Age of Empires
Age of Empires (often abbreviated to AoE) is a historical real-time strategy game developed by Microsoft's Ensemble Studios and released in 1997. The game spans from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, and encompasses twelve civilizations from Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Following the success of AoE, an expansion pack, Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome Expansion (RoR) was released almost a year later. Since then ES have released several more games in the Age of Empires series, including Age of Empires II. The game is built on the Genie game engine, which uses a sprite based 2D environment.
Gameplay is divided into two primary modes of play: Single player and multiplayer. Multiplayer games are played over the internet or some other network connection, while single player games include random map, death match and custom scenarios.
Main article: Random map
A standard game requires the player to develop a their tribe from a tiny Stone Age settlement into an advanced Iron Age civilization. To achieve this the player must use their villagers to gather resources (such as food) and use them to construct buildings, train units and research technology. The early stage of the game mainly focuses on the economy, while aspects like military and technology are put on hold until more resources are available.
A key concept of the game is Age advancement, which is acheived by researching more advanced Ages (Such as the Tool Age) by sacrificing a large amount of resources and precious town center time. In Age of Empires there are four Ages: The Stone Age, Tool Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. To advance an Age the player must not only have a significant stockpile of resources, but also two buildings from the period they are currently in. For example advancing to the Iron Age requires two Bronze Age buildings, e.g. a Temple and a Government Center.
As the game progresses, the player will typically explore surrounding areas, including scouting the enemy base(s) (or finding allies). Development of technology, military and society (e.g. finding Artifacts) will improve, while the economy continues to grow. At some point players will engage in combat with their opponents, either in an aggressive, defensive or neutral position. Global victory in a random map game is by default acheived by standard victory, which includes controlling all artifacts or Ruins for a set period of time, or building and defending a wonder for a similar period. The most common mode of victory however is conquest.
Main article: Death match
A variant of the standard random map game is death match, where players start with very large amounts of resources. In multiplayer games a death match typically starts in the Iron Age, however it may start in any Age. Death matches are intense military face-offs, as the economy and technology side of the game is taken care of by the large stockpile of resources. Players will rush to build and create an army with the goal of rushing the enemy base as early as possible. While the initial phase is mostly dominated by miliary, technology is also important early on (unless the game starts in post-Iron, where all technologies are researched, however this is uncommon). Economy is also vital from the early stages. Whilst building many farms initially is about as useful to the player as digging their own grave, villagers are vital both for creating buildings (both to gain military and territorial advantage, and to quickly claim vital resources such as gold. CPU players tend to be especially weak in death match mode.
Main article: Scenario
Scenarios are quite different from the two standard game setting above, in that each scenario has a unique map and objectives, and is created by a scenario designer as opposed to a random seed number. Scenarios may also be part of a campaign, a more formal scenario or series of scenarios, usually with a story driven nature. Scenarios may be anything from a modified random map with an interesting objective or gameplay, to an epic campaign with detailed map design and story. Unlike standard games, victory in custom scenarios may involve varying and complex objectives, including intermediate goals along the way, and specific loss conditions as well.
Age of Empires also features online and network play with up to 8 players simultaneously. Because network play is less sophisticated than that of modern games, lag and disconnections are frequent. Another problem for the multiplayer community is the closure of the Zone, which was shut down my Microsoft in June 2006. Despite this, Age of Empires is commonly played on GameRanger and GameSpy today.