Speaking with Gamasutra about its upcoming Xbox 360 RTS title Halo Wars, Ensemble Studios senior designer Justin Rouse experimented with an Xbox controller-using version of Age Of Mythology before deciding to "build this thing from the ground up" and start on Halo Wars.
The Ensemble Studios team spent six months fine-tuning Halo Wars' potential control setup before approaching Microsoft and Bungie about developing the project, according to previous press reports.
The team made its first attempt to mold its controls for a real-time strategy game by first porting one of its famed Age Of Empires franchise to the Xbox 360. Said Rouse: "The first one we did was Age of Mythology; we put that on the console. That's when we first started to learn a lot of the problems that come from porting a game to the console."
Ensemble Studios found that managing Age of Mythology's resources, villagers, and buildings was much too difficult with the console's controller design. "We decided, 'Okay, we need to just start over, and build this thing from the ground up.' So, the controls were from the research of playing our own games, and then we started to build from the floor up what we need: the basics, the core of a strategy game."
The team also looked at other developer's real-time strategy console titles, too: "We've checked out all the other RTSes out there. In our company, we make so many RTSes that we have people who love every one. The EA games, the Blizzard games, the Relic games; we play them all."
On Electronic Arts' attempts to adapt real-time strategy controls for consoles (Battle For Middle-Earth 2, Command & Conquer 3), Rouse added: "We looked at the ones that EA's put on console, and we liked a lot of things they did, and we didn't like a lot of things they did. We used them for some of the reference. We actually had our controls when those games started coming out, so by the time they came out, we were already partway into production. But we looked at some things."
Gamasutra will have the full interview with Rouse available on the site in the near future.