Back to the 2000 year, I just moved ( again ) with my parents to a new city in the countryside of Rio de Janeiro. I had just a 56Kbps dial-up connection that I could just use at night. Here in Brazil, between midnight and 6am if you make a call, no matter how long it was, they would only charge you in one ‘pulse’.
That was the time of the beginning ( at least for me ) of IRC. Also, it had been the time of napster and the prelude of online sharing. Since I was still in High School with no friends to hang out, I loved to spend nights in front of the computer chatting, and also finding something nice to play during the night.
During these nights, I found a game that would steal my nights for a very very long time, called Age of Empires 2. Ensemble Studios, the maker, just released an expansion called The Conquers that not only corrected and improved a lot of stuff from the original game, but also released new ‘civilizations’ to play. Nevertheless, It was groundbreaking during that time. I’ll talk more about the game itself in my vision and the mechanics later.
I remember of having a few sheets of paper with some strategies of different civilizations and use is as a cheat during the matches. Although we had internet, is was not rare that some friends that i met on the game decided to make a plan party, so they’d go to someone’s house with giant CPUs and CRT heavy monitors , buy some pizza and coke, and play all night long.
I think this game not only made my nights less boring, but also leverage my interest in the gaming area and how it works.
I’ll point out some features of the game (as I remember) and my opinion of it.
The game is basically a RTS that had several civilizations. Each one has a special unit and some exclusive advantages. That time, this was not so well funded yet and Age helped a lot. These civilizations act like a giant “rock, paper, scissors” into them mechanics, any civilization would have a very good atribute/use and flaws that could be explored by the other players.
During the game itself generally the max population was 200, and the player must balance the resource production with the army created. Quick response to changes and a good strategy was always a part of the game. This gameplay had so much evolution that even Economic Schools use it nowadays to teach a creative thinking in their students and give them classes about Resources x Production (take a look here ) .
You could make alliances and help your pals with resources to leverage the team against other enemies. But if the game was not a team match literally you’ll never know when someone could betray you. The evolutionary system was great and intuitive.
For me, one of the coolest thing in the game was the ending screen. We found some statistics like battles and proportions of army and villagers of all the players in the world. I use this as a learning from every battle. Incremental learning can be one of many consequences of any RTS game. During the time I used to play, I should change my strategy every time I play since my friends would find a flaw for every new trick I apply once. I also must anticipate that from them.
One thing that I cannot leave without mentions was the sounds during the game. They were really rich and various with a lot of acting on it. When I was in battle that were a lot of random death sounds at the same time giving the sense of action and motion on it. It is surely one of the best features in the game. The ideia of immersion was not so well defined that time. during a game you barely notice all those tweaks, but if people try to play in a mute mode you’d have that “there’s something missing” feeling.
Ok, I’ll try not to be too nostalgic here. The multiplayer for that time was just great. As I said before, my connection was only a 56kbps dial up at that time, and if nothing was doing in parallel (like downloading music or other stuff) the game worked seamless for up to 8 players! That was unbelievable that time. We use to stick with the Lan parties though, because, at least for me, it was way more funnier when everybody was close and we could see the face of each other.
No one cared about the single player, period. I’ve never hear of someone that loved this part of the game. they had really boring missions, and it seems like a very very long unnecessary tutorial for the multiplayer game. Also, the AI, was a little repetitive if you get the tricks fast. I saw people winning the hardest dozen times, but it does not reflect with real people.
They’ve made a very good HD edition, and tried to revive the series with and online game, but I think that nowadays all the mobas and Starcraft like games got too much space. That’s a shame for such an incredible title.
Extra: The Wololo meme
It is funny like some things here in Brazil are greater than other parts of the world. Although this meme is a little nerdy ( you can say everything you want, but a lot of people that used the meme did not play Age of Empires at all, or does not even know that was part of a game ), it spread a lot. It was happy from one side ( for the hope of renewing the series ), but sad in another side. It got too saturated(dunno if this is the best expression in english). So as fast as it got spread, it vanished. But, is nice to remember =)
Thanks for reading!