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GameInformer interviews Bruce Shelley

Following on from the recent History of Age of Empires video, there is another video released this week which Age and Ensemble fans should check out and it is from GameInformer who have recently interviewed legendary designer Bruce Shelley. The informative video talks in some more detail about his early gaming years, the start of Ensemble Studios, Age of Empires (of course) and some detail about what lead to the closure of Ensemble. Certainly this is an interview no Age or Ensemble fan will want to miss.

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Age of Empires IV announced, plus remasters of Age II and III

The legacy of Ensemble Studios continues as this week we learn that Microsoft has announced a brand new Age of Empires game – Age of Empires IV, a continuation of the main series unlike some of the other games released in recent times. Relic Entertainment are set to carry the torch as developers on this new game. The Sega owned studio is similar to Creative Assembly, another Sega studio who worked on Halo Wars 2. There is no release date set for Age 4 just yet, there is however, a very awesome new teaser trailer! Read more

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Age of Empires 1 to get definitive edition re-release

Ah, now this is a blast from the past! Age of Empires 1, the very first Age of Empires game and first title shipped by Ensemble Studios is set to be re-released in HD (4K even) on PC later this year. This follows in similar HD re-releases of Age of Empires 2, Age of Mythology and Halo Wars. Essentially almost all of the Ensemble Studios catalog has recently been re-released. Certainly a testament to Ensemble’s outstanding legacy.

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26
Aug

GameInformer interviews Bruce Shelley

Following on from the recent History of Age of Empires video, there is another video released this week which Age and Ensemble fans should check out and it is from GameInformer who have recently interviewed legendary designer Bruce Shelley. The informative video talks in some more detail about his early gaming years, the start of Ensemble Studios, Age of Empires (of course) and some detail about what lead to the closure of Ensemble. Certainly this is an interview no Age or Ensemble fan will want to miss.

The video interview also discusses some of the secret games which were in the works at Ensemble, which unfortunately never saw the light of day, including an underwater strategy game. Check out the video interview below!

Where’s Bruce these days?

Bruce is currently working with BonusXP, a studio formed of many Ensemble employees. The studio is currently working on Robot Entertainment’s Hero Academy 2. Its good to see the partnership between Robot and BonusXP holding strong and as Bruce says in the video interview, everyone is good friends. It is not just Hero Academy which has Bruce’s interest at the moment, BonusXP also have a super secret project under-wraps codenamed “Legend“. Talking to GameInformer Bruce hinted that the studio is using games like the Legend of Zelda as a base reference for thier upcoming, super secret action adventure game. It will sure be interesting to see what Bruce and BonusXP come up with and appears to be an interesting departure from RTS!

Keep your ears to the ground for more Bruce and BonusXP news over the coming months!

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22
Aug

Age of Empires IV announced, plus remasters of Age II and III

The legacy of Ensemble Studios continues as this week we learn that Microsoft has announced a brand new Age of Empires game – Age of Empires IV, a continuation of the main series unlike some of the other games released in recent times. Relic Entertainment are set to carry the torch as developers on this new game. The Sega owned studio is similar to Creative Assembly, another Sega studio who worked on Halo Wars 2. There is no release date set for Age 4 just yet, there is however, a very awesome new teaser trailer!

The trailer takes us through the ages of the previous games and it looks like Age IV is set to be in a whole new Age.

History of Age of Empires

Microsoft Studios in celebration of the new Age 4 announcement has sat down with some folks from Ensemble Studios to talk about the history of the Age of Empires franchise from the very beginning to where it is today. The video features key Ensemble staffers such as Ensemble Founders – Tony Goodman and John Boog-Scott alongside producers and designers such as Dave Pottinger, Rick Goodman, Paul Bettner, Tim Deen, Matt Pritchard and of course the legendary Bruce Shelley. The video features some interesting look backs at the origin of Ensemble and the very early beginnings of Age of Empires. Who knew that one of the very first tech demos just allowed you to chop trees. However from these early demos Microsoft quickly saw the light and soon signed up Ensemble to produce what would become Age of Empires.

The history video is a real treat for Age and Ensemble fans, it brings all the teams together from the Ensemble veterans to the new teams at Skybox and Forgotten Empires who have been keeping the franchise moving with HD releases of Age of Empires 2 and Mythology and Age of Empires 1 definitive edition being just round the corner. Check out the excellent video below:

Age of Empires 2 and 3 Definitive Editions on route

If a definitive edition of the original Age of Empires was not enough the team at Forgotten Empires and Skybox are also set to release new 4K editions of Age of Empires 2 and 3.  These classic Ensemble games really are standing the test of time, entertaining millions and millions many years after original release. I have no doubt the original Ensembles staffers must be so proud of just how many people their games have entertained year after year. These definitive editions join the already announced Age 1  Definitive Edition and already released Age of Mythology Extended Edition and Halo Wars Definitive Edition. This means that every title Ensemble Studios has ever released will have had its own remaster! Truly an outstanding accomplishment!

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19
Jun

Age of Empires 1 to get definitive edition re-release

Ah, now this is a blast from the past! Age of Empires 1, the very first Age of Empires game and first title shipped by Ensemble Studios is set to be re-released in HD (4K even) on PC later this year. This follows in similar HD re-releases of Age of Empires 2, Age of Mythology and Halo Wars. Essentially almost all of the Ensemble Studios catalog has recently been re-released. Certainly a testament to Ensemble’s outstanding legacy.

The Age of Empires Definitive Edition is being produced by the Forgotten Empires team, the same team behind the Age of Empires 2 expansions of recent – such as Rise of Rajas. The Forgotten Empires team have recently taken on new staffers from Ensemble Studios including Matt Pritchard who was one of the first engineers at Ensemble back in 1992, and Rich Geildrich who joined Ensemble in 2004, working on graphics for Age of Empires 3 and Halo Wars. You can find out more about the Forgotten Empires on their website.

Age of Empires Definitive Edition takes players back to the original game and includes the expansion pack content from Rise of Rome. The Genie engine has been vastly improved upon by the Forgotten Empires team to provide far more enhanced visuals and (a first for the Genie engine) – zoom levels! The Age of Empires website has some examples of the art improvements to some of the buildings. Not only is there improved visuals but the soundtrack is also be re-worked with new orchestral soundtrack which can also be previewed on the website. The game will also be sporting a classic mode to re-live the original visuals and sounds.

Trailer

Beta

Sign ups are taking place now on the AgeOfEmpires.com website for the beta program to get an early look at the game and provide feedback. Jump back in time and re-live Ensemble’s original game which started it all!

Screenshots

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19
Jun

PeopleFun launch ‘Wordscapes’ on mobile

PeopleFun have launched a new mobile word game. Joining the ranks of the highly successful Word Chums and Spell Blitz, now comes “Wordscapes”. This new game brings together word-search and crosswords to mobile devices with some pleasant landscapes. So put down the old fashioned paper and relax with Wordscapes! As with all PeopleFun games, it is highly addictive so be prepared!

There are over 800 challenges in Wordscapes, starting easy and increasing in difficulty as you progress. Each time you complete a level you are rewarded with “brilliance” points which can be redeemed for in game hints. The mechanics of which are very similar to one of PeopleFun’s previous games, MixTwo.

Speaking of MixTwo, if you liked that game and you enjoy word games, Wordscapes will be a great game for you. The game is free to play on the iOS and Google Play store. Just search for “Wordscapes”.

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8
May

Lay-offs at Robot Entertainment

We have some sad news about some staff changes taking place at Robot Entertainment following the release of Orcs Must Die! Unchained. Speaking on the ‘Orcs After Dark’ twitch stream this week, Community Manager, Laura “Harmonia“ Barrett commented that several staff are sadly leaving the studio following lay-offs that are taking place. Readers may be aware that in the gaming industry lay-offs sometimes happen after games are released.

Typically as games are being finalised there is a big push and need for resources to get a game out the door and then when a game does go live a studio may find itself with a larger workforce and needing to distribute those resources onto other projects which may be in early stages. Kotaku has an informative article on this topic. It is unfortunate that Robot Entertainment finds itself in a similar position of a scenario that is all too common in the gaming industry, the post-ship downsize. Robot is a smaller independent studio and no doubt managing striking these balances is incredibly difficult.

Speaking to REF, the studio commented:

Over the recent years, we have staffed Robot Entertainment to focus almost exclusively on Orcs Must Die! Unchained. After a tremendous effort from the entire studio, last month we launched the PC version. We are incredibly proud of it and are really excited about our plans to support the game, along with the upcoming PlayStation4 version, with new content and improvements. However, our studio demands are different now than they were during the core development of the game, and today we made the difficult decision to let go of 16 full-time employees and six contractors in order to better fit our current direction. These employees are our friends and we are doing all that we can to support them in their future endeavors.

 

SixOkay is among those leaving

It is with sadness that REF can report that one staff member affected includes Justin Korthof, Marketing Manager – aka SixOkay. Justin who has worked for the studio for around seven years following the announcement of Age of Empires Online, has spent the majority of his time at the studio as Community Manager and has been the main bot talking and engaging with the community and fans directly throughout those years. Justin’s hard work and dedication during that time has fostered a great relationship between the studio and its fans. Fans will miss him greatly on the forums and on Twitch streams. We have no doubt though that his legendary reputation and legacy will take him to big places in the future and we will keep an eye on where the future takes him.

Laura “Harmonia” Barrett will continue to support the community moving forwards as Community Manager. Robot will continue to engage with the community and its fans. Twitch streams such as Insider Access and Orcs After Dark will continue.

K2D2 is also departing

Other staff members include Kirst Kahler, aka K2D2, Associate Producer (localization) who previously worked on all the OMDU lore was a popular face on the twitch streams and Mitchell Waudbaurer, aka MitchellW, customer service is also departing. Mitchell was often found around the forums helping players with technical issues. Winter will continue to provide support for players. All staff affected will be sorely missed.

The studio moves forward with the continued development of OMDU and Hero Academy 2. Expect to see news on both these soon. This week is another episode of Insider Access with Shade that will cover the patch notes for the upcoming update. Be there!

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19
Apr

Orcs Must Die! Unchained has launched!

Orcs Must Die! Unchained has now officially launched and is available free to play from www.orcsmustdie.com and Steam. It has been a long road to release and the game has undergone alot of changes since it first became available on the beta programmes. Player feedback during the beta has been the heart of the design decisions made in todays release of Orcs Must Die! Unchained. The game is takes forward that classic formula from OMD1 and 2 and expands on it with new maps, minions, heroes and abilities. Plus introduces for the first time the new head to head mode “Sabotage“.

OMDU is free to play, if you have not already head on over to Steam or the OMD website to download and play! Be sure to leave your feedback on the game and the new Sabotage mode in the comments or forums!

Trailer

There is also a brand new launch trailer to check out below. The Orcs are back!

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20
Mar

Hero Academy 2 in development with BonusXP

Hero Academy fans rejoice! The turn based tactics game which proved very popular when it launched in early 2012 is set to get its sequel! The original marked Robot Entertainment’s first mobile game and was not only a hit with players but proved critically successful too, winning the “Best Mobile Game” at the DICE 2013 awards. It will soon be time to return to the Academy with Hero Academy 2 which is being developed by BonusXP.

What’s New

Hero Academy was a great formula and its looking like Hero Academy 2 will retain the core gameplay but will be taking it to the next level. The most notable change is that Hero Academy 2 will be using real-time matches. This means there will be no more long waits for players to make their moves. Instead players will be making moves there and then, this should greatly speed up the pace of games.

It also appears there is a new card collecting mechanic with players choosing the cards to bring into battle. This should mean more diverse matches with wider ranges of strategies. Mechanic improvements like this should really take the game to the next level of additional depth. The visuals have been given an overhaul too. According to the official website:

Hero Academy 2 builds on the original’s amazing tactical gameplay. We’ve added exciting new characters to the familiar fan favorites, all done in full-3d environments. Matches are real-time now. You can also customize your teams by collecting cards and building your own decks.

The game will be coming to both iOS and Android and will be launching some time in 2017. Get excited with the brand new teaser trailer below!

Trailer

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20
Mar

Orcs Must Die! EU service transitioning to Robot Entertainment

Some important news for Orcs Must Die! Unchained players in the EU. It has been announced today that from March 14th Gameforge will be transitioning Orcs Must Die EU services to Robot Entertainment. This means that on that date it will no longer be possible to play Orcs Must Die! Unchained on the EU client.

Never fear, however, EU players will be back up and running from the 21st March on a new unified account with Orcs Must Die NA players, managed by Robot Entertainment. All players currently on the EU client will have the option to migrate from their Gameforge account to a new Robot Entertainment account from March 21st.

Gameforge Producer, Andy Duthie comments:

This has been a very difficult decision for us to make but we believe this is the best for the future of the game. Robot Entertainment have proved to be excellent partners in getting to this stage and with the game now coming into fruition it is best for them to continue shaping it moving forwards.

 

What does this mean?

For the community this means that the EU and NA player base will now be combined, growing a new single, unified community between these new regions. This not only includes the in-game player base but also community forums and such like. You’ll now be able to add friends in-game for all players between these regions. The new blog on the Orcs Must Die website indicates:

We are still working out the specifics, but we fully intend to maintain EU and NA communities on the Orcs Must Die! website. Our goal is to foster one big, happy OMDU community as much as we can while still making sure we pay specific attention to regional communities.

There will still be actual servers in the EU region, so there should not be an impact on network performance.

Transferring your account purchases, account level etc

The migration tool that launches on March 21st will guide players through the process of transitioning to a new Robot account. All in-game purchases, gold and account level will be transferred to your new account. Gold will be converted at the correct Robot Entertainment rate. Players will not be losing out on anything via this conversion in terms of purchases and game progress.

However, unfortunately friends list and other social features cannot be transferred to your new Robot account. Additionally, if your username is already taken on the Robot account system, you will have to create a new one.

Week long maintenance also brings new patch

There will be one week long maintenance from when the EU servers close on the 14th until migration opens on the 21st March. This maintenance will enable Robot Entertainment and Gameforge to prepare for the upcoming account migrations. There is more good news to this maintenance, it will also see a new patch release for the game too. Mark the 21st in your calendar as a day to watch for new OMDU content and unified player-base!


It’s been a good ride on the OMDU EU servers. We have much enjoyed the excellent streams from FaTeReLLa before her departure late last year. The community forums have been full of useful discussion from Siege through to Survival. Good times await the unified playerbase and community. Thank-you Gameforge for supporting the EU players for the last three years.

To read more about this announcement be sure to check the new blog by Robot’s VP of Production, Chris Rippy on the link below:

https://na.orcsmustdie.com/#!/en/blog/robot-global-publishing

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28
Nov

Its RaceTime!

PeopleFun have released their latest mobile game on Android and Facebook (with iOS to follow).This time, its Racetime! This racing game goes by the motto “Simple to play but challenging to master” and indeed it lives up to that. The premise of the game is sort of like a flashback to the 90′s when things like Scalextric were all the rage, those electric race car sets. Racetime is just like that, there is only one control – acceleration. Players must race around the track trying to get the best time without leaving the track boundary and slowing down in the dirt.

The game is delightfully fun and addictive. The races are short and you always feel the need to “just try one more time” to beat your time by those few more seconds. There are leaderboards, both global and friends. You can also play against other players ghosts, including your friends. There are some pro tips you can pick up from faster players ghosts. Studying how they use their acceleration strategically to move between lanes.

Each day there is a brand new level to play.

The game is great fun and its free to play. There are plenty of vehicles to collect too which can be purchased via coins you collect on the track and as you rank up. There are achievements on the Google Play edition too. Hop on over to the Google Play store to play now or head over to the game on Facebook. Good luck on the track!

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13
Jun

Halo Wars definitive edition announced along with Halo Wars 2 release date

At Microsoft’s XBOX E3 event today there was some big news for Halo Wars fans. The previously announced Halo Wars 2 title, a follow up to Ensemble’s Halo Wars by 343 Industries and Creative Assembly will be landing in February 2017 and has two sweet, sweet new trailers. The Spirit of Fire is returning along with Captain Cutter and his crew. Blur Studio is also back on hand delivering the visuals. There is also an open beta which can be played right now! Not only that, but Ensemble Studios’ Halo Wars is also being re-mastered for Xbox One and Windows 10!

Trailers

There are two brand new trailers for Halo Wars 2, the first is an excellent CGI trailer and the second trailer shows more gameplay scenes. Both of these trailers look excellent and it seems that Creative Assembly are keeping the quality bar very high in testament to the great work on Ensemble’s legacy with Halo Wars. Check out these awesome new trailers:

CGI Trailer

Game trailer

Judging by the videos above it looks like Halo Wars is in safe hands, taking on where Ensemble left off. Its great to see Halo Wars in this generation. 343 Industries writes:

A New Kind of Strategy: Halo Wars redefined the real-time strategy (RTS) genre on consoles and Halo Wars 2 is set to take that evolution even further with a hybrid of action-oriented and classic tactical gameplay modes. Veteran developer Creative Assembly (Total War: Rome II, Total War: Shogun 2) brings decades of RTS experience to the Halo universe and delivers a game which will be action-packed fun for players new to strategy games and deeply challenging and rewarding for RTS experts.

The game will feature the classic multiplayer from Halo Wars, including new modes such as Strongholds where players race to capture the most bases in a certain time and a new mode called “Blitz” which promises “An all-new multiplayer mode that is an exciting addition to the Halo Wars series with a unique approach to RTS gameplay.” Sounds intriguing.

Open Beta playable now

As just announced at E3, a multiplayer beta of Halo Wars 2 is live now on Xbox One. Players can download the game now and take a look at how it is shaping up with this free multiplayer open beta which runs up until June 20th. Download it now. An open beta for Windows 10 is expected later down the line.

Halo Wars Definitive Edition announced

In amongst the Halo Wars 2 news, its has also been revealed that Ensemble’s original Halo Wars, which redefined console RTS, will be getting a re-release on Xbox One and Windows 10 with a remastered edition, featuring improved graphics. Recognising the greatness of the first Halo Wars its absolutely fantastic to see that the title is making a refreshed appearance for more gamers to enjoy and keep enjoying for many more years to come. It is a little odd though to hear that it is coming to Windows 10. There is no information if it will be gamepad only or if keyboard support is planned. Noting that Ensemble’s original vision was for it to work with gamepads and fitted the Xbox controller perfectly. It will be interesting to learn more about how this will be working.

Halo Wars is also the third Ensemble Studios game to be re-mastered in recent years, following Age of Empires 2 and Age of Mythology re-releases on Steam. You just can’t put a good Ensemble game down.

Its a great time to be a Halo Wars fan and to see the series continue, both with Halo Wars and Halo Wars 2 paying homage to its Ensemble legacy. Stand by for more news!

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