When Age of Empires 4 (buy now) appears, we do not currently know – in which time period of the strategist crash is already playing. We met with developers at the XO19 in London to get more information from them. What we learned about Age of Empires 4 game modes, campaigns, and gameplay is covered in our interview.
PC Games: We've seen the teaser now. What age is this? It looks medieval. Around 12th century?
Shannon Loftis: We're not specifically talking about years here, but it's in the Middle Ages. On the one hand Age of Empires 2 and a bit of Age of Empires 2.
Adam Isgreen: It starts a little before the beginning of civilization in Age of Empires 2 and goes back to the dawn of the Renaissance. This is the period in AOE 4.
PC Games: What technologies await us? Usual what we know from the Middle Ages?
Adam Isgreen: One thing we did in Age 4 was that the gameplay was driven by history. The two civilizations you saw today were the English and the Mongols. Unlike previous Age of Empires games, our civilizations are now farther apart in terms of gameplay. The English are likely to be very familiar to the players of Age of Empires 2. If you've played the British in Age of Empires 2, you'll have a very similar feeling. And that's intentional. The Mongols, however, play like no other civilization before. We have this wonderful spectrum of all these civilizations, ranging from "very understandable for people who already have experience with Age of Empires" to "things that have never been in Age before." It was really fun, because it opened a completely new category. the things and varieties that we can discover and play, where we were pretty fixed on previous AOEs. But much of it is supported by history. For example, the way some of the Mongolian units work is all driven by our historical research. For example, this can be done by finding a Mongolian horse archer, shooting them, or using motion capturing to find out from horses and riders how they fought in battles. In this way we could also implement this as gameplay.
PC Games: So you have some historians doing the research for you gameplay designers?
Adam Isgreen: The entire team of historians / relics experts, designers, producers and artists has traveled around the world researching civilizations to make sure we get these things first-hand. We want to be faithful to civilizations. Instead of a local expert, we preferred to visit a Mongolian historian in Mongolia to talk about what the Mongols did and what their tactics were. We went so far as to make sure that everything we did was historically accurate. That was a lot of fun.
PC Games: You talked about the British and the Mongols. What other tribes can we expect?
Adam Isgreen: I do not want to say anything about that yet. Well, there are other civilizations in the game, definitely more than two. I can confirm that. We have a fascinating group of civilizations. I would say they are probably a bit more diverse than the ones we had in Age of Empires 2. But it is an interesting mix.
PC Games: What Game Modes Can We Expect in Age of Empires 4?
Adam Isgreen: The great thing is, we treat all Age of Empires games as one big community. We're releasing Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition. In it you will also be able to discover all sorts of fun modes. But classic game modes will always be in Age of Empires 4. In Age of Empires 4, you can look forward to all the modes you know and love from the earlier parts. That does not mean that we do not try new things. But we're also experimenting with new game modes in Age of Empires 2, so there might be new game modes in Age of Empires 2 as well. And if people love that and the response is there, then we'll probably bring that into Age of Empires 4 as well. We want it to be possible to bring together the different peculiarities of the different parts.
PC Games: In Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition, there was a test community to develop the remake. Are there any plans to involve the community in the development process of Age of Empires 4?
Adam Isgreen: Yes. So for a year now, there have been community players playing Age of Empires 4 behind the scenes. We will continue this and enlarge the program, because we definitely want to be in contact with the community, in all games. We did that with the third part. All parts without exception have grown and improved with the help of the community and the fourth part will not be an exception.
PC Games: The announcement of Age of Empires 4 was two years ago. Since then we have not heard anything about the game. How so? You obviously worked on the game but did not give any hints, directions or any information.
Shannon Loftis: We are very careful about what we say and when we say something, because we want to make sure that the game shown speaks for itself. We only show things when we are happy with how it plays and feels. On the other hand, we have taken on the time of the Relic Engine. Relic has this incredible RTS engine. But we wanted to modernize it. We wanted to make sure she worked just as well on laptops as on tower PCs. And that was a lot of work. We spent some time re-modeling the basics and devoted some time to the game features. Now we are ready to talk about these features and show them. We all agreed that we let the game speak for itself. We never promised the AOE community anything we could not deliver.
Adam Isgreen: Everything you see in this teaser is actually in the game. Everything in it works as a finished object. They all have a role, all one work. The wonderful thing is, we played it pretty much from day one, so we had something playable. You have noticed in the trailer, the people on the walls. That's a big part of the game, wall battles and sieges. We have expanded the gameplay. That works. You will not see anything here and after we bring it out you'll suddenly ask, "Hey, where is this one thing !?". That's all in the game, as we promise. And that will stay that way if we show more and more of it.
PC Games: Relic Entertainment's RTS games follow a different design philosophy than the Age of Empires fans expect. Are you sticking to the Age of Empires formula, or do you allow greater freedom in game design?
Adam Isgreen: It's a mix. This is an Age of Empires game. To be honest, Relic took this so seriously that we sometimes had to say, "Come on, get laid back, you do not have to do that, let's take that a little further." Relic is such a great partner and it's so nice to work with them on Age of Empires 4. You take it so seriously! We have found a wonderful balance to maintain what was great about its predecessors. This is a modern RTS game, civilizations are, as I said, farther apart. It is intended to take a more modern approach to our design and not stick to old decisions.
PC Games: Are you working closely with the Forgotten Empires team responsible for rewriting the old games? If so, do you share all the impressions of the games to include them in the development of the fourth part?
Adam Isgreen: Absolutely. It's great that all our developers work together. Forgotten Empires is working on content that can also be found in Age of Empires 3. Relic works on technologies that are present in all Age of Empires games. But Forgotten Empires was also involved in our focus tests. They gave us feedback for the game, they help us build what is so great about Age of Empires. They are part of our family. And we want to treat all our developers as one family as we grow Age of Empires.
Shannon Loftis: That's part of our company philosophy. There were some confusions about the company during gamescom. We have a team of game developers in Redwood. Adam is the creative boss for the team and actually the whole franchise. We find that no amount of people we hire in Redwood could replace the experience and knowledge of players around the world. That's why we are very consciously looking for our partners around the world. We just wanted some teams that could help us bring forth the next generation of RTS games. Then there are a number of super passionate teams, such as Forgotten Empires and others. There are many more that we do not talk about now, which are also on different continents. The idea is to make sure that the development process is as global as our player base.
PC Games: Presumably there will be a campaign again. Will there be stories again that are about meaningful people?
Adam Isgreen: Unfortunately I can not really talk about the campaigns in the game. I can say that we will have a completely different approach, unlike an Age of Empires game or RTS games altogether. There will be stories to tell and hopefully they will be fun for the majority of players. Yes, there is a lot of storytelling, there are campaigns, everything is going to happen in a very new way. Keyword: "Humanized History". History accessible to everyone. History is only as interesting as the person she has given you. We want to be the most passionate fans of history, so players can become part of it and really learn a lot from it. On the background and technologies of the war, but also on everyday conditions of the time. I can not tell you more.
PC Games: Why should the players of Age of Empires switch to Age of Empires 4? What is the biggest difference? Apart from the better graphics and performance of course.
Adam Isgreen: Every Age of Empires is unique. And so it is in the fourth part. Age of Empires 4 does not play like Part 1, 2 or 3, it plays like an independent game of its own. It has a special feeling, its own focus, its own nuances. So if you liked Age of Empires 1,2 and 3, you will find a lot of elements in Age 4. And yet it will be a completely new experience.
Shannon Loftis: We think people will be playing Age of Empires 1 and Age 4 alike. We as a company regard them as coexisting parts.
PC Games: What are your plans for the near future?
Shannon Loftis: People often talk about beta or alpha. We have gone away from it and move in much smaller scale processes. So we're starting to let the game play by very small, specific groups and get feedback. So if new features appear in this process, we will also report on them.
PC Games: So probably a few more months?
Adam Isgreen: Yes. We also have Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition, which we have not shown yet, but it will come soon. So we also have other things that will come out in terms of the Age of Empires franchise. You can therefore assume that we will talk about it soon.
thank you for the conversation
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