In an interview published in Morgan Ramsay’s ‘Gamers at Work’ (via Gamasutra), Goodman said that a “heated debate” amongst Ensemble meant that the studio was left unsure over whether to develop an Age of Empires game based around WWI & II, or explore the colonial age, as it eventually ended up doing.
“The third Age of Empires topic was the most controversial,” said Goodman.
“Some of us wanted to do the colonial time frame, and some of us wanted to move straight into World War I and II. It was the subject of heated debate within Ensemble.”
According to Goodman, AoE III’s publisher Microsoft played no part in influencing the studio’s decision on when to set the game, saying they were “very happy to keep their distance from this topic”.
An advert printed while Ensemble Studios was still active (pictured above) suggested that the team could have been planning on setting a fourth AoE game during the Vietnam War, and taking it into the future with a fifth.
The first Age of Empires title first released back in October 1997. The series became a global hit, selling 14 million copies in just 7 years.
The original game’s success prompted multiple expansion packs and two sequels, and, according to Goodman, “for several years [the series] was responsible for as much as 50 percent of Microsoft’s game revenue.”
Microsoft closed Ensemble in 2009 after it had wrapped up development on Xbox 360 RTS Halo Wars.
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