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Posts from the ‘Age of Empires’ Category

4
Aug

Prawny interviews Ryz0n over at RTS-Sanc

Age Community, or “AgeCom” for short has had numerous moderating personalities over the years to name a few we have the likes of Yeti, Paragon, Lethe (Aloysius), MrMilo, SOLUS, Thunder and various others. Yesterday Prawny over at RTS-Sanctuary interviewed the current AgeCom moderator Ryan “Ryz0n” Chaply. So if your’re hanging around AgeCom and want to find out a little more about the famous moderator, check out this interesting interview which includes information about how Ryan became moderator for the peaceful land that is AgeCom. Read moreRead more

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22
Apr

Bruce Shelley talks about the evolution of social gaming. Plus more AOE-O animations and Robot swag!

Recently the legendary Bruce Shelley has been in talks with Gamasutra along with Brian Reynolds another industry veteran about their roles at Zynga in the social gaming space. Brian Reynolds before joining Zynga worked at Big Huge Games which collaborated with Ensemble Studios on the Age of Empires 3 Asian Dynasties expansion. Bruce and Brian had also worked closely with each other in the past on Sid Meier’s civilisation games. Now they are both re-united again at Zynga where is has become clear that the company is hiring industry veterans to push their gaming business forward.

When talking to Gamasutra Bruce detailed how he was recommended to join after the company was looking for designers from the “Sid Meier School of Design” era. Read moreRead more

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18
Jan

Slight ESO maintenance changes and downtime consultation

Just a quick note for all Age of Empires 3 players. Ryz0n the community manager at Microsoft who are now running the support for Ensemble Studios Online have announced the times for ESO maintenance is changing slightly. Previously On the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month, ESO underwent scheduled maintenance with Robot Entertainment. Going forward this maintenance will occur on Tuesdays between approximately 10AM PST (GMT -8) and 12PM PST.

There are some discussions about ways users can be better informed about this downtime. You can read about the downtime and the announcement plans over at Age Community:

http://forum.agecommunity.com/forums/thread/908610.aspx

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3
Jan

Robot Entertainment signs off from Age Community

January 3rd 2011 marks the day when Robot Entertainment officially retires from Age Community both the forum support and the support for ESO. Robot took over the support for Age Community and ESO shortly after Ensemble closed its doors In February 2009, the support in place at Robot was similar to the support offered at Ensemble. Microsoft has decided to take operations of Age 3 in house and will be lead by some of the same Community team behind Age of Empires Online plus a dedicated community administrator for Age Community. Read moreRead more

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22
Dec

Microsoft to take over Age Community

Unfortunately, the time as come for Robot Entertainment so sign off on Age Community and hand over day to day support for community operations to Microsoft Games Studios. The transition starts today, with Ryz0n Ryz0n is not online. Last active: 12-22-2010, 2:12 PMtaking the reins as community support moderator. Ryzon commented:

The folks here at MGS are transitioning into supporting the AOE community.  Along those lines, I’ll be working on forum administration, account support, and generally keeping everything running as well as possible.  Our goal, as we move through the transition period, is to make the user experience change very little and have the service chug along without any issues into the foreseeable future. I’ll be coming up to speed and working with Robot on the community, server issues, and support for the titles. Read moreRead more

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10
Sep

Are you a Vintage AgeCommer?

Have you been a member on Age Community before February 2009 when Robot Entertainment took over the reigns? Well if you were you can now get your very own “Vintage” badge on the Robot Entertainment forums. It looks pretty snazzy as below:

Read moreRead more

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10
Sep

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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9
Sep

Age of Empires Online Beta wave 2 out today!

If you’ve signed up for the Age of Empires Online Beta and haven’t got in yet, well now is the time to start checking your emails as CosyGOODkNIGHT of the new Age of Empires Online forum announces:

I’m pleased to announce that we’re sending out another wave of Beta invites today!  Please keep in mind that it can take several hours for our system to push out all the emails.  You can check your inbox incrementally throughout the day or sit in front of your computer obsessively mashing the F5 button, I’ll leave that decision to you.  Best of luck!

http://forums.ageofempiresonline.com/forums/thread/5932.aspx

I also wish everyone the best of luck getting into the beta – its an awesome game!

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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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