- Age of Empires
"Age of Empires" is a series of computer
video games developed by Ensemble Studiosand published by Microsoft Game Studios. The first title of the series was "Age of Empires", released in 1997. Since then, seven titles and three spin-offs have been released. The titles are historical real-time strategygames, and their gameplay revolves around two main game modes: random mapand campaign.
The games are set amidst historical events. The first two games focused on events in
Europeand Asia Minor, spanning from the Stone Ageto the Classical period; one game explored the formation and expansion of the Roman Empire. The next two games were also set in the Middle Agesand the Spanish conquest of Mexico. The subsequent three games explored the early modern period, when Europe was colonizing the Americas and several Asian nations were on the rise. A spin-offgame, " Age of Mythology", was set in the same period as the original "Age of Empires", but focused on fictional elements of Greek, Egyptian, and Norse mythology.
The "Age of Empires" series has been a commercial success, selling over 20 million copies. [cite web|url=http://www.ensemblestudios.com/blogs/bshelley/archive/2008/08/22/age-series-passes-20-million-units-sold-mark.aspx |title=Age Series Passes 20 Million Units Sold Mark|author=
Bruce Shelley|date=2008-08-22|publisher= Ensemble Studios|accessdate=2008-09-10] The popularity and quality of the games has earned Ensemble Studios a strong reputation in real-time strategy gaming. Ensemble collaborated with Big Huge Gameson "". Critics have credited part of the success of the series to its historical theme and fair play; the artificial intelligence (AI) players fight with less "cheating" than in many of the series' competitors.cite web|url=http://www.microsoft.com/games/empires/behind_dave.htm |title=Dave Pottinger|publisher= Microsoft|accessdate=2008-01-22]
Common gameplay elements
The "Age of Empires" games belong to the
real-time strategygenre, with the exception of the turn-based "" for the Nintendo DS. The series features two recurring modes of play: " random map," and "campaign." "Random map" is described by lead designer Greg Street as a "hallmark" of the series. In this mode, the player selects a civilization and plays on a randomly created map, most of which are based, at least loosely, on a real-world geographic area.cite web|url=http://www.3dgamers.com/articles/more/124/ |title=Age of Empires III Q&A|publisher=3D gamers|archiveurl=http://web.archive.org/web/20060212012644/http://www.3dgamers.com/sp/articles/more/124/ |archivedate=2006-02-12 |date=July 26, 2005|accessdate=2008-06-17] A variation on random map is "deathmatch," where players begin with large amounts of resources and fight until only one side remains. A "campaign" is a series of interrelated missions with a specific storyline. [cite web|url=http://pc.ign.com/articles/083/083131p1.html |title=Age of Empires II: The Conquerors, Attila the Hun Campaign|publisher= IGN|date=August 4, 2000|accessdate=2008-06-17|quote=The fourth campaign is a collection of individual battles from the medieval period] Earlier games in the series included several campaigns; however, " Age of Mythology" was an exception to this trend, with one campaign. [cite web|url=http://www.ensemblestudios.com/Games/AgeOfMythology/Default.aspx |title=Age of Mythology|publisher= Ensemble Studios|accessdate=2008-04-20] Games in the series also offered multiplayergame options, via LANand modemconnection. "Age of Empires", "The Age of Kings", and their expansions, also offered online play via the Microsoft Gaming Zone(the Zone), though this ended on June 19, 2006. [cite web|url=http://zone.msn.com/en/general/article/genbeyondthezone.htm |title=Beyond the Zone – MSN Games Looks to the Future|publisher= Microsoft Gaming Zone|date=June 19, 2006|accessdate=2008-06-20] "Age of Mythology", "Age of Empires III", and their expansions, offered online gameplay via Ensemble Studios Online (ESO), a system similar to the Zone and Blizzard Entertainment's Battle.net. [cite web|url=http://pc.ign.com/articles/523/523907p1.html |title=Play Age of Mythology: The Titans for Cash|publisher= IGN|author=Juan Castro|date=June 16, 2004|accessdate=2008-06-20] [cite web|url=http://guides.ign.com/guides/721644/page_4.html |title=Age of Empires III Guide (PC) - Cards|publisher= IGN|accessdate=2008-06-20]
The missions in a campaign generally follow a historical setting and focus, yet do not strive for absolute historical accuracy. For example, while
Germanyin the early modern period — when "Age of Empires III" was set — was largely Protestant, the design of the German church building is Catholic. However, in "The WarChiefs", the design team did take great care to ensure they portrayed Native Americans as accurately as possible, and relied on expert historians for assistance. "Age of Empires" games use historical figures and units that are relatively well-known, but also include several "strange or exotic military unit [s] ," to make the games more interesting. [cite web|url=http://blogs.ign.com/MS_AgeOfEmpires/2007/09/20/66808/ |title= A History Lesson|publisher= IGN|author=Andrew Auseon |date=September 20, 2007|accessdate=2008-06-17] The series' sporadic faithfulness to history has earned it criticism; critics have generally panned the notion of unhistorical skirmishes such as "Japanese vs. Vikings and Franks vs. Persians," none of whom ever fought.
The games in the series focus on historical events throughout time. "Age of Empires" covers the events between the
Stone Ageand the Classical period, in Europeand Asia Minor. Its expansion, ', follows the formation and rise of the Roman Empire. ' and its follow Europe and Asia through the Middle Ages. "The Age of Kings"' expansion pack, ', is set during the same period, but also includes scenarios about the Spanish conquest of Mexico. " Age of Empires III" and its first expansion, ', take place during the European colonization of the Americas. Its second expansion, ', follows the rise of Asiain the same period. The series' spin-off, " Age of Mythology", and its expansion pack, ', are set during the Classical period, but focus on mythologyas their themes, rather than history.
"Age of Empires", released on October 26, 1997, was the first game in the series, as well as the first major release from
Ensemble Studios. [cite web|url=http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/ageofempires/news.html?sid=2554687 |title=Age of Empires Preview: Microsoft takes a stab at the golden age of wargaming|publisher= GameSpot|author=Jeff Sengstack|date=February 14, 1997|accessdate=2008-06-17] It was one of the first history-based real-time strategy games made, [cite web|url=http://www.ensemblestudios.com/blogs/bshelley/archive/2007/04/09/play-age-of-empires-study-history-in-college.aspx |title=Play Age of Empires - Study History in College|publisher= Ensemble Studios|author= Bruce Shelley|date=April 9, 2007|accessdate=2008-04-21] utilizing the Genie game engine. GameSpotdescribed it as a mix of "Civilization" and "". [cite web|url=http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/ageofempires/review.html?sid=2537895 |title=Age of Empires Review|publisher= GameSpot|accessdate=2008-06-17|author=T. Liam McDonald|date= 1997-10-27] The game gives players a choice of 12 civilizations to develop from the Stone Age to the Iron Age. The expansion pack, "The Rise of Rome", published by Microsofton October 31, 1998, introduced new features and civilizations, such as the Romans. Although the two games had contained many software bugs, patches resolved many of the problems. [cite web|url=http://pcgames.gwn.com/reviews/gamereview.php/id/21/p/0/title/Age_of_Empires.html |title=Age of Empires |publisher=PC Gameworld|accessdate=2008-01-14|author=James Holland] [cite web|url=http://www.microsoft.com/games/empires/downloads.htm |title=Age of Empires Downloads|publisher= Microsoft|accessdate=2008-02-28]
"Age of Empires" was generally well received, despite some highly negative reviews.
GameSpotcriticized a confused design, while " Computer and Video Games" praised the game as strong in single and multiplayer.cite web|url=http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/ageofempires |title=Age of Empires (pc: 1997)|publisher= Metacritic|accessdate=2008-06-17] The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciencesnamed "Age of Empires" the 1998 "Computer Strategy Game of the Year." [cite web|url=http://www.interactive.org/awards.php?winners&year=1998&cat=199817#199817 |title=Computer Strategy Game of the Year|publisher= Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences|accessdate=2008-01-19] For several years, the game remained high on the sales charts, with over three million units sold by 2000.cite web|url=http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20000307/pritchard_pfv.htm |title=Postmortem: Ensemble Studios’ Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings |publisher= Gamasutra|author= Matt Pritchard |date= 2000-03-07|accessdate=2008-02-01] "The Rise of Rome" was not as popular: it had only sold one million units in 2000, and attained 80% as an score from Game Rankings.cite web|url=http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages2/66971.asp |title=Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome|publisher= Game Rankings|accessdate=2008-06-17]
"Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings", released on September 30, 1999, used the Genie game engine, and had gameplay similar to its predecessor. [cite web|url=http://www.gamasutra.com/features/gdcarchive/2000/terrano.doc |title=The Art of Empires|format=
.doc|publisher= Gamasutra|accessdate=2008-06-17] "Age of Kings" is set in the Middle Ages, from the Dark Agesto the Imperial Age. It allows players to choose one of 13 civilizations, from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. [cite web|url=http://www.microsoft.com/games/age2/civilizations.htm |title=Civilizations|publisher= Microsoft|accessdate=2008-01-17] Microsoft published the expansion, "The Conquerors", on August 24, 2000. It added new units and five new civilizations, including two Mesoamerican civilizations; the Maya and the Aztec. [cite web|url=http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/ageofempires2thece/news.html?sid=2588234 |title=Age II: The Conquerors - The Mayans Showcase|publisher= GameSpot|author=Elliott Chin|date= 2000-06-14|accessdate=2008-06-17] The expansion also introduced the concept of technologies that were only available to certain civilizations. "The Age of Kings" was a bigger critical success than the first two games, with Game Rankings and Metacriticscores of 92%.cite web|url=http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages2/63605.asp |title=Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings|publisher= Game Rankings|accessdate=2008-06-17 ] cite web |url=http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/ageofempires2theageofkings |title=Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings (pc: 1999)|publisher= Metacritic|accessdate=2008-06-17] Microsoft shipped out more than two million copies to retailers, and the game received numerous awards and accolades.cite web|url=http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2000/Jan00/CrownedPR.mspx |title="Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings" Crowned No. 1 On Holiday Sales Charts Around the World|publisher= Microsoft|accessdate=2008-01-17|date= 2000-01-27] Critics agreed that "The Conquerors" expanded well on "The Age of Kings", though issues of unbalanced gameplay were raised.cite web |url=http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/ageofempires2conquerers |title=Age of Empires II: The Conquerors (pc: 2000)|publisher= Metacritic|accessdate=2008-06-17] "The Age of Kings" and "The Conquerors" won the 2000 and 2001 "Computer Strategy Game of the Year" awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, respectively. [cite web|url=http://www.interactive.org/awards.php?winners&year=2000&cat=200020#200020 |title=Computer Strategy Game of the Year|publisher= Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences|accessdate=2008-01-19] [cite web|url=http://www.interactive.org/awards.php?winners&year=2001&cat=200119#200119 |title=PC Strategy|publisher= Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences|accessdate=2008-01-19]
"Age of Empires III", released on October 18, 2005, was built on an improved version of the "Age of Mythology" game engine with the most significant changes being the updated graphics engine and the inclusion of the Havok physics
middlewareengine. [cite web|url=http://pc.ign.com/articles/594/594629p1.html |title=Age of Empires III|publisher= IGN|author=Steve Butts|date=2005-03-09|accessdate=2008-06-17] [cite web|url=http://pc.ign.com/articles/601/601488p1.html |title=Havok in Age of Empires|publisher= IGN|author=David Adams|date=April 4, 2005|accessdate=2008-06-17] The game is set in the period between 1421 and 1850, and players can choose one of eight European nations. The game introduced a large number of features, such as home cities. Described by Ensemble Studios as "an important support system to your efforts in the New World," home cities helped provide the player with resources, equipment, troops, and upgrades. They could be used across multiple games, and upgraded after each battle; it was compared to a role-playing gamecharacter by Ensemble Studios. [cite web|url=http://www.ageofempires3.com/age3/GameFeatures/HomeCity.aspx |title=Home City|publisher= Ensemble Studios|accessdate=2008-01-18] The first expansion to "Age of Empires III", "The WarChiefs", was released October 17, 2006. Most gameplay changes in the expansion pack were small, but it introduced three new civilizations, with a focus on Native Americans. [cite web|url=http://pc.ign.com/articles/696/696777p1.html |title=Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs: Ensemble's lead designer Sandy Peterson answers our questions|publisher= IGN|author=Steve Butts|date= 2006-03-17|accessdate=2008-06-17] Most notable was the introduction of the unit. [cite web|url=http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/age-of-empires-iii-expansion-pack/724116p1.html |title=Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs (PC) Preview|publisher= GameSpy|accessdate=2008-06-17|author=Allen 'Delsyn' Rausch|date= 2006-08-08] The second expansion, "The Asian Dynasties", went on sale October 23, 2007. It was a jointly developed product; Big Huge Gameshelped Ensemble Studios develop the game, with Brian Reynoldsjoining Bruce Shelleyas lead designer. [cite web|url=http://www.agecommunity.com/press.aspx?PressReleaseID=173 |title="Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties" Gets Ready to Expand Into the Eastern World, Goes Gold|publisher=Age Community|work= Ensemble Studios|accessdate=2008-01-18] The game expanded the "Age of Empires III" universe into Asia, and introduced three new civilizations. [cite web|url=http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/age-of-empires-iii-the-asian-dynasties/788618p2.html |title=Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties (PC) interview|publisher= GameSpy|author=Allen 'Delsyn' Rausch|date= 2007-05-23|accessdate=2008-06-17] Reception towards "Age of Empires III" was mixed; Game Revolutiondescribed it as "about as much fun" as a history textbook, while GameZoneargued it was "one of the best looking games, much less an RTS game, that is out on the market currently".cite web|url=http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/ageofempires3 |title=Age of Empires III (pc: 2005)|publisher= Metacritic|accessdate=2008-06-17] It sold more than two million copies, and won the GameSpy"real-time strategy game of the year" award.cite web|url=http://www.agecommunity.com/press.aspx?PressReleaseID=161 |title="Age of Empires III" Expands Into the Eastern World This Fall|publisher=Age Community|work= Ensemble Studios|date= 2007-05-18|accessdate=2008-01-18] [cite web|url=http://goty.gamespy.com/2005/pc/index15.html |title=PC Real-Time Strategy Game of the Year|publisher= GameSpy|accessdate=2008-01-19] "The WarChiefs" failed to equal the success of its predecessor; it had a lower score on both Game Rankings and Metacritic — "The Asian Dynasties" lower still — with 80%.cite web|url=http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages2/932253.asp |title= Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs |publisher= Game Rankings|accessdate=2008-01-18] cite web|url=http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/ageofempires3thewarchiefs |title=Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs (pc: 2006)|publisher= Metacritic|accessdate=2008-01-18] cite web|url=http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages2/939516.asp |title= Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties - PC|publisher= Game Rankings|accessdate=2008-01-18] cite web|url=http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/ageofempires3theasiandynasties |title=Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties (pc: 2007)|publisher= Metacritic|accessdate=2008-01-18]
Several collectors' editions of "Age of Empires III" included a
hardcover artbook. The last page of the artbook has a pictorial depiction of the series; the Roman numerals below each panel range from I to V, indicating the series would include an "Age of Empires IV" and "Age of Empires V". Ensemble Studios employee Sandy Petersonsaid the image "was total speculation on [their] part." [cite web|url=http://aoe3.heavengames.com/cgi-bin/forums/display.cgi?action=st&fn=1&tn=25506&st=181#post182 |title= Age 4 and 5?!?|publisher=HeavenGames|work=Age of Empires III Heaven|author=Botolf|date= 2006-05-03|accessdate=2008-06-17]
In 2008, when Microsoft announced they were closing down Ensemble Studios. It was announced that following the completion of "Halo Wars", Ensemble Studios would be disbanded. Some of its employees would form a new team as part of
Microsoft Game Studios. [cite web|url=http://au.pc.ign.com/articles/908/908973p1.html |title=Microsoft Shuttering Ensemble|publisher= IGN|author=Levi Buchanan|date=September 9, 2008|accessdate=2008-09-24] Kevin Unangst, director of Games for Windows, denied it was the end of the "Age of Empires" series, telling " The San Francisco Chronicle" "we're very excited about the future potential for "Age of Empires". [cite web|url=http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/09/15/entertainment/e144955D60.DTL |title=Game news: Microsoft to close 'Halo Wars' studio|publisher=" The San Francisco Chronicle"|author=Lou Kesten|date=September 15, 2008|accessdate=2008-09-24] "Edge" confirmed, in an interview with Microsoft's corporate vice president of interactive entertainment, Shane Kim, that Microsoft continued to own "Age of Empires" and that they had plans to continue the series. [cite web|url=http://www.edge-online.com/features/kim-we-still-believe-pc-games |title=Kim: We Still Believe in PC Games|publisher="Edge"|author=Joe Keiser|date=September 10, 2008|accessdate=2008-09-24 ] However, Bruce Shelley wrote in his blog that would not be part of any new studios formed. [cite web|url=http://www.ensemblestudios.com/blogs/bshelley/archive/2008/09/22/ensemble-studios-closing.aspx |title=Ensemble Studios Closing |publisher= Ensemble Studios|author= Bruce Shelley|date=September 22, 2008|accessdate=2008-09-24] [cite web|url=http://gamespot.com/news/6198093.htm |title=Ensemble dev speaks out on closure|publisher= GameSpot|author=Brendan Sinclair|date=September 24, 2008|accessdate=2008-09-24]
"Age of Mythology" focused on mythology rather than history. It shared several elements of gameplay with the main series, [cite web|url=http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/ageofmythology/review.html |title=Age of Mythology review|publisher=
GameSpot|author=Greg Kasavin|accessdate=2008-06-17|date= 2002-11-01] and was considered a part of the series, despite its different focus. [cite web|url=http://www.pcgamer.com/archives/2005/06/age_of_mytholog.html |title=Age of Mythology|publisher=" PC Gamer"|author=William Harms|accessdate=2008-04-22] [cite web|url=http://www.gameinformer.com/Games/Review/200301/R03.0806.1753.50018.htm |title=Microsoft Age of Mythology|publisher=" Game Informer"|author=Kristian Brogger|accessdate=2008-04-22] The campaign in "Age of Mythology" tells the story of an Atlantean, Arkantos, and his quest to find why his people are out of favor with Poseidonand the Greek gods. [cite web|url=http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=4138|title= Age of Mythology review|accessdate=2008-01-14|publisher= Eurogamer|author=Rob Fahey|date= 2002-12-10] Microsoft published the game on October 30, 2002, [cite web|url=http://www.mobygames.com/game/age-of-mythology/release-info |title=Age of Mythology Info|publisher= MobyGames|accessdate=2008-01-14] and its expansion, "The Titans", on October 21, 2003. [cite web|url=http://www.mobygames.com/game/windows/age-of-mythology-the-titans |title=Age of Mythology: The Titans Info|publisher= MobyGames|accessdate=2008-01-14] "The Titans" featured the Atlanteans as a new civilization. [cite web|url=http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages2/914617.asp|title=Age of Mythology:The Titans|publisher= Game Rankings|accessdate=2008-01-14] Its campaign is shorter than previous expansions, and centers on Kastor, son of Arkantos, who falls for the lies of the titans and frees them from Tartarus. [cite web|url=http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=53550 |title= Age of Mythology: The Titans review|publisher= Eurogamer|date= 2003-10-21|author=Tom Bramwell|accessdate=2008-01-14] "Age of Mythology" sold more than one million units in four months.cite web|url=http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2003/mar03/03-11platinummythologypr.mspx |title="Age of Mythology" Goes Platinum With More Than 1 Million Units Sold|publisher= Microsoft|work=PressPass|accessdate=2008-01-14] It scored 89% on Game Rankings and Metacritic.cite web|url=http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages2/476277.asp |title=Age of Mythology Reviews|publisher= Game Rankings|accessdate=2008-06-17] cite web|url=http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/ageofmythology |title=Age of Mythology (pc: 2002): Reviews|publisher= Metacritic|accessdate=2008-06-17] "The Titans" failed to equal the sales success of "Age of Mythology", although critics rated it highly.cite web|url=http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages2/914617.asp|title=Age of Mythology: The Titans - PC|publisher= Game Rankings|accessdate=2008-06-17] cite web|url=http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/ageofmythologythetitans/ |title=Age of Mythology: The Titans (pc: 2003): Reviews|publisher= Metacritic|accessdate=2008-06-17] Backbone Entertainmentdeveloped a version of "Age of Empires: The Age of Kings" as a turn-based game for the Nintendo DS. Majescopublished the game on February 14, 2006. It is similar to other turn-based games, such as " Advance Wars", but with a gameplay based on its PC . [cite web|url=http://www.mobiletechreview.com/games/DS/Age-of-Empires-DS.htm |title=Age of Empires: Age of Kings|publisher=Mobile Tech Review|author=Edwin Kee|month=February | year=2007|accessdate=2008-01-18] "Age of Empires: The Age of Kings" scored 80% on Game Rankings and Metacritic.cite web|url=http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages2/927039.asp |title=Age of Empires: The Age of Kings - DS|publisher= Game Rankings|accessdate=2008-06-17] cite web|url=http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/ds/ageofempirestheageofkings |title=Age of Empires: The Age of Kings (ds: 2006)|publisher= Metacritic|accessdate=2008-06-17] Konamibrought a game of the same title to the PlayStation 2around five years earlier than the DS version, but the game had little promotion, and sold poorly.cite web|url=http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/strategy/ageofempires2theaok/news.html?sid=2670906 |title= Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings preview|publisher= GameSpot|author=Chris Kirchgasler|date=January 4, 2001|accessdate=2008-06-17]
The development phases of the "Age of Empires" games were similar in several ways. Due to the games being based on historical events, the team often had to do large amounts of research. However, the research was not in depth; it "was not ... a good idea for most entertainment products" according to "Age of Empires" designer
Bruce Shelley. Shelley also said that Ensemble Studios took most of the reference material from children's sections at libraries. He pointed out the goal was for the players of the game to have fun, "not [its] designers or researchers."cite web|url=http://www.microsoft.com/games/empires/behind_bruce.htm |title=Bruce Shelley|publisher= Microsoft|accessdate=2008-01-22] At the Games Convention Developers Conference in 2007, Shelley continued with this thought and explained that the success of the series laid in "making a game which appealed to both the casual and hardcore gamer." Shelley also remarked the "Age of Empires" games were not about history in itself, but rather "about the human experience;" they focused not simply on what humans had done but on what they could do in the future such as "going into space."cite web|url=http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/ageofempires2theaok/news.html?sid=6177108&mode=news |title=GC '07: Don't ignore casual gamers, says Age of Empires panel|publisher= GameSpot|author=Emma Boyes|date= 2007-08-22|accessdate=2008-06-17] Ensemble Studios developed "Age of Mythology" in a different way than the previous two games. The team had worried they "couldn't get away" with a third historical-based game, and chose mythology as the setting after they had discussed several options.cite web|url=http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=78972 |title=Interview: Rock of Ages|publisher=" Computer and Video Games"|date= 2002-08-19|author=Stuart Bishop|accessdate=2008-01-23]
artificial intelligence(AI) used in the "Age of Empires" series has been developed and improved regularly by designers. AI specialist Dave Pottinger noted the development team gave the AI in the original game a very high priority, and spent over a year working on it. He said the AI in the game relies on tactics and strategies to win, instead of "cheating" by giving bonus resources to itself, or tweaking its units to be stronger than normal. Pottinger later noted that the "Age of Empires" series team took great pride in their AI playing a "fair game". [cite web|url=http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/ageofempiresiii/news.html?sid=6120033 |title=Age of Empires III Q&A - Technology Overview|publisher= GameSpot|date= 2005-03-09|accessdate=2008-06-17] They also gave the AI for "The Conquerors" a high priority, the result being the "smart villager" feature, which was highly popular in subsequent games of the series. After building a structure that stores or produces resources, smart villagers would proceed to collect resources related to the structure, such as crops from farms or orefrom stones. [cite web|url=http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/ageofempires2thece/news.html?sid=2568929 |title=Age of Empires II: The Conquerors - First Impression|publisher= GameSpot|date= 2000-05-31|accessdate=2008-06-17] "The Titans" lets players use an AI debuggerwhen creating custom scenarios; players can change the settings of computer players and make them act according to certain patterns. [cite web|url=http://www.gamespy.com/articles/491/491045p2.html |title=Age of Mythology: The Titans -- Volume 1|publisher= GameSpy|work=Dev Diaries|author= Rob Fermier|date= 2003-08-25|accessdate=2008-06-17] More basic changes to the AI had previously been available in the series' first two games. [cite web|url=http://planetageofempires.gamespy.com/View.php?view=Other.Detail&id=63 |title=AI Tools|publisher= GameSpy|accessdate=2008-04-28|date= 2005-10-26]
Stephen Rippy has been the series' music director since the first game. He has had occasional help from his brother, David Rippy, as well as Kevin McMullan.cite web|url=http://www.music4games.net/Features_Display.aspx?id=64 |title=Interview with Age of Empires III lead composer Stephen Rippy|publisher=
Music4Games|date= 2006-02-01|accessdate=2008-01-23] He created the original music in "Age of Empires" with sounds of instruments from the periods in the game. These sounds came from actual instruments, and their digital samples. The tunes were the result of extensive research on the cultures, styles, and instruments used.cite web|url=http://aoe.heavengames.com/town/esteam/chat1.shtml |title=Ensemble Studios Chat 16Oct97|publisher=HeavenGames|work=Age of Empires Heaven|date= 1997-10-16|accessdate=2008-01-24] Rippy said sound development on "The Age of Kings" was easier, since there was knowledge of the instruments used in the Middle Ages. Therefore, they were able to reproduce the tunes for the soundtrack of the game. [cite web|url=http://www.filmscoremonthly.com/articles/2001/02_May---Soundtracks_on_CDROM_Suciu.asp |title=Soundtracks on CD-ROM: Stirring Music That Accompanies the Interactive |publisher=" Film Score Monthly"|author=Peter Suciu|date= 2001-04-30|accessdate=2008-01-23] In "Age of Mythology", an orchestral instrumentation was used, instead. According to McMullan, the team also collected large numbers of audio recordings from zoos, and created "a massive sound library of [their] own material." [cite web|url=http://pc.ign.com/articles/370/370283p1.html |title=Age of Music|publisher= IGN|author=Steve Butts|date= 2002-09-06|accessdate=2008-06-17] The music of "Age of Empires III" was similar to "The Age of Kings", in which the team used more historical instruments; Rippy noted the team used instruments such as " bagpipesand field drums" to give it a realistic feel.
Ensemble Studios worked together with Big Huge Games to develop "The Asian Dynasties", "Age of Empires III"'s second expansion. This was the first joint venture for both teams. The reason for them doing so was compatible schedules: Ensemble Studios was busy with other projects, — particularly "
Halo Wars" — while Big Huge Games' real-time strategy team had few projects at that time. Big Huge Games did most of the work, but Ensemble Studios designers Greg Street and Sandy Petersenjoined in the brainstorming, and had control over the final product. [cite web|url=http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/age-of-empires-iii-the-asian-dynasties/788618p1.html |title=Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties (PC)|publisher= GameSpy|author= Allen 'Delsyn' Rausch|date= 2007-05-23|accessdate=2008-06-17] Both studios had roles in testing the game before its release. [cite web|url=http://aoe3.heavengames.com/interviews/TAD/breynolds |title=Brian Reynolds Interview - Part 1 - July 2007|publisher=HeavenGames|work=Age of Empires III Heaven|accessdate=2008-01-23]
Reception and legacy
The "Age of Empires" series has been a commercial success. As of 2008, five of its games have each sold more than one million copies. According to
Gamasutra, "Age of Empires" had sold more than three million copies, and "The Rise of Rome" sold one million copies as of 2000. Around the same time, Microsoft announced that they shipped over two million copies of "The Age of Kings". In 2003, Microsoft announced the sales of one million copies for "Age of Mythology". By 2004—prior to the release of "Age of Empires III" — the "Age of Empires" franchise had sold over 15 million copies. [cite web|url=http://www.microsoft.com/games/press/default.aspx?no=titans_20040507001 |title=Best-Selling Age Franchise Tops 15 Million Mark|date= 2004-05-07|publisher= Microsoft|work=Games for Windows|accessdate=2008-01-14] On May 18, 2007, Ensemble Studios announced that two million copies of "Age of Empires III" had been sold.Games in the series have consistently scored highly on video game review aggregatorwebsites Game Rankingsand Metacritic, which collect data from numerous review websites. As noted in the table to the right, the highest rating game is "Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings", receiving a 92% score from both sites.
Critics have credited "Age of Empires" for influencing real-time strategy (RTS) games such as "
Rise of Nations", " Empire Earth", and '. [cite web|url=http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/riseofnations/review.html |title=Rise of Nations for PC review|publisher= GameSpot|author=Elliott Chin |date=May 21, 2003 |accessdate=2008-06-17] [cite web|url=http://archive.gamespy.com/previews/december01/cossacks/ |title=Cossacks: The Art of War (PC)|publisher= GameSpy|author=Peter "Dirg" Suciu |accessdate=2008-04-22] ' was also influenced by the series: it utilized the Genie game engine, as "Age of Empires" and "Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings" had, and was considered by critics to be a very close replica to the games; IGNbegan their review with the statement "I love "Age of Star Wars", I mean "Star Empires". Whatever it's called, I dig it." [cite web|url=http://pc.ign.com/articles/165/165959p1.html |title=Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds Review|publisher= IGN|date= 2001-11-19|accessdate=2008-06-17] and GameSpotwrote that "fundamentals of the "Age of Empires II" engine are so intact in "Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds" that veterans of that game can jump right in." [cite web|url=http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/starwarsgalacticb/review.html?mode=gsreview |title=Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds for PC Review|publisher= GameSpot|author=Tom Chick|date= 2001-11-20|accessdate=2008-06-17] In October 2005, Shelley commented on the impact of the series. In a GameSpyinterview, he explained that parents would "tell [Ensemble Studios] that their kid is reading books about ancient Greece because they enjoy playing with the triremes so much, or that they want to check out books about medieval history because [the] game taught them what a trebuchetwas."cite web|url=http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/age-of-empires-iii/658725p1.html |title=Art & Design: The Alternate History of Age of Empires III|publisher= GameSpy|author=Allen 'Delsyn' Rausch|date=October 14, 2005|accessdate=2008-06-17]
Shelley has said the key to the success of the games was its innovation, rather than imitation of its peers. He also claimed the unique elements in the games "helped establish the reputation of Ensemble Studios as masters of the real-time strategy genre." [cite web|url=http://www.gamasutra.com/features/gdcarchive/2001/shelley.doc |title=Guidelines for Developing Successful Games|format=DOC|publisher=
Gamasutra|author= Bruce Shelley|accessdate=2008-06-17] Mark Bozon of IGN wrote in his review of "The Age of Kings", "The "Age of Empires" series has been one of the most innovative real-time strategy games for PC in the last decade or so." [cite web|url=http://ds.ign.com/articles/687/687988p1.html |title=The Age of Kings is truly upon us...|publisher= IGN|author=Mark Bozon|date=February 10, 2006|accessdate=2008-06-17] Gamenikki called Ensemble Studios "the developer that started it all" when they talked about how much "Age of Empires III" had done to advance the real-time strategy genre. [cite web|url=http://www.gamenikki.com/g3/reviews/pc/Display.php?id=1 |title=Age of Empires III|publisher=Gamenikki|author=David Driscoll|accessdate=2008-04-03] Shelley has acknowledged the success and innovation of "Age of Empires" helped to ensure Ensemble survive its early periods since startup. [cite web|url=http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_73/419-From-Borg-to-Boss |title=From Borg to Boss|author=Russ Pitts|publisher="The Escapist"|date= 2006-11-28|accessdate=2008-02-02] In 2005, Shelley complained of critics holding an "innovation bias" against the series; citing the 60% score from " Computer Gaming World", he said that despite "Age of Empires III" being "perhaps the best selling PC game in the world," reviewers expected "something really new," and rated it harshly. [cite web|url=http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=131731 |title=Shelley decries 'innovation bias'|publisher= ComputerAndVideoGames.com|author=John Houlihan|date=22 December 2005|accessdate=2008-04-03] Bungie Studioschose Ensemble Studios to develop " Halo Wars", which is an RTS game in their "Halo" series. They said one of the reasons they chose to work with Ensemble was because of the "awesometastic" "Age of Empires" series.cite web|url=http://www.bungie.net/News/content.aspx?type=topnews&link=bwusept29osix |title=Bungie Weekly Update|author=KPaul|date= 2006-09-29|accessdate=2008-02-02|publisher= Bungie] They also noted that Ensemble was the perfect choice "to realize the original vision of "Halo"," which started life as an RTS. Swimmer Michael Phelpssaid he uses the "Age of Empires" series as a distraction when not training. [cite web|url=http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/16/sports/olympics/16phelps.html?_r=3&pagewanted=2 |title=In Pool or Out, Olympic Star Stands Apart |publisher=" The New York Times"|date=August 15, 2008|author=Karen Crouse |accessdate=2008-08-21]
* [http://www.microsoft.com/games Microsoft Games]
* [http://www.ensemblestudios.com/default.aspx Ensemble Studios]
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