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August 20, 2010

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Robot Entertainment not officially involved with Age of Empires Online community

 

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.

Update: Robot Entertainment responds to this article

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Related posts:

  1. Age of Empires community fragmentation begins as new forums launch
  2. Robot Entertainment signs off from Age Community
  3. Robot Entertainment responds to AOE-O community questions – will continue to support AgeCommunity.com

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