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Posts tagged ‘Blog’


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”!


Ian Fischer’s Gamesauce presentation + blog on AOE-O play testing


Readers may remember that a little while back Ian Fischer did a talk at Gamesauce which is a place for people in the games industry to take some time out and talk to other like minded people in the industry about game development, strategies and analysis of the gaming industry. Robot Entertainment’s Design Director, Ian Fischer attended the conference and gave a presentation titled: “The role of emergence in gaming and the part it plays in the future of the medium.” Certainly an interesting title! A video of the talk has been made available as below. Ian compares many aspects of the early video gaming days to the early days of film and suggests that in the future we should expect games and graphics to become far more advanced and realistic as we move away from linear games. Its an excellent and insightful talk and should be of interest to those in or looking to get into the video games industry.

Ian Fischer at Gamesauce

Over at the Robot Entertainment website Ian has been putting on his blogging hat under the slightly strange alias “Mother”. Ian “Mother” Fischer talks about the play testing involved with the recently announced Age of Empires Online. As we have always known the Ensemble Studios attitude about game development has always been play testing, play testing and more play testing so it is no surprise these values have been taken across to Robot Entertainment.

Age of Empires games have always been built by play testing.  At Ensemble before and at Robot now, our basic development philosophy remains unchanged – get a playable version of the game up and running as soon as possible, then play the living hell out of it.

This approach has massive advantages.  Everyone on the team knows and contributes to their game.    If something is broken, all of the most capable eyes are looking.  If an idea isn’t going to work the way you saw in your head, the reaction in play test makes that obvious.  And nothing is better for guiding fast, impactful changes – a few weeks back, there were people literally making realtime fixes to Age of Empires Online based on problems players in the alpha were chatting to us while they played.     

The blog continues into a very interesting discussion talking about what key values make an Age game and how they fit in with what people want. The blog also looks at where AOE-O fits into the series taking parts of the Age of Kings with parts of more recent titles like Age of Empires 3. Fans will be pleased to read that alot of iconic Age game features will be present in AOE-O including the classic villagers carrying resources and as rumored from the blog the classic “wololo” sound! Ian summarises the development as ““Age of Kings style game play in an Age of Empires setting”. 

Read more on the Robot Entertainment website courtesy of “Mother”.


New forum enroute to as SixOkay introduces himself and future plans

 New Robot Entertainment Community Manager Justin “SixOkay” Korthof has posted his first blog on the Robot Entertainment website introducing himself and updating fans on some community plans going on at Robot. After some requests by members particularly on Age Community SixOkay has today announced plans to launch a new web forum on the homepage of in an effort to refresh the site and add more community features going forward.

 I’ve seen a ton of requests over the last few days specifically for us to open up a new forum. I’m happy to announce that one of the updates we’re working on for the new site is in fact a new message board. Soon, you’ll be able to come by and speculate to your heart’s content about upcoming Robot projects, interact with our community team and development team members, and generally stake your claim as a hardcore Robot Entertainment fan who was there since the beginning.

This is excellent news as this will provide a new platform for fans to engage in speculation on new Robot projects. With input from Community Manager Justin and Community coordinator Duncan Stanley I expect there will be lots of discussion and interactivity. As Robot gets closer and closer to being public about games they are working on its exciting to see investment in a new online community in the interim.

If you are asking “who is this SixOkay chap?” then you have been out of the loop for a while. SixOkay, or Justin may just be announcing his becoming a Robot on the website now but has been in the role for about five weeks already.

I’ve been working here at Robot for about four weeks now. A lot of my time has been spent catching up on the many awesome things that the developers here have been working on for just over a year. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you already know that we’re working hard on two really amazing projects. Looking around the web, I have seen a ton of interest from the avid Age of Empires fans, as well as from other gamers, about what exactly we’re working on. We love that you’re all so interested, but this is the part where I ask for your patience. I wish I could give you all the details right now, but we’ve still got some time before everything’s ready to come out of the oven, so to speak. I did want you to know, though that we have been reading your comments and forum posts, and we’re just as eager to announce things as you are to read about them.

Stand by for more information about future community happenings at Robot. While I try to update this blog as fast as I can its always a good idea to follow Robot Entertainment and other studios on social networking sites such as Twitter so that you can get the latest information about Ex Ensemble Studios as it happens. I have created a Twitter list to help fans dig out their favourite studios on Twitter.


New Robot Entertainment homepage graphic + new blog

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.


Halo Wars DLC 2v2 map “Memorial Basin” detailed


Justin Rouse and Duncan Stanley are here again to talk about the 2v2 Halo Wars DLC map Memorial Basin.

Memorial Basin, the map based on a design of “excess”. The goal, instant action. First, the close proximity of players starting locations is the number one driving force causing players to mix it up with each other early. Second, hooks! There is an abundance of them littered all over the map. There are Reactor hooks tucked safely behind each team’s starting location, while Supply Elevators and extra Building sockets line the sides of the map between enemies. Cover locations scattered throughout the middle are good for mixing things up defensively or offensively.

Says Justin Rouse skirmish map designer at Robot Entertainment. Community Manager, Duncan Stanley continues with:

Memorial Basin is a great DLC map, a real change up from other maps in terms of strategy. Both teams are directly across from each other, making it really easy to hit and run. The open bases are great to grab early and get it going. I usually try to make my second base my economic base and my first base my unit producing base. All of the extra hooks lying around the map are also great to grab giving you a good bonus, and denyng your opponents any advantage.

You can experience Memorial Basin and three other brand new maps in the Halo Wars DLC “Historic Battles” for just 800 points available today on Xbox Live!

For the full blog post head over to :


Watch out Medusa’s about!


Wait dont leave! I know thats a scary looking image but its nothing to worry about! Medusa hasnt escaped from Age of Mythology either. This is infact and outstanding art piece from Robot Entertainment’s Chris Moffitt as part of the Clash of the Robots theme “Clash of the Titans”. Its amazing how the above came to light from starting out like this:


It goes to show just how talented the ex Ensemble artists are at Robot Entertainment and we look forward to seeing more excellent pieces from the Art Bot team! Be sure to check out the blog over here! :


Nate Stefan adds his entry in Clash of the Titans

Robot Blogs

Nate Stefan, artist at Robot Entertainment has added his entry into the Art Bot Clash of the Robots. Hot on the heels of Dave Kubalak, Nate takes a more comic book approach with his very Age of Mythology looking entry below:


Your comments are very welcome in the Art Bot blogs over on the Robot Entertainment website. I encourage you to leave a comment with what you think! Plus check out the blogs to read about the stages Nate went through when designing this art piece

Stand by for more entries in Clash of the Robots (Titans)!


Justin Rouse details Barrens, David Kubalak talks Clash of the Robots


In another action packed week of Robot blogs we now have more information detailed about a Halo Wars DLC map, the 1v1 Barrens.

Barrens has some interesting gameplay for any leader but Forge is my favorite option. The layout and hooks play into Forge’s strengths exceptionally well. Barrens forces you to leave you expansions more secluded from each other than normal, early game this can allow a Forge player to gain a bit more advantage from his boosted supply pads while other players have to spend their early game resources upgrading pads if they don’t want to risk the far away expansion

Barrens is an excellent DLC level and if you haven’t yet had a chance to pick up the Halo Wars DLC I encourage you to do so! DLC  gets you four maps for just 800 Microsoft Points. Be sure to check out some of the other map information pages to sharpen your strategies on the Halo Wars map page.

Robot Blogs

In other news Lead of Art Bot Central David Kubalak is back to reveal details on “Clash of the Robots”. This is where a theme will be picked and each of the Robot artists will be posting art on the chosen theme over the period of about a month. Hopefully at the end of each theme there will be a poll or vote for us to select the best submission. Dave kicks off the first theme “Clash of the Titans” with his cartoony model “Perseus” below:



Check out the full blog on Art Bot central for the full details and be sure to leave a comment!


How do Robot programmers boot up?

Robot Blogs

Ever wondered how Robot programmers start the day, or boot up in the mornings? Well Rob “Xemu” Fermier the Lead Programmer for Robot’s next IP details the morning start in depth. As the morning begins and charged over night Robot’s make their way to the pods for work they first gather round and exchange communication in the form of Morning Syncing. This is a 15 minute process where programmers talk to each other about what they did yesterday and what they are going to do today. Keeping in sync so that everyone knows whats happening. It sounds like a great idea as it enables programmers with particular talent areas to focus in on what they are good at and ensuring no overlapping of jobs. As this syncing happens every single morning its important to have some ground rules. Lead Programmer Rob Fermier details these below:


  • Short:  Each person has to be short and to the point, and the whole thing usually takes 10 to 15 minutes.  It’s never allowed to go over 15 minutes, period.  Discussions that crop up as a result of the morning sync are usually resolved in ad hoc meetings immediately afterwards.
  • Easy: We sync right in the same pod where we are working, so there’s very little organization required.  Everyone has a good sense of what they are doing and never has to “prepare” anything.  One advantage of a daily meeting is that it can be pretty casual and folks fall into a routine with it easily.
  • Reliable: The sync always starts on time, regardless of who is there.  People can plan on it and it doesn’t drag on by starting late or hanging around.
  • Open: Anyone is welcome to listen in on the sync meetings.  But they don’t talk, since the meeting is focused on the people doing the work.  By having them out in a common space, it promotes the idea that we want to share information to anyone who wants it.


Programmers engaged in the morning sync

Read more in the full blog:  Robot Coders.


Vijay Thakkar completes the final part of the Halo Wars leader power blog


More exciting leader power development blogging from Robot’s lead programmer Vijay Thakkar. This time the blog post looks at the covenant leader powers Rage and Vortex along with some very interesting early screenshots of the development process including this early UI mockup of the Spirt of Fire menu:


Its come a long way!

It sure is interesting to hear about the background behind the design of leader powers and the hurdles Ensemble programmers encountered getting them to work. Warthogs pushing Brute Chieftain into his own Vortex, Rage taking out whole buildings etc.


Oops falling into his own Vortex wasnt intentional!

“It was certainly a challenge to try and create all the experiences we wanted to illustrate with the leader powers, especially under the gun of the inevitable deadline. We quickly learned that in order to make any of the powers live up to the intensity they needed to portray, a high level of polish was necessary. The meticulous details like adding a tenth of a second delay to an effect, a subtle controller shake, or Spirit of Fire chatter in the targeting UI may not have been overtly noticeable, but they were absolutely pivotal to taking the powers over that last step from pretty good to really great.”

Read all about it in the final blog!