Archived News From April 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!

PC Gamer Top 100
Posted by Omnivac on April 29, 1999 @ 11:58 p.m.

F you picked up the latest issue of PC Gamer (June 99), you can find in it a showcase of the hottest new games coming our way between now and the end of the year – a Hundred computer games in all! Age of Empires II: Age of Kings made the list quite naturally, and was given a release date of October. I will stick with an Autumn release though, until I see something else on the Ensemble Studios or Microsoft website. You can also see in the mag a full spread 2-page ad for AoK.

Also in the top 100 is Pharaoh, the upcoming sequel of Caesar3 from Sierra/Impressions. You can find more informations about these games at our sister sites Caesar 3 Heaven and Pharaoh Heaven. Oooh, and you’ve got to see the new look of Pharaoh Heaven… Hamlet outdone himself again. Dunno where he find time to do this when all he does is playing Tzar and writing about it.

Formations on the battlefield

Well, one point was made finally clear in a response from Greg Street in the forum. Formations will be very cool to look at marching across the field, but depending on which one you have selected, it may means a different outcome after a battle. Formations in Age of Empires II: Age of Kings are definitely not just for parades.

Formations are cool. Yes, they do look really neat marching across the field, but they have an effect on gameplay as well. I promise.

Choosing formations will help you win a battle, but we don’t want people playing the game to have to constantly be clicking all over an interface. There are some great games where you can fuss over the exact position of every pikeman in your army, but AOK is not one of them. Facing damage was an example of the kind of detail that slowed the game down. It became a click fest to get your armies turned around before the enemy hit you. Realistic? Perhaps. But it was not fun in an Age of Empires game.

Rest assured that any feature we came up with that wasn’t fun got the boot. No one here wants to cram stuff into the game just to add more features. Quality over quantity. We want AOK to be perfect. Some features got cut (just like yards and yards of film get cut when making a movie), but for every facing damage that gets cut, there is a Market that works beautifully.

I can understand why it may seem like we are being secretive, but think about it from our perspective. There is still a bit of time before the game comes out, and if our most hardcore fans start thinking about AOK as "old news" then it is hard for us to keep up our enthusiasm to keep working such late hours on the product.

Right now, people fly into the forum talking about some new feature they heard about. The day that stops happening, participation in this forum, and all of the buzz about AOK will start to dry up and I will be very sad.

E3 is coming up and no doubt a lot of information will come out of it. The showcase series will also continue and may even branch out in topic. – ES Designer, Greg "DeathShrimp" Street

Speaking of E3, it is about two weeks away and you can count on me to learn everything about AoK, and Heaven will have a preview about the game. About time to have a preview from addicted fans to give you a new perspective on Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. And if something should slip between my hands, then there will be Angel SpineMan, Hamlet and Deepwater to catch it. Heck! You will know how many hot dogs DeathShrimp eats for dinner if you want to. smile.gif (93 octets)

Paparazzi Omnivac

More info from ES
Posted by Omnivac on April 28, 1999 @ 5:34 p.m.

‘LL join with many other Agers and thank Ensemble Studios for their continuous presence in the the AOKH Forum and answering questions as much as they can. Today, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen again answered in a few threads and talked about civilization imbalances and how they will solve this problem. From his post came out also a new fact about Age of Empires II: Age of Kings which sound rather interesting.

Except for brief moments of imbalance, when a bug or database problem would cause a particular civ to be grossly advantageous, no one civ has proven to be dominant over the rest. Obviously, our fervent goal is to prevent that from happening. Equally obviously, we are playing a game that changes daily (as we constantly try to make the balance ever more dynamic, yet equal).

When the game is released, hundreds of thousands of gamers will play the game for months. It’s possible that they may find tricks of play that lead to one civ or another being somewhat superior or inferior. We’re striving to ensure that doesn’t happen, or at least that if it does happen, it will be true only under limited conditions (for instance, if it turns out that a civ with huge naval bonuses has an advantage on archipelago maps, that won’t be the end of the world). We’ve adopted several ploys in addressing this issue: numerous map types, support for random civs & random maps, a variety of victory conditions, special team bonuses, and individual civ bonuses that are kind of like comparing apples & oranges. We think we’ll succeed. – ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

Byzantine Unique Unit

Andyhre wrote a very descriptive post in the forum, trying to shed some light at the true identity of the Byzantine Unique Unit. Will it be Cataphract, Klibanaphori, Varangian Guard, Skutatoi, or something else completely? Since the Byzantine unique unit will be the most famed Byzantine military unit, I agree with Andyhre that the Klibanaphori would be it. If you have some comments, drop a line.

Angel Omnivac

Funny things heard at AoK playtests
Posted by Omnivac on April 26, 1999 @ 4:44 p.m.

VER wondered what it would be like to play early versions of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings? When a computer game is continuously updated with new data up to several times a week, there’s a good chance some little coding here will affect gameplay over there, and what you get is some unexpected results. In the later stages of a game creation, more and more bugs are squished out as the code becomes more and more stable. Herb "Killme" Marselas from Ensemble Studios compiled a small list of things heard during AoK playtests. Enjoy! smile.gif (93 octets)

– You can walk through walls/water/cliffs/etc, so please try not to do it
– Shallows will be invisible today …
– Get your galley out of my town center!
– … and, then all my villagers turned into females
– … a pile of 10 dead wolves, and they just kept coming!
– Don’t get the last resource upgrade for _____, it’ll only give you 0.000000001 of that resource per minute.
– Okay! pause the game! everybody delete your _______, they have 10000 hit points, they’re obviously a screw.
– Oh look! wolves do splash damage!
– What kind of map was this supposed to be?
– I guess we should raise the price on ______ since someone built 50 of them
– Yeah, gold ran out about 20 minutes into the game … and that made the remaining 3 hours pretty tedious at the market
– Uh, deathshrimp, there’s just a little too much forest on this very black forest map … but i collected 45000 wood! (no lie, i’ll see about posting the "trail of tears" screenshot after AoK ships)
– I set a waypoint here … and then my villager suddenly appeared on the opposite side of the map
– (on an island map): what do you mean transports don’t work?
– Watch when you garrison units, they seem to ungarrison into hyperspace
– … then I hit imperial and my pop cap went down to 10.
– So, 100 towers was too many? I think we better adjust the amount of stone …

Vote for Age of Kings!

The new instant poll at Gamespot ask which real-time stragegy game are you most looking forward to? Head over there and cast your vote to let them know who’s the KING!

The Dark Secret of DeathShimp

Scenario and Campaign designers will have more "goodies" to play with in their Age of Kings creations than in Age of Empires. Agers in the last year kept asking for several features, options and such things, but the Scenario Editor that will be shipped with the game is always under a veil of secrecy. Looks like the Designers are in for a surprise when they fire up the scenario editor on their computers and start to use its many options. And as for the art (Gaia stuff and otherwise), anyone remember the DeathShrimp’s Gaia Gallery?

I try very hard to keep a lot of our scenario art objects secret because part of their function is to reward and surprise people playing through the scenarios. In fact, it was a little disheartening seeing all of the ROR scenario objects posted on the net so quickly after the game came out. I think it diminished the effect of running into Mirror Towers for the first time.

Have faith! – – ES Designer, Greg "DeathShrimp" Street

Angel Omnivac

Age of Kings Preview
Posted by Omnivac on April 24, 1999 @ 5:34 p.m.

TEVE BAUMAN of Computer Games Online wrote an excellent preview of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. It’s a very interesting read with many comments from Ensemble Studios‘ Game Designers Mark "Marko Polo" Terrano and Bruce "Bruck" Shelley where they explain in one instance, why facing damage was removed from the game. It also deals with the complexity of computer games and where do you draw the line between the casual gamers and the hardcore gamers without alienating one or the other.

As with all sequels, the designers of Age of Kings are faced with a basic dilemma: what do we add, what do we change and what do we keep? Exacerbating that problem is the original game’s emergence as a more mass-market type of product. This introduces a new problem—the usual sequel paradigm of "more, more, more"—more features, more control, more… stuff to play with—runs the risk of alienating those casual gamers. They may find "more" to be synonymous with "too complex."

Small take on the Byzantines

The Byzantine mix a good defense and quick advancement to the Imperial Age that makes for a killer combination. Probably only the Turks and Goths have a fearsome enough offensive capability to bust through Byzantine defenses quickly. Other civilizations can do it, too, but it takes longer, as witness the following story by Sandy Petersen:

Last night’s playtest, my team was (finally) winning late in the evening. The last holdout was Byzantine, and we had fits trying to wipe out his adorable little fortified town. He had these gross Byzantine towers that were incredibly difficult to knock down. When we moved in trebuchets to kill the towers, he’d charge out with a pack of Byzantine uniques and my stinking fully-upgraded Saracen heavy-horse-archers just could not stop the charge. We _could_ kill the Byzantine uniques but not before he’d knocked our trebuchets into jackstraws. Very frustrating. Probably I should have used infantry or mamelukes to defend the trebuchets, but hey, I’ve never claimed to be the best player in the world. We did finally win, but I was left in awe of what a Byzantine player can do if he digs in his heels and dares the world to come after him.

Note: earlier I was able to destroy several attempted colonies of Deathshrimp (who was also playing Byzantine) on my island. But to be fair I never let him have time to build up the full Byzantine might before he was dislodged again. – ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

Note the use of "Byzantine uniques" in the story. The Byzantine Unique Unit is still unknown but we’re getting closer to their true identity. At the Gamestock ’99 Chat Event, it was revealed that the unit has legs, pretty much eliminating a Dromon naval unit or other fire-spurting ships. Add to this that fully-upgraded Saracen Heavy Horse Archers have a hard time against them (High piercing armour and/or many many HPs) and that they can do a nasty charge.

Anyone for a second guess about the Byzantine Unique Unit? smile.gif (93 octets)

Angel Omnivac

The Yaminojapanashang???
Posted by Omnivac on April 23, 1999 @ 6:30 p.m.
Japanese Samurai rock, dude!

LTHOUGH we known the details of one civilization of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings (and this is said fast since it’s already not accurate in some parts as you’ll see in the comments of Greg Stret), Agers started to speculate on the possibilities of the Japanese and how they will be like in the game. Everybody agree that they seem to be a naval powerhouse that could put the Shangs to shame, but that is until we know what the other civs are like, and how the "AoK universe" will be different from the "AoE/RoR universe".

Even if the Japanese have a good economic bonus, other civs should compete with them, as Greg Street explain:

We have tried to give all the AOK civs an economic bonus. You are correct that it is a challenge to come up with that many interesting and relevant bonuses, even if you discount the fact that we are trying to avoid rehashing civ bonuses from Age1.

However, it would be pretty lame to trumpet 13 civs if there weren’t meaningful differences among them. If we didn’t want real differences among the civs, we might as well say there are 50 civs, and just make them all virtually identical except for the name!

Also keep in mind that even the info in the hallowed civ showcases is not set in stone. Some of the stuff for Japan has already changed, and doubtless will change some more as we continue playtesting. – ES Designer, Greg "DeathShrimp" Street

A little more about Unique units

The Unique units of each civilizations will be available in the third age, and can be built in a Castle. With the recent information of the Japanese Showcase, it was learned that the Vikings woulg get TWO Unique units instead of one like all the other civs. The only reasonning I can guess at, it’s that Longboats must be pretty bad on Hill Country maps. smile.gif (93 octets)

Sandy Petersen expanded a little on the unique units, revealing that one civilization will have access to its unique unit only in the fourth age.

Unique units get a super-bonus upgrade in the 4th age that makes them way more effective. Also, unique units usually don’t appear in the third age for the simple reason that building castles is expensive, and it’s frequently not done till the fourth age. Finally, at least one unique unit can’t be built in the third age, even if you have a castle. – ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

Angel Omnivac

Japanese Showcase
Posted by Omnivac on April 20, 1999 @ 8:20 p.m.

HE Japanese Showcase is now online for all the crazed agers to read, and look at. You will find at Gamespot enough information and Images to help you wait for the second showcase in two weeks featuring the Britons (renamed English civilization). Here’s a little tidbit from the 6 pages Japanese showcase but I don’t even know why I bother to put it there. You’re probably gone already and not reading this. smile.gif (93 octets)

The Japanese have full access to all infantry troops, archer troops, and all ship units except for the upgraded demolition ship (a floating bomb that destroys multiple ships in a radius). The Japanese monk (priest equivalent) also gets access to all monk upgrades, making the Japanese an effective religious power. The Japanese will thus be able to build powerful ground armies and naval fleets. The Japanese should be most powerful in the Castle Age and will be strong on all island maps due to their bonuses.

Sandyman about Unique and Super units

ES Game Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen talks about the difference between super units and unique units of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings in the AOKH Forum.

SUPERUNIT = expensive fourth-age last-stage upgrade of a unit. Example: AoE’s cataphracts, legions, and so forth. By this definition, there are a bunch of superunits in AoK. As in AoE, the superunits are shared among various civs, though no one civ has all the superunits.

UNIQUE UNIT = a specialty unit that can be built _only_ by one civ. Each civ in AoK has at least one unique unit.

DeathShrimp about the Four Ages

ES Game Designer, Greg "DeathShrimp" Street talks about the four Ages of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings at Fastest Game News Online.

… In the Feudal Age players can start building an army or choose to wait until later ages when the units and technology upgrades are more powerful. The third age is the Castle Age, where players can construct castles to defend their homelands and produce their civilization’s Unique Unit. Finally, in the Imperial Age, players have access to the most powerful weapons, such as the boulder-flinging Trebuchet and thundering Cannon Galleon.

Chris O’ Rama about multiplayer maps

ES Assistant Producer, Chris "Chris O’ Rama" Rippy talks about Age of Empires II: Age of Kings multiplayer games at Next Generation Online.

"There are two main areas in which we are enhancing multiplayer," Rippy explained. "We are working to eliminate some of the communication issues, such as stability and latency, and we are adding new features to make multiplayer more fun. Examples of new features are a more robust system of attributing resources to other players, larger maps, and more variety of random map types. Some of the random map types have paths leading you to your allies’ cities."

HarterFaster interviewed by PC Accelerator Magazine

PC Accelerator Magazine has a new article of Age of Empries II: Age of Kings on page 73 as well as an interview with ES AoK Producer Harter "HarterFaster" Ryan. You can find also an editorial and some screenshots.

Angel Omnivac

An Angel at the battlefield
Posted by Omnivac on April 19, 1999 @ 11:59 p.m.

OT an email the other day from the AoK Battlefield‘s webmaster, BravenIrish, asking me if I would answer some questions. I kindly accepted and Braven did an interview with me, hehe. I’m not used to do this but it was fun nonetheless answering his questions. Well, I’m not the kind of guy that spend time talking about himself so I’ll let BravenIrish do the introduction. Then go the AoK Battlefield to read the interview.

No, no! You wont find a fold out centerfold somewhere here on Battlefield and anything that revealing! But you will be able to find out a lot about the well known Ager that also happens to be the webmaster of Age of Kings Heaven. Yes, I had TONs of E-mails suggesting this interview.

Who is Omnivac? How did he get his name and what are some of his thoughts on Age of Kings? Find out all of this and more in this fun and interesting interview. This should keep ya busy untill tomorrows Civ Showcase! …>: )

Angel Omnivac

Age of Kings preview
Posted by Omnivac on April 18, 1999 @ 4:12 p.m.

OU can find a Age of Empires II: Age of Kings preview at Ultimate Games. There seems to be old material in it though, so be cautious in what is advertize and what’s not, as Age of Kings is continuously evolving and changing. Nonetheless, this a good preview for new readers to have a good idea about Age of Kings and its features.

You have the option to determine the level of aggression for each and every unit you posses in an attempt to better control even the bits of your territory you can’t keep your beady eye on for the whole time. Added to this, there’s all the options to patrol, guard and attack, plus a new idea in the form of the option to follow enemy units across the map.

And all of this is easier to control than ever before. To throw in a brief quotation, "Production queues, improved navigation points and customisable hot-key systems have been added. In addition, more audio cues make empire management easier. Map shortcuts like gathering points make it easier for players to organise their forces and plan their battles".

Angel Omnivac

Alliance: Locked Teams
Posted by Omnivac on April 16, 1999 @ 4:25 p.m.

ANDY PETERSEN revealed a great new feature for multiplayer games where you can lock the teams making alliance changes impossible. This, combined with the Speed Lock button, will make games more enjoyable on the Zone as you can reinforce the settings you want to play, and have more control on the speed jackers and other "friendly" Agers like that. I think Lock Teams will be great for the ratings where we will avoid the situation where a player drop, and his partner ask to ally. Me, I’m a firm believer that your connection to the net is part of your war gear if you want to play online and fight for the number one rank.

Locked Teams will be valuable also to some Agers playing Free-For-All where you can be sure no one will make secret alliances and so on, in games where you are really alone and the winner is the last one standing.

Just click on the Lock Teams button, and no alliance changes are possible. – ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

UAT3 grand finale

Tomorrow at 2PM EST, hang out in the MSN Gaming Zone for the Ultimate Ager Tournament 3 grand finale where maimin_matty and Out4Blood will fight for the highest honors against Methos and Staffa. May Woohoo! god of the sweet spots be with you. wink.gif (135 octets)

Angel Omnivac

Walls strength, from another angle
Posted by Omnivac on April 16, 1999 @ 5:04 a.m.

ONTINUING with the debate on how strong walls should be, ES designer Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen commented on the subject from another perspective to give a better understanding, and that is from the point of view of the attacker. For over a year now, the Bombard Cannon description has been This ultimate siege weapon makes quick work of fortifications and castles. So with that in mind, here’s the Sandyman:

A cannon is a highly advanced and specialized siege weapon. If you feel that three of the most expensive siege weapons in the game knocking down a wall in 10 seconds is too fast, what would be the _right_ speed? 30 seconds? 60 seconds? If it took 3 cannons 60 seconds to punch through a wall, then how long should it take if you are using something more primitive, such as soldiers, or scorpion ballistas? 2 minutes? 5 minutes?

AoK has a lot more defensive toys than did AoE — instead of just stone walls & towers, there are palisades, castles, outposts, a wide variety of defensive units & ships a la RoR. To offset the effect of these, we had to add cool _offensive_ toys, like rams, trebuchets, cannons, and so forth.

Also consider that in the late 4th age (which is when the heavy artillery rolls into action), the game has already lasted quite a while. We think it’s a good thing to add some powerful means of attack to keep the game from heading into a million-year siege, and encourage decisive battles.

The cannons are not all-powerful, that’s for sure. No one builds mass armies of cannons. But they’re a useful addition to the mix when the enemy’s keeps & castles are getting you depressed. – ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

Civs visually more different than just unique units

From almost the beginning, we all knew that each civilization would share the same units like in Age of Empires and the expansion pack Rise of Rome, and that civilizations would be associated with a building set (Western Europe, Middle Eastern, Far East, Raiders). New to Age of Empires II: Age of Kings is the unique units where each civilizations will have a unit that only them can build, like the Samurai unit for the Japanese, the Teutonic Knight for the Germans, or the Axe Thrower for the Franks. Many observed in the picture announcing the Japanese Civ Showcase in yesterday’s news that the boats had a very oriental look (Chinese Junk, Japanese Tekkoussen). It will be odd to have English Junks sailing on the sea and… Well, what do you know? smile.gif (93 octets)

The ships are slightly different in each building set. You can readily tell an Arab ship from an Oriental one. – ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

As for buildings, over is the time of the monotonous same old house all over your city.

What we did do was make a few different houses. That way when you build a town you’ll see 3 different houses (per building set), but they still have similar feel. – ES 3D Artist, Sean "LordSoth" Wolff

The houses are very clearly houses, even though there are multiple architectural styles and multiple house types within each style. There are little hooks like that for all the buildings. For instance, the Blacksmith has a burning forge inside it and no other building does, and you can see horses lined up inside the Stable, regardless of whether it’s an oriental, middle-east, western stable, etc. – ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

One can wonder how many more stuff is not revealed about AoK yet. And one thing for sure, there is more and ES is keeping the best stuff for last.

Angel Omnivac

Japanese showcase
Posted by Omnivac on April 15, 1999 @ 4:59 p.m.

OUR wait is almost over. Beginning the 20th of April, Ensemble Studios and Microsoft will present the first of 13 Age of Empires II: Age of Kings Civilization Showcases. These detailed showcases will bring to you new screenshots, general civilization information, images, unique unit information, buildings, techs and quotes from the Ensemble Studios team. This will be enough to help you waiting until the next showcase (and every two weeks thereafter). These detailed Showcases will be hosted by Gamespot and we will update you with every bit of information as soon as it gets out. Ring the bell tower, the Japanese are coming!

Japanese Showcase
Coast of Héìan-Kyô, before the Mongol invasion

Angel Omnivac

Another brick in the wall
Posted by Omnivac on April 15, 1999 @ 4:15 p.m.

N the AOKH forum, IceCream Man posted some details about the Gamestar CD showing Age of Empires II: Age of Kings where you can see three Bombard Cannons taking down a wall in ten seconds or so. It was enough to start again the debate on how strong should walls and fortifications be, and to get a detailed response from ES Designer, Greg "DeathShrimp" Street:

In real life, sieges lasted for months or years while the attacker attempted to starve the defender out. Is that fun?

In early versions of AOK, all the siege weapons were slow and had to unpack and enemy Villagers could just run ahead of your army, cluttering up your path with walls, Town Centers, houses, etc. When you finally reached the real city, you unpacked your weapons to fire and went and got a sandwich while the walls were slowly, tediously taken down. We had effectively killed a lot of the thrill of combat. People slowly crept towers and walls across the map until cities were literally shooting directly at each other. Why build units at all? It was one of those things that sounded good on paper, but just wasn’t that much fun.

My perception is that the people who want walls to be very strong generally just want a little reassurance that they can play defensively and have enough time to build a beautiful city. That can happen with our current model. We didn’t try to kill the rush as a strategy, but we did make it really hard to take out your enemy 9 minutes into the game just because you got a good placement of wood and shore fish.

If combat is still too fast for you, just play on a larger map with more resources. The big map games can go on a long time, and there might be 3 Wonders, 12 Castles and 50 Towers dotted across the map. Played one like that this morning.

Walls should slow an attack, but not stop it cold. If you need justification for how swordsmen and archers can destroy a wall just imagine that they are conducting night raids, sniping at guards on the battlements, and weakening the infrastructure of the town. If there are castles, towers or archers protecting the wall, then anything less than a ram, horde of bombard cannons or a treb will probably not make it through.

Is AOK a more defensive game? That’s a hard call. My hope is that the game doesn’t devolve into 20 minute games that end in the second age. There are mighty structures, like walls and towers, that can slow an attack, but there are also mighty weapons that can go through the walls, and then there are mighty weapons good at killing those mighty weapons. Get the picture?

Trust us on this. We think it is fun. – ES Designer, Greg "DeathShrimp" Street

Angel Omnivac

So, you wanna be an ES dude?
Posted by Omnivac on April 14, 1999 @ 4:40 p.m.

HERE are two new job openings available at Ensemble Studios; Quality Assurance Lead and Art Director positions. Here’s another chance for anyone who wants to get into the computer gaming community and be on the development side of things.

Quality Assurance Lead position
Primary responsibilities include game feature testing and leading a Quality Assurance (QA) team that creates and executes test scripts for our game products. The QA Lead is the point person in the company for ensuring the quality and completeness of our game products. Leadership and personnel management acumen are essential for success.

Art Director position
Experienced art director needed for the graphical development of state-of-the-art games. Age of Empires set the standard for art in strategy games and we intend to continue to set standards in the future. Must have strong leadership skills and the desire to work with exceptionally talented artists.

If you want more choices, then look at the job openings main page for more positions available at Ensemble Studios. Looks more fun than French Fries Lead at McDonald’ (93 octets)

Angel Omnivac

T-shirts winners
Posted by Omnivac on April 12, 1999 @ 3:15 p.m.

HE two Age of Empires II: Age of Kings T-shirts have been won. The mysterious Ensemble Studios employee was none other than IT Manager Roy "Royster" Rabey. Peter J. Macomber is the lucky winner. As for the little brain teaser, Tom Mescher (known to several as Angel SpineMan) unscrambled the letters and found out: Japanese Samurai rock, dude. The answer revealed at the same time the first showcase that will be unveiled very soon: The Japanese civilization. Stay tuned for the goodies.

Age of Kings sneak peek

At, you will find a sneak peek of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings by another lucky dude who participated in the local Dallas Area "Usability Testing" at the ES building during the month of March. Thanks Temujin for the link.

Each race has a pimped out unit that has some kick ass ability. That race, and only that race is able to get that unit. The Chinese’s unique was a warrior with an automatic cross bow. He fired 4 arrows, at time, and then reloaded for 2 seconds. These guys take awhile to get, but are worth it.

Battle realism

Here’s a lengthy post from the forum by ES Designer, Greg "DeathShrimp" Street about battles and realism in Age of Empires II: Age of Kings.

First of all, AOK is an RTS set in the Middle Ages. It is not an attempt to simulate historical warfare. So whenever we are playtesting and begin to hear comments such as "that feature may be realistic, but it is just plain frustrating" we strive to make the feature more fun.

Siege weapons: I don’t think any of the AOE designers anticipated armies of nothing but catapults. AOK siege weapons are much less effective en masse. To be fair though, some of the freakish power of catapult armies is only apparent at high pop caps.

Infantry: Because there are inherent bonuses to both archers (range) and cavalry (speed), it is tricky to make infantry as popular. Historically, of course infantry were used because they were relatively cheap. I always champion the strength of the infantry in AOK and I think you will find them much improved. Several of the unique units are infantry, so if you don’t pursue those technology lines, you will be avoiding one of the coolest units in your army.

Naval combat: Ship to ship warfare is particularly hard to model because historically, there were a lot of factors involved (wind speed, water depth, etc.) that just complicate and frustrate naval combat. There is more *strategy* to naval combat in AOK, but putting in painfully realistic naval *tactics* is just beyond the scope of an Age of Empires game.

Priests: Conversion was a very real part of Middle Ages warfare. Many Crusading knights converted to Islam (often at the point of a sword!) The "Wololo’ of the priest is an abstraction to represent this ability. As frustrating as they can be, I have rarely seen an army decimated due to enemy priests (unless the AI is controlling them!)

We try to walk the narrow path between two very vocal groups of fans: those who want historical accuracy at the expense of all else, and those who want a balanced multiplayer experience at the expense of all else. – ES Designer, Greg "DeathShrimp" Street

Angel Hamlet speaks about TZAR

Head over to Tzar Heaven, Angel Hamlet got his hands on the latest alpha version of Tzar and he seems to like it very much. Hmmm, seems is not the right word, as he does indeed like it very much. Fly over there to read the latest about Tzar: Burden of the Crown.

The day and night effects are not just something that happen all of a sudden. You know BOOM – it’s dark. In fact you have pretty much the full circle of a day. In the afternoon you see the light slowly change and get more dimmed and after a long night where it IS harder to operate – you welcome the morning as the day slowly brightens.


Tresh’s FiringSquad has a new Face-Off article, entitled "FPS vs. RTS," in which they debate the merits and strengths of the growing PC genres of First-Person Shooter and Real-Time Strategy. A lot of interesting topics popped up, so check it out.

Angel Omnivac

AoK T-shirts up for grab
Posted by Omnivac on April 09, 1999 @ 12:35 p.m.

OULD you be interested in a Age of Empires II: Age of Kings T-shirt? Then head over to Ensemble Studios website and try to guess who’s the mysterious ES employee is. The only clue you have is that the picture of "Cutie Pie" is not displayed on the Studios Team Pages.

Wait! You have one more chance to win a AoK T-shirt. ES webmaster Mike "Archangel" McCart wrote down a little brain teaser at the Age of Kings Battlefield, and the FIRST one to mail him the correct answer will get the T-shirt. All you need to do is unscramble

u e k i s r d a e r n u d o a m p a c e a s j

All these letters will make up a sentence about the civilization featured in the first showcase coming up soon. Find the sentence and email your answer to Archy. The biggest clue being that it’s about a civilization, I figured that it would be mentionned in this little brain teaser and all I could find was Japanese, Saracen and Persian (which can be plural too if you want) but could not complete anything with the remaining letters. See if you can do better, and maybe win the T-shirt. I guess also that the first showcase will be about one of these three civ, hehe.

u e k i s r d a e r n u d o a m p a c e a s j
left with u e k i s r d a r u d o a m c

u e k i s r d a e r n u d o a m p a c e a s j
left with u e k i r d a e u d o a m p j

u e k i s r d a e r n u d o a m p a c e a s j
left with u e k s r d a e u d o a m a c j

Angel Omnivac

Bruce Shelley Interview
Posted by Omnivac on April 08, 1999 @ 12:35 p.m.

OU can read at Gamespot UK an interview with Age of Empires creator Bruce Shelley where he talks about the new Artificial Intelligence in Age of Empires II: Age of Kings as well as the role of heroes in campaigns where they will probably be also unique units by themselves from what it has been said, and other tidbits like movement formations and figthing formations.

The way the formations work, basically, is that there are fighting ones and movement ones. There are different kinds of fighting ones: columns, lines and wedges. You’d put your missile units at the back and hand-to-hand fighters at the front. If you take a formation and just move it slightly, it’ll stay in the same formation. But if you move your soldiers a long distance, they’ll go into a column formation that moves faster, and then, when you get there, they’ll go back into a fighting formation. – ES Lead Designer, Bruce Shelley

Angel Omnivac

Civilizations showcases
Posted by Omnivac on April 07, 1999 @ 2:35 a.m.

HE wait is almost over for the grand debut of the Age of Empires II: Age of Kings Showcases. Look no further than next week for the first civilization showcase highlighting the Unique Unit of that civilization as well as some historical background for that unit, screenshots, animated pictures, concept art, and so on. This showcase will give you lots to talk about until the release of the next showcase featuring another civilization until all the 13 civs of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings are covered. Looks like steady info will be coming your way for 3 months and a week with weekly showcases. biggrin.gif (135 octets)

Warning before flaming me straight to Hell: There is a possibility that the showcases will start one week later. Also, I don’t know which day it will go live so be patient throughout all the week.

Age of Empires 1.5: The Rise of Kings

AoE: The Rise of Kings

You cannot wait any longer to play a game of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings? You really really can’t wait as in you’re totally hopeless? There is a new modpack for Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome that changes the buildings set of the Romans, Palmyrans, Carthaginians and Macedonians into Age of Kings buildings. Spy took several buildings from the AoK screenshots and cut them out to make this modpack. You can download it at the AoE/RoR ModPacks website, and maybe it will ease your pain… a little?

Angel Omnivac

The parts of a Castle
Posted by Omnivac on April 06, 1999 @ 6:25 p.m.

VER at the Ensemble Studios website, you can find a long listing of the parts of a castle, with such features as Corbels, Machicolations, Parapets and many more. I thought some links were included for certain parts of the castle as they are in bold yellow instead of white, but nope! No URLs there at all, which raise the question why some of the Castle’s parts are highlighted in a different colour? I wonder what is the significance of this… Or should I?

The wall (or curtain as it was sometimes called), surrounded the courtyard of the castle. Strongly built, it was not uncommon for the castle’s walls to be ten or more feet in thickness.

The keep was known in French as the donjon. It was the strongest and most heavily fortified part of the castle as it was designed to be the last line of defense. Keeps were sometimes build round, sometimes square. Square keeps made nicer rooms, but round keeps were easier to defend. The keep usually housed the owner of the castle and his family. In it the great hall was often located.

The Murder holes were holes in the ceiling just after the front gate. The holes were used for dropping large stones on attackers who got through the front gate.

Asian Castle sketch

Sketch of the Far East Castle

Smile! You’re on ES camera

The ES Webcam is online again, thanks to Roy "Royster" Rabey. It is interesting to note that it is now in the playtesting area, hehe. Now, where did I put that remote control…

The Cardinal’s Guard

The Cardinal made a new website with historical information about the known unique units of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. If you want to know more about these units, then pay a visit to The Cardinal’s Guard. You won’t regret it.

Frankish infantry units were armed with a variety of heavy throwing weapons which they hurled as they charged into combat, in much the same way that the Roman Legionary used his pilum. The most famous of these weapons was the francisca, a heavy throwing axe which was so closely identified with the Franks that it gave them their name.

Angel Omnivac

Ensemble Studios’ battlefield
Posted by Omnivac on April 05, 1999 @ 2:25 p.m.
Mark Terrano overlooking the battlefield

AST wednesday night, the Ritual Entertainment developers were invited to go to Ensemble Studios for a sneak peek at Age of Empires II: Age of Kings and to participate in a few games. Looks like the event turned out to be a great evening that ended up in the wee hours where the talk was all about Age of Kings, hard fought battles and… eating pizza. Here’s some comments from Mario Grimani about the games. Then head over to Ensemble Studios for more pics and comments.

More pics!

Battle recap

Two games were played, both very memorable. The first one lasted roughly 2 1/2 hours of in-game time. It was a battle of wonders. The losing team built a wonder that was destroyed at the very last moment. On the other side they were not able to take down the wonder that won the game. If the game lasted an extra minute the game winning wonder would not stand. Talk about intense game! The second game was a conquest only game with pop limit of 150. After 4 hours of in-game time and two massive coordinated attacks the team that lost the first game evened the score. Great games. – ES AI Specialist, Mario "PlasticBrain" Grimani

Angel Omnivac

Randomness in Age of King
Posted by Omnivac on April 05, 1999 @ 1:45 p.m.

ROM the "Gotta read between the lines" department of Mist’s Town came out some news about randomness in Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. The game will have the usual random map generator that every multiplayers have grown to love, as well as features like the random civs introduced in Rise of Rome and new requested ones like random map types where you don’t know what kind of map you’re playing on until you have explored your surroundings. But now, there is more to this as you will read:

A little randomness is good. There’s actually a couple of things in AoK which we’ve given a little randomness to. In other words, there’s something that has, say 200 hp; and, sometimes you get a little more, sometimes a little less. It certainly improves the game. – ES 3D Specialist, Herb "Killme" Marselas

Breydell strikes back

Forummer Breydel posted ten new pics and comments from the Gamestar magazine CD in the AoKH Forum. Four of these new pictures are from The Siege movie where a Battering Ram, Trebuchet and Bombard Cannons are trying to cut through enemy Fortifications. There is also a picture that shows elevations in the game, and I must say, it looks absolutely amazing. We’re not talking about "step" elevations here like in Age of Empires and Rise of Rome.

New poll for campaign players

Vote for which type of scenarios are the most fun to play at the Ensemble Studios website.

GameStats is hiring!

Have you ever dreamed of being as close as you can to the computer gaming industry? Here is your chance if you have what it takes.

GameStats News Network has just gone through a reorganization which has expanded our site’s vision and goals a great deal! Would you like to be part of the excitement? To meet our goals we are going to be bringing on a bunch of new team members. We need to find several new staff members for key positions as reviewer / previewers, proof readers, artists, and Interviewers. – Justice T, GameStats’ Editor in Chief and AoE easy kill

Angel Omnivac

New Ages
Posted by Omnivac on April 01, 1999 @ 6:15 p.m.

ODAY on the Ensemble Studios website, the not-so-sneaky Archangel revealed the ages that players will have to go through in Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. It is still four ages and they are Dark Age, Feudal Age, Castle Age, and finally Imperial Age. The Middle Age seen in the Gamestock screenshots looks like it has been replaced. The third age (Castle Age) seems to indicate that players will be able to build Castles there.

Raiders’ false alarm

In yesterday’s news, I made a slight mistake about the new house. Lord Soth kindly corrected me (but not with his two-handed sword). He also speaks about the upcoming E3 and what should be the next big update on AoK info.

Hate to burst your bubble but the picture is of the new Dark Age building set. We (the artists) were unhappy with what was currently in the game. The actual set looked bad next to the most recent buildings, so we reworked them. Had to give them more detail (Don Gagen and Jeff Dotson did a fantastic job on them). Right now we are starting the rework of the East European set, which from the new mock-ups make them look great. When E3 arrives the game will look really polished and graphically impressive (we will have only some minor art work to finish after that). You’ll just have to wait and see. – ES 3D Artist, Sean "Lord Soth" Wolff

Gamestar’s video revealed

Forummer Breydel wrote a good resume about the CD you can find when you buy the 4/99 Geman magazine Gamestar. It is so cool that I thought I would put it on a page, so you can read it all in the The Game section in the Misc. Info sub-section. Nice work Breydel.

Angel Omnivac