Ask Sandy X

Article written by Sandy Petersen
Published on 01-07-2000
Tags: , ,

Q) don’t U play AOK in mulitplayer over the Internet?

A) Of course not. When I play AoK, it’s invariably over ES’s

Q) Personally, how would you rank the civs regardless of which
map you played in?

A) This question is too vague. If you mean which civ do I
think has the best chance to win, I guess I think it depends on
the map type, number of players, opposing civs, game type, map
size, etc. If you mean which civ is the most fun for me to play
it depends a lot on what civs I’ve been playing a lot lately. For
instance, I like the Goths, but if I’ve been playing them for the
last 3-4 games in a row, I get sick of them and have to try
someone else. Most of the time I pick Random for my civ, so I
guess I like it best.

Q) Not that I am advocating piracy, but by your response it is
assumed that the game developer receives a royalty for the number
of copies of sold. I was under the impression that development
was not a commission-based field and that the distributors (M$)
soak up the sales profits.

A) This is true for most games. AoK however, has such
excellent sales that most of our income actually comes from

Q) If I am correct, then who cares about the opportunity cost
of the lost sale. You received your salary for the work.

A) But even if piracy “only” hurts the publisher, the demise
and retirement of such publishers clearly hurts the game
industry. In any case, piracy is theft. Any defense of piracy is
a defense of theft. (I am not claiming here that the person who
wrote the question to which I am replying was defending

Q) Why is it not possible to have a key that lists totals for
each unit type?

A) It IS possible. But since there are so many different types
of units, the display would probably fill up most of the

Q) Weak 2’s (except clubs and NT of course), Old-style
stayman, Gerber, Blackwood, Jacoby, and Kaplan. Quite rusty tho,
but once a German friend of mine and I took all 13 tricks on an
opponent’s 3 NT bid.

A) Weak 2’s, weak no-trump, Stayman, Blackwood. My most
glorious moment in bridge was false-carding an opponent out of
his cold grand slam.

Q) I’ve been wanting to get one of those “Music From the Ages”
discs for a long time but I never got the fortune of winning

A) You have my sympathy. Maybe you’ll get one sometime soon. I
have noticed a lot of comments about the AoK music, and I urge
y’all who love the music to start up a separate thread for Big Al
himself. I promise he’ll read it and respond. I feel bad for him
having to search through 150 postings in my thread to find the
ones dedicated to him.

Q) Have you read a lot on the Napoleonic Era? The First
Empire, or the Revolution, or the 100 Days, anything like that? I
am a huge fan of Napoleon (and of Age of Kings), and I was just
wondering if you have read up on the early 19th century

A) I have read a fair amount on it (maybe a dozen books), but
do not consider myself an expert in that time period.

Q) Thank you! By the way, I think it would be a GREAT idea if
ES had an employee such as yourself set up to work online with
gamers and customers in forums.

A) Just as long as it isn’t me.

Q) what i want to know is in the xpac did u refine the record
game controls a little better?

A) We have not announced the existence of an X-Pack.

Q) if I move to the states someday, can I get a job at ES?

A) It’s extremely difficult. We are notoriously picky, and
keenly interested in keeping the company lean. And we have
astoundingly low turnover. Only two employees have left us
voluntarily, and one of them came back!

Q) One of my best friends is pirating software, and then
selling them for 40:-(about 4.79$) to all kinds of persons. I
know this is wrong also, but he’s a very good friend other
wise… do you think I should…turn him in…? I’ve already
talked to him about stopping this, but he won’t do it.I feel bad
about knowing it and not doing anything about, but it might feel
worse to tell on him…what should I do…? I have pirated
software myself before…but I stopped 2 years ago. Now I only
buy legally. Please…help me Sandy. You’re my only hope.

A) If I only cared about legalities and royalties (which some
forumers seem to think), I would tell you to turn him in. But
friendship is important, too, and I know I would find it very
hard to turn in one of my friends who was doing something illegal
or immoral. I urge you to try reasoning with him some more. Point
out that he is certain to be caught sooner or later. If he is
adamant, I can only say to let your conscience be your guide.
Moral conflicts like this are what make us strong, if we make the
correct choice. I cannot make this choice for you. Frankly, I
advise prayer. God knows what you should do far better than I,
and He will tell you.

Q) About the Zone – you said you were aware of the problems
and could do nothing. Can you give me some hope that MS is aware
of the problems and wants to fix it?

A) I wish I could. I occasionally hear rumors that the Zone is
planning to clean up its act. Maybe one of these rumors is true,
but I have to admit that their record to date is less than

Q) I read your posts and find really interestng and useful
info about how things like conversions are done, and how CKNs
damage vs. other archers. I wonder if you could have that info
put in a book/guide for the next X-pack (if there is one).

A) I do not have time to write such a book. Anyone who does
should be able to get access to the same stuff I take my
information from.

Q) what significance do the Tower of Flies and the Cursed
Tower have? Why were they put into the Map Editor?

A) They appear in the final Saladin scenario. They were the
names given to two of the towers defending Acre from the
crusaders. Pretty cool, eh? God’s Own Sling and Bad Neighbor are
the names of two of the trebuchets built by the crusaders to
bombard the city.

Q) I LOVE the spies tech.

A) Me too. It’s the greatest. And self-balancing, too!

Q) Thanks to the campaigns and History Menu, I knew the answer
to several questions regarding Genghis Khan and the Mongolians!
Thanks ES!

A) You are most welcome. Bruce Shelley gets the credit

Q) How did you get started in the game industry, Sandyman?

A) I backed into it by accident. I got my start as a part-time
job to support myself in graduate school.

Q) I just want to say that Croatia was never a part of

A) On the other hand, it was part of a Serb-dominated
Yugoslavia for many decades.

Q) What was it like working at id software on Doom and

A) Working for id was a lot like blazing an exciting new trail
through the woods and then keeping on blazing that trail until
you’ve worn it down to a great big rut.

Q) How do you feel about the recent release of the Quake 1
source code under the GPL?

A) I think it’s terrific. I wish MS would do things like

Q) You seem to have a positive influence on games, to say the
least – have you considered going back to 3d shooters at all?

A) Already? I just got out of that niche 2 years ago! I may go
back someday.

Q) Will the Xpac include a Swiss civ?

A) The existence of any X-Pack Is Not Yet Announced. This
includes civs, units, features, etc.,

Q) Wasnt the phalanx just too cool?

A) GIve me the mighty Roman legion any day. Or the Swedish
crosses, for that matter.

Q) Could you comment on the role of fear on the

A) Napoleon (who ought to know), said it best. “The morale is
to the material as 3 to 1.”

Q) You’re saying that buying a cracked cd is stealing. I
totally agree, however I DO use a cracked cd. Why? Cause I can’t
find any noncracked ones in Turkey. What should I do?

A) If you can’t find an uncracked cd you can’t find an
uncracked cd. I recommend you use the cracked cd, but order a
copy of the good cd from MS or a mail order house. That way you
can keep playing the game, but you won’t be a thief!

Q) What is your job at ES?

A) Look me up at the ES website!

Q) could u please explain your definition of science.

A) Science as a formal discipine is a methodology for
discovering truth. It consists of

1) observing reality.

2) making a hypothesis that fits the facts.

3) devising and carrying out an experiment or an observation
to test the hypothesis.

4) revising the hypothesis based upon the experiment’s

Loosely, “science” is used to refer to anything which isn’t an
art, a craft, a tradition, etc. I sometimes use science in this
loose manner, too. Truth can be discovered without the use of
this methodology. In fact, there are certain truths which are
impossible to detect using scientific methodology. As one simple,
yet profound example, the entirety of mathematics is based upon a
wholly different system of truth analysis – that of logical
argument and generating proofs. I am NOT denigrating science here
– it is certainly a useful tool, and my college and
graduate career was based in the hard sciences (entomology, in
fact). Most scientists are totally aware of the limitations of
science. It is generally only non-scientists who do not
understand that science cannot discover the answers to some

Q) What impact does this, and other forums, have in your (et
al.) game design and programming decisions.

A) A great deal.

Q) The inclusion of the Joan of Arc campaign was the “hook” to
get me involved in AOK. Was that a purposeful move by Ensemble to
get more women involved in game play?

A) No, it was based upon the fact that we thought Joan of Arc
was absolutely terrific and the most remarkable military leader
in the history of the Earth. I promise we never thought of it as
a ploy to get more women involved. Though if it did that, I’m
very pleased. Gaming needs women.

Q) Have you read the threads “That’s my story and I sticking
to it” or the “A Novel Strategy Guide”?

A) Yes. My comments? I love this kind of stuff. Creations such
as the Quake Clans, Agetoons, etc., all these kind of things show
that people love a game and are willing to add to it in ways that
we, the designers, never dreamed of. It shows that the game is
not something handed down from Mount Sinai by us to the the lowly
peons, but instead, that the game and its culture is really a
joint effort, in which the players’ effort and love is even more
important and creative than we drones at ES.

Q) Can I assume, due to your historical knowledge, you know my
screen name’s story?

A) You have stumped me at the moment. The only Black Agnes I
can think of is an evil water-witch from Wales, and surely that’s
not whom you’re emulating. Enlighten me.

Q) Does the computer generate random maps on the fly?

A) Yes. There is special random generation code that creates
the maps from nothing. Tim Deen gets the credit.

Q) How much did system requirements affect the design of AoK?
Did Ensemble back off from adding new features in order to keep
the game “runnable” on older systems?

A) It was always in the back of our minds. I would say that we
didn’t really leave out any features because of system problems.
Probably we kept some things toned down, though. For instance,
there’s no “500” pop cap, because we knew it would clog
everyone’s system.

Q) What happened to breeding livestock?

A) It was a pain and in practice identical to farming so is
gone now.

Q) Would Ensemble consider an “expert” versus “standard”
edition or game setting? I’m talking about interface.

A) I thought we had one. Click on the “expert” button.

Q) Why was unit experience rejected?

A) We don’t like it. We dislike having to remember which units
are “good” and which ones are “bad”. The unit upgrades make
sufficient difference for us.

Q) Was the idea of a player rotating the screen 45° ever

A) Not seriously. We would have had to do four times the
building art, for instance. And our elevation system (which is
not true 3-D), would have its limitations exposed dramatically.
Especially for the cliffs.

Q) Something else that I enjoy about RTII is the ability to
zoom in and out.

A) You can kind of do this in AoK, by changing the screen

Q) How did ES and MS come into a partnership? Was this their
idea for the game and you guys agreed to make it or was it your
idea and you needed financial support?

A) The game was our idea. We invited MS to be our publisher.
The marriage, while occasionally rocky, has proved a success.

Q) could you lend any advice on where I should focus my
studies? What computer language is AoK programmed in? What other
areas of computers should I study? What should I do on my own to
self-develope skills to help me be a games programmer?

A) Actually I’m not a programmer. Almost every game I’ve
worked on has been programmed in some version of C. Here at ES
over the last year, we’ve hired 3-D programmers, AI specialists,
database guys, communications guys, and generalists, so I would
say there is no one thing that you need to specialize in.

Q) Do damage upgrades (i.e., chemistry + blacksmith upgrades),
upgrade the first arrow only, or do they also affect the volley
arrows of the chu-ko-nu?

A) I believe they do, but it doesn’t make much difference,
since any unit with at least 2 piercing armor (or 1 piercing
& all armor upgrades) only takes 1 damage from an
equally-upgraded chu-ko-nu volley arrow.

Q) What is the exact mechanics/math behind ballistics?

A) If the arrow “hits” (i.e., got a “hit” result when it was
loosed), it will land in the exact same spot that the target
would have been if it had kept moving in the exact same direction
and speed when the missile was launched. Without ballistics, a
“hit” indicates that the shot hits in the exact spot where the
target was standing when it was launched.

Q) You have mentioned an X-pack, although you say there will
not be one. In the last thread, although I suspect that you were
not serious, you said, “We are planning to ONLY have civs from
the Adriatic coast.”

A) Warning, Will Robinson! Humor alert!

Q) Does the video card of the host make a difference on the

A) Not as far as I know.

Q) Does AoK take advantage of 3d card technology?

A) There is no 3-D in AoK.

Q) Did ES ever entertain having a dedicated server similar to

A) Such would be proprietary information.

Q) Give my compliments to the person(s) who designed the
trebuchet and bombard cannon art and animations, those are just
so fun to watch in action, makes you feel like you are in the
game. And who is the person who designed the art for those

A) The guys who designed the trebuchet art were Brad Crow
& Duncan McKissick.

Q) My friend and I are betting on what would be the bonuses of
a possible Polish Civilization.

A) Here is what _I_ would do for them: if you are playing the
Poles …

1) You always get to be the best player color.

2) Other players have to say “Sir” when they are chatting to

3) You never get the turtle during multiplayer.

4) All your unit names have “-ski” tacked onto the end. Thus,
you don’t have a militiaman or scout, but a militiamanski, a
scoutski, etc.

5) Your buildings’ art style looks as if it’s Imperial from
the very start of the game.

6) Your unique unit is the Prevaricating Traveler. He has an
inverse line of sight equal to that a scout, but it _erases_ the
map from the view of all players.

Q) How many times did the art people re-do the trebuchet?

A) Two major times. Then there was some clean-up.

Q) I’m going to have to take issue with your assertion that
science is insufficient to discover truth in some areas.

A) Differ away. My assertion is unchanged. I might add that I
share it with most prominent scientists whom I’ve spoken with or
whose books I’ve read. You’re in the minority opinion here,

Q) as a Mormon and Returned Missionary myself, I am quite
convinced that LDS theology and the Theory of Evolution are

A) I completely and utterly deny this. When will Mormons start
reading the scriptures for what they _say_ instead of obeying old
worn-out traditions? I regard myself as an adherent to the
old-fashioned Mormon ideal, as exemplified by Brigham Young’s
remark that “We cling to truth wherever we find it, and discard
all that is not truth.”

Q) why when playing DM you are unable to research the “spies”

A) Because at the game’s start you have very few villagers,
and Spies cost depends upon villager number. Since you can get to
Imperial very quickly while your opponents still have only a
limited number of villagers you could easily research Spy and
thus ruin the gameplay.

Q) I’ve heard some of the sound effects from Aok on TV before
so how many sound effects did you guys make yourself.

A) Some of the sounds are definitely public domain. Others are
in-house. For instance, the dying female villager screams, for
instance, are all made by Stephen “Big_Al” Rippy’s lovely

Q) Would it be possible in future versions (i know, they
haven’t been announced) to queue units simultaneously if multiple
military buildings were selected?

A) It might be.

Q) somewhere else I have asked you about what the Teutons are
saying when tasked. You told me it is German with an old dialect.
I asked many people studying German and its history. They
confirmed it is German. It is called “Mittelhochdeutsch”, this
can be translated like “Lower-High-German”.

Q) Yippee! I was right. I had hoped so. Thanks very much for
the information!

Q) Why do Goths Rock?

A) I wrote two or three pages of text on why I like Goths,
which was published on rhe web. It must be available somewhere.
Can any other forumers help this guy?

Q) Why do the deer have to run away?

A) If you wait, they’ll return.

Q) Are you going to add any more animal food sources if you
make an expac?

A) I promised not to tell.

Q) When people from ES play the game do they get the same
times as people from the zone?

A) Depends on the player.

Q) The Saracren’s are a very underused civ,if you make a
expac, will you buff them up so their more appealing to

A) If _I_ did an X-Pak, I would buff up, not the saracens, but
horse archers in general. I view them as the problem. The
Saracens are not inherently an inferior civ, in my opinion.

Q) Why was fishing toned downed in aok?

A) To give players more of a choice when deciding what to do
with their villagers. If one food source is far better than any
other, you destroy player choice.

Q) Which civ did you like making while you were producing the

A) I was not in charge of making any of the civs in AoK. I
just suggested them.

Q) Which one of the 5 campaigns was the most fun to make?

A) Greg Street made all the campaigns. I think he enjoyed Joan

Q) Also, do you think Genghis Khan is more of a hero or a

A) I think he was a villain. He boiled people alive at his
wedding party, after all. I realize that he was also a brilliant
diplomat, an inspiring leader, and a cunning tactician and
strategist, but to do as much harm as he did requires great

Q) What do you think of auto-farming?

A) First, I hate micromanagement. Second, I want the player to
be in total control.

Q) how about a population limit setting that takes away the
population limit.

A) You have trouble at 200? We can’t really do a “no limit”
population cap for a number of reasons which will probably be
obvious if you sit back and think about it.

Q) Do you actually read many of the topics on this forum? Or
do you just go straight to this thread everytime? Because I
noticed you replied to one of Vaidency’s threads a while back.
Was that just a random thread you chose, or do you customarily
read a few threads everytime you answer questions?

A) I rarely check out other threads. Maybe once a week.

Q) Has this forum given you any ideas that you’ve put in
[deleted] that you didn’t think of yourselves?

A) Yes.

Q) I read somewhere that if a priest carries a relic into
battle your men will fight stronger.

A) This is no longer true.

Q) could you consider getting rid of berries.

A) Not in any potential x-pack. It would change the game too

Q) When will you be able to tell us more about AoK X-Pack?

A) If we were doing an X-Pak, I would be able to say more
about it after an exclusive on it had appeared in a game magazine
or sebsite.

Q) What was the reason you guys picked the civs in AoK?

A) We felt that they were (1) important during the middle
ages, (2) had interesting histories, and (3) were recognizable by
the general public.

Q) there was one cartoon character,Actor ect. to describe you
who would it be?

A) Peter Lorre

Q) What AoK unit would you have wanted to be?

A) The relic.

Q) If I should want to go into the career of video game
designing what abilities would I need?

A) Either game design talent, programming skill, artistic
ability, or a musical bent.

Q) What would (you) suggest the minimum age is to start in
making a game that will be on the shelves?

A) You need to be either finished with college, or possess
non-college experience and training that is the equivalent.

Q) What is the education and preparation needed to work in
this field?

A) Game folks are generally well-educated and

Q) Good quote with Napoleon on Morale. A very important tool
indeed. Something the Spanish peasant armies of the early Iberian
Campaign should have learned. The Imperial army leveling their
bayonets and the Spanish fled just like that. But that is a
different story from a different time. (No offense whatsoever to
the Spanish, they helped the British defeat the French, but their
early performances were rather half-hazard and uninspiring.)

A) The Spanish forces were irregulars during this time. They
served brilliantly as guerrillas, raiding French supply lines,
keeping French garrisons penned up in town, spying on the French,
and providing information to the British and Portuguese. The
British, who were generally blinkered with the idea that the only
way to win a war was to march into combat in straight lines,
didn’t ever really understand what the Spanish were doing, but
the Spanish contribution was probably greater than the British
one to the Peninsular war. Without Spanish assistance, the
British and Portuguese would have been kicked out of Spain by
1810. On the other hand, the Spanish could have fought their
guerrilla war for decades without ever actually kicking out the
French (guerrilla wars have a tendency to drag on forever –
it takes conventional war to finish the job). So both allies
worked together quite well, without ever quite realizing what
each other was doing.

Q) For the Random Civ generator, does it have something to do
with random number codes.

A) Yup. It just picks a random number. The only constraint is
that it will not pick the same civ twice for the same team.

Q) As mentioned before, I am a Napoleonic fan, but do you
personally find the Medevial/Ancient periods more interesting
than the Colonial or Napoleonic?

A) Me personally? Give me the American Civil War and WW2 any

Q) Lithuania was really powerful back when AOK took place, it
even extended to the Black Sea. So my question is: WHY ISN’T

A) There are lots of really powerful civs that won’t make it
into any X-Pack. Consider – there are probably 100 or more
different civs from the dark and middle ages that deserve
recognition, ranging from the Tibetans to the Khmers to the
Hurons to the Moghuls to the Moors. Sure Lithuania was kind of
cool for a while during the middle ages, but since we have maybe
100 civs to choose from, of which Lithuania is only one, and not
a particularly well-known one at that, I would have to guess the
odds are pretty slim that Lithuania will make it. This doesn’t
mean I’m prejudiced against Balts or anything – after all,
my own nation of the USA isn’t making it into the game

Q) Where can we get the X-Pack (if/when it comes out)?

A) If we do an X-Pack I’m sure it will be available at better
computer and hobby stores near you. Plus it’ll be for sale at and joints like that.

Q) What is AOE 3 going to be about (setting/time)? When is it
planned to come out?

A) These are extremely deep dark secrets that I am forbidden
to declare.

Q) I just wanna first say that because of u and es…. i dont
have a life..where u like this when u were a teen

A) Well … not as a result of computer games (we didn’t
have any).

Q) and also im thinking of becoming a game designer… how
many years (if any) did u go to college?)..

A) Seven.

Q) i bet u make over 500,000 dollars.

A) Boy are YOU wrong. I make only the feeblest fraction of
that. I drive a 1996 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. My home is worth
about $200,000 and is not yet paid for. My daughter, who is
attending college, has to have a part-time job to make ends meet.
This despite the fact that her rent is only $100 a month.

Q) Why cant i come to ES?

A) We don’t have time to give tours to curious

Q) why don’t you have any jobs that can be filled by interns ?
Don’t you divide your games into discrete programming tasks ?

A) Sure, but the people who do the discrete tasks already know
what’s going on with the game. It takes 3-6 months to train a new
game company hire to the point that he is finally able to
contribute. By the time we’d trained an intern, he’d be gone.

Q) what did the whole development of AoK cost?

A) I believe that is proprietary. But I will say that it cost
more than $1,000,000 and less than $10,000,000.

Q) Why can’t the boats go under the bridge?

A) It’s not a real bridge. It’s just land tiles with
different-looking art.

Q) Why isn’t there “dark dirts” in the game?

A) ??

Q) Why isn’t there Asian style road?

A) Asian cobblestone roads look different? I bet their dirt
roads don’t.

Q) Does ES want you to come to this thread or you just like it

A) I like it here.

Q) What game do you expect the most?

A) Diablo 2. Or maybe Banjo-Tooie.

Q) Why is Bombard Cannon more expansive than Trebuchet and
deal less damage?

A) Because it fires faster and can move and is way more

Q) Would there be Mulan campaign in the expansion pack? I
thought of this because you mention about more women.

A) I don’t know if Mulan herself would appear. It’s an
interesting thought, though.

Q) Why does playing hardest give the computer the ability to
use cheats? Why cannot make it something like playing against a

A) We made the “Hard” level of play as skilled as we could get
it. Hardest, to be more difficult than Hard, needed to get extra
goodies. The computer doesn’t actually get to use cheats in
Hardest – it just gets 500 extra food, wood, gold, and
stone every time it goes up an age.

Q) Is the ES planning to do something else than Age of Empires

A) Absolutely yes.

Q) Do you like imaginary games more than historical games??

A) I like them both.

Q) Do you get all of your games with huge discounts?

A) Just the ones published by Microsoft.

Q) Why does Joan of Arc gets a unique horse and look and

A) We had art time to do it.

Q) once in a while they would show a 3D mesh of a civ’s UU, it
looked like it was done in 3D Studio… am I correct? was that
what was used to do the intro?

A) Yep, it was 3-D Studio. I don’t know if that was used for
the intro, though.

Q) could U send me the 3D artist’s email?

A) I try not to hand out our guys’ e-mail addresses. No

Q) Why does Red Alert have no pop limit while rest of the
strategy game has pop limit?

A) Red Alert has a pop limit. It’s just very high. I guarantee
you that if you just built and built and built there would come a
point in Red Alert where the game would hang.

Q) Y did U drop the Robin Hood idea?

A) Players hated being beaten up by CP outlaws. It also made
games less fair. I mean if I’m playing a head-to-head against
you, and suddenly one of my trade carts is killed, I’m out a
crapload of wood and gold and how is that fair? You didn’t even
do it – it was just my hard luck.

Q) Could you make an onager boat in any possible x-pack?

A) If your ships are losing vs. archers it’s because you’re
not building enough ships. Any number of galleons will trounce
twice their number of elite longbowmen, and cost only 3/8 as much

Q) When you select the map type could you also make it so you
can choose the percentage of trees/elevation/water like in Sim
City 2000?

A) That sort of information is already included within the map
files we’re using.

Q) If there is an expansion pack, will you include a sort of
mounted hand cannoner ?

A) If there was, the answer would be maybe.

Q) Will you make voices for the new civs ???

A) If there was, then yes, of course.

Q) How many has AoK sold worldwide ???

A) Over 2 million. So far.

Q) Still with my pc gamer of april 1999. The size was more
reallistic at this time than now. Why did you changed the size

A) The buildings were so large that they cluttered up the
screen and were hard to place on the maps. They were (get this)
Not Fun.

Q) One of microsoft’s producer said there was going to be fans
campaign and scenario inclued in the game. Where are them?

A) We bear no responsibility for anything MS’s producers

Q) would it have the Polish civ becuase it was one of the
strongest civ in the 1600 hundreds and they were the civ that
held off the Muslims and Genghis Khan from entering Europe.

A) While the Poles were strong for many centuries, they did
not keep the Muslims nor the Mongols from entering Europe. The
Muslims were held off by the Spanish in the west and the
Byzantines until about 1200 A.D., when the Hungarians became the
main barrier vs. eastern Islam. The Mongols trounced the Poles
when they fought them, then moved south against the Hungarians
& Romanians, who were joined by extra Poles, Germans, and
Bohemians. This polyglot force was also trounced by the Mongols,
who then returned to Mongolia to elect the next Khan. This not to
say the Polish were puny fighters – EVERYONE got trounced
by the Mongols pretty consistently up until the battle of Ain
Jalut when the Mamelukes finally got to be the first nation ever
to beat the Mongols. True, the Mamelukes heavily outnumbered the
Mongol army, which was mostly composed of non-Mongols, but they
still get the credit.

Q) Why is it so secretive whatever you are working on?

A) Because MS’s marketeers want to give exclusive rights to
the first gaming magazines/sites they go to. How can they give
away an “exclusive” that has been discussed openly on the web for

Q) When you guys were developing the game, did you realise it
was going to be so damn ADDICTIVE?

A) Seeing as we were playing it constantly in our spare and
work time, I can safely say we had an inkling. We actually had to
forbid people to play it at certain times so we could get the
game done.

Q) Just wanted to let you know I was very excited to read that
you want to beef-up (price down?) the cav archer line of units!

A) You’re welcome.

Q) has your team considered making sheep a trainable unit at
the mill?

A) Not trainable. At one time we thought about having them
reproduce. But then we had idle villagers standing around waiting
for the sheep to bear young. Plus our artists blanched at the
thought of doing the sheep-birth animation. Anyway, it is highly
unlikely that we would make sheep replaceable in an X-Pack.

Q) What was your second choice for the Persian UU?

A) We wanted to have multipurpose cavalry (lame name, I know)
which could both shoot arrows and engage in melee.

Q) Does your knowledge of middle eastern history come even
close to the amount of knowledge u have about Eauropean history,
and if so what aspect of middle eastern do u enjoy reading about
and knowing about the most?

A) I would have to say that I know far less about mid-East
history than about European, but that I probably know more about
mid-East history than most westerners. My favorite mid-East stuff
are the great hero/villains like Baibars, Tamerlane, Kitboga, and
so forth. Also mid-Eastern politics is full of terrific

Q) Why didn’t you make this game less addictive? Why couldn’t
you make it so people get bored in a month or so and buy a new

A) We’re trying to keep you entertained long enough so you’ll
still remember how much you liked AoK when our next game comes
out, so you’ll buy it.

Q) Could we have a way to set a map location? Something like
ALT-Fn to set a map view to a spot on the map, then Fn to view

A) Isn’t clicking on the mini-map fast enough?

Q) before AOK came out I read on a site (not sure which) that
the forest grows back after awhile. Whas this ever planned? If
so, Why was it dropped?

A) Yes, it was planned very early on. It was dropped because
it was useless, and ahistorical.

Q) Congratulations on winning Gamespot’s RTS Game of the Year!
Well-deserved. Did you have any parties, or do you guys always
take good and bad press with a grain of salt?

A) We have parties based on fan acclaim, rather than press
acclaim. I.e., we have parties for selling X million copies,
which represents fan acceptance. Of course, we’re thrilled about
the Gamespot victory. Like most ego-crazed folks, we accept
uncritically all praise and denigrate all hostile press.

Q) Thanks for the great game but I have to point out that your
info on Jeanne d’Arc appears to be a good 5-10 years out of

A) I respond: pshaw. There are no new documents from the time.
There are no new reports from the time. It is an
archeological/historical situation, not a case where amazing new
facts can be generated. I’ve heard about the new historians
who’ve tried to downgrade Joan (pardon me for using the English
bastardized spelling, but it’s a habit), and regard them as just
another crop of historical revisionists, like the group that,
during the 1970s, strove valiantly to dethrone George Washington
as a skilled general (there has been a major historical backlash
demonstrating just that he was, in fact, pretty doggone good).
You have to remember that any young new historian has to make a
name for himself, and if he tries to do it by discussing
something non-controversial, he won’t get anywhere. Therefore,
the best course to seek is to look up some glorious historical
icon and look for tarnish. There are still plenty of top
historians who are well-aware of the existence of the Relief of
Orleans and the few carping newcomers who attempt to pretend
otherwise are, in my opinion, only one or two steps steps on the
evolutionary ladder above the morons who feign that Hitler’s
Holocaust never happened.

The fact that parts of Joan’s tale are unverifiable, or worse,
untrue, does not render the whole of the legend false, as some
people seem to like to believe. The fact that George Washington
never threw a dollar across the Delaware doesn’t mean he was not
a very physically strong individual. He was. The fact that he
never cut down a cherry tree as a youth does not alter the fact
that he was famously honest. Likewise, the fact that Joan of Arc
has accrued a few legends over the centuries does not render the
whole of the tale unbelievable. Particularly the parts about the
relief of Orleans. So there. Nyaah nyaah nyaah.

Q) Do you think seige towers should be in the game?

A) No. They were not that common in the medieval era and were
more a feature of the ancient world.

Q) How about an archer with a giant shield?

A) The giant shield is called a Pavis.

Q) Why didn’t Ensemble include motte and bailey “castles?”

A) Because they wouldn’t look like castles to the average
person, who would just be puzzled what these Wild West-style
forts were doing in a medieval game.

Q) You mentioned that random civs are assigned based on a
number, but that the same two civs are not assigned on the same
team. Will you add a feature that will allow for the limitation
of which civs are randomly chosen?

A) You mean, making “random civs” non-random? Isn’t that an

Q) what do you personally think of a +1 piercing armor upgrade
(in an eventual expansion) for the LIGHT CAVALRY?

A) Light cavalry already get 2 points of piercing armor.
That’s only 1 less than a paladin. Light cav from a civ with full
armor upgrades can get up to 6 points of piercing armor. As far
as light cav upgrades go, however, watch this space.

Q) Do Elite Berserks heal themselves quicker than the normal

A) No.

Q) Do you know/know where to find a place to find all of the
attack bonuses for each unit that has them?

A) try MrFixit’s web site. It has tons of info and is a really
good site.

Q) For Architecture and Masonry, I have noticed it increases
the Armor, P Armor, and one other type of armor, I think its B
armor… I think thats its… if thats not it maybe you know…
but what is this mystery armor protect from?

A) Building damage. Some units do extra Building damage, and B
armor protects vs. this.

Q) Did you hear about the Siege of Vienna by the Ottoman
Turks? The Polish reenforcements slaughtered the Turk army thanks
to their amazing Winged Hussars.

A) Certainly, but when I said that the Poles were not able to
save Europe from the Moslems or the Mongols, I was not referring
to the Ottoman Turks, even though they are technically Moslems.
It’s not quite the same thing as the initial jihad that hit the
Byzantines & Visigothic Spain around 700-800 A.D. In
addition, while the Poles made a big difference at the siege of
Vienna, there would have been no siege without the Austrians
& Hungarianas. Also, during the majority of the wars vs. the
Turks, the Poles took no part, or had only a minor role. Not to
denigrate the Poles – they engaged in heated wars against
many tough opponents. Just not usually vs. Islamic or Central
Asian foes.

Q) After the fall of Rome and into the Dark Age, did military
tactics get worse with everything else?

A) Tactics did become more primitive for a long time with the
ascendancy of armored cavalry. However, the art of strategy was
still practiced and at times got even more adept than before. One
problem in the Middle Ages, however, was that with the ascendancy
of a hereditary nobility, you had no guarantee that the man in
charge of an army was competent. Especially if he happened to be
the king.

Q) the momentous importance of the Papal Interdict or
Excommunication has come up repeatedly. Would ES consider
involving the Interdict as at least a single-player trigger

A) Which player would get to do it? Which other players could
he affect? What difference should it make? There are lots of
questions to be considered with such a power, and it might be so
broad as to be outside the scope of a mere X-Pack.

Q) could economic sanctions be added to the game?

A) I don’t see how. Trade with one’s enemies is already pretty
limited in AoK.

Q) World War 2 was, in my opinion again, the last “great” (in
no way am I implying somehow that war is cool or anything)

A) What makes a war a full-scale conflict? Is it number of
casualties? If so, how many? Is it the number of nations
involved? If so, how many? WW2 certainly qualifies at any level.
But the Korean war was pretty hefty, too with four nations
heavily involved (N & S Korea, the US, and China),
and many more peripherally involved. On the other hand,
the US did not have their sovereignty threatened during that war,
and neither did China, at least after MacArthur was removed.
Certainly Korea was more than a brushfire war.

Q) But the Spanish weren’t all that good at open battle. They
were pretty good with their city-warfare. Fighting
house-for-house in Salamanca and other cities. But they had
difficulty in outmanuevering/defeating Imperial forces in the
field up through 1810.

A) On the other hand, so did almost everybody else! The French
kicked everybody’s butt in land battles. Their only major defeats
were 1) to the English/Portuguese alliance in Spain, and that was
largely because of intelligence & logistic problems caused by
the Spanish. 2) to the Russians in 1812 and that was because of
the Russian strategy, not victory in battle. 3) to everybody else
in Europe in 1813-15, because they (the French) were outnumbered
about five to one after losing all their horses and most of their
troops in Russia. So blasting the poor Spanish for losing in
open-field land battles to the French is kind of unfair, I

Q) Were their any civs that were seriously considered, or even
partially drawn-up (or whatever), but were dropped before the
final stages of Age of Kings?

A) Not really.

Q) Why does Mamaluke have attacking bonus vs cavalries?

A) Because they’re camels.

Q) When I upgrade hoarding, only the castle that I upgraded
gets the 1000 HP.

A) Warning: Drug Humor Alert! Do not read this reply if mild
humor related to criminal abuse of drugs may seduce you into a
life of depravity!

Only the castle you upgraded gets the 1000 HP? My theory is
you are smoking a really big rock of crack, because the upgrade
system is class-based. We don’t even have the power, as
designers, to make an upgrade work on only a single building.

End Drug Humor Alert!

Q) What “bonus” who multipurpose horse does??

A) There are no multipurpose cavalry in the game. They were

Q) Why do you invite Microsoft to publish the game?? Don’t you
have more profits if you publish it yourself?

A) Not if we don’t already own a printing plant, our own
distribution network, warehouses, etc.

Q) Is ES going to plan RPG games?

A) Not yet announced.

Q) Why are you expecting Diablo II?

A) I liked Diablo. I think Blizzard has a lot of talent. I
have high hopes for Diablo II. That’s all.

Q) How do you get all countries native tongue? (Like you have
to find a chinese speaking person, french…teuton..)

A) Yes, exactly like that.

Q) Who is the person that you often AoK with?

A) No one person. Anyone else in the company would do.

Q) Shouldn’t Bombard Cannon have large explosion area

A) It shoots a big rock, not an explosive shell.

Q) Would you use a Bombard Cannon to attack a well-defended
city rather than Seige Ram and Trebuchet? (Such as a city with 10
bombard tower)

A) It depends on (1) my civ and (2) the defending civ. I would
certainly not use siege rams vs. bombard towers.

Q) Do you think trap is a good idea?

A) No. They were not tactically important during battles in
the middle ages (or anytime, really).

Q) Why isn’t there snow in the game?

A) Watch this space.

Q) What is your daily schedule? (wake up at 10:00 am, brush
your teeth…..etc)

A) I can’t believe you actually want to know that kind of
stuff. Here ’tis tho, dull as it may sound.

7:30 wake up. Go on a brisk walk with wife & pooch.

8:15 shower & dress

8:30 leave for work.

9-9:30 arrive at work

6:30-8:00 leave work

11:00 sit up reading, play console games, or chase wife around

12:00 go to sleep

Q) Champs are popular in RM games but not in DM.

A) I read your entire article. You said in the article itself
that champions were often used in DM, though not champion-only
armies and not by you. That’s fine with me. In AoE you’d NEVER
see swordsmen except vs. Choson.

Q) Turks were supposed to be the replacement for hitites, they
bummed out in DM where they should thrive and i imagine nobody
plays them in RM. If the Jannisaries were maybe made 5 gold
cheaper and the bombard cannon have a faster fire rate or
something useful like that, then they could be more useful. Also
the exclusion of pikes/skirmishers is an almost unimaginable

A) They have camels, their bombard cannons have 50% more hit
points, and my understanding is that they do in fact get played
from time to time in RMs.

Q) How long does it take you to type up those threads?

A) Too long. If I had any sense, I’d stop.

Q) How often do you dread coming to this forum answering

A) When I dread it, I don’t come.

Q) When you finally announce you’re working on [deleted], will
you share with us some ideas you got from us forumers?

A) If I remember. After all, it’s not like I write down where
I get ideas from. They ferment and simmer in the back of my
subconscious until they emerge again in some new format.

Q) Did the toning down of the TC in the [deleted] idea come
from a forumer?

A) The actual technique we’re using is based on internal
testing and imagination. The toning down in the first place is
based on the vast outcry from the web.

Q) how come U can’t make moats?

A) Because the game engine won’t support changing terrain
(like making ditches).

Q) What do you think were the most efficient: the greatest
roman armies or the best mongols armies?

A) Well, I’m not sure efficiency is a virtue when it comes to
military matters. A steam ship is incredibly inefficient when
compared to a sailing ship, but it defeats it in battle. The
greatest Roman armies would doubtless have been defeated by the
best Mongol armies, as witness the general trend of Roman defeats
at the hands of mounted archers. On the other hand, the
Byzantines evolved from the Romans and they learned how to fight
back against mounted archers and beat them. But it was a gradual

Q) And are we my friends and I the only ones to wish for a
“true” neutral setting as described in the manual ?

A) Probably. L

Q) I have discovered pirated AoK CDs on the “unofficial”
market. Do you want a copy to have a look at how it is done
despite the copy-prevention measures by MS?

A) We know how it’s done We could do it ourselves if we wanted
to! But please send your report to and they
will do a hardball number on the pirates. Arr, matey!

Q) I consider AOK as classic a game as chess. One area where
chess differs is that you may offer your opponent a draw. Would
it be feasible to have a “Offer Hand in Draw” button alongside
the Resign button?

A) I suppose. Who else would like such a button?

Q) Since you’ve ignored many, many questions about what the
heck is a battle event, is the secret behind it a MS contractual
obligation to allow a magazine an exclusive to reveal the

A) No. It’s just been published (in this forum) several times
already and is too boring and long for me to want to explain

Q) Why is the Vikings the only one NOT to be in any

A) Because I am descended from the noble Norse and begged
fervently for my mighty ancestors to be spared the ignominity of
appearance in a campaign for a mere game. (j/k)

Q) Have you or anyone else at ES thought to make certain civs
better played on certain map types?

A) Certain civs DO play better on certain map types. It’s just
not necessarily the same map types that their native terrain
consists of. L

Q) Next time you go by the Coke machine, could you grab me a
Mountain Dew?

A) How can you be a real ES person, dCypher? You don’t even
have a mighty blue name. I spit upon your puny pretensions.

Q) Some forumers and me are upset about the fact that the
“bug” that let units walk on deleted shallows have removed. Can
you tell me why the “bug” have removed?

A) I think you’ve answered your own question here.

Q) Was including weather in the game ever considered?

A) only in the most general sense. In reality, no one ever
fought battles in the rain or snow (yes, battles were called on
account of rain), and night time actions were extremely rare. The
only real exceptions to this were during sieges (which you
couldn’t very well let up as a result of weather). Modern wars
give us a false view of how things were, because all modern wars
are, in effect, sieges, in which the combat continues unceasingly
along front lines, and so a modern soldier has to fight in all
kinds of weather. But this wasn’t the case in the olden days.

Q) Any chance of increasing the maximum size of a selected
group of units from the present 40?

A) dunno. I’ll ask.

Q) Could you make the sheep less attractive?

A) They make me all hot and bothered, too. Maybe that’s why my
game falls apart after the Dark Age.

Q) Is there something in the game that makes some civs’
trebuchets less accurate?

A) Trebuchets, across the board, have an accuracy of 15%. This
means that 85% of the time, a trebuchet shot lands ranbomly in a
3×3 tile area centered on the target site. So they usually hit
castles & town centers, sometimes miss houses, and frequently
miss individual units. Get Siege Engineers to add +1 range to
your trebs.