Archived News From May 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!

Heaven’s photo album
Posted by Omnivac on May 31, 1999 @ 7:15 p.m.

OMETHING new has been posted today in our E3 coverage. You will find the photo album of Heaven @E3 with pictures of the Microsoft booth, Ensemble employees showing the game to the press, an after-hours party at the Microsoft booth, a dinner with Ensemble Studios and more. If you want a better view, you just have to click on the pictures to see a larger version.

Angel Omnivac

The Chinese are coming!
Posted by Omnivac on May 28, 1999 @ 3:45 p.m.

UNE 1st, the next Age of Empires II: Age of Kings Civilization Showcase will be featured on Gamespot. The showcase written by Elliott Chin will cover the Chinese Civilization with an historic background, the Chinese Unique Unit (the Chu Ko Nu), the Chinese Wonder, the Chinese civilization attributes, and information on the Siege Workshop and the Demolition Ships. And as usual, the showcase will be interspersed with comments from the Ensemble Studios team. Don’t miss it!

Game Daily Preview

It is the turn of Game Daily to praise Age of Empires II: Age of Kings in a preview they wrote after seeing the game at E3. Hardcore followers of the game won’t find any new information in the preview, but it’s quite clear that Game Daily was impressed by AoK.

No matter how good Age of Empires 2: Age of Kings is or will be when its released this fall, it will need some help from its publisher and the gaming community to be the top dog in the real time strategy genre. The genre has come of age and the next generation of titles in the category look to shake the perception that Starcraft is the game by which all others are judged. AOE 2 will be one of the games which lead this charge and could become the one which all others follow.

Computer players and diplomacy

Age of Empires II: Age of Kings will offer a lot more replayibilty to single players than Age of Empires and Rise of Rome could ever do. The ever popular scenarios and campaigns will still be available with designers using a more powerful and user friendly scenario editor, but where AoK will take a huge leap is when you will play a random map game. Computer players will have different personnalities and you will never know what to expect when a new game start. Take a look at these comments from Sandy Petersen.

1) there must always be some AIs that will not join you no matter how much you pay them. Otherwise you just buy off all the AIs and win the game without fighting. BUT … within that constraint, there’s a heck of a lot of things the new AI can do.

2) in the current version of the AI I am working on a variety of different things that it will do. You will often (randomly) meet an AI that tells you quite explicitly that if you send him a certain amount of tribute, he will ally with you. There is also a "bully" type of AI who constantly makes demands on you, or he’ll turn enemy. If you keep paying and paying him, he does eventually turn into an ally, though. There are other types of AIs, too, such as a "feeder" type, that tries to boost his allies up through the ages. All these are basically chosen randomly when the game starts up, so you won’t know in any given game what the CPs are going to do.

3) the AI is looking pretty good at the moment. I’m very happy with its performance. However, if there is anything special you want the AI to do, you can write your own scripts, and *presto* you get anything you want. If you want your AI opponent to only speak in rhyme, or to never mine stone, or to always rush in the Feudal Age, you can just write it up. ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

Angel Omnivac

Briton Showcase Screenshots
Posted by Omnivac on May 26, 1999 @ 5:54 p.m.

HE screenshots of Gamespot‘s Briton Showcase can now be seen in the Images section of Age of Kings Heaven in Big-O-Rama! Five screenshots with a resolution of 1280×1024 and two screenshots with a resolution of 1024×800 for your viewing pleasure.

Editor’s Choice: The Games of E3 1999

Age of Empires II: Age of Kings made the Notable Strategy Games list at Gamespot.

The game seems to have everything that a good sequel needs: more individualized cultures and units (like the samurai in Japan and axe throwers in France), better control over the units (ring the town hall bell and all the peasants rush inside to protect themselves from raiders), great graphics (only 8-bit, but you wouldn’t know it), and more historical accuracy (the people actually speak the ancient language of their culture). Best of Show selected Age of Empires II: Age of Kings as the Best of Show: Strategy Game in their E3 coverage.

Look for Age of Empires II: Age of Kings to be released in October of 1999. Microsoft’s Age of Kings looks like a very worthy successor to Age of Empires and should be a classic!

AOK Campaign Design Contest

Heaven’s Gaming Sites will sponsor an Age of Kings campaign design contest soon. Cool prizes for the best three historically accurate and fun to play 3-scenario RoR campaigns about The Mongol Ascendancy (~1200-1294). Last day for submissions will be August 25th. Angel OldGrex will post more detailed information in a few days.

New faces in the in the community

The Ager’s Home
I have created a new webpage called "the Ager’s Home". It’s purpose is to give the Agers a homepage from where they can very easy access all the great webpages about Age of Empires. I’ve included websites like Heaven, GX and Ensemble but also direct links to the 3 major forums. Apart from that there is also a page that – in the very near future – should list about all the clans in the Age community. This page also includes direct links to all the clan forums. Finally the Ager’s Home also has it’s own forum where gamers can post their idea’s about future updates of the website. – Breydel

Pharaoh Heaven E3 Coverage

If you liked the game Caesar III, then you surely know about the sequel Pharaoh. Angel Reckless Rodent over at Pharaoh Heaven started to post information and screenshots about the game so pay him a visit, and watch out for those crocodiles near the Nile River. You can also see pictures of the Sierra booth at E3 taken by the HeavenCam. In the next few days, we will have those of the Microsoft booth here at Age of Kings Heaven.

Angel Omnivac

AoK nominated for an Award
Posted by Omnivac on May 24, 1999 @ 7:30 p.m.

HE nominees are in for the best of show of this year’s Electronic Entertainment Exposition at E³.Net. One can see a lot of stellar nominees for the coveted Game Critics Awards. There were a lot of great games that almost made it, but by far, these were the games that stood out. It’s a tight race and in the end, there can be only one… in each category that is. Stay tuned as E³.Net is nearing the finish line in June and announce who takes the cake! Age of Empires II: Age of Kings will fight for the Best RTS of the show against Black & White, Command & Conquer 2: Tiberian Sun, Homeworld, and Total Annihilation: Kingdoms.

ES Art Team receive an award

The Ensemble Studios Art Team recently received an award from the Dallas Art Institute. 3D Artist Sean "Lord Soth" Wolff was there to accept the award on behalf of ES. More information on the Ensemble Studios website.

HEAVEN’S Age of Empires II: Age of Kings Preview

With not much further ado, go to AOK Heaven coverage of E3 to read our impressions about Age of Empires II: Age of Kings.

AOK preview

Angel Omnivac

Turks, late bloomers?
Posted by Omnivac on May 22, 1999 @ 5:30 p.m.

INCE the Turkish Civilization Showcase was featured at Gamespot, Agers have been worried that the Turks will be a repeat of the late bloomer civs in AoE/RoR like the Greeks or Hittites, where most of their civ attributes are effective late in the game and that faster civs will crush them early in the game because of their economic bonuses. It remains to be seen how early defenses like Palissades, Outposts and Garisonning will be actually effective if someone play defensively in the beginning, and how much Age of Empires II: Age of Kings is gold intensive. The Turks’ Gold Mining bonus was not often mentionned but if you need a lot of gold early in the game in AoK, then they have a useful bonus right there early in the game. Here’s some comments from Designer Sandy Petersen trying to covers everything. Remember also, Like Sandy said, that not everything is set in stone yet.

1) Turks get an excellent tech tree, with very few items missing, and the few that _are_ missing are rarely not economic in nature. In fact, right now, they are only missing one economic upgrade before Imperial (one of the stone-mining ones): of course this may change.

2) civ balancing IS NOT DONE!! In fact, debate about the various civs, rages even now at ES. Well, perhaps "rages" is too strong a word. We’re pretty civilized in our debates. However, I would definitely say that the Turks are not as finalized as, say, the Japanese & Britons (of course, features of the Japanese & Britons might possibly change, too). That said, I doubt the overall features of the Turks will be altered. I predict they will remain the "Gunpowder Special" because it’s cool to have one gun-oriented civ, and that they will also retain their extensive tech tree. But various details, whether they be new bonuses, or alterations of existing bonuses, are not necessarily complete.

3) Early attacks in AoK are significantly more difficult to pull off against competent opposition than they were in AoE. Basically, an early rush in AoK takes more skill on the part of the Rusher and less on the part of the Rushee.

Q&A based on playtest experience.

QUESTION ONE: Can the Turks be rushed? Absolutely. So can everyone else. Even the so-called "fast" civs can be rushed. I’ve been rushed while playing the Persians, for instance. Note that in AoK, the current version of the Persians are an extremely fast civ; quite possibly the fastest of them all — in the last game I playtested I went straight for Imperial, and despite a two-player combined rush against me in late Feudal/early Castle, I was the first player to Imperial by 5 minutes. (Yes, I had plenty of resources when I hit Imperial.) As it happens, my side deservedly lost that game because of our abysmal lack of cooperation. But anyway my point is that any civ can be rushed.

QUESTION TWO: Can the Turks weather a rush? Usually.

QUESTION THREE: How often do they get to Imperial in a team game without being knocked out? In a 6 or 8 player team game, almost 100% of the time, unless the whole team is in a state of collapse. Games in AoK don’t usually end in the Castle Age. At least not team games.ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

Q & A from Ensemble Studios

Q: When does it go on sale?
A: Age II is scheduled to be available at US retail stores in October and a little later in November in Europe.

Q: What’s the system requirement for Age of Empires II?
A: Recommended is P166 or higher with 32 MB of Ram. It runs under Windows 95, 98, NT 4 and 2000

Q: What the status on raider civilization?
A: Vikings, Celts and Mongols are like any other civilizations with the only exception that Vikings have two unique units. They don’t have any other specific attributes or raider features. The Raider features we considered didn’t turn out to have the substantial changes in gameplay we envisioned and, more importantly, weren’t as much fun as we had hoped. However, the former Raiders still have special bonuses, units, and tech trees that cause them to be generally more aggressive and raider-like than other civilizations.

Q: Will there be a trial version for Age of Empires II?
A: Yes we will have a trial version available just after we release the game. It will be playable on the MSN Gaming Zone

Q: Will you be localizing Age II?
A: Yes. We will have French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese versions of the game; elements of the game will also be localized in Brazilian, Portuguese, Chinese and Korean.

Angel Omnivac

Turks Showcase
Posted by Omnivac on May 20, 1999 @ 6:00 p.m.

EAD on over at Gamespot to see and read the third Civilization Showcase, the Turks. You will find about their cultural bonuses like 25% faster attacking Bombard Cannons, their unique unique the Janissaries, a breakdown of the Barracks from their point of view with the units they have available there and such technologies as Tracking and Squire. All of this with new screenshots and comments from the Ensemble Studios’ staff.

Age of Empires II’s AI specialist Mario Grimani summarizes the appeal of the Turks: "Turks are one of my favorite civs. Playing them reminds me of playing Hittite in the original Age of Empires. With Turks I usually attempt to get to the Imperial Age as soon as possible. Since most of the Turkish civ bonuses are related to gunpowder units, Imperial Age is where they really shine. e

Steve "Vidguy" Cherrier interview

Old visitors of Heaven will surely remember Vidguy when he was working here. If you don’t know what happened to him, then you can learn more about it at StrategyXtreme in an interview done with the Vidster by CaliGirl.

Tresh’s FiringSquad preview

Tresh’s FiringSquad has a preview of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. Bob Colayco wrotes his impressions after seeing it at E³.

Ensemble did not ignore changes to the economic system. At first they toyed with the idea of putting in a fifth resource called Ore (AOE had food, wood, gold, and stone – all remain in AOK), but the latest builds do not have any ore. Instead of simply adding a fifth resource, AOK will make stone more of an integral resource. In the first AOE, players could frequently get away with not mining any stone at all. That won’t be the case with Age of Kings. You cannot advance to the Castle stage without gathering a significant amount of stone. And without a castle, you will be without the services of your race’s unique unit.

Angel Omnivac

Dark Age Scouts
Posted by Omnivac on May 20, 1999 @ 2:40 a.m.

NE subtle change from Age of Empires/Rise of Rome that will be in Age of Empires II: Age of Kings at the beginning of the game is that players will now have a Scout unit with their Villagers and Town Center. The Scout will be usefull to explore the map in the beginning while the Villagers are working, and will be able to uncover a bigger area more quickly. Ensemble Studios‘ Sandy Petersen have these comments to add on this subject.

A dark-age scout kills a wolf in single combat.

If you respond quickly, sufficient (4-5) villagers kill a dark-age scout before he can kill a single villager in return. The only time I see dark-age scouts used to attack villagers is when the player is (a) has caught one of my villagers alone, (b) is a newbie, or (c) has decided he doesn’t want to do any more scouting so he may as well go out with a bang. Or (d) was lucky enough to come upon a group of my villagers in the middle of a boar hunt — his attacks at that time can be pretty darn annoying, since you can’t ignore the boar to kill the scout. But (d) is extremely rare.

And don’t forget, a MUCH better use for the dark age scout is as a sheep-thief!ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

Elite (unique) Units

There are fourteen different Unique Units in Age of Empires II: Age of Kings, Each of the thirteen civilizations will have one with the exception of the Vikings who will have two, and they will be available only to that particular civ. Unique Units such as Longbowmen for the Britons or the Mamelukes for the Saracens will be available at castles during the Castle (3rd) Age and will be upgradable in the Imperial (4th) Age.

No doubt you’ll be thrilled to know that the imperial upgrade of the longbowman is the feared "Elite Longbowman". The samurai upgrade is the "Elite Samurai". "What?!" you cry out. "They didn’t get some cool different name for the elite upgrade?! Those unimaginative troglodytes!"

Well, it’s like this. There are fourteen different elite units. It’s hard enough for a beginner to remember the names of all the units in the game ("Hmm, is an Arbalest the one that’s better than a Crossbow or is it the one just below it? And what about Onager/Mangonel?") Rather than add 14 new names that are just upgrades of existing units, we added the word "elite". That way instead of having Teutonic Knights & "Teutonic Baronets" or whatever it’s much much simpler.ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

Angel Omnivac

IGN’s Best of E³ Awards
Posted by Omnivac on May 18, 1999 @ 2:59 p.m.

ELL, more news are starting to pour in about the Electronic Entertainment Exposition on the net right now. IGN PC revealed their best of E³ Awards and Age of Empires II: Age of Kings is a runner-up for the best strategy game, losing the coveted award only to Lionhead’s Black and White. Still, things are looking pretty bright for the Dark Ages and you can read here IGN PC’s Preview of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings.

More impressions about AOK from Gamespot

Elliott Chin from Gamespot wrote more of his impressions about Age of Empires II: Age of Kings in their E³ coverage section. Jump directly to Age of Empires II – More Impressions.

Speaking about Gamespot, the Turk Civilization Showcase will be featured later this week because E³ kinda put things a little behind, so don’t despair.

New screenshots at ES website

Head over to the Ensemble Studios Website for 5 new screenshots!

Microsoft’s Official E³ Website

You can visit Microsoft’s official E³ Website where you will find a complete listing of all their upcoming titles, from Age of Empires II: Age of Kings to Starlancer. From new screenshots, videos, questions & answers with developpers and more, be sure to check it out.

Angel Omnivac
"Trying to keep up with everything, hehe"

Joan of Arc Tonight!

Posted by Washizu on May 16, 1999 @ 4:03 p.m.
Joan of Arc special will be on CBS tonight at 9:00 PM EST. Be sure to tune in, as her story is probably going to be one of the campaigns released with Age of Kings! I haven’t heard from any of our E3 comrades yet, but the show is over now, so I expect they’ll be back soon with some great information.More than likely, the great Angel Omnivac will return to do the next update.


Posted by Washizu on May 14, 1999 @ 4:32 p.m.
ow!!! We finally have some E3 info for you!!!Good ole Angel Hamlet cam through with an e-mail, which had to have been pretty tough since the word is that there are 40 computer terminals for 400 journalists! What are his impressions?Listen to this.

"YIHAAAAAAAA! Age of Kings will rule the world – that’s absolutely certain. "

Sounds like a ringing endorsement to me. :)He gave me a mighty long list of confirmed facts and features, all of which are posted in our brand new E3 section!

I’m sure the guys will give you a nice run down of their week when they return.Angel Deepwater got a chance to play the Mongols, one of the new raider civs, and according to one onlooker, "would have got his butt
kicked if the computer players weren’t so nice to him <g>."You can forget all the screenshots you’ve seen so far, the newest build of AOK has graphics that surpass what has been seen previously.To say that I am excited about all this is a huge understatement!!!

I have one request to other web masters.Our guys have spent mucho dinero ($$$) to go out and get this info for us.I expect that other sites wanting to post the stuff we have to credit us with a link back.It’s only fair and AOKH would always do the same for you guys.Thanks!


Posted by Washizu on May 13, 1999 @ 11:20 p.m.
hat’s all you hear these days it seems.I wish I was there, but instead I am in New Jersey. Ha!We all wonder what will be revealed about Age of Kings this week.I just moved back home now that my semester is over.Very soon we’ll have a section up answering a lot of the rumors and speculations of AOK.Only a 4 or 5 months to release time!

The Hundred Years War!

ES_Sandyman posted a nice background of this historical nugget.Could this be a hint of a featured campaign released with Age of Kings?  Who knows?

"This is just for the amusement of those who are interested in historical context. It’s kind of hard to pick exactly how long the 100 Years War lasted, but one common measure is from 1337 to 1453. Note that there was not continuous fighting throughout the war, which was interrupted by truces, the Black Death, and other events. Several times everyone thought the war was over, then it broke out again." – ES_Sandyman

Read the interesting piece here in our AOK forum!


Maimin_Matty and Out4Blood Chat!

Posted by Washizu on May 12, 1999 @ 10:20 p.m.
ll hail the Grand Emperor of Age and his Ultimate Ager partner Out4Blood! The Zone held a chat with these UAT 3 winners.I attended the event a bit late, but still got there for most of it (thanks for reminding me Potejon!) This means Heaven only snagged part of the chat, which should be available at AOE Heaven very shortly.

Here’s a short clip:

_Methos_ST> Matty, is it true that Canadians excel in Age of Empires because they live in a frozen wasteland where there is little else to do? =)

_Methos_ST> Seriously, in your opinion, and also that of your faithful cohort out4blood, what is the greatest mistake that a newer player makes?

maimin_matty> hahahaha

Out4Blood> arg>

maimin_matty> well i like your first question

Out4Blood> whew

Out4Blood> lol

maimin_matty> yes frozen wasteland is an excellent excuse to stay in all winter playing aoe

Out4Blood> i think newer players do not concentrate enough on the economy, and hence get crushed by an opponent’s military…

maimin_matty> second question is a great one

Hmmmm… Methos, I don’t think your theory holds up, since I know two Canadians I beat regularly at ROR.Wait, that could also mean I have less of a life than a Canadian boarded in from the cold.Hehe, I can talk tough since they are both at E3 and can’t do anything about it 😛

**Note**:Here’s a plea to ANYONE who has the entire chat saved. I’ll give you a big plug on this here page and will be forever grateful if you send it my way.Even if you just have the beginning, that’d be great!

Do Violent Video Games Make You Psycho?

It’s an interesting idea being discussed in the forum, with even a post from Sandy "ES_Sandyman" Petersen, who has worked on such games as Quake and Doom when he was with id software.What’s his take on it?

"If Bad People are not really to blame after all, but instead it is the fault of music or movies or games, then some folks feel better. I’m not sure why. And if you don’t like or understand rock music or action movies or video games, then it’s much much easier to tag these things you don’t understand as the cause of the Bad People. It makes for a convenient scapegoat, and it releases you from the obligation of having to think."


Heaven in the City of Angels!

Posted by Washizu on May 11, 1999 @ 3:50 p.m.
ngel Omnivac is heading to E3, and he has left me the helm in his absence. When Omni, Hamlet, Spineman, and Deepwater return from E3, you’ll get some prime info from Heaven’s Gaming Sites.Age of Kings is looking better and better every time they release new information, so get ready to get blown away again soon, as E3 is the place to show off upcoming games.

Joan of Arc TV Special this Sunday!

On Sunday, May 16th at 9:00 PM EST, there will be a Joan of Arc special on CBS:

"This special event four-hour mini-series brings us the triumphant yet tragic true story of Joan of Arc. This illiterate 15th century French peasant girl used boundless faith, courage, and determination to unite France and save it from its English enemy, only to be convicted of heresy and burned at the stake at 19."

Joan is played by 16 year old Leelee Sobieski, who in my opinion, bears a resemblance to Jewel (and that’s no insult!).There’s a lot of info about it on the CBS web site here.

New Gamestats Contest!

You can win a copy of the red-hot Starsiege Tribes from Justice T and his cronies, err I mean crew 🙂

According to the official Starsiege website, "Starsiege Tribes will revolutionize the world of multiplayer squad-level games. While most first-person shooters concentrate on single-player AI, Tribes focuses on the ultimate AI–the human mind. Tribes is the first 3-D action shooter designed from the ground up to maximize the multiplayer gaming experience. Anywhere from two to thirty-two players can compete against each other’s "tribe" across the Internet or LAN."

Win a copy here!

One final left… Oh yes, one final left…
-=Angel Washizu=-

Microsoft unveils hottest PC games lineup

Posted by Omnivac on May 10, 1999 @ 6:41 p.m.

PCOMING Titles Include "Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings," "Flight Simulator 2000," "Links LS 2000," "Asheron’s Call" and "Starlancer".

REDMOND, Wash. – May 10, 1999 – Microsoft Corp. today unveiled the lineup of games and gaming devices it will showcase at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) at the Los Angeles Convention Center May 13-15. From strategy and sports to space combat and flight simulations, Microsoft’s diverse lineup of games are designed to appeal to casual gamers and hard-core fans alike.

"One of our primary goals is to increase the number of computer gamers by turning new audiences on to the fun of PC games," said Ed Fries, general manager of the Games Group at Microsoft. "We’ve worked with some of the world’s best developers to create a portfolio of first-rate titles that will appeal to all kinds of gamers."

The lineup of Microsoft(R) games for E3 1999 does the following:

AoK Poster

– Builds on past best-sellers with titles such as "Age of Empires(R) II: The Age of Kings," "Flight Simulator 2000" and the latest in the "Madness" franchise, the "Midtown Madness(TM)" game.

– Breaks new ground with massively multiplayer online games such as "Asheron’s Call(TM)," "Allegiance" and "Fighter Acer(R) II," and cutting-edge titles "Starlancer," "Conquest: Frontier Wars" and "Loose Cannon" from top developer Digital Anvil.

– Expands the audience for PC sports games through fully licensed products accessible to a broad range of games fans. The Microsoft sports lineup includes "Links LS 2000" from Access Software Inc., the producer of best-selling PC golf games and other sports games such as "NFL Fever 2000" and "NBA Inside Drive." Outside of North America, Microsoft will also launch "International Soccer 2000," designed by British developer Rage Software.

– Demonstrates the innovation and creativity in the sci-fi genre with two titles from Chris and Erin Roberts of Digital Anvil Inc., the developers who pioneered the genre with "Wing Commander" and "Privateer." Their new games include "Starlancer," a visually stunning game that combines the intense action of first-person space combat with a dramatic story inspired by 20th-century warfare, and "Conquest: Frontier Wars," a real-time
strategy game set in outer space.

– Appeals to a broad range of audiences, from hard-core gamers interested in the alternative universes of massively multiplayer online games to families who want to tickle their brains with Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov’s newest title, "Pandora’s Box."

The lineup includes the following titles and devices:

"Age of Empires: The Age of Kings"
"Flight Simulator 2000"
"Flight Simulator 2000" Professional Edition
"Asheron’s Call"
"Links LS 2000"
"NFL Fever 2000"
"Conquest: Frontier Wars"
"Loose Cannon"
"Midtown Madness"
"Fighter Ace II"
"Pandora’s Box"
"Links Extreme"
"NBA Inside Drive 2000"
"Baseball 2000"
"International Football 2000"

SideWinder(R) Dual Strike
SideWinder Game Pad Pro
Microsoft IntelliMouse(R) Explorer

Journalists interested in learning more about Microsoft’s upcoming games lineup are encouraged to stop by Booth 846 in the South Hall at the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

The following will also be at Microsoft’s booth at E3:

– Game developers, including Ensemble Studios’ Bruce Shelley and Digital Anvil’s Chris Roberts, will be available for interviews from 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 13-15. Bruce Shelley will autograph special-edition "Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings" posters to attendees on Thursday, May 12 from noon to 1 p.m.

– Mark Brunell, quarterback from the Jacksonville Jaguars, will be signing autographs and challenging show-goers to one-on-one games of "NFL Fever 2000" on Friday, May 14 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software for personal computers. The company offers a wide range of products and services for business and personal use, each designed with the mission of making it easier and more enjoyable for people to take advantage of the full power of personal computing every day.

Angel Omnivac

Buildings and screenshots
Posted by Omnivac on May 10, 1999 @ 11:32 a.m.

OU can find an updated buildings section in the The Game section of AoKHeaven. The Far East Archery Range, Stables, and church (alongside with info) have found a home there. Note that everything is still subject to changes, and should not be counted as official yet. It will be modified accordingly if needed be. In the Images section, there are four screenshots of the Japanese civilization. Those are the screenshots of the Japanese Showcase but with a resolution of 1280 x 1024.

E3 Survival Guide


While waiting for E3 (Electronic Entertainment Exposition) to begin, you can always read the E3 Survival Guide at GameCenter. How fitting that the article begins with "This year the greatest gaming show in the world returns to its entertainment roots in the City of Angels". Ol’ Angel Hamlet is presently there at Los Angeles scouting the terrain, and SpineMan, Deepwater and I, Omnivac will join him shortly. Today is actually my last day of update because I’m flying the HeavenJet tomorrow. Washizu will be your news dude here during E3 and will report back all the stuff we will see and hear. Look for a more complete recap in the following weeks after E3 when we get back home.

Angel Omnivac
"Trying to find a way to be invited to
the Psygnosis Party at Playboy Mansion"

16 seconds in Nirvana
Posted by Omnivac on May 08, 1999 @ 1:00 a.m.

ERE’S your chance to see some Age of Empires II: Age of Kings action in motion! For a 1.2 MB worth of download, you’ll get to see a mini movie of 16 seconds and get to see some new stuff like a Castle (pause before it’s destroyed though, hehe) and Knights changing from a wedge formation to a column formation. Oooh, and anyone else spotted… the cow?

Angel Omnivac

The many secrets of AoK
Posted by Omnivac on May 07, 1999 @ 6:00 p.m.

UNCH of interesting facts have been posted in the forum today. Since most of the Ensemble Studios staff will be at E3 next week, I don’t know if they decided to spend the time they would have posting next week, and do it today instead. The first one deals with Age of Empires II: Age of Kings and it’s many "secrets", and requests/suggestions from the fans. This week, there were stong hints that bridges would be in the game, but since when were they in? Was the bridge a later addition to the game to quell the whining in the forum? Here’s a very revealing answer from Greg Street. And one may wonder what other secrets lurks in the bowels of the code.

Sorry, but nope. Some features we have just managed to keep secret for a long time! I say this because we appreciate and take seriously any and all design suggestions in this and other forums. However, we also take pride in our design decisions and the research and testing that go into them, and would be unlikely to revisit anything just to "quell whining on the Forum." We think we know what makes a good game. – ES Designer, Greg "DeathShrimp" Street

Damaging Buildings

No need to be a mathematician anymore in AoK to calculate the damage done to buildings.

In AoE, for reasons I won’t go into here (mainly, I don’t understand them), buildings took only 1/5 damage — so if a hoplite with an attack of 20 hit a granary, he did only 4 damage to the granary.

We decided that this was confusing, and so buildings in AoK now take damage normally (lessened by whatever armor the building has, of course). So if a weapon does 20 damage to an AoK building (after penetrating any building armor), the building will lose 20 hit points. In other words, a 1000 hit point AoK building is the equivalent of a 200 hit point AoE building. Or thereabouts — it’s not exact, because units do different damage and you can research stronger building armor, and some units (notably infantry) deliver a bit of special anti-building damage, etc. etc. So it’s not a simple 5:1 ration, but it’s pretty close. Also note that fortifications (castles, towers, walls) tend to be better-protected

Incidentally, one reason that AoK archers stink vs. infrastructure is that buildings tend to have more piercing armor than regular armor. – ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

Gunpowder units

Here’s another post from Sandy adressing the concerns of those who are afraid that the Gunpowder Units (Hand Cannoneer, Cannon Galley, Bombard Cannon) will be too powerful during the fourth age, the Imperial Age.

In AoK, gunpowder units, while powerful, are emphatically _not_ the ultimate trooper. Example: a hand-cannoneer cannot kill an archer in a single shot. Any more than an archer can kill a unit in a single shot. The hand-cannoneer does significantly more damage than an archer, of course, but he also has a TONS slower fire rate. Also his range is less-than-spectacular, and his hit points and armor are pathetic (especially for a 4th age unit).

The other gunpowder units are even more specialized. Will cannon galleys rule the seas? No more than catapult triremes ruled RoR’s seas. How about bombard cannons? They are nice, but if I’ve already invested in battering rams or siege onagers, I probably wouldn’t change. And trebuchets outrange them, plus do more damage.

This may make it sound like gunpowder units are useless. They’re not — they’re terrific! But you can be _extremely_ effective in the late imperial age without ever building a single gun-armed unit of any time. Well … unless you’re Turkish.

Oh yes, and more than any other unit type, gunpowder units are restricted by civ tech tree. – ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

New positions available at the Studios

Ensemble Studios is looking for an Assistant Designer and a Server/Database Specialist. if the jobs interested you, then look at the Studios Information Page and send your resume.

Angel Omnivac

Some differences between AoE and AoK
Posted by Omnivac on May 05, 1999 @ 6:00 p.m.

OME fans expressed some concerns about how Age of Empires II: Age of Kings will be different from Age of Empires. Without a doubt that the sequel is based on the AoE engine, and that a large number of things will be similar like farming, mining, fishing boats, fish and so on. Like for any sequels, an AoE player will find that AoK feels very similar in a lot of ways, much the same way a Diablo player would with Diablo II. Still, AoK will have a lot of changes to make the game easier to use, as well as new options. Sandy Petersen listed a few of these differences.

1) first-age barracks units are no longer a dead-end.
2) scout cavalry are no longer a dead end.
3) a gigantic army of archers no longer defeats every other unit, but needs back-up.
4) the second-age (currently) has five different lines of land military units available and all of these units are actually useful and tactically unique.
5) the third age (currently) has fourteen different lines of land military units available, and, again, all of them are useful. And there are no severe tactical "overlaps", as with AoE’s archer/compbow or axeman/sword issues.
6) castles make a big difference.
7) garrisoned units (esp. villagers) make a big difference.
8) walking over the top of building foundations & farms is a huge difference in feel, I think. A couple of weeks ago, we decided to play RoR again, just for fun. A number of (formerly-skilled) players completely surrounded their town centers with farms, having forgotten that in AoE, this is a Bad Thing.
9) Even the first age is not the same as in AoE — the existence of sheep, walls, the radically different hunting results, all contribute to a new "feel".
10) battering rams are available in the 3rd age, and they are radically different from anything in AoE. For that matter, one big difference in AoK is that there are no less than 4 different siege weapons available in the 3rd age, while AoE had only 1. Partly this reflects the fact that the defense in AoK is pretty darn strong. –
ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

And speaking of other differences, can you say the Artificial Intelligence will be light years ahead of the one in AoE?

In today’s test I ran against the AI, the following things happened:

1) one AI decided to try a villager boom. Another AI looked at the pop count, realized his enemy was booming, and did a rush to try to stop him.
2) an AI built a castle, a stable, and a barracks, _inside_my_town_ while my rams & horse archers were off busily devastating his homeland.
3) an AI was losing very badly. Just before he resigned, he tributed away all his goods to an ally. (Actually, the fact that he knows to resign is, I feel, a very strong feature.) –
ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

Killme answers a few questions

3D Engine Specialist, Herb "Killme" Marselas recently answered a few questions for a student currently working on a career project. You can find the answers on the Ensemble Studios website. Who knows, it might give you some ideas. on.

Angel Omnivac

A Bridge Too Far
Posted by Omnivac on May 05, 1999 @ 1:09 a.m.

ORE cautious now as we move into the heart of enemy territory, I hold my infantry back and set their aggression level to a more defensive posture and begin to use the Knights as an armoured vanguard to find the safest way forward. After dispatching them to search across the length and breadth of the visible map, I eventually identify two river crossings which might be able to help me on my way. The first bridge looks safer, but would involve a much longer forced march on the other side to reach our goal. The second bridge is protected by a large, formidable looking castle, but significantly it’s a lot nearer to our target village, meaning we could make one quick dash across the water and then plough straight through to French lines and comparative safety."

No, no, it’s not ol’ Omni doing another one of his insane ramblings. That was John Houlihan from Gamespot UK telling the tale of the first scenario of the Joan of Arc Campaign to be found in Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. Hey, if you want to know more about his adventures, Pay him a visit and don’t let those nasty Burgundians intercept you on the way.

Angel Omnivac

Briton Showcase
Posted by Omnivac on May 04, 1999 @ 8:20 p.m.

WO weeks ago, the first Age of Empires II: Age of Kings Civilization Showcase was featured at Gamespot, revealing the Strentghs and weaknesses of the Japanese as well as a host of other information. Today, the second update is focusing on the Britons and their famed Unique Unit, the Longbowman. Here’s a small excerpt from the new Showcase.

The Britons of Age II have many of Britain’s historical strengths, but also its historical weaknesses. The strengths of the British civilization lie in the fact that it has access to all bow-using archery range units and has great expansion capabilities, thanks to its cheaper town centers. The Britons are thus a powerful offensive civilization, able to field superior ranged units. They can take over key resource areas by laying down multiple town centers and guarding them with garrisoned archers. And the shepherd bonus gives them an advantage in the Dark Ages as well, letting them advance to their more-powerful ages earlier.

Britons’ attributes in a glimpse

Here’s the Civilization Attributes of the Britons at the present moment.

  1. Town Centers cost 50% cheaper.
    Like Age of Empires and Rise of Rome, multiple Town Centers will be abvailable in the third age. It remains to be seen how effective it will be for the Britons during gameplay depending on the cost of Town Centers. Higher the cost of TCs, more valuable will be this attribute to quickly have more villagers producing buildings and get an advantage there.
  2. Shepherds working 25% faster.
    It’s also worthy to note that shepherding is the fastest way to gather food in AoK. Britons will probably have the fastest method to gather food early in the game.
  3. Foot Archers get +1 range in Castle Age; and an additional +1 in Imperial Age.
    The Archers bonus is similar to the Minoan Composite Bowman, but will be effective more gradually.

If you have any comments about the Britons, don’t be shy and post away!

Angel Omnivac

GameWEEK interviews Microsoft’s Ed Fries
Posted by Omnivac on May 04, 1999 @ 1:10 a.m.

ECENTLY, at the annual Microsoft Gamestock event held in Seattle, WA, GameWEEK magazine (GameDAILY on the web) had a unique opportunity to meet Ed Fries, General Manager of the Microsoft Games Division. In this exclusive interview, Ed explains the course-corrected mantra for the Microsoft Games Group, outlines the division’s goals for 1999, talks about the MSN Gaming Zone and, most importantly, discusses some of the inherent challenges facing the world’s largest software publisher.

"A big focus for us this year is making gaming more accessible. We want to open up gaming to new audiences by continuing to create games that appeal to the hardcore and broad audiences. Many of the developers we’re working with understand accessibility—Age of Empires II is an interesting topic (Middle Ages) and the franchise is renowned for great gameplay,…" – MS General Manager, Ed Fries

AoK in Computer Games Strategy Plus

You can find an article about Age of Empires II: Age of Kings in the June ’99 Issue of Computer Games Strategy Plus. Click on the cover to the right to see a larger version. You can see Camel Riders and the new Battering Rams, some that are reinforced with Iron plates on the roof. Two of them are even damaging a wall and a gate and that’s probably the first "fire animations" we get to see. Also in the mag, you can find an AOK ad. Click here to see it, Very nicely done.

Thanks to Hole from Mist’s Town for the scanned images.

Angel Omnivac

It’s good to be the king!
Posted by Omnivac on May 03, 1999 @ 5:30 p.m.

HE leading Barons acquiesced in the coronation of William Rufus by Lanfranc in September of 1087, taking their lead from the archbishop but also demonstrating the immense power that was accruing to the Church in England. The new king was an illiterate, avaricious, impetuous man, not the sort of ruler the country needed at this or at any other time. According to William of Malmesbury, he had already sunk below the possibility of greatness or of moral reformation.

An early rebellion was inevitable.

Do you have what it takes to lead the rebellion and be the next king of England? But before attempting this (and to avoid losing your head in a basket and have your remains sent to every corners of London), you need to know how to organize yourself and where to recruit troops. Start planning tomorrow, when the Age of Empires II :Age of Kings Civilization Showcase series continue with…

The Britons

Some movies to watch

During the month of May, you will not want to miss two movies that will air on ABC. Sunday, May 16th, watch and relive the interesting life of Joan of Arc and her battles against the English and the Burgundians. And one week later on May 23th, don’t miss Cleopatra. Both movies looks very good by the way.

Angel Omnivac

Sharpen your mind to the Middle Ages
Posted by Omnivac on May 01, 1999 @ 5:59 p.m.

LECTRONIC TELEGRAPH online publication, Connected², has a nice article about Age of Empires II: Age of Kings where Steve Boxer says that AoK promises an ultra-realistic and challenging version of medieval history. Included in the article are a few comments by Ensemble Studios Designer Bruce Shelley.

In typically perfectionist style, Bruce Shelley, the brains behind Age of Empires (who cut his teeth inventing the godgame as Sid Meier’s right-hand man and has now earned industry-legend status in his own right), has gone right back to the drawing board with Age of Empires II. Although the new game looks much like a tarted-up version of its predecessor and has broadly similar gameplay (fast-forwarded in time to the Middle Ages, hence its subtitle, The Age of Kings), Shelley chose to rip apart its underlying engine and rebuild it completely

Garrisoning Towers

Sandy Petersen elaborating more on towers and the ability to garrison them.

At this time, towers can fire by themselves; i.e., there is an inherent garrison. However, they can also be garrisoned, and a garrisoned tower shoots a LOT more arrows more effectively. So if you don’t bother to garrison a tower in the back of your town it’s still useful, but if the enemy is attacking you’re far better off garrisoning. – ES Designer, Sandy "Sandyman" Petersen

AoK (at the present time being) will have towers that fire alone, much like Age of Empires and Rise of Rome. From the post of Sandy, garrisoning towers will nonetheless be helpful in certain conditions. I imagine ungarrisoned towers will be weaker than their AoE/RoR counterparts, but will increase in power when you put Archers in them. One obvious use of that is early in the game where you protect your gathering villagers… It would be far more economic to have one Tower with 5 Archers, then building 6 Towers.

Angel Omnivac