Ask Sandy XV

Article written by Sandy Petersen
Originally published on 04-18-2000 ; updated on 03-13-2017
Tags: General Info, Ask Sandyman, Interviews

Q) What is the deal with AOE3? I heard it was only coming out for the xbox? This is piracy!! Blackmail!! Evil!!! Is it true? And if so, what is aoe3 all about?

A) our next RTS game, whether it be AoE3 or something else, is so far in the future that absolutely NOTHING is set in stone for it yet. Not even the platform. It is way too premature to have an opinion on.

Q) Will units be upgraded better and be stronger?

A) No. The intent of the X-Pack is not to provide even more powerful stuff, but to make the already-available stuff even more fun. Adding a new, tougher ram adds nothing to the game play. Letting people garrison inside a ram makes for some interesting decisions and choices, whether you are defending against the rams or using them to assault an enemy town.

Q) Do you know the rest of Lord Byron's Poem?

A) Probably not.

Q) What units are being tuned down?

A) No units are being tuned down.

Q) Why do all the pretty girls hate me?

A) Because of your low self-esteem.

Q) is Anarchy a Military or economic enhancement?

A) Mostly the former.

Q) Is the other Goth one something to the effect of "Democracy" or "Monarchy"? being that you only have the option of one or the other,

A) In the first place, you can research both Goth unique techs. I’m not sure where the theory you could only get one or the other arose. In the second place, who would want to play democratic, liberal-minded Goths? That would spoil all the fun.

Q) Who's better: Letterman, Leno, Conan, Kilborne?

A) I almost never watch TV. I urge you to do likewise, before it’s too late.

Q) Haven't you all but admitted that a new civ will be Korea?

A) I hadn’t thought so.

Q) Have you played Myst, Riven, or anything like that?

A) Of course.

Q) Will you change the Celtic sheep bonus? Don't you think the Celts should get a armor bonus because they are attributed with the invention of chain mail?

A) We like the Celts fine as they are. The X-Pack isn’t going to change the existing bonuses except for a very few cases.

Q) Do you like the new Budweiser 'Whasssssup' commercials?

A) Even back when I DID watch TV, I didn’t pay any attention to the beer commercials.

Q) You said you made the Saracens better. Did you help the mameluke in any way?

A) Indirectly.

Q) AOE3? I have heard it was coming on the XBOX. I also heard it would be a 3d ver. of AOE1. Please tell me neither of these is true!

A) See previous answer to similar question, this column.

Q) What do you think of the X-Box?

A) I see no reason not to give it a chance.

Q) Will the TTC "problem" be solved in the patch?

A) It sure as heck better be.

Q) Do you think it is possible to rush with Persians?

A) I’ve always thought of them as a fast civ.

Q) What will be the lowest requirement (computer processor speed) in order to play the x-pack?

A) I believe the intent is that if you can play AoK, you can run the X-Pack.

Q) Why wasn't light cavalry able to upgrade to heavy cavalry?

A) Because light cavalry is not simply an inferior version of heavy cavalry. Light cavalry performed different tasks, used different weapons, were used differently both strategically and tactically, and even rode different breeds of horses.

Q) Do you smoke weed?

A) Of course not. My brain is loose enough on its hinges already.

Q) Isn't it annoying to get asked stupid questions and flamed?

A) Yes, I find it detestable. I suspect I get more flames than I deserve else because I’m the lone rep of MS & ES here on the forum and therefore all the built-up peeves people have against those companies get focused on me. Also I have numerous British & American friends and do not think that Brits are superior. Both nations have their drawbacks. You just have to live with the poison you’ve picked.

Q) blondes or brunettes

A) Depends on complexion & lip tint.

Q) Will there be any units fighting with picks & hammers?

A) No.

Q) Are you sure the ex-pac is balanced?

A) It will be as balanced as all these extra months of testing and development can make it.

Q) Can the whole mangonel line destroy tree's please?

A) Use your trebs on the forest.

Q) How Come you never post in the scenario design forum?

A) I didn’t design any of the scenarios.

Q) My brother is addicted to poke'mon. Shall I beat him up?

A) Yes, and take away his cards and mail them to me, so I can give them to my son to make him stop begging for more.

Q) your responses to the relative weakening of champs due to archer and seige improvement is disconcerting. Im afraid that these anti champ units will make it more like AoE. Can you allay my fears?

A) Obviously not, since I’ve striven to do so a couple times and you’re still going on about it. I know that people who are far more skilled at AoK than me are using champions regularly.

Q) is there any chance that Pikes and skirmishers can be altered so they only take up 1/2 a population point

A) We don’t want to do this because we don’t like games going on forever. If an enemy comes into your town with 150 paladins, you deserve to lose, and lose badly.

Q) Will the Japanese be improved?

A) The Japanese are one of the few civs that have received outright improvements above and beyond the generic bonuses that everyone gets (like unique techs or new units). Specifically, we have noted that the mighty samurai is not especially useful in his main task of UU-killing. So we’ve upped his movement speed a tad (the same as a pikeman) and increased his anti-UU damage. You still may not wish to build them in preference to champs when you’re facing certain enemies, but by golly they’re better.

Q) Will the Japanese UT affect Samurai?

A) Actually, no it doesn’t.

Q) Will there be a new art set?

A) If there isn’t a new art set, something equally spectacular would have to be in the X-pack to replace it.

Q) Are the Koreans definitely chopped from the Xpack?

A) What’re all these worries about the Koreans? I’ve never said they were in or out or anything. All these worries are built upon a house of straw. If the Koreans were in the pack a month ago, they’re still in it as of today. And if they weren’t, they still aren’t.

Q) Are the Khmers possibly in the Xpack?

A) Mmmmaybe.

Q) When you say the Japanese are being outrightly improved, does that mean they have a new civ bonus?

A) Nobody gets a new civ bonus. Everybody gets new techs and units. The Japanese, in addition, get to have their Samurai improved slightly. This makes them better vis-à-vis other civs than they used to be.

Q) Does anyone at ES still play AoE at the company building?

A) I doubt it very much. We play AoK all the time, however.

Q) are you going to improve multiplayer demplomacy or comunication in anyway?

A) How about color-coded chat messages?

Q) are their going to be any new game types besides king of the hill?

A) Yes.

Q) shouldn't fortress be a game type rather than a random map.

A) No.

Q) what are you doing to the onager line?

A) They are now worth building. We see onagers quite frequently now, whereas in the old days they were rare. However, a “big army” of onagers is still something like 5 – giant forces of onagers, even in the high-pop-cap games we’re playing now, don’t pay off.

Q) how are you changing the ai

A) It gets up through the ages much more quickly, is the main thing.

Q) can i get my hands on the beta game, i liked their castles better

A) Good luck. I won’t stand in your way.

Q) I'm trying to piece together what will be included in the free patch as opposed to the Conquerors Xpack.

A) We are not yet sure which things are going to be in the patch, since it is not done yet. Certainly the outstanding bugs are going to be fixed, along with (at a minimum) the TCs being toned down.

Q) Is the Khmer barking spider venomous?

A) All spiders are venomous except for some rare burrowing spiders of East Asia and some Pholcids. But only a few spiders are able to harm humans. That requires a combination of strong enough fangs to pierce human skin (most spiders can’t), and strong enough venom to affect a human (spiders inject an almost microscopic drop of venom). Remember kids, Spiders Are Our Friends.

Q) Maybe they thought you could only pick one or the other because you told them they could only pick one or the other. Quote:

Q) iF the goths have 2 UTs, what slots will these UTS occupy in the castle orders menu

A) They are side-by-side. You can research one of them and not the other

A) What I meant, and which I thought was clearly said, is that you do not have to research one of them in order to get the other. The original questioner asked if you had to get one of them first. And I was answering him.

Q) Has your team at ES discussed modifying the Keep in any way?

A) Nope. Keeps have improved in value since the emasculation of TCs, so we see no need to work on them.

Q) have you ever thought to do away with the whole unit upgrade system and instead attribute increases in unit statitistics to combat experience, life-span, researching better weapons and armor, etc... if no, why not?

A) We want the player to be in charge making the decisions.

Q) Is it true Stalin isn't the big mass murderer his thought to be?

A) I’m sure Stalin was just as big a murderer as he is believed to be. He didn’t personally sign the death-warrants of the tens of thousands of Soviet officers who died, nor did he personally chose the kulaks and Ukrainians who were to die in the government-caused famines. But he ordered these events to take place, and clearly approved. This is a man who was so paranoid that after world war II he arrested the city leaders of Leningrad and had them tried and executed, solely because they had done such a heroic job of saving their city from the Nazis. This made them heroes, so he, in his murderous madness, killed these harmless old men who could never have threatened his power in a million years. But for all that, Hitler would have been worse.

Q) Hey Sandy, did you hear about Age of Kings getting nomainated 7 times for the AIAS awards, more then any other game. Did you gloat and brag to other game developers when you heard the news?

A) There were many self-congratulatory e-mails circling the ES offices because of this.

Q) What game do you think should win the game of the year prize?

A) Donkey Kong 64. It is a terrific game. I recommend it unabashed.

Q) should I infer that the Vikings, Celts and Goths are not meant to be able to counter Frankish Paladins at ALL?

A) Don’t sweat it. Almost everyone’s abilities to counter Frankish Paladins (specifically including the civs you mentioned) is frighteningly enhanced by the X-Pack.

Q) Can a Male Vill and a female Vill mate and make a baby Vill??

A) This is a FAMILY game, buster. So … of course.

Q) What technology(ies) or advancement(s) do you think had the greatest effect on warfare?

A) Domesticating the horse.

Q) Arbalest is going to be somewhat improved. If so, why is this being done, since the Arb is already almost as powerful as the Elbow? Also state which unit is more worth it in your opinion?

A) Well, gee. The difference is that elbows can grow up to be Elite elbows, which are way better than arbalests, what with better armor, longer range, more damage, and even costing less gold.

Q) Have you ever compared playing computer games to watching television?

A) Even if you’re only playing a singleplayer computer game, you are interacting. You are constantly thinking, planning ahead, trying to remember important stuff. When you are watching TV you are totally passive, a human jel waiting to be imprinted.

Q) How related are the new civs?

A) Not very.

Q) if you had only one mill and all of your other farms were around TCs, and you had numerous farms queued when that lone mill was destroyed, would you lose the farms(and/or the invested wood) already queued?

A) You do not lose the queued farms, and in fact your farmers will continue to replant farms as they expire. However, until you rebuild a mill, you won’t be able to add new farms to the queue.

Q) Do you think it is ridiculous how off-track the "Silla Kicks Butt" thread got?

A) I don’t know. I stayed out of it after my last post. I could tell blood was going to flow.

Q) Will any of the UTs be a defensive tech or will they be all economic and offensive?

A) The UTs are almost entirely military in nature, but they vary as to whether they are offensive or defense. The line of attack/defense is kind of blurry in AoK anyway. Is a mangonel a defensive or offensive weapon? How about a tower?

Q) Do either UTs affect the civs military? Does the celtic UT effect its infantry, siege, or cavalry?

A) The Teuton bonus is kind of hard to explain without giving it away, but it definitely affects their military. The celtic UU affects their siege.

Q) will all the info on the x-pack be revealed at E3?

A) I sure as heck hope so. I’m tired of tantalizing you guys.

Q) You said to use the Treb on the trees. I thought they don't take down forests.

A) This might be a bug we fixed in the conquerors.

Q) I know you don't watch a lot of TV, but do you have/watch the History Channel?

A) I don’t even have cable.

Q) how about an "official" pair of dates or years that ES uses to determine what fits in AoK and what doesn't.

A) The “official” dates are 500-1500 A.D. But we certainly slop over the line at both ends.

Q) Would it be unreasonable to have the magyars in the x-pack? What I mean by that is, would they be out of place?

A) They would most certainly not be out of place. They were considered, and were strong contenders.

Q) How many of the 5 new civs are *not* civs that originated or settled in Europe?

A) Three and a half.

Q) How many new units are there in the X-pack?

A) Four

Q) If the khmer will be in TC what would their UU be?

A) elephant archers, without a doubt.

Q) If the koreans were in TC what would their UU be?

A) turtle ships of course.

Q) Will there be any new siege weapons in the caslte or siege workshop?

A) No.

Q) Is the bombard cannon being made stronger or weaker

A) the former.

Q) Is a stealth unit in the making?

A) No. Such a unit is kind of inappropriate for a game like AoK, in which the emphasis is on national economy & military strategy.

Q) Since things are on Fire, can a building on Fire, slowly lose points unless that Fire is put out?

A) They used to, in the game’s early stages. This feature sucked so bad and was complained about so bitterly by playtesters that it was finally canned.

Q) Since Vills can fire arrows why not other units in Castle?

A) For unit balance. Archers are almost worthless shooting at fortifications, but they’re useful inside them. This makes them more interesting.

Q) Will the new game types like king of the hill be multiplayer only?

A) No.

Q) At ES, have you considered making bigger maps?

A) The maps are pretty colossal already … bigger maps would just make machines chug even slower. We want the game to be playable by the same level machines that could play AoK.

Q) I noticed that the Beserk unit has spiked helmets. From what I've heard the vikings have never had spiked helmets

A) We are perfectly aware that the Vikings by 800 A.D. only wore horned helmets for special occasions, if them (they actually have found at least one horned helmet in a Viking ship burial), but we are happy to kowtow to the modern Hollywood concept and give our berserks horns.

Q) Will units be faster?

A) Play on a smaller map.

Q) Will resources regenerate randomly?

A) Nope. Think how much fun it would be to have a gold mine randomly appear in your enemy’s town after you’d just spent 45 minutes walling him off from useful resources.

Q) can units fire out of the ram.

A) No, they’re busy pushing.

Q) Will rams be faster than foot units?

A) Depends on the ram, the size of its garrison, and the foot unit.

Q) If you are retreating your men and you need to save your villagers will the rams be able to take them away safely?

A) Villagers cannot garrison inside a ram. It’s obvious why not if you consider the implications for forward-building.

Q) Will any of the new units in the X-pack be some really good Knight killers?

A) what does everyone have against the poor knights? AoK would be one heck of a poor medieval strategy game if armored knights were NOT at the tip-top of power.

Q) Will there be any new monk techs?

A) More than one.

Q) Will there be any UT that affects monks?

A) No, but some new civ bonuses affect monks.

Q) Is there any reason to destroy building with archers when there are rams and trebs?

A) It just gives you one more option that you can take advantage of if you want. No one is making you use the archers vs. the buildings.

Q) Will any of the new civs have Siege onagers or Bombard towers?

A) Yes.

Q) Do bombard cannons have more HP's, or more attack?

A) HPs

Q) Which is your favorite meal

A) Pad Thai.

Q) What do you think about the Mexican-American war of 1847?

A) I think it was a naked attempt on the part of the Polk administration to add a new slave state (Texas) to the Union. It was also a pretty impressive military operation. Most people dismiss it today as just another example of a big country beating up on a little one, but what they don’t know is that the Mexican army was far larger than the American one, and that the Mexicans declared war on the US, not the other way round. It is true that Polk provoked Mexico, though. But it’s also true that Santa Ana felt certain of victory. The very best account of the war is the one in U.S. Grant’s biography, one of the early chapters.

Q) What do you think about Magic: The Gathering?

A) A clever, fun game that has too many fanatics playing it.

Q) will there be any changes to the title screen?

A) Yes.

Q) will the new campaigns be in a seperate area (where you choose what campaign you want to play)?

A) When you select Singleplayer you see separate menu selections for “Age of Kings Campaigns” and “The Conquerors Campaigns”.

Q) If a random map, regicide or DM is set up in a game in the X-pac, and all players choose to play random civ, will each player receive a different civ, like it happens in the AOK without x-pac?

A) Yep.

Q) Is any of the new real-world maps (britain, france, japan, etc.) based in aregion where no civ in AOK or x-pac lives?

A) Yes.

Q) Why is it that there are no more whales in AOK, as in AOe there were Whales? is MS opposed to whale hunting as well as dolphin eating?

A) Ricky Racoon says “Whales are our friends. We shouldn’t hurt them. Not even in let’s pretend.”

Q) What are thy thoughts on archaic english?

A) I think it should stay in Great Britain and Canada, where it belongs.

Q) does the AI of TC still speak archaic english, as he does in AOK nowadays?

A) MS specially asked me to make it archaic. It wasn’t, originally.

Q) Will either the X-Pack or the patch increase the number of units that can be in a group?

A) I know they’re looking at doing this. I requested it, as did others. It will be done unless such large groups break something unexpected deep in the code.

Q) Have you considered adding an "earthworks" technology/"building" - both for reinforcing walls and for creating terrain barriers?

A) No, because I was the project lead when we were deciding what to include and I dislike walls.

Q) Any chance of making mangs/onags smarter so that they won't fire if friendly troops are too close to enemy ones?

A) Already in. We call ‘em “smart onagers”. Basically, they won’t auto-target an enemy if a friendly would also get hit. However, you can cause the onager to attack by clicking on the enemy, and that “turns off” the inhibition – he’ll keep attacking all enemies he can reach until no more are visible. Then he reverts to “smart onager” mode.

Q) Is my friend sane, what should I do about his "affliction"?

A) The only thing you can do with the French is to love them or shoot them. It’s incurable.

Q) Have you made any changes in the wildlife or resources in the x-pack?

A) Yes.

Q) did you at some stage consider using for of a civ2 model for the tech tree - e.g where some techs are dependant upon others being researched first

A) Yes. It’s all over the place in AoK. You can’t research Iron Casting till you have Forging, for instance. We didn’t use the full version because in an RTS game, speed is important, and most players hate looking up stuff in the manual when they’re under attack (“Murder Holes …. was its prerequisite Squires or Redemption?)

Q) Will turkish Jannissarys, well be improved to where they can take 300 hits from a Britons longbowman?And withstand 5 hits from a siege onager?

A) Yes, but you can only train one during the course of the whole game.

Q) Can there be a Lord of The Rings compaign in the future?

A) Only if we spend a vast amount of wealth on licensing fees.

Q) Do you think Britons should be banned?

A) From the Forum or AoK?

Q) Do the changes in the x-pac make men at arms and longswordsmen more viable in the feudal/castle age?

A) The combination of weaker TCs and garrisoned rams makes men-at-arms pretty popular at the moment.

Q) Is the toning down of the TC dramatic enough that it allows for real feudal age warfare which isn't necessarily a "rush" or is getting to castle and growing exponentially still the dominant strategy?

A) You have to push it pretty hard to wipe someone out in Feudal, even with our changes.

Q) If hitler hadnt attacked the Soviets in 41 and instead decided to somehow invade England or he sat and built up armies, could the nazis won the war ?

A) Hell, he could have won the war even AFTER attacking the Soviets, if the Soviets & Allies had made more mistakes than they did, and if he (Hitler) had made less. WW2 could easily have ended in an Axis victory. Which is not the same as saying they’d have ended up ruling the world – I think THAT outcome extremely unlikely. But a Europe dominated by nazi Germany and an East Pacific Co-Prosperity Sphere were real threats.

Q) What battle do you feel was most important in the second world war?, El Alamein, Midway or Stalingrad?

A) Kursk. Let’s examine the other three, though: El Alamein was the defeat of one single corps of the wehrmacht. This is not to say it’s unimportant – if the Germans had triumphed and taken the Suez, England would have been on the ropes. The victory here was essential to the British. But not to the Germans. Midway was important to defeat the Japanese, but fundamentally the Japanese were not the greatest threat in the war. If Midway had been lost by the US, the war would probably have been prolonged by a year or more, or perhaps ended in a negotiated peace. But until Germany surrenders or wins, the war would have gone on. Stalingrad marks the spot where the old Panzer tactics first got used against itself – the German advance stopped. But Kursk is where the long retreat began. The German army lost spectacularly more troops and equipment at Kursk than Stalingrad. They lost domination of the air, they lost their most experienced officers, and they never stopped retreating after Kursk. Every German soldier sent to the East Front after Kursk was a martyr.

Q) Are there any other certain aspects, unit qualities, functions, features hidden, embedded or otherwise in the AOE/ROR/AOK game series yet to be discovered by us that you or the team at ES know about but haven't told us?

A) Probably .

Q) Who at ES actually suggested Russians as one of the civs?

A) Me. Though actually I wanted to call them “slavs” so we could use a broad category to include all manner of Slavic nations in the same group.

Q) I have a feeling that I allways get more female villagers than male villagers.

A) Lucky you. For me, it’s totally random.

Q) What do you think of having archers being able to garrison in walls, so they are on higher ground and have more attack?

A) It would suck bad trying to find and ungarrison them all.

Q) Will the single play be improved in the X-Pack, or will the zone (or multiplay at large) remains as the only place to get a decent game??

A) The singleplayer has been improved, but if you absolutely hate & despise the current AI you’ll still be happier in Multiplayer.

Q) Should I take Einstein's word and these 22 cases as proof that light has been slowing down over the last x# of years, or go along w/ my traditional thinking and completely ignore this info?

A) I would always take Einstein’s word on ANYTHING connected with physics over my own.

Q) Will chariots return?

A) Who used chariots in the middle ages? Japanese chariots? Saracen chariots? I don’t think so.

Q) Will Harold Hardraada be a different unit?

A) Probably, since (I think, I may be misremembering) he shows up in one of the scenarios.

Q) Who was your favorite webmaster from the ones that came to Fanstock 2000?

A) I wasn’t at Fanstock 2000

Q) What is your favorite strategy when playing AoK?

A) The late-imperial villager rush.

Q) In TC will the AI be better on higher population limits? Will the AI build more villagers?

A) Yes. Yes.

Q) Will there be a mode harder than hardest?

A) No.

Q) How come the fifth resource (ore) was removed from AoK?

A) It added complexity at the expense of entertainment. More is not always better.

Q) I saw some old pictures of AoK and noticed that deer were much bigger than they are now in AoK. Why were they shrunk?

A) Everyone was asking why there was giant elk in AoK. We decided ordinary deer would be better.

Q) What would happen if those webmasters at Fanstock 2000 posted on their sites what they saw from TC?

A) Ask Mike McCart, ES’s webmaster.

Q) How far along in development is the x-pack?

A) Final balancing and tweaking.