MS Gaming Zone - Historical Dev Q&A Interview (circa 2000)

I stumbled upon this tonight while looking through the internet wayback machine for MS Zone. Thought I’d share, for historical reasons! :slight_smile: Is an old AoE dev/artist/webmaster Q&A on the old MS Gaming Zone website circa the year 2000…


****Ensemble Studios' Civilization Picks and Strategies!****

Which civilization should you select? Which is the strongest? Who has the best ships? To get answers to some of these questions, we went straight to the source: the folks who created Age of Empires: The Age of Kings, Ensemble Studios! We interviewed the creators, game designers, programmers and artists at Ensemble Studios and asked them to share with YOU their civilization picks and strategies!

**Zone: What civilization do you like to play and why?**

David Lewis , Programmer :
I have no favorite civilization. If I do choose a civilization, it is strictly based on my whim of the moment. Actually my favorite choice is “random.” This is the most hearty and challenging choice.

Matt Pritchard , Programmer :
For single player games, I prefer a defensive civilization like the Turks or Teutons. Bombard cannons help protect your home base against those siege weapons! For multiplayer, I prefer more offensive civs like the Persians or the British.

Mark Terrano , Game Designer of Age of Kings : I love playing the Teutons. I favor the slower units anyway, since I like to lay out a battle a little beforehand, or possibly ambush an attacking force. Those Teutonic knights seem practically unstoppable. I also like full-upgrade monks; what my knights don’t hack down, I have the monks convert.

Rob Fermier , Programmer : Japanese. I tend to be an infantry-oriented player, focusing on map control and strategic locations. The Japanese fast infantry attack and cheap resource gathering sites are great.

Sandy Petersen , Game Designer : I do not have a favorite civilization, really. As a game designer, I strive to get all the civs to be equally desirable, and so it would be counterproductive to have favorites. However, when left completely to my own devices, I note a slight tendency to be Goth or Frank, plus another (slightly stronger) tendency to play the Middle Eastern civs because I like their architecture set.

Michael D . McCart , Webmaster : The Vikings; I really enjoy the free wheelbarrow and hand cart technologies, which helps advance through the Ages a little faster. Vikings are also the only civilization with two unique units: the longboat and the berserk. With the Viking civilization attributes of infantry getting plus 10% hit points in Feudal Age, 15% in Castle Age and 20% in the Imperial Age, this makes for some pretty strong barracks units as you go through the Ages. The Team bonus of docks costing 33% less and war ships costing minus 20% gives the Vikings a nice strong sea warfare force on the water maps.

Duncan Reverend McKissick , 3D Artist : Celts. Their infantry are strong and fast in the Imperial Age. That and I’m Scottish. :>

**Zone: What types of strategies do you use when you play your chosen civilization?**

David Lewis , Programmer : I base any strategy I have on the type of map, the civilization that random gave me, my position on the map, and team setup if applicable.

Matt Pritchard , Programmer : For single player games I usually hole up until the Imperial Age. For multiplayer, I try to strike early.

Mark Terrano , Game Designer of Age of Kings : Build a strong defense with the excellent towers first, then start to range out in the Castle Age with those knights, backed up with some skirmishers and priests to recharge everyone between battles.

Rob Fermier , Programmer : Rapidly expand with a lot of remote gathering sites and castles to defend clusters. You can establish them early on and have them do double-duty as a kind of economic outpost. Also, if your town gets sacked, you can almost always rebuild because you have villagers stashed away everywhere. I use that to fuel rapid growth, until I can get to Imperial and start razing enemy cities with trebuchets guarded by ranks and ranks of samurai.

Sandy Petersen , Game Designer : For Goths, I keep producing infantry until I’m wiped out. Franks: build up until I have good knights backed up by onagers and then get wiped out by another, better, player. Mid-East Civs: get to Castle Age at least so I can see the cool-looking towers.

Michael D . McCart , Webmaster : On any type of map, I like to build 3 to 4 militiamen in the Dark Age as an early defense against players who like to rush. In the Feudal Age, I upgrade the militia to man-at-arms for the same reason, and if needed, I then research the infantry upgrades at the blacksmith if it looks like a battle will take place in this Age. Because the hand cart and wheelbarrow upgrades are free, this releases resources that can be used to strengthen your infantry or for helping to move you into the next Age. In the Castle Age I further improve the barracks infantry units and the knight stable unit for added home defense. In the Imperial Age, a full upgrade path to champions (with all blacksmith/castle techs) and the knights are upgraded to the cavalier unit. With a sizeable force of 30 some champions and ten or so cavaliers, it’s time to go raiding other civilizations. On water maps, build a dozen or so longboats for coastal protection or go on the offensive and take over the ocean with a seagoing fleet of longboats, and let your team mates worry about the land battles.

Duncan Reverend McKissick , 3D Artist : Use the market to get to the Castle Age and get your castle up quick. Pump out 7 woad raiders and send them to attack your nearest enemy’s town center; unless they are Teuton and have no towers around, chances are you will take out their town center and slow them down quite a bit. Meanwhile, I’m concentrating on hitting Imperial.

**Zone: Do you have a preferred civilization with certain game/map settings? And why?**

David Lewis , Programmer : Since I prefer random map and random civilization settings, I have no favorite civilization/map settings combination.

Matt Pritchard , Programmer : For single player, Baltic maps are very interesting because of the choke points on land. For multiplayer, no real preference; they’re all fun.

Mark Terrano , Game Designer of Age of Kings : On water maps, I love the elite longboat of the Viking civilization. If I can’t control the seas somehow, the Vikings are still an excellent land civilization and I feel the free (hand cart & wheelbarrow) gathering upgrades give me a resource boost right when I need it.

Rob Fermier , Programmer : On island maps, I like Vikings. Longboats are great, and the free gathering bonuses really help fund your war fleet.

Sandy Petersen , Game Designer : No, I don’t have one.

Michael D . McCart , Webmaster : Vikings; Hard against the CP (computer player), 2 to 3 CP players, Black Forest, Medium, or Highland map. With a Black Forest, Medium or Highland map, normally you can “wall off” a good part of the map for yourself and defend your home with strong walls and a few towers until you are ready to go on the offensive. With a strong CP AI, two to three CP make for a very challenging game with some very unique attacks with the combined arms of the CPs.

Duncan Reverend McKissick , 3D Artist : In Black Forest games, it helps to have siege onagers to cut through the trees.

The Zone thanks the folks at Ensemble Studios for participating in our interview !

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PS: It’s neat to poke around there for AoE2 stuff at different dates…

For example, found these old AoE2 rankings :smiley:


Sounds like u found Fatslob 11


Very interesting, thanks for sharing!
This interview shows, that the Militia line used to be a pop efficient and viable unit 11.


This is AoK, so there was no thumb ring and no bloodlines. Also, everyone was technically a noob to the game, so pretty much anything could work (like come on, imp viking cavaliers and 7 woad raider rush eating TC?) Now it is true that mass infantry was super popular back then, but there are tons of factors (like poor connection quality) that explained it that don’t have much to do with game balance.

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I assume they were talking about AI players, so probably anything could be made to work :stuck_out_tongue:

Still, this goes to show how far the meta has evolved and also that you don’t need to be a pro player to design a good and balanced game (though it still helps to have opinions from the pros)

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In other words… “it depends”.



(more words for 20 chars)

For all those people saying “the militia line was intended to be weak, that’s their design, that’s why they don’t have a trash counter” this is pretty much the nail in the coffin of their argument though, isn’t it?

Let’s just not go off-topic dude.

So Viper was completely right after all 111

AoC is a better reference. AoK is also the game where cav archers were purposely bad and unusable 100% of the time and where gunpowder was locked behind even more techs.

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If militia line were supposed to be as strong as they were in aok why did they make numerous changes to their strength in aoc alone?

Aok was horrible for balance

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