Development of African Royals

Hello Devs,
I’m doing a history paper and looking at the involvement of video games in bringing the real African cultures to western pop or video game culture. I was curious about the research behind the development of African Royals as well as the reasoning behind choosing Hausa and Ethiopia as the playable cultures. I’m also curious about how they were balanced in relation to classic Age of Empires civilization design, like the religious buildings and units. I realise this might sound a bit formal for a form, being a university student it’s how I generally send requests like this, sorry. >.<
Thank you!


Interesting project! Unfortunately devs no longer look at this forum or actively avoid commenting on it (except Vividly)

Edit: glad to see Tilanus came to answer!! Some light after all.


Can you blame them? This isn’t always the most welcoming place.


That is true, however, whenever they do appear I see people being very respectful when talking to them. Even considering how abandoned the community feels.


He doesn’t work for FE.

Probably a combination of extension terrain, relationship with other local cultures and Europeans.

Because Moroccans/North Africans had an unique scenario on AoE 3 DE release and later one on African Kingdoms, villagers and a hero, probably they were half done but cut for the AR expansion by budget/time constrains.

I would like to know one day about it, also I would love to have them, but probably there won’t be any more AOE 3 DLC.

I did this image based on what info I found about all the cultures mentioned on African Royals

Also the European Colonialism before the scramble of Africa

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Yes, maybe later they will bring in the Moroccans…

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Let me start with a platitude: Game development costs money and time, so that is always a constraint for any developer. With TAR we could design 2 civilizations, but knew we had to be smart about how we used our resources.

One big solution I came up with was synergies. If you look at the African buildings you’ll notice they often combine 2 buildings in one. The War Camp is a Stable and Barracks, the Livestock Market a Market and a Livestock Pen, etc. This was beneficial for production while at the same time creating building hybrids that didn’t yet exist. You can also see it to some degree in the unit roster. While both African civs have their own unique roster they do heavily rely on the Alliance age-ups that enable new technologies but more importantly new units, which are often new African mercenaries and natives.

That, of course, is only one side of the coin. If you look at the history of the Hausa and Ethiopians you’ll quickly notice that they weren’t centralized states like France or Great Britain. But much like the German HRE it was a loose collection of Ethiopian and Hausa kingdoms with their own power dynamics, such as constantly shifting alliances and rivalries. They also weren’t strictly heterogenous. Ethiopia is a good example with its different warlords but also multi-ethnic structure (Oromo, Habesha, etc). With Alliance age-ups we felt this was a good way to portray the influence of various “internal” and “external” players as well as feature actual units that either had to be created for a proper expansion anyway or already existed (i.e. Indian and Jesuit units for Ethiopia). It ticked a lot of boxes for design, production and striked a nice balance between novelty and familiarity.

Influence & Livestock
As for other mechanics I think the Influence and Livestock mechanic are the most prominent ones. Both husbandry and cowry shells as currency played a huge role in Sub-saharan Africa - and partially still does. So it seemed obvious to me that this should play an important role in the African gameplay.

The Influence resource is a more consequential realization of the Export resource to be - pun intended - more influential on the civs’ path to dominance. Influence narratively links to the actual history of complex relations between the different players in the Ethiopian and Hausa realms. It even is reflected in the AI personality’s biographies, who both in their own right had to work their way up to and from local rulers to dominant, highly respected and influential sovereigns. Influence of course is not really a hard currency which is why I found the cowry shell to be a fitting representation of it, since unlike metal-based currencies it doesn’t really have a material value, it is more of a status symbol. From a design & balancing perspective we wanted it to be spent on “power units” and I think it’s also a lovely narrative fit that the more influential rulers can find stronger allies.

This analogy also translates quite well to the Livestock mechanic as owning a large herd of cattle was an indicator of wealth and status. The initial design challenge of that mechanic was to find a good gameplay reason to keep your livestock around for longer, make its use both necessary and appealing. Livestock generating Influence achieved exactly that. It encourages you to grow your herd, keep it alive and only “trade” them when it is to your advantage. I just love these analogies.

Getting the cost conversions from food/wood/coin to Influence as well as the Influence gather rates right was quite the mathematical challenge, I still remember the big excel sheets of my fellow designer! Hell of a job.

Civilization picks

  • Ethiopians were an obvious pick from the start. There was huge community demand and the history was fascinating. The idea of an African civ that resisted colonialization and had this strong controversial leader figure in Tewodros was just too good to be left out.

  • Hausa wasn’t as obvious from the start, but kind of emerged after lots of research and internal discussion. Songhai was actually a strong contender at first, but was eventually “demoted” to a Hausa alliance option as its history was rather short-lived and it was very hard to find a lot of source material. Since AoE3 civs aren’t really only about single empires either we went on to actually find a dominant culture. It had to be from West Africa to ensure the DLC covered enough territory to deserve the “African” in its title. The Hausa-Fulani culture stretched from modern-day Nigeria (also the most populous state) to Senegal, primarily through trade and transhumance. The latter, again, being a great fit for the mechanics we were looking into.
    There were more factors obviously, like the geo-historical proximity to the Akan people (Ashanti), the Yoruba and the resulting potential for features of these in the Hausa civ.

Hope that helps you with your paper!


Really great information. At first I was surprised by the Hausa as civ in AoE 3, because it was a completely unknown nation to me, but thanks to this I learned at least a little about their interesting history.

If I may ask, I would like to know if WE AoE 3 players can count on such awesome content as TAR DLC or KotM DLC in the future?


And Liberia? Along with Ethiopia, it was the other country that resisted European colonization (although Liberia was like an American colony in Africa)… it could be a mix between the US and Hausa…

Dunno how to break it to you but Liberia was an United States colony, by definition it didn’t resist colonization.


@tilanus Although this was not aimed at me (long past paper-writing age here!) - this was really insightful, thank you!

I’d love to see future DLCs (not fishing here, don’t worry :wink: ) get follow-up posts or even articles about how you came to pick the civs, what interested you in those civs/cultures and how you made them and their units/buildings mesh with the rest of AOEIII:DE.

DLC/Civ packs aside, even Updates that feature large graphical face-lifts for units would be interesting to read about why you made some rather nice historical nods , 'cos amongest you guys there’s clearly some that have a big interest in the eras covered by AOEIII (I mean come-on, whatever Devs are going to go to specific Church-tech upgrades and add New Model Army skins to the British musketeers! :grin:)

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the post really is nice, reminds me of some of those posts EU4 puts out. would be really nice just having a blogpost with DLC where the choices of factions and perhaps some of the unique cards or units get explained from a historical POV.


IDK if you will answer or you are allowed to answer that, but just for the record, were Moroccans (Saadi Sultanate) started to be developped and cut, or were never meant to be a full civ?


Of course, but during the division of Africa, it was the only country along with Ethiopia that remained outside the colonization of other countries, even though Liberia had originally been an American colony… the other one that could be would be a revolution only American in Liberia when the United States will be played on African maps…

Liberia began in the early 19th century as a project of the American Colonization Society (ACS), which believed black people would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States.[7] Between 1822 and the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, more than 15,000 freed and free-born African Americans, along with 3,198 Afro-Caribbeans, relocated to Liberia.[8] Gradually developing an Americo-Liberian identity,[9][10] the settlers carried their culture and tradition with them. Liberia declared independence on July 26, 1847, which the U.S. did not recognize until February 5, 1862.

Liberia was the first African republic to proclaim its independence and is Africa’s first and oldest modern republic. Along with Ethiopia, it was one of the two African countries to maintain its sovereignty and independence during the European colonial “Scramble for Africa

On July 26, 1847, American colonists declared the Republic of Liberia. The settlers considered Africa their “promised land,” but they did not integrate into African society. Once in Africa they referred to themselves as “Americans” and were also recognized as such by the African and British colonial authorities in neighboring Sierra Leone. The symbols of the Liberian state such as its flag, motto and coat of arms, and the form of government they chose reflect their American background and diaspora experience.21​19​

The religious practices, social customs, and cultural norms of American settlers had their roots in the antebellum American South. These ideas influenced the settlers’ attitude toward the native African people. The new nation, as they perceived it, would imply the coexistence of the colonists and the native Africans, who would be assimilated into it. Distrust and hostility frequently appeared between the two communities, the American one, established on the coast, and the native one, in the interior. There were also attempts, usually successful, by the American minority to dominate the native peoples, whom they considered “uncivilized” and inferior. They called the country “Liberia”, meaning “Land of the Free”, a tribute to their freedom from slavery.20​14​

Liberia’s founding received financial support from religious and philanthropic groups in the United States, and enjoyed the unofficial cooperation of the American government. The Liberian government, modeled on the American one, had a democratic structure, at least in part. After 1877 the Authentic Whig Party monopolized the political power of the country and the struggles for power took place within the party itself, whose candidate won the presidency. Two problems that the administration had to face were pressure from neighboring colonial powers, such as the United Kingdom and France, and the threat of financial insolvency. Both threatened the sovereignty of the country. Liberia retained its independence during the partition of Africa, but lost extensive territories, which passed to British or French control. Economic development was delayed by the decline of Liberian goods markets in the late 19th century and debt repayments, which severely affected the economy.

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I don’t understand what’s the purpose of this. Are you suggesting that Liberia should have taken Ethiopia’s slot in the DLC, or appeared as a map-exclusive revolution (no such thing exists in the game so far)? There are no noteworthy conflcts in Liberia’s history within the game’s timeframe.
They could put in a reference to Liberia in a shipment or tech, but I don’t think it should go anywhere beyond that.

No, I mean as another alternative to the Hausa or else for another African DLC later… the same is an idea just like a civ mix between the USA and African units…

No. I think the Hausa and Ethiopians were the two best candidates, the devs made the right choice by picking these two.

Regarding Liberia, I think there are still far better candidates for future African civs, like the Shona, Malagasy, Kongolese or many others.


Yes, of course…it was simply a West African option that I gave…obviously I would like the Kongolese, Shona, Zulu, Imerina to arrive…Liberia could go with the South African Republic as post-colonial African civs…

I don’t think Liberia would even make it into my wishlist of African civ DLC I’m afraid, especially with so many long-standing African kingdoms and empires that cover most of the time frames.

North Africa:

Shona States
Malagasy (would be a really great one!)

Even shorter lived ones that made more impact such as:
Zulu (made more of cultural impact than Liberia, though I’d rather see them as a Minor Civ as they were very short-lived)