Age of Empires Online

I'm in the beta as well. I need to download and install it soon.

Also got into the beta. Gamer Tag is Vermuden.

As I liked Age of Empires and want AoE Online to do well, I'd like to talk about a little something that caught my eye and caused concern:

Microsoft is planning to withhold full faction features and bonus units unless you pay.

This sounds like a catastrophe in the making, especially for something that's based on player vs. player play. Free to play banks on being an enjoyable experience while free. If the game doesn't sell you on itself when it's free, it won't generate enough goodwill from you to get you to reach for your wallet. Uneven player matches are bad. Not having a full faction roster is bad, especially when the game constantly reminds you of it with grayed-out unit icons. Not having a fully featured game is bad.

I would have been lots more comfortable with it if they'd decided to monetize it through paid tutorials, maps, entry into tournament leagues, and skins.

The devil's in the detals. If they've got 8 factions, and they're all balanced, then is it suddenly unbalanced if only 4 are available for free? I'm probably going to regret the comparison, but SC2 wouldn't be unbalanced if only Terran and Protoss were available and Zerg was absent, or you don't (often) hear people whine about race balance in WoW "We lost the battleground because they stacked trolls". If it's like this, I think it's a case of angry internet people worrying about minute details, and they're always going to be around and unsatisfiable.

Withholding units is a different matter, and again it depends on the details. If there are actually functions missing from your army such as a long range unit, or so on, then I can see fair balance being affected between a free player and a paying player. If the unit is a convenience or novelty, such as someone who gives your army a silly hats, then less of a concern.

I can't see withholding units as anything other than a bad move. If it's essential, then it ruins everything. If it's nonessential, then the sales will be low. Selling unit skins would be more marketable, IMO. I mean, I'd like online access to the Collector's Edition Thor, you know. I'd pay for that. Alternate Zealot unit skins with tribal variations? Oh yeah - that's cool. Maps are good to sell, too. Blizzard hasn't exactly gotten a winner yet, but I can see more advanced Space Battles maps going on to make Blizzard a pretty penny if each significant upgrade cost a buck to DL.

Lifted from Joystiq:

Free vs. Paid Content Cheat Sheet (provided by Microsoft)

Key Features, Free to Play
Familiar Age of Empires gameplay, downloadable from any PC for free*!

- The greatest ancient civilizations, including Greeks and Egyptians
- Constantly new, exciting and evolving content
- Quest, battle, chat and trade with other players - all free!
- Build and show off your own custom Capital City
- Enjoy historical settings with gorgeous visuals and a cool new art style

And that's just where the experience starts! When you're ready, you can unlock even more fun ways to play with premium content!

Additional Premium Content for Purchase
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:

- Rare and Epic Gear: Unlock Rare and Epic Gear! Not only will your units be more powerful with their upgraded gear, but many will have a unique design to make them stand out in battle.
Advisors - In the Advisor Hall you can unlock Unique Units like Armored Elephants and Civilization Powers.
- Tech Tree: Experience the full tech tree with fantastic end game "Star Techs." For example, generate resources from your market, have your troops bandage themselves, or make your people immune to conversion in battle.
Initiate Player vs. Player games - Set the gameplay parameters and invite your friends to play,
- Additional Inventory Slots: More than double your inventory space.
- More Workshops: Drastically improve your capital's production with more workshops to create all of the materials you need for crafting.
- Crafting Halls: Learn unit enhancements from additional Crafting Halls and use them to your advantage in the game. There are seven to choose from, including the Military College (enhances infantry), Hunting Lodge (enhances archers/missile units), and Cavalry Hall (enhances mounted units).
- Empire Points: Gives you the ability to spend Empire Points on the best loot in the game. Empire Points reward you for having multiple civilizations.
- In-Game Stores: The ability to earn in-game currency from the stores in your capital city.

And that is just the civilization! We will create a variety of ongoing new content that will continually offer you a fresh and custom experience.

*Broadband Internet required (sold separately).


From a quick scan it seems like there is advantages to paid, however it seems they do distinguish PvP as something separate.
edit: the main site mentions both co-op and PvP. I get the feeling this will be clarified in due time. I bet the paid items are for non-PvP use.

It's worse than I imagined. It seems that the "free-to-play" part is little more than a demo. I think it'd benefit them more to just call it that: a demo.

Frankly, it sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

Gas Powered Games has become the "lead developer" on Age of Empires Online. Robot Entertainment is no longer involved with the game. I'm sure that changing studios while the game is in beta will have nothing but positive results.

There goes my interest. GPG is a terrible developer.

I was in the beta, it was turning out quite well too.

Arise!
Anyone still hanging out in the Beta? I just got in, and like it infinitely better than Stronghold Kingdoms.

Anyone who wants in the beta should head over to Games for Windows. You can get a beta key and start playing right away.

www.gamesforwindows.com/ageofempires...

jdzappa wrote:
Anyone who wants in the beta should head over to Games for Windows. You can get a beta key and start playing right away.

www.gamesforwindows.com/ageofempires...


Oh, and just a heads up that they stop taking new beta players at the end of Saturday.

hmmm... AoE was my first online MP game.

I signed up and downloaded. I am a fan of GPG. Lets see where this goes.

jdzappa wrote:
Anyone who wants in the beta should head over to Games for Windows. You can get a beta key and start playing right away.

www.gamesforwindows.com/ageofempires...

Do they actually give you a Key? I'm at work so I signed up and it said I purchased the beta but it didn't present me a key. I won't be able to try downloading it until this evening.

EvilDead wrote:
Do they actually give you a Key?

Not exactly. It comes with a LIVE activation code, which you can view from your GFWL account.

Itsatrap wrote:
EvilDead wrote:
Do they actually give you a Key?

Not exactly. It comes with a LIVE activation code, which you can view from your GFWL account.

Ok, thanks. Between this and the Men of War sale my RTS cravings should be satisfied for a little while.

Anyone have a key that they don't think they'll use? PM me and I'll send all sorts of good vibes your way.:hump:

So who's playing this? As a certified Age fanatic, I snapped up the Beta key and have been playing for the last few days. Lvl 5 city impressions below.

I am actually a fan of the somewhat cartooney graphics and the Bluto-ish spearmen. It's all very well done, and should appeal to players of both sexes, which I'm sure is the point. The RPG-ish quests introduce units and concepts just as a normal RTS campaign would. When you level up, you can invest points in different tech trees. So far, so comfortably normal.

But there's also a blandness to it all that does not keep me in the game for very long. Maybe it's because I haven't done PvP yet, maybe it's because the quests are so easy...I'm not sure what it is. I'm the sort of Age player who would certainly pay for the chance to play the Assyrians or the Sumerians...but at this point it just seems that I'd be paying for just a different skin, with small, select differences in the talent trees. Did AoE offer anything more? Not really, but then why was that so compelling and this isn't? I'll certainly still play and see how the quests and the crafting and the PvP (if it's enabled) mesh together, but it's not exactly something i'm champing at the bit to play.

Oh, Age of mythology, where art thou?

Since I participated in the alpha earlier this year, I got email inviting me to play the release version 2 weeks early. At first glance it looks somewhat improved from the alpha version. It's still got the cartoony style, so if that puts you off, you lose. Looking forward to sinking my teeth into this a bit this weekend.

AOEO's release date is August 16.

Any word on if the other nations need to be purchased to play them?

I don't know for sure, but from looking around on the forums it looks like some civs will have a free portion and a premium portion, while other civs will only be offered in a "pro" version, which gives you all the premium extras (special techs and "epic" gear) and also starts you off at level 20. That's aimed at PVP players, but it won't be available until the holidays.

The pre-release email also mentioned that there will be bundles available at launch (discount for multiple civs, or pro versions, maybe). The support person on the forums says there will be more info on the launch bundles shortly. Seems to me kind of late to be finalizing things like that, but there you have it.

I just looked over the prices on the website, and I must say, I'm concerned about the viability of this model.

To get all of the Egyptians, it's $20. To get all of the Greeks, it's another $20. When I say "all of," I mean the "Premium Pack," that gives you "Rare and Epic Gear," advisors and ranked PvP (among other things).

Alternatively, you can spend $100 to get "Season Pass 1," which gives you all DLC for the first six months, including Egyptians, Greeks, and the forthcoming Celts and Persians (otherwise coming out this Holiday).

I didn't get a chance to play in the beta, and I'm going to download the client and see if it's "good enough" using the free content, but most things I read about the game suggest that you're really going to want the full catalog for your civilization of choice. That just seems pretty ridiculous when I can pick up Starcraft II for $50, get 3 "civilizations," and a full campaign.

I guess I'd prefer to see the full Egyptians and Greeks provided at $20 total (or $10...or preferably free...), and then put the Persians and Celts up at launch with the other material, and put two more civs up this Holiday. This way, there are full civs for everyone to play for much cheaper, but the additional civs for the higher price. Currently, it seems like you're forced to pick a side without really knowing what you're buying (after trying each side out in their limited capacities) and drop $20 from the get go if you want to be competitive at all.

Thoughts? Anyone else jumping on this bandwagon?

I don't suppose there's a way to spam Facebook invites in exchange for some of those packs.

ilduce620 wrote:
I guess I'd prefer to see the full Egyptians and Greeks provided at $20 total (or $10...or preferably free...), and then put the Persians and Celts up at launch with the other material, and put two more civs up this Holiday. This way, there are full civs for everyone to play for much cheaper, but the additional civs for the higher price. Currently, it seems like you're forced to pick a side without really knowing what you're buying (after trying each side out in their limited capacities) and drop $20 from the get go if you want to be competitive at all.

Adding to what I said earlier, this is basically what Civilization 5 did: You buy the game at a base rate and then buy additional civilizations as DLC if you want them. Granted, you can't do it exactly the same way, but if Microsoft had a reasonable strategy lined out for this game, you'd think they'd have plenty of civilizations waiting in the wings and ready to go, already balanced. The beauty of Civ 5 was that you could play with the civs made available in the base game, but you would still remain competitive with the new ones being added on.

With AoE Online, it looks like Microsoft only has 4 civilizations set up for the next 6 months. At least, what's been announced. Now, unless this is a crazy deep RTS experience (again, I didn't play in the Beta), it seems to me that people may get bored pretty quickly, only having 2-4 civs to play as. The beauty of AoE II and III (moreso than the first game) was that you had a few similar civilizations, but many of them were drastically different in unit strengths to the point where you had to figure out who the opponent was playing as, and then set up your defenses accordingly. For example, in AoE II, if you were fighting the Byzantines, you had to be prepared to defend against cavalry; if you were fighting the Britons, you had to defend against ranged archers. (Aside: Granted, this was not necessarily true, but it allowed for tactics where your opponent would prepare for one thing, yet you could still do the complete opposite. You could "game the player" like you do in poker, to an extent). With this iteration, you only have to be worried about tactics, not the particular units that each civ can potentially command.

Or do I have that wrong? Is there enough strategy in this game to make playing as a single civilization fun and engaging over the long-term? If players drop $20 on the Egyptians, will they be bored by the Fall and feel as though they have to pick up the Persians in order to hold their interest?

Here's the ArsTechnica review, for any that are interested. They seem to suggest that there is promise to be had.

Age of Empires Online is a serious departure from past Age of Empire games: it's cartoony, and features many MMORPG aspects to round out the game's strategic gameplay. The game is still complex and meaty, especially for a free-to-play title. Many games of this type reach into your pocket as soon as they can. In contrast, AoE Online could be giving away too much to properly sustain itself. There's much to enjoy before spending a single Microsoft point.

...and of particular note:

This brings us to the premium/free-to-play divide: only players that pay for premium civilizations get access to the best gear (rare and epic items), as well as access to the highest tiers of the tech tree. So when it comes down to PvP, the reason that most people play AoE, it looks at first glance like those who don't pay up will always end up getting worked in battles.

But this isn't, or isn't meant to be, true: the matching system, which developers have named Live Trueskill, takes into account whether players have access to premium content when matching for PvP (both 1v1 and 2v2, ranked and unranked). Having the best possible techs and gear may make the game more fun for some, and at a cost of $20 per premium civilization, it's not an outrageous cost. But it's never necessary.

Yeah, after seeing the final pricing, I'm really not interested. It's out of my price range. $100 for 6 months worth of content? So... $17/mo? Not worth it.

Started playing and am really enjoying it. The art direction is gorgeous and it's really responsive as well. It's a bit hard to get used to new key-bindings after playing Starcraft 2 so much but I can see myself putting a lot of time into this.

I feel like I'm going to go all economy and defense in terms of tech tree. Turtle style!

Does anyone know how to rotate buildings?

BNice wrote:
Does anyone know how to rotate buildings?

Mouse Wheel?
Waiting for the Teutons to be released.

Tigerbill wrote:
Waiting for the Teutons to be released.

Heheh. I remember those guys.