The Show Goes On
One of the touchiest and most personal issues concerned letting success go to our heads. The success of AoE is something that a lot of people in this business have not experienced. It exceeded our wildest dreams and allowed our company to take charge of our destiny. I remember when we got our first AoE royalty check — I had never held a multi-million dollar check before. That was great. We all got caught up in how good we were doing. Over time an attitude of invincibility set in. With a success like AoE, it’s easy to forget what it was like to wonder if we were going to be in business the next year. At some of the industry events such as the Game Developers Conference and E3, some of our people behaved in ways that embarrassed us. With success comes a responsibility to behave appropriately — the game industry is a small and incestuous one, and nothing lasts forever. Behaving in an exemplary manner and being friends with the industry at large is far more important than chest-beating about our current success. Suffice it to say that people in the Ensemble Studios organization have stepped forward to address this and we have challenged ourselves to be better people.
All the early indications for AoK are that it’s going to be a blockbuster on the order of its predecessor, and maybe even greater. The reviews from the press have been unbelievably positive. According to PC Data, AoK was the number-one selling game in October.
The great success of AoE made it possible for us to go to the next level of making great games. Though it enabled us to grow and acquire greater resources, it also raised expectations for our next game and spawned a host of new challenges. Meeting these new expectations has proved to be just as tough and rewarding a journey as creating the first game. In the end we succeeded in creating a game to be proud of, and I feel privileged to have been part of it.
Matt Pritchard is busy trying to be a modern renaissance man. When not working, he can be found with his family or playing with his collection of antique video games and computers. He can be reached at [email protected].
The Age of Empires II: Age of Kings development team: Top row, from left to right: Jeff Goodsill (COO), Brad Crow (art lead), Brian Hehmann (artist), Angelo Laudon (lead programmer), Sandy Petersen (designer), Dave Pottinger (programmer), Ian Fisher (designer), Harter Ryan (producer), Duncan McKissick (artist), Trey Taylor (programmer), Mario Grimani (programmer), Paul Bettner (programmer), Chris Van Doren (artist), Jeff Dotson (artist), John Evanson (programmer), Doug Brucks (programmer), Roy Rabey (IS support), Paul Slusser (artist), Chea O'Neill (artist), Bob Wallace (strategic), Mike McCart (webmaster).
Bottom row: Rob Fermier (programmer), Nellie Sherman (logistics), Stephen Rippy (music), Herb Marselas (programmer), Mark Terrano (lead designer), Chris Rippy (sound), Herb Ellwood (artist), Thonny Namounglo (artist), Duane Santos (artist), David Lewis (programmer), Sean Wolf (artist), Bruce Shelley (lead designer), Matt Pritchard (programmer), Brian Moon (CFO), Tony Goodman (CEO), Don Gagen (artist), Greg Street (designer). Not pictured: Tim Deen (programmer) Brian Sullivan (strategic), Chad Walker (artist), Eric Walker (artist), Scott Winsett (lead artist).
Age of Empires II: Age of Kings
Release date: October 1999
Intended platform: Windows 95/98/NT
Project length: 24 months
Team size: 40
Critical development hardware: Pentium II 450 128MB, Dual Xeon 450 512MB
Critical development software: Visual C++, 3D Studio Max