Ask Sandy IX

Article written by Sandy Petersen
Originally published on 01-03-2000 ; updated on 03-13-2017
Tags: General Info, Ask Sandyman, Interviews

Q) Who do you think is better, Stout, Chandler or Hammett?

A) Hammett is the best writer of the three. But Stout is great fun to re-read, not so much as mysteries, but just for the interplay between Wolfe & Goodwin

Q) How about Spillane or Thompson?

A) I think Spillane is a hack, and have read very little Thompson.

Q) Also, in "And Be a Villain", how did Nancylee Shepherd know that the Meltettes were poisoned? That has always bugged me.

A) Hmm. I just read that last month. Did she _know_ they were poisoned? I always assumed she was just giving them a taste-test, just in case.

Q) In Aok how were unit costs assigned? Was it a process of playtesting and then determining a price that "seemed about right" or did you have tables of costs for hit points and attack strengths?

A) We started out with the latter, and then modified it by the former process.

Q) can you supply us with the exact formula concerning a monks single conversion chances ?

A) He has a 33% chance per second. However, he MUST chant for at least 4 seconds (15 seconds vs. a building) before conversion. In effect, this means he frequently gets the guy in 4 seconds, because the chance to succeed is being checked during the first few seconds and if it works, after the 4-second time limit is up, he gets the conversion immediately.

Q) Also how does faith and any other civ bonuses affect conversions as well as how much harder are specific units with a built in resistance to convert ?

A) Faith, being a Teuton, and being a light cav/scout all affect your chances of conversion by halving them.

Q) What is the formula for determaining conversion chances when using multiple monks?

A) Each monk checks for success independently, but there is still a 4-second time limit.

Q) what is the purpouse of this thread?

A) I am a full-time employee of Ensemble Studios. Many forumers like to ask me questions, so much that it was suggested (months ago) that I set up a special "Ask Sandy" thread in which they could do so conveniently. So I did. Many of the questions have to do with our games, but by no means all.

Q) Could we have a program for editing AI in a future X-Pack?

A) I fear we possess neither the time nor the inclination to construct a program for AI editing. You're on your own.

Q) When designing, did you consider a 'flag' unit or structure, that could be used for marking territory?

A) No. We probably don't play enough free-for-all games to have thought it worthwhile. You can use an outpost for this purpose, of course.

Q) When designing, did you consider adding more ambient background sounds?

A) This would not be a design consideration, but a sound/music one.

Q) when playing multiplayer with friends against a team of computer opponents, that the computer will gang-rush the player with the highest score (me!) consistantly, which gets tedious

A) Sorry. I asked to have it changed, and the change would have taken so much time to do that I found other things for the programmers involved to do instead.

Q) Did you/are you considering an upgrade like 'Logistics' from RoR, that would allow twice as many barracks units?

A) No. The Logistics research was an explicit attempt to make barracks units useful in AoE, in which they rarely made an appearance (unless you were Choson). It is our belief that infantry are plenty fine in AoK, and are no longer the puny, rarely-used weak sisters of AoE.

Q) Can you pls tell us how much more effective the elite chu ko nu is than an arabelest?

A) An elite Chuck does a basic 8 damage with its initial shot, then 3 more points of damage on each of 4 successive shots. If you have at least 2 points of piercing armor, the "bonus" shots will only do 1 point each. An arbalest does a basic 6 damage, with no additional shots. The arbalest has a 90% chance to hit. The Chuck has an 85% chance (which means that at least one of its five shots usually misses). The Chuck shoots once every 3 seconds (but remember, this is a volley of five shots), the Arbalest once every 2 seconds. The Chuck has a shorter range, and more hit points, than the Arbalest. Now you know.

Q) How did you find out that the Winged Hussars of Poland were light cavalry and not heavy cavalry?

A) Well, technically it depends on how you classify "heavy cavalry". Since the winged hussars were shock troops, they could be considered heavy cavalry. But on the other hand, since they were lightly armored (and their horses weren't armored), they could be considered light cavalry. I guess the bottom line is that in the middle ages, they would be light cavalry (they were more lightly armed & armored than knights, cataphracts, cuirassiers), but in Napoleonic times they might be considered heavy cavalry. Does that make sense?

Q) How come there aren't riders on the persian elephants or people pushing rams or trebs?

A) If you're talking "realism" we'd need a crew of 50-200 people for a trebuchet! If you don't care about realism, then the treb looks fine as it is. Incidentally, why don't you think there are people pushing the ram? They'd be standing under the cover, after all. The elephants don't have riders because we thought they looked better without.

Q) What's your favourite food?

A) Thai or Indian.

Q) How did you decide to put wild boars into the game as a food source? why not some other animal?

A) We wanted an animal that was instantly recognizable as edible, but which was also instantly recognizable as potentially dangerous. How many such animals are found in Eurasia? The wild boar seemed perfect.

Q) Why would I use light cav. instead of paladins in imperial unless I lack gold?

A) Wait, don't tell me. Let me guess ... hmm. Because they're faster than paladins? Because they are resistant to monks? Because they have a huge line of sight?

Q) Will you put any other food resources on the X-Pac?

A) It depends on how you define "food resources".

Q) What about cannibalism on AoK?

A) ES_LordSoth and I have tried and tried for years to get cannibalism into the game. No luck so far.

Q) Mr. Petersen, aside from faith, how can one say that a soul exists?

A) One cannot say, aside from faith, that a soul exists.

Q) Do you think there's a possibility that we are only biological creatures?

A) No. I do not believe that a purely biological creature would even wonder if it had a soul.

Q) If there's a civ that doesn't fit into a themed expansion pack, what is your feeling of how any company might or might not approach the issue, should they do an expansion pack for a popular RTS game?

A) This question is too vague for me to answer well. A company doing an expansion pack ought to do the best job they can.

Q) Why was there no directions for using the scenario editor, when it seems there are so many complicated questions about it? Just too much time?

A) The scenario editor is the same exact tool that we at ES use. Think of it as a nice extra bonus.

Q) Do you personally feel that the samurai unit is underpowered or not useful enough?

A) I think it could be somewhat tougher and yet not upset game balance.

Q) How goes the 'Teuton Solution' you're testing?

A) It works like a charm. Teutons are still worth playing, but we see very few TC rushes. Towers are once again important, too.

Q) For an X-Pack, would there consideration to units that are not used?

A) Always. Consider how I did Rise of Rome - I did a number of things explicitly to assist underused units - notably barracks units, the war elephant, and the chariot.

Q) Would ES actually consider adjusting characteristics of unpopular units?

A) We would prefer to fix units with other means, but are not above changing characteristics.

Q) In the design of the game, did you look at the idea of tributing units to an ally/enemy?

A) We dumped the idea because we didn't like the concept of the "inept" player building his units and giving them all to the "skilled" player to be used. We want all players to have to get their hands dirty and actually play.

Q) How will changes made in a possible future X-Pack effect people playing with the old version? ie If the Teuton Town Center is scaled back as many predict how will that be enforced on people who don't upgrade or patch their copy?

A) As with any change to the basic game rules, you will not be able to play vs. a person who does not have the same version you do. Of course, as with RoR, you will be able to maintain two different versions of AoK on your system so you can play with anyone you like.

Q) I'm predicting the theme of the X-Pack will be conquest of the New World with civs like Spanish, Incas & Mayans. Do I receive a free copy if my prediction is correct?

A) A trick question! If I say "Yes", everyone will assume that obviously the New World is NOT the theme for the X-Pack. If I say "No", they'll assume that it must be the theme. Either way I'm screwed. Unless I don't answer.

Q) alternatively can I get a free copy if I don't ask another question about possible future X-Packs?

A) Yes, but only if you also prevent every other person in the forum from asking questions about possible future x-packs.

Q) Is there a forum for discussing AOK addiction??

A) I hope not.

Q) Would it be possible for ES to publish a list of all the 'hidden' stats in the game, like unit attack bonuses, conversion chances for Teutons and Light Cavalry (is a Teutonic allied Light Cav with the faith tech also immune to conversion, or does it just take an average of 6 seconds to turn him?), and unit upgrade costs?

A) Aren't all these published somewhere on the net?

Q) Do you want to discuss game balance issues in these Q&As at all?

A) I'll respond to some of them. A lot of them I don't respond to because they seem silly or because someone else responds on my behalf. Or because the questioner seems unduly hostile, or because I've already responded on that point.

Q) Certainly, it seems that Camels, skirmishers, and scorpions are all underused.

A) I agree that camels are somewhat underused. Which is not the same as being useless. I seem to see plenty of skirmishers, though. Scorpions are a specialty unit which, in my opinion, should NOT be the backbone of most armies.

Q) What did you think of the movie Braveheart?

A) I thought it was very entertaining.

Q) Why do Turkish elite cannon galleons not benefit from the Turks' +50% HP to gunpowder units when non-elite cannon galleons do?

A) Oops.

Q) Is the language spoken by the mongols in AOK the exact same as that of modern mongols?

A) I have absolutely no idea. My guess is that it probably is. It's hard enough for MS to find a Mongolian speaker, let alone a Medieval Mongolian speaker.

Q) If you would do a game set in the 16:th+ century, you'd most certainly include the Swedes, right?

A) It depends on how many civs I got to have.

Q) Have you played Darkstone? If not, you should. It rocks.

A) A little.

Q) Do your kids get ES games for free? :-)

A) Not even _ I _ get ES games for free. But they only cost me five dollars.

Q) Do you want me to hook you up on a hot swedish girl?

A) I am a happily married man, I'll have you know. <scowl>

Q) You really make everyone feel that there is a meaning in their life.

A) I strongly encourage any forumer who seeks meaning in their life by reading MY column to hook up with a hot Swedish girl instead.

Q) Would it be possible to allow villagers who are shore fishing to deposite their catch at a dock?

A) It might be possible, but there are other considerations.

Q) Also is there anything that can be done to make the monk techs more attractive to use in the x-pack?


Q) Why is there no corpses in the scenario editor like in AoE?

A) Make your own corpses, you necrophile.

Q) What was the trade workshop going to be used for in AoE and RoR?

A) I answered this question quite recently. Either this thread or the last one.

Q) Do you think you sounds cowardly when you are apologizing to the person that said you are a ...$..t?

A) I continually strive to remember that courtesy is not the same as cowardice.

Q) Would it be a good idea to create a topic that mocks so you would say, "Your pal, Sandyman".

A) You don't think I mock people enough as it is? Or are you talking about a topic that would mock ME?

Q) back to AoK, Why didn't ES redo the cliff, I thought that looked so ugly.

A) The artists whined so much (they hate the cliff, too, but it's really hard to redo) that we caved.

Q) Is it possible to make Aoe 3? Because airplanes comes into the game very soon

A) In the first place, who says AoE 3 takes place following the Middle Ages, and in the second place, even if it does, it's easy enough to cut it off at 1800 or 1900 A.D. And in the third place, I have full confidence in our ability to make airplanes work.

Q) Who would be eligable to join ES?

A) Look at our web site. Job opportunities are listed.

Q) Do you like Bill Gates?

A) I have never met the man.

Q) I would like to know why water cannot be elevated?

A) Because it looks funny.

Q) What's your current job?

A) I'm not allowed to say what project I am currently designing.

Q) I would like to see computer using TC rush. It's cool! Would you make a patch which enables computer to use it?

A) Since we just took major steps to handicap the TC rush, probably not.

Q) whose voice do we hear in the taunt "I'll beat you back to Age of Empires"?

A) Roy Rabey

Q) I am playing Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Again. Do you find it at all depressing? I mean when you grab the master sword it all goes bad. I just get depressed going from a happy go Lucky world to one filled with despair and doom.

A) Gee, I love the switch in worlds. We must have very different personalities.

Q) when I was in the Navy, Me and my bud's used to debate whether a person who went back in time _COULD_ actually change the time line. Now, by my understanding of time-line modification, someone CAN'T change the time-line. Which means Link didn't actually do anything, This is kinda annoying, What are your thoughts on this?

A) Well, obviously the assumption of Zelda is that the time-line CAN be modified. My own theory is that a timeline COULD be modified, but that if a time machine were ever invented, there would be so many modifications to the time-line that eventually every single possibility leading to the invention of a time machine would be eliminated. Meaning that once the last time-machine possibility is gone, the time-line could no longer be modified after that. Which is, of course, our current situation.

Q) Do you feel the Longowman/Elite Longbowman needs be toned down in any way?

A) I, personally, do not.

Q) Do you think Skirmishers should be improved in any way, speed, piercing armor?

A) Not really. When you consider that 1 for 1, the inexpensive, vastly quicker-produced skirmisher is nearly a match for the mighty elite longbowman.

Q) Are AoK graphics 256 colors, or have you raised the number?

A) I'm flattered that you asked this question. There are only 256 colors in AoK.

Q) What's the difference between the use of the hand canoneers and the archers? Which one has more advantages against what?

A) Hand cannoneers get more accurate as their targets get closer. Archers don't. Hand-cannoneers have a bigger attack, spaced further apart, than archers. This means hand-cannoneers tend to be superior vs. targets with lots of piercing armor. Example: in 10 seconds of attacks, an arbalest will do 5 points of damage to a galleon, but a hand-cannoneer will do 24 points.

Q) Do you consider doing anything about wonders ? They are under-used because useless.

A) We like the wonders fine. We know that there are heaps of folks who like them, and we know there are heaps of folks who hate playing with wonders. That's fine with us. The game is supposed to support multiple play styles.

Q) If dishonest ppl crack cd's anyways? why not make it easier for us honest folk by not have the requirement of having cd in drive.

A) You've convinced me. Now convince MS. (Actually, we here at ES agreed with you all along.)

Q) Does the AI action cc-add-resources only work if the computer player is Post-Imperial?

A) No. It should work all the time.

Q) Do many third-party scenarios get seen in Ensemble's offices?

A) No. We mostly play things that haven't been released (or announced) yet.

Q) Are you considering to include a Civ from the Adriatic coast into the X-pack?

A) We are planning to ONLY have civs from the Adriatic coast in the X-Pack. Namely, Albania, Dalmatia, Austria-Hungary, and Montenegro. Hope you like them.

Q) Free Will or Cause and Effect?

A) Chaos math & quantum mechanics both make free will possible.

Q) I'm not trying to be a smartass here, but why couldn't a biological creature wonder if it had a soul? Especially if he created that notion because he was unable to explain the self with science?

A) Why would a purely material (I'm going to use "purely material" instead of biological, because obviously humans are biological) creature have a sense of "self"? Why is science even a consideration here? "Science" is a formal discipline which has not been used for very long - 3-4 centuries, tops. It is certainly not a fundamental truth - it is, rather, a methodology which attempts to look at certain aspects of the world, and only those aspects. Science makes no attempt to explain self, nor does religion. Philosophy makes a stab at it, but (in my opinion) generally fails. Every person that lives knows what consciousness is from personal experience, and not one of us can explain it to anyone else.

I believe in the soul because there are too many things that humans do that are inexplicable to me otherwise. Why do humans like to look at flowers and sunsets? What possible biological function could this serve? Why does every human culture in the world have special formal rituals to do with religion? No other species has empty ceremonies of this sort. Why do humans like to tell stories? While carefully-constructed and rather thin explanations can be invented for each of these mysterious facets of humanity, they ring hollow to me, and collapse under the strain of credulity.

Q) it is NOT illegal to crack games you own, right? As well as it is not illegal to burn them on a CD for private use, right? Or wrong?

A) I am not a lawyer. My _belief _ is that you can crack a game you own and burn CDs for personal use only.

Q) The music in AoK is absolutely fantastic! I can't resist turning up the volume when I play! Who did this masterpiece?

A) Stephen Rippy, who was so flattered by your comment that he may respond to you yourself.

Q) Have you read any of Henning Mankell's books?

A) Nope.

Q) one thing disturbs me very much. The fact that the computer always runs around with scouts inside my base, no matter how many of them I kill.

A) You have my condolences.

Q) You must've read Lord of the Rings, right?

A) Certainly. I think it's a fine work. One of the twenty best works of fantasy penned this century.

Q) Is there a way to speak to someone at ES personally by phone/i-phone or the like?

A) Well, obviously we all have phone numbers. You presumably have some kind of motive for asking this question, such as wanting to call us. I don't want to trivialize your desire, but obviously we are reluctant to put our phone numbers out onto the web.

Q) Archangel is a cool guy.

A) Done.

Q) Would it be possible for you to post the list of civs not in the x-pack again?

A) No. I can't even say there is to BE an X-pack. But someone else can post the list with my blessing.

Q) Were the Catholics considered for the x-pack?

A) Never. We don't consider "Catholic" to be a civilization, but a religion. Depending on the time period, it's shared by the Teutons, Franks, Britons, Celts, etc.

Q) Why are some of the wonders so small and some so large?

A) They all have the same footprint on the ground. Don't you like having them look different from each other?

Q) I know this will sound bizarre, but would it be remotely possible for the x-pack to include a "Civ editor" in which we could take a civ and their bonuses, and then mix and match the buidlings that we liked and didn't like?

A) Not even remotely possible, sorry.

Q) You said that you are planning to only have civs from the Adriatic coast in the X-Pack, like Albania, Dalmatia, Austria-Hungary, and Montenegro. Well, Dalmatia, and most of Albania were once part of Serbia. And Montenego still is.

A) Dang. I guess we'll have to drop Dalmatia & Albania, then. Montenegro, too.

Q) For us humans, we are "the crown of creation". Impossible to think otherwise.

A) I deny this. The fundamental bedrock of religion is that humans are NOT the crown of creation and that beings exist that are vastly superior. The old wheeze that religion is an attempt to place humanity above the rest of creation is simply not so.

The parallel wheeze that humans invent religion out of fear of death is also false. There have been (and are) many religions which deny the persistance of consciousness after death. Belief in god and belief in an afterlife seem to have nothing in common. For that matter, there are plenty of philosophical systems which deny the existence of a supreme being, yet accept an afterlife.

Q) If the Polish are in the/an x-pack what would their UU be in your opinion and why?

A) If I did an X-Pack and the Poles were in it, I would probably put in those awesome two-handed axemen that slaughtered the Germans at Tannenberg.

Q) how influential were the civilizations from the Adriatic sea?

A) They were extremely minor. No offense to any Croats, Serbs, Dalmatians, Albanians, or Montenegrans on the forum, but the civs on the east coast of the Adriatic had only local impact.

Q) what do you think of the ending? Once agian I think its sad to, because you take the sword back and they are off partying.

A) I think that very few roleplaying games have reall good endings. Zelda 64 is no exception.

Q) What is strange is why did Link start this quest?

A) To save the world from Zelda, which he succeeded at. He got no glory for it, but that's pretty common in reality. Who remembers Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov? But he probably did more than any one other person to save the world from Hitler's madness. Was he thanked for it by his masters? Not hardly. His postwar career was a litany of degradation, false accusations, and humiliation.

Q) What is your definition of "rush?"

A) I define a rush as a style of RTS play which relies on a formalized and strict pattern of build-up in order to construct a large number of some single unit and overwhelm your opponent with a combination of speed & numbers, rather than tactical or strategic skill.

Q) Do any of your children want to get into game design?

A) All of my sons think they're going to be game designers when they grow up, except maybe for the oldest son, who is starting to suspect he might be happier as a world-famous author or rock musician.

Q) What are some of the most fun times you have had playing AoK? Any memorable battle stories?

A) I had a pretty terrific game this very morning. We were playing 4x4 on a map which had a C-shaped land mass. My town was located way out in the middle of nowhere, while my allies were all bunched together on one arm of the "C". I'd chosen Random civ, and gotten stuck with Byzantine (which was a problem because in this playtest, cataphracts were forbidden - don't ask why, I can't tell you). I decided to use horse archers as my main unit, walled in, and started pumping them out. I went up fairly quickly through the ages, and the enemy did not attack me, though I was in their midst. Instead they amassed their armies against my allies. I sent help to my pals in the form of fully-upgraded heavy cav archers, but kept losing to huge swarms of vile enemy chu-ko-nu. About an hour into the game, the enemy decided to wipe me out, and came after me with everything they had. I screamed for help, but my allies were (apparently) busy with something else, and no one came. So I evacuated my town ASAP, running my villagers off to a new town center foundation. Tragically, my villagers ran right past two unseen enemy castles, and I lost them all. Except 1 single lonely woman in a friendly town, mining gold. I had one unit left in all the world. It looked pretty grim. I had her build a town center, and start pumping out villagers - I could do it, because my opponents hadn't destroyed all my houses (once I cut and ran, they figured I was out). I had plenty of food (over 2000), and started mining & chopping wood, as well as pumping more horse archers out of my (undestroyed) archery range back in my old town. I also started making light cav to handle the enemy chucks. I was able to build up a big army, and participate in the final destruction of the foe. But my timeline sure looked lame - I shrank to nothing halfway through, then grew back out to a huge force.

Q) What happened to Dave Pottinger?

A) He got promoted to Director of Technology.

Q) You stated this without backing it up with any examples, therefore, could I not say with equal validity, that all evidence points to the theory of creation being correct, and there is no reason to assume humans don't have a soul?

A) No. Just because I didn't state the evidence doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I lack the inclination to point out why creationism is amazingly flawed and invalid, but there are plenty of other sites which do so. In any case, I am (kind of) on your side. Though I believe in evolution, I also believe in the soul. I just don't believe that "only humans" possess souls.

Q) Evolution implies that the fossil record should show a general pattern of creatures slowly, incrementally transforming into more sophisticated creatures.

A) This is absolutely false, and is NOT what evolution says. Ever. Read Darwin. The theory of organic evolution states that organisms change over time. They can grow more simple as easily as more complex. They can change quickly (if the environment has changed quickly) or slowly or not at all. The idea that evolution always moves in the direction of progress is a gross misunderstanding of Darwin, and is, in fact, a product of Victorian thinking.

Q) why would I use the chu ko nus rather than an arabelest?

A) They have more hit points, cost less gold, and do more damage. Even amortized over their slower fire rate, I tihnk you'll find they do more damage.

Q) How old is your daughter?

A) Nineteen

Q) Is your daughter beautiful?

A) Other people have told me so.

Q) Are you rich?

A) Compared to what? How much income do I need to be rich? Is it net or gross income that determines whether I am rich? If it is net, then I am poor, for I am currently in debt. If "rich" means do I have a million dollars, then I am not rich. I consider myself upper middle class.

Q) Have you ever thought about making a trip to Turkey?

A) Many times. I would love to go to Turkey someday.

Q) if I have 4-5 or more questions to ask, should I list them in a single post or make many posts with one question on each?

A) This is not covered by my rules, but it is probably better to put them in a single post because that way it won't use up the 150-post limit to the thread

Q) Some people say that the Chinese invented the gunpowder not the Turks. You know anything about it?

A) They had gunpowder weapons (NOT handguns) centuries before anyone in the west.

Q) Does your daughter have a boyfriend?

A) She just moved to another state four months ago, and has been incredibly busy starting college, getting a job, etc. She tells me she has had no time for a social life at all, which suits me fine for this period of her life.

Q) what did you like better: The epoch when game design teams could consist of 2-3 people doing all the programming, graphics, gameplay development, music etc. OR today's time when huge teams of specialists work together on an x-million $ project?

A) Well, I like working on big projects with lots of talented people.

Q) don't you ever silently weep when you think of titles like "M.U.L.E.", "Elite", "The Bard's Tale", "Civilization", "Ultima IV" or "Dune2"?

A) Those were great games. But some of them at least had bigger teams than you might suspect (Civilization, for one). I can't help think that if Dan Bunten had done M.U.L.E. with a bigger team, the game might have been even more fun. The problem is not in a big team, it is in having big managerial interference. This can happen even in a small team, though.

Q) I think you need to adopt TheInsane and keep him in a locked room in your basement

A) I'd love to but I don't think I can - he's not a U.S. citizen. Even worse, I don't have a basement. He'd have to live in the secret room in my attic.

Q) Weren't sheild walls a heavly used thing in the dark ages?

A) Yep.

Q) Would it be feasible to further distinguish the civilizations in AoK by making each of the 4 geographical regions have unique art for their units?

A) The unit art is a gating item for us - only a few of our artists are able to do units to our satisfaction, and they basically spend all their time from the game's start to its end doing units. So if we quadrupled the number of units, we'd quadruple the length of time the game takes.

Q) Do you have a Dreamcast?

A) I refuse to purchase any gaming system which has a game named "Seaman". (Non-English speakers may not understand why, but Anglos will certainly sympathize with me.)

Q) Besides the point at the risk of sounding reptitive and making you mad, is there a reason you chose to stay away from the shield wall tactic of fighting, or is it just not possible?

A) I don't get mad when I see a question I don't want to answer any more. I just don't answer it. You can ask such questions as often as you like.

Q) Science is only a few hundred years but I think of science as a culmination of hundreds of years of thinking.

A) Think of it as you please, but it is still NOT the culmination of hundreds of years of thinking. However, science does have the sense to (usually) use wisdom from past ages.

Q) Are you satisfy with the scenario editor?

A) Yep. It works fine for me.

Q) Which "Games creating company" is the biggest enemy of ES?

A) Whichever one makes the crappiest games. Any company that produces good games is our friend, because we think good games help the entire gaming industry. Companies that produce flaccid, empty games (or worse, vaporware) hurt the gaming industry.

Q) What's your zone name?

A) Sandyman

Q) How do you manage your time?

A) ?? I'm not sure how to answer this question.

Q) Which archer is the best? (that can defeat all other archers in the game)

A) It depends on the circumstances. And who it is fighting against. The longbow has to be a strong contender, though.

Q) Why does skirmishers have minimum range?

A) To make them even less effective against infantry.

Q) Have you ever play Brood War or StarCraft?? How is it?

A) Yes. It's a fine game, and demonstrates well both the advantages and the disadvantages of going with a game background derived wholly from the imagination.

Q) Why are you in debt?

A) Because I dropped a bundle last year when I took my family (5 kids, remember) and my parents to Disneyworld for over a week. I've not finished paying for it yet. Also last fall my lovely but costly daughter started college and that's an ongoing non-trivial expense.

Q) Is there anybody that is better than you on AoK?

A) Emphatically yes. In fact, most game designers are not particularly expert in gameplay. To have the kind of mindset that makes a good designer, you also get a mindset that prevents you from becoming too obsessed & skilled with any one game. Perhaps the problem with us is that we're too concerned with having fun and analyzing gameplay than with figuring out the nitty-gritty details of exactly when to produce our 7th woodcutter. Basically, the designers at ES are all in the mid- to upper-mid range of quality, compared to our co-workers. Tim Deen, who will soon be demoted to designer from programmer, has in the past been an expert player, but I fully expect his play skills to begin deteriorating once he makes the switch.

Q) Why are Byzantin buildings the same style as Turk, Saracen, and Persian? They wouldn't be so historically inaccurate(especially monastery) if you gave them more like Teuton buildings look.

A) It's historically accurate to make Byzantine buildings look like northern Germany buildings?

Q) (shows a picture of King Milutin of Serbia presenting the charter of the Hilandar monastery on Mt. Athos to his father-in-law, Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II, 1320) See, Serbs were not as minor as you think

A) Looks pretty minor to me. Just because the Byzantines in 1320 (at which time they were a tiny shadow of their former self - they were completely exterminated only a century later) married off their daughters to the Serbs is hardly evidence of colossal Serbian import. Note that the Serbs themselves, in only 50 years, fought the heroic but doomed battle of Kosovo and were conquered by the Turks.

Note that just because I think the Balkan states were only of local importance doesn't mean I think they were inferior or uninteresting. The battle of Kosovo was one of the great heroic conflicts of history. For that matter, the U.S.A. was of only local importance from 1784 to about 1917, and even the vaunted kingdom of England was basically nothing until about the year 1200.

Q) do you believe in mans evolution? or dont you think that we are the decendants of apes?

A) Yes, of course I think that mankind evolved. Technically, we're not descended from apes, because apes & man have a common ancestor, but on the other hand, our common ancestor looked pretty anthropoid, so that's only a nit-pick.

Q) Can you pleasse tell us how fast samurai/elite samurai attacks?

A) They attack once every 2 seconds, modified by their civ bonus.

Q) What would you consider to be your favourite/most interesting battle in medieval history?

A) I don't really have a favorite. Manzikert is pretty cool, though. Also Bannockburn and Castillon. Not to mention the Battle on the Ice, where Alexander Nevsky kicked Teutonic behind.

Q) I have never heard of the battle of Tannenburg? What happened there?

A) Tannenburg is the German name for Grunwald.

Q) is Ensemble looking to hire any interns over the summer ?

A) We have never hired any interns. Most game companies don't. We don't really have temp jobs that can be filled for a summer and then let go. We're not like "normal" companies. We need full-time personnel only, except during final playtesting season, and that hardly ever happens to occur during the summer.

Q) in your opinion at what point did Europe change from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance?

A) I think that three things marked the change over into the Renaissance. First, the Protestant Reformation. Second, the discovery of the New World. Third, the rise of the cities & guilds.

Q) Was William Shakespeare a popular playwright during his life or were his plays only popular after his death?

A) I have always been led to believe that he was a big hit in his lifetime as well.

Q) Do you think Shakespeare was really a "ladies man" like portrayed in the movie "Shakespeare in Love"?

A) No. I think he pretty much stuck with Ann Hathaway.

Q) Why didn't you include Knight Templar as the Frank unique unit instead of the boring axemen?

A) We like the Axeman. And the Templars weren't French. Well, some of them were, but they were an international organization.

Q) , I find that I keep hearing the soundtrack during non-gameplaying times. I've noticed a few mentions of a CD. Is there such a creature and where can one find it?

A) You will soon get a super-secret e-mail from Big Al himself.

Q) Would it be to much work to put lost units into the scenario editor?

A) I think most of them ARE in the scenario editor, though often under different names (many are now heroes, for instance). The ones that are not, are often just ugly. Or were changed due to MS sensibilities (like the janissaries).

Q) if your Zone name is Sandyman, why haven't you played any rated games?

A) I never play AoK on the zone. I mostly only go there for Contract Bridge (and I haven't done that for six months or so).

Q) why do u want us to pay $50 for a game that we can get for $10?

A) Because if you pirate a game, for ANY cost, that means that we, the game developers, get nothing. Zero. Squat. We labored on the game for two years, working overtime, and you then steal a copy. Would you walk into a store, stuff a game under your coat, and then sneak out without paying? If not, you should not pirate the game either. On the other hand, if you are willing to steal for a living, then I have nothing more to say to you.

I ask you, why should we do games if they're going to be stolen? Would a farmer keep tending his orchard if people kept coming by and stealing 75% of his crop? That's the exact situation that computer games are in nowadays - depending on the country, from 50% to 95% of the computer software used worldwide is pirateware, i.e., stolen. This is total software - the percentage for games is higher. We do games because we love games, but we also love our families and we have obligations to them, too. If you don't think a game is worth $50, don't buy it. But don't pirate it.

Piracy hurts gamers. The best games get pirated the most. If you live in a foreign country, think on this - the games which companies work the hardest on, to get into your country (i.e., making translations of the text, localizing other things), are the games which are hurt the most by piracy in your homeland. You are punishing people for doing good quality work and caring about their games. The ultimate result is that we either stop doing games and start doing something that can turn a profit, or else we start putting enormous amounts of ugly and time-intensive anti-piracy stuff into the game. Which has already started to happen.