Age Series Passes 20 Million Units Sold Mark: We have learned that the series, including Age of Mythology, has just passed this amazing milestone. I can remember when we started our studio and I thought our goal had to be selling 100,000 copies of our first game (that was the goal of the company where I had previously worked). Then by the time we wrapped up Age I we knew we had to sell nearly 500,000 copies just to break even, and that seemed like a huge number (we made it in less than sixth months) :)
20 million is a big number. Multiply that by the hours each owner spent (and spends) on average playing, and you generate an incredible amount of entertainment. I believe everyone who has worked on those games for us over the years is proud of that association. I believe Microsoft is happy not only with the sales but also with quality, subject matter, and secondary educational aspects to the series.
Michael Phelps’s Favorite Game: The New York Times reported a few days ago that one of the ways that Michael filled in his time while waiting for his next practice or Olympic event was playing Age of Empires. They don’t say what version. Apparently he and some of his swim team pals play together. Check out the Times story below.
Lizette Atkinson, our office manager, put together a box of goodies to send to Michael, including a copy of Age of Empires III that was signed by most of the studio. Then we had some fun talking about incorporating this news into our game. Colt McAnlis and Paul Jaquays suggested a new cheat code, “GreatestOlympianEver”, which gives your ships super speed, but only in a straight line.
Over the years we have heard about several other celebrities who have been fans of the series. I commented here a few years ago that members of the NHL’s Calgary Flames played Age on their road trips. We invited them to our offices when they were in town for a game against the Stars and we had a match against some of our guys. Other Age players better known for their careers in other areas include future hall of fame base ball player Ken Griffey Jr., actor Sean Astin (Sam in Lord of the Rings with time on his hands during filming), Felipe Calderon (President of Mexico), and actress Mila Jovovich (Fifth Element and Resident Evil).
Halo Wars at Leipzig Game Show: This is the biggest show in Europe and three of our guys are there doing demos like we did at E3 last month. Designer/Writer Graeme Devine, Assistant Producer Bill Jackson, and Sound and Music Director Stephen Rippy are manning our stations this time. Below is a link to an early report on the game from Erik Brudvig of IGN. Here’s a good quote from Erik: “…you can run over goofy little alien critters with a Warthog. I did it and it’s just as awesome as it sounds.”
And here is photo taken by Graeme Devine showing the conference room setup where our guys will be meeting with the media. That is Stephen Rippy with control pad. He wrote the music in the game and is the brother of the producer in charge of Halo Wars, Chris Rippy.
Halo Wars Coming Together: The screen shots you have seen look fantastic and the parts of the game we have pulled together for the media are fun and work well, but there is a lot more to be finished, put in, balanced, and polished. Every time I play there is new stuff to see and hear. Today I heard for the first time some funny chatter among the Marines. I wasn’t used to that and it made me pause and listen more carefully. The single player campaign is solidifying and when I won a scenario I got victory message I hadn’t seen before :). I noticed some new tweaks to the user interface, especially for the casual player like me. The skill of the artificial intelligence has its ups and downs, especially related to new stuff that it has not been programmed to understand and take advantage of.
We held a contest among the team to choose a name for the campaign, but we won’t reveal that for a while yet. I can tell you that “Rise of the Dreadnaughts” and “Age of Empires IV” didn’t make it into the second round of discussion :).
Goodbye and Good Luck “Thunder”: We lost another great employee recently when Graham “Thunder” Somers moved back to Vancouver, Canada, and landed there a job with a local studio. He has been our community manager for several years but got tired of dealing with US Immigration rules and just really missed The Great North. Now I’ll have to email him to learn about new bands instead of just walking into his office and listening.
Tough Times in Game Development: Kotaku reported recently that Midway Games shut down one of its projects in Austin, Texas, and was laying off 90-130 people. Game development looks like a great career but clearly it’s not like the careers of our parents who might have worked with the same organization from high school/college till retirement. I have previously mentioned the closing of several well-regarded studios.
Kristen Kalning, Game Editor for MSNBC, says that while the layoffs look bad the industry is still in good shape and jobs are out there. While one studio is laying off, for whatever reason, another thinks they have a great plan and is hiring. So careers are still possible, especially if you don’t mind relocating fairly regularly.
Halo Wars Archive Build: #894 was the most recent I’ve seen, posted by Sergio Tacconi.