Empire Earth Designer Diary #2

Stainless Steel Strike Team member Matt Couillard introduces himself and talks about Empire Earth.


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Entry #2 - 04/19/01

By Matt Couillard
Stainless Steel Studios

Hello, my name is Matt "Lightning_CN" Couillard, and I'm a member of the Strike Team at Stainless Steel Studios. I'm a 17-year-old male living in Sherbrooke, a midsize town in Quebec province, Canada. I started playing online real-time strategy games back in 1997. The first game that got me hooked was the original Age of Empires. People wonder how someone can spend years playing the same computer game. For me it was simple: The mental stimulation and the fun I had playing Age of Empires were unrivaled by any other hobby. The thing that kept me playing the game was most probably the desire for competition.

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Once I started playing online, I had to learn quickly. Though I was good, I was never among the best players in my early days, no doubt due to my age at the time. As I played more, however, I got better and better.

When the sequel to Age of Empires, The Age of Kings, came out, I worked hard to build an online reputation. Over time, I slowly but surely made a name for myself as a tough competitor. I had a lot of trouble with my Internet connection in those days. I believe that hardware makes a big difference in playing online games; I had the worst ISP service you could imagine. Frequent point penalties due to disconnection during games slowed my progress down, but I managed gradually to attain a top rating on the MSN Gaming Zone.

About a month ago, I heard that the folks over at Stainless Steel Studios Inc. were putting together a team of real-time strategy experts to play-test Empire Earth, some from home, some on location. Although I couldn't really apply for a job at the Stainless Steel office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I thought that taking part in the making of the game would be a great experience for me. Within a couple of weeks, I was selected to be part of the elite Multiplayer Strike Team.

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The Strike Team is composed of real-time strategy game players, known either for their exceptional contributions to the gaming community or for their extraordinary gaming achievements. I guess you could say I was a bit of both; I'm not among the very top echelon of real-time strategy players, but I do my share of publishing articles, helping out others, and doing other general stuff in the Age of Kings community. People from all over the world joined the Strike Team, all with the same desire: to make Empire Earth the very best game it can be.

The Strike Team generally discusses the balance issues of Empire Earth. It isn't our job to make the game bug proof; we just try to make sure everything fits in properly and is fun. We debate about different game features and their conceivable impact on the gaming community, such as if a particular unit might be too weak or too powerful for its intended purpose. We receive regular builds of the game, and our comments, analyses, and suggestions go right to Stainless Steel's designers. It's great knowing that they listen directly to what gamers have to say. After all, we'll be the ones playing it!

The thing that I enjoy the most about Empire Earth right now is its amazing depth. No other real-time strategy game that I have ever played even approaches its sheer diversity of strategies and units or its epic span of time. Stainless Steel has added new dimensions to the real-time strategy genre, all without making the game too complicated for the average home user to play.

Although the game is still in development, I can speak for the entire Strike Team when I say this game is already great. It's going to be incredible when it's finished.

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