Age of Empires Online Is Taylor-Made

By Alec Meer on February 28th, 2011 at 9:40 pm.

Elephant hats will be 59p each

Here’s something that slipped through the cracks last week. Which cracks? The ones in space and time which mean that even though RPS diligently covers every single piece of PC gaming news long before any other site, sometimes it appears as though we haven’t. But we have. I actually wrote this post a week last Wednesday, for instance.

Anyway – Age of Empires Online. That’s the project ex-Ensemble Guys Robot Entertainment were working on before turning their attentions to Orcs Must Die. Turns out, however, that they weren’t the only studio working on it. You know how SupCom/Dungeon Siege studio Gas Powered Guys put Kings and Castles on hold? This, I’m guessing, is why.

GPG have essentially taken over ongoing development of Microsoft’s free to play reboot of its historical RTS. Bit of a funny business -a dev that’s specialised in impressively in-depth strategy titles for dyed-in-the-wool strategy-heads, now moving to something aimed at a new breed of online gamer. AOEO is free to play, with optional additional content such as new civs. GPG boss Chris Taylor is adamant in the below interview with VentureBeat that it’s possible to play tons of stuff without cracking open your digiwallet, but that’s an oft-made claim about F2P. Yeah, you can, but the sense of missing out and not being able to keep up with the Joneses often means it doesn’t work out that way. Here’s Taylor chatting away, including tackling the thorny issue of “accessible” – that doesn’t mean it’s not aimed at the AOE hardcore too, apparently.

In terms of that cuteified art style, here’s the latest trailer:

Obvsiously the cartooniness is going to put a little rage in people’s brains, but at the same time it’s really rather good-looking. That gloss? That is hi-gloss.

Tough one to call at the moment. On the one hand, it’s Microsoft looking to PC game, and putting a respected dev onto it rather than farming it out to some startup obsessed with new business models. On the other hand, it always seems a little funny to use a name with so much meaning to so many people then apply it to something that looks/feels so different. We’ll see – however it turns out, hopefully it doesn’t mean we’ve seen the end of original GPG projects.

More details on the GPG takeover on the official AOEO blog, plus details on how to sign up for the forthcoming beta.

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43 Comments »

  1. c-Row says:

    Age Of Travian?

  2. Miker says:

    I was thinking that Microsoft was going to overhaul their GFWL client with the launch of AoE online or maybe Fable III.

    Looking at the godawful Send Message interface of the old GFWL makes me think I’m an idiot.

  3. Gap Gen says:

    That actually looks rather nice. I really like the painted look, and Chris Taylor is a great game designer. But if he gets within three feet of a script or storyboard, can someone beat him to death with a keyboard? Thanks.

  4. Text_Fish says:

    Gaaaarrrgghhh I hate those graphics. Actually, I think the technical term is probably “Graphix” in this case.

  5. vodka and cookies says:

    I like the art style, hasn’t the semi-realistic look been done to death at this stage for historical games so it’s nice to see change.

  6. Jambe says:

    It’s pretty. I don’t know why any sensible person would hate the look.

    • Jake says:

      I can’t really claim to be sensible but I don’t like the graphics. Specifically I don’t like the incredibly tacky, facebook/iphone app shiny vector elements like the LEVEL 3 shield and the game logo. I realise they are trying to form a link in people’s brains between this game and things like Angry Birds or Farmville to make it look like this is equally accessible, and I probably wouldn’t care if it was some new game franchise, but it’s a bit tragic for poor venerable Age of Empires to get this shitty web2.0 look.

      The actual game graphics are quite nice but compared to say, Settlers 7′s cartoon graphic style they look quite cheap. And again, they would be fine if this was some other series, but if we get this instead of a super-detailed real version of AOE it is a disappointment – I thought AOE always had great graphics and partially they were great because they felt like they were historically accurate (even if they might not have been really).

  7. Scroll says:

    I want Kings and Castles. Screw this, it’s most definitely not an even a fair trade.

    But this could still be a kinda interesting thing in the mean time.

  8. pakoito says:

    Bla bla bla finish demigod rant.

  9. Al3xand3r says:

    Is the team from ANNO Dawn of Discovery/Create a New World for the Wii involved? That game also looked really really sweet, especially considering the system it’s on.

  10. Kits says:

    A week last wednesday being…this wednesday coming?

  11. rocketman71 says:

    Just when you thought this couldn’t go any worse, they go and put Chris Taylor in charge.

    If this is what Microsoft is going to do in their great return to PC, they can go fuck themselves.

  12. Adriaan says:

    I rage about this, mental raaage!
    I’d wish Taylor would continue making games along the trend of the awesome SupCom: massive and in depth, and that Age of Empires would continue to be what it was.

  13. man-eater chimp says:

    Craft! Trade! Customize!

    TF2 hats?

  14. Andy_Panthro says:

    Well, it’s not really made for folks like me, but it looks like it isn’t half bad.

    Anyway, for folks that want a bit more “realism”, there’s always indie games! Like the (currently in alpha testing) 0 A.D.

    http://wildfiregames.com/0ad/

    • omicron1 says:

      Aye, that’s the thing I think of when I think of a modern Age of Empires – AoE3′s graphics, AoE2′s gameplay, AoE1′s setting.

      Now there’s an idea!

  15. Interstella84 says:

    *losing battle… with… nerd-rage*
    I can’t help it. It looks too cutesy to be an “Age” game. As Sarlix said above, it looks like “Age of Asterix”.

    Although if there was a proper Age of Asterix game, I would be all over it – commanding hordes of Gaulish warriors as they pummel Romans would be brilliant. You could use Obelix as a siege weapon.

    Oh, my mind has gone off into all sorts of weird places…

  16. HeavyStorm says:

    Like, you can do whatever you want without paying except win a battle against anyone that does pay. That’s what sucks at these micro-transactions thing. There’s no competition, since spending more usually means getting better weapons/items/time, which is the same as saying $$$ = winning.

  17. Eightball says:

    The graphics make me think of Deathspank, which is cool. The GFWL is gross though.

  18. YanDaik says:

    i cant believe this… WTF they did to AOE??? by the way, Age of Mythology was best in the series.

    • Kdansky says:

      Go to the shame-corner for liking Age of Mythology right now!

      And I have to say the graphics are pretty, but I just don’t like them. Possibly because they look like an iPhone app.

  19. Rii says:

    Well there goes any chance of the game having a soul. Of course the F2P structure and generically cutesy artwork were strongly pointing in that direction already…

  20. 12kill4 says:

    All will be forgiven if he adds supreme commander style zooming.

    • Navagon says:

      Given the scale they seem to be talking about, that would be a major, major advantage. But I don’t see it happening in a browser game, personally. If it does socks will be blown off.

  21. Navagon says:

    AOEO? Reminds me of that old song that barely had any distinguishable lyrics.

  22. Hoaxfish says:

    as with all MMORTSes… what happens if someone attacks my civilisation while I’m offline?

  23. bill says:

    Wonder if there was something dodgy going on with the sudden change of developers?

    This actually looks good, but the problem with persistent RTS is always how to stop people invading when you’re asleep!

    PS/ Age of Asterix -gogogo!

  24. irongamer says:

    Ok, I’ll bite. *chomp*

    I see things like this in the FAQ of games these days:

    “What do you get when you upgrade to a Premium Civilization?”

    Upgrade and take your civilizations to the next level by purchasing a Premium Civilization Pack, which adds a tremendous amount of gameplay and offers entirely new experiences. Premium civilization packs add the following to your gameplay experience:

    *makes your units more powerful
    *unlock unique units, such as armored elephants and civilization powers.
    *generate resources from your Market, have your troops bandage themselves, or make your people immune to conversion in battle.
    *set parameters for the gameplay you want and invite your friends to play,
    *drastically improve your capital’s production with more workshops to create all the materials you need for crafting.
    *learn unit enhancements from additional Craft Halls and use them to your advantage in the game.
    *get the ability to spend Empire Points on the best loot in the game. Empire Points reward you for

    And the first thing that pops into my mind is this penny arcade comic: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2005/4/25/

    “Each swipe of the [credit] card a slash of the sword!”

  25. TaroYamada says:

    I prefer these friendly looking art styles, don’t get the opposition to variety in art direction some have though. I loved when Jet Grind Radio introduced cel shading on Dreamcast, and it really added a individual flair to future titles that followed in it’s footsteps. I also really like the way Battlefield Heroes looks and play that semi-regularly.

    Interested to check this title out eventually, if the gameplay is fun they have me.

    • pipman3000 says:

      no everything must be either brown, gray and covered with bloom or muted and overcast with lots of motion blur and depth of field.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I call it “blue sky” gaming, a phrase I picked up from UK Resistance. Though it probably needs to drop some of the violence to really qualify.

  26. Out Reach says:

    no one wants age of facebook.

  27. Huw_Dawson says:

    Age of Fifteen Alternate Accounts Online?
    Age of Wait Until You’re Sleeping Online?
    Age of I Earn More Than You In Real Life So I Get An Easier Game Online?

    This is going to be a shiny polish of the same genre of timers and persistency that we’ve seen advertised on the internet for fifteen years.

  28. squareking says:

    Let’s Play Tonight!

  29. rivalin says:

    Sounds like utter tat, no doubt despite the opportunity of being online persistent multiplayer, it will be impossible to simply destroy someone’s empire, and there will be some ridiculous “empire duel” mode, where you are put in an instance and destroy the other guy, but he isn’t actually destroyed of course(cos then he might have a tantrum and stop paying microsoft lots of money), you just win 500 Empire Points ™, to be redeemed at the AOE online Empire Store ™, or some other pathetically weak mollycoddled crap.

    So, can’t wait!

  30. Gailim says:

    I have been playing the beta of the game for a few weeks now, its great and the gameplay is very reminiscent of AoE2

    there are no timers (except for the resources), you cannot attack other players cities but you can play in PvP areans. so nobody can ambush you when your not playing. this is not evony

    there are gear upgrades you can craft and give to units (and they are acutally reflected in the in-game model)

    overall I am very happy with this game