GC '07: Don't ignore casual gamers, says Age of Empires panel

Developer of Age of Empires series thinks striking a balance between appealing to hardcore and casual gamers was key to success, hinted at space-based installment for franchise.

LEIPZIG, Germany--Making a game which appealed to both the casual and hardcore gamer was what made Age of Empires and the title's follow-ups so successful, according to a Games Convention Developers Conference retrospective on the game.

The panel, made up of Ensemble's Bruce Shelley and Tony Goodman and Iron Lore Entertainment's Brian Sullivan, said that all the decisions they made when designing the game were made with the intention of keeping both groups happy.

Ensemble's Bruce Shelley said that the casual audience was important because, "If you're too focussed on making a hardcore game, you run the risk of dropping off a lot of sales... It shouldn't be too hard to play."

The first Age of Empires game was launched in 1997 on the PC, and numerous sequels and spin-offs followed. Despite now being 10 years old, the panel told the audience that the Age series still has legs left. Tony Goodman said, "We still have more ideas for Age of Empires. The reason we're not working on Age of Empires at the same time as Halo Wars is because we don't want to blend these ideas, and we only have so much creative bandwidth to work on."

The panel laughed as they remembered that at the time fantasy and science-fiction games were all the rage, and no one thought a historical strategy game would work. Looking at the games that were currently on the market, they deliberately decided to make their game different in several ways. Tony Goodman gave as an example, "All of us in the company, we're big fans of bright colours. Games at the time were quite dystopian... I was just wondering why there were no games of places you'd want to be--they all seemed to places you wanted to escape from."

As with any huge project, there were a whole host of features that were meant to be in the game but never made the final cut. Brian Sullivan said, "We had put together a list of all the little features we wanted in Age of Empires one. It was five pages long, and I think we managed to put in half a page's worth."

Bruce Shelley told the audience that the team loved history and had shelves of history books stacked up in their offices. However, "The games aren't so much about history but about the human experience, which is not just what we've done and what we are doing, but what we might do."

He hinted as to which direction future iterations of the game are headed, saying, "So, I think there's a lot of room left for Age games yet. Like going into space. Humans are expected at some point to go into space, so there's possibilities there."

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Discussion

49 comments
Blade8Aus
Blade8Aus

they never said they were ignoring the core gamer

cheaterking2
cheaterking2

i do think the casual gaming i where the money but that Is no reason to just kick hardcore gaming to the curb

Funkyhamster
Funkyhamster

All of the AOE games are casual-friendly in my opinion... not the online play, but just playing the campaign and doing random maps has always been popular among casuals. That's why AOE games sell so well compared to other RTS games...

playa42018
playa42018

AOE 2+ are all pretty noncasual friendly. AOE1 and AOE:ROR were extremely fun and easy to pick up.

esmarsu
esmarsu

Well, Age of Empire was an excelent "game", I hope the programmers find more original and exciting news.

DodgeDuty
DodgeDuty

Its good that they target money from casual gamers, because more sales meen that they can make sequals.

Beowulf935
Beowulf935

If Age of Empires 4 is set in Space, that'll be one of the biggest mistakes they made in their life.

bhaskarchatta
bhaskarchatta

It's very true that the casual gamers can't be ignored. Behind a casual gamer a hardcore gamer resides... you can extract them with a good game like AOE....

nintendorocks
nintendorocks

You know the real reason why you don't ignore the casual gamer? Because that's where the money's at.

axia_777
axia_777

chewygun I guess they're trying to do what nintendo is doing, target those that don't play games much, and make more money and become more successful i guess. ----------- Yah and sell the gamers who have been supporting them for years. Punks I tell you. I will buy nothing made by Nintendo ever again. Or any other company that shills it self for "casual games". it is all BS.

chewygun
chewygun

I guess they're trying to do what nintendo is doing, target those that don't play games much, and make more money and become more successful i guess.

TZG
TZG

Money makes the world go round! Bigger audience=more sales! That´s the formula and why should it be different in the game-industry?

xcollector
xcollector

I'm tired of hearing about the "Casual Gamer" like they never existed before the revolutionary Wii came out. These people just like their buzz words and "Casual Gamer" is the latest buzz.

glitchgeeman
glitchgeeman

Well, it makes sense to strike a balance between the two. I mean, games that are too hardcore like Killer 7 and Psychonauts, while appreciated by us hardcore gamers, just don't sell well enough, and honestly, all game developers are out to make money so it does matter to make a game fun for us gamers yet appealing enough to casuals to sell decently.

mkurts
mkurts

Yeah AOE series sucked - and is definitely great for the so called casual gamer.

Jebril
Jebril

Oh and yea AOE2 was the best one in the genre by far, I think it definitely had more to do with the scenery than anything else. I mean who the heck doesn't want to control an army of knights to go raid a base of your opponents?

Jebril
Jebril

Before I ever got into gaming when I was eight I had only two games at the time Tetris for SNES and Age of Empires 1 for my PC it had came preloaded and I loved it, I loved the shiny horse unit...... But yeah I can see where Ensemble Studios says that they strike a balance between casual and hardcore because there games really DO hit that sweetspot for them, it's too bad that the genre of games they make are Strategy games which not a lot of people can get into.

axia_777
axia_777

Of course they say don't ignore casual gamers. They want to whore out video games to everyone they can. They want to sell out the video games industry to everyone they can and will if given the chance. They want to water down the industry with a slew of boring "casual games". YAH!! LETS BECOME LIKE HOLLYWOOD!!!!! Lets pump out mediocre cr@p!! They want to make as much mediocre cr@p as they can pump out so they can all get rich. Well I say FORGET THEM. BOYCOTT I say!!! And Nintendo is first on my list of companies who want to sell out the industry I love to the common public. Because if even 50% of the money used to make video games is used to make "casual games" then that is all that much less getting used to make games for people who have been supporting this industry for YEARS. I vote with my dollar and I vote against this growing trend to "casual games"!!!

duxup
duxup

The last Age of Empires game was ok but it also felt a bit dated. Nothing wrong with going with what works and a bit of fan service, but just because you're looking for a casual audience doesn't mean you don't pick up obvious improvements from similar games...

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

I won't mind playing a game with a "balance" in the gameplay. However finding that "balance" is very tough. If they can find it, then I'm all in. I do not want to play a game that fails at it though. If a company tries and fails at this balance, they will probably end up losing even more sales than if they didn't try.

dr_jashugan
dr_jashugan

Games for everyone. That's the way to go. 8)

GarchomPro
GarchomPro

Age of Empires is my fav RTS Franchise they better not ruin it and make it easy for the casuals, when i buy a RTS game im expecting a challenge not a walk in the park. devs dont seem to really care about the people that actually made them, what they are today, the hardcore gamer, all they focus is on casuals and how much money they can get from them.

Jermwarfare
Jermwarfare

YukoAsho - thats fine and good for a 2d game with simple controls.... but when you try to make a "hard core" game "more accessible" its at the cost of its hardcore fans. what is the interface but the way you interact with the game? maybe in theory you have a good point,but in practice things get $%@#$! 99% of the time

YukoAsho
YukoAsho

I think you people are missing the point. When he speaks of striking a balance, he doesn't mean making games braindead easy the way Nintendo wants to do. He's talking about making games that are simple to learn, but tough as all hell to master. The most famous puzzle game of all time, Tetris, has this down to a tee: It takes seconds to figure out basic gameplay, but you could spend a lifetime playing it to learn the deeper strategies involved in the game. That's what needs to be done. Challenge should be found in the game, not the interface.

Jermwarfare
Jermwarfare

agreed spider freak. trying to be all things to all people makes no'one happy....atleast not for very long.

SpiderFreak
SpiderFreak

I seriously cannot stand this any longer. Listen, I'm all for appealing to casual gamers. I really am. I'm all for Halo-type games that do nothing more than let you have fun shooting things. But we still need games for the hardcore crowd. I think the main problem isn't that we're NOT striking a balance between hardcore/casual gamers, it's that we're trying to appeal to both with the same game. If it's too complicated or involves too much thought, then casual people will not want to play it. If it's too simple and requires no thought at all, hardcore gamers aren't going to want to play it. The answer? Design your game with one crowd in mind, and then make it the best game it can be. Don't say "Oh, let's make a shooter, and we'll make you have very little health and set it in modern times so it'll be called tacitcal, but we'll have your health recharge and have no use for actual tactics or planning so that people who can't handle challenge and tactics will still play it." We need BOTH styles of games, but we need them in seperate games.

felshs
felshs

i didn`t like age of empire..................its too hard despite i did all kind of cheat with it,except the kill all enemy cheat.

Jermwarfare
Jermwarfare

great... more calls for dumbed down games. as if the industry isnt preoccupied enough already with "casuals". there are truckloads of casual games out there,we dont need a greater emphasis on them than there already is. we already have easy,dumbed down,games now being called "hardcore" because they have alot of blood or language....which has nothing to do with deep and demanding gameplay.

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

marlonsm - excellent bit of 'journalism' Marion! :)

rikhan_z
rikhan_z

Well the space era is taken, Halo wars gladly represents :), I still have to complete AOE2 :(. I would like to see what other ideas the companies has, I think they have good ideas.

NinjaMunkey01
NinjaMunkey01

I still have AOE 2 on my ps2. they should make one set in the present. Jenkins_2005 if there are no games that casual gamers can play. how will you get hardcore gamesrs as they need to learn how to be good at certian genras. When I start a game I want some easy bits and hard bits so I can practise tactics.

Lord_Artix
Lord_Artix

Well they've done the Ancient Era, the Medival Era, the New World Era...I suppose AoE 4 will be the Modern Era, with 5 possibly being space. But I love my AoE 2 to death. :)

uberjannie
uberjannie

I remember on LAN parties with coax cables and playing Age of Empires. Man that was good times :)

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. been saying this for three years and getting flamed weekly! But why don't PC developers put their actions where their words are and give us more of those games that cover the whole market? Surely the other part of the success was that Age of Empires didn't need an uber PC - that has to be half the story! How much better would Bioshock sell, for example, if it had used the Source engine, made a game that looked as good as HL2, but of course it would have run on a PC that can run HL2, which is a darn sight more than the PC's that will run Bioshock as is - using engines for longer would not make games look worse (HL2 still looks damn fine!), but it would mean much high PC game sales as games would run on more PC's!

Olly464
Olly464

"Roggen!" but like, in space? :P

2p4eva
2p4eva

But remember when you first started playing games Jenkins_2005? i was i think 4 at the time, but whether you were 10 or 13 imagine new players today, they don't know all the tactics such as strafing in a fps or rushing in a RTS and they are the hardcore players of the future. Developers need to find a balance hardcore and casual. Thats not to say that have games just for casual and hardcore gamers are not possible.

2p4eva
2p4eva

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2p4eva
2p4eva

But remember when you first started playing games Jenkins_2005? i was i think 4 at the time, but whether you were 10 or 13 imagine new players today, they don't know all the tactics such as strafing in a fps or rushing in a RTS and they are the hardcore players of the future. Developers need to find a balance hardcore and casual. Thats not to say that having games just for casual and hardcore gamers are not possible.

AnubisCraig
AnubisCraig

"Syzgygy A space AoE game would be - fantastic - I'm so sick and tired of the medieval stuff. Having a real RTS with base building and fighting in space would great right about NOW." StarCraft II won't be too long away ;)

Jenkins_2005
Jenkins_2005

Its good to make the games more accesable to casual gamers but if the actual gameplay or experience are degraded as a result of that, then it shouldnt be done. The hardcore gamers are the people who will spend weeks of their life playing certain games and the people with that sort of devotion should always come first. If casual gamers cant play the game, take it back and get something that tailors more to your gaming habits and skill.

2p4eva
2p4eva

I think making games for casual gamers is crucial to grow the industry. If you think about films as an analogy, if every film was the 'hardcore' which translate to the art house films within the movie industry then only maybe 20% of cinemas tickets would be sold. How many of you have watched a painted veil or Oldboy or Ju-on? You need to cater for everyone, otherwise games will stay within a niche that will stunt development for the industry as a whole.

MilkyJoe1
MilkyJoe1

this is in the back of the AoE art book- Vietnam then space

Syzgygy
Syzgygy

A space AoE game would be - fantastic - I'm so sick and tired of the medieval stuff. Having a real RTS with base building and fighting in space would great right about NOW.

diablobasher
diablobasher

No no no NO!!! Do ignore them! They make developers do stupid things! Vita Chambers, i ask you...

stfolife
stfolife

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