Age of Empires II: HD Edition

Age of Empires II: HD Edition

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MS Ryz0n Jun 20, 2013 @ 11:59am
Development Update - Adjusting Formations
Hello Age of Empires fans!

Greetings from the Microsoft Age of Empires team. Today I want to discuss some development changes coming to the Age of Empires II: HD production teams, give a peek into some of the processes involved in game development, and hopefully plant the seed of excitement for the future. Make sure to read through for some awesome announcements!
First off, I apologize for the delay in updates published for the title since 2.3. I’ve been just as restless as the community, but haven’t been able to communicate what’s been happening until now. Fortunately with the floodgates opening here, we should be able to return to regular updates and a lot more information.


As many of you know, over the past year we have been working closely with Hidden Path Entertainment for the development of Age of Empires II: HD Edition. As an experienced studio located a short drive from our offices, with developers who worked on the original title, Hidden Path was the obvious choice to partner with. They’ve been a great partner, and it has been truly astonishing to observe how they’ve managed to take such antiquated code and rebuild it for modern PCs.


However, development time isn’t an infinite resource, and unfortunately Hidden Path’s availability ended in May. Those who have been following Hidden Path may recall their Defense Grid 2 announcement, and we’re incredibly excited to see that game come to life. While we are sad to see them go I do want to say that it’s been a pleasure working with Hidden Path over the last year, and making this game a reality!


So what does this mean for Age of Empires II: HD? Through the spring as production and patch development have been cranking along, we looked at our upcoming schedule and determined that with the game maintaining a high level of popularity since it was announced, we wanted to do more. That meant finding a development team to pick up the torch from Hidden Path and carry it forward. It has been painful being unable to share details until everything was signed, but I’m proud today to announce that we’ve been working with SkyBox Labs to ensure that AOE II HD’s future is brighter than ever.


The SkyBox Labs team is comprised of industry veterans that have worked on hit RTS games in the past, including the Command & Conquer series. They are excited to be involved with the next chapter of the Age of Empires franchise and build off the great work from Hidden Path.


We’ve already transitioned the latest code and processes between development teams, but I want to reiterate that we’ll continue providing patches and support for the product. During this overlap period, there has been be a delay in our update cycle as people get ramped up but we should see changes rolling out of the pipeline immediately.
There’s a lot more we’ll be doing with the game; before we get to that, we wanted to take an opportunity to focus on the development teams. First, the following is from Hidden Path:

Originally posted by Hidden Path Entertainment:
“We were honored to be chosen to help with the development of Age of Empires II: HD. With members of the original development team here at our studio, it made this update very exciting for our team,” explained Jeff Pobst, CEO at Hidden Path Entertainment (www.hiddenpath.com). ”We accomplished a lot during the scope of the project and are excited to hear that Microsoft has brought on SkyBox Labs to continue working on AOE II: HD”

The team here at Microsoft was fortunate to work closely with Jeff and the rest of the folks at HPE throughout the project, and it has been a great experience. They have an incredible amount of talent within the studio, and we can’t wait to see where they take Defense Grid 2!


Looking forward, we’re excited to be working with SkyBox Labs to continue improving AOE II HD.

SkyBox Labs (www.skyboxlabs.com) is a game studio headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, that develops for console, mobile, tablet, and PC. The studio has over 30 industry experts on staff with experience in developing RTS, Sports and Racing games. SkyBox Labs’ first new IP, Dragon Arena, is planned for release this summer.


You asked, We Heard
After looking through the community’s desires, there are a number of areas we’d like to focus on with future development. To help us do so, we are thrilled to announce a new partnership with the team behind the community driven Forgotten Empires project. We’ll be providing an official announcement with specifics in the coming weeks, but this an exciting time to be an Age of Empires fan! Development teams spend quite a bit of time creating games, but there have been dedicated community members tinkering under the hood for the last decade. Working with the FE team will allow us to focus on improving what the community has deemed most important over the years!

From Bert “Cysion” Beeckman and the FE team:
Originally posted by FE Team:
"Almost 2 years ago, a group of long-standing fans of the game started to explore the limits of the AOE II engine and discovered that those limits had not been reached yet. With a good portion of confidence we expanded our unofficial project with talent around the globe as more people joined our quest to breathe new life into the game. Starting from a group of passionate hobbyists, we expanded our approach into a streamlined development cycle. However, one key player was missing in this whole story, Microsoft.

Once we felt like we had created something truly unique, we went ahead and approached Redmond. Little did we know they had a rekindled interest in AOE II as well, with AOE2 HD already under development behind the scenes. Thanks to the shared excitement for the franchise between both parties, we are thrilled to have an opportunity to bring the community’s expertise to AOE II HD!”


Aging up – bring on the new technologies!
You will be able to see things happening immediately. Throughout the summer we’ll be providing a series of patches to the core title to continue improving the game, fix bugs, improve performance, and more. We are currently doing some internal testing with some updated builds (beta patch 2.4) as part of the transition to SkyBox and today will be opening it up to the public. In this beta patch we are looking at a few issues introduced previously (control group hotkeys), several game bugs (tech tree scaling), and experimenting with some technically challenging, but often requested features (much larger unit select sizes, changes to internal framerates, pixel vs tile scrolling, etc). Because of the extent of this update, we’ll likely keep it in beta to get your feedback, then focus on optimizing it with 2.5 to push out to everyone.

More detailed beta patch notes can be found below:
Instructions on how to provide feedback for 2.4 beta can be found in the following thread

Patch 2.4 Beta - June 12, 2013
You can choose to opt in and check out the 2.4 patch by reloading steam, right clicking AOE II HD in your library, going to properties, betas tab, and select Public Beta 2.4

General:
Includes version 2.3 integration from Hidden Path.
  • Maximum unit selection increased from 40 to 200.
  • Selection group hotkey issues are resolved now. It is no longer possible to create groups 10-19.


Performance:
The game's frame rate has been unlocked again and players may notice a frame rate jump (vsync is recommended for high end cards to avoid unnecessarily high frame rates).
  • Internal game’s frame rate is no longer forced at 20 frames per second.
  • The user interface updates every frame rather than once per second (mini-map, progress bars, etc.)
  • Scrolling is pixel smooth now, rather than being forced to scroll in half-tile increments. You may wish to adjust your scroll speed in the options.
  • If you encounter any issues with frame rate unlocks, you can revert to the original behavior by running the game with -ORIGFPS. You can right click on Age of Empires II: HD Edition in Steam, go to properties. Then click on “Set Launch Options” and enter -ORIGFPS. It will remember this setting, so you may eventually want to remove it later.
  • Removed some obsolete code that was constantly resetting the color palette.


Tech tree:
  • Visibility change: Implementation of unique unit with purple legend entry, and purple boxes for all unique units.
  • Tech tree shows up properly at all scales on both the left and right side. There were several clipping bugs when the window was at a narrow aspect ratio (close to 4:3)..
  • Scrolling to the left or right in windowed mode should feel right. Before it would only scroll in some cases when you were well outside the window boundaries.
  • Scrolling is disabled when you are close to the bottom of the window so it doesn’t interfere with window resizing.
  • Scroll and close buttons are always centered now in any resolution/aspect ratio.


Steam Stats/Achievements:

Single Battle Buildings Razed stat and Single Battle Buildings Lost stat was incorrectly using units lost and has been corrected. As a result, the following achievements have been reset:
  • No Backing Down (raze 50 buildings in single game)
  • Leave No Stone Unburned (raze 100 buildings in single game)
  • Master of the Siege (raze 250 buildings in single game)
  • Live to Rebuild (lose 15 buildings in single game)
  • Phoenix Rising (lose 50 buildings in single game)
  • Live to Fight Another Day (lose 100 buildings in single game)


Other:
  • Cheat codes for awarding wood, food, gold, and stone have been increased from 1,000 to 10,000.
  • All the English strings have been pulled out of the language.dll files and placed into language_base.txt. This will make modding and translation work easier in the future.


To discuss this announcement please visit The Discussion Thread
Last edited by MS Ryz0n; Jun 20, 2013 @ 1:56pm