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Ensemble Talks Age of Mythology
November 10, 2003 | Tuncer Deniz

IMG: What kind of cultures were picked for the game? What's unique about them in the game?

Ian Fisher We spent a lot of our early design time researching and discussing the possible cultures for Age of Mythology.  In the end, we picked three sets, Egyptian, Norse, and Greek.  These were selected because we found them to be the ones most people recognized.  We though any number of other mythologies and cultures were interesting (more interesting than the ones we picked, in some cases), but only a small number of players knew anything about them.  When players sat down and saw they could pick "Odin", they had an idea of what to expect and they generally had some ideas about who Odin was and why he was cool.  When they sat down and saw they could pick "Camazotz", this generally wasn't the case. 

IMG: Unlike the Age of Empires games, Age of Mythology is a fully 3D game. Did it pose any problems going a 2D game engine to a full 3D game?

Ian Fisher Well, yes.  From a technical standpoint, we had to build a new engine for Age of Mythology (which is no easy task) and we had to adjust a lot of how we worked.  The way we built 2D art, for example, didn't apply at all to a 3D game.  So, we had lessons to re-learn and processes to re-invent, all of which needed to be done while the engine was still changing frequently.  For design, the big challenge was more learning to take full advantage of the 3D system being built.  We had worked with a 2D engine for quite a while and were accustomed to thinking in those terms.  Sometimes we had to take a step back and think about how the new tools at our disposal could best be applied.    

IMG: How many different unit types are in Age of Mythology? What are some of the more unique ones?

Ian Fisher If memory serves, there are more than 60 different units in Age of Mythology.  The Norse, Egyptian, and Greek cultures each have their own unique set of "human" units that form the bulk of their armies (units like Greek Hoplites, Egyptian Axemen, and Norse Ulfsarks).  Each culture also has around a dozen unique mythological units (such as Greek Minotaurs, Norse Frost Giants, and Egyptian Scarabs).  Many of these have unique special abilities but two of my favorites are the Cyclops (because it's just fun to see him pick guys up and heave them) and the Frost Giant (because I like to micro-manage him in battles to freeze key enemy units). 

IMG: How has the RTS genre evolved over years? Do you think it has progressed or regressed?

Ian Fisher RTS gameplay has definitely progressed over the years.  It's about to progress a lot more too.  Not long ago, there was room for very basic linear improvement in things like appearance or interface -- you could differentiate a RTS just by pushing the graphical envelope or making controls more intuitive or adding multiplayer.  Today, the obvious "big leap" advances are mostly out of the way.  The high-level conventions of the genre have solidified.  Incremental evolutions to the established genre aren't going to cut it anymore.  If you want to attract attention and interest with a new RTS, you have to think about ways to give players a new experience.  On top of this, your new experience can't simply be different, it also needs to be more fun than what came before it.  I think the next generation of RTSs will demonstrate this. 

IMG: Ensemble has made a name for itself in the RTS world. Would you ever consider moving into another genre?

Ian Fisher We've certainly spent a lot of our time thus far building RTS games but we don't consider ourselves a "RTS house".  There are a number of different games that our teams are interested in and I'm certain that you'll see non-RTS Ensemble titles in the future. 

IMG: Are there any Mac fans at Ensemble? What do they think of the new Power Mac G5?

Ian Fisher Well, Graeme Devine is on our team.  If you're tallying up Mac fans, I'd imagine he counts as two...  There are a few other Mac fans on our team, as well.  I've honestly never been in a conversation with any of them about the G5, so I can't say for sure what they think of it, but I'll go out on a limb and say they think it's swell.

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