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Age of Empires Online

Massively Speaking Episode 231: Defying the odds

Podcasts, MMO Industry, News Items, RuneScape, Guild Wars 2, Massively Meta, Massively Speaking, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Miscellaneous, Age of Empires Online, Defiance

Massively Speaking Episode 231
While Bree is delivering a ransom to try to secure what's left of Shawn's beard, MJ and Teri join Justin for the first Massively Speaking of 2013! It might have been a relatively slow news week, but there was still enough talk around the water cooler to make us sit up and say, "Why do we have that water cooler again?"

Have a comment for the podcasters? Shoot an email to podcast@massively.com. We may just read your email on the air!

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Read below the cut for the full show notes.

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Age of Empires Online ceases content development

Fantasy, Historical, Business Models, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play, MMORTS, Age of Empires Online

Age of Empires Online ceases content development
What you see right now in Age of Empires Online is what you'll get... forever. Microsoft Studios announced that it's ceasing any further development on the title effective immediately due to finances. The studio will release a "small amount of content" in the near future, but following that, the game's features and civilizations will be set in stone as it moves into a support phase.

That doesn't mean the game's getting cancelled, however. The announcement emphatically states that Age of Empires Online will continue to operate as is, will have future community events, and it is not "dying."

The move from development to support was explained as follows: "Creating top-tier content, as we have been for the last year and a half, is very expensive -- too expensive to maintain for long, as it turns out. We can no longer afford to keep creating it. Age of Empires Online already has a very large amount of high-quality, hand-crafted entertainment, and adding more is no longer cost-effective."

Age of Empires Online adding new civilization and booster pack next week

MMO Industry, News Items, Free-to-Play, MMORTS, Age of Empires Online

Age of Empires Online adding new Babylon pro civ this month
The Babylonians are joining Age of Empires Online. In a recent interview, Gas Powered Games revealed that both this industrious new pro civilization and a new booster pack, Fertile Crescent, will be added to the game on August 16th to coincide with the game's one-year anniversary.

The Babylonians bring with them new ways to build, protect, and conquer, from mobile storehouses called Ox Carts to The Siege Tower (think Trojan horse) to shield bearers. Additionally, the Babylonians can build out of wood instead of stone.

The land of Mesopotamia also opens up the game with the Fertile Crescent booster pack. This area has level-scaling repeatable quests for the level 20 to 40 crowd. Lead designer Brian Frick noted that this type of scaling content is the direction the company is going in the future. He added, "We just want to have more of our content be fun for all levels to play."

Both the new Babylon pro civ and the booster pack will be purchased using Empire Points, the in-game currency; Babylon will cost 900 EP, and the Fertile Crescent will cost 450 EP. You can read more details in the full interview.

Age of Empires Online adopts a truly free business model

Historical, Business Models, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play, MMORTS, Age of Empires Online

Age of Empires Online
Last month, the Age of Empires Online developers announced an aim to take the game away from its "free-to-try" business model and move to truly free. With the latest update, the real-time strategy game will not only convert to a truly free-to-play model but also offer new content to players in the form of Alliance Wars (a team-based competition for level-40 players) along with new purchasable vanity items and consumables.

In the move to make all premium content available through gameplay, the game's currency -- Empire Points -- can now be earned through conventional play or purchased through Steam. Chris Taylor, founder and CEO of Gas Powered Games, explains, "With Empire Points and this true free-to-play business model, we are giving players what they have repeatedly asked for... fewer pay walls and more ways for players to experience this legendary franchise."

As the game transitions to this new model, all current players will receive a gift of 500 Empire Points automatically, while new accounts will receive 100. Current players who had Empire Points previously will see them converted into in-game coin.

[Source: Gas Powered Games press release]

Age of Empires developers talk about free-to-try and free-to-play

Historical, Business Models, Interviews, News Items, MMORTS, Age of Empires Online

Age of Empires Online
Gas Powered Games is aiming to take Age of Empires Online out of DLC-supported free-to-play and into a truly free model. That means moving away from what Systems Design Lead Eric Williamson described as "more of a free to try" model and implementing a system through which players can earn points to unlock anything that could be more quickly bought with money. In anticipation of this change, PC Gamer sat down with Williamson and Design Lead Steve Bauman for a chat about some of the philosophy behind the change.

Williams said that their hope is that people who were previously turned off by the imperative that they spend money for full in-game advantage will be willing to give it another go. Players will now be able to earn enough points to unlock a premium civilization in "as short as two or three weeks of daily play," so those who spend the most time in-game will reap the greatest reward. Empire points, the purchase resource that will be gained by either money or in-game achievement, will be earned by players as they complete specific campaign quests, level up, and participate in Alliance Contests.

Age of Empires Online ventures north with the Celts

Trailers, Video, Previews, News Items, Free-to-Play, MMORTS, Age of Empires Online

Screenshot -- Age of Empires Online
Age of Empires Online has been bringing free-to-play RTS action to the masses since August of last year, but so far players have had access to just three civilizations: Greek, Egyptian, and Persian. All of that is about to change, though, so ready your shillelaghs as the Celts join the battle. This new civilization, which seems to draw inspiration predominantly from Irish and Scottish folklore, will bring players a variety of new units and strategies with which to drive the opposition to its knees. Whether you're wreaking havoc with the speedy Woad Raiders or sacrificing a deer with the druidic Augur, the Celts will certainly bring new twists to any playstyle.

And of course, a new civilization also means new quests. The Celts' quests will have players battling it out in the frigid north, where the icy weather will slowly sap the health of any unit caught in the elements. The Celts will also introduce stealth missions, such as infiltrating an enemy fortress without waking the sleeping guards. To see the new civilization in action, just click past the cut for a bagpipe-filled teaser video, then head on over to the game's official site to get in on the action for yourself. Sláinte!

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Age of Empires Online readying skirmish mode, new booster pack

Trailers, Video, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play, MMORTS, Age of Empires Online

Age of Empires skirmish video
Age of Empires Online is getting a skirmish mode courtesy of the upcoming Skirmish Hall booster pack. The new gameplay will allow players to team up and fight AI opponents in pursuit of experience and loot.

Skirmish mode will pit you and a friend (or computer ally) against four computer-controlled enemies, and each AI can take on a variety of different playstyles. Each style is represented by a unique leader, and there are eight of these to choose from.

Also of note is the fact that skirmish mode unlocks all of the game's units regardless of your overall level. If you want to preview some powerful Age of Empires units that are hidden away behind hours of advancement gameplay, skirmish mode is the way to go. Check out the skirmish mode trailer after the break for more details.

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