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The Age of Empires Heaven Interviews
Ian "Fish" Fischer: (Designer)
Imperious Rex: (Editor of Gamestats News Network)
Archangel Michael: (Age of Empires Heaven)
Telcontar: Telcontar's Empires of the Ages
Archangel Michael: Good morning Ian, thanks for taking the
time to join us today. Can you give us some background on yourself
and how you came to be in the gaming business?
Ian "Fish" Fischer: Sure... I'm 25, I graduated
from the University of Pittsburgh in 1994 with BAs in Political
Science and English Writing (Fiction). (I also had around 3/4 of
the credits needed for a middle eastern dialects - Arabic minor).
I joined the US Navy upon graduation (long story) and became a Sonar
Tech... When I learned that this job sucked (around 15 min. later),
I looked for something new, got accepted as a SAR (search and rescue)
swimmer and spent the rest of my time doing that... About two years
ago, I was offered an opportunity to become an intelligence officer,
I took the physical required for this and they found that I had
a form of narcolepsy Thus, ending my naval career.... I had
been involved with a few attempted start-up software companies and
had designed a few paper games with guys in college (none of note).
So I figured I might try to break into the business, spent some
time putting together a nice doc with samples of my designs, searched
the Web for every company involved with games, pestered all of these
people endlessly... Met Tony G. and got the job -- here I am...
Telcontar: Hi, Ian. Thank you for coming. What would you
be doing now if you were not in the gaming industry?
Ian "Fish" Fischer: Funny you should ask... Well
firstly, I think I'd be in this industry regardless, If I hadn't
had any luck getting a job with an established company I think I
would probably have gotten together with some of my old cohorts
and attempted to start one.
Telcontar: Which type of scenario do you like most of all
- scenarios where you build up from the Stone Age or scenarios where
you start at the Iron Age and have a bunch of guys to start with?
Ian "Fish" Fischer: I like the ones where you
start small and build up because the ones that provide you with
pre-existing buildings and units don't feel like they're mine. If
I set down the storage pit, I'll know where it is, if someone else
does it I'm searching the map.
Telcontar: Which scenario is your favorite one?
Ian "Fish" Fischer: Single - Nineveh, Multi -
Imperious Rex: Good Morning Ian. Thanks for taking some
time with us. There is a rumor that an upcoming AoE patch will raise
the system requirements of the game. Is there any truth to this?
Ian "Fish" Fischer: I can neither comment on,
confirm, or deny anything related to the patch.
Archangel Michael: I for one don't have a clue how the
process goes for a game like Age of Empires, can you go through
the steps it takes to design a killer game like Age of Empires?
Ian "Fish" Fischer: Sure... Once a project has
been established and a team assigned, the design component holes
up in the office for two or three weeks with a stack of books. At
the first stage, we put together a prototype doc which outlines
the game on a very high level, this is mostly to show our publisher
what kind of game we will be working on. From this we advance to
the actual design doc which is simply the proto doc in more detail.
The design doc contains information about everything. It is also
used to build sections on technical requirements which then go to
the programmers. The designers also work with the publisher and
team leader to get a milestone list in the doc and this provides
us with our broad level work orders. The final doc goes through
a few rapid changes before it settles down (usually) then gets
round of revisions toward the end based on playtesting.
Telcontar: Have you also been involved in writing the
Ian "Fish" Fischer: Not that I'm aware of. Tim
Deen (to my knowledge) handled that. However, I did pelt him with
Telcontar: Can you explain us how the random map generator
works? (Just the basics.)
Ian "Fish" Fischer: Gggehh... Let's see here...
A lot of this is based on my (probably quite poor) understanding;
roughly the generator operates from a seed number which provides
it with its ability to be "random". This number is used
to plan the layout and composition of a map based on your preferences
(i.e. if you select "highland" the algorithm favors land
tile placement and retards water tile placement). The algorithm
is set-up in such a way that items are placed intelligently, that
is: every starting position has a berry bush within x tiles, trees
are placed in forests, etc.
Telcontar: Thank you. What is your favorite map type and
Ian "Fish" Fischer: Huge highland... plenty of
room and I don't have to worry about a navy...
Archangel Michael: What kind of single player strategies
seem to work the best for you? I love to use the tower placement
with catapults to surround the bad guys in the longer games
Ian "Fish" Fischer: I love walls and towers. My
favorite game is one where I manage to gain an ally, talk him into
protecting me and I spend the entire game building the perfect wonder
spot. I love setting up elaborate defenses. One of my favorite
is to build a series of walls around the wonder site and put a town
center and siege workshop in each cell ...
Ian "Fish" Fischer: That way, when another player
attacks, I can pop out a villager to build up defenses where he
is attacking and a cat to hold him off; no wasted stone building
walls and towers he'll never get near.
Telcontar: What is the key in making exciting scenarios?
Ian "Fish" Fischer: That depends on the type.
Good single player scenarios tend to be very scripted -- you set
up the way you want it to be played using terrain and other
then tweak the AI until you get exactly what you want. IF 99 out
of 100 people play it the same way, you've done your job. Multiplayer
scenarios are the exact opposite...
Telcontar: Is there a particular strategy that was too
in playtesting so that unit properties had to be changed?
Ian "Fish" Fischer: Yes, my favorite one,
If defenses are made too strong players can set themselves up so
that they can never be in danger. Defenses had to be scaled back
to make the game fun, otherwise everyone went behind a wall and
avoided going out because attacks on fortifications were too
Archangel Michael: With Age of Empires, Ensemble Studios
got itself on the gaming map, but in the future - where do you see
yourself and Ensemble Studios in the gaming market? (RTS Games,
role playing, spreadsheets :)..
Ian "Fish" Fischer: ES is going to be in games
for a long time. We have a very diverse group here and every possible
type game genre has some type of representation. In the future,
I'd say that you'll likely see everything from RTSs to RPGs to 1st
person shooters (not to mention genres we introduce) with the
Studios logo on it.
Telcontar: What is your favorite unit?
Ian "Fish" Fischer: As to favorite unit, mine is
the tower :)
Archangel Michael: Love that logo :).. thanks for spending
some of your weekend with us - its been a real joy!
Ian "Fish" Fischer: I'd like to thank all of you
guys -- one of the nice things about making games is making people
happy, I'm glad that you are all obviously enjoying the game this
Archangel Michael: The game and the fine team at ES!
Telcontar: Seeya on the battlefield ;)
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