Ensemble Studios developing MMOG--and 360 RTS?

Microsoft-owned studio confirms rumors of its massively multiplayer title--and reveals a console real-time strategy game is in the works.

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Last July, the PC game world was rife with speculation, courtesy of an Ensemble Studios job listing. The official Web site of the Dallas-based studio ran an ad for the position of an "experienced server architect to assist in creating a world-class massively multiplayer game." The ad went on to say that "experience with shipping an existing massively multiplayer game is a must," further confirming the Age of Empires III developer has a MMOG in the pipeline.

Though Ensemble didn't comment when the job listing first went up, it has now officially confirmed that it is indeed in the very early stages of developing a MMOG. In an interview with Next-Generation, executive producer Patrick Hudson said that the studio has a dedicated team working on massively multiplayer game concepts. He also revealed some details about what an Ensemble MMOG might be. "It's safe to say we won't be chasing the fantasy genre. It seems like there are so many coming out," he said. "[But we're] still pretty far out from even thinking of taking that prototype to a greenlight phase."

In the same article, Ensemble CEO Tony Goodman revealed that his studio is also working on a PC real-time strategy game for an unidentified console. "We're giving RTS games on the console a shot," he said. "We actually spent a whole year just trying to reconstruct how the controls would work on an RTS game...and we got there. Our gamepad people could beat our mouse people."

Goodman also said that the console RTS was "our most fun strategy game that we're working on right now...It's shorter, it's more fun, it's more visceral." He also gave an idea of when to expect the game, saying "in six months or so, we'll probably just try to get it in the hands of gamers." That timeframe would put the game's release squarely in the all-important fourth-quarter of this year.

But what console will Ensemble's RTS debut on? Given that the company is wholly owned by Microsoft, the most likely answer is the Xbox 360, which would also be easier for the PC-centric studio to develop for. If Ensemble does reveal a 360 RTS, it will be the second title from the genre for the platform, after Electronic Arts' The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II, which is due in the third quarter of 2006.

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