Age of Empires 4, we interview the developers of the new Microsoft strategy

Age of Empires 4, we interview the developers of the new Microsoft strategy

Age of Empires 4

What you are about to read is an interview made a few days ago, before we put the final point to the review of Age of Empires IV, with Quinn Duffy and Adam Isgreen. The former is one of the most important figures of Relic Entertainment, game designers such as Homeworld, Company of Heroes (in the latter as director). The second is the Studio Creative Director in the World's End team, created by Microsoft in 2019 precisely to manage the future of Age of Empires. In the past he has worked on tons of prominent IPs such as the two Golds, ReCore, Phantom Dust, several Command & Conquerers and even Westwood Studios' Dune 2000.

Let's find out what they revealed to us in this Age of Empire 4 interview .

Who asked who ...

We are happy to have you both today. We are happy because in this way we can ask both of us in one fell swoop how this project was born: is it Relic that has knocked on Microsoft by proposing Age of Empires IV, or has Microsoft launched itself in search of a partner compatible with its vision?

Adam Isgreen: It all started with us - at Microsoft - asking ourselves if it was the right time to bring Age of Empires IV back to life, then we thought about which partners to pull into the project and Relic was leading the way. list. We went to them and "Age of Empires II is doing very well on Steam, we already have some ideas on what we would like to do, would you be interested in working on a sequel?".

Quinn Duffy: It was exciting and intimidating.

Well it can't be easy to work on such a sequel, such a proposition doesn't happen every day.

Quinn Duffy: Absolutely, we were honored to be working with Microsoft and on this series, but also a little nervous about the greatness and legacy of Age of Empires, a game that means a lot to us as players, and for fans around the world. Exciting yes, very exciting.

Resurrect or Revolutionize?

Adam Isgreen is a true veteran of the industry, has worked in the entertainment giant of the past such as SSI (that of the RPGs) and with Westwood Studios (the team that created modern RTS), then moved to EA to then land at Microsoft Game Studios For Age of Empires this is not the time to revolutionize the genre, rather to return to the limelight: who and how decided in which direction to move the project ? In short, who has chosen Age of Empires II as a starting point, instead of focusing on a more innovative sequel?

AI: Our first concern was to make the game recognizable. Maybe if there hadn't been this long time gap between the last game released ... no, I don't mean we would have done things differently, but this being the case it was necessary for a certain type of audience to find Age of Empires IV as familiar as modern. The idea was to allow fans to feel at ease, recognizing the past experience and having fun discovering the news. We also did it so as not to alienate a part of the public which is what you risk when you go too far.

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QD: From our perspective, when Microsoft proposed working on Age of Empires, AoE II is the chapter that immediately came to mind and that we then used as a reference point when working on this new game. The term of comparison for gameplay characteristics, number of civilizations and in the richness of the setting, with so many empires that arise and collapse and of which to retrace the history, history that leads up to the present day. This has been the line we have followed from the beginning: Can we unite past and present?

Driven Documentary

We loved the documentaries in the game, their quality is unexpectedly high. Can we expect more in the future? It would be nice to create the same thing for each civilization you dedicate a new campaign to. Is this a viable idea?

AI: Until now it has been. We can call it a kind of experiment, as no other game has done it until now. We made a rather radical choice and we want to find out what the public thinks about it. I'm glad you like them so much, other people told us the same thing, we were on our toes when we chose to do something so different from the usual, there is always the usual risk factor, but we are very satisfied with the final result, how marks the different campaigns. If and when we do expansions for the game, the will is to continue with something similar because it's so cool, so different.

QD: It's a choice that gives context, gives the audience different perspectives and draws you into events, while the gameplay tends to be more abstract. To create a game you take real life and you have to translate it into mechanics and systems. Through documentaries you have direct contact with what is happening, with the technology in use at the time.

Country Epic

Quinn Duff's career begins with Relic and after all these years is still happily in place, having signed masterpieces such as Company of Heroes, Space Marine and the inimitable Homeworld The new campaigns are extraordinary. Their breath is totally different from that of past campaigns, seen in the old Age of Empires, they are longer and historically accurate. Will you move in the same way with the following ones? Can we expect further news to the formula?

AI: This structure arises from the need to tell the story in a certain way: how can we transform an entire civilization into the main protagonist of each campaign? This is what we asked ourselves at the beginning. Following a single historical character also makes it difficult to build interesting missions, in Age of Empires IV we can move hundreds of years, follow a historical character for some missions and then conclude the narrative arc in a way and with totally different characters. We have not actually thought about the future yet, but we are in fact free to choose the most appropriate approach for each of the civilizations we are going to insert. It will be fun to experiment.

QD: The process of creating the Age of Emprie IV campaigns focused first of all on finding a central theme to follow from start to finish, then inevitably also telling the fight, the effort that every civilization has made to continue to exist. For example, without anticipating or spoiling anything, the Russian campaign is closely linked to Moscow, the city, to its cyclical growth and fall: it was destroyed, then rebuilt, destroyed again and built again. And each time it got bigger and stronger. The campaign starts from this small camp by the river, to control this military superpower; this is the story arc of the Russians in Age of Empires IV and Moscow is the protagonist of that campaign. Here, we are looking for similar expedients to make things always different, to offer players different approaches and unexpected protagonists, themes around which to design unique missions. This will undoubtedly be our approach in the future as well.

Game Pass

Age of Empires IV will be released immediately on Xbox Game Pass, has this affected the development of the game or its content future?

AI: No, not at all. Like Microsoft we believe in the Xbox Game Pass, its incredible offering, it's great for the family too, but Age of Empires will also be on the Microsoft Store and Steam. Our concern has focused on making crossplay as easy as possible between the different platforms, making sure that there is no difference between the versions. Everyone can play with everyone, use voice chat, join as friends, find themselves in matchmaking; mods also work on all versions. The goal was to create a unified gaming experience, and the Game Pass didn't affect that in the slightest.

Esports Factor

Age of Empires IV will debut in a way where electronic sports represent one of the foundational columns in the video game industry. How will you support the competitive scene?

QD: For the moment we want the game to take its course, to get through the settling phase. Once the balance is perfected, we will open up more and more to the competitive scene, for example starting to activate the seasons (the first will debut in the spring) and further refine the ranked matches. Whether or not to push Age of Empires IV as an eSport product will depend a lot on how it will be received by the public, if communities start to form about it; for our part, we offer a rather large team that will allow us to carry out continuous updates both in terms of content and refinement of the mechanics. The same team will take care of listening to the fanbase in order to understand the priorities of all that will be the future support for Age of Empires IV. We want to continue building on this platform for a long time, Adam did not say, but this is only the beginning of the AOE4 project.

It looks very similar to what Microsoft is doing with Asobo Studio and Flight Simulator

AI: Yes, that's right, Flight Simulator is continuing to grow and we see Age of Empires: as a platform in the same way. A platform that grows with the community in mind.

Console version

What can we tell console users, Age of Empires IV is coming to Xbox?

AI: We are thinking of you. As soon as we're done managing the launch of the game on PC, we'll start thinking about how to make it work on consoles. We don't have any definitive plans yet, but it's time we really start thinking about them.

What plans do you have for Age of Empires IV launch day, will you party, will you escape the city? I mean, how are you going to spend the next few hours?

AI: I will be in the War Room, we call it that, a room where we can extract all the static data about the game, probably eating donuts or stuff that helps me stay awake because it will be a busy day where I will read all the reviews and player feedback, positive and negative.

QD: I really think I'll do the same thing. Launch day is always very thrilling as well as exhausting: I will go from one meeting of several hours to the next looking at the statistics and the different telemetry, keeping an eye on any problems and crashes and so on throughout the weekend. When you finish a game you don't put your pen down and the one after you is just the next day of work.

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