Ian Vogel the design lead at Microsoft of Age of Empires Online has announced an overview of the upcoming patch to Age of Empires Online. This patch has been in great demand of the community and the pressure has been on to develop this patch quickly. There has been some dis-content with the Age Online community about how long this patch has taken to develop and how it has potentially impacted on player numbers. Age of Empires Online was pitched as an “evergreen” game with the possibility of regular updates, its been a shame that updates thus far havent been pushed out in speedy time. Hopefully in order to ensure community continuity patches will be smaller and faster to release rather than this first patch which appears to be pretty large. There is indeed alot coming in this patch, from gear changes to PvP and Crete. Also mentioned in Ian’s latest post is that the Persians will soon be on their way as a playable civilisation, they are currently on schedule for October, so look out for them soon!
Robot Entertainment has managed to pull out the best video game trailer I have ever seen. The latest Orcs Must Die video showcases up to 30 possible avenues when completing a single level of Orcs Must Die. In order to demonstrate the huge number of gameplay possibilities Robot has leveraged the annotations feature of YouTube which allows viewers to click and choose a path of their choice. This path might be choosing between floor traps or fighting hand to hand you can now check out the interactive Orcs Must Die video to see just how the game performs with a path of your choice. Read more
With E3 having drawn to a close previews are now being published by various gaming websites who visited the Robot Entertainment booth at the event. RTS Guru, Joystiq and Sarcastic Gamer are just some of the websites who have published their previews. There has also been some excellent game play footage from the likes of GameTrailers. It’s great to see Orcs Must Die getting the press attention it deserves. Read more
Robot Entertainment’s art director Dave Kubalak has been blogging about the art style in Age of Empires Online. There is no denying that the art style is very different in AOEO compared to Age 3 and even Age 1 which was set in the same time zone. If you would like a trip down memory lane the below screenshots compares the Age 1 days with the new look AOEO.
The excellent blog describes in detail Robot’s vision plan for the game and how the changes make the experience much better for the user. The vision plan is as follows:
- Create a timeless, bright, and visually appealing game that can technically run on a wide range of PCs, and still look good for years to come.
- Create a bold and more graphic look with a lot of character. That means a lot of different things.
- Less obstructive user interface and a more ‘graphic look’ to our iconography
- Make the terrain vivid, but less ‘noisy’ so the buildings and units ‘pop’, and are easily identifiable.
- Explore exaggerated and unique silhouettes to create a large variety of units and buildings. This helps give even inanimate objects more character and appeal.
- Use animations, in addition to the units’ unique proportions, to better differentiate and emphasize roles and classes
- Give the world and its inhabitants character and ‘life’, creating a digital terrarium for the player to control
Looking at the various in game screenshots it is clear how these points have been addressed. Units are now much bigger and are intentionally not in proportion to the size of buildings. Buildings are much more unique with a very distinguishable look making them much easier to identify at a glance. Animations of units are also very unique and the amount of screen view has vastly increased with the removal and transparency of the UI.
You may be wondering how these changes impact the user, for that you should head over to the full blog on the Robot Entertainment website where Dave goes into alot of detail about the changes – a must read for any Age fan!
In other news.. PAX
Two of the Justin’s from Robot Entertainment, Justin Korthof and Justin Moe are on the way to PAX this weekend. Community Manager extraordinaire Justin Korthof will be hosting his own community manager panel titled “So I have this website”. The panel includes Justin Korthof from Robot Entertainment and a number of other Community Managers including Jon Goff from 343 Industries who looks after HaloWars.com. The blurb of the panel is as follows below as found on Justin’s blog at www.sixokay.com
You’ve spent the time and money building your community site, and now you’re looking to take it to the next level. Maybe you want to get a job as a professional Community Manager, or maybe you’re just looking for tips on how to get publishers to pay more attention to your site. Whether you’re just starting out, or have been running a site for years, this panel is the best place to get your questions answered. Together, these community managers have represented some of the biggest franchises, developers, and publishers in the game industry, and most of them started out just like you – running a fan site.
Panelists include: Justin Korthof [Community Manager, Robot Entertainment], Matthew Pruitt [FPS Community Manager, Electronic Arts], Jon Goff [Community Manager, 343 Industries], James Stevenson [Senior Community Manager, Insomniac Games]
Place/Time/Date: Sunday, September 5th, 12:30pm in the Wolfman Theater
I wish Justin the best of luck with his panel and look forward to reading more about it. There is no doubt about Justin’s passion with online communities and this is evidenced by the outstanding job he has been doing at Robot Entertainment so far in team work with Duncan Stanley and others.
Age of Empires Online will be playable at PAX so anyone lucky enough to be going should check out booth number 670 for a chance to play with six stations in total.
A note about AOEO beta invites
There have been concerns on Age Community and other sites about the way the process works. Currently the first wave has gone out and if you were in the first wave you should of had an email by now advising you of your download key. The waves are a random lottery irrespective of the answers you put in the questionnaire, providing that you are 18+ years of age everyone has an equal chance of getting in. The second wave is expected soon. MGS is stated that they plan to do waves over the coming months so I would expect there to be a wave every month so keep your eyes peeled. If you did not get a key this time keep an eye out for another wave soon. I’ll keep this blog up to date with all the beta invitation information and wish you all the best of luck getting in!
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:
Good news for Robot Entertainment fans as the studio increases the size of its community team. Justin Korthof who has previously worked as a Community Manager for Epic’s Gears of War is more commonly known under his alias “SixOkay“. Justin will be joining Duncan “Aloysius” Stanley in the mission to build and maintain excellent community websites which engage fans of the games and studio.
As Robot Entertainment continues to work hard on developing new games its very pleasing to hear investment is being made with community ventures. Keep an eye out for SixOkay on the forums and be sure to give him a warm welcome.
Since Halo Waypoint’s take over of the Halo Wars community from March 1st there has been a large dissatisfaction with the new moderation team.
The overall feel of the community can be summed up from this screenshot taken on the 9th March 2010.
Notice how after 2.5 days the post still has not been removed by Halo Waypoint. There are many other similar threads.
So far the migration to Waypoint has only demonstrated a lack of commitment from Microsoft about the Halo Wars Community. If Waypoint is not equipped to deal with the Halo Wars Community then arrangements should of been made for Robot Entertainment to continue the support under the community leadership of Duncan “Aloysius” Stanley who has been moderating the forum for over a year at Robot and longer in his role as “Lethe” at Ensemble Studios.
Hopefully Waypoint will react to the posts and start properly moderating soon.
Robot Entertainment have updated thier homepage graphic with something rather futuristic:
Could this be a hint to the genre Robot is targeting? Or is it just a pretty graphic? Who knows! (Click the image to have a larger peak)
In other Robot news there is a new blog from Duncan Stanley about the Canadian Men’s Ice Hockey Team recent Gold medal win. Wondering how that relates to Robot? Read on to find out how the Ice Hockey team visited Ensemble Studios in 2004.
Hot of the press from HaloWars.com. Today an announcement was made by Robot Entertainment Community Manager, Duncan “Aloysius” Stanley talking about the end of Robot’s primary involvement with the Halo Wars Community. The announcement reads as follows:
On February 28th, 2010, Halo Waypoint will be begin to officially support both Halo Wars and HaloWars.com. Waypoint staff will transition in over the next month to support operations of HaloWars.com and the Halo Wars matchmaking and stats servers. Over the past year, Robot was very proud to roll out 4 Title Updates for Halo Wars, provide technical support on the forums and provide a place for volumes of fan fiction. Robot was proud to be a part of this community for the past year, and we hope we served you well.
Along with supporting operations, Halo Waypoint has exciting plans for Halo Wars. Look for announcements in the near future.
So long and thanks for all the fish!
This was quite an unexpected announcement as in most cases the developer is responsible for the games communities. For example, Rare looks after Banjo and Lionhead looks after the Fable communities. However, it seems Microsoft is not so keen to continue having Robot watch over the Halo Wars community. Presumably, now a year on from Ensemble’s closure the agreement struck between Robot and Microsoft to look after the Halo Wars community has expired and possibly as a result of cost cutting Microsoft are bringing the management of the website in house.
Come February 28th a new moderation team will be drafted in from Microsoft’s, 343 Industries – the “Waypoint” team. Its been a bumpy road for Halo Wars fans having to go through another major change in the way the game is supported. First the closure of the original developer Ensemble, then the removal of the second developers community presence. Microsoft do not seem to be treating the strategy version of the Halo IP very well!
Although the announcement states “exciting plans for Halo Wars” are in the works, one must wonder how “exciting” these plans can be without a developer attached to the game anymore.
Hopefully there will be more details to follow about this announcement in due course.
What about Age Community?
Some good news is that the Age of Empires community will still be looked after by Robot Entertainment as before.
Robot Entertainment Community Manager, Duncan Stanley has quickly updated the Halo Wars community with the proposed ranking changes for Halo Wars. Previously the ranking system stood as follows:
|Rank||Score Needed||New Points|
|Recruit||Play 1 Game||Play 1 Game|
The idea behind this change is to help make the General achievement easier to attain whilst still being relatively difficult. Rest assured, in order to achieve this top achievement players will still need to play alot of Halo Wars. Feedback about this proposed change can be made in the official Halo Wars community forum. - head over there and check out the discussion!