Ask Sandy XIV

Article written by Sandy Petersen
Originally published on 04-12-2000 ; updated on 03-13-2017
Tags: General Info, Ask Sandyman, Interviews

Q) When is the patch coming?

A) Before the X-Pack is released.

Q) What's your favorite civilization from the Middle Ages?

A) Never really thought about it. A "favorite"? Maybe the Byzantines, because I love the Romans so much.

Q) Have you tried Sid Mier's Gattysburg! or Antietam?

A) Gettysburg yes, Antietam no.

Q) Will the patch change something for the TC rush?

A) Well, duh.

Q) or a better balance of the civs?

A) there will not be a great deal of civ rebalancing per se in the patch. The civ's relationships will obviously change, but that's kind of a side effect. For instance, since we're significantly changing the TC, this will obviously have an impact on the Britons & Teutons.

Q) Since changing the TC would hurt tuetons (Make em seriously expensive) and Britons. Is there any plans to make up for thier loss with another tech/skill/etc?

A) Our tests show that the Teutons and Britons are still perfectly viable civ. Just because they’ve lost the advantage of their big screw doesn’t mean they aren’t still highly competitive.

Q) Unlimited Farm REsources. Farm not built farms of allies to infinity

A) Fixed.

Q) The +2 Attack on Tuetons TC aint there.

A) Fixed.

Q) Is it fun playing a game that you made?

A) I’ve liked playing all the games I designed. I can’t speak for every designer, though.

Q) will we have a kind of horseman armed with a lance in the X-Pack?

A) No. The attack animation looks lame when you have someone who ought to charge just sitting there and poking at you.

Q) where will the new civs fit?

A) One is infantry-oriented, another is archer-oriented, the third is cav-archer, the fourth cavalry, and the last a generalist.

Q) In the new campaigns, will the scenarios have the openings?

A) Yes, the new campaigns will be as complete and as well-organized as those in AoK.

Q) Why don't pikeman have pikes?

A) Because pikes were 20 feet long and would look incredibly dumb in the artwork.

Q) Will there be any signifigant change to the map editor?

A) There are changes, but not “significant” ones.

Q) Will the cds work as they did in aoe-ror where you could use either cd?

A) Sadly, they won't. You will need to use the appropriate CD for the game you want to play.

Q) Will there be any changes to the market, such as new techs?

A) Yes, there is a new tech in the market.

Q) Will there be extra ai personalities included?

A) Kind of.

Q) Will there be premade maps for multiplayer use?

A) No more than there are now. But a lot of the changes we’re making are aimed at multiplayer.

Q) Will there be another defensive civ like byz?

A) Yes. Two of the new civs are defense-oriented.

Q) Is there any chance for an editor that can set up home-campaigns like the official ones?

A) We will not be providing the ability to add the lead-in sequences & voice-overs, if that’s what you’re asking about.

Q) What's your take on the Battle of Adrianople?

A) I assume you’re referring to the Second Battle of Adrianople, in which the Romans faced the Goths, not the First Battle of Adrianople, which cemented Constantine’s emperorship. It’s pretty clear that the Gothic cavalry won that battle, and that the Gothic infantry did the work of actually killing the Romans. I think that this battle exploded the theory of Roman invincibility, what was left of it. After all, Fritigern didn’t even seek battle – he was terrified of the Roman advance and tried to negotiate with Valens. But when he was forced into it, the Ostrogoths & Visigoths sure did a number on the legionaries. The campaign also showed the stupidity of recruiting barbarians into the legions – a vast swarm of Gothic legionaries deserted the Roman forces to join Fritigern in the weeks before the fight.

Q) Why do so many people know about the Roman Empire, but so few know about Byzantium?

A) Because western Roman ruins are in western Europe, and the eastern empire’s ruins are in countries where western Europeans rarely go. Also, many of them aren’t even ruins, but are still in use (like Hagia Sofia).

Q) Why did the West fall and the East endure?

A) The East covered a smaller area, was further away from the main barbarian migrations, and thus was easier to defend.

Q) Can the East after 476 still be considered "The Roman Empire?"

A) Sure. THEY thought they were Romans, and I see no reason to dispute it.

Q) Who's the coolest Goth, Alaric, Theodoric, or Theoderic?

A) Alaric did that cool thing on his horse before the battle, but Theodoric the Goth was The Man.

Q) Are there going to be any improments/new units on gunpowder?

A) yes.

Q) Are any of the new techs going to radically alter play?

A) We hope not. Our intent is simply to address balance issues between civs and to encourage the use of some of the less-popular units (like battering rams & cav archers). We like the basic nature of AoK play, and think it works fine. Our plan is that the only “radical” alterations you’ll see will be with the new civs. THEIR bonuses ought to raise some eyebrows.

Q) How many of the new map types will be excluded from the "Random Map" selector?

A) Zero. In fact, we’re adding all the old map types into the Random Map selector, making it truly random. However, we’re adding a new selection, titled Random Land Map, which will never give you an island-type map. (Including team islands, archipelago, crater lake, etc.)

Q) How many MSFT shares do you own?

A) I have no idea. Probably none. Almost all of my investments are in mutual funds.

Q) In the X-Pack, is it possible that you will bring back the ability to start as Nomad?

A) Mmmmaybe.

Q) Did you itemize your deductions and do you get to write off computer games by rival companies as legitimate business research costs?

A) Yes.

Q) Do you think that in the long run Russian society would have been better off under the Tsars or the Communist leadership?

A) They were better off under the Communists. The Tsars would have lost WW2.

Q) Do you think the Janissary's pointed (actually it is round at the top as far as I can see) hat should have been taken out of the game at the sake of historical accuracy?

A) No. I think that changing the Janissaries’ hats was ridiculous.

Q) since you cannot ell us the new civs or their UU's, could you tell us the UU types, please?

A) One is infantry, another is a foot archer, a third is cavalry. That’s all I can tell without giving away stuff. Oh yes at least one of the new civs gets two UUs.

Q) in your review of the playnow you said that all civs get at least one new unique tech. Does that mean there are one or more civs that have more than one unique tech?

A) Yes. In fact, there is one civ that gets two unique techs. The Goths.

Q) Why are there no stars in the Apollo 11 moon landing video?

A) Because the camera’s light-gathering power was too weak to pick up starlight.

Q) A while ago you said that the Aztec sword the obsidian (which is made of the igneous rock of the same name) was an amazing weapon - very powerful. I know obsidian looks good but if it was really as great as you said why did the spanish not drop their steel and use the obsidians, oh and why did the Spanish steel destroy the Aztec Obsidian in battle

A) The Spanish tried to keep their distance from the Aztecs, and used crossbows & handguns against them. They feared the obsidian. Also, the obsidian-edged blades were not simple to make, and did not last as long in combat as a steel blade, though they were far sharper. They required constant upkeep. Finally, it wasn’t Spanish steel that destroyed the Aztec obsidian, but Tlaxlacan obsidian that destroyed the Aztec obsidian – in the big battles vs. the Aztec, there were typically many tens of thousands of native Tlaxlacan allies helping the several hundreds of Spanish vs. the Aztecs. The Tlaxlacans were the backbone of the Spanish army during this campaign.

Q) what was your favourite book, Military history, and other?

A) The Bible.

Q) Do you tire of reading posts by people who say "this civ should be in the x-pac" or "this isn't historically correct" or "I demand this in the x-pac!"?

A) Yes.

Q) Will the "BANG!" engine be capable of generating Random Maps?

A) Yes.

Q) Will there be anymore goldless units in AoK: TC?

A) Yes.

Q) Sandy are you known as a celebrity?

A) No.

Q) Will RTS3 be at next year's E3?

A) Yes.

Q) Will the X-pack incorporate any new modifications to the RM and/or DM AIs? Does ES consider AI improvement a worthwhile endeavour?

A) Yes, to both.

Q) Will there be any real way to win besides A) Rushing the opponent then booming with massive TCs B) Booming with massive TCs

A) This is not a question, but a rant. I have answered this question literally dozens of times over the last few months.

Q) Khan_Ali,you say that bogatyrs are saga and fairy tale heroes, not troops, that the Rus actually had.Wouldn't you say the same about vikings' berserks?

A) NO! Berserks and Ulfsarks were very real. They were also not nice people.

Q) Did you know that you can garrison dead enemy villagers inside light cavalry and bring them back to a town center?

A) I do now, but I sure don’t want to have it fixed. I think it’s great, don’t you?

Q) Sandy, if you had to fight in a grand medieval war, which part of the army would you rather be in?

A) Camp follower -- I want to be one of the guys who loots the corpses after the fighting is all over.

Q) The only way any of your suggestions become a reality anytime this century is if you stop playing the game. For every day Microsoft and ES sees the Age of Kings zone population 4000 and above, they see no real immediate benefit to making a patch. ES_Sandyman will spew any number of excuses it takes to get you guys to continue being suckered into a very boring game. It is the harsh truth, and unless a substantial number of people actually take a stand, NOTHING will happen. Flame away, but you're doing so at your own cost.

A) Get stuffed, you paranoid moron. This is possibly the most idiotic counter-intuitive thing I’ve read in the forum. You are saying that if people STOP playing AoK we’d do a patch? No way – patches aren’t done for dead games, only for living ones. The steady success of AoK is the ONLY thing that enables us to FORCE MS to publish the patch that we’re doing Right This Minute. You obviously have no ideas how business, capitalism, or the game community works.

Q) Will elephants be less susceptible to pikemen, camels and monk?

A) No. We like them as they are – powerful, but vulnerable to the right counters.

Q) Could we please get a unit that has a great attack bonus against walls, and only walls ?

A) Hmm. How about a battering ram?

Q) could you name all the UT's that won't reveal the civ that get them? you don't have to say what they do, just the names

A) The names, obviously, give away the civ. I mean, if before AoK I said one of the civs was getting the “berserk” you’d know Vikings were around.

Q) Is there any new unit that is stronger than an ETK or a paladin?

A) Not exactly … there is a new unit which is stronger than an ETK on a cost-effective basis. Paladins still rule – we like it that way. How could we do a medieval game that didn’t have powerful heavy cavalry? That said, Paladins don’t rule quite as despotically as they used to.

Q) Is there any new important tech which you think everyone will get, one time or other, in all of their games?

A) This is a good question. It made me think hard. But I guess the answer is no. None of the new techs will become a “must-have”, though all of them are useful at one time or another.

Q) Is there another counter to infantry? one that would be useful to stop the champ flooding

A) We like the champ flooding. Infantry is the Queen of Battle, and finally we got the Age system to work, so that infantry are good. But yes, there are a number of scary challenges to infantry supremacy. Here’s a few: 1) we have improved cav archers. 2) we have improved scorpions (so their bolt continues on past the first guy they hit). 3) we have improved arbalests to make them more popular. 4) at least two of the new units have anti-infantry biases. None of these are going to make infantry useless or even rare, and we don’t want that to happen, especially with all the infantry-based civs in the game. But they will make it harder to produce nothing BUT an army of champs and still survive.

Q) AoK rewards players for committing genocide and ethnic cleansing, with emphasis on killing the civilian population first Is this a morally acceptable activlty for people to engage in? Is exposing people to the fun of mass organized violence somehow a good thing?

A) I urge you to follow your conscience and cease playing this reprehensible game at once.

Q) In the map editor there is a button accessing 'heroes'. One of them is the French Paladin. I made a map and put one on it for my civ... and then when I went to play the map everything works as usual except I couldn't get that neato French Pally to do anything! OK, that's it! How do I get that French neat guy with his lance high in the air to fight? Or do anything beside stand there and look good? Does he have any stats?

A) I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m able to move him around the map and get him to fight and so forth. Sure he has stats. Just click on him and it says he has 175 HP and an attack of 15.

Q) How do you restrain yourself from fits of laughter when morons give you veiled (and very hollow) threats that they plan to go back to ROR or play SC/WC?

A) Luckily I am sitting here in my office. The door is closed, and I have Randy Newman singing "Great Nations of Europe" on the stereo. No one can hear me and I can chortle as loudly as I like.

Q) Do you give any credibility to those that claim *all* of their friends ditched AOK for ROR?

A) My theory is that they are unaware of the fact that RoR is also from ES, and so it pays our bills too.

Q) Which is your favorite X-pack unit?

A) The Khmer barking spider.

Q) the second goth UT does it affect their defensive capabilities?

A) Goths aren’t about defense.

Q) will the new market tech increase trade gold?

A) It increases the speed of trade vehicles. This not only increases the amount of gold you get from them, but obviously makes them less vulnerable, since they’re harder to catch.

Q) Will the Expansion Pack include the ability to turn over troops to your Allies?

A) No. We fear that if this was possible, it could be abused in all kinds of ways.

Q) Is there going to be any new european civ. in the x-pac? Preferably scandinavian.

A) While we are adding at least one new European civ in the X-Pack, it won’t be scandinavian – that’s what the Vikings are for.

Q) Do you think that in the movie the 13 Warrior (if you saw it), those weird cave people were actually exciled Berserks in the real-life account of that Arabic guy (forgot name).

A) No, I think they were left-over Neanderthalers.

Q) When the Mongols attacked Hungary, it seems like they easily could've kept going and annihilated the entire country but for some reason they stopped and never seemed to come back. I was wondering to exactly what I owe the survival of the Hungarians, since I'm partly Hungarian myself

A) You owe your survival to the untimely death of Ogatai, the Great Khan back in Mongolia. The inflexible law of the Mongols states that all candidates for the Khanate must return to the ancient capitol to decide upon the new leader of the empire. Three Mongol princes were helping command their forces in Europe (under the leadership of the brilliant Subotai), and so they and the army had to return all the way back to Karakorum. And they never came back.

Q) What would be a good unique unit if the Hungarians were to be included in AoK or in the x-pac even. And would they be more infantry, cavalary or archer oriented

A) The magyars would have to be cav-archers, in which guise they were the bane of Europe for many years.

Q) will the "archer" civ have a unit that compares in range and strength with the longbowmen?

A) No. Longbowmen will still be the longest-ranged missile unit.

Q) do you continue to deny that AoK contains nicotine and is habit forming in face of numerous scientific studies and reports to the contrary?

A) AoK is full of all-natural fiber, and is good for your colon.

Q) Do the Teutons will get faster units or better range units in the X-pac ?

A) No. That would change the whole nature and basis of their civ. We aren’t changing the civs by fixing their weak points – we’re trying to strengthen their good points. If we were to make the Teutons as fast as everyone else, with good ranged units, then they would become a boring generic civ. No way.

Q) Will the range of this feature increase when upgraded to Heavy Scorpion, or chemistry and other range modifiers?

A) the scorpion’s range has been fiddled with a lot. Heavy Scorpions do have a longer range. I think that at this time in the X-Pack barracks range upgrades don’t affect the scorpions.

Q) Are there a certain number of targets or HPs that the bolt can go through or is it entirely dependent on the range?

A) Range.

Q) Is there any new Techs in the castle?

A) The Unique Techs are in the castle.

Q) With the new farm queue, if you have farms queued up, will the "farm is dying" sound still trigger when a farm expires or will the prompt be skipped?

A) You do not hear the farm death sound if the queue is in operation.

Q) you said that arbalests were improved. Am I correct in assuming that this improvement affects either the range or attack? And if I am correct, wouldn't any improvement on either end make them almost indistinguishible from longbowmen?

A) The arbalest improvement does not affect their range or attack.

Q) has the Cataphract bonus against Mamelukes be/been removed?

A) Yes.

Q) No more AoK music then?

A) After the game starts up, you can take out the Conquerors CD and put your AoK CD in. Or Warren Zevon. Whatever you want.

Q) the Mongol Mangudai directly benefit from either a new XPac Tech or the Mongol UT?

A) The Mangudai is really terrifying in the X-Pack and we have actually taken some steps to tone them down ever so slightly.

Q) It would be useful to refresh those new to the forums as to what features will be exclusive to the X-pack, and not available in the patch.

A) The patch is not yet finished. My personal belief is that the patch will have no new techs, new civs, new units, nor new features such as ram garrisons or farm queues. The intent of the patch is to fix broken old stuff, not add new stuff.

Q) Yes, I am saying if people lose their interest in AOK, their would be more incentive for a patch to come out.

A) A dead game can’t be resurrected. What you’re saying just doesn’t make sense. If the game isn’t played any more, no one will do a patch for it. I haven’t seen any patches coming out for Dark Reign lately, have you?

Q) What cool thing did Alaric do on his horse, Sandy?

A) Oops, just went back and looked it up. It was a different Gothic commander I was thinking about. Sorry.

Q) Do you think the Goths "originally" came from Scandinavia, like my history professor?

A) Your history professor came from Scandinavia?

Q) Why do you think the Goths were so scared of the Huns, since they appear to have such potent military might at their disposal?

A) Obviously the Huns kicked major bootie.

Q) I have yet to find a good Castle Age counter to LBows mixed with a few knights.

A) How about: skirmishers mixed wth a few pikemen; lots of knights; war elephants. Ask around. I bet other players will have come up with plenty of solutions to castle-age longbows & knights.

Q) Has your team at ES ever discussed modifying the Technology Summary to include the techs researched by each player and the corresponding times?

A) Not really.

Q) How vulnerable are cav archers to lag now?

A) Lag has the same effects on them as it had before.

Q) If the byzantines can be counted as Roman, then the Russians can, does that mean the Roman empire didn't end until the czars were gone?

A) The Byzantine Empire can trace back a direct line of Emperors back to Augustus Caesar. The Russian imperial house tried to take to itself the cachet of being the proper spiritual heir to the Byzantines. But the Byzantines were the actual, physical descendents.

Q) With improved arbalests, will the brit arbalest be better than the longbowman?

A) No.

Q) how close did the Swiss come to making the final cut?

A) If we’d decided to place it in the Renaissance, they would probably have gotten in. But they were never seriously considered once we decided on the theme of the Conquerors.

Q) I think you just killed champions. You improved Arbalest, Cav Archer, Scorpian, and more gun powder units.. and more anti-champion units

A) One of our most important concerns in playtest & design was that old units which were good would not suddenly be weakened to the opint of uselessness. It is true that champions are relatively weaker than before, because of improvements aimed at other units. But they are very much still worth building.

Q) When your farm que runs out, and your farms start expiring, can you rebuild them just by adding to the que, or do you have to manualy re-assign villagers to re-build the farms that have expired?

A) A villager will only rebuild a farm if there is still wood left in the farm queue before his farm expires. If you wait for the farm to expire, and only then add wood to the queue, he won’t rebuild.

Q) Will the new units in the X-pack be available in the dark age?

A) There are no new units to train in the dark age. However, at least one of the new civs gets a new unit in place of the scout in the Dark Age. So the new units kind of make an appearance.

Q) Do you enjoy answering questions here?

A) Most of the time. Actually, almost all the time.

Q) Is the music for TC already finished?

A) I think so. Most of it is done for sure.

Q) Will the new civs have military oriented bonuses?

A) Just as with AoK, our goal is for every civ to get at least one military bonus and one economic bonus. Of the five new civs, only one does not get a directly-applicable bonus to its units, but that one civ is also a highly aggressive and flexible powerhouse.

Q) Have you started making the box cover for TC?

A) They’re working on it.

Q) Do you ever get a good laugh after you've looked at someone's prediction at an X-pack unit, or for that matter get inspired by what they say?

A) Yes and Yes. I am continually amazed by the obscure nature of the civs people suggest. But we get inspired too. Many’s the time we’ve watched some thread or another and decided that the solution people were talking about was the right one.

Q) is there any chance that, hypothetically, pressure from the Korean govt, etc, would make you leave out that civilisation?

A) If the Korean government threatened legal action of course we would drop a hypothetical Korean civ like a hot potato. But I don’t think that problem will arise again. We now watch all of our localization efforts carefully so are optimistic we’ll be able to handle similar problems in the future.

Q) Whilst making AOK and its x-pac, was there any civ which took lots of tweaking in their bonuses to work? Which one? Old or new civ?

A) Yes, a number of the civs took colossal tweaking, Both new and old. To my recollection, the old civs which required the most tweaking were the Britons, Franks, Saracens, and Mongols.

Q) iF the goths have 2 UTs, what slots will these UTS occupy in the castle orders menu

A) They are side-by-side. You can research one of them and not the other.

Q) do you prefer to have amongst thy troops byzantine monks with 3x heal speed, or teuton monks with farther healing range but 1x heal speed?

A) Since I’m not particular good at micromanaging, the teuton monks work better for me, because I don’t have to remember to move them up as often. But for more skilled players, I suspect the byzantines are better.

Q) I am from Greece and i want to say that Byzantines are not Romans

A) Don’t argue with me, argue it with the Byzantines. THEY said they were Roman. They were never even called “Byzantines” until centuries after their demise. They always called themselves the Roman Empire up to the very end. Other European nations also viewed them as the Romans, and called them such. I’m willing to admit that some Byzantine citizens were Greek, but this was also true under the full Roman Empire.

Q) Are all of the X-Pack civilisations mentioned currently in the History section of AoK?

A) I sure hope not.

Q) The X-patch in my opinion should include morale in battle. For example if a group of champions were flanked by some cavalry the cavalry should get and attack bonus and the champs an attack deficeit, and if your men were being slaughtered they would begin to run, and be slightly less responsive to commands(but the samuria would not run, because of honour.), etc

A) Our experience is that players really hate having control of their units taken from them.

Q) Have you read Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six? If so, did you like the book?

A) I have not read it. I’ve read many of Clancy’s books though. I finally reached the point where I couldn’t stand reading them anymore.

Q) About the feature where your able to steal your enemys farms i was wondering is this a bug or was it put in deliberately?

A) It is deliberate.

Q) Any changes to bombard cannons in the x-pac?

A) Yes