Archived News From March 1999

Due to the old age of most of these news items, all hyperlinks have been disabled. It is also not possible to comment on any of news. They are presented in their current form purely for your reading pleasure – it’s the closest thing to a time machine we can offer you!

New AoK fansite
Posted by Omnivac on March 31, 1999 @ 2:25 p.m.

LOWLY but surely, the Ager community start to get into the mood of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings with more websites appearing on the net every now and then. Some of them are from "old timers" making a comeback into the community after a short leave of absence, as it’s the case at GoW Universal Empire. zx75 invites you to the new GoW – Age of Kings. Tell him Omni sent you.

First look at Raiders’ building set

At the Ensemble Studios website, you can read today the second part of The Life and Works of Hildegard von Bingen. While there, I saw a suspicious gold button with a warning DO NOT CLICK! Hmmmm… What do you think I did? wink.gif (135 octets)

Dark Age House

It opened up a small window with the description Dark Age House while a picture was loading, the one you can see to the right. That’s only my guess, but if I knew better, I would say this is a house from the Raider Civilizations building set. All the other houses we saw prior to that looked more like permanent structures while this one looks pretty much like you could pack it up, and move elsewhere on the map.

As a last note, "moving" buildings wil not be necessarily in the game. A lots of ideas have been running around about the Raider civilizations (Vikings, Celts, Mongols) and what will be their final play options in the game are presently unknown. Some ideas that look great on paper are sometime very annoying when you play the game.

One thing for sure though, Raider civilizations will be in the game in one way or another. ES stated that they will make them work.

Angel Omnivac

Pictures from the Gamestar CD
Posted by Omnivac on March 30, 1999 @ 7:59 p.m.
Middle East Wonder

RCHAGE made a nice little photo album with pictures from the Gamestar CD that Breydel sent him. A few pictures are showing formation options like columns, lines, wedges and squares for putting your troops into marching order to wage battles. You can also see the wonder from the middle eastern building set. Go take a peek.

New polls

We have a new poll, this time asking what is your favourite player colour? Among the choices are the eight original colours of Age of Empires, new ones that was seen in the screenshots of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings, as well as some suggested by the fans. Cast your vote now.

Ensemble Studios new poll ask Which movie comes to mind when you think of AoEII: AoK? Head over there and cast your vote too. While you’re there, take the time to read the The Life and Works of Hildegard von Bingen.

Angel Omnivac

The knights of Gamestar
Posted by Omnivac on March 28, 1999 @ 2:45 p.m.

HE picture you can see on the right comes from the German magazine Gamestar, on sales presently.This is a portion of a 2 pages wide picture scanned by Lionheart_III, and he decided to share it with us. You can click on the thumbnail to get a better view, although the resolution is somewhat blurry. But hey, it’s better than nothing. smile.gif (93 octets)

Welcome Washizu!

I was getting lonely, so Washizu will fly over here to share the daily workload with me and help with the upcoming "stuff". As time passes on, other angels will flock in in different sections to kick the site into high gears. Welcome Washy to AOK Heaven.

Angel Omnivac

Electronic Entertainment Expo ’99
Posted by Omnivac on March 25, 1999 @ 4:45 p.m.

HE world’s premiere trade show for the Interactive Entertainment industry, sells out for the fifth consecutive year. More than 400 exhibitors from around the world are scheduled to completely fill 525,000 net sq. ft. of exhibition space with the latest in interactive entertainment and educational software and related products. This year the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) returns to the Los Angeles Convention Center, May 13 – May15.

Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA), said that this year’s exhibitors will include at least 60 foreign companies and 109 first-time exhibitors. E3 is the ultimate annual rendez-vous to launch new products of the PC and video game industry, as eloquently shown last year with approximatively 1,600 new titles.

Like last year, Ensemble Studios will attend E3 with their upcoming title, Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. Lots of stuff should be revealed during those days, with a more complete finished look and features. Leading to this big happening, information will be slowly revealed on the net with showcases in the same vein there was for the expansion pack of Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome.

Like last year too, Heaven will send Angels to E3 to get more details and tidbits about Age of Empires II: Age of Kings for you, with daily updates straight from the convention center’s floor. Yepper, you will get another Heaven @E3 this year again.

The Cardinal’s impression on AoK buildings

The Cardinal, one of the lucky playtesters that took part in the local Dallas Area "Usability Testing" of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings shares his thoughts on the bigger buildings of the game.

When I play AoE and RoR I always made a perfect little city straight in a line and easily defendable. However, the size difference in AoK makes that basically impossible. Dont take that in a bad way I think they look really good that way, it just makes you change your strategy a little. I made the first mistake of building walls early in on the game thinking I had enough room, and found out that I didnt leave quite enough room to fit in all the buildings I wanted. So I had to destroy some buildings to fit new ones in. Of course this was my first game so I had not realized how much room I needed but now that I know, it is an easy mistake to fix.

Angel Omnivac

The Cardinal plays with the Kings
Posted by Omnivac on March 23, 1999 @ 11:42 a.m.

ESTERDAY, Ensemble Studios started their local Dallas Area "Usability Testing" of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. Q & A Director, Chris "Torgo" Campbell was flood with many local requests, even from all over the world, and selected players of all types, from novices to experts, so that they can give feedback and comments on the game, how it’s easy to play, interface ease of use, and basic playability issues. The Cardinal, a frequent poster in the AoK Forum, had the pleasure of being selected and last night he went to the ES War Room for some Medieval butt kicking. Here’s what he had to say:

Tonight I was lucky enough to be one of the Beta Testers of AoK at the ES building. I cant really let out any information about the game but I wanna just tell you what I thought of it. IT IS GREAT!!! Let me tell you that it will definatly be worth the wait. It has so many new techs and buildings and great graphics, it is just amazing. Almost everything has been improved from multiplayer to scenarios in some way. I was able to play one multiplayer game so I choose the English (and yes the Longbowmen are sweet). But in the end I was massacered by Chinese crossbowmen, dumb me left a hole in my wall, but before it was over I was able to kill a unit with my gate (hehe) which was the highlight of my game.

Each civ has its own language which it speaks, and the buildings are in sets like middle east or western.

I cant really speak about specific units, but I will say you are in for a treat when you get to play them, there is much they havent told you about them. The game is starting to look pretty complete. Some of the artwork was not quite finished and they have a lot to touching up to do. And like they have been saying, they are still changing stuff around a lot trying to figure out what works the best, but you can play a game and only notice a few things that need work. I cant really say anything specific about the markets except that your in for a suprise, it is very cool being able to use it in a tight situation. In my opinion it was the biggest gameplay difference from AoE. I only caught a glimpse of the AI because I was playing a multi-player game, not aginst the computer so I dont really have anything on that.

Angel Omnivac

The "Killme Files" from GDC
Posted by Omnivac on March 22, 1999 @ 3:01 p.m.

HE Ensemble Studios team that went to the Game Developers Conference is back at the… castle. 3D Engine Specialist Herb "Killme" Marselas is kind enough to share with us his presentation material on an overview about memory types, bandwidths, and throughput issues. Examples are given for the issues involved in transferring data between various memory areas as well as for working with memory data on the CPU, with sample source code also provided.

Grab a game before the others!

We bring you two cool contests from Gamestats News Network for you this week. The first one get you a chance to win a copy of Starsiege and to get it before it hits the stores. Justice T bravely entered the "Black Van" at GDC and managed to secure a few copies for the contest. You can read his day-to-day report about the Game Developers Conference here!

The other contest is about Asheron’s Call, an online multiplayer role-playing game developed by Turbine Entertainment Software Corp that should be commercially available sometime this fall. However before that they need playtesters to make sure all the bugs are worked out and to give input and observations on the title, and that’s where you come in, to be part of the Asheron’s Call Beta Test Team. Check out the countdown in the right column of this page and be ready to sign-up.

Angel Omnivac

Play AoK during Spring break
Posted by Omnivac on March 20, 1999 @ 2:30 p.m.

AN FRANCISCO – March 15, 1999 – The hordes of college students making the annual Spring Break pilgrimage to Daytona Beach, Florida next week may find some of the hottest action isn’t on the beach or in the bars, but in front of a computer screen.

Beginning Saturday, March 13 and continuing through Friday, March 26, Computer Gaming World, a Ziff-Davis (NYSE: ZD – news) publication, will turn the lobby of the Daytona Beach Holiday Inn Sunspree into its "Spring Break Testing Room” to preview some of the hottest computer games of Summer ’99. A bank of computers will be available for Spring Breakers to test drive Microsoft’s yet-to-be released Age of Empires 2 and Midtown Madness, Interplay’s King Pin and Sierra’s Half Life, recently voted "Game of the Year” by the editors of Computer Gaming World.

Age of Kings preview at GameTropics

You can read a preview of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings at GameTropics. Here is a small excerpt:

Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings is due out this year and will use the same game engine as Age of Empires. However this does not mean that Age of Kings will look and feel the same. Ensemble Studios has gone to great lengths to make this game better from it’s predecessor. Lots of new features have been added and of course the game is in a different time line. Age of Kings will take players through the Dark ages when kingdoms flourished.

History of Joan of Arc

In Age of Empires II: Age of Kings, the campaigns will follow great heroic figures where players will attempt to relive their great deeds and actions, whether it is Genghis Khan, Frederick Barbarossa, or Saladin. On the Ensemble Studios website you can read a lentghy resume about the history of Joan of Arc, and what will probably be a campaign featuring the famous Maid of Orleans.

Trying to capture territory that rightfully belonged to Charles, the English soon broke the Treaty of Troyes by invading central France. In 1428 they attacked the city of Orleans, about eighty miles south of Paris. A victory here would have allowed the English a chance to control all of southern France. But they were stopped by the French, who were led by a seventeen-year-old peasant girl – Joan.

Angel Omnivac

Voting poll reset
Posted by Omnivac on March 18, 1999 @ 12:30 p.m.

HANKS to Voltemand who alerted me about the AOK Heaven weekly Poll. One of the choices (the second one) was not working correctly and nobody was able to vote for it, so it had some unexpected results. The poll has been reset so feel free to cast your vote again on how should Ballistics affect Siege Weapons in Age of Empires II: Age of Kings.


Our host, Gamestats News Network sent Justice T, our intrepid Editor In Chief to the Game Developers Conference this year. He will check in each day by sending back Game Developer Diary entries, and maybe will have more coverage for Age of Empires II: Age of Kings as most of the Ensemble Studios crew is there at the conference. Check it out! Even more detailed reviews and previews coming next week from JT and company at GDC!

The AOK Battlefield goes Celtic

For the St Patrick’s Day, BravenIrish of the AoK Battlefield did a special on Celtic history for you to enjoy. It is nicely well done and very interesting to read.

In 1286, a freak occurance led way for Scotlands inherant Queen to be a 3 year old child named Margaret living in Norway! This is the time in Scotland’s history when the Guardians of Scotland took control. Both the family of Bruce and the Balliol’s claimed their right to the throne, saying that they were descended from the line of David I (1124 – 1153, son of Alexander I). Civil war in Scotland was just around the corner, and the two most powerful families, namely Bruce and Balliol began to seize castles and territory of strategic value. They decided to approach Edward I of England to ask him to restore order to the kingdom.

Don’t satisfy yourself with just this, and pay a visit to the the AoK BAttlefield!

Angel Omnivac

Age of Empires II: Age of Kings preview
Posted by Omnivac on March 16, 1999 @ 9:30 a.m.

T’S Strategy Week time at Gamespot UK, and amongst the numerous games to be previewed and reviewed, Age of Empires II: Age of Kings was of course on that list. Elvis Bacon and Steve Boxer were there at Gamestock ’99 and you can read about their impressions of the game, as well as a few words they’ve exchanged with Bruce Shelley himself, Lead Designer at Ensemble Studios. Here’s a small excerpt about multiplayer games.

The multiplayer game is likely to stay pretty much unchanged. Shelley says, ‘We thought it worked very well in Age I. There are some new interface things to make it work easier – some of the stuff you saw in Rise of Rome is going in, like if you double-click on a unit you select all of that type of unit. Or, if a farm depletes, it’ll re-grow if you right-click on it rather than forcing you to go through several steps.

New Studios poll

Cast your vote at Ensemble Studios, because Lead Designer Sandy Petersen would like to know what you think about "All things being equal, which is better?"

1. Having a wider variety of civs to choose from.
2. More kinds of units.
3. More different buildings, with their technologies.
4. A more varied terrain, perhaps including seasons, that kind of thing.
5. None of the above.

The result of their last poll about an expansion theme for AoK has been posted too, and the clear winner was A new time period. For instance, the Renaissance. Make your vote count because, without a doubt ES is checking what the fans would like to see in a potential expansion pack for AoK.

Wooden walls, tall torches, and little lanterns

Ensemble Studios’ Webmaster Mike "Archangel McCart answered some more questions in the GameStats Sneak Peak at Age of Kings forum. Here are some interesting quotes that give definitive answers on subjects that was not clear until now, like the wooden pallisades that ar available in the Dark Age, but could players still continue to build them later in the game or they would be replaced with stone walls.

The wooden Walls (we like to call them "Pallisade Walls") are available in the Dark Age (The First Age) and is also available in all the other Ages along with the Stone Walls…

Remember.. Features can change between now and shipping.


The "tall torches" are stand in art for a new type of building/feature for game play.. More of this later.


The little lanterns as you call them are relics… More of this later also.

Mike "Archangel" McCart, ES Webmaster

Angel Omnivac

Duncan McKissick interview
Posted by Omnivac on March 14, 1999 @ 9:58 a.m.

UNCAN "Reverend" McKissick, 3D Artist at Ensemble Studios took a little break from his busy schedule, the universal church of life, and "smoking" people with Turkish Hand Cannoneers and Bombards (Let’s not forget the little green men too wink.gif (135 octets)) to have a talk with us. Duncan is the artist at Ensemble Studios, alongside Thonny Namuonglo, responsible for all the cool looking units and their animations in Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. Duncan even showed us the unit he was working on at that time, the Mangonel which is a unit of the "Catapult line" that throws lots of little stones. You can read it all in the The Game section under Feature Articles.

CNN Interactive’s Gamestock ’99 coverage

You can find a summary of all the games featured at Gamestock ’99 on the CNN Interactive website. Age of Empires II: Age of Kings is of course mentionned, but nothing newsbreaking. Well, it’s rather short but I found funny the "ridiculously entertaining multiplay". Will the marriages that survived Age of Empires and Rise of Rome, survive The Age of Kings?

Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings
(release date: Fall 1999)

Bruce Shelley and team are at it again with AOE II: The Age of Kings. This time around, gamers play the roles of Middle Ages nations, all competing for world dominance. Expect this sequel to be loaded with epic enhancements, including an expanded technology tree representative of this particular era, remarkable graphics (buildings are 50 percent to 100 percent larger), and ridiculously entertaining multiplay via LAN or Internet.

Angel Omnivac

The studios get "Ion" Stormed
Posted by Omnivac on March 12, 1999 @ 3:08 a.m.

OHN Romero and the Ion Stormtroopers invaded Ensemble Studios last Wednesday night to do some Age of Empires II: Age of Kings testing and to revive the good ol’ Age of Empires rivalry between Ion Storm and Ensemble Studios. Between mayhem & destruction in 4v4 team games and some pizza, the Ion dudes returned the favour by showing and playing deathmatches of Daikatana, their upcoming game that will take the 3D first person shooter world by storm (no pun intended). Visit ES website to read more about this cool evening and to see pictures of the gathering.

Something cool’s coming

This weekend, Age of Kings Heaven will bring you an interview with 3D Artist extraordinaire Duncan McKissick and a nice picture of the Mangonel he is currently working on. Click on Duncan to see it if you cannot wait till then.

I'll show you my Mangonel this weekend!

In Age1 I did a lot of the buildings, all of the terrain, a little bit if the units, and a majority of the Icons. In Age2 Thonny Namuonglo and I are working 100% units. There are significantly more units than in Age1 so it’s a full time job creating them. Currently I am working on the Mangonel which is a “catapult type” of unit that throws lots of little stones. Duncan "Reverend" McKissick, ES 3D Artist

Angel Omnivac

Upsurge in speed
Posted by Omnivac on March 11, 1999 @ 2:42 a.m.

INCE yesterday, our host Gamestats News Network installed a new pipe on the server and the result was an upsurge in speed which gaves faster loading times for you, the visitors. Peak hours should be more pleasant from now on. Great work, dudes!

Pic from the Gamestar CD

AoK on Gamestar CD

Not only can you read the article Ensemble Schreibt Strategie-Geschichte: Age of Empires II in the new issue of Gamestar, but on the CD that comes wrapped-up with the German magazine you can see various animations and scenes from Age of Empires II: Age of Kings, as well as a filmed visit of the Ensemble Studios offices. I thought I would include this little pic from the CD where you can see a never-before-seen castle and… hmmm, I wonder what happened to those guards? Click on the thumbnail to get a better view.

From the Forum

More answers from the Ensemble Studios crew in the AoK Heaven forum. One dealing with when the demo of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings will (should) be available.

shouldnt the demo come out before the game? – Iceman 2937
The reason most demo’s come out after a game is released, is that to do a demo, you need to create a subset of the programming and art.

If you create it before you ship, that’s time taken away from actually shipping the product. The demo might also include bugs that are fixed in the shipping version, or might be missing art that’s included in the shipping version.

It’s a better quality product, for you, the educated consumer.Herbert "Killme" Marselas, ES 3D Engine Specialist

Why have a set population limit? – milo
Like everything else, it’s a gameplay issue. Secondarily, it’s a technical issue.

The default pop for AoE/RoR is 50. So, all aspects of the game are balanced around having 50 populations slots to fill with the units you create. The AI is also balanced at 50 pop.

Changing the pop up or down a little, probably won’t have the big of an impact on gameplay.

Changing the pop a lot (say, to 200), can create situations that won’t be balanced: maps too small, overwhelming numbers of certain units, running out of resources, etc.

Technically, a huge pop can also be a problem due to the amount of work the simulation and graphics need to do to move 200 units around, and draw them as well.Herbert "Killme" Marselas, ES 3D Engine Specialist

A few words from the Benedictine Monk

Let me first say thanks to all the Ager’s that have sent me Did you know’s. I have literally received hundreds in the 6 months or so that we’ve had them on Heaven. I know that the quotes haven’t changed in a while, but hey … I’ve been busy with other things … what can I say. So I’ve scoured my emails & have selected just a few for everyone to enjoy – Angel Algernon (The Benedictine Monk)

Did you know that castles had flags not only to indicate what royal family was there but to aid archers to know where to aim when the wind blew. – Ted Westmoreland

Did you know that all the crusades but the 3rd were failures. Richard (the lion-hearted) made a treaty with Saladin (a strong muslim leader) to not mistreat the Christian Pilgrims going to the holy land. Saladin agreed to make this pact. He also sent fruits and water to Richard who was sick and set all Christian captives free (not part of the deal)! – MHawk166

If the English found someone guilty of treason, they’d quarter them and be-head them, and place thier remains along the london bridge while putting their heads on stakes that were atop the bridge. – Kast361

Look for some more updates from Angel Algernon in the upcoming weeks.

Angel Omnivac

Ensemble Studios at GDC Expo
Posted by Omnivac on March 09, 1999 @ 3:43 p.m.

HE GDC Expo is way more than just another pretty trade show. Whether you optimize code, design algorithms or interfaces, debug, or lead a programming team, the Game Developers Conference has more to offer you in 1999 as this technical exposition features exceptional tools, technologies, and critical services. Plus Two of the Ensemble Studios highly skilled programmers will be at the Game Developers Conference 1999 in San Jose, Ca March 15-19.

Game Engine Design RoundtableDave Pottinger
This roundtable is a comprehensive discussion of the issues facing game engine developers today. Topics covered include: advanced 3D graphics; how to reuse the most code possible when writing software and hardware version; how to squeeze the most out of 3D accelerators; solid multiplayer communication models; data abstraction and usage within the engine; scripting language integration; and different ways to define object systems.

Don’t Starve that CPU! Making the Best of Memory BandwidthHerbert Marselas
Utilizing memory bandwidth and understanding data flow issues to cache, main, and mapped memory is more important than ever in creating high performing games to take advantage of voracious CPUs and graphics accelerators. This lecture presents an overview of memory types, bandwidths, and throughput issues. Examples are given for the issues involved in transferring data between various memory areas as well as for working with memory data on the CPU. Sample source code is also provided.

Quotes of the Archangel

Here is a serie of quotes from the GameStats Sneak Peak at Age of Kings Forum from Mike "Archangel" McCart of Ensemble Studios. While it was known that each civilizations will "speak" their own language in the game, Archy gaves an answer about the music. Another interesting quote is about the upcoming showcases that will be featured at the Ensemble Studios web site. All this information of course is as of today. Tomorrow is another day, and it may changes for the release of AoK as features come and go as fast as an Assyrian Jihad Villager.

Buildings and areas in the Scenario Editor can be cut, pasted and rotated for ease of building better scearnios.. This is not a game option..

The Castles have ton of hit points and can defend (and units can be garrison in it)… as for the "burn" graphics – we are still looking at destruction graphics for buildings…

AH! The music and sound people here (Stephen Rippy) are real happy with the Civ sounds and music. As you should know by now.. Each Civ culture will have its own Language and music score.

Hopefully Ensemble Studios will be starting the showcase series in the next 2 to 3 weeks. Each showcase will have designer comments to go with screen shots and images (Like the Rise of Rome Showcases – if you remember those 🙂 – Mike "Archangel" McCart, ES Webmaster

Visit the Gamestats AoK Forum if you have some questions to ask. John "Imperious Rex" Hoskins of Gamestats News Network was over there at Gamestock 99 and had the chance to play AoK. He may have some answers for you.

AoK section at Total Synopses

Kooky, webmaster at Total Synopses informed me a new Age of Kings section has opened over there. While you pay him a visit, check out the links section too where you can vote for your favourite AoK site.

Angel Omnivac

Taunts will never be the same
Posted by Omnivac on March 08, 1999 @ 3:18 p.m.

OW many times have you been in the heat of battle, and desperately needed to call for help, but you know if you even think of typing a message to your team, you’re dead? That’s over now, because BattleCom lets you talk to your teammates and opponents in real time while you play your favorite multiplayer games, including Age of Empires, Rise of Rome, and most assuredly Age of Empires II: Age of Kings!

I know in the past few months there have been several mentions and news about "live communicaton" programs, but yesterday I finally went into my first RoR game with a microphone/headphone headset and it was a total blast. It is very spooky to talk with your opponents and allies, particularly when it’s someone you’ve known for quite some time on the net. Taunts will definitely not be the same. biggrin.gif (135 octets)

Up to 64 players can join one BattleCom session! What’s the point of having 64 players in one session? Won’t too many people talk at the same time? Yes, they will – that’s why BattleCom lets you set up private channels within a session, so each teams can talk separately! All you need is a normal modem, a microphone, a full duplex sound card and you’re in business! For most games, a 28.8 modem and a Pentium 133 will work fine. When playing the game of RoR yesterday, there was no increases in lag beside the game "freezing" for about 2-3 seconds once in a while, I’d say 3-4 times each half-hour or so. Nothing really annoying. This test was done with the new released Battlecom Beta that will expire March 23rd. Go grab it and try this out!

Scenario editor

ES Game Designer Greg Street talks about what looks like a very promising AoK Scenario Editor with more powerful tools. It should please all the scenario designers out there.

The AI and PER files are now both handled by a single PER file. I think you will find the ability to make a computer player do what you want vastly improved over AOE’s trial and error method. The things you can do in AI file are staggering.

We tried to make editing these files easy, but we also wanted to make them very powerful, which can work against making them easy to understand.

If you thought there were some great fan-created scenarios for Age1, just wait until you see what people are going to come up with! – Greg "DeathShrimp" Street, ES Game Designer

ES_Killme interviewed @ Mist’s Town

Ensemble Studios 3D Specialist and destroyer of civilizations (until he meets Omnivaric the Goth, hehe), Herb "Killme" Marselas, made an halt at Mist’s Town to refresh his troops while going to another one of his crusades. Chuck exchanged a few words with him and made an interview.

Just as there is a secret solution to tone down the power of a zillion archers, there’s a secret solution to tone down the ability of a siege weapon to hit you fast moving units. There are actually many secret solutions to a number of things in Age of Kings, they’re just secrets and we haven’t talked about all of them, yet.

Angel Omnivac

Outlaws out,… and Outlaws in?!?
Posted by Omnivac on March 05, 1999 @ 5:21 a.m.

N the AOKH forum, you can find more updates and informations from the Ensemble Studios employees. One is dealing with the famous Outlaws and what might be their fate in Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. It is very likely that we will not see them in multiplayer games, but that they will do nonetheless their dirty deeds in singleplayer scenarios and campaigns.

Struggling to improve yourself is fun. Being annoyed is not fun. Outlaws were not fun, so they are gone. If they get back into the game, it will be because we know for sure how to make them fun, and think they will enhance the game.

The general principle we try to follow is that a player should be beaten because of what his enemies do, not because of what the gaia computer stuff does. – Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen, ES Game Designer

Outlaws are still in the editor. I see no reason to take them out. –
Greg "DeathShrimp" Street, ES Game Designer

The Sandyman’s Challenge

During the superchat of Gamestock last week, it was said that the Archers have been toned down to avoid having them reign supreme on the battlefield, but in a new original way. Some Agers speculated, trying to find out what it could be, but with no success.

Wow There are generally so many surmises about every given subject, that normally at least _one_ person gets it right in almost every line of speculation I read. Not this time, tho. . – Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen, ES Game Designer

Ideas, anyone?

Angel Omnivac

Gamespot preview Age of Kings
Posted by Omnivac on March 04, 1999 @ 00:52 a.m.

FTER covering the new Microsoft lineup of last week Gamestock, it was only a matter of time before Gamespot would write a more in-depth preview of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. Elliot Chin talks about it in details, as well as revealing more new features like using flares in multiplayer games, which will be very helpful, I must agree. What the flare is that?

The random map generator, a feature that was so vital to Age of Empires’ success, is back, and it’s smarter. There should be fewer maps that start you in a barren wasteland. One feature in multiplayer games that we saw was the inclusion of the flare. This lets you light up an area of the map so your allies can assist you there. No more having to describe in detail how to get to the desired hot spot. Now you just send up the flare and yell for your ally to meet you there. Audio cues will also be more abundant so you can engage in fierce combat and be alerted when your empire beckons with a completed technology or a ruined farm.

The Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

Nope, that’s not where the Angels of Heavens Gaming Sites eat, sleep, update the sites and play computer games. This is Tian Tan (officially known in English as the "Temple of Heaven") located in Beijing, the capital of China. This is one of the pictures Angel Zen brought back with him from his three weeks trip in the land of mandarins and dragons. Although completely built with tiles & wood in the 1400’s, he could not attest if it has more than 600 HPs, or maybe he did not wanted to go Ballista over it because of the guards around him, hehe. Click on it to see a bigger view, and see how it matches the Wonder from the Asian building set of AoK. Pretty amazing and nice work from the Ensemble Studios artists.

Some Heaven changes

There’s a new voting poll at the right of the page, and it will change every week or two. The first poll is probably not new for most of you, but feel free to cast your vote again.

Due to popular request, the "Did you know…" tidbits are back on the main page.

Angel Omnivac

Age of Kings in PC Gamer
Posted by Omnivac on March 03, 1999 @ 4:09 a.m.

ETTER scout your local store, newsstand, or library very soon to pick yourself up a copy of the April 99 issue of PC Gamer where you can find the article The March of Time.

Microsoft hit critical and financial paydirt with the original, and the prospects for a repeat performance are excellent if our early look at Age of Empire II: The Age of Kings is anything to go by. Join us for an in-depth peek at what could be the next real-time strategy powerhouse.

Among other things, queues are now "multi-unit" meaning you can have your stable pump 10 Light Cavalry, 10 Knights and 5 Camels instead of being limited to only one unit at a time like in Age of Empires: Rise of Rome. It gets even better with gathering points where your military units will group themselves together when they’re being built, or with economic units such as fishing boats. Build 6 fishing boats, select the destination and basically forget about them as they will start fishing on their own. Players can even set the computer to help them manage their trading automatically if the fighting gets too rough.

The issue also contain description of the new map types where Agers will meet their future opponents, whether in single play or on-line:

The swampy lowlands are full of shallows and rivers that may divide players or teams.

Everyone begins inside a walled city, but the resources there will be quickly depleted. It’s a good idea to send out advance patrols along the routes to be taken by scouting parties in search of new resources.

Don’t get too comfortable with the area where you begin play – the island you start on can’t support you for very long, so be prepared to move to the mainland where the fighting is fiercest.

Team Islands
Everyone on you team shares an island. This isolation will give you breathing room at the start of the game but you must stay alert for the inevitable enemy transports.

Very Black Forest
Islands of grass in a sea of trees will make it difficult to be aware of where enemies are located and you might need to chop through a forest to reach your opponents. At least you’ll have plenty of wood for buildings!

Age of Kings in Gamestar

The German magazine Gamestar also has an article about Age of Empires II: Age of Kings in their April 99 issue. On the CD that come with the mag, there is also a preview of the game where you can see formations on the march and other various scenes, all in animated splendor. Almost a must even if you don’t read German, hehe.

Heinrich Lehnhardt of Gamestar talked also to Bruce Shelley about his plans for the future. Heres what Bruce said:

– Ensemble Studios will release four parts: Age of Empires, Age of Kings, Age of Discovery, and the last one has no name yet.
– Age of Discovery (Bruce Shelley’s favourite period of history) will cover the epoch from 1492 to 1918 when World War 1 ended, letting players build wooden boats up to mighty battleships.
– there might be a brand new 3d engine for Age of Discovery
– the last part, which will be released in 2003 will cover the epoch from the end of WW1 to the near future, including all the WW2 units.
– Then Bruce said they might start over again, just to insert new design ideas and new technologies which have been developed since good old Age of Empires I.
– There are also rumours of a second, new formed Ensemble team, working on a role-playing game in the tradition of Diablo.

Danke to bj from Hamburg, Germany for the information. He also translated a few of the planned civilization attributes from the article. Note that this could change anytime though.

Franks (frightening "rowdys", very strong attack units, bonus on farming, ideal for expansion).
Goths (cheap infantry, good for early attacks, ability to build huge amounts of troops).
Japanese (good architects, gathering buildings cost less, bonus on mobility and
flexibility, special unit samurai can use sword and bow).
Persians (bonus on building, bonus on researching techs, defensive civ).
Saracens (bonus on marketplace -> lower prices -> more gold from goods, bonus on light cavalary and bowmen).
Germans (good protection against rushers, bonus on defensive units, towers fire four arrows at one time).
Turks (bonus for all gun powder units).

Angel Omnivac

NEW screenshots and units!
Posted by Omnivac on March 01, 1999 @ 6:46 p.m.

EW screenshots from Age of Empires II: Age of Kings can be found in the Images section. Pick up your magnifying glass once again and inspect every tiny pixels available for any new clues you might find like a new unit, looks like a spearman to me, standing guard in a town. Also, the units section of The Game just has been updated again with accurate information and a few new units like the Light Cavalry, the Eagle, and the new Battering Ram.

More buttons revealed

If the four buttons of the diamond map were not mysterious enough for you, then there are more to guess at. Noteworthy is the small text above the diamond map which says Idle Villagers: 5, for helping players to keep track of the lazy Villagers in their kingdom. The orange button on the top left is probably there to go directly to idle Villagers when you click on it.

And these are the buttons you can see at the top right of the screen. The second one is to chat quite obviously while the others are not too clear. The crossed swords might be to declare war although it would be best done in the diplomacy screen which you would access by clicking the parchment (scroll) button. The crossed swords might simply be for talking to the enemies (and taunt them), and you click the mouth to talk to allies. As for the tree…(?)

Ore is no more… almost

While almost everybody noticed that only four icons for the ressources (Food, Wood, Stone, and Gold) were on the interface in the new screenshots, nothing was really said about the current state of the fifth ressource. Here’s the latest about Ore:

Ore is gone and will probably not return. We decided there was too much micro-management involved in processing ore, and it made it difficult to accumulate enough gold.

I am sure we could come up with a way to make ore work in the game if we tried hard enough, but right now we are focussing our efforts on more interesting things…like raiders.

Making a sequel is always a choice between improving on an existing feature or leaving well enough alone. In this case, we thought the resource model from Age1 was fine. The market and trading add enough new elements. – Greg "DeathShrimp" Street, ES Game Designer

Angel Omnivac

Units Section starting to fill up
Posted by Omnivac on March 01, 1999 @ 4:46 a.m.
Teutonic Knight standind guard

HE unit section of the new AoK Heaven has started to fill up. Units are not divided into Ages category as this information is not available yet, so you will find them in the unsorted category. Note also that the information on some units may not be totally accurate at this present stage, and that it will be updated as soon as it becomes available. You can find them in the units section of The Game.

Gamestats News Network new contest

Since the Alpha Dactyl J1001 is not yet available in stores and many of our readers may not have had a chance to lay their hands on one yet, Gamestats News Network decided to give our readers a shot at grabbing one of these units before most people even find out that they are available!

To that end this week they are giving away not one, but TWO of these beauties.

If you would like to be able to plug in more than one controller at a time, if you are interested in being able to switch between analogue and digital devices quickly and easily then you will want to go HUBa HUBa and get your hands on one of these!

Angel Omnivac