Justin “SixOkay” Korthof of Robot Entertainment has been sitting down to many questions from fans over at Heaven Games answering a whole bunch of AOEO related questions. The thread is well worth checking out as you may find some interesting new facts or some questions you may of had have answered.
Don’t forget if you have a burning question, ask! Other people may well have the same question that you do!
Readers may remember that a little while back Ian Fischer did a talk at Gamesauce which is a place for people in the games industry to take some time out and talk to other like minded people in the industry about game development, strategies and analysis of the gaming industry. Robot Entertainment’s Design Director, Ian Fischer attended the conference and gave a presentation titled: “The role of emergence in gaming and the part it plays in the future of the medium.” Certainly an interesting title! A video of the talk has been made available as below. Ian compares many aspects of the early video gaming days to the early days of film and suggests that in the future we should expect games and graphics to become far more advanced and realistic as we move away from linear games. Its an excellent and insightful talk and should be of interest to those in or looking to get into the video games industry.
Ian Fischer at Gamesauce
Over at the Robot Entertainment website Ian has been putting on his blogging hat under the slightly strange alias “Mother”. Ian “Mother” Fischer talks about the play testing involved with the recently announced Age of Empires Online. As we have always known the Ensemble Studios attitude about game development has always been play testing, play testing and more play testing so it is no surprise these values have been taken across to Robot Entertainment.
Age of Empires games have always been built by play testing. At Ensemble before and at Robot now, our basic development philosophy remains unchanged – get a playable version of the game up and running as soon as possible, then play the living hell out of it.
This approach has massive advantages. Everyone on the team knows and contributes to their game. If something is broken, all of the most capable eyes are looking. If an idea isn’t going to work the way you saw in your head, the reaction in play test makes that obvious. And nothing is better for guiding fast, impactful changes – a few weeks back, there were people literally making realtime fixes to Age of Empires Online based on problems players in the alpha were chatting to us while they played.
The blog continues into a very interesting discussion talking about what key values make an Age game and how they fit in with what people want. The blog also looks at where AOE-O fits into the series taking parts of the Age of Kings with parts of more recent titles like Age of Empires 3. Fans will be pleased to read that alot of iconic Age game features will be present in AOE-O including the classic villagers carrying resources and as rumored from the blog the classic “wololo” sound! Ian summarises the development as ““Age of Kings style game play in an Age of Empires setting”.
Read more on the Robot Entertainment website courtesy of “Mother”.
Platformnation.com now has the final part of the three part series on remembering the fallen studio, Ensemble Studios The article is a fantastic resource for people looking about Ensemble history and how they came to become one of the most successful video game studios. Starting from the beginning with Age 1 right up until the unfortunate end Steven Buccini takes us through the Ensemble Studios legacy.
Part 1 (Age1 to Age 2)
Part 2 (Age of Mythology to Age 3)
Part 3 (Halo Wars and the closing of Ensemble)
A great set of articles, thanks Steven!
Get your Age of Empires Online questions at the ready as Robot Entertainment Community Co-ordinator, Duncan Stanley is poised to answer your questions! A thread has been set up on AgeCommunity.com where you can find existing Q&A’s people have already asked and if your question hasn’t been covered – ask it! If you’re thinking about something there is a good chance other people might like to know the answer too, so don’t be shy join in at:
Robot Entertainment responds to AOE-O community questions – will continue to support AgeCommunity.com
In follow up to my previous blog post Robot Entertainment’s Community Manager, Justin “SixOkay” Korthof has reached out to provide us with clarification on Robot’s position. Unfortunately, while a separate MGS AOE-O community will be forming Robot Entertainment will not be maintaining that community due to reasons beyond their control. They will however continue to support the AgeCommunity.com website for as long as Microsoft allows. Justin’s comment is as follows:
“Microsoft does have a community team in place to support Age of Empires Online, but that doesn’t change the fact that Robot Entertainment is very interested in and dedicated to all players who are a part of our community and who play the games we develop. Dunkman/Aloysius and I will continue to support and maintain AgeCommunity.com and the players there until such time that Microsoft decides to change direction with the site.”
- Justin Korthof. Community Manager at Robot Entertainment
It is pleasing to see continued commitment from Robot Entertainment who will provide two places for AOE-O related discussion at AgeCommunity.com and at RobotEntertainment.com. While we may be disappointed about the limited community exposure Robot will be getting with this game it is great to see that the community team at Robot keeps steaming ahead. If you haven’t been on the Robot Entertainment website recently then you have been missing out on lots of Age Online related discussion and pictures from Gamescom head over there now and join in!
Some disappointing news has been revealed today over on the Age Community forums. BatsyBatsy the Community Manager for Age of Empires Online has stated that Robot Entertainment’s community team will not be utilized for AOEO. There seem to be some legal issues having Robot Entertainment manage the community output directly which is a great shame. Those who may of thought Robot Entertainment were building new community websites for its new projects may well be disappointed to hear that future AOEO community content will not be derived from the studio.
The decision to make new forums for AOEO wasn’t simply, “we want to fragment the community”. This was never the intent but there are legal issues that arose (which I am not at liberty to talk about) that made it necessary for MGS to create new message boards for AOEO. I have every intention on keeping AgeCom updated with AOEO content. AgeCom wont be recognized as an official outlet – as AOEO.com will be – but will be up-to-date with content. I can’t tell you exactly right now how AgeCom is going to be utilized in the future, but AgeCom will not be forgotten about and abandoned to the wasteland.
Robot Entertainment’s community team isn’t being utilized for AOEO – but they do still run AgeCom. While they’re not “officially” the community team we (Cosy and myself) ARE in constant and close contact (if it assuages your fears any – I’ve been friends with the Robot team since before I took this position) and have no intention on changing that. Our (the MGS team) main concern as a community team is the community.
- BatsyBatsy of Microsoft Game Studios.
Additionally, not having Robot as the source of community content also relegates AgeCommunity.com into unknown territory. AgeCommunity.com was established by Ensemble Studios as the hub for all things Age of Empires and has been the website supporting both Age of Empires 3 and Age of Mythology. Despite Ensemble’s intentions as having this as the one stop shop Age of Empires website it will no longer serve as the official AOEO community website. Instead Microsoft will setup their own forums at www.ageofempiresonline.com and will be managed by a community team at Microsoft and not the team at Robot who many members will be accustomed to.
BatsyBatsy of Microsoft Game Studios (MGS) explains that there were legal issues although it is slightly confusing as to what those issues may be. At first thought it would appear that because Robot Entertainment is a third party developer for MGS, Microsoft is required to protect the continuity of the Age of Empires community and by having community operations in house they can ensure the website is managed in a way they feel fit and are not dependent on a third party company for maintaining a community for the highly regarded Age of Empires IP. If Age of Empires Online was developed by Ensemble Studios as an internal MGS studio, the Ensemble team would of been able to continue the AgeCommunity.com legacy as they would be apart of Microsoft and thus automatically fulfilling Microsoft’s communtiy goals.
There are slight mixed messages with the above theory. Robot Entertainment was contracted as a third party developer to support the HaloWars.com community and the community for Age of Empires 3. If Microsoft cannot legally have third parties managing thier community games why was Robot responsible for both these IP’s? Why can they not continue with AOEO? Unfortunately these questions will probably go unanswered.
As a result of these ill-advised decisions at Microsoft Game Studios the Age of Empires Community faces fragmentation as both the “Age of Empires Community” and “Age of Empires Online” community run side by side. In the past Microsoft’s taking over of Ensemble communities has faced backlash from members owing to poor community management. (See the Halo Wars fiasco here and here). However, because the Age Online team at MGS is different to 343 Industries the ageofempiresonline.com website may well recieve better treatment and attention than Halo Wars.
Despite having no “official” involvement with the Age of Empires Community, Robot Entertainment continues to have its own independent discussion boards at RobotEntertainment.com. This will enable fans of the series to reach out to the developers at Robot Entertainment.
Readers may have gathered from this post that I am very much in favour of developer run communities. Looking at internal MGS studios Lionhead and Rare, they both have thriving communities for their games managed by the studios directly. The community websites created at Ensemble Studios were always full of information and excellent management. It is a great shame Robot Entertainment will not be able to continue this legacy with AOEO on an official AOEO website. I am extremely disappointed that Microsoft is treating Robot Entertainment as what would appear to be a ”purely the developer of the title” stance.
Should any more information become available or statements received from either MGS or Robot I shall update this blog post.
One of Robot Entertainment’s designers, Jerome Jones has commented in the press about the Age of Empires buisness model. Age of Empires Online will be available for free come Spring 2011 via the Games for Windows Live Platform. There will also be premium content to purchase separately but this content will be fully featured content and not just micro transaction for small items. Instead the premium content will be stuff like whole new civilisations with a whole set of brand new quests, similar to the size of previous expansion packs as previous games in the Age of Empires series. Jerome speaks to VG247 as follows:
“So it would be like paying for an expansion pack. … You won’t buy one thing at a time. You might buy an entire civ or another region with a bunch of quests in it”
With all the excitement and news of Age of Empires Online we must not forget about the great minds at Ensemble Studios who created the Age of series in the past. Platformnation.com has an excellent 3-part feature (third part available soon) looking back at Ensemble’s history from Age 1 right up to Halo Wars. If you would like to refresh your memory on all things Ensemble Studios check out the feature here:
It is a great shame this new Age game is not being worked on with the full team at Ensemble Studios. I see no reason why the multi-project studio at Ensemble could not have developed this along with other exciting projects. I have no doubt Robot Entertainment will make Age Online into a fantastic game, but it is shame for it to be the first Age game not bearing the classic Ensemble Studios logo which over time stood for as a logo for gaming quality.
Those trying to dig out as much Age of Empires Online video content as they can will be pleased to know that Gamespot have a 13 minute preview video of the new Age game where Jerome Jones from Robot Entertainment walks us through some of the core gameplay elements for both new and old Age fans. Take a look at this:
Robot Entertainment Community Manager Justin “SixOkay” Korthof is on the tweetverse at Gamescom tweeting about Age of Empires Online with pictures of the Age of Empires Online booths and staff! There are 12 booths for Age at Gamescom so if you happen to be lucky enough to be at the event stop by and give it a try! Plus should you bump into Justin a Robot Entertainment T-Shirt could be yours!
The Age of Empires booth at Gamescom