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September 10, 2010

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Rob Fermier blogs about Age of Empires programming history

 

Hot on the heels of Ian Fischer’s blog about AOE-O design and Dave Kubalak’s blog about the vision behind the new Age of Empires game, long time Age of programmer come lead programmer at Robot Entertainment, Rob Fermier talks us through the history of the Bang engine which has powered each Age game since 3D graphics started with Age of Mythology. Before the bang engine came along Ensemble Studios were using another in house 2D engine called “Genie”. By around 1999 and before Ensemble acquisition by Microsoft, Ensemble were playing around with a new 3D engine which later became known as Bang. This engine was first used with Age of Mythology taking the Age series into 3D for the first time:

The first iteration of the Bang engine produced these graphics in Age of Mythology

The same Bang engine was used again for the expansion pack Age of Mythology - The Titans. When Age of Empires 3 came along the engine underwent significant improvements:

For Age of Empires 3 (2005) it received some major upgrades – a modern shader-based rendering system, physics integration, new particle effects, and numerous unit sim improvements.   Several expansion packs also were built to enhance those games, leveraging the extensibility and flexibility of the Bang engine.

After the extensive work put into the engine Age of Empires 3 turned out graphics looking more like this:

But its not all about graphics, a game engine comprises of many different parts which make up the whole thing. For example you have graphics, sound, music, UI, AI, scenarios, triggers, databases and more. There is alot going on behind the scenes of an Age game. In fact the engine is over 1.2 million lines of code. Although not all these lines are serious pieces of code, as Rob points out there is Ensemble humour buried in the code. -

(Click to enlarge)

I am certain this Ensemble style humour will continue into Robot Entertainment’s edits of the engine!

The blog finishes up with a few words about the future of the engine with Age of Empires Online and the new features it brings:

As you play Age of Empires Online (sign up for the Beta here), the technology powering your game experience is a mix of brand new online tech, new gameplay systems, and battle-tested core RTS mechanics that we have been constantly improving for over a decade.   It is always amusing to come across a comment from yourself in 1999.  Game technologies are often abandoned after a few years, so it has been very rewarding to work with this particularly robust game engine for so long.

As always, this is just a summary of the full blog post and I recommend everyone check out the full posting on the Robot Entertainment for more information and “fun facts”!

 http://www.robotentertainment.com/blog/detail/Brief-History-Time-and-Age-Engine

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