A) Plastics.

Q) Who was the greatest General of WWII? Who was the 'luckiest' (ie. circumstances made him LOOK great)?

A) With the caveat that these are in my own opinion only, I believe that the finest general of World War II was Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov. And I believe that the most overrated general of the war was Montgomery of Alamein (as he styled himself post-war). Not sure if it had much to do with luck, however (tireless self-promotion was more like it).

Q) what do you think of the idea of a colinial Age of empires?

A) We have discussed it from time to time.

Q) Your argument about the numbers of people spelling 'Color' being greater than those who spell it 'Colour' is wrong.

A) No he's not. Only in Europe and Commonwealth. If you check out English-speakers in east Asia, for instance, or central and south America, you'll find they follow the American usage. With more Chinese speakers of English than native speakers, the American usage is by far the most-used.

Q) Why are you risking your own dignity to post religious topics?

A) Why is religion "undignified"?

Q) Why does your kid sleep in the evening??? (Or I don't quite understand your answer)

A) When else would he sleep? During the middle of the day?

Q) Would you want to post your wife's picture as well? Or you think it's not a good idea to post people's picture around this forum?

A) This is a fine forum. I have absolutely no objections to posting my wife's picture. And might do it some time soon.

Q) When will humanity end?

A) How should I know?

Q) Do you think inhabiting in other planet will be possible within a century?

A) If you mean permanently inhabiting them as opposed to just visiting them, no.

Q) Do you play Rainbow 6?

A) Nope.

Q) Would you ever consider writing a book about your favorite parts of history?

A) Hmm. I guess you've planted the seed. But I don't know when I'd work on it.

Q) could you recommend a couple of your favorite books?

A) Here are nine super history works I can think of. One is a multivolume set, though.

1) Archer Jones -- THE ART OF WAR IN THE WESTERN WORLD (the single most useful source for trying to understand military history)

2) Dupuy & Dupuy - THE HARPER'S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MILITARY HISTORY (this has almost _everything_ that ever happened militarily, though it suffers from an anglocentric viewpoint, and tends to think that everyone was "gallant" in the olden days)

3) Hans Delbruck - WARFARE IN ANTIQUITY, THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS, MEDIEVAL WARFARE, THE DAWN OF MODERN WARFARE (special bonus for German fans - Delbruck's originally wrote in German so you can get the real stuff, not just a crummy translation like us English-speakers) Hans D. is the berries when it comes to ancient warfare. Even though he has some technical stuff (mostly tucked away in appendices, tho), he knows whereof he spoke.

4) Chris Scarre - CHRONICLE OF THE ROMAN EMPERORS (not much military stuff here, but there is some hair-raising information about the lives of these guys. Yow.)

5) John Keegan - THE FACE OF BATTLE (possibly the best book on military history ever written)

6) Ardant du Picq - THE ART OF BATTLE (sadly now out of print, at least in English. This is the seminal work on the importance of morale in combat. Du Picq died during the Franco-Prussian war, and correctly predicted its outcome, in stark contrast to the French general staff)

7) Victor Hansen - THE WESTERN WAY OF WAR (talks mostly about ancient Greece, but is terrific and the rules widely applicable elsewhere)

8) Paul Kennedy - THE RISE AND FALL OF THE GREAT POWERS (starts in 1500, but still good, and talks a lot about stuff other historians skip, like the importance of economy in wartime).

9) Donald Kagan - ON THE ORIGINS OF WAR (every person holding government office in the whole world ought to be forced to read this book)

Q) Is there some way we can show our appreciation to your superiors?

A) Believe me, they know.

Q) Do you believe that a good person who gives selflessly will go to heaven even if he is a Muslim or a Daoist?

A) The Mormon concept of heaven is a little more complicated than I am making it sound, but at the most fundamental level, yes, it matters more what you do than what you believe.

Q) if you galvanized as Union when you lived in Maryland, what unit were you a member of?

A) 81st Pennsylvania.

Q) Some of the UUs are ineffective and others are outstanding. Did you expect the UU of each civ to be used?

A) I recommend you look at Maimin' Mattie's thread on this subject. Mr. Fixit's site has a link leading to it. His fundamental point is the same as what we intended, which is that the UUs are meant to be support units, not the major force for an army. They're just produced too dang slow to depend on for a whole army. And of course some are more specialized than others. You can go whole games and never need to produce a cataphract, but a briton will doubtless make longbows every chance he gets. This doesn't make cataphracts useless - just more specialized. Would you argue that pikemen are useless because you don't usually need to build them vs. celts, goths, or vikings?

Q) Any plans to publish the Quotes from the Sandyman?

A) Not by me.

Q) Do you think the US has evolved its own monarchy and nobility? If yes, is it as entrenched as the British one?

A) All human societies are stratified. The American levels of society, however, are not based on birth or heredity, except insofar as it's considered better to have earned your own money instead of inheriting it (the reverse of the Edwardian British attitude). The American "nobility" has the virtue that at least it changes almost every generation, and so we make _new_ mistakes over time instead of repeating the old ones again and again.

Q) What is your oppinion of the Frank Civilization (In AoK not in history) and do you think they need any changes?

A) I think they're fine. They have some nice advantages (like their super-paladins), but they have some pretty serious drawbacks, too (like their reliance on gold-heavy units and no early-game economic bonus).

Q) Now that Msft is going to put voice comms into DirectX do you see the next game from ES, or version of AoE (should one occur) using it?

A) I think it's likely.

Q) What is the worst game you have ever taken part in making? Why was it bad?

A) Darklands. It had two big strikes against it; the lead designer had no idea of what makes a game fun, and management insisted on releasing it in a pre-alpha stage.

Q) When a computer game maker sells a bad game(and be sure this computer game maker has a heart). How do they feel if they weren't in it for all the money?

A) Well ... I left the company.

Q) (In 1812) Did the Russians actually have a plan of continual withdrawal into the interior during the first two months of the campaign?

A) Who can say? I'm not sure whether their Fabian tactics were based on instinct, planning, or just moment-by-moment opportunism, b

Q) Have you read any of the Expansion idea threads?

A) Certainly. I read more threads than I comment on.

Q) Do you like my idea of animal traps or Mangudai riding and shooting?

A) I think animal traps make the game more complicated, and having the Mangudai ride & shoot will make players wonder why other units can't do it too.

Q) what is your opinion on varying the price of villagers in aok?

A) I think it makes the game more complicated.

Q) I can't fail to agree with your points on our monarchy in the UK. However in reality the monarch has no real power in terms of policy/law etc.

A) Actually, as you're well aware, the British monarchy does have some extensive legal rights. It's just that they have chosen voluntarily (and wisely) not to exercise them in a tradition going back to Queen Victoria's time.

Q) Since changes in the law recently only a very select few get any tax payers monies, and 90% of that goes to pay the huge staffs who work around the institution as a whole, IE it keeps people in work.

A) Regardless of the virtues of using high taxes to boost employment, the monarchy has extensive holdings which, by rights, ought to belong to the people of the United Kingdom, no?

Q) Admitedly it's far from ideal, but true power rests with the elected Prime Minister.

A) Yes this is true. Great Britain's nominal monarchy is not really that much of a handicap. It's just that when I compare the antics of the House of Windsor to such honorable, dignified, inexpensive, and pleasant monarchs as those reigning over Holland, Norway, Denmark, or Thailand, I feel sorry for the British.

Q) But, as in the US a few select families will hold a largeish percentage of wealth.

A) But these families change over the years. If you check out who was rich 50 years ago, it's not the same families today.

Q) I admit we are a bit behind the times, but at least the current reforms will see the end to hereditary peers holding powers in the House of Lords.

A) I take my hat off to you. That's a major step in the right direction which I had not heard about. Does this mean you'll finally be able to ban fox hunts?

Q) what have you seen players do since the game came out that surprised you?

A) Wow. Tons of stuff. Nothing that has become a major trend, except maybe a lot more town center usage than we predicted.

Q) do you know of any system of government that held specifically created families that created heirs for a democratically elected throne?

A) There have been lots of systems in which only certain families could be the rulers, but these are called oligarchies. I suspect that if such a system was attempted as you are describing, the democratic part would rapidly become a sham.

Q) I have a great idea for a new civ in the Xpac. tell me how you like it. KLINGONS!!!

A) I love it. Go get us the rights from Paramount and we'll put 'em right in.

Q) Was that attack bonus for cataphracts against mamelukes a bug?

A) Yes. It dates back to when the mameluke unit was infantry.

Q) Have you played "Total Annihilation"? Did you like it?

A) Yes. It was okay. I wasn't inspired to go out and buy it.

Q) Whose infantry do you think is more powerful: Japs or Vikes?

A) They're both useful under different circumstances. Obviously, Japs beat Vikings one-on-one, and Japs are better than Vikings when engaging in hand-to-hand combat vs. cavalry or other melee units. But Vikings are way better when going up against fortifications or missile troops. In other words, if you're Japanese, you're likelier to need support from skirmisher, archers, and siege than if you're Viking.

Q) You know how the people speak native languages when you click on them and such, for the Byz. do they speak Latin or Greek?

A) They speak Latin. Yes I know the common people often spoke Greek, and that Greek became more and more common as time went on. Anyone who gets bugged by the Latin thing can blame me, as I'm the one who argued for it.

Q) Do you like to sleep on cold pillows or warm pillows?

A) Cold ones.

Q) Have you ever tried Cheddar cheese instead of parmasian on spagetti when the parmasian ran out?

A) Yes. Speaking of cheese, I try to never ever use that nasty powdered parmesan in a can - go out and buy yourself a wedge of parmesan and grate it fresh each time you need it. It'll change your life. It tastes astoundingly superior to the sawdust you get in the pre-grated variety.

Q) What's the meaning of life?

A) "Man is, that he might have joy."

Q) Please say that AOE3 will have Russia in it!

A) There is no AoE3.

Q) When do you think AOE3 will come out? Have you started making it yet? What about the expansion for AOK?

A) There is no AoE3. ES has started working on its next game yes. I am not allowed to talk about the expansion for AoK. Yes I think it's a dumb policy.

Q) if "they" decided to completely revamp English spelling, it would be rather unpleasant for the generation alive and already literate at the time

A) I agree with this statement too. My father-in-law is nuts about phonetic spelling, and I agree that it needs to be a gradual process. But we could at least take some steps forward every generation, like using tho instead of though, or thru instead of through.

Q) Many spelling "errors" in English are derived from old modes of pronunciation -- i.e., the silent "k" and the "gh" in "knight" were once pronounced. Why do the romance languages not have this problem?

A) Most languages, including Romance ones, typically change their spelling to match the currently accepted "correct" pronunciation. This used to be the case with English, too. If you read Thomas Malory, for instance, you can catch him writing the same word two different ways in the same manuscript. And neither way was "incorrect". English somehow got captured by grammarians who tried to fossilize the language, and who mocked people who spelled things the "wrong" way. The most notorious cases were the people in the late 19th century who tried to change English grammar to match that of Latin. Ever heard of the rule that you're not supposed to split an infinitive? Or end a sentence with a preposition? These are Latin rules wrenched from their roots and applied blindly (and foolishly) to English. Luckily many of these rules are finally going away. But it sure took long enough. A lot of schoolboys got whipped because they split their infinitives and Julius Caesar didn't.

Q) Hey Sandy, how about showing your military population and villager population in different tables?

Q) Try the F4 key. Tap it again to cycle through civilian & military population.

Q) WHY don't you think Earth humans will colonize other planets? Apathy? Divine intervention? Technical difficulty?

A) Technical difficulty. Hey, I DO think we'll colonize other planets. I just don't think we'll have permanent colonies within the next century, which is what the original question was.

Q) Do you read recently released books or just old ones?

A) Both.

Q) Do you read mostly non-fiction or fiction books?

A) Non-fiction.

Q) Have you read Michael Chichton's new novel called "Timeline"?

A) No.

Q) Templar Knight: in 1812 the Russians did not have a plan orderly retreat to lure the French further into Russia

A) Who gave you the power to read the minds of the dead Russian generals? Don't be ridiculous. We can't tell what they were thinking, only what they wrote in letters to one another and to the Czar which, I submit, is not necessarily the same. I personally think it was a combination of instinct and opportunism that led them to their briliiant move. I agree it probably wasn't forethought.

Q) Also Kutuzov missed many opportunities to wipe out the French on the way back West, but his fear prevailed.

A) Templar Knight, you are a buffoon. Around 621,000 soldiers invaded Russia in 1812. 10,000 got back out again alive. Explain to me how Kutuzov somehow FAILED to wipe out the French when his forces inflicted over 98% casualties on them. It is possibly the greatest military catastrophe in history.

Q) Do u think the T-34 decided the victory in the East and hence the victory in Europe?

A) No. The victory in the east was the result of skilled generalship & tactics. The T-34 certainly contributed more to final victory than any other armored vehicle, though. But no one weapon was decisive, not even the atomic bomb (without the A-bomb, the Allies would still have defeated Japan).

Q) Were the Goths designed as a rush/raider civ?

A) Not really. They are designed to be a horde civ who produces hundreds of cheap expendable warriors that make their enemies lives hell. If they also were a rush civ with fast build-up they'd be unstoppable. As it is, I think they're just fine. Don't get me wrong - I know they're a specialty civ, and that they're NOT the strongest civ in the game. But that's how we want it - we hate it when there is a "strongest civ".

Q) How made the taunts for the game?

A) Us here at Ensemble Studios.

Q) Were they supposed to be funny or annoying?

A) Take your pick.

Q) I am a chinese who speak English. But me and all my friends spell "colour" with the u.

A) You're probably from Hong Kong, the former British Crown Colony.

Q) if you think that britain (epc england i assume) has an unnaturally strong bond with its royal family, think about the australians. We recently had a referendum on whether to stay a constitutional monarxhy or to become a republic (with president elected from a group nominated by public by a 2/3 majority of parliament), but voted this great oppurtunity down, on the no campaign which was based on the slogan "let the people have their say", meaning that somehow, a monarchy is more democratic than a 2/3 majority). did you follow the referendum here in aus (i suspect you didnt, we arent that important), but even if you didnt, did you see our action as foolish from what ive said.

A) Actually I WAS interested in the outcome of the referendum. I feel that if Australia wants to have a royal house, they should pick a better-behaved and less expensive one than the Windsors.

Q) Could you possibly make an AOE game based on pre-ancient Cavemen species of hominids?

A) Anything is possible. But who would play it?

Q) Have a set villager limit as well as a set population limit.

A) This makes the game more complicated. We are dedicated to making it LESS complicated and easier to understand.

Q) Be able to view the total number of villes you currently have at any time

A) Press F4 more than once.

Q) Have more tools in the game replay screen, including jump forward and rewind.

A) since the way we do the replay is simply by issuing commands, I am told that a rewind is not possible.

Q) A move/attack command identical to Starcraft (boo! hiss!) would be a godsend for micro managing hand to hand units

A) If you use the Patrol command to send your units somewhere, they will fight enemies on the way. I am told that a generic move/attack command would enormously slow down the game because it would require every unit on the move to check every possible target every second.

Q) An Elite Pikeman would be a godsend.

A) An equinophobe, eh?

Q) any way to prevent outright a player castling ridiculously fast (i.e sub 16 minutes times) would ultimately be a good thing.

A) But Maimin' Mattie tells me that castling fast is not that useful.

Q) I'd still love to see the Spainish and Korean civs added to any potential expanion pack.

A) I predict you will love the expansion pack.

Q) I put it to you that American spelling change was merely a political move to distance the nascent U.S.A. from Britain.

A) Pshaw. It was the work of Noah Webster, pure and simple. He had no political ends in mind.

Q) Given pronunciation is abstract and morphis; arguments in favour of 'phonetic' spelling of words are ludicrous.

A) Pronunciation does not morph overnight, and I deny that it is abstract. It is concrete. I am not arguing for letter-perfect phonemes, but good heavens what possible reason can there be for us to have some words phonetic (such as "words") and some words non-phonetic (such as "phonetic"). No English-speaker pronounces the "que" in antique. Why keep it? Your windy but philosophical defense of an indefensible system is inane.

Q) Why is everybody asking Sandyman about stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with AOK

A) So skip over those questions. No one asked your opinion.

Q) We Americans suck? Is this what you are saying?

A) With respect to keeping the Imperial system of measurement (which is the context), yes, I think we blew it badly. We tried to make the switch in the 1970s and failed utterly. The British tried to do it in the 1960s and succeeded. But no, I don't think we suck in most respects, any more than I think the British suck in most respects.

Q) If we paid you lots of money, would you make Darklands II for us?

A) Could I just chew on some rusty razor blades instead?

Q) Have you played shimo style? or heard of it? It should definetly be in the X-pack.

A) Yes, I'm aware of shimo style. I can't see what we'd do to "put in the X-pack". The game already lets people play in this style. Do you mean we ought to talk about it in the manual? Or what?

Q) have you thought about putting an Indian civ into a future edition of AoE, or X-pac?

A) Every single reasonable (and some unreasonable) civ that has existed in the history of the planet has been considered for future AoEs or X-Packs. Trust me, we've gone over just about EVERY possible nation. The reason the Indian civs are not in the current game is that they cry out for their own architectural style, which means we'd need to give them multiple civs (to exploit the style). This isn't necessarily bad, since there are plenty of possible civs to choose from in the Indian subcontinent, but their civs _are_ somewhat obscure. Also our sales aren't that strong in India, so we generally tend to focus on civs from other regions. It's not _just_ because of sales, though (after all, how many Mongols and Byzantines buy our games?)

Q) Many people wonder why Calvary Archers cost so much gold, and I have heard that it was actually a typo, and the gold and food cost were somehow reversed.

A) Well, in the first place they cost wood & gold not food & gold. And no, it's not a typo. A fast-moving missile unit is potentially very powerful, and the cost of the cav archers reflects this potential. As it turns out, the cav archer does not seem to have fulfilled its promise, and so in any planned X-Pack you may expect that they will be somehow beefed up.

Q) What is the name of the music that you hear when you lose?

A) It is named "Uluzah" (get it?) It is just a ditty that Stephen Rippy (Big_Al here on the forum) wrote up. Max - I told Stephen what you said and he says he'll send you an AoK music CD. But he doesn't have your address or e-mail address.

Q) Do you think the Moors had much influence on Europe?

A) Only Spain & Southern Italy. Of course, via Spain, they got second-hand influence throughout Europe.

Q) Which of the pre-Alexander civilizations do you find most interesting to read about?

A) Egypt.

Q) which of the games you've made do you consider most fun to play now?

A) Hyperspeed

Q) What are your thoughts on the writings of Sun Tzu and Clauswitz?

A) I think Clauswitz is overrated, but still worth reading. I think Sun Tzu is terrific. Neither of them are good sources for reading about military history, though - they're more for understanding military theory and practice.

Q) Babylon. Now what is that ziggurat building at the corner of the screen? A wonder or a temple?

A) This picture did not turn out so I have no idea.

Q) Greek tool/iron age city mixture. Now what the heck is that building right near the stable?

A) a temple.

Q) You do know Sweden is a monarchy too, right?

A) Actually, no I didn't.

Q) What is your favorite colour?

A) Green.

Q) Have you ever worn body armour?

A) Nope. I have a concealed gun license, though.

Q) Do you like Jerry Seinfeld?

A) I have never seen Jerry Seinfield or any of his shows. I hardly ever watch TV.

Q) Why does everyone american say: "USA: the greatest country on earth", when everyone knows it's not true?

A) How do you know it's not true? Have you lived here?

Q) Do you use ICQ?

A) I loathe and abominate ICQ.

Q) One benefit to archaic spelling is it sometimes help someone decipher meaning.

A) I completely agree. But this only helps people who happen to speak languages somewhat related to English, such as germanic languages or French. For the vast majority of people on Earth, who speak slavic, oriental, african, indian, or other tongues, the archaic spelling is still a handicap. I don't think it's a good idea to retain the spelling of "knight" with 3 silent letters out of 6 just to pander to a few folks in central Europe. After all, the Germans pronounce all the letters in "knecht", don't they? Why should we have to keep our language difficult to learn just to make it easier for them to remember one or two English words?

Q) I guess that means a themed X-pack based on a focused region is out!

A) An X-Pack by us would _always_ have a theme. But it wouldn't have to be a regional theme.

Q) Have you ever played Everquest or Asherons Call?

A) I think the graphics are hideous and they need a storyline really really bad. But I also think they're the first baby steps into a persistent multiplayer universe.

Q) Do you believe in the cycle of governmental control? For example, in this modern day and age, we would never think of a democratic government such as the United States transfering to monarchy, yet during the waning days of the Roman Republic, Democracy was overruled in favor of Imperialism.

A) No. Imperialism & monarchy are totally different systems. The Romans used to have a hereditary kingship, you know. And THAT didn't come back. I certainly think that governments can change, but the fact that a democracy or republic can be replaced by a totalitarian state (examples: Rome, Weimar Germany) doesn't mean that governments "cycle".

Q) Maybe you should run for President...I am not very impressed with our current ballot of candidates

A) I wouldn't' have time to do any games if I ran for President. Which would you rather have, AoE3 or a different President? I mean, get your priorities straight.

Q) I personally believe the Russians didn't really have a general plan for retreat until later.

A) I personally think so too, but their native instincts sure served them well.

Q) Napoleon; Russia; 1812; Were did you get the number 641,000 from? I am not disagreeing with you, I am just wondering...From all my various accounts I have come across everything from 420,000 to 600,000.

A) The famous mother-of-all-graphs that was done in the 19th century showing the course of the Grande Armee. Actually I thought I said 621,000 (might have been a typo) but even if "only" 400,000 were in the initial force it was still a mind-numbing catastrophe. And as you point out, the loss of all those horses was even worse. It meant that in the hard fighting to come up in 1813, the only trained cavalry mounts Napoleon had were those who happened to be from the immediately previous year's crop. Since a good cavalry horse will last a decade or longer this means he had about 15% as much good cavalry as he needed.

Q) Kutuzov was cautious and technically could have missed an opportunity or two to have surrounded and defeated the miserable remains of the Grande Armee. one thing is sure...the "successful" crossing at Berenzia was probably the BIGGEST (arguable) break for Napoleon's Armee.

A) They lost 70% of their remaining men crossing the Berezina. Some success. Also, I hold firmly to my earlier contention that when you embark on invasion with 400-600 thousand troops, and come back with 10,000, you are pretty much totally defeated. Remember also that those 10,000 men were no longer fit for duty, anyway. A few of them might recovered in time for the 1813 campaign, but ...

Q) what is the greatest of all works on strategy?

A) Sun Tzu.

Q) my Animal Trap idea may make the game to compicated, but most gamers love complexity.

A) Actually, my experience is exactly the reverse. I guess we'll have to disagree. But you go ahead and design and publish your game with all the complicated bits and if it outsells AoK, I'll switch jobs and go work for your company.

Q) Why did you pick Zhukov over Guderian as the greatest general of WWII?

A) Well, I could pick from any number of reasons. But here are some good ones.

1 - Zhukov won every major battle he fought. Guderian didn't.

2 - The one time, Zhukov & Guderian actually met in battle, at the battle of Yelnya, Zhukov pulled off a surprise and won, screwing up the German plan. It was the only real victory for the Soviets in the summer of 1941.

3 - Zhukov's victories, including Khalkin Gol, Moscow, the siege of Leningrad, Stalingrad, Kursk, Operation Bagration, and the Soviet fall offensive of 1944, include the most spectacular and important victories of the war. Guderian did nothing that was anywhere near as impressive.

Guderian was an excellent commander, possibly the best tank commander of the war, (though Konev, Rokossovsky, Abrams, O'Connor, and Rommel are also rivals for that title). I would say that Guderian was a fine tactician & theorist, but Zhukov stood head and shoulders over everyone else in the entire war as a strategist.

Q) Have you ever read "Strategy" by Liddel Hart?

A) Of course. But there are plenty of other books as good as Liddel Hart's, which while a good summary, doesn't really preach anything new. Also Liddel Hart's pre-war all-tank theories screwed British tactics throughout WW2, and were one of the major reasons the British could never pull off a proper armored victory.

Q) Do you think there's more of an emphasis on strategy and tactics in a game of AOK at "slow" speed then there is at "normal" speed?

A) No, because at slow speed a player takes more time to micromanage his villagers, too.

Q) Do you miss your days working on the Call roleplay game?

A) Occasionally, but not very often.

Q) could you see yourself working on another RPG?

A) A paper RPG? Aspects of doing so would be fun, but the thought of looking for a publisher and spending all that time chills the marrow of my bones.

Q) It is said, even now, that 1st-person shooters nowadays lack the atmosphere that Doom had. Do you still have the urge to help on a Doom/Quake kind of game? Or have you found your 'niche' in RTS games?

A) I try to move from niche to niche. You can expect that I won't stay in RTS much longer, for instance. I've oft-said that ES is looking, someday, to expand itself beyond just RTS. Obviously we'll keep doing RTS games, but we'd like to do other types of games too, at least one other line. If and when we start up that other line, I will probably be on it.

Q) Do you feel you've pretty much taken the AoE/RoR/AoK line as far as it can go (without a complete overhaul)? Or are there still quality features you feel can be added?

A) We have to move sideways to add more quality. In other words, instead of doing "more of the same" we need to go 3-D or add some really cool things that no one expects.

Q) what one feature do you most like in AoK?

A) the gorgeous art

Q) who came up with the AI resigning reasons?

A) I did, but a lot them were based on suggestions from other Ensemble personnel, particularly Ian Fischer.

Q) What is your opinion on releasing source code to older games such as Doom, Quake.

A) I approve enthusiastically.

Q) Do u think that the AOE code will one day be released.

A) I don't know. If it were up to me, the answer would be yes. But 'tis not.

Q) Zhukov launched a counterattack from Moscow after checking the German advance in the winter of '41. The Russians suffered appalling casualties, and the offensive was called off after gaining a mile or two in front of the city, though they did retake Kalinin in the North. This almost completely destroyed the Siberian reserves which had been sent to the West up to that time.

A) This was a minor episode in the overall triumph of the battle for Moscow, and there were plenty of Siberian reserves left after this. German sources greatly exaggerate the magnitude of their defensive "victory" in this counterattack.

Q) Mannstein's counterattacks following the Russian winter '43 offensives retook Kharkov, this after the Russians had taken Kiev. It stabilized the front, and left the Russians in disorder. This despite Zhukov having a 7-1 advantage.

A) Again, get real, Fury1. You know perfectly well that the Soviet winter 1943 offensive was a catastrophic defeat for the Germans, and, again, a few minor setbacks such as the (temporary) loss of Kharkov does not change the outcome.

Q) Since the fall of the Soviet Union, with the opening of the Kremlin archives, it has been discovered that Soviet military losses during the war were nearly double the originally reported figures. I haven't seen a breakdown of specific battles with the accurate numbers but this would suggest that Zhukov's victories were even more costly than initially reported. This would suggest that Zhukov's victories were more a matter of superior numbers rather than superior leadership.

A) As a matter of fact, I have a listing of the exact losses for the Soviets, and it demonstrates that Zhukov is The Man. The Soviets took their heaviest losses in 1941, and their losses steadily decreased throughout the war, as their army grew in size. They suffered their lowest losses in battles in which Zhukov was in command. By the time of the battle for Berlin, the Soviets were taking approximately 1/10 the casualties of the Germans they faced. So you are merely parroting hackneyed old falsehoods about the Russians winning "because they had so many numbers". It simply ain't so, no matter how much Western military enthusiasts and German sources want to pretend that it was. Every big-time loser in every war tries to blame his defeat on being outnumbered.

Q) Yeah, to win, all the russians had to do was batter away with their overwhelming numbers.

A) BUNK! All you have to do is look at the numbers. The Russians did NOT outnumber their enemies. Here's why - Greater Germany had a population over 80 million. Soviet Russia had a population of around 190 million. After the debacle of 1941, approximately 40% of the Soviet population was under German control. This left them around 114 milliion people still available. But they weren't fighting just the Germans. The Germans were assisted by the Slovaks (3 million), the Finns (4 million), the Rumanians (17 million), and the Hungarians (8 million).

In other words, the total Axis nations arrayed against Russia after 1941 had a total population of 112 million. This compared to the approximately 114 million under Soviet control. So much for Soviet overwhelming numbers. And then we need to take into account the fact that the Italians sent a large force to Russia to help the Germans, the Spanish sent the oversized Blue Division, and other nations sent forces (there were Dutch, French, and Scandinavian Waffen SS units, for instance). In addition, since the Germans ruled practically all the rest of Europe at the time, they got the benefit of industry and forced labor from the occupied states. This permitted them to free up more German troops for the front line. The Russians had to produce their own equipment with their own able-bodied men. Certainly the Germans had to station some troops to occupy these countries (but were helped by Italians & Bulgarians), but the Russians had to station some troops to watch the Japanese, Turkey, etc. Even after moving the Siberian troops westward, some still had to stay near Manchuria.

Finally, the German economy was about twice the size of the Soviet economy. When you add to this the rest of Europe under German domination, you can see that the Germans _could_ outproduce the Soviets something like 4:1. The fact that, given this capacity, the Soviets actually made more tanks and guns than the Germans, speaks wonders for the dedication of the Russian people.

Anyway, my point is that the Germans were NOT outnumbered (as a nation), and that they were NOT defeated by the Russians for this reason. During the 1941 offensive, the Axis invaders outnumbered the Russian army. In the streets of Stalingrad, the Axis outnumbered the Russians. Every offensive victory the Germans won against the Russians was brought about by superior numbers. By 1944, the Germans were seriously outnumbered by the Russian forces (it was about 1.5 to 1 at this time - by the end of the war it skyrocketed to about 5 to 1). But the reason they were outnumbered was not because the Russians had so much more manpower, but because the Germans had squandered their armies in 1941-1943.

Q) The German army was far superior to the Russian army.

A) This was true in 1941, but not by 1943. The Russian army kept improving, while the German army continually deteriorated. A VERY common error people make in talking about how great the WW2 Germans were is in looking only at their best units. You have to look at their army as a whole. The German army wasn't just panzer units, you know. There were also the security divisions, the famously inferior Luftwaffe divisions (not the fallschirmjager, who were excellent, I mean the luftwaffe units made from ground personnel), volksgrenadiers, training divisions, teenage boys, "belly battalions" made up of men nominally unfit for military duty, "fortress divisions" suitable only for pillbox work, and so forth. Probably at least a third of the German army was worse than the worst Russian unit. Maybe half of the German army was on a par with the average Russian unit or a little better, and the remaining sixth was extremely high-caliber, but even then I'm not convinced that the very best German units were superior to the best Russian ones.

And the Russian generals were almost unanimously better than the German ones. Fury1 talks about how Manstein pulled off a small victory during the Winter 43 offensive while outnumbered 7:1. Well, Fury1, did you ever wonder how the Russians managed to outnumber the Germans 7:1 during that campaign? The Russian army over the whole of the front line in late 43 certainly didn't outnumber the Germans by that much. In fact, the Russian forces in late 1943 outnumbered the Germans by about 1.3 to 1 as a whole. Yet in the Fall offensive, they DID surpass the Germans by 7:1. This was by dint of superior generalship, and massing their forces where it counted. If the Germans could have pulled it off, they might have won the war. But they couldn't. Their generals were amateurs, compared to the Russians. (I'm speaking as a class, not to individuals - many German generals knew what they were doing).

In the same way people talk about how the Germans were better than the Americans in WW2. Well sure the Fallschirmjager, veteran SS divisions, and elite units such as Panzer Lehr were better than the average American trooper. But the bulk of the German army were not Fallschirmjager or Das Reich. And they sucked compared to the average American unit.

Q) I noticed you didn't list Patton in your list of great tank commanders.

A) I don't consider him one.

Q) What do you think of the "Alpha Centauri" tech tree, with so many possibilities you'll never get all of them in one game, so you need to choose?

A) You're able to buy all the technologies in Age of Kings? Your opponents must be pretty benign.

Q) What pop limit do the players at ES usually play with?

A) 75, but we do play games with larger limits too.

Q) In the KotRT forum, there's an argument about which civ each of the 3 people on the front cover belong to.

A) Well, I think the art of the front cover is really putrid, but the guys are supposed to be Viking, Western Europe (either Frank or Briton), and Japanese.

Q) While I'm only a casual reader on WWII, I'm actually becoming convinced that the real story of WWII is not how well/poorly the US/USSR/GERMANS/etc did, but how poorthe british showing was.

A) The British have always been the classic "lions led by donkeys", but they certainly did much worse in WW2 than, say, in WW1 or post-war conflicts. One of my books thinks the reason for the poor British showing in WW2 was lack of quality middle-management. In WW1, the British captains and lieutenants had an immensely high casualty rate - much higher, proportionally, than the private soldiers, and much higher than any other army of the war. These men would have been the colonels, majors, and brigadiers of WW2. So, in essence, WW2 Britain had good private soldiers & non-coms, and good generals, but their middling leaders (i.e., colonels & the like) were by and large either new to their calling, or they had pushed papers on a desk in WW1. So these guys in WW2 proved inflexible or inexperienced or both and that is this book's thesis about why the British did so badly in WW2.

Q) did you know that the allied tanks were generally better than the german ones? (Not the tigers and stuff

A) Yes. Not only that, I would rate the tigers as being pieces of crap. Here the Germans are, starting to lose the war, short on natural resources, and they go ahead and design an armored colossus which guzzles gas like crazy (that can't be smart), costs more than any enemy tank, so they must produce LESS proportionately, and which isn't even that good when you compare it to enemy tanks of about the same size. Example: the Panther tank is renowned for being better than a T-34. But the Panther was about 15 tons heavier than a T-34. On the other hand, the Panther was about the same weight as a JS-II heavy tank, which could kick its (the Panther's) behind. Ton for ton, the Russian tanks were better. It's just that the Germans had a lot more tonnage per tank. Which meant they had a lot less tanks. Example: the 26th Infantry in the American Army fought constantly from Omaha Beach to the Reichswald. During those months, it never encountered a "live" German tank (it did meet plenty of assault guns, Sturmgeschutz & the ilk). German tanks were just plain rare! One reason is because they cost so much and were so complicated and slow to produce.

Q) whats you opinion of Lenin

A) I find him very hard to read. I can't tell if he was a dreamer, a visionary, an idealist, or an opportunistic liar. I lean towards the opinion that Lenin was an egotistical, dogma-driven person, who meant well, but who was willing to adopt ruthless means to gain what he perceived as the greater good.

Q) Stonewall Jackson was over-rated. (flame away) His performance in general was nowhere near as consistent as that of James Longstreet. He failed numerous times to scout adequately and was often less eager to engage the enemy than his legend would lead one to believe. Your opinion, Sandy?

A) Well ... actually I agree with you. But he had moments of brilliance, which Longstreet lacked. Jackson at his best was better than Longstreet (or anyone else), but Jackson at his worst sucked big time. He was erratic. Longstreet was reliable.

Q) German tanks crap?!?!?!?!?!? What th h*ll is wrong with you, take panther tank and a sherman tank in an open field, that shermans shells will bounce off the panthers thik armor

A) Well, duh, the Panther is a 49 ton tank, compared to a 25 ton tank (the Sherman). Of COURSE a Panther could win a fight with a Sherman. I'm talking dollar for dollar. The Panther was more than three times as hard to produce as a Sherman, got much worse gas mileage, and was extremely unreliable (a Panther could only go, on average, around 45 miles before suffering from some kind of breakdown). For the same cost, the Americans could produce 3 Shermans. Furthermore, because of the Panther's unreliability, typically for every two Panthers at the front line, there was one back in the shop getting fixed up. This means that, in general, for the exact same production capacity, the Americans could field 4 Shermans in the field for each Panther. And four Shermans are far more useful than one Panther. I'm not saying the Sherman was a good tank - far from it. The Americans should have worked much harder on improving or replacing it. But the Panther was the wrong tank at the wrong time for the Germans.

Look, let's bring AoK into it. A paladin can defeat a champion every time. But if you're on the defensive, using paladins against my champions, and I can pump out four champions for every paladin you've got, you're going to lose. And in fact you'd better stop wasting your money on paladins and put it into some things that will stop my champs.

Q) Fury1 - I am not a diletante.

A) I apologize for my name calling. Look up above in the thread and you can see that I have edited my thread to remove the offensive material. I was tired. I was busy. It was late. All through the night I tossed and turned in guilt at dismissing you & Obfuscator so cavalierly

Let me take the time (though I don't really have it) to go over your points one by one.

Fury1: Sandy stated that Zhukov was undefeated. I pointed out instances where he was soundly defeated, you presented Yelnah as a battle where Zhukov defeated Guderian?

ME: Your examples were minor setbacks in overall victorious battles. The Soviet winter offensive of 1941 was a mighty victory. The Soviet winter offensive of 1943 was also a mighty victory. Here I'm not sure if you're referring to Operation Uranus or the Kursk/Orel offensive, but both were Soviet wins. The fact that both in early 43 and late 43 Manstein managed to reform the German line doesn't change the magnitude of the Russian accomplishment. Just because in these three cases the Russians weren't able to completely shatter the wehrmacht and win the war right then and there doesn't mean they weren't wins.

Yelnya: this was the only place I could find that Zhukov faced Guderian. It was clearly a Russian victory - Zhukov had planned the attack there since before the war, correctly predicting the course of the upcoming German offensive. The attack accomplished exactly what Zhukov intended for it. I highly recommend THUNDER ON THE DNEPR. It has lots of details on the first months of the war in Russia as well as fascinating newly released material on the secret Soviet wargames held in the spring of 1941. It also shows how Guderian's insubordination nearly won the war for the Germans.

Fury1: The Russians suffered over 4 times the military casualties as the Germans in total.

ME: well, no actually they didn't. Not if you read SOVIET CASUALTIES AND COMBAT LOSSES IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. More to the point, you must keep in mind that every single German and German allied soldier who served on the East Front became a casualty in May 1945. The entirety of the Russian strategy was directed towards that goal (and the German goal, of course, was the reverse). It is grossly unfair to count all the captured Russians (most of whom the Germans murdered) and NOT count the vast numbers of captured Germans (most of whom survived the war in excellent health). In fact, if you count the Germans surrendering at the war's end (which by all rights you should), the Germans suffered MORE casualties than the Russians.

To bring AoK into it. I don't care what my losses are as long as you are forced to resign.

Q) The Russian strategic success was largely due to the fact that the Germans thought there code was unbreakable.

A) None of the major Russian offensives depended on Ultra or their own spies in the German HQ. Zhukov predicted an attack at Kursk long before the British released any information to them. And Operation Bagration & Uranus didn't' use Ultra hardly at all.

Q) The Wermacht was still very good until the latter half of 1944,

A) In my opinion, by the middle of 1943, the Russians equalled or surpassed the Germans unit for unit. There was a steady decline from 1943 on. In general, the Germans were tactically superior to the Russians until mid-1944. But throughout the war the Russians proved superior on the operational and strategic front.

Fury1: Hitler was partially to blame for much of the disaster.

ME: Hitler was not as much to blame as people think. Postwar German memoirs greatly exaggerate his part in the defeat, for obvious reasons. I recommend reading the chapter on Hitler on the Russian Front in WHAT IF.

Fury1: the chassis of the T-34 was american designed

ME: it was not exactly American designed. It was based on a chassis of the BT series of tanks, which were, in turn, loosely based on the Christie designs of the 1920s.