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Posts from the ‘Age Community’ Category

8
Sep

Correction: Halo Reach has multiple forums

 

For those who have read my ranty post regarding the new AOEO forums I have received an email advising of an incorrect fact regarding the following text:

“It would be like Halo Reach detaching from Bungie.net and setting up shop somewhere else”

As it turns out Halo Reach has multiple community sites as follows:

That’s right, there are three official community hubs for that one game and its franchise. Personally, I feel having three official community sites for a franchise is a negative as it splits the community three ways unless people have three accounts for checking three separate forums. It is my opinion that one centralised community for a game series developed by the same (or similar) developer helps keeps the community together and increases the audience size.

Nonetheless readers should consider the above information when reading my previous blog post.

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4
Sep

Age of Empires community fragmentation begins as new forums launch

 

As announced previously Microsoft is continuing with its new community venture for Age of Empires Online and has announced the launch of a new community website at www.ageofempiresonline.com. As a result of this launch this will see the immediate fragmentation of the Age of Empires online fan base where by there will be two official forums for the Age of Empires series, one for legacy games such as Age 3 and Age of Mythology and another for Age of Empires Online. Why Microsoft has chosen this path is bizarre as having two forums for one franchise can only offer fragmentation. It would be like Halo Reach detaching from Bungie.net and setting up shop somewhere else (Edit: Halo Reach actually does have multiple community websites). Or Lionhead breaking away its Fable 3 forum from its website. It doesn’t happen with other IP but its ok to do so with Age of Empires.

In the past Microsoft has typically treated Ensemble developed games poorly in terms of community investment. Since the closure of Ensemble Studios, Age Community has suffered a number of bugs with modern browsers resulting in the website looking terrible in , including  in Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer 7 and 8. Images are cut off and out of alignment and despite launching a new game in the Age series Microsoft has still not invested money into making the website look suitable, and even usable in the cases of cut off web buttons. The website looks rough and patched together and does no justice to the Age franchise. Then we also have Halo Wars which was promised “exciting things to come” when Microsoft’s 343 Industries took over. The result was community madness with almost no moderation and no ”exciting things” has ever been forthcoming.

It is a no brainer that by splitting up the community for the same franchise is bad for the community. Age Community has been incredibly successful, particularly at Ensemble Studios and boasts almost 90,000 users at the time of writing. Now all these 90,000 users will be forced to setup another account on a totally different website should they want to discuss and hear news about Age of Empires Online in an official environment. Moreover, those who check forums often will now have to flick between the two as some may not realise Age Community is not the official site for Age of Empires Online. Especially seeing as Age Community purports to be the official community website for Age of Empires as a whole based on its domain name and branding.

The whole process seems messy, unthought out and has negative impact on Age Community. Despite having a dedicated community team at Microsoft they have completely missed the massive oversight of the community fragmentation having two forums will bring and have been unsympathetic to the Age Community by not investing in that website going forward and over the past year knowing that another Age game was around the corner.

Microsoft are hiding behind legal and technical issues which had apparently required them to develop a new community. However both these explanations are questionable seeing as the new website runs on the same software as Age Community. Having looked at the website closely it offers no benefit whatsoever other than to fragment and duplicate community content. The gamertag integration could easily have been implemented into Age Community as evidenced by Ensemble’s work with HaloWars.com which shares the same community software again. The supposed “legal issues” are also dubious and Microsoft have not been forthcoming about what these issues were. Robot Entertainment has worked on Age Community and Halo Wars after Ensemble’s closure so there has been no problem before using a third party developer to look after community websites. I have not been able to determine what the legal issues could possibly be and can only assume it comes down to poor decision making and lack of attention to the fan base of Age Community that has resulted in this ill advised decision.

Age of Empires looks like a great game but the community management is way off course for Age of Empires best interests in my opinion as you may have gathered from the tone of this blog post. I am very disappointed.

Robot Entertainment has stated that they will continue support of Age Community for as long as Microsoft allows and will continue to look after the community going forward. Microsoft has not given clear indication of plans for Age Community and no-one from either company has updated the Age Community homepage beyond just an announcement so far. For reference I include comments from both Robot Entertainment and Microsoft below:

“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


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.  Community Manager at Microsoft Game Studios

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3
Sep

Microsoft Game Studios details the AOEO Beta invite process

 

NWGameDad of Microsoft Game Studios has commented on Age Community detailing exactly how the beta process is going to work for Age of Empires Online. Good news for those who have not been invited to the beta yet – Microsoft looks at the possibility of adding new players to the beta weekly so there is a good chance you may be invited soon. The full post can be found below:

Hello Age Community!

I wanted pop in and answer some questions about the Beta.  Age of Empires is a large successful franchise with millions of fans, and the response to our announcement of the new game at GamesCom a couple weeks ago has been phenomenal.  The number of sign-ups we had for the Beta were quite large, so try to understand the scale of things when you don’t get the invite you’ve been dying to receive in Wave 1.  There are just a large number of people that want into the Beta and we can’t accommodate everyone right now (see 1. below) To answer some specific questions on the Beta selection and invite process:

1. Every week we evaluate if we’re ready to add more people to the Beta from the sign-up pool.  We are building an online game and the Beta is helping us not only get feedback on gameplay, but also to test our server environments.  When we add new people each week, we need to test and analyze the results of new people joining to ensure the server environment is stable and able to handle another wave of people.   If we find bugs with the servers then that may mean we have to skip adding new folks that week  in order to fix problems.  This is a big reason why Batsy Batsy has been so non-committal on when Beta invite waves will happen.  We don’t want to definitively state a week we’re adding people, then that not have that happen because of bugs.  In an ideal situation we will have weekly Beta invite waves, however, Betas are not ideal by their nature of not being done, so expect that we will be at least evaluating whether we can add more Beta Testers each week.

2. As some have noted in various posts, we don’t invite exclusively from one segment of our fan base so that we get a good cross-section of feedback from players.  I know it may feel like we haven’t invited enough hardcore RTS gamers, but honestly I can say the hardcore RTS gamers are well represented in every Beta wave invited.  In fact, we did a special fast track of several RTS gamers recommended by Robot about a week ago to insure we were getting that voice in the Beta.  The reason it may feel like it isn’t enough is quite simply because the pool of fans is just so large.  As we expand the Beta more and more of you will get invites.  We certainly are not ignoring all the great players from past Age games.  There’s just that scale of numbers thing to pay attention to right now.

3.  This is a Closed Beta still.  That means that those of you that are invited are under NDA and are not allowed to speak about the Beta outside of our private Beta forums.  We do this because we are still working on the game and it just isn’t ready for everyone to know every last detail.  A lot is still changing and although we want Beta feedback we still need to keep stuff under wraps to allow us the freedom to develop a great game.

Hopefully this helps you all understand a bit more of our process around the Beta.  I am really excited that for this iteration of Age of Empires we can have such a long and large scale Beta compared to past products.  It allows us to really build a game that I think you’ll love and you will have had the chance to check it out and give feedback on before we launch.  The feedback we received from our Alpha Testers and now our Beta Testers has been really helpful.  I look forward to seeing more of you in the Beta.

NWGameDad

Executive Producer

Microsoft Game Studios

Join in the discussion at:

http://forum.agecommunity.com/forums/thread/897394.aspx

Side note: It is pleasing to see Microsoft is using the Age Community website after the concerns that were previously raised regarding Age Community utilisation.

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2
Sep

Age of Empires Online beta invitations are going out today!

 

Just a quick heads up for Age of Empires fans who have signed up for the beta. Microsoft Game Studios have confirmed on Age Community that the first wave of beta invitations are going out today. Keep checking your email for a nice surprise!

Good luck to everyone for a chance to get into the beta. If you haven’t already now would be a great time to sign up to the beta at www.ageofempiresonline.com

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24
Aug

Age of Empires Online Q&A with Aloysius!

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:

http://forum.agecommunity.com/forums/thread/895649.aspx

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23
Aug

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!

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20
Aug

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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17
Aug

Age of Empires Online

 

This is what Age of Empires fans have been waiting for a brand new game in the Age of Empires series! This is the first game to be announced by Robot Entertainment and was previously known as Project S and then Spartan. Microsoft Game Studios confirmed today at the Gamescon conference in Germany that it is publishing a free to play Age of Empires game to be developed by Robot Entertainment, founded by ex Ensemble Studios leadership.

Age of Empires Online takes the franchise in a new direction offering experiences both old players and new players will enjoy. Here is the official blurb from Robot Entertainment’s website:

With more than 20 million copies sold worldwide, the Age of Empires series redefined real-time strategy games for Windows PC players. Now the timeless franchise once again invites players to experience its rich storyline in new ways. Age of Empires Online will invite you to create a living, growing online world, shared with friends and friendly rivals around the globe.

Begin the journey with your own Greek civilization and watch as it progresses from a village to an empire. Embark on quests along the way, alone or with friends, and immerse yourself in epic tales, diverse characters, adventure, history and strategy. Together with the Games for Windows – LIVE service, Age of Empires Online delivers a rich, social experience that lets you play however you want – anywhere, anytime.

Marrying fresh features with iconic gameplay, Age of Empires Online offers something for long-time fans, newcomers, and everyone in between.

Age of Empires Online will feature:

  • A persistent online capital city that lives and grows even when you’re offline
  • Cooperative multiplayer quests, trading, and a level-based system that lets you progress at your own pace
  • Fun, approachable style and storylines
  • Free to play experiences via Games for Windows – LIVE

 For a chance to join the beta program, visit www.ageofempiresonline.com.

And if that description wasn’t enough here is the first official trailer!

Trailer:

Screenshots:

Concept Art:

FAQ’s

Microsoft has a handy FAQs document which answers alot of the questions you may have and you can find this at the Microsoft web page for Age of Empires Online: http://www.ageofempiresonline.com/faq/ However I have highlighted a few particularly interesting ones below:

What is Age of Empires Online?
Age of Empires Online is the next evolution in the best-selling real-time strategy (RTS) franchise Age of Empires. Developed by Robot Entertainment and Microsoft Game Studios for the Games for Windows – LIVE platform, Age of Empires Online invites players to create a living, growing online world, shared with friends and friendly rivals around the world. Marrying fresh features with classic RTS gameplay, Age of Empires Online pays tribute to the original game while incorporating a new look, feel, and approach that appeals to long-time fans, newcomers, and everyone in between.
 
When will Age of Empires Online be available?
 
Age of Empires Online will release exclusively on Games for Windows – LIVE in 2011. Currently, our Closed Beta is up and running.
Remember ES edit – this game is due for release SPRING 2011.
 
How do I sign up for the Beta?
 
Anyone interested in the Closed Beta can apply at http://www.ageofempiresonline.com/beta. We will be selecting participants for the Beta over several weeks. If you applied and did not get in right away, just give it some time.
Will there be a retail product, or will Age of Empires Online be available as a download only?
 
It will be digitally distributed.
Why did you decide to bring back Age in an online version?
 
When we looked at continuing this franchise, we looked at how people are playing games today, and the social and connected experiences that people increasingly crave. It’s about being able to connect to the entertainment we want, and share it with the people we care about—nearly anywhere. By building Age of Empires Online with Games for Windows – LIVE at the core, we create a rich social gaming experience. With Age of Empires Online, we’ve married the best of traditional Age gameplay with the connectivity of LIVE and with fresh features that broaden the appeal to brand-new audiences.
What are the civilizations? Will there be additional civilizations throughout the life of the game?
 
The Greeks will be a launch civilization. We will offer other civilizations both at launch and post-launch but have yet to make any additional announcements.
 
Why the new look? What was wrong with the graphics before? It looks more “cartoony” now.
Age of Empires includes a refreshed art style with an unprecedented level of detail. The new design is fun and approachable, and we believe it will help invite a brand-new audience to experience this classic franchise. It will still offer gameplay depth for fans of the franchise as well.

The “Age” franchise has an incredibly loyal fan base. Do you think this new iteration will alienate any of your fans?

Absolutely not. Age of Empires Online stays true to its roots with traditional RTS gameplay, a deep player-versus-player mode and detailed historical settings. From the creation of your capital city, to resource management and competitive matches, Age of Empires fans will feel right at home.


One particularly interesting FAQ was this where Microsoft tries to explain why Robot Entertainment is developing this version of Age of Empires as opposed to Ensemble Studios:

Why did Microsoft choose Robot to develop Age of Empires Online? Why dissolve Ensemble only to bring back the franchise?

Microsoft Game Studios is always evaluating its business model to determine what is best for both gamers and the company. Many factors were considered in the difficult decision to close Ensemble Studios, but we feel it helped us better align with our goals and long-term development plans. Robot is made up of many of the creative minds behind classic Age of Empires titles, and we’re incredibly proud of the work we’ve done together on Age of Empires Online.

Of course, I have my own opinions on the actual reason Ensemble Studios was dissolved but i’ll save that for a future blog post were we’ll look into more detail about why Microsoft shut down Ensemble only to continue its flagship game with a new developer, formed of Ensemble employees! Stand by for a more detailed reasoning behind this to come shortly. In the meantime lets celebrate both the first game to be announced from Robot Entertainment and the continuing of the Age of Empires series. The game screenshots and videos so far look fantastic and will no doubt appeal to the vast majority of both new and old players alike. I am certain that Age of Empires online will bring new audiences into the series creating a game play environment of millions of players worldwide.

Exciting times lye ahead. I look forward to reading fan reactions on the Age Community forums and / or on the Robot Entertainment forums. You can find me under “deanparkr” – See you there!

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1
Jul

AOE3 forums on Age Community gets renamed “Age of Empires Forums”

Eagle eyed visitors to the Age of Empires 3 forums on Age Community might have noticed the heading text has changed from “AOE3 Forums” to a more generic “Age of Empires” forums. Could this indicate that the forums will now be used to discuss more than one Age game and not just Age 3? One might deduce that this could indicate that a new Age game is on the horizon and the forum name change allows Robot to utilise the Age Community address (www.agecommunity.com) to support both Age3 and Age4(?).

Of course, this is all wild speculation but one must wonder why the forums have been renamed all of the sudden. .

Note: Only the heading text and page titles have changed –  graphics remain to be Age 3 related – so no getting too excited! – its been a slow news month so I thought I would post something to get peoples inquisitive minds thinking again :)

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1
May

Age Sanctuary interviews SixOkay, Robot Entertainment community manager

Addac from the Age Sanctuary community has recently conducted an insightful interview with Robot Entertainment’s new community manager Justin “SixOkay” Korthof. Addac who had previously interviewed Aloysius in February of this year has now posted a similar interview with SixOkay.

Justin has been in the gaming industry for about 4 years and in that time has worked on a number of titles and community websites. Starting with working at EA-LA and then at Microsoft with the Gears and Halo franchises before ending up at Robot Entertainment.

When the Robot Entertainment opportunity came up, it felt like a really great time and a really great place for me to get back to doing the online community management work that I love to do.

When asked what Justin would bring to the table at Robot Entertainment the message was perfectly clear – creating a new fantastic community website for new games that echo the quality of previous Ensemble offerings.

What do you feel that you personally bring to Robot Entertainment that will help them make the best Aoe4 possible?

Well, I can’t speak to any specific games we’re developing, but I feel like I bring a ton of intense passion for online communities to the table. I’ve been working with community experiences online for about 18 years now, since I was in middle school. I live and breath this stuff, and I can’t wait to start building opportunities for a Robot community to come together. Obviously there were and are a lot of passionate Ensemble fans out there, and I think that we can build up that kind of excitement and community all over again around Robot Entertainment.

 You can read all about it over at the Age Sanctuary forums. From work to personal life and some random questions Addac’s got it covered:

http://agesanctuary.com/index.php?portal=TAD&showtopic=138356

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