Ask Sandy XIX

Article written by Sandy Petersen
Originally published on 05-01-2000 ; updated on 03-13-2017
Tags: General Info, Ask Sandyman, Interviews

Q) About the petards, are they generally available to the civs?

A) Pretty much everyone gets petards.

Q) Are those REALLY the civs?

A) Yep. Glad you like ‘em. We knew some people would be sad that their pet civ didn’t’ get in, but we thought very long and hard about the civs we wanted in the game.

Q) Are the Amercian civs good in DM even when they dont have cavalry?

A) You only build cavalry in DM?

Q) Are the Persians improved?

A) A bit. Since horse-archers and camels have been improved, this naturally helps them.

Q) Do the Spainish have strong cavalry?

A) They have the full cavalry line & all upgrades. They do not get special cav bonuses, though.

Q) Are any of the new UU cavalry?

A) The Hun UU is cavalry.

Q) Are you upset that this info on new civs came out early?

A) Me? It is to laugh. I have been lobbying to give out information early all along.

Q) It says the Koreans UU is the turtle ship, so do they have a UU to create in the castle as well?

A) Of course. Their castle UU is especially Unique, too, if you know what I mean.

Q) The lack of "horses" by the meso-american civs seems to be raising the most eyebrows. Will Aztecs and Mayans have a substitute for the trade cart?

A) Well, actually, we didn’t bother to make a separate art set for the Meso-American trade cart. Sorry. They have donkey-drawn carts. You can pretend they’re dogs or something, though.

Q) Will there be any reason to build an Aztec or Mayan stable? or research any of the barding armor techs?

A) Aztecs & Mayans cannot build stables or research any barding techs. Those parts of the tech tree are simply closed off.

Q) Will their foot units have a higher speed to compensate?

A) Some of them.

Q) Is the Woad Raider still the fastest foot unit in the game?

A) No. But he’s much tougher in combat than one who’s faster.

Q) Do you like the meso-american art set? Are any units of theirs different looking besides buildings and UU's? Do meso-american castles look as cool as I think they will ?

A) The meso-american architecture is by far my favorite. Their monks look different from everyone else’s. Their castles are the best, IMO. (Yes, they’re stepped pyramids.)

Q) In your opinion, what is the coolest UT? Who gets it?

A) The Hun one, by far.

Q) Will there be an Eric the Red campaign? Who will he fight if there is?

A) There is an Eric the Red scenario in “The Conquerors” campaign. He fights other vikings, eskimos, and skraelings.

Q) When a petard is destroyed, does it go out with a bang or a whimper?

A) A satisfying thud.

Q) Is there a possibility for a second expansion, or is ES set on moving on to the next game?

A) We would never rule out any possibility.

Q) my question Sandy is about the units...The aztecs and mayans would get champions, crossbowmen etc.?

A) Yes, they do. They also get their own units, including one “semi-unique” unit (it’s not exactly unique, because they both get it, but no one else does). The Mayans & Aztec armies definitely look meso-american. They are very distinctive.

Q) What are turtle boats?

A) The world’s first ironclads, built by the Koreans to thwart an early Japanese invasion. They looked really cool. Incidentally, think “dragon-turtle”, not a boring old tortoise. They are covered with hexagonal iron plates, spikes, have a dragonhead prow breathing smoke … they are great. They’re the largest naval unit, physically. Like most good Korean units, they are very expensive, but very powerful.

Q) What exactly do the Huns represent?

A) The guys who were led by Attila, who were thwarted by Pope Gregory, and who dominated Eastern European politics for hundreds of years.

Q) Why the Huns? Despite all the posts claiming they were fundamentally different from the Mongols I don't see any fundamental differences

A) I guess you should have read the posts, then

Q) How are the american civs going to stand up against cavalry? Did the aztecs/mayans even have a pikemen type unit?

A) They had guys who fought with long spears. I fail to see much difference.

Q) How are you planning to work around the problem that the aztecs/mayans never had navies/gunpowder/trebuchets and really never had any exposure to any of it.

A) They actually had navies (and fought massive naval battles in the lake surrounding Tenochtitlan). We don’t give them gunpowder. And they had as many trebuchets as did the Goths or Japanese

Q) What art set do the Huns use?

A) Eastern European, because that’s where they settled.

Q) Why the Huns over the magyars/slavs/russians?

A) They’re far more famous and exciting. If we were to announce that the X-Pack would have “magyars” in it, most people would go “huh? Who?” but everyone’s heard of the huns. They make terrific bad guys, too.

Q) Why such an unstable civ?

A) They were highly important in their time, first of all, and they made for a really fun civ to play, second.

Q) the meso-americans get a guy on foot as a scout huh? Is he as fast as the scout? And does he have a lt.cav style upgrade? Same cost?

A) Yes. He is not quite as fast as a scout, but he is tougher in combat. He does have an upgrade, and his cost & his upgrade cost are totally different from those of the scout cavalry line.

Q) What are you going to do about the meso-american civs and the persian, frank, and mongol team bonuses? Will they just not benifit at all? Don't you think its big disadvantage to forfeit a team bonus?

A) No I don’t think it’s that big of a disadvantage to forfeit a team bonus. Do you? Do you hate it when you play Britons allied with Turks? The Britons get no team bonus in that case. How about Persians allied with Goths? While the Persians technically can use the Goth bonus, in practice they don’t ever apply it.

Q) Will the spanish unique unit have a gun, or a pike, or neither?

A) The answer is not “neither”.

Q) Someone asked you if there is a faster unit than the Woad. I hope that you arn't refering to the Aztec UU, because you stated that the Woad is MUCH more powerful.

A) The Aztec UU is slower than the Woad Raider. It’s actually a good thing that the Woad Raider is faster, because the Aztec UU eats Champions for breakfast.

Q) Would you be able to tell me what I would need to become a game designer at ensemble studios? Also, I am 16 now and 17 in october. If I went to a 2 year college, would I still be able to work on the last aoe game

A) Look at our web site. Look at the type of qualifications needed to be a designer here. My personal belief is that a two year college term is grossly insufficient for the background needed for proper game design.

Q) Is the Mayan wonder "La Castilla" at Chichen Itza?

A) I think it’s based on Tikal.

Q) I imagine the Mayans would be a powerful monk civ, is that a correct assumption?

A) Nope. We gave the super-monks to the Aztecs who, in our opinion, were even more priest-ridden and superstitious than the Mayans.

Q) I like your civ choices, is it possible that you could squeeze another "surprise" civ in there?

A) Thank you. It is highly unlikely we’ll add another civ. Actually, the Koreans were kind of a “surprise” late addition to the X-Pack. We’d originally planned only 4 civs.

Q) Are horse archers still the fastest moving unit in the game, besides Lt. Cav?

A) Yep

Q) If we assumed that hussars were an upgrade to Lt. Cav, would they move even faster than Lt. Cav?

A) Hussars are the Imperial light cav upgrade, but they are not any faster.

Q) how can the meso-americans thwart packs of horse archers with nothing that can hope to catch them?

A) They have ranged units …

Q) I wonder if there's any chance to make it a bit more open to the public in the future.

A) Besides the in-game scenario editor, you mean? Technically releasing the game’s code & architecture is a decision for MS, not ES. In either case I doubt it would happen until the next game comes out.

Q) Any chance that you might make the Meso Americans too strong?

A) We have been testing & beta-testing for months specifically to prevent serious civ imbalance. While anything's possible, my gut feeling is that AoK:TC is far more closely balanced than was original AoK.

Q) Are the Huns the civ without champions?

A) I had to go look up the answer. I’ve never tried to train many infantry as a Hun player. It turns out that Huns don’t have champions, though.

Q) My friend across the hall always wants to play Command and Conquer with me, but I want him to try out AoK. He doesn't believe that AoK's a smarter, smoother, and generally sounder game. What should I do?

A) Play C&C with him, and if you find it to be inferior to AoK, tell him so in strong terms. Once you’ve played both games, your opinion will be more valuable.

Q) Did you, or anyone else in your company, think about being able to add a moat around a Castle?

A) Yes. And I spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to put it into the game.

Q) Are the Unique Techs the Civs get mostly Military or are some Economic?

A) They are almost exclusively military.

Q) Was there any overall improment to the AI?

A) The AI is better, plays faster, etc. than before. He regularly has a castle time less than 18 minutes now, for instance. But he is not phenomenally better than before, only incrementally.

Q) What Civ in your opinion benefits the most from their unique Tech?

A) Wow that’s tough. Depends too much on play styles. Everyone always gets their unique techs anyway, as soon as they can afford it. Maybe the Saracens do the best. Or the Mayans.

Q) How many Civs were toned downed Military wise?

A) Only the Teutons, and only in regard to the TC.

Q) will the Turtle Boat look anything like this? <pic deleted>

A) Looks just like the picture you showed. Except more elliptical, and with smoke streaming from the dragon’s nose.

Q) Will any of the new civs get more than one Unique Unit?

A) Well … the Koreans do.

Q) What's next after AOKTC?

A) RTS3 I guess.

Q) Could you tell us what the mayans strength is?

A) They are an economic powerhouse.

Q) Is the petards a UU?

A) Nope.

Q) Will the Aztec UU beat a Berserk?

A) One on one it will.

Q) Will The Aztecs have an infantry bonus?

A) They have an extremely powerful infantry bonus.

Q) Is the Aztec UU either an Eagle or Jaguar Knight?

A) I think I let slip earlier that it was a Jaguar man. The art looks spectacular.

Q) the Koreans UU is a naval unit. If the Koreans "castle UU is especially Unique" - does this mean, the Korean castle is built on water?

A) Er … no. The Turtle Ship is built from a dock. Their other UU is especially Unique in that no other Unique Unit is much like it at all.

Q) The Conquerors" campaign will be a series of unrelated, single scenario conquests, Eric the Red, the Norman Conquest, etc?

A) Correct.

Q) Will the Gepidae make an appearance in the Attila campaign. Will they be represented by Goths? Will there be an Ardaric hero?

A) I have not played most of the Attila campaign. In the first scenario, though, you get to plot your brother’s murder

Q) Will the petard be made at the barracks, castle or siege workshop?

A) Castle

Q) Is the Hun UU Stronger than a Paladin?

A) The Hun UU is easily defeated by a Paladin.

Q) Some archaeologists now think that there is evidence that there may in fact have been horses in the New World in pre-Columbian times. Besides, doesn't the Book of Mormon mention horses in the ancient Americas?

A) The Book of Mormon does not in fact mention horses. It mentions “chariots” though, which would imply some kind of work beast. But the Book of Mormon civs are not represented in AoK:TC.

Q) Are the Poles or Russians really that boring or unknown?

A) When the average person thinks of a Pole or a Russian, he thinks of a guy who lives down the street. When he thinks of a Hun, he thinks of a savage mounted warrior who burns and pillages. Even when a person thinks of a Poles or Russians in military terms, he’s probably going to think of them with regards to WW2 or later times, not the middle ages.

Q) What language will new civs speak? It's clear with Spanish and Koreans, but how about Aztecs, Mayan and Huns?

A) The Aztecs speak Nahuatl. The Mayans speak one of the Mayan dialects (turns out there are 20 or so …). No one knows what the Huns spoke, but the linguistics professors we spoke to said they probably spoke a kind of proto-Mongol tongue, so we had them speak Mongol.

Q) Will the Turks be improved at all?

A) The turks are changed in lots of little ways. They are still a late bloomer, though. We didn’t want to change the fundamental dynamics of their civ.

Q) Will the new civs get chemistry?

A) The Aztecs & Mayans do not get any gunpowder units. Except maybe the petard (who represents, in their case, more of a saboteur than anything else).

Q) Will any of the new civs have the combination of Bombard Towers and Siege Onagers?

A) The Koreans do.

Q) How does the Aztec econ fare? The Mayan?

A) The Aztec & Mayan economies are quite good. This being, after all, one of the areas in which everyone agrees they were equal or superior to contemporary European civs.

Q) What on earth could the Hunnish wonder be?

A) The Hun Wonder was a tough one to figure out. We finally just made one up. We thought of a lot of possibilities first, though. A big pile of skulls? A wrecked cathedral? A great big heap of loot? In the end, their wonder is pretty cool, but also very amusing. I predict, however, that it will be one of the least-seen buildings in the game – about as rare as the Goth Wonder.

Q) Can you tell us anything about the Spanish?

A) They are a powerful “generalist” type civ. The closest thing I can compare them to would be the Romans of RoR, except without the specialized military that the Romans were given.

Q) Any comment about the general personalities about the new civs?

A) Aztecs & Mayans are economically strong, and militarily specialized. Spanish are an all-around solid civ. Koreans tend to build high-end, expensive, but valuable units. Huns are a rush civ.

Q) Will the Celts be a match for the Meso-American Civs? They reason I ask is that it seems your just moving Celtic bonuses over to you know where.

A) There is no overlap between the Celtic & the meso-american bonuses. A Celtic champion is faster than an Aztec champion. A Celtic pikeman is faster than a Mayan pikeman. Neither civ get a woodcutting bonus, or a siege bonus. The only similarity is that the Aztecs & Mayans tend to produce a lot of infantry, but this is also true of Goths, Vikings, and Japanese, and no one thinks they’re too much like the Celts.

Q) Will the Turks get Hussars free too?

A) yes.

Q) What is the name of your favorite wonder?

A) I dunno. Maybe the Korean one. It’s quite possibly the tallest Wonder of them all.

Q) What boat would you use to counter the turtle ship?

A) Multiple demolition ships.

Q) What type of boat is the turtle ship?

A) It is a sea superiority vessel. It is not particularly good at hurting land-based targets, so once you get control of the waves, you’ll still need cannon galleons.

Q) I know that aztecs have powerful monks but because they share the same major difference from the other civs (i.e. no cav), will the two american civs be very simillar to play?

A) We were very concerned about this point. The Aztecs & Mayans are, as a result, two of the most different civs in the game to play.

Q) Anyway, because of the lack of cav, will the mayans and aztecs: 1. Be hurt bad in imperial 2. Have a tough time destroying seige 3. Excell in a lot of other areas 4. Have faster infantry 5. Be paralyzed for DM play

A) No. NO! Yes. No. I’m not sure.

Q) the Aztec and Mayan UU will be the same right?

A) Of course not. Why would we do that? They have extremely different UUs.

Q) About the turtle ships, will they be hard to destroy?

A) They are the hardest ship to destroy of them all. But you pay through the nose for them. You don’t see massive fleets of turtle ships swarming the seas.

Q) Whats the bad thing about the turtle ships?

A) They're slow-moving, expensive, and take forever to construct.

Q) What's the oldest game that you are still playing?

A) Super Mario 64

Q) In AoK, the best rush unit for messing up the enemys econ is the knight, will any of the new unit be as good as the knight or can also be used to mess up their econ?

A) The Aztecs & Mayans have a unit which is also good for rushes, but is not as tough as a knight. Also I submit that the Turkish Light Cav is good for rushes, because they get it as soon as they hit castle.

Q) Is it possible to rush with Mayans and Aztecs? And don't say that they can rush with infantry, no civ can, some archers and its bye, bye to the infantry.

A) If they back up their infantry with skirmishers they can do a fine job. Or if they use one of their new units in the rush. They can also rush with foot archers.

Q) Why is it so important that the TC fix is kept so secret

A) Beats me. I just do what I’m told.

Q) Don't you think its better to use knights to rush when playing mongols and then when the l.cav upgrade is complete send in the l.cav instead of waiting until the l.cav upgrade is complete and then send in the l.cav?

A) Well I build them as scout cavalry and start them moving towards the enemy town before I research light cav. If you start producing the scouts during your Castle research, you can actually get your troops into the town faster than if you make knights (because you can’t make the knights until after you hit castle).

Q) I think if u had included an african civ or 2 the fun factor would have remained high, can u give the reasons for which why u didnt include the african civs

A) We couldn’t do both Africa & America (only one new architecture set). And, frankly, the meso-americans spent more time fighting Europeans than the the Africans did.

Q) u say the meso-american civs dont get stable units, then what unit or units makes up for the lack of knights cause in castle age warfare, knights seem to dominate the scene and i dont think many people would wanna choose the aztecs or the maya's in a map such as arabia where castle fighting dominates or am i wrong,please explain.

A) All I know is our playtesters choose Aztec & Mayan quite often.

Q) which civs get the hussars

A) Hussars are pretty common. Ten civs get them.

Q) How in the heck are the Huns going to be different from the Mongols as far as gameplay?

A) Wait and see. One big difference is that the Mongols typically come in and shoot up your villagers, using shoot-and-scoot type tactics. The Huns, on the other hand, come in and destroy your town directly, leaving a blackened waste behind them.

Q) Will the American civs have their own unit art set?

A) They do not have a completely new art set. They do have new monks, though, and their new units are relied on sufficiently that their armies have a very different look-and-feel.

Q) It was reported that the turtle ship would be slow, expensive and armored cannon ship, and you said it was the largest ship in AOK. Was this done for game play reasons or historical accuracy?

A) Both.

Q) Since some of the new civs in the x-pack lack horses, you have increased their abilities elsewhere on the tech tree. Does this mean original AoK civs which are weak in cavalry will have trouble fighting these horseless X-pack civs.

A) Not at all. We are balancing all the civs together as best as we can. The Goths are perfectly able to defeat the Aztecs, and vice-versa. Fundamentally, it comes down to player skill. I mean, ALL the civs who have weak cavalry have compensating advantages.

Q) who will get Halberdiers?

A) Everyone who needs them. Horse-strong civs usually don’t, for instance.

Q) What do you mean by the Korean UU being extra "unique"?

A) It is not infantry, foot archer, cavalry. It is something new.

Q) Are there no 'new' units, or what you call 'new' units, are they all upgrades from existing units?

A) No, there are completely new units that aren’t upgrades. Petards, for instance.

Q) Are any of the new UU Eliphant archers?

A) No. Spanish, Korean, Huns, and New World civs all did not deserve elephants.

Q) Why do you reply personal questions?

A) I respond to questions that amuse me. I’m here for my own enjoyment too, you know.

Q) I think you should eliminate the mayans. Why you forgot the mighty incas?

A) We inserted the Mayans because we knew we wanted the Aztecs, and as long as we were putting in a whole new architecture set, we wanted to use it on more than a single civ. The Incas would deserve a different architecture set, after all. Their buildings didn’t look anything like the meso-american ones.

Q) Will the current civ stack up to the X-pac civs or will there be a distinct advantage on the part of the new civs?

A) I will say that the new civs will all fall in the “upper half” of good civs. Probably at least three of the new civs will be “top tier”. I mean, why add new civs that are inferior to the old ones?

Q) Is the turtle boat mightier than the mighty longboat?

A) Sadly, the mighty longboat meets its match in the turtle ship. However, the longboat is a lot faster-moving, so it can run away and cheaper to produce, so you can make more.

Q) Am I right to say that the unique unit to both meso-american civs is the unit that replaces the scout cavalry in the starting of the game?

A) No.

Q) What is your favorite new civ to play?

A) Aztec or Hun.

Q) What's that radical civ you spoke of?

A) You don’t think civs lacking all horses & gunpowder are radical?