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The Age of Empires Heaven Interviews
Rick Goodman (Mr. Grinch)
Conducted by Gamestats & Age of
(09:07:08, September 13) : Good Morning Rick, thank you for stopping
by. Today we are joined by John from Gamestats. Lets jump right
in.. Rick - can you give us a brief summary of your position and
responsibilities at Ensemble Studios? Also sure most AoE Fans would
like to know... how did you get into the gaming world and besides
Age of Empires what is you most played RTS game? :)
Mr. Grinch (09:10:18,
13) : I am part of the design team for AoE, along with Bruce Shelley
and Brian Sullivan. In addition to this, as anyone who works in
the games business knows, you needs to be pretty versatile. So,
in my case this means doing project management and business related
activities as well.
Getting into the gaming world was a dream come true for me that
started around January of 1995. We just wanted to do it, so we did
Archangel Michael (09:11:14,
September 13) : As we near the release date of Age of Empires, can
you tell us if you are down to the double digits in correcting any
"Bugs" that are left in AoE? and which one is giving you
the most problems right now?
Mr. Grinch (09:16:31,
13) : Bugs, what are those? We have been in the single digits for
several days now. This means that we are facing down all of the
'fun' bugs that we left for the end of the project. In our case,
these are mainly due to issues beyond our control, like dealing
with APIs that return undocumented codes, or that don't work as
documented. Regardless, we are the ones to find the solution...and
we do. There is nothing that we have not been able to solve and
there have been some real contenders. For example, don't mention
the notorious "fishing boats" bug with this crew unless
you want to get stomped in a Death Match.
John (Imperious Rex)
September 13) : Good morning Mr. Grinch. It's always a pleasure
talking to you. The 12 different civilization choices really set
AoE apart from the pack. Do you have any strategy tips for the
Mr. Grinch (09:23:56,
13) : You bet. We are actually still defining and exploring different
strategies for each of the 12 Civilizations. Each has differences
that manifest themselves in military, economic and technological
areas. As such, it has been amazingly rewarding to discover vast
number of strategies that exist in the game. OK, maybe I helped
design the game a little, here and there, but the fact is, we,
have yet to discover all of the possibilities that exist for each
Yesterday, Tim, one of the exalted AoE 'Top 5', came up to me and
raved about a new strategy for the Hittites. I can't tell you what
it is, you'll have to get on the Zone and find out for yourself,
but it is truly rewarding to see experienced players have yet to
master a game that we have been playing every day for nine months.
John (Imperious Rex)
September 13) : The units in the game do not speak English. :) What
do they speak? Where did this "language" come from? Are
there any hidden meanings or words?
Mr. Grinch (09:32:19,
13) : Ah... This sounds just like the discussions we had over a
year ago. We needed to something here that was right for the game.
Something that was believable and something that gave players the
audible feedback they needed to process information in real time.
English was considered at one time, however, we decided that English
did not provide the right context for the sounds in the game. As
a result, our sound guy, Chris Rippy invented a language of his
own. After you play for a short while it tends to grow on you -
even take over your life...I don't know how many times I hear people
in the halls saying "Efritati".
This turned out to be a lot more fun to do as well. Rumor has it
that the language is based exclusively upon the names of Chris's
friends and family members. But this is as yet unconfirmed.... Chris
has done a wonderful job not just on the language, but also on the
entire set of game sounds. While running AI opponents on 20 test
computers simultaneously, early one morning last week, I decided
to turn up the volume. It sounded like Armageddon.
Archangel Michael (09:32:55,
September 13) : Do you see any "Show Stoppers" that might
delay Age of Empires from its release date of 31 October ? Is there
any truth that AoE goes to the (CD) factory next week? Does this
mean a Demo (or Two) is not far off?
Mr. Grinch (09:44:26,
13) : AoE is a labor of love. It is a game that we all love to play.
This means that we are very active, internally, about improving
it to make it the best game that we have ever played. As a result
we have taken the time to make the game truly exciting, we have
play balanced and fined tuned it for months, we added 'features'
past the deadline and have created the best AI opponent that you
will play in any game for, perhaps, years to come.
We did this because we felt that these were some of the keys to
delivering a really fun - next generation RTS game. The Trial version
is nearly complete. We will put this into your hands in a few short
weeks, or even days. It will offer a single campaign based around
one of the 12 civilizations containing five scenarios. The first
two scenarios are easy, the middle won is hard and the last two
are for those of you who breezed through the entire campaigns of
C&C and WC2....You will be able to play multiplayer games that
support up to 8 players on the Zone, as well. Look for this Trial
version on Heaven and GameStats.
How does this affect our ship date? I have always been fond of
Halloween, myself and this Halloween will be the best one yet.
Archangel Michael (09:45:25,
September 13) : Great NEWS! - The Fans will love to hear that...
Ensemble and Microsoft just completed a huge beta play off - do
you have a winner yet? - And has the playoff bought up any problems
with the multiplay & Chat functions of Age of Empires with such
a large group in the Zone at one time?
Mr. Grinch (09:56:01,
13) : I understand that the beta tournament has been completed.
We actually had two tournaments, each won by a different player.
The winner of the most recent contest will fly to Texas and show
off his savvy in front of Bruce Shelley, John Ramero and Chris
and a hundred members of the press in a Match to the Death.
The beta test group for AoE is one of the finest group of play
testers on the Web. Feedback has been overwhelming...I'll send you
some quotes...everyday I read feedback about the game that assures
me that we have a winner. I'll have to send you some of the
Back to the tourney. We have received valuable suggestion and
from some pretty prominent authorities concerning the Internet and
Internet play. We have meticulously reviewed every suggestion and
I am proud to say that we have implemented nearly all of them.
important to me, in order to respond to the serious tournament
are an Observer Mode without chat, and the fact that we display
for all players the name of the participant who changes the game
settings during the game.
John (Imperious Rex)
September 13) : Your announcement of a Trial Version is going to
make a lot of gamers happy! Please tell our readers about the
victory conditions in Age of Empires. What prompted you to add these
to the standard "kill 'em all" condition?
Mr. Grinch (10:09:44,
13) : Lets face it. There is more to life than just conquest. In
addition to the familiar conquest victory conditions, AoE includes
a large varety of other victory conditions that make for some
single player and multi-user scenarios. I can't mention them all
right now, but let me summarize them by category:
Single User VCs - Everything you ever wanted is here, both in the
campaigns that ship in the box and in the Scenario Builder for you
to use to create your own masterpieces. For example, victory can
be triggered by achieving a certain number of population, by
a certain technology or Age, by mining a specific amount of resource,
exploring a portion, or all of the known world, by converting a
certain number of enemy units to your Tribe, etc. The list is
Multi-user VCs - You can play for Conquest, Time limit, Artifacts,
Wonders, Ruins, or Score. Score is fantastic. You can actually win
the game by accumulating the most points by doing ALL of the
Oh, did I mention that any multiplayer and single player scenario
can have multiple victory conditions? And that they can be different
for every player? And that there are alternative ways to win, so
that you can play a scenario several times and win a different way
John (Imperious Rex)
September 13) : This will be my last question for today Rick. Thanks
for spending so much time with us. I know the gaming fans appreciate
it. I was surprised that even though there are 4 tilesets in the
game the buildings are easily recognizable not only across the 4
cultures but over time as technology changes. How was this
Mr. Grinch (10:22:23,
13) : With 12 civilizations spanning 10,000 miles of geography and
the same amount of time, we needed to be able to bring a rich visual
diversity to the game. This was a tremendous challenge given the
advancement of time as well as the number of structures and units
in the game. The Art team tackled this nearly impossible task by
creating four culture types into which each one of the 12
fall. As a result we have a European culture that is based upon
the Greeks. AoE also has a Middle Eastern and North African cultural
set each of which is based on meticulous research of Ancient Babylon
and Ancient Egypt. The Asian culture, however, might be my favorite,
you just have to see it.
The biggest challenge was creating so much artistic diversity,
without destroying the cohesion and simplicity of game playing.
Although all cultures and buildings look different they share many
of the same characteristics. This helps players recognize, say,
the temple building, where Priests are trained, no matter which
civilization is being played
Archangel Michael (10:23:29,
September 13) : John, thanks for stopping by again! Mr Grinch -
One of the best Interviews Yet! Thanks for spending some much of
your limited time with us today, your on our "A" list
for another interview after the released of the game :)..
Mr. Grinch (10:24:10,
13) : Mike and John, it is an honor working with you.
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