Early Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings Screenshots!

I recently found my good old CD copy of Age of Empires: Gold Edition. So many years have passed since I last played with this CD, and I couldn’t remember that, lost among its files, there was a demonstrative application with screenshots of the early version of Age of Empires II!

I would love to have these unused buildings available in the Age II: DE Scenario Editor, especially the awesome castles in the second and fourth images!

Which of these old models do you like the most? Are you enthusiasts of this type of content like me?

Each original BMP image file is dated August 10th, 1998.








You can find the same pictures in better quality here: Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings Screenshots (E3 1998) : Ensemble Studios : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive.

E3 1999 screenshots with different unit models: Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings (E3 1999 Show Package) : Ensemble Studios : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive


Id be more interested in seeing the alpha beta graphics for aoe2 DE.we did see the different catapracts.

I like how chonky some of the buildings are. Would be cool to have megacastles in the Editor.


The farms! (Weird, I know.) I’m a big fan of the huge castles too, especially the Japanese one:

Yes! Did you know that some early versions of the AoK were leaked and are available online? Search for Age of Kings alpha build and Here are a few other screenshots I have:

Ships with reflections (these were part of the sprite, so it didn’t work well near shores):

Another giant castle, for Britons and Franks:

Various cavalry. The ones near the bottom are Persian multipurpose cavalry, that I think were supposed to switch between melee and ranged attacks (never implemented though):

Some early building graphics. The big one on the left is a University:

An AoE1-style Town Centre – 3-by-3 with no space under it:


Really nice, thanks for sharing! Looks like it’s running on an updated AoE1 engine. And the shorelines look like the ones from Warcraft 2.

Some developers must have been able to play this version of the game. I wonder what the big castles could do.

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You might enjoy this gameplay video:

(And if you’d like to play it yourself, you might also want to look in the comments!)

If I recall correctly, they don’t do anything – not even fire arrows or train unique units.


I like lettuce as well :sweat_smile:!

It’s truly majestic!

I didn’t, actually! Thanks a lot for this info, I’ll try them as soon as I can!

The reflections must be implemented in the DE as soon as possible! For me it’s the biggest graphical flaw in the game at the moment, I look at it and I always feel like there’s something unnatural about it.

I love how these castles impose themselves as threatening strongholds on any unit around them! In the final game, they look more like keeps than a castle as a whole.

That was a great idea, yet to be implemented!

I thought it was an Inn or a Tavern lol! All those unused building models would be great eye candy to be implemented in the Scenario Editor and used in Campaigns!

It reminds me of the Japanese houses in Age III that attract animals! The final version is much better, but at least the farms fit perfectly around in this one :grin:
It’s great how the Granary is bigger than Town Center lol. But there is a place where the water comes from.

Thanks for those screenshots, I never would have guessed there were so many more to be found!


Ensemble Studios seem to have been especially indecisive about what shallows should look like. Originally they looked basically like AoE1 shallows, with single-tile sprites placed over water:

In a later alpha version, they had a (slightly) different texture to the water underneath, but they messed up the palette on the sprites:

Another screenshot shows them with a rocky texture:

But after this they changed the texture several times. Here’s an example:

And here’s another, from the same map (and, according to the file’s metadata, taken later the same day) with a different texture:

A beta version that I think must have been fairly close to release has shallows with what later became jungle plants.

And finally we ended up with lily pads:


I like this water texture far more than the final one, at least for seas and oceans - it looks much more realistic!

This brighter water texture is best suited for rivers, as shown here. I really liked these houses, they remind me of WarCraft II for some reason lol.

Honestly, the best version among them all!

Did you take some of these screenshots yourself?

Yes, the first two and the last two.

Agreed, most of the others have patches that aren’t obviously walkable.

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Yes, these are pictures of the AoE 2 alpha in the AoE 1 engine in November 1998 shortly after Rise of Rome came out…in those pictures you can see the evolution that AoE 2 had since its alpha and beta (early from 1999) to the look we all know from Age of Kings…

Yes, it would be nice to have different types of textures for the farms depending on the region the civ belongs to: Europe (lettuce), Africa (wheat), America (potatoes) and Asia (rice)…

It would be a bit difficult for the optimization of the game, but it can be implemented…

Yes, it has a tavern-like feel…in AoE 3 DE the European civs have taverns to recruit mercenaries (in 3 legacy they had the bar/saloon, which is now exclusive to the United States and Mexico)…

Yes, the sanctuaries…since the Japanese do not hunt animals for religious reasons, just as the Indians do not eat cows, also for religious reasons…

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I loved this idea! Something for developers to think about, along with regional units.

Hmm, I think it makes more sense than before!

YES! Those, I had forgotten the name.

Yes, it also doesn’t change the game at all, since it’s only aesthetic…

Yes, the issue is that the tavern is something that has existed since classical Rome…on the other hand, the saloon was something more related to the American western of the 19th century…

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I think this video is relevant to the topic.


Nice video. Kind of funny that the devs originally gave St Vitus’ Cathedral to the Goths on (presumably) the grounds that it has Gothic architecture. Gothic architecture is nothing to do with the Goths!

Here’s a couple of related things the video didn’t mention:

The Age 2 Design Document (a leaked document written by Ensemble Studios in July 1998) lists the Franks’ Wonder as “Charlemagne’s palace chapel at Aachen” (i.e. Aachen Cathedral), and the Britons’ Wonder as Westminster Abbey. I believe the alpha version with the placeholders is from around the same time.

A screenshot from April 1999 (from a press kit, but I think a different one to the one in the video) shows St Vitus’ Cathedral as the Teutons’ Wonder:

This makes more sense than giving it to Franks, since Bohemians were originally represented by Teutons in the Barbarossa campaign.

I’m quite disappointed with the current Britons’ Wonder, to be honest – it doesn’t look much like an English cathedral to me, although at least it’s more accurate than Aachen Cathedral was.


Maybe that information didn’t reach to ES developers back in 1998? Luckily it reached before game release though.

Probably developers divided into 2 groups and arguing whether “Charlemagne” is Teutons or Franks. 11

You’re right. That ####### the question - Why Franks wonder didn’t change yet?

About the screenshot - Color texture of the University is different. Monk looks slightly different as well. And are those cavalries Paladin?

Yes. The University is the only building I’ve seen in that style/colour scheme. Also, the Keep next to it uses the western European style – presumably as a placeholder.

I think they’re just Knights. Here’s what the Knight line looked like in beta versions (from left to right, Knight, Cavalier, Paladin):

Oh yes. Didn’t notice.

Thanks for sharing. Now I’m starting to wish having these units in scenario editor. Especially the Paladin. It looks really cool.


Majority of the beta/alpha units are very historically accurate than the cool looking units we got.

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I like those skins more then what we ended up getting.
Lances are cooler and more historic then swords.