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.
PCG: What happened with AoEO?
Patrick Hudson: We were always scheduled to roll off Age Online in February 2011. We've been working with GPG since last fall on the transition. We really enjoyed working with Microsoft, and know that they're in good hands with Chris and the Gas Powered Games team.
Robot was founded to work on original IP, but working with AoE was a great way to get the company off the ground. The plan was always to move to original IP as soon as we had the ability focus on our core business goal.
PCG: Isn't it unusual for one developer to start a project and then hand it off?
PH: I guess it's unusual, but as the game has evolved it's turned into a platform for a lot of content. We developed the game and the first two civilizations, the Egyptians and the Greeks, and GPG is taking it from there. That was always the plan when we started the company.
We're now working on shipping our first original game, Orcs Must Die! and will be announcing additional projects that we have in the works in the near future. That's ours, we'll stick with that one forever.
So it looks like this story isn't quite as scandalous as it first appeared, but still a pretty unusual occurrence in game development, and certainly great news for Gas Powered Games fans. We'll be talking to Chris Taylor about his plans for Age of Empires Online very soon.