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News Archive - May 2003

Fri., May 30, 2003

Drip Drip Drip...

For those who don't know, Ager swolte has been on temporary duty with Triumph the last couple of weeks working on game tweaks in the upcoming Aow: Shadow Magic. As the deadline for changes approaches, word of a few of them has leaked out. In a discussion thread here about walls, it was revealed that
In aow-SM there will be 2 gates per side and the defenders get unlimited movement the first turn within the besieged city.. I think this is a better situation than in AoW2 (it nullifies a certain exploit and ik prevents the mobbing, at the same time giving defenders time time adapt).

and later in the Cheesy tactics/exploit thread:
There are now 2 gates per side, so to give the attackers more chance.
Also, retreating cannot be done endlessly anymore. The archery trick (with ranged hero, for example) has become more difficult as well..).

Flyers can't be on top of the gate hex anymore.. Fire breath is 3 times a day now!

Dragon breath was made more powerful, of course.. and the Dragon still is very dangerous (and it remains a strong flyer with ALL it's flying benefits, like: retaliation/speed/mobility etc.. advantages). Area effects work in FC and multiple dragons finish most low level things off before coming down!

Draconian heroes have been made floating.

casting haste on transporters is not possible anymore and so is stone skin on flyers..

And a lot of others. Some of these items have even spawned entire new threads, such as the 8 Gates per city?! discussion.

As usual of course there is little or no agreement on whether these changes are good or bad, too little or too much. As Ager Dwiggs puts it
I've seen all of these comments in recent threads: "walls are useless", "archers are too weak", "sieges are just like any other battle"... "archers make for a powerful defense", "the only way to take 8-stacks of archers in city walls are with fliers", "halfling slingers shouldn't be able to take down 3-4 times their number"... Sure I'm oversimplifying it, but it's just kind of funny when opinions clash, because everyone's experiences differ so greatly.
Well put, and that is indeed the problem the devs face. There are so many ways to play this game, and so many options, that adding more often complicates the issues tremendously. No one player, or group of players, can reasonably expect the devs to cater to them alone. Feel free to come and state your views, but do remember to keep it civil. Histrionics, threats, and catfights may be the order of business in some chatroom, but they have no place in our game help forums.
Thurs., May 29, 2003

A.I. Magic Use & Fantasy Stereotypes

Triumph Studio's Programmer Josh Farley offers some insight into the computer AI's use of Magic in the forthcoming Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic:
The AI magic use code (TC and AC) has been tweaked quite a bit, to use less mana overall, and to avoid using any in battles that are lopsided, among other improvements. >Adding an option for AC magic use would be highly exploitable, since it favors the attacker so much (the defender has no time to tweak settings before fights). It also would encourage micromanagement of the setting, which isn't a good thing, IMO.
You can read the full discussion on AI here.

Triumph Studio's Writer RayB is currently engaged in a long and thoughtful discussion regarding the way fantasy races are portrayed in games and story. Here's just a small part of the longer discussion:
As a writer one of the HUGE weaknesses of Fantasy in general has been its treatment of race, which IMO has been rather shoddy and shallow, and at best tends to be rather formulaic. Not that racial strife doesn't make for an interesting story, but it often just seems to easy, cliché', convenient a plot device... race A hates race B, justifying all sorts of nastiness, conveniently ignoring the intelligence that said races are supposed to possess.

It's hard in a game setting, because computers are made of programs which are in general pretty simplistic. It's hard to characterize peace, prosperity, racial diversity and maintain an interesting balanced game. I thought it was a good move when we threw out the racial leaders of AoW and went with Wizards who were less tied to a single race. Though I sometimes find myself falling into certain racial traps. And some of them for good reason... I just don't find myself overly sympathetic to undead, or Shadow Demons, for example, but in my writing, I often elude to all the good races just kinda getting along in peace.

We do this specifically in the Campaign story. We elude to all races flocking to a certain key character in the game... I've seen a lot of interesting ideas here lately, and given time I'm sure the game could evolve and explore some of these ideas more.
You can read the whole thread here
Sat., May 24, 2003

Map Making Contests

Here's a message from our friends at the Wizards of Creation. Jamie writes:
The Wizards of Creation are proud to announce the hosting of the first WOC Map Making Contest: Desert Shadows.

I am very pleased to be able to announce that Triumph Studios are generously providing the prizes for the winners of the competition - 2 BRAND NEW COPIES OF AGE OF WONDERS - SHADOW MAGIC, which will be received shortly after the release date.

The mapmakers must make a small, desert-based scenario, using the set template map available in the downloads section of The Wizards Of Creation.

The Contest will be held from Saturday the 24th May until the 15th of July. The Contest is open to all, and membership in the WOC will not be a factor in the determination of winning entries.

For more information, go to the Wizards of Creation website.


Don't forget that we also have a map making contest running here at AoW Heaven! Check out the details in the The Age of Wonders Map-Making Competition thread in our forums. Note that the deadline for submissions here is May 31st, so get your unfinished small maps polished and submit them!
Tues., May 20, 2003

Half-Life vs. AoW: SM?

Rumors that Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic is an elaborate Half-Life mod have been greatly exaggerated....

Seriously though, Triumph Studios Programmer, Josh Farley, recently commented on the complexities of the new Shadow Magic AI in this thread. Here's a snip:
"The AI for a game like AoW is MUCH more complex than the AI for a shooter like Half-Life. It's not even comparable. Real-time games have the advantage of speed - you don't have time to analyze the AI in the same way you can in a turn-based game. Heck, in most single-player shooters (like Half-Life), there is very little actual AI, and a whole lot of scripted sequences. We pay a great deal of attention to the AI. The AI in AoW:SM will be improved quite a bit over AoW2's.

The Half-Life AI would get it's ass kicked at AoW..."
You can read more of Josh's comments and the entire thread here.
Mon., May 19, 2003

AOW:SM News, Views, and Bugs

The ever delightful RayB AoW has been by the forums with some news and our first "Bug Report."

In the They're back..."thread, in what is obviously just an attempt to distract us from speculating on units the go QUACK he dropped this little revelation
Years of surfing the message boards has, in this instant, been paid in full, for you now known something that no article in the press will mention...

Well... I mean, they might... if they took more than a tenth of a second to look at the game, but game journalists these daze... (mispelling purposeful)

For what it's worth there's lots of humor in this game. The unit descriptions for many units, are some of Josh's finest... And I did the Hero Descriptions... which was strangely cathartic...

Unit and Hero descriptions? Woot! But that's not all. He also tells us that
In one map of the campaign you discover a shocking secret about the Karagh... Something that no one would ever suspect... but only lengthy exposure in the hellish Shadow Realm will draw out... and well, we never mention it again... was it the truth, madness--a trick of the realm? Well... Wait and see...

Speaking of the Shadow Realm, in answer to the question "Why do Shadow Demons look like bugs" here he offers the opinion that
Personally I find most bugs to be creepy. They are a staple in plagues and pestilence, and just having had to deal with a daughter with headlice, I must say, they are not something most people want in their beds... They are an infestation... in ancient times, a demon could be anything from a cat to a mushroom, so it's not like demons have a preset shape.
the goes on to add
If bugs bug you, then bugs bug you. Life goes on, we get jobs, live and love, we play, we cry, we grow, and have a life.
Well, gee Ray, of course bugs bug us, but hopefully these demons whereof you speak will be the worst ones in the game. Now who would complain about that?

Sat., May 17, 2003

New Features Poll

The new poll is up! Let's hear what new features you're looking forward to most in AoW: Shadow Magic!
Fri., May 16, 2003

Heeee's Baaaaack!

AoW writer and scenarist RayB that is. Though he was apparently not involved in developing the maps for AoW:SM, he has had a chance to preview the coming release and offered a few observations in the forum. Among other things he notes:
I played through about half of the tutorial portion of AoW: SM, last night. I just have to say... It's wonderful! (and no, I didn't write the internal text, I think Josh did, and it's great, too) It's very well integrated into the overall campaign structure, and I think it really showcases the fun elements of the game... it's not something they did to just get out of the way. I'm excited to have my wife try it out. It's so easy she could play it and hit all the good features as well, and I have a feeling she's gonna be hooked!!! Very cool...

And that's just the tutorial...

For those who are worried about the ever-increasing System Requirements of new gameware, developer Josh AoW had some reassuring comments as well:
System Reqs: If you were to load in an old map, it would run faster on AoW:SM. SM maps have additional features and eye-candy, putting the system reqs at right about the same spot.

There have been numerous optimizations and enhancements to the engine, which should make the game look better and run faster, especially on systems that had some trouble w/ AoW2.

And finally, the screenshots that were briefly leaked are again available for viewing at ToTheGame, GameSpot and elsewhere.

All of which is the good news. The bad news is... well... it's not here yet, isn't that bad enough?
Thurs., May 15, 2003

What's all the fuss?

While it's not exactly Itchy and Scratchy, Ager Magog has a thread up in the forum on The Shadow Magic movie! For those who don't know, that's the E3 trailer posted this afternoon on Fileplanet. You can download it from there at this link. It's about 7MB and is a zip file so you can't view it online. Look it over and see what you think, then come join the discussion in the forums.
Fri., May 2, 2003

Blue's News

No, not our own Bluecollarheaven, but the game-related news site, has posted an announcement and brief review of the upcoming AoW:SM including two new screen shots not seen before. It's a bit long to reproduce in toto here, but among other things the press release notes that
This latest addition to the series will enable players to experience the all new and eerie Shadow World dimension and battle with races never seen before across new and diverse landscapes. Combined with the option of creating a totally unique environment with the map generator and rewriting the history of this world time and time again through the enhanced campaign editor, players are ensured a constant stream of completely new game experiences.

Comments may be posted there, or in a discussion thread here in the AoW2 General forum.

In unrelated developments, long time ager Jomungur has posted the first two parts of his long promised strategy guide for AoW2. They can both be found in the AoW2 Gameplay Help and Strategies Forum:

Some game concepts for beginners
More strategy: Managing you army in MP
Thurs., May 1, 2003

Hail to the Emperor!

In recognition of his glorious work, Triumph's Josh AoW has been accorded the title of Emperor of the Comfy Chairs. Of course for those in the know, this is merely a long overdue recognition. His pic has, after all, been the model for AoW's King Joseph (now just Undead Joseph) all along.

But now for something serious. As promised, here is the latest official word on the upcoming AoW: Shadow Magic.

On the campaign format, he says in the PCZone Benelux thread
The campaign format is not identical to AoW2. It doesn't branch, but most of the time you'll have the choice of a few scenarios to play next, and you don't play as the same Wizard throughout the entire campaign.
Elsewhere in the same thread, it has been reported that the release features:
- Campaign containing 5 episodes with total of 16 scenario's.
- 16 stand alone scenario's.
- Each race has a new city upgrade and 1 new unit.

Reverting to cryptic form however, in the Ship AI and shipyards outside of cities? thread he responded to the question only by saying
Not sure about that one, but I can say that I believe the new editor options would allow you to make your own shipyard if you like...
>without specifying how that might be done. Speculation, predictably, is rampant.

But finally, on a more positive note for all those who question whether the Devs actual pay attention to the fans, he replied to a question about swolte's Bugs, exploits and serious annoyances thread saying
yeah, we've looked over that thread carefully for issues that would also apply to the new game. There are enough core changes that many issues don't apply any more...

Well. Let's all stand and give a big hand to our beloved Emperor, along with the rest of the Triumph crew, and hope they can get the finished product to us soon.

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