Ask Sandy IV

Article written by Sandy Petersen
Originally published on 10-11-1999 ; updated on 03-13-2017
Tags: General Info, Ask Sandyman, Interviews

Q) Are the [insert civ name] in the running for inclusion the X-pac?

A) Everyone except the Bulgars were, at one time, in the running for inclusion in the X-Pack.

Q) can you give us any more info on the new Calvery units your putting in the X-Pack?

And if you can't then when will you be able to?

A) I guarantee you that the first information on new cavalry units (note the spelling of "cavalry" for future reference) will NOT be given out by me, but will be posted as "official release information" on some gaming news website or other.

Q) thank you for making such a great game. The docks, in particular, were VERY improved

A) I would like to know exactly what you felt was most improved about the docks. This is a serious question.

Q) for the market, it would be useful to have a button that sells or buys 10 times. Will there be a way to invest double or triple wood costs in farms?

A) Thanks, we'll consider these.

Q) I think you must answer about 1 in 20 questions fielded to you. Why are you bothering to do this?

A) You've convinced me, Fatty Pigstick. I'll stop posting if anyone else in this thread agrees with you.

Q) Are there any bugs you guys at ES might keep as "features?"

A) Only through necessity.

Q) Would it be possible to have trebs autotarget units when they are unpacked?

A) probably. I don't think we will, though.

Q) By the way, you wasted your time responding to me. I couldn't find a place to report the bug, so I wrote it here. I don't need a response from you. And if you give me one, I'd appreciate if you didn't use caps to try and tell me about how much you don't care.

A) I promise that my comment about bug reporting was not specifically addressed to you. There have been a great number of bugs reported to me in this thread, and I read every one of them, and on the rare occasions I see one not previously reported, I painstakingly write it down on the "bugs we'd like to fix" list for the problematic X-Pack. If you understand why I don't respond to all the individual bugs reported, that's terrific. But apparently there are other fans who don't and repeatedly report them. Also many fans repeatedly post new features for consideration, then ask me why I'm not commenting on them, despite previous posts by me that state explicitly why I'm not (usually) going to respond to these. Every now and then I crack under the strain and use all caps for one of the words in my post. Sorry about that. AT LEAST I DON'T USE ALL CAPS FOR ENTIRE SENTENCES OR MULTIPLE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! At least not very often

Q) Why was India left out?

A) Because it would clearly require an entire architectural style, and we had decided to do "only" four architectural styles for the game. Frankly, we decided that Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Middle Eastern, and Oriental civs were too important to leave out. We are not unaware of the importance of the Indian subcontinent, however. And, frankly, our sales in India are not colossal. That is not our primary motive, however (after all, how many Goths, Mongols, & Byzantines buy our games?).

Q) Could you let us in on your target release date for the expansion pack?

A) I am not able to do that.

Q) can you guys give the gunpowder units to the chinese? or would this make it imbalance?

A) My philosophy on expansion packs is always that I should NOT change anything that has already gone into the game, even if it's obviously unbalanced. However, I feel free to add new things. The idea is that the new things added will be used to repair old errors. For instance, if we felt that the Goths were too weak (say), we would not fix them by adding walls, but by giving them a higher percentage of new units & research items. Note: please don't interpret this as "Sandy said he thinks the Goths are too weak." That's not what I said.

Q) Could you explain ship-to-ship combat?

A) Ships do additional damage to ships (only) which helps cancel out their piercing armor and lets ships fight ships.

Q) repair costs are simply % of total cost, isn't this right?

A) I believe so.

Q) did you ever consider in the course of development randomizing some of the attack variables?

A) No. It would have made replay game stuff much harder, and also the game has enough weird variables to take into account we wanted things to be as reliable for the player as possible.

Q) Does Ensemble plan to make changes to farms in a patch or expansion?

A) Not in a patch. In an expansion? Mmmmmaybe.

One thing to think about - when I play Franks, I hardly ever have to replant my farms, and I can't think of once that it was annoying or came at a bad time. I suspect that if you regularly purchased all the farm upgrades, you'd find farm rebuilding to be much less irritating. And no, this is not my "solution" to the farms, and there _ still _ might be improvements in an x-pack.

Q) Does the computer player AI "learn" my tendencies as the game progresses? (e.g. if I keep sending cav does it learn to make camels and pikes?)

A) The computer player does respond to what you do. If he sees that you have lots of cav, he'll make camels & pikes. Likewise, if you never train any archers, he'll never train any skirmishers (unless he runs out of gold). For that matter, he'll make light cav vs. your priests, and if you don't train lots of warships, he'll mainly just build cannon galleons, but if you build warships, he'll build warships to fight them (he'll generally build a few warships just to keep his hand in).

Q) Since your reson for not including India was architectural design I suggest that takeing the time to do it for the expack would seriously improve your sales in India

A) Frankly, I doubt it.

Q) Are there any plans to improve the ai pathing and updates to reduce the amunt of game slow downs.

A) I hate to burst your bubble, but the improved AI pathing is WHY the game gets slow downs! If we needed to decrease slowdowns, we'd need to make pathing worse. In fact, we did. Pathing at one time was _ better _ than in the final product, and we made it (marginally) more clumsy to significantly increase game speed.

Q) What happened to the plans to have forest grow back so long as you didn't cut them all down?

A) It was pointless. No one ever cut down all the forests anyway, and it was horribly unrealistic. Forests didn't grow back after they were cut down, and there was no extensive areas of reforestation anywhere in the world during the Middle Ages. Plus it served no gameplay point. If you actually somehow managed to cut down all the convenient trees near your town, by that time wood only costs 14 gold per 100 in the market and you can buy all the wood you need. Why waste programming & game-time power on a feature that no one needs and no one would use?

Q) why do you work with big brother?

A) Naked greed.

Q) are you guys going to eliminate the skirmishers minimum range?

A) No.

Q) Which of these ever-so-slightly contrasting... erm, things, is the most historically accurate?

A) The Persians were a trade powerhouse.

Q) the Elizabethen English navy defeated the Spanish Armada because of a new, faster and more streamlined warship. Is this something ES has considered for the x-pack Britons?

A) The Spanish Armada was defeated because of a series of really bad storms and adverse winds that kept it from closing with the English, after which it was forced to sail the long way around Great Britain & Ireland in order to get back to Spain. In addition, its ships were all heavily-laden with troops and artillery for the invasion of England. The faster, smaller ships the English had were only part of the story, and not the most decisive part. English seamanship & admiralship were far more important than their ships. Incidentally, if the Armada _had _ managed to land on English shores, there is no doubt about the outcome of the campaign - the Spanish soldiers were the toughest in Europe.

Other points about the Spanish Armada - the English had _ more_ warships than the Spanish in the battle (many Spanish vessels were unarmed transports). Also, the English used demolition ships(!) on the Spanish when they were at anchor, forcing them to cut their anchor cables to get away, after which they got lost in the night. Guess how many Spanish ships the English sunk in the week-long naval action? One (1) single vessel. Sixty two (62) more were lost in the storms navigating around England.

The Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588, which is way after the Age of Kings game takes place. So probably no new British warships.

Q) Is the Holy Trinity three hypostases of God, three personae of God, neither, or both? If neither, was Arias right that Jesus wasn't divine?

A) As a good Mormon, I in fact subscribe to the Arian heresy. However, I must take issue with your claim that Arias said that Jesus wasn't divine. He was divine, but not the same person as God, and not God's co-equal.

Q) Ok, so what is the bonus that pikemen and spearmen get against eles?

A) Published elsewhere in the forum.

Q) you are my hero, but still I am older than you!

A) You are older than 44?

Q) do the historical facts that I posted hurt you so badly?

A) Not in the slightest. I am fully aware of the importance, or lack of same, of the Bulgars during the Dark & Middle Ages.

Q) Thank you for the best 3 games in the world ES.

A) ?? Three ??

Q) it got me thinking that i could buy out a television station and air AOK recorded games with frequent commercial breaks, so my question is: would their by any legal technicalities between ensemble and I, if i did that?

A) probably not with ES. Maybe MS. I'm sure MS's friendly and helpful staff of lawyers will be delighted to communicate with you on the subject ... er ... wait. Actually, their lawyers might be kind of busy right now. Dang. You might have to take your turn after the US government

Q) If i got some famous football players to host my tevevision show and talk strategy, would you watch?

A) I have almost no interest in organized sports. Host Bruce Campbell and I'm there.

Q) could you help me pay for it?

A) Absolutely not. If by "you" you are referring to me, Sandy Petersen.

Q) My puppy when forced to choose between a 10$ dinosaur chewtoy and the AOE2 tech tree fold-out, chose to chew on the fold out... have you thought about selling the AOE2 fold-out at pet stores?

A) An excellent idea, which I will immediately communicate to the authorities. I have a theory about which "toy" my puppy would choose to chew on, too.

Q) Does any at ES play regularly on the zone?

A) Yes. Several of us are on the zone frequently. Some almost daily.

Q) I find when play french, the female villagers tend to seriously distract me, my girl friend tends to get mad at me, and my teamates tend to blame losing on me. Can you suggest a way to minimize the negative effects of french medieval chicks?

A) Why would you want to minimize them?

Q) why do you sound grumpy?

A) I will try to improve. How about this? If I think I'm going to make a grumpy answer to a question, I'll just ignore that question and not answer it. Does that sound potentially beneficial?

Q) What "type" of damage do gunpowder units (janissaries, hand cannoneers, bombard towers, cannon galleon) do?

A) Depends on the unit. "handgun" units do piercing, and "cannon" units do normal.

Q) what "type" of damage do throwing axemen do?

A) Normal. So do Mamelukes.

Q) i was the one who said the dock was majorely improved, and since you asked why, at least, I think you did, I'll try to explain a bit more [explanation deleted]

A) Thank you. That was very informative, and a useful glimpse into an articulate fan's mind.

Q) does the demo ship do 140 damage or whatever to one enemy unit? or does he do 140 damage to all enemy units in a small radius?

A) It is a radius effect. Incidentally, they also do bonus building damage (+220 for a demo ship, +280 for a hvy demo ship).

Q) congrats on the flames for the fire ship, they look awesome

A) I think so too. All credit goes to the programmers and artists here, and none to the designers.

Q) Was the dolphin and KKK hat-like thing a big controversy I.E. Upset you becaue you had to change it, or (except for redoing the artwork) was it a no big deal to fix and take out?

A) It was a "roll your eyes" level of controversy. If you know what I mean.

Q) I was wondering why the Frank's Throwing Axeman have the same range as the Mangudai? I was thinking you made it that way not for realism, but for game play balance.

A) Good guess.

Q) can you tell me where i can find the list of the AI script goals in CPSB.doc?

A) I'm highly suspicious that you have some kind of weird pirate copy of the game, Demo Capitan, because you couldn't find CPSB on your CD-ROM several days ago.

Q) What is your favorite civ and what strategy do you use with them?

A) I do not have a favorite civ. I am a glutton for novelty so I am constantly trying new (often crappy, as it turns out) strategies. Most of my strategies involve trying to get the most interesting-looking units into the foreground, regardless of their competence in battle.

Q) The game looks really european orientated, will we see more asian civs?

A) Maybe.

Q) Are you thinking of making anything else sellable at the market other than raw materials?

A) Do you have a suggestion? Excess trebs, maybe?

Q) will we see more ways to get resources in late games?

A) I doubt it. The focus in Imperial is no longer on resource-gathering. People want their villagers to run almost on auto-pilot while they pump out the armies by this time.

Q) If you were a hotdog, would you eat yourself?

A) I would never eat a 44-year-old hot dog, even if I was one.

Q) Can you tell me _where_ the AI goals are located in the document?

A) You have the document. You presumably have Word or some other text editing program that can do the Search function. Have fun!

Q) Sandyman, were your parents Mormon?

A) My parents were not Mormon when I was born. They are now.

Q) How long have you been married?

A) 20 years

Q) How did you manage to learn so much in a mere 44 years of living, considering you spent quite a bit of time in Texas?

A) My brain has a hole in it which I strive ceaselessly to fill with knowledge. Through pure happenstance, some of the knowledge rubs off as it slides through the gap and I am able to use these random fragments of lore to lend me the outward appearance of wisdom.

Q) What was MS's problem with the dolphins?

A) They didn't say. Personally, I think it's bad to kill dolphins, too, but then I also think it's bad to kill humans. The part that amazes me is that someone at MS felt bad for the dolphins and completely ignored the fact that human beings get killed by the hundreds in AoK. Just in case anyone's wondering, I do not have any moral objection to "killing" computer-generated sprites of humans or dolphins.

Q) Will the out-of-sync error which apperently seems to happen for no reason to people with cable modems be fixed in a patch or X-pack?

A) We sure hope so.

Q) Do you know how old I am?

A) You have always existed.

Q) Do you play Starcraft?

A) Not any longer.

Q) Do you think the War elephants in AoK are too similar to the ultras?

A) No. Especially considering that Age of Empires had war elephants before Starcraft had ultras.

Q) Do you plan making a fantasy or sci-fi game?

A) Again? What's wrong with the previous fantasy & SF games I did that I have to do it again? (I worked on the fantasy games RuneQuest, ElfQuest, Ghostbusters, & Hawkmoon; and on the SF games Ringworld, Lightspeed, & Hyperspeed; and on the SF/Fantasy games Doom, Doom2, and Quake.)

Q) When did you start designing games?

A) I started designing games professionally in 1979.

Q) And what games did you design?

A) It's a really long list. I've been a designer for 20 years. A partial list (of some of the fantasy & SF games at least) appears earlier.

Q) Is there any information on the X-pac that you can release?

A) Not much.

Q) It seems odd to me that you have to use the same fishing ship that you use in the dark ages all the way to the imperial age. Are you thinking about giveing the fishing ship a upgrade or a speed bonus in the x-pack?

A) No. People don't seem too excited about improving fishing boats. Plus the Careening, Dry Dock, and Shipwright research items all affect fishing boats anyway.

Q) I saw your pic....Lookin' sexy

A) You have a thing for bald guys? Yowza!

Q) If you are ever in Philly, PA, I'll take you out for a cheesesteak and some soft pretzels

A) You're on.

Q) Do you feel that 20th/21st century man is the most advanced man to walk the earth?

A) "Advancement" is an illusion. Our bodies harbor many evolutionary changes from our ancestors of only a few centuries ago. However, this does not make us more "advanced", only different. We are not more "advanced" than the dinosaurs. We are only adapted to a different environment.

Q) Do you have any opinions on ancient texts that talk about air-warfare? Or the hieroglyphs of aircrafts found inside the pyramids? Or the stone walls found in Britain which have been melted together by what can only be described at "thermonuclear blasts" by modern scientists?

A) I think every one of these has other, better, simpler explanations. If

Q) these can be verified by "the rule of 3".

A) Occam's Razor supercedes the rule of 3.

Q) In AoE damaged ships started burning. Why was this left out in AoK and can we have it back please?

A) I think the artists didn't like it, and when it comes to graphic depictions, they rule the roost here at ES.

Q) I heard a rumor about 2 UU's for each civ...this true?

A) No.

Q) My Onagers keep killing my units when attacking even when I put them on no attack stance...Is this a bug or am i just dumb?

A) Even at no attack? Hmm.

Q) If a rooster lays an egg on the exact center of a triangular roof, which way will the egg roll?

A) GET THAT EGG! If you bury it under a toad, you can hatch out a pet cockatrice!

Q) When you read history, all about great battles and civs, great rulers and achievements what actually inspires you to make the game and how do you translate that what like into a game?

A) This would take a really long time to answer fully. In brief -two things inspire me in different directions vis-a-vis history. The first are what I might term "systems" or the way things worked in olden days. For instance, throughout history, cavalry almost invariably trounced archers. These "systems" is how I build the fundamental game design. Then there are what i might term "exceptions" or unusual events that are interesting. For instance, at the battle of Crecy, archers managed to defeat armored knights. How did this happen? These "exceptions" are how I build the scenarios, campaigns, and plotlines of the game.

Q) Also, have you thought about making a game that has the battle features of AOK but where diplomatic negotiations are worthwhile?

A) Yes.

Q) One other thing. The Papacy is within your time frame. Notwithstanding religious reasons, have you ever thought about a way to include them?

A) When we do new civs, we try to make them as wide as possible (if appropriate), rather than narrowing their focus. In the case of the Papacy, we would be likelier to make an "Italian" civ than a "Papal" civ.

Q) Is Es thinking of adding more Features than Was added into the RoR?

A) We are trying to be roughly comparable to RoR in terms of enhancements. I must admit that our projects tend to expand and grow beyond the initial plans.

Q) The notion of themed X-packs in intriging. Does this mean there could be more than 1 X-pack over time?

A) Nothing is ruled out.

Q) Mac or PC?

A) The Mac is just like a computer, except slower.


A) Quality, not genre, is the determiner.

Q) Elvis or the Beatles?

A) Beatles, definitely. Elvis was earlier, but the Beatles did more for rock music. Elvis was a consummate performer & skilled at doing rock as it was, but the Beatles were innovators, willing to expand their horizons.

Q) Burger King or MacDonalds

A) Burger King. MacDonalds creates the basic hamburger to which all other hamburgers compare favorably. :P

Q) Does heated shot affect all types of Towers, or just Bombard versus Guard/Watch/Keep?

A) it affects all towers

Q) Do allied bonuses have cumulative effects?

A) Sometimes. Depends on the bonuses.

Q) Example, if a Tueton tower shoots 2x arrows, and a Chinese ally has Elite CKN that shoots 2x arrows, then if the CKN garrisons in the Tueton towers do you get 4x arrows?

A) No.

Q) First I did some tests and found in the cavalry line that Knights attack once every 1.8 seconds, Cavaliers every 1.85, and Paladins every 1.9

A) This is one of the ways we balanced horses, by permitting them to attack slightly more often.

Q) Idle monks don't automatically start healing friendly units when they are in range.

A) They have to be within range of their heal ability, not their total range.

Q) Do you read the other forums other than the Strategy forum in AOKH?

A) Not very often

Q) I heard that scenario designers are not an important group for ES when they make decisions, etc., is that true?

A) Since the game's designers are, ourselves, scenario designers, how can it be true?

Q) 'Random' has a tendancy to choose 'Arabia'.

A) I'm going to completely deny this and state that Random is, in fact, random. So there. However, because it's random this means some map types will show up more often than others. That's what random means.

Q) With stone far more valuable in AoK, was there an agreement to leave stone deposits as is, or are you looking at possibly adding more stone deposits?

A) I hate defensive games, personally. In any case, we're not likely to change the amount of stone on the existing random maps. We may add new random maps with different amounts of stone.

Q) Have you considered giving a castle the same properties as a TC.

A) Yes. This was even in the game for a while. It was taken out, at great difficulty.

Q) Has ES considered licensing merchandise?

A) Show us the contract, and we'll consider signing it.

Q) While I'm asking you you think we're in a bubble economy right now that could crash or are the fundamentals solid?

A) Capitalist economies are fundamentally unstable.

Q) What age is the best age to get married at, all things being equal?

A) 23 years old, or exactly six months after you've fallen in love for the third time, whichever comes last.

Q) Do you have a recommendation for a breed of friendly-and-not-too-big dog if I decide to get a new puppy?

A) English Bulldog.

Q) Was a Saboteur unit ever considered for inclusion in AOK?

A) Check out the scenario editor.

Q) Was an assassin/Ninja unit ever considered for inclusion in AOK?

A) Not seriously.

Q) Were the use of Fire Fields ever considered for inclusion in AOK?

A) No. It's grossly ahistorical.

Q) Members of the Mormon church pay 10% of their earnings into that church, in return for whatever-it-is-you-get. Therefore, by me buying any Ensemble Studio's product, I am indirectly paying money into the Mormon Church.

A) In the first place, Mormons tithe only voluntarily and in secret. Most Mormons, in fact, do _not _ tithe. (I do, though.) While it's true that by buying an ES studio, you manage to somehow get money to me and thus into the Mormon Church, this is kind of a ridiculous way of looking at it. You also give money to the various banks which hold mortgages on ES employee homes, plus you give money to the Federal Goverment via my taxes, and to the Rockwall County school system via my property taxes, and to the other game companies that I patronize when I buy games. Hell, I probably spend money on some things that find their way back into YOUR pocket by hook or crook.

Q) Why did the designers choose to design the game so heavily centered on the imperial age.. What i mean is that a disproportionate amount of available technologies become available during the imperial age.

A) we had to make Imperial Age worth getting into. I'm not sure what you mean by "disproportionate". In AoE, there were 5 techs in Stone Age, 16 in Tool, 30 techs in Bronze, and 39 in Iron. In AoK there are 8 in Dark, 27 in Feudal, 42 in Castle, and 42 in Imperial. This means that there are proportionately -_ fewer _ fourth age techs in AoK than there were in AoE.

Q) Which god-learners secret?

A) Only three living humans know the God Learner's Secret, as far as I know. Who am I to increase the number?

Q) ignore-attack-group-under-attack

A) when set to "true", defense units will not be sent to assist an attack group in combat.

Q) gather-defense-units

A) When set to "true", your defense units will cluster together in one area instead of just hanging around spread throughout your town.

Q) set-doctrine

A) This action sets the doctrine to a value chosen by you. Example: if you have 4 houses, a town center, a mill, and a lumber camp, you might set the doctrine to "95".

Q) doctrine <value>

A) this fact checks the doctrine value. Example: if the doctrine is 95, you could order the CP to start gathering more food. The "doctrine" is just a convenience for writing AI scripts.

Q) Are scenario designers an important part of the decisions, etc. that ES make w/ regard to the game

A) Insofar as we, ourselves, are scenario designers, yes.

Q) There were some bugs, user-friendly issues, etc. reported in the Scenario Design forum. Are these issues being looked at seriously by ES and will we expect patches or a better map editor in the x-pack

A) Any changes that we make in the scenario editor will be for our convenience, but would certainly be included in the x-pack.

Q) I was surfin the ES site and noticed that it said you were the man behind the Call of Cthulhu game!!!

What does this mean?

A) It means that if you look on the front cover of your Call of Cthulhu game, you'll see my name as the author. If you own one of the first four editions, I am listed as the main author. Some time after I left Chaosium, they started listing me as co-author with Lynn Willis (who was the editor), but my name still comes first. I am, in fact, the designer of the Call of Cthulhu game. I created the stats for all the creatures, wrote the _ vast_ majority of the text (like 90%+), designed the sanity system, weapons, character generation system, wrote the game hints, introduction, etc. etc.

Q) Why don't you design a multi-player online Call of Cthulhu game?.. It would probably need to be real graphic if you know what i mean ...

A) Have you played Quake? I named & did a lot of design work on the monsters in it, not to mention about a fourth of the levels. It has Dimensional Shamblers, Shub-Niggurath, Formless Spawn, Elder Magic, etc.

Q) Sounds cool, but how on earth was that game pronounced?

A) You have to sneeze it. "Cthulhu"

Q) other than game balance was there ay other reason you gave a javelin wielding unit a minimum range?

A) "other than game balance"? No.

Q) Being Mormon did you have a problem with working on the game Call of Chthulu? I assumed that you did research on it and read the necronomicon and came across lots of paganistic beliefs.

A) there are several published fake Necronomicons. None of them seem to have anything to do with Lovecraft's original idea, and all are late twentieth-century in origin. I had no moral or ethical problem with working on Call of Cthulhu.

Q) Did you have a Temple wedding?

A) Absolutely.

Q) I would love to see wooden gates

A) Frankly, so would I, but we have more important things for our artists to work on, like the plethora of new units & buildings.

Q) I disagree that no one would use a grow back feature in forest. The Babylonians planted 2 trees for every tree they cut down

A) This explains why Iraq is such a densely-forested region to this day.

Q) is es considering that aok might be the victim of a minor oversight

A) YES!!!

Q) any considerations on what might be done about it?

A) YES!! Sorry about the shouting, but the answer should be fairly obvious. Of COURSE we are thinking about it. Constantly, and with respect to both a possible patch as well as the possible X-Pack.

Q) Is it ever likely that CP will play as well as a human?

A) I do not believe that an AI can ever play the same as a human except with respect to very simple games.

Q) How come I cant get my wife to play AOK?

A) She has far more important things to do than play games. If you'd help her with the housework, you oaf, she might have more free time

Q) Why do her biscuits always get black on the bottom?

A) The same reason she does.

Q) As a member of the Mormon church do you plan on inhabiting a planet in the next life?

A) This is kind of a weird misunderstanding _cum_ oversimplification of what we think happens in the next life. As a matter of fact, Mormons believe that the future celestial kingdom will be here, on Earth.

Q) Please get rid of the town center's ability to attack

A) No. We may well offset the town center's ability to launch a major offensive, though.

Q) why did you decide to give bombard towers murder holes? Are the tower crew aiming their cannons straight down or just dropping cannon balls through trap doors?

A) Why can't the crew of a bombard tower drop boiling oil or red-hot sand through ports in their tower's side just like anyone else? Or open up a port at the base of the tower (behind which is a gun) and fire a spray of grapeshot through it?

Q) Who decided on the minimum requirements for AOK? MS or ES?

A) MS had final call. After all, they have to sell it, and they have a much better idea of what kind of machine will be on desktops a year or two in the future (which is when we have to decide upon the requirements).

Q) I would love to see a feature that would allow allies to pick teams without the opponents knowing what civs you chosen.

A) This is in the game now, as Random Civ. Yes I know that's not quite the same as what you asked for.

Q) It would also be nice to have this remain a mystery until your units have been seen by the opponent.

A) We have thought about this, but it is (1) not that easy to do, and (2) we don't think it would be that interesting or useful. We like knowing what we're up against, frankly. If we need historical justification, we'll simply point out that no one goes to war without any idea of who their opponent was.

Q) In this vein it would also be nice to have a toggle in the game room to prevent people from turning the scores on.

A) Hmm.

Q) I appreciate and understand why you don't feel compelled to respond, and as a result I don't want a response. Anyway, you probably don't want to go establishing precedents on how you responded to a suggestion in a questions thread.

A) You got a response anyway because I wanted to comment on what you said. I don't care about setting precedents, particularly. I make no claim to being consistent - the disclaimer at the top of the thread is to give me permission to ignore certain questions, not to force me to do so.

Q) When E.S. created Rise of Rome, did you ever expect booming to arise as a strategy?

A) Nope. We have no objection to it, though.

Q) Were the expensive docks and fishing boats in AoK a deliberate attempt to kill off or diminish use of the booming strategy?

A) Diminish, maybe - the idea was that while we have no objection to booming, we don't want it to be the only strategy that works.

Q) How good are the E.S. players?

A) We vary from crummy to good. The Sheriff can beat the best of us.

Q) Why did you not change the art set for both the Mining Camp and Lumber Camp when you advance to the next age?

A) Because they are a small, yet important object, and players must be able to glance at one and instantly identify what it is. This is easier if it doesn't change over the ages. Other buildings either don't matter so much (like houses) or are large, so it's easier to distinguish them (like Barracks).

Q) I think the more art the better

A) we think so too - this is, paradoxically, one of the reasons that we DIDN'T do tons of specialty art (like Imperial-age mining camps and so forth). We want to get the most bang for our buck out of the art. Example: some players feel that we should have had different-looking regular units (infantry, archers, cav, etc.) for the different civs, so a Japanese Champion would look different from a Viking Champion. If we had done 13 versions of each regular unit, our artists would have had to produce 572 different non-unique units instead of 44. Even if the changes were only in minor details, either the game would have taken months longer to finish or we would have had to schlock out the art (unacceptable) or we would have had to cut out some other art from the game (like buildings, or unique wonders, or something). Every single place in AoK that you see that you think we could have done some different art for, we saw it, too, and made a conscious choice to spend our art effort elsewhere.

We feel that quality of art is absolutely paramount. We do not think that quantity = quality however, and so triage is needed to determine where the art gets us the most bang for the buck.

Q) why dont u add the heroes unit in random map?

A) In essence, the Unique Units are the "heroes" for random map games.

Q) Why not allow units to garrison back into barracks and the like ?

A) We want to restrict the number of buildings that units can garrison in. We originally permitted garrisoning in most all bulidings, and this was NOT fun for a variety of reasons I won't go into now.

Q) Why not make the TC's ability to fight an upgrade for every TC ?

;A) We have other plans for fixing the TC problemo.

Q) Why not make rams (especially, but other siege units as well) "permanent gaia units", ie they belong to the player who has units near them ?

A) siege units are already weak enough in AoK. Plus the crews would sabotage them rather than let them get captured.

Q) Why not make units go back to their parent building in order to get their upgrade ?

A) Why?

Q) I haven't played enough AoK games to judge it there, so this might be more of a AoE/RoR observation. I hated siege weapons there. The way they were used was totally unrealistic and "unfun". And made most other units irrelevant once iron age was reached. But there was an easy way out of that : make the "attack ground" option the only attack option. Good work with the trebs here, but the others ?

A) Ask more experienced players. I think you'll find that siege weapons in AoK are far from dominant tactically.

Q) Er... Some of the things the Franks say are in German. Thanks, but no thanks ! ;-)

A) Really? Are you sure it's not just really bad French? We were told it was the genuine article.

Q) Why was the notion of trade with out-of-the-map civs abandoned ?

A) It sucked in practice.

Q) Until the gunpowder, and even then to some extent, naval warfare was mainly about boarding. Ballistae, rams, fire missiles were not the primary weapons. Sailors and naval infantry were. So why those shooting battles ?

A) So they can fight land troops.

Q) Probably next to impossible to implement for programming reasons... But why not a "set formation" option ?

A) we had it for a while. It was so buggy and would take so long to fix it got dropped.

Q) Have you guys considered lengthening the time it takes to build TC's and Castles as a solution to the TC push?

A) No. Even if we were to delay the TC's build time, we wouldn't want to make castles take longer -- a "castle rush" is historical and we'd like to support it.

Q) Arianism and Mormonism, I never knew this before. Would you elaborate a little? I hate to tread on other's beliefs, but I am fascinated to know more. If I remmeber correctly, Arius said that Jesus was divine but of a different person than God. Am I getting the gist? Is it more subtle than that?

A) We believe that Jesus and the Holy Ghost are separate and independent personages from God the Father. We are not Trinitarians, and do not accept the Nicene Creed.

Q) Now, without trying to be offensive, do Mormons consider Mormonism to be a non-monotheistic religion as a consequence?

A) Mormons consider Mormonism to be monotheistic. I suppose if you wanted to be technical, since we worship both Jesus & God and we think of them as separate entities, you could claim we worship more than one "god". We don't normally think of Jesus as God, however, reserving that title for God the Father. However, we certainly respect, honor, and love Jesus, pray exclusively in Jesus's name, and named our church after Him (The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints -- "Mormon" is only a nickname).

Q) if the Franks speak a mix of French and German, I think that's quite nice

A) Sadly, I suspect that if the Franks are speaking a mix of languages in the game, it's a blunder on the part of MS's localization rather than a nice touch. * sigh *

Q) I see that with the exception of the crusades that aok has virtually none of the religious problems that plagued the middle ages.

A) Despite the popular concept, wars of religion weren't really that common, even in the Middle Ages. Mass persecutions or purges, on the other hand, happened pretty frequently, but who wants to do a game on _ them_?

Q) why do the vikeings have monks? And the eastern religions at that these civs where not christian. Did you not want to have priest type units that did not reflect the christian monks? believe it or not I do find it insulting that the other belief systems where ignored in this way.

A) "Monk" is not exclusively a christian term. We specifically renamed the religious figures monks to AVOID christian overtones. We even renamed the "church" a "monastery" to make it more universal. While Vikings didn't have monks, per se, they definitely had a variety of religious leaders, and why should we deny a Viking player the ability to gain control over other players' units?

Q) dont try to tell me vikings where christian because as soon as they were christianized they were not vikings anymore.

A) Bunk. This is completely and utterly false as even the most cursory reading of history will show. Christianized Vikings were just as thoroughly Viking as were their pagan brethren. They engaged in blood feuds, raided and pillaged other nations, wrote epic poetry, colonized North America (Erik the Red was Christian), and did every single thing that non-Christian Vikings did.

Q) In AOE it was useless to make more than 1 trade ship with an ally

A) Not so. Depending on the distance from your own dock, you could keep up to 3 trade ships busy at a time.

Q) would ES (In the Future) make a separate building set or different look for each unit(for different civs) if you got more artists lik 10 more or so.

A) I think it's doubtful. We'd still find better things for them to do.

Q) Since you are sworn to not telling about the x-pack could you tell us when we will be able to find out this information.

A) I do not know when the MS marketing dept. is going to want to release its first exclusives.

Q) How do you historically justify conversion in Aoe/Aok?

A) We don't bother to justify it.

Q) How about random teams?

A) Bwa ha ha

Q) It was my understanding that the Christianization of the Vikeings is part of what defeated them finally that and economicaly crushing them?

A) The Vikings were never formally defeated or economically crushed. They stopped raiding and pillaging after a while, but that was because they switched over to conquest and became permanent residents. Example: the King of France offered to give Normandy to the Vikings, who accepted, and immediately settled down. A century or so later, William the Conqueror, a Viking-descended Norman, invaded and conquered England. I agree that William the Conqueror was no Viking - his culture was quite different. But Harald Hardrada, who invaded England at the same time, and who was also Christian, was clearly a Viking in culture and outlook.

Once the Vikings opened up more normal routes of interaction with their neighbors, such as trade & conquest, instead of just rapine & plunder, they became just another nation in Europe. Christianity may have assisted the change, but it was not the cause of it. They would clearly have done the things they did whether or not they were Christian.

Just as the Christian samurai of the 1500s, whose only difference from normal samurai was their unwillingness to committ seppuku, Christian Vikings remained fundamentally unchanged from pagan Vikings. Makes one wonder about the advantages of Christianity, I suppose.

Q) loyalties to fealty and kin were often so dominant that they took precedence over the new teachings and a warrior might see himself duty-bound to kill someone on his own side without feeling that he was going against the Christian ethic

A) This continues to the modern day. It is always possible for an unrighteous person to seek justification for his deeds in his religion, and indeed to use his religion to -_ support _ his actions. Blood feuds and kin loyalty were often seen as bolstered by Christianity, not weakened.

Q) please change the image of the unit to correspond to the civ. It just doesn't look right to see the same light cavalry for the Mongols as for the Britons, pretty please.

A) I've explained many times why we're not going to do this.

Q) The vikeings where not converted by door to door or childrens support groups. It was slowly forced onto them sometimes by arms.

A) This is, again not true. The Vikings were _not _ repeat _ not _ converted by force of arms. Who could possibly make their way to Scandinavia with enough force to beat the Vikings into submission? No one. In fact, they were converted to Christianity by what amounts to the "door-to-door" you mention. Legions of courageous Christian missionaries made their way into Viking territory and tried to convert them. Many died horribly. The Vikings converted at their own pace and for their own reasons. One strong reason for their conversion was that the old pagan religion really sucked bad. Conversion to Christianity didn't mean they lost their old laws, culture, or practices - all they had to do was lose some of the nastier aspects of their superstitions, and that wasn't so bad. Take Iceland as an example - they had always had feuds, and once a bunch of the locals became Christian, they started to have feuds over religion, too. The Icelanders realized this was bad and decided that everyone should be the same religion to prevent these troubles. But they couldn't decide what religion to become. So they asked the wisest man in Iceland to decide for them. As it happens, he was a pagan, but both sides trusted him. He went into seclusion for several days and when he emerged, he declared that all Iceland should become Christian, including himself. So they did. And they went on with their feuds and bloodletting, but at least people weren't being killed over religion any more.

Note: it is perfectly true that Christians often tried to convert people by force of arms. This was done in plenty of places at plenty of times. But it is not how the Vikings became Christianized.