This is a good interview and there’s a part relating to the graphic style and why they’ve choosed it. I think they have recognized the critics about it.
" Something I think is really special aesthetically about Age of Empires is that a lot of RTS games have sort of darker palettes that they use, whereas Age of Empires is much brighter and more inviting. I want to talk a little bit about why you think that unique look is so important to the series, and what it’s like nailing down the look of a new expansion or installment?
Adam Isgreen: You know, it’s funny, we were having a conversation with my whole creative team just the other day on this exact topic as we were discussing things for the future, in terms of the optimism that the Age of Empires has always projected. Because it’s true, there’s something, especially the older games, you listen to the music, the pacing of it, there’s a certain cadence to Age that’s not being like, “Hurry up, do this now!” A lot of games, you know, they’ve got pounding soundtracks, and you’re driven to do something and you’re supposed to rush, and especially as genres go longer, the games tend to get faster, right? Everyone wants the gameplay, like “Yeah, I understand this. Give me the new thing. Let me go faster.” And Age was like, “Oh, no, no, no, we have a pace.”
We want people to enjoy the game and be able to explore and have fun, but not feel so hurried. So, you know, when you talk about that, in terms of the style, I think the idea of a bright inviting world is something that’s been mentioned multiple times with Age of Empires. When we were approaching IV, we’re like, “We want to maintain this.” Like I was saying earlier, you know, cinema so portrays a lot of medieval history as drab and colorless, just browns and grays. When we were doing our research, this is why we did specifically a Hands on History about color and pigments. It didn’t look like that, we had color!
There was color everywhere, and there was vibrancy, and some of it was rare. Some of the colors were rare, right? That’s fascinating, that whole thing on purple, purple was this insanely coveted color because you could only get it from this certain snail in this certain area. And so it became like, “We own purple.” I love that, and so as we were looking for the style, one of the things we really wanted to do is have some kind of through line.
I’m a big fan of having consistency throughout the games, and that’s why we came up with that. When we’re talking about, you know, the Hands on Histories and the briefings and the documentary kind of approach. We’re like, well, how are we going to bridge history and real? How can we do this in a way that people will get the connections? That was one of the things where the art director Zach Schläppi at Relic had the idea of this golden ink concept and this idea of the illuminated manuscripts and the writing in gold that they used to do when they’re copying important documents and books and things. And that kind of became that through line that we took through the game.
We’re like, “Okay, we know, we want things bright, but we also want to have this kind of through line.” So you see in the briefings the golden soldiers overlaid over the real world, or in the game where the little people are building up the buildings, because you’re representing the idea of tens to hundreds of years, right? A castle doesn’t spring up in a minute. That was kind of our through line that kind of connects the game and the history and kind of grounds it in a way that you can connect past to the present Because that was the thing that was really important to us was, can we find something to bring people through if they play the whole experience? Where they can be like, “You know what, history is right behind me, it’s not something way in the distance that I have no connection to, it’s literally right here.”
And that was part of why we went with what we went with. I think the other challenge is always in a realtime strategy game, you’re talking about a camera that’s pretty high up right off of the battlefield, and there’s a lot of considerations to the scale of weapons, scale of people, scale of buildings to make everything readable without having to constantly play the zoom in zoom out game, which Ages never been about. We wanted to avoid anything like that. It was a lot of talking, looking at references from the earlier games, talking to people that worked on the earlier games, talking with the community, because there was such an amount of time between Ages III and Ages IV.
There were a lot of expectations of what the game could look like, but the other thing was that we had to recognize that because Ages is a global franchise, people were playing this game all over the world. So we had to make the game run on as much as we could, because we didn’t want to leave anybody behind - there’s still people that are playing on pretty low spec machines, and it was important to us to find some kind of style that could fit that. I think that we did okay, I would say, as we launched the game, and we are still refining. There are some really awesome changes coming up in the pipeline for some of the visuals that I’m very excited about that I can’t talk about just yet, but know that we are definitely always trying to improve our visuals and we’ll continue to do so throughout the life of the product.
So, we could finally see a graphic DLC with detailed textures, new fauna, etc?