- It's Contest Time!
- Posted by Mr Wednesday on June 18th, 2019 @ 12:58 p.m.
- A call to all you scenario design and editor enthusiasts. We are running not one, but two contests!
First off we have the Pretty Town Contest, by far AoKH's most popular contest of all time. Run once every two years (give or take), this competition pits some of the game's most talented designers the internet world over against one another. The theme? Design a pretty town of course! The contest rules focus on showcasing your mad designing skills rather than combat or grueling gameplay. Go HERE to see the list of heavy hitters already committing to enter, or go sign up yourself!
If that's not your style, perhaps you would like to join the Fantasy Scenario Contest instead. This contest focuses on making a playable scenario, but with a legend, myth, or fantasy angle. Come challenge other designers with your Robin Hood, King Arthur, or mythology scenario, or make yet another Helm's Deep scenario! Perhaps you will try your hand at some original storytelling? The choice is yours. Join the battle HERE.
- Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition Trailer Revealed!
- Posted by Mr Wednesday on June 11th, 2019 @ 12:50 a.m.
- Microsoft has unveiled the trailer for a 'definitive edition' remake of Age of Empires 2 at their 2019 E3 Briefing.
You can view the trailer now!
The trailer doesn't reveal much, but keen eyes will see loads of quality of life improvements, including complete redesigns of all unit and building graphics, full 32 bit colour, increased frames for smoother animations, destruction graphics for buildings, better water and terrain rendering, and even some sneak peaks at the four new civs and some unique units! Reddit users have broken down the trailer shot by shot, with a pretty great summary of all that can be seen here.
Join the discussion on Reddit, or sound off in the comments below. Is this DE enough to get you to buy yet another remake of your favourite RTS?
- Game of the Year 2018 - Results in!
- Posted by HockeySam18 on March 02nd, 2019 @ 06:10 a.m.
Voting has closed and the final results of the 2018 AoKH Game of the Year Awards are in!
Stealing the show were Bassi, Al_Kharn the Great, and Andreas Wagner, who produced a number of quality campaigns and scenarios that garnered the lion's share of the awards. This year brought AoKH a fine crop of simple and complex scenarios of various styles, and you would all be remiss if you didn't give them a go!
An honorable mention goes to Cataphract887, Rewaider, and BF_Tanks, whose releases continued to push the editor to its limits with the help of advanced triggerwork and new UP1.5 functionality.
Head on over to the forum thread to congratulate the winners!
- Game of the Year 2018 - Voting open!
- Posted by HockeySam18 on January 29th, 2019 @ 4:19 p.m.
At the start of each year, the scenario designing community comes together to vote and hand out awards to all the greatest scenarios, campaigns, mods and designers of the previous year. The time has come again, as the voting for Game of the Year 2018 has begun! Head on over to the forum thread and check out the nominees! Make sure you post your ballot before March 1st, though, because after that it'll be too late!
- Through the Ages: Custom Campaign Classics
- Posted by Mash on December 31st, 2018 @ 07:09 a.m.
- This article was written and submitted by our very own community member, Bassi.
Christmas - the perfect time to start this article series. When else can one indulge in such uninhibited nostalgia?
Over irregular intervals during the next few months, I'll be presenting old campaigns and scenarios that are considered classics in the AoE2 custom scenario design scene. I would like to share my thoughts on the respective works and, in each case, address the question as to whether the scenarios retain playing value today or if their value instead lies exclusively in nostalgia.
As I cannot claim to wield an objective opinion in most cases, I decided to produce articles rather than standardized reviews.
Enough of the preface - let's turn to the first classic!
I. Tamerlane, Prince of Destruction
What is it?
"Tamerlane, Prince of Destruction" is a 7-scenario-campaign by Mark Stoker. The AoK:TC version was released in October 2000, two months after the original AoK version graced the AoKH Blacksmith. The campaign has been downloaded almost 100,000 times over the past 18 years. This fact underscores the campaign's importance for the custom scenario design scene and proves that the fascinating story of the last great conqueror from the steppes continually draws new players under its spell.
"Tamerlane" can be justly described as Mark Stoker's magnum opus. After the release of this extensive campaign, Stoker released further scenarios, but after nearly two decades "Tamerlane" is still the campaign that is considered his masterpiece.
Strengths and weaknesses:
The greatest strength of this campaign is the freedom that it offers the player. Mark Stoker does not grapple with complicated trigger systems, and he does not limit the player in order to forge unique game play experiences. This certainly sets him apart from many other designers who took the stage in the following years. While there are certainly more impressive and sophisticated scenario concepts, only seldom have they stood the test of time so well.
Generally speaking, Stoker's scenarios conform to the proven game play concepts of the ES designers. However, Stoker has managed to increase the replay value of his Tamerlane scenarios through amazingly simple means. One such example are the decisions with which the player is sporadically presented: shall I camp in the half-ruined city to the west? Maybe I can rebuild the broken walls to fend off the enemy easily that way...or should I instead move east in order to occupy a less defensible but resource-rich village?
Another good example of this method is represented by main objectives that give the player freedom of choice. For example, in the fifth playable (non-cinematic) mission, we witness Tamerlane's conquest of Syria. In order to conquer this region, it is not necessary to conquer all Syrian cities, but it is enough to force two out of three towns to surrender. This scenario can therefore be won in various ways, which can motivate the player to master the mission again in a different way later. This is a very simple but nevertheless effective concept that is unfortunately still only considered by a few designers.
Another important point to mention is the AI. Stoker gave each player a custom AI that it appears that he scripted himself (although technically they are based on the script "Sample AoK AI File", by ES designer Greg "DeathShrimp" Street). The AIs may be somewhat inflexible by today's standards, but in 2000, it was not at all common to integrate one's own AI files into a custom scenario or campaign. In this respect, one can regard Stoker's efforts as that of a pioneer.
Naturally, the campaign also has some weaknesses. While the classic "Build and Destroy" scenarios offer entertaining game play, the "Fixed Force" scenarios are less exciting. In the first playable scenario, Stoker managed to strike a fine balance between hit-and-run-style Fixed Force and Build and Destroy; unfortunately, he did not manage to maintain this standard in "The Imperial City" (the mission covering the Timurid conquest of India). The design concept of leading a single unit from one end of the map to the other has only seldom resulted in an enjoyable game play experience. In the case of "The Imperial City", it is also an unmounted unit that you control, which renders the flow of game play even more tedious.
Somewhat less of a weakness, but nevertheless a point that one can quibble about, is the map design: the decision to depict age-old Persian cities such as Samarkand with an East Asian architectural style is questionable. In addition, one can certainly complain about the designer's choice to depict several regions in a verdant aesthetic in ignorance of the fact that that in reality they were arid plains and steppes. This relays the false impression that the majority of Tamerlane's campaigns took place in very fertile regions.
There are also narrative weaknesses. Stoker decided to cast the campaign in a relatively abbreviated historical context, which is by all means a legitimate approach. However, the campaign would have benefited from a little more accuracy for the sake of immersion. To call the forces of Tamerlane "Mongolian" without taking into account the Turkic background of the majority of his followers is one such examples of a false impression regarding historical context. The peculiar construct characteristic of the Timurid Empire, which followed a Genghisid model in its legal form while being in actuality a Turkish realm, is nevertheless portrayed in Stoker's campaign as a typical Mongolian Khanate. This deviates too much from the historical reality at the expense of immersion.
Additionally, not all players will find the juvenile, cartoon-like language used in the dialogues to their liking. Nevertheless, aside from a rather clumsy modern pop culture allusion in one of the scenarios, I find this approach quite entertaining and thus successful. It is notable that, while Stoker took his work as a designer very seriously, he was capable of not doing so to the same degree with the subject matter. The resulting light-hearted mood of the campaign is quite refreshing.
The majority of us have certainly played this campaign at some point. Considered once more, it is guaranteed to evoke a first-class nostalgic mood. This actually represents a major strength of this campaign; by no means are the majority of works produced in this era capable of triggering such feelings for the player. That is one reason why "Tamerlane" still works so well - many aspects of scenario design that were outstanding in 2000 still hold up today. Compared to many other scenarios that were released in the years 2000-2004, "Tamerlane" is in a noticeably different league...
Test of time:
...and thus stands the test of time. Certain aspects of this great work are certainly outdated, though. The weakest of Stoker's scenarios are those where classic "AoK-Heaven" mistakes were made: unnecessarily long cut scenes that detract from playability and boring wandering in regions with a paucity of detailed and utilitarian map design, are the campaign's greatest weaknesses. On the other hand, however, there are masterfully implemented Build and Destroy missions and solid Fixed Force portions. AIs capable of constructing and enlarging their camps contribute to the impression of a living world. Stoker tends neither to wish to control the course that the player sets, nor does he narrow the scope of the AI. The result is a fantastic game world that is fun to explore. Tamerlane remains a great campaign by a designer who clearly intended to produce a game, rather than a history lesson or a cinematic piece of art.
Screenshot 1 | Screenshot 2 | Screenshot 3 | Screenshot 4 | Screenshot 5 | Download Tamerlane, Prince of Destruction (Original) here!
Download Tamerland, Prince of Destruction (TC Version) here!
- SLX Studio Released - A New Modding Tool by Tevious
- Posted by Sebastien on November 15th, 2018 @ 11:39 p.m.
- Throughout the years, Age of Empires 2 modders have been very lucky to be able to use various different programs and tools for modding the game.
New developers arrived and improved upon their predecessors; making their programs easier to use as well as adding completely new capabilities.
This cycle continues with, what you could say, is the ultimate step in this developmental timeline. The capabilities of SLX Studio are more than anybody could probably have wished for.
SLX Studio, developed by former SCN Punk designer Tevious, is a brand new modding program containing tools for creating and editing SLP and DRS files. It comes packed with more functionality than ever before and is incredibly easy to learn and use.
Some highlight features of SLX Studio:
- Convert SLX to SLP / Extract SLP to SLX (and batch versions of these).
- Support for both 8-bit and 32-bit SLP versions with additional support for 8-bit AoE1 SLPs and all 10 player color indices. Works with SLP's for HD edition and even AOE: DE!
- Extract or Create DRS files for each game.
- Double-click graphic image for fast anchor/hotspot positioning. Also support for importing/exporting CSV files.
- Viewable selection boxes (including rectangular shaped) or selection rings.
- Generate Data Graphics tool with tolerance bars for shadows and player colors, creates outlines, auto-crops images, and can even split shadows into it's own SLX. This tool is necessary to convert from SLX to SLP format.
- Color Palette Editor/Viewer that supports multiple formats (Jasc .pal, Microsoft .pal, Photoshop .act, GIMP .gpl, and even rendering as .png images). It comes embedded with some commonly used palettes, as well as the option to import your own.
- Terrain tools. Create terrain SLPs of any size (rows and columns). Includes conversion tools to create an isometric terrain map from a texture image. Also, works with AOE1 terrains.
- Batch Palette Swap and Batch Replace SLP Colors tools that can be used to quickly recolor units.
- Other Batch image tools for recoloring pixels, changing image format, and creating data images.
- GIF tool with transparency support.
- SLP and DRS Viewer tools that can save anchor changes.
- Play animation support for SLX with speed settings.
- Zoom image support for SLX frames.
- FX Editor tool to draw various effects on frames such as various sparks, weapon fire effects, engine fire effects, transparency, holocrons, relics, and more!
- Delta Object Positioner tool to determine various object positions for things like snow and fire on buildings. Positions can be exported as CSV files to then manually imported into AGE.
- New automatic file association. Open SLP's and DRS files straight away in the SLX Studio SLP and DRS viewer.
This is just a small amount of what the program does; but it's most likely you will never have to open another modding program again! Well, except for Advanced Genie Editor for the data side of things.
SLX Studio can be downloaded from our Download Section! But be absolutely sure to check for updates, as Tevious is still developing, fixing bugs, and making improvements.
You can learn more about SLX Studio on the topic in our Forums here.
- Defend the Spot Competition 2018 - Results Announced!
- Posted by HockeySam18 on September 01st, 2018 @ 07:00 a.m.
The results of the 2018 AoKH Defend the Spot Competition are in! In a gripping standoff, Bassi narrowly edged Al_Kharn the Great and Great_Artiste for first place with a score of 125/150 points to Al_Kharn the Great's 111/150 points and Great_Artiste's 109/150 points. This year's contest provided us with an excellent set of entries to enjoy.
Head over to the contest thread to congratulate the winners, and be sure to check out all of the entries:
- The Siege of Caffa by Bassi - lead a staunch defense of the Genoese port of Caffa against the Golden Horde.
- Last Stand at Orkney by Al_Kharn the Great - lead shepherds and fishermen in a desperate defense against Norse raiders.
- Anageos (1494) by Great_Artiste - battle corsairs and sail the Mediterranean as Honore La Chapelle and his crew.
- Reliquary by BF_Tanks - hold your citadel against numerous waves of zealots.
- Horns of Hattin by Alkhalim - defy history and hold the Crusader camp against Saladin's relentless assaults.
- Sniper - A Dead End by HellKnight61 - pick enemies off one by one as a sniper in a tower.
- Game of the Year 2017 - Results In!
- Posted by HockeySam18 on July 06th, 2018 @ 2:20 p.m.
Voting has closed and the final results of the 2017 AoKH Game of the Year Awards are in!
Stealing the show were Al_Kharn the Great, Mash, and Bassi, who produced a number of quality campaigns and scenarios that garnered the lion's share of the awards. This year brought AoKH a fine crop of simple and complex scenarios of various styles, and you would all be remiss if you didn't give them a go!
Honorable mention goes to Julius999, Mr. Wednesday, and Lord Basse, whose Pretty Town Contest entries set new bars in the spheres of map design, creativity, and storytelling, respectively.
Head on over to the forum thread to congratulate the winners!
- Blacksmith Feature: A Crash Back Into The Past (06.26.2018)
- Posted by Mash on June 26th, 2018 @ 08:12 a.m.
- I wanted to do something different for the Blacksmith Feature and discuss not one particular scenario, but the works of one of my favourite designers, Crasher. Crasher was a past member of the now inactive Dragon Gaming Design Network (or DGDN for short) and was active from around the early to mid-2000s. Few designers during this time had the mind to combine atmosphere, map design and storytelling all into one complimentary blend, but Crasher was not only able to achieve this skilfully but in a way that was meditative and soulful too. His story writing drew upon a layer of depth I had not seen in many other scenarios before, while his fantasy-based designs were inspired and highly-entertaining. If there is any mark to put to his designing, it was that it often lacked the extra ingredient or layer of polish that would have seen it achieve higher acclaim. Perhaps it was more to do with his style of alternative over grand epics, or that he never truly built into a major scenario, seemingly preferring side projects such as contest entries and cut-scenes instead. Nevertheless, his best work presented well-crafted maps enriched with atmosphere and designed to a level of detail that generally brought out the best of what the editor had to offer at the time.
Crasher's Pretty Town Contest entries, A Lost World and my personal favourite A Different World, were seemingly years ahead of their time both in aesthetic appeal and craft. They each conveyed the mood and atmosphere of desolate island communities in a way that left a lasting impression with the haunting soundtracks and well-written prose to match. These are a must view for any map design enthusiast.
Then there's the fan favourite Attack at Dawn, which is a relatively modest yet immensely enjoyable classic B&D scenario with an RPG twist. Slangam, a powerful warlord from the north, is invading the valley and the small village of Akuror stands in its way. Led by three able warriors, you must prepare to make your stand. Being one of the first scenarios I ever downloaded, Attack at Dawn gripped me from the very start with its fantasy-inspired world and intriguing map design that invites you to go exploring.
Perhaps you have a taste for the theatrical? Then Immortal Prey will not only intrigue you but whet your appetite with its multi-layered story of mystery and betrayal. This cinematic scenario was in fact a prelude to a larger campaign that was never released, although having talked to crasher over the last year he still swears he'll finish it one day! It does however provide a worthwhile 15 minutes of entertainment in what is undoubtedly one of the best cinematic scenarios at the Blacksmith.
Enter the fantastical world of crasher's designs here:
A Different World ~ Rated 4.2 | A Lost World ~ Rated 4.0 | Attack at Dawn ~ Rated 4.8 | Immortal Prey ~ Eye of the Beholder ~ Rated 4.7
- Defend the Spot Competition 2018 - Sign up now!
- Posted by HockeySam18 on April 20th, 2018 @ 08:19 a.m.
The fifth Defend the Spot Scenario Design Competition (DtS competition) is under way! Held two years back to back in 2007 and 2008 and then again in 2013 and 2016, it has been two years since it was held. We hope for many excellent entries. This type of competition is not very difficult, so it is an excellent way for newer designers to show off their creativity. Don't hesitate to join!
What is a "Defend the Spot" scenario? Simple. The basic premise that you have to hold out for a while in a limited area against superior forces. The most common type of DtS scenario is a defense of a fortified castle or city against hordes of invaders, but a DtS can be the defense of anything - a forest village, a newly-found treasure, a hill during a surprise attack, the king's ship in the middle of the sea - the possibilities are only limited by your imagination!
So, what are you waiting for! Head on over to the contest thread and sign up!
Best of luck!
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