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June 25, 2011

Age of Empires Online beta draws to a close, plus new Orcs Must Die previews and wins for Robot at RTS-Guru

Updates today on two anticipated games coming out in the next few months thanks to the handy work of the bots at Robot Entertainment. Its been a long time since Ensemble closed in 2009 and in the coming months we are going to see the release of two major PC games developed by Robot which have been eagerly awaited since the studios original formation. First of all, Age of Empires Online is nearer completion as today Microsoft has announced that the beta period is closing on July 1st. After this period Microsoft and Gas Powered Games are pushing ahead trying to get the game ready for launch on August 16th. It’s been great fun playing the beta which has been supported by an excellent online community. A huge amount of progress has been made since the first closed beta build became available. Although, there were some things the community didn’t agree on, on the whole there have been improvements and adjustments made along the way thanks to community feedback. The team at Robot, Gas Powered and Microsoft have regularly engaged the community and took feedback seriously.

I am very excited to see the AOE-O community grow further as the game launches August 16th. AOE-O is definitely going to be the most unique game in the franchise, especially for fans of the series. There are a number of things missing such as custom PvP, Skirmishes and Scenario Editor amongst others, but these are shadowed by the huge amount of new content. Fans who enjoyed the scenarios will be right at home with the heavy focus being placed on single player quests with the game. Although perhaps the story lines are not as detailed this time round there is a huge amount of content and variety with different types of quests. With a large amount of content being given away free this could be an excellent way to increase the exposure of the already successful Age of Empires series. The future is very bright for Age Online, with post release content already planned this game should keep Age fans busy for years to come.

Read and discuss the closed beta announcement here.

More Orcs previews!

Moving onto Game 2.0 from Robot Entertainment. Community Manager Justin Korthof has been busy talking to a whole host of video game websites about Orcs Must Die. I hope you’ve been keeping watch of the @RobotEnt twitter feed! One of the interviews recently which has been very informative has been with Splitkick who interviews both Justin and David Kubalak, Art Director at Robot Entertainment. The interview helps clarify a few things people might have been wondering about the game. Firstly, although lots of community content is planned for the game both pre and post launch, there wont be any mod tools for the game. Unfortunately, there wont be any custom maps, weapons or other mods. As we have been told before, single player is the core focus of the upcoming release for Orcs, but there is possibility for extensions to the game in the future.

Orcs Must Die! has been a single player experience since the beginning. We decided early on to focus on building a high-quality single-player experience.

Some information is also given about the game play. The War Mage will be the only playable character in the game does have a story based campaign featuring the mage. Players start the game with as you might expect, a limited number of defences, spells and weapons. Players gain additional defences each time a fortress is completed.

There is a new defense unlocked each time a player successfully defends a fortress. We have settle on the final number of fortresses just yet, but there will be at least 20 in the final game.

A final point drawn from the interview is a good question asked about how Orcs will differentiate itself from the many other Tower Defence based games cropping up at the moment. The answer being that Orcs will have intensive, fast and action packed gameplay. From my hands on experience and seeing some of the preview videos recently Orcs does feel like a very fast paced game. There is a good sense of adrenaline rush when things start to get a little hairy with mountains of Orcs coming through the castle door. Players also have a wealth of different ways to kill Orcs including a number of different play styles – whether you prefer a magic based approach, hand to hand combat, or strategic defence placement there is a play style suitable for any player with the extra variety by swapping and changing techniques from time to time. One fortress can be played totally different ways depending on a players combination of spells and weapons. Players should feel alot less restricted playing Orcs than perhaps some competing games.

Check out the full interview with Splitkick on the link below which includes some more discussion on the art style for OMD:

Wins for Robot at the RTS-Guru E3 awards

RTS-Guru a website which focuses on strategy games has put together their own E3 awards list based on the best games they experienced at E3. Each award is split into categories and two titles from Robot Entertainment made the list. The categories in question are Age of Empires Online which won “Best Visuals” and Orcs Must Die winning “Best Combat”. Its great to see the bots handy work being highlighted at RTS-Guru! The team at RTS-Guru were particularly impressed with the blend of fast based action combined with strategic tower defense game play.

For Age of Empires Online the level of detail with the art style was praised and how such style is likely to draw in a diverse crowd of players. This award is no doubt pleasing for all the hard work the art bots spent on the project before handing off to Gas Powered Games.

Check at the RTS-Guru awards article here:

With numerous articles and press reports appearing for both Age Online and Orcs Must Die lately it is great to see both games receiving excellent press reviews and critic appeal. This is no doubt down to the excellent pedigree of developers at Robot Entertainment many who are from Ensemble Studios. Its great to see these people still making great games!


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