Gas Powered Games

Did Age of Empires Online's revamp solve its biggest problems?

Josh Augustine at

Age Of Empires Online's launch was far from perfect--in fact, a lot of people skipped right over the game for very good reasons (see our launch review for a quick recap). But the beauty of online games and free-to-play models is that developers can listen to feedback from disgruntled players and change their games over time to make them better.

Gas Powered Games has done just that with Age of Empires Online with recent updates that have completely reworked large portions of the game. To see if they fixed what bothered gamers most, I put together a list of the most common complaints I read on Twitter, Facebook, and our very own comments sections here on this site, and investigated what Gas Powered Games has done—or not done—to address each of them.

Beat Age of Empire Online's devs in PvP this afternoon, win entire civilizations

Josh Augustine at

At 2 PM PST today, Age of Empires Online's Balance Team testers are taking all challengers in the PvP arena. Fair warning, these are the guys and gals whose full-time job is knowing every tiny nuance of the game--including how to perfectly counter your Egyptian camel rush tactic--so don't expect an easy fight.

Age of Empires Online interview: Tech trees and civ customization

PC Gamer at

In part one of our interview with Gas Powered Games, we heard all about the changes to Age of Empires Online's free-to-play model. In part two, the guys give us the lowdown on mechanical changes coming in the summer update, including a tech tree revamp. Read on!

Age of Empires Online interview: Becoming "really" free to play instead of "free to try"

PC Gamer at

We sat down with some of the guys at Gas Powered Games to discuss some big changes coming to in Age of Empires Online's summer update. In the first part of the interview, they discussed moving from a "Free to Play with paid DLC" model, to a more "true Free to Play" model where anything you could unlock faster with real money will be earnable by playing the game.

Age of Empires Online: Premium Celtic Civilization review

Josh Augustine at

My half-naked Woad Raiders leap into a formation of Roman archers with axes whirling around them. Meanwhile, in a serene forest far from battle, my Augur sacrifices a sacred fawn to Andrasta, goddess of war. Lightning crashes and my army glows with magical energy as the goddess’ boon charges their devastation of the Roman outpost.

The Celts, the newest civilization added to Age of Empires Online’s free-to-play roster, is the best one released yet, adding several new mechanics that advance the game’s complexity and will appeal to RTS gamers who crave more micromanagement. The first major addition is activated abilities on individual units, like the four different animal sacrifices available to the Augur to buff your army in various ways, that raise the skill ceiling for managing troops in battle.

Age of Empires Online getting Celts, snowstorms and stealth missions

Tom Senior at

The Celts are coming to Age of Empires Online, and they're bringing some mean weather with them. Snowy tundra that slowly saps your units strength will be a key part of the new missions that the pack will add, and there will be a wealth of new units, of course. Celtic priests will be able to sacrifice deer to help out your forces, and their new hero is capable of infiltrating enemy villages.

The Celts will be available as an army pack that can be bought separately as an add on for the core game, which is free to play. You can sign up for an account and download the client from the Age of Empires Online site if you fancy checking it out. You can read our verdict on launch in our Age of Empires Online review.

Age of Empires Online review

Tom Senior at

In most online RPGs you play as a single hero. In free-toplay Age of Empires Online, you’re a city. You start out as either a Greek or Egyptian township, and must expand to become a sprawling metropolis capable of training the most powerful units your chosen civilisation has to offer.

To do so, you accept missions from beardy quest-givers loitering under giant yellow exclamation marks on the streets of your capital. They’ll point out nearby enemy towns ripe for pillage. Stolen materials can be combined with blueprints to build more structures, which in turn can be upgraded to boost the strength of your units.

Watch PC Gamer's epic Supreme Commander game

Tom Francis at

[bcvideo id="1094997016001"]

On Thursday we mentioned a massive game of Supreme Commander between six PC Gamer writers and two overpowered AIs. There's a write up of it in the new issue of PC Gamer UK, and we finally found time to record it as a video for anyone who wants to see it for themselves.

Graham and I do our best to commentate what's going on - please forgive my erratic observing, our patchy memories, and the bits where our voices go too quiet. We know how to fix the latter in future. There is no known fix for my numerical skills - I manage to kick this off by claiming we're playing against six AIs, when the whole point is that we outnumber them.

If the embed above doesn't work for you, check it out on our YouTube channel.

PC Gamer's epic Supreme Commander co-op match

Tom Francis at

In the new issue of PC Gamer UK, you can read about a vast game of Supreme Commander we played against two of the most powerful AI opponents possible. It was six PC Gamer writers versus two AIs, and the robocarnage was pretty spectacular. If you have Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, you can grab the replay of our match here and watch it for yourself. If not, here's a gallery of shots from the game.

We're also turning it into a video anyone can watch, with commentary from us, so stay tuned for that. You can bookmark or subscribe to our Supreme Commander tag (RSS) and it'll pop up there.

If you're watching the replay in-game, here are a few things you may need:

Age of Empires Online dev diary shows loot, crafting and war elephants

Tom Senior at

The latest dev diary for Age of Empires Online shows off some of the loot we'll be able to unlock for our armies in Age of Empires Online. In traditional MMO style, items range from bog-standard to Epic, and can be earned in a number of ways. The items can be found in chests, crafted, or bought from city marketplaces. The free-to-play massively online RTS is set to launch on August 16, and is being developed by Supreme Commander 2 devs, Gas Powered Games. Find out more on the Age of Empires Online site.

A diary of dirty tactics in Supreme Commander

Tom Francis at

I still play the original Supreme Commander a lot. Partly because of the huge scale, but mostly because nothing else has this many different types of exciting robots, and if something did, they probably wouldn't explode so perfectly.

It also has unusually good AI, and this is a story about that.

The Fields of Isis is a map split by mountain ridges. One in the middle divides your possible routes to the enemy base. Two outside each base concentrate all incoming forces into a tight chokepoint, making it easy to defend. I'm fighting a single top-level AI, and I have a plan.

Age of Empires online release date announced, launch trailer launches

Tom Senior at

Microsoft announce that Age of Empires Online will be released on August 16 this year. Age of Empires Online is an MMO real time strategy game in which you can use resources from local brawls to build up your central home city, upgrading units and progressing your civilisation through the ages.

The free to play re-emergence of the classic series is being handled by Supreme Commander and Demigod developers, Gas Powered Games. We spoke to GPG CEO Chris Taylor recently about his role on Age of Empires Online, and his enthusiasm for free to play games. For more info on the game, check out the official site.

PC Gamer UK Podcast 56 – Chris Taylor and Danan Davis interview

Tom Francis at

I chatted to Gas Powered Games' Chris Taylor and Microsoft Games' Danan Davis about their new free-to-play game Age of Empires Online. Chris also talks about making Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander, and Danan about making Rise of Nations and Rise of Legends. And everyone has a lot to say about the future of PC gaming.

Download the MP3, subscribe, or find our other podcasts here.

Chris Taylor: "Total Annihilation was a game I designed for myself"

Tom Francis at

Total Annihilation was one of the PC's most forward-thinking strategy games - it threw out all the arbitrary conventions of the genre and created something more like a simulation. The result was a game plenty of PC gamers still consider unsurpassed. More recently, its creator Chris Taylor took over development of Age of Empires Online, a free-to-play version of the old classic. When I got to chat to him recently, I asked about the unconventional economy model TA used, and why he didn't stick with it.

Chris Taylor: Steam's dominance will 'shift' in the next five years

Tom Francis at

When I got the chance to interview Chris Taylor recently, I asked him what he thought of Steam. Then, off his blank look, I asked specifically how he felt about its dominance of the digital distribution market for PC games.

Chris designed two of the world's cleverest strategy games: Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander. More recently, he and his company Gas Powered Games took over development of Age of Empires Online, a free-to-play version of the old classic. He thinks Steam's dominance will shift before long.

Chris Taylor on why PC gaming is bigger than ever

Tom Francis at

I spoke to Chris Taylor recently, and asked him how he feels about the state of PC gaming. 'Good' would be an understatement. Chris designed two of the world’s cleverest strategy games: Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander.

More recently, he and his company Gas Powered Games took over development of Age of Empires Online, a free-to-play version of the old classic. Here are his thoughts on why the platform has never been stronger.

Chris Taylor on why he couldn't go back from free-to-play

Tom Francis at

Chris Taylor designed two of the world's cleverest strategy games: Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander. More recently, he and his company Gas Powered Games took over development of Age of Empires Online, a free-to-play version of the old classic.

But far from being a stopgap between full-priced games, Chris says that working with the free-to-play model has convinced him it's the future of the entire real-time strategy genre, and gaming in general. He says whatever he makes next will inevitably end up using it too. I tackled him to the ground in London recently, and demanded to know why.

Age of Empires Online beta open to all

Tom Senior at

We mentioned this in yesterday's news roundup, but it's worth another mention. Age of Empires Online is now freely available to download today and tomorrow. You can download the game now from Games For Windows Marketplace. Once it's installed, you'll be able to try out the game for free for as long as the beta lasts.

You'll find more details about the free-to-play, massively multiplayer RTS here. Supreme Commander 2 devs Gas Powered Games took over development a couple of months ago. We had a chat with Gas Powered Games boss Chris Taylor about the transition, and the new dawn for Age of Empires.

Interview: Chris Taylor on Age of Empires Online

Dan Stapleton at

Yesterday we learned that Robot Entertainment are handing development for Age of Empires Online over to Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander creators Gas Powered Games. We had a chat with CEO of Gas Powered Games, Chris Taylor about the challenges of taking the reins on a series as revered as Age of Empires.

Age of Empires Online swaps devs

Dan Stapleton at

In a shocking twist for Age of Empires Online, original developer Robot Entertainment is out, and Chris Taylor and his Gas Powered Games crew (of Supreme Commander Fame) are in. GPG has picked up where Robot left off, and will carry Microsoft's free-to-play real-time strategy game to completion. What exactly happened to prompt this switcharoo is unclear, and Microsoft probably isn't too eager to share, but we'll be poking around for details at today's Microsoft Showcase event.

We're all big fans of GPG's work, and Taylor is a known fan of Ensemble's classic Age of Empires II, so this seems like a good fit. In fact, Taylor cited AoEII as one of his all-time favorite RTS games when I talked to him about GPG's now-on-hold fantasy RTS Kings & Castles last year - I suppose this explains why Taylor'd be willing to set that project aside to work on an AOE game.

Update: Robot Entertainment President Patrick Hudson called to clear up the mystery. Read on for his side of the story.

Click here to see the trailer for Robot's original project, Orcs Must Die!