Wake up Microsoft!

Back in 1996 Microsoft acquired a web site called “The Zone Village“, which later was renamed to the MSN Gaming Zone. More than 20 years ago, back in 1999 I joined this wonderful community and even decided to become a (voluntary) System Operator who was providing technical support to the community. While many of the volunteers were focused on Card / Board games, the younger generation, including myself, were playing the CD-ROM games on our beloved Zone, e. g. Age of Empires II.

In 2002 something terrible happened from our (the community) point of view. Microsoft has released a game called “Age of Mythology”, which was the first game that was not integrated with Zone and was using something Microsoft called an “in-game match making system”. This multiplayer platform was rejected by most of the Zone community. In 2004, there were already rumors that Microsoft plans to retire the Zone client. In 2005 Microsoft released the game “Age of Empires III”, again it was released with this terrible in-game match making multiplayer platform. Even after a full three years, Microsoft decided to ignore all the countless complaints about their in-game match making system and repeated the same mistake again.

In early 2006, Microsoft announced the retiring of support for all lobby-based games and even ignored 8k players who were signing a petition to keep our Zone client alive. Our beloved Zone Village was shutdown on June 19, 2006. With this step, Microsoft closed the first social gaming network on the internet - long before social gaming networks became popular as they are today. Cruel irony.

Some of us former volunteers were working hard on developing a new client and building up a new Zone-like community. The first Card / Board game client project (World Gaming Center) was established in 2005 and shutdown in 2012. The problem was mostly related to ongoing costs for servers and human resources to keep up such a place, including active development.

Another existing project called Game Park tried to provide a new home for players of Age of Empires II, but unfortunately the Game Park client was extremely outdated and had a lot of security problems. Their willingness to fix those problems and provide the basic features of the original Zone client were equal zero, so this project also failed, and the lobbies were shut down after a few years.

There were two more projects, but I don’t remember the names. Since I was not part of those two projects, I am not sure if or why they failed with their client, but they disappeared at some point. Many players also started playing on other game clients such as GameRanger or Garena.

The launch of the IGZ project was the first sign of a new hope for players of the Age of Empires II Zone community. It was the first stable client with a stable player base and working Anti-Cheat engine. This project went through an owner change in 2008 and was later renamed to Voobly. None of us expected that the Voobly project would survive 10 years, and we went through many ups and downs. It was clear from beginning, that Voobly will and must become a Zone-like client.

In 2012 AoE 2 HD was released on Steam, and again, we were supposed to use their in-game match making system again. Really disappointing and literally a slap in the face for all former Zoners. Even worse was the fact, that Age 2 HD was unable to fix its own problems, and eventually the community was able to fix AOC with their own unofficial patch (special thanks to the UP team and the WK developers). There was also the release of “Age of Mythology Extended Edition” and “Age of Empires I DE” with the same problems. Frustrating.

Now seeing that you plan doing the same with “Age of Empires II DE” I really must ask: What the heck are you doing? This is going to divide the community once again. This will probably end up with most players continue playing the original AOC with an unofficial community patch, which will sooner or later contain all the features and changes of Age of Empires II DE.

Please Microsoft, please finally listen to the old Zone community. While there may be advantages to your in-game match making system, the players who are affected by it do not see them. Therefore, Microsoft has utterly failed in its attempt to make their multiplayer platform an enjoyable place for everyone. We ask you to bring back classic versions of games like AOK, AOC etc. If that is not possible, then consider changing the new versions to have the same type of features that the old versions did. Let us play the variations that we love; having a (Zone) lobby/community like we had; having a better way to call game rooms and choose who you play with and most important, gives us all the features so the community can interact with each another. We want our Zone Village / social gaming network back!

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Not if the game is not broken. If it’s broken, AOE2 will be gone. But I saw many good features already and they will patch this one eventually…

Not if the game is not broken. If it’s broken, AOE2 will be gone.

When Age 2 HD was released I was told this by dozen of people as well, both staff and players. Apparently most of them are now playing on Voobly and AOE2 is still alive. I think the same is gonna happen again, if the community has to fix those problems themselves.

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Because AOE 2 HD was 1 fail. If DE becomes the second fail, the damage to AOE 2 will be more severe than 2013…

Still, I like HD. It’s not great but it’s fine…

Hi @Saarbruecken911,

Thank you for sharing your experience and feedback! There are advantages and disadvantages to server based multiplayer as well as advantages and disadvantages to games as a service. I feel the best work done with server based multiplayer in the Age series has been done with Age of Empires III and Age of Empires Online. While those attempts may not have captured all of the features available on the Microsoft Gaming Zone, they are much better than what is currently available for other Age games. I’m optimistic that the new server based multiplayer for each of the definitive editions will improve over time to be something we can all enjoy.

Since the multiplayer game servers are run by Microsoft they can be taken offline temporarily or permanently at any time. The approach of the original releases allowed the games to grow over the years in spite of the multiplayer services being discontinued. The trend is moving towards game publishers having more and more control over their games and for better or worse I do not see that changing anytime soon. It is the current state of the industry as a whole.

I feel your pain with the approach taken with the development of these definitive editions although I understand why this path has been chosen. I would have loved to see the classic versions patched to support modern systems and a welcome mat rolled out for disc version players to redeem their keys for digital copies. Microsoft has always made special editions of these games and in order to fund the development of these partial and full remastered versions they released standalone editions rather than patches or updates.

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@ RadiatingBlade

While those attempts may not have captured all of the features available on the Microsoft Gaming Zone

I am sorry, but Microsoft has not captured ANY feature available on the Microsoft Gaming Zone or Voobly. What Microsoft did was adding all the game features from the community user patch, that’s correct. But you completely ignored the “community environment” that has kept your franchise alive for seven years on the Zone and ten years on Voobly.

I was a Zone Sysop for six years on the Zone and my team and I are keeping Voobly alive for the past ten years (I am not the owner by the way).

Microsoft is ignoring us and a huge part of the community since 2005. Microsoft was ignoring us when they released Age 2 HD on Steam in 2013 and basically with any other game they released on Steam. Same with AOM in 2002 and Age3 in 2005 by the way, when Zone was still up and running.

Still Microsoft is not willing to listen to those who kept alive their franchise since Zone has shut down. Even worse, Microsoft plans to release Age 2 DE in less than six weeks and they seriously believe, that they won’t fail this time – with a strategy and a concept that has not changed since the release of AOM in 2002.

Microsoft expects from their customers, that they buy the game for the third time. But what are the changes? You added all the features from the community patch, added new graphics and were doing some bug-fixing, but Microsoft kept anything else in its current state.

I can already see the shrugging question of a Microsoft manager - the same question that was actually raised by Zone Master in June 2006 when he asked me: “What does it matter?”.

It matters, because if you do not learn from your mistakes, you will be doomed to repeat them.

Please use our 17 years of experience how to run a Zone client. We already know, that our concept works.

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I still can’t get the hate for DE though. I mean, yeah HD was not great but it gave us lots of civs after 3 years. And we owe the up to 500 pop limit to HD.

We have to hope. At least the FE team seem to care for AOE franchise…

We have to hope. At least the FE team seem to care for AOE franchise…

We are trying to convince them for the past 15 years already. There is still hope on our side.

Yes, there is. And FE is ditching the HD already… I mean AOE 2 HD will lose support after the release of DE and the new game will support AoC mods and saves and not AOE2 HD ones…

And I know HD uses a different format but they can process that too if they want…

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@Saarbruecken911 What specific features do you feel are necessary to create a “community environment” in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition? I have seen some suggestions from the community already but since I am a volunteer, I can’t tell you when or if they will make it into the game.
If you are in the beta, I would encourage you to leave feedback about this on the beta forums if you haven’t done so already.

I feel the Age of Empires community team is better able to act on the kind of changes the community is requesting now than what they have been able to do in the past because of how much effort has been put into rebooting the franchise with the definitive editions and eventually Age of Empires IV. There is still hope that feedback from longstanding community members such as yourself will be taken into consideration. Those changes may not make it into the release version, but Forgotten Empires has said there are plans to continue development on the game post-release.

I had hoped Microsoft would offer a free upgrade to DE from HD. The requirement to purchase a new edition of Age of Empires II to receive the DE updates may have been the easiest approach but certainly not the most community friendly. I agree.

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And that, is why this game is not the HD version…

Well, aren’t you a lucky player? I’m checking my email everyday even outside of the beta waves and no, there is no invite… Hope we all get one…

The community team has made this promise to us provided our systems meet the minimum requirements. I hope they are able to meet that commitment. The clock is winding down on the beta provided the November 14th release date holds.

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I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I would not want a beta invitation after the game is released…

They should add more beta waves to meet that commitment.

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They wouldn’t do that. I assume there will be a preview week at least a week before release of the game on November 14th where all insiders with compatible systems are invited but that’s just speculation on my part.

I expect this to happen even though nothing has happened yet.

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I am a volunteer

Then please read below and then you will probably understand, why Microsoft’s volunteers from 20 years ago are frustrated. But as said above, we still have hope. They were promising this in 2006 already, right after Zone was shut down.

https://zone.msn.com/en/general/article/gen050806pmchat.htm

I exaggerated, but still I want a beta at least one month before the game release…

A week? Ah… I would ask for at least 2 weeks… 1 week is very short…:wink:

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There’s still some time. Best wishes!

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Thank you. Same for you and all the users on this forum who want an AOE 2 DE invite.

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I agree that global chat for multiplayer in the DE releases would be awesome and I hope that this feature and others from the Zone and Voobly are added.