HeavenGames

News Archive: September 2003

Gamespy Down

Since this weekend the Empires multiplayer server - Gamespy - has been offline. As Rick says in our forums, SSS has contacted Gamespy of the problem and are working to get it online; I'm sure it'll be up soon. Here's what he had to say:

"As you know, since this weekend, the Empires MP Server has not available.

We have contacted Gamespy. They have informed us that they are performing maintenance on the Empires MP Server. Apparently, other servers have not been affected.

Later today, Gamespy will be letting us know when they will be bringing the server back online. We'll let you know what the plan is, as soon as we hear something.

We will work with Gamespy to insure that service in not interrupted in the future. If, for any reason, in the future, there is a Gamespy service interruption we will work with Gamespy to inform players in advance, by posting here in this forum.

My personal apology to you all for the lack of AAA service from Stainless, Activision and GameSpy."

Poll Roundup

What do you think of the demo so far? was last week's poll question, and it understandably got a majority of votes favoring the demo. And if you like what the demo has to offer, it's but a sampling of how awesome the full version of Empires will be. I'm eagerly anticipating its release, and I'd hope you guys are as well!

[50%] Love it
[24%] It's pretty good
[17%] It's ok
[2%] Indifferent
[7%] Don't like it

Total: 246 votes
Now that everyone has gotten a taste of Empires through the demo, Do you plan on buying Empires when its released? Answer in our poll!

Imperial Review

This past week has been relatively slow in terms of news, but we still did get a number of interesting things. The Armchair Empire got a chance to interview several members of the SSSI design team, asking them questions on most anything relating to the design on the game. GameSpy got the second interview of the week, talking to Rick Goodman and Richard Bishop about the development of Empires. SSSI itself released a couple new screenshots of the Yi campaign, for anyone looking for shots. And finally, IGN released their feature of England/UK, covering their unique attributes.

In our forums, the SSS staff (and former SSS staff) did quite a bit of posting themselves, especially in a thread concerning "liberating" enemy buildings. Messiah talked about the balancing problems that would happen if the traditional way of liberating buildings was put into gameplay, and Boggy followed up by mentioning that there was one unit able to convert buildings: The US Engineer. The Engineer should prove to be a very interesting unit on the battlefield, converting unguarded buildings, strengthening your own position.

What's coming next week? Likely more demo information and interviews/previews for Empires; I'll be sure to keep you updated on all that.

That's it for this week, see you 'round the empire!

Demo Forum Party - September 27th

HeavenGames has a tradition of holding weekly Forum Parties for many of the games we cover. Dating back to Age of Empires, a gathering of forumers and staff at Forum Parties allowed for some of the most memorable games ever played. The Forum Parties are about friendly (and sometimes tough) competition, regardless of skills. It's a chance for forumers to get to know each other more intimately, such as wiping out an entire battalion of infantry or taking a tank to their peasants.

At Empires Heaven, we do things no differently. This Saturday (tomorrow), join us at our Forum Party. It will begin at 2:00PM EST or 6:00PM GMT. All who can host are advice to do so. Read all the details in the Forum Party Thread. See you on the battlefields!

IGN's Feature of England/UK

IGN has released their 2nd installment in their "Empires of Empires:DoTMW" feature: England/UK. It gives a brief summary of the civilization and goes on to describe all of its unique attributes. Here's a snippet from the article:

Military Abilities

  • Ballistics: All English ranged units are better able to hit enemy targets on the move.
  • Bombardment: English culverins can either fire forward or aim in a high arc to shoot over city walls and other obstructions.
  • Capture Equipment: If English units damage enemy artillery, they can seize that artillery and use it themselves, provided that they've also eliminated any nearby enemy troops.

GameSpy Interview with Bishop and Goodman

GameSpy put up their interview with Rick Goodman and Richard Bishop today. Much of it deals with the development of Empires: Dawn of the Modern World. It extends three pages and is filled with some great information:
"GameSpy: Do you have a particular favorite power or strategy in the game?
Richard Bishop: It's a little early to be talking about favorite strategies since the game is still changing every day. The secret project, on the other hand Ö I love the English "Lend-Lease" power. It lets the English player be more aggressive and not worry so much about defending their base. The power instantly creates a free army at your base -- and not a few dinky units, either. Lend-Lease can give you a pretty credible force instantly.

GameSpy: Is the game designed primarily for single or multiplayer?
Richard Bishop: I'd say both types of gamers will find a lot of fun in Empires. I can tell you, though, that the game was designed for multiplayer first. We created the units and tested them for multiplayer, then shipped the code and assets over to the single-player guys. They developed the story-based campaigns, and if they needed a specific unit to make a campaign mission work, they designed and coded it. They came up with a few units that migrated back to multiplayer, but there are a few that are unique to the single-player side."
Overall it is a great interview. You can find it at GameSpy.

Empires Alliance Opens

Empires Earth France recently closed down but was reborn as Empires Alliance! It looks pretty snazzy, check it out!

New Yi Scenario Screenshots from SSS

Stainless Steel Studios released two screenshots from the Yi Campaign in Empires showing off the cinematic effect. I'm pretty sure that the SP demo actually features what is in both screenshots so be sure to get the demo if you still haven't. I'm currently still in the Yi campaign mostly since all my time has been invested in the multiplayer, but there are some very nice features especially the lip-syncing which really surprised me.

SSS Staff on Converting Buildings

Messiah - a former SSS tester - recently commented on "liberating" enemy buildings by regular means isn't present in Empires' gameplay. SSS wanted to try to keep things balanced between the players and make it possible to have a player have a comeback after losing their base.

"This idea has been considered before for various games I am sure. THe problem is it s very hard to balance, and has the "strong get stronger" mentality to it. That is, if someone kills off someone else, and they get their whole base, they are much stronger than before. In team games this could eliminate any chance of a comback if one player captured an enemy player's base."
He also briefly mentioned that UK/England players are able to take over enemy siege if there are no enemy units defending:

"Empires actually has a similar ability, but for siege. The UK/England can capture enemy siege if their are no other units around defending it, and it is brought to half life."
Later on in the thread, Boggy from SSS said that - although you can't liberate buildings by eliminating nearby units - the US Engineer is able to convert them.

"US Engineer can convert enemy buildings. I know this is civ/unit specific and not quite what you might be looking for... but still very sweet. It's hillarious when you can convert a handfull of your enemy's buildings when he is not paying attention. After that... the enemy will always see that little Engineer has a huge threat..."
And to followup Boggy's post, Valdraz mentioned some of the fun targets for the Engineer:

Stealing that unguarded airport full of nukes far from the battle, in the back of someone's base; Converting unguarded mining camps from British enemies.

Poll Roundup

Last week's question of Do you have the demo yet? had most of the answers going to "No, but I plan to", though Yes was only behind by 3 percent. It seems like a pretty large percentage of the community has the demo, here's the poll results:

[40%] Yes
[18%] No
[43%] No, but I plan to.

Total: 261 votes
Since quite a few people have the demo, it's only fitting to ask What do you think of the demo so far? Love it? Answer in our poll!

Interview with SSS Design Team

The Armchair Empire recently got the chance to interview several members of the design team at SSS: Rick Goodman, Jon Alenson, Mike Echino, Richard Bishop, Shawn Frison, Jonny Ebbert, and Nate Jacques. It covers a wide range of information, definitely something to check out. Here's an excerpt:

"Does Empires: Dawn of the Modern World carry forward any innovations from Empire Earth?

Mike Echino Ė Multiplayer Designer - The 1st thing we did in the early design stages of Empires: Dawn of the Modern World was create a master document of all the innovations from EE and decide upon which ones we liked best and which we believed could be improved. We felt we had a good grasp on what worked well and what didnít and in the end we decided we definitely wanted to continue developing games that span a large amount of history. Empires: Dawn of the Modern World accomplishes this and then some by spanning the most exciting time periods in human history (Medieval Age - World War Two).

Scenario Design Forum Opens

Discussion of scenario design and other related subjects has really increased in our General Discussions forum, so I thought it was only appropriate to give those threads their own home. And so the Scenario Design Discussions forum has opened, ready for everyone to talk on that subject. Check it out!

Imperial Review

With the singleplayer and multiplayer demos coming out for download online, many more people have been enjoying the game. Kumar Shah posted a lot of screenshots which Iím sure many people will like to see, and EGN posted several gameplay videos. And on top of that, demo events have started. Our first unofficial forum party was quite successful, and two competitive events were announced. starComa just had a tournament today and Pro Ladder started up a ladder for Empires. Much fun is to be had with it already, be sure to participate in these community events!

Along with the demo news, a number of the Stainless Steel fellas stopped by the forums. Gordon Farrel explained quite in-depth what Empiresí campaigns and storylines are like. But the bulk of the posting came from the Big Cheese himself, Rick Goodman. Among the tons of posts heís made this week, the most notable ones concerned Empiresí gameplay. He gave the community several tips on how to master the game, plus commented on the strategy used in multiplayer games.

As far as previews/reviews go, things surprisingly slowed down this week. IGN started up their weekly civilization features with an analysis of the United States and GameSpy released a developer diary of Rick Goodman on creating Empiresí tech tree. Besides that, we didnít get anything else.

Whatís coming next week? More demo news and information for sure, and definitely an event or two!

Thatís it for this week, see you Ďround the empire!

Another Rick Goodman's Diary

GameSpy has added a new developer diary by Rick Goodman himself entitled Creating the Technology Tree. This time it is a 1 page article explaining the diverse and unique nature of Empires' technologies. They're truly different from the normal RTS games as Rick says himself:
We wanted technologies that would potentially give you game-changing (or even game-winning!) improvements. We wanted fewer, more important technological changes -- basically going for quality over quantity. That philosophy has governed the development of Empires since day one. One of the first items we came up with that demonstrates this philosophy was the German "blitzkrieg," an attack that demoralizes, overwhelms, and easily overruns the enemy in a wide area. This special tactic gives you a nearly insurmountable advantage in ground combat, but makes choosing the time and place to use it supremely important.
I think Rick hit it right on the nose, better than I could ever say it. There're definitely less technologies in Empires, and they're each very important. I haven't seen too many players using the university's secret classified projects (like black forest) and normal unit technologies, but they should. Read the rest of the short but fine article here. Also post in our forums and tell us what is Best University Ability out of 3 So far?

Pro Ladder opens for Demo

biffy has recently notified me that Pro Ladder has set up a seperate ladder for the Empires: Dawn of the Modern World Multiplayer Demo. You can expect many of the the gaming elites to be ranked. Sign ups are now open at Pro Ladder. Be sure to join!

New Wallpaper

ParatroopersSSS artist Corey Strader had hand-painted a wallpaper for Empires. It's an awesome painting - check it out.

Here's more information on the arist and the creation of the wallpaper:
My work on Empires: Dawn of the Modern World has ranged from the modeling and texturing of in-game units, to creating illustrations and logos for marketing and PR related materials. Some of the marketing projects I've worked on recently include: the Empires logo; a magazine poster insert for upcoming issues of some popular gaming magazines; a preorder poster for Gamestop; and some miscellaneous paintings to be used in a variety of ads.

The wallpaper image of the paratroopers was painted entirely on the computer, using Photoshop and a Wacom tablet. I start with some quick thumbnail sketches in pencil, just to get the ideas flowing, then, after picking the best direction to move forward with, I jump over to Photoshop where I create a more refined sketch to get a better idea for the composition and color of the image. When the color sketch has been approved I move onto creating the final painting. Though the painting technique is very close to how I would work with more traditional media, working digitally allows me a greater degree of flexibility and to produce work at a faster rate.

I hope you like the first installment in Empires: Dawn of the Modern World wallpapers.

First Unofficial Demo Forum Party Tonight!

...well, later today. xLpx thought it was a good time to start up the Heavenly tradition of forum parties, now that everyone has access to the multiplayer version of the Empires demo. And I'd have to agree with him on that. There's not that much more fun than beating the snot out of your buddies in an online game, eh?

The time for the party will be tonight (Saturday) at 8pm EST, be there or be square!

New Virus out in the wild.

There is a new virus that takes advantage of a recent problem discovered with certain version of Microsoft Windows. More information can be found here: http://securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/venc/data/w32.swen.a@mm.html.
It dupes users into thinking they are installing a security update, when in fact it isn't. See screenshot: http://securityresponse.symantec.com/avcenter/graphics/w32.swen.a@mm.3.gif. If you haven't updated your system, please do so at http://www.windowsupdate.com.

If you opened the attachment, it attempts to disable various anti-virus programs (like Norton Anti-Virus) as well as various firewalls (like ZoneAlarm). It will try to intercept your email username, password, and mail server settings, thus using your ISP's mail server to spread itself. It will attempt to send itself to everyone on your address book through email, as well as attempt to spread through KaZaA, shared directories, IRC, and newsgroups. It will modify your registry, add files to your computer. In short, your computer and possibly your ISP access will be thoroughly screwed by the time the worm is done installing itself on your computer, so it'll be best if you avoid getting infected so you don't have to deal with the resulting mess.

As always, don't open email attachments from people you don't know, even if it claims to be from Microsoft.

sCa^ Clan, Demo Tournament

The starComa clan is holding a Empires: Dawn of the Modern World Demo Tournament this Sunday, the 21st. Here are the details; thanks to Empires Aeon for the translation:
"Description
starComa presents the Empires: Dawn of the modern World Sunday night Tourney. Every player who has a demo version of Empires: Dawn of the modern World Multiplayer Demo is invited to enter the Tourney. Right now we have a limit of 64 Player but we will increase the number of Player if we will have a positive Feedback.

Settings
Game mode: Action
Start epoch: WW2
End epoch: WW2
Game speed: vfast
Pop limit: 1000
Map: Highlands
Map size: small

The Course of Events
You will have to Create an Account at starComa to sign-up for the Tournament. The Tournament starts at 6pm scet but we will close the signups around 5pm to bring the brackets up. Every Participant of this Tourney has to appear around 6pm at the Gamelobby so we can guarantee an organized Tournament. You will be able to see your opponent at the Tournaments Page. The winner of each Game is responsible to make a short post about the match in our Tournament Forum so we can start planing the next brackets.

Prizes
The winner will receive a brandnew Everglide Giganta Mouseboard, sCa^oPPonent is responsible for the sendings."
Anyone with the Demo can join. I of course, will try my luck. You can signup here. Good luck to all contestants!

Rick Goodman Tips!

Empires: Dawn of the Modern World designer Rick Goodman stopped by our forums to help us out with some aspects of Empires. In our forums, Rick Goodman posted some tips about healing and repairing capabilities:
Tips to help you master the game
"Healing and vehicle repair are two crucial tactical elements to master on your path to victory in Multi-player games. Most, if not all of your strategies should embrace and exploit this element of your Civilization's capabilities. And, as always, each Civilization in Empires has its own unique healing and repair capabilities. So mastering the game, means mastering all 7 different unique national characteristics.
To help you Empire Heaven fans master the game, I am outlining each Civilizations capabilities here, for you:

Civ. - Healing and Repair Capabilities
===========================
England - Vicar*, Battlefield Surgeon*, Medic*
French - All units self heal, when idle
Korea - Temple*
China - Taoist Sorcerer*
Germany - Town Center
Russia - House
USA - Ambulance*"
Also, Rick Goodman needs your help! In another thread, he asks some questions for those who have played the Empires: Dawn of the Modern World demo:
Multi Player games - New Level of Strategy
"Do you enjoy 4, 6 or 8 player games? If so, you are going to love the all-new level of strategy in Empires for MP games.
Alliances between different civilizations in RTS games has alwasy provided some incremental benefits to players. But, Empires ushers in an entirely new level of strategic options. Here is why:
1. Allies share special abilities and
2. Allies can freely transfer military units between one another.

In the first case, Units such a the Drummer Boy benefit all ally's units. This is also true with some of the Wonders, the English special "Geological Survey" ability, the French Barge and the Korean Poweder Keg Wagon. You'll discover many new, never-seen-before opportunities to use different Civilization's combined arms together.

Secondly, allies can freely transfer land and naval units between themselves. This is incredibly powerful."
Finally, Rick Goodman posted at Empires Aeon, some tips for the defense against the annoying stealth units:
Tips to to help you Master the game
"Stealthy Unit Detectors for all Civilizations:
Towers
Priests/Vicors/Monks/etc.
Submarines
Aircraft

Stealthy Unit Detectors by Civilization :
Minister's Report (Korea)

Pillbox (France)
Surveillance Van (France)
Surveillance Post (France)

Spy Report (Germany)
Sergeant (Germany)

Army Recon (USA)
Engineer (USA)

Commando (UK)
Secret Agents (UK)

Commissar (Russia)"
Thanks Rick Goodman, for all those valuable tips! They certainly helped me and I'm sure they helped tons of others too!

Empires SP & MP Demos Out!

You heard it right folks, the Singleplayer and Multiplayer demos for Empires has hit the internet this morning. Quite a shocker and a few sites have yet to post the demos up therefore a lot of the lines are filled. The SP demo lets you play 3 scenarios from Admiral Yi, Lionheart, and Patton campaigns. The Multiplayer map is suppose to let players play against others or the AI in a set WWII map. Here's some of the mirros so far:

3D Gamers
WorthPlaying
AusGamers
GameArena
Gamer's Hell

While you're downloading the demos you can also see the readme at 3D Gamers on this page. It contains some important information for those with firewalls or routers. Try out more mirrors and information as they come in our forum thread here. I'm currently using a program called Bit Torrent from 3D Gamers to download the file. So far I'm getting a steady 40k, instructions can be found here.

Korean SP/MP Demo for Download?

Forumer butsomuch has told us that the Korean publisher of Empires: Dawn of the Modern World, Mega Entertainment will be releasing the Single Player and Multiplayer demos of Empires this weekend. While this may not be some people's language of choice, it is freely downloadable. Seems like we might get the Korean MP demo before the English. You can find the thread in our forums.

In other news, we've enabled our Poll again. It was down for a while, but all is fixed. So vote away! ;)

Nano Age Unit Contest at Empire Gaming

The folks over at Empire Gaming - a British Empires fansite - have announced a very nice contest. All it requires is that the entrants describe an imaginary unit that could be in the nonexistent Nano Age in Empires. Gets people's imaginations to working, and the winner and runners up get some very nice prizes as follows:

"1 winner and 2 runners up will win:
1 Signed screenshot handout
2 Signed civ cards

All you have to do is think of an imaginary futuristic unit that could be in a "Nano Age" if there would be one in a future expansion for Empires then reply to this topic with a description of what it is like and what it will do."

US Examination by IGN

IGN has started off their series of articles taking a look at all 7 civilizations with one about the United States. It covers all of the special attributes and units of the US, pretty cool information. Next week should have a feature on another one of the civilizations, I'll keep my eyes peeled for it. Here's an excerpt:

"Today we're kicking off a series of features examining each of the seven civilizations in the upcoming Empires: Dawn of the Modern World. Since we're all full of national pride here at IGN (which stands for I've Got National...pride, by the way) we figured we'd start with our own civilization, the United States...

Military Abilities:

Bombing Runs: Given enough fuel, conventional bombers can make multiple bombing runs before returning to base.
Charge: US infantrymen can temporarily increase their speed and rate of fire but must recover for a while afterwards."

Poll Roundup

Which "medium" for warfare do you think you'll prefer? was last week's question, and most of the votes went straight for land warfare. It's an oldie but a goodie, land warfare is where most of the fighting happens in most games, and Empires will probably be no different. But that doesn't mean the air and sea fighting will be any less exciting, just less-often used due to the difficulty in fighting in such a way in many games (no water, early land fighting, etc). Here's the poll results:

[24%] Air
[63%] Land
[13%] Sea

Total: 305 votes
With the demo coming out this past week, many people have been rushing to get their hands on just a sample of Empires. Do you have the demo yet? Answer in our poll!

EGN Gameplay Videos

Empires EGN has recently posted some gameplay videos of the Empires: Dawn of the Modern World Demo. They are actually quite large, with some being the size of 20+MBs. The first video shows the Castle cinematic from the English campaign. Another shows Geoffrey and Richard on their way to meet the French King, Phillip. The last video captures the Korean cinematic which includes some naval action. DivX is needed to view these movies. You can find the movies at Empires EGN.

Gordon Farrell on Empires' Campaigns

SSSI's Gordon Farrell recently made a long and detailed reply to one of the threads in our forums about the Empires' single player campaigns. He clarifies the distinction between campaigns and scenarios, and mentions how in-depth and detailed the battle of Waterloo is; which I personally am going to love to see. Here is what he had to say on that:

Yeah the distinction between campaigns and scenarios can be confusing, especially when you can also have what are essentially mini-campaigns *inside* a larger campaign. The "Wellington Campaign" in EE is actually two really beefy scenarios that begin with the Peninsular War and end with Quatre Bras, Ligny, Waterloo and Wavre. I took great pride in the degree of accuracy I was able to bring to the battlefield at Waterloo, for example. Hougoumont, Mont St. Jean, La Haie and other key landmarks are all represented. So given your passion for Sir Arthur (as he starts this mini-campaign) you might enjoy getting your hands on it and playing it!
Continuing, Gordon talked about the Richard the Lionheart Campaign; 8 multi-mission scenarios that should take from 90-180 minutes to play, and covers many of the major events that happened during his rise to power. Here's the scoop on all that:

In EDW, however, instead of the traditional, sprawling, historical chronicle, we decided to create very focused, dramatically taut stories about the lives of three heroes. The Richard Lionheart Campaign has 8 long, rich, multi-mission scenarios each of which will take from 90 to 180 minutes to play. The story deals with the civil war that erupted between King Henry Plantagenet and his four sons in 1183 after the New Year's Court at Caen, and traces the alliances, betrayals, and murder plots that led to Richard ascending the throne in 1189...

All of the events occur BEFORE the Third Crusade, which is when most Richard Lionheart stories usually BEGIN!

Screenshots by Kumar

Fellow Angel Kumar Shah posted some screenshots from the Empires: Dawn of the Modern World Demo. Totaling 21 shots, the collection is quite impressive. He also gives some of his opinions about the demo. You can find his thread in our forums and the screenshots in this page.

Finally, Gordon Farrell stopped by our fourms and enlightned us about the use of Prophets and Sorcerors inthe Campaigns:
"In the single player campaigns there are no sorcerers or prophets at all. Every aspect of them is historical and realistic."
Thanks for taking time out of your hectic schedules Stainless Steel!

Imperial Review

With the demo available at Best Buy, quite a lot of information came out on it this week. Both Empires Aeon and HomelanFed wrote up reviews of the demo, both of them pretty good reads. EH released 25 new screenshots from the demo; there are a number that look awesome and really show what the Empires engine can do. Along with the demo reviews, quite a few previews were released. GameSpot, GameSpy, and Gamechronicles all previewed Empires, but the most informative by far came from IGN. IGNís detailed 3-page hands on preview is a great article to check out; if you want to read any preview this week, take a look at that one.

The awesome folks from SSS also posted quite a bit this week. Both Messiah and Hank talked in detail on how English naval warfare and naval warfare in general works, and how it is balanced. Directly following that, Messiah also commented on the mechanics and balancing on air warfare; the effectiveness of bombers, fighters, and AA guns and how easy is it to conduct air attacks. Quite a few people have been wondering about the quality of the water graphics in Empires, but Rick Goodman and Psycho Boy Jack assured everyone that the graphics are top-notch, along with how the detailing works. And finally, Shag and Hank talked about the Artificial Intelligence in Empires; apparently, it is fairly easy in lower levels but becomes progressively more difficult and more intelligent. Itís designed to work with any level of player, from novice to expert.

Whatís coming next week? Surely more previews on Empires, plus reviews and screenshots from the demo!

Thatís it for this week, see you Ďround the empire!

Easter Egg Hunt Winners!

After getting all of the names of the people that found all 5 easter eggs and putting said names into a hat (well...a bowl, I couldn't find a hat), I picked out two of them and they are...Bluekevin and Mike McKee! Both of you get a snazzy new HeavenGames t-shirt, just send your mailing information to Spineman and he'll send you your prize.

Congratulations!

SCNPunk Reopens

One of the largest and most skilled groups of RTS scenario designers on the net - SCNPunk - has just reopened in time for all of the new games that are coming out this fall. If their past record is any indication of the kinds of scenarios you'll see from some of your favorite RTS games in the future, SCNPunk is sure to release some awesome scenarios and campaigns. Here's the scoop on it from Licensed Devil:

After the routine crash and re-crash, that all of you are so used to by now, we are back, back again, just in time for Empires, TFT and what-not... And so, We hereby announce the return of The SCN Punk Network, The community of scenario designing is about to see another giant rise...once more. So what do we have in store? Splendid and luscious designs for your favorite games (unless itís Parcheesi or Scrabble) Web hosting to any semi-decent map maker or a team who needs it, we will never turn down anyone in need, A community of the best map makers and professional game makers having a good time and creating the new age Art, which SCN design is. And so, Ladies and gentlemen, Here we go again... http://www.scnnetwork.com

Shag and Hank on AI

Shag and Hank appeared in our forums today to comment about the AI in Empires: Dawn of the Modern World. In the AI Questions thread posted by Midgard Eagle, Shag and Hank had this to say:

Shag
"Once you get into the medium difficulty settings, the AI gets much smarter and more devious. It might test you with one or two units early on, then send a much bigger army to a weakly defended area. It might retreat if it's getting killed somewhere, regroup with a larger force, then come back with superior numbers. It may use a special ability to weaken your army, then send in it's army to wipe them out. I've seen it do all kinds of things that are eerily human-like. It's a lot of fun because you're never quite sure what an AI opponent is going to do from game to game. And on the hardest difficulty settings... watch out!"

Hank
"I was just playing a game against the hardest AI and he was microing his units into and out of the battle like a human would! There are definitely different levels of difficulty for every player out there, it'll just be a matter of finding which one is most competitive for you. And like Shag said, even if the highest level becomes a pushover for you you can add on more AI player's to up the challenge."

You can find the their entire posts in our forums. Much thanks to Stainless Steel for the information!

HomeLan SP Demo Review

Today, HomeLan Fed post thier review of the Empires: Dawn of the Modern World Single Player Demo. The preview describes a bit about each campaign and notable features in Empires. The preview also includes four screenshots:
"RTS veterans should feel right at home when they play Empires. The user interface gives people ways to click on units for fighting as well as citizens to mine resources like wood and iron. In the medieval English scenario you can actually create a auto mine shaft that makes getting those resources easier than having five citizens hammer on it.

Graphically, Empires: Dawn of the Modern World is a step or two above the looks of Empire Earth with better unit animation and artwork and some solid graphics in their 3D RTS engine. Water in the game actually reflects ships that float on top and explosions caused by bombs and cannons in the Korean scenario leave visible scars on the ground."
You can find the review at HomeLan Fed.

Rick on Water Graphics

Rick Goodman commented on just how the great water graphics work in Empires, as well as just how detailed it is. Fish, dolphins, sharks, shore waves; they all sound awesome. Here's what he had to say on the issue:

"For those of you who are interested in how we created the water from a technical standpoint we use scrolling bump map textures on the surface (keep in mind that older cards can't bump map) with water reflections of both ships and objects on land such as trees and buildings. Animated water caustics are reflect off the see floor, we fog water depth dark blue and have several underwater terrains showing aquadic sea life. There are fish, dolphins, sharks, (er, at least I thought I saw a shark, once) and shore waves, as well. I have no idea how shore waves were implemented -- Greg Seegert is the Graphics wiz responsible."
Psycho Boy Jack also made his own mentioning of the water graphics:

"The water in the screen shots is definately the same as in the game. Due to the technology we use (vertex shaders, pixel shaders, specular highlights, environment bump mapping, stencil buffer, etc) you won't get all the goodies unless you have a Geforce3 (or equivalent) or better. Still, on high detail we try to make everything look as good as possible for what your graphics card can handle.

The end result is that I'm pretty happy with how the water came out, but then again I'm WAY too biased =)"

Screenshots from Demo: 25

Although this may be bit of old news, the past three days I have been capturing many shots of my adventures in the Empires: Dawn of the Modern World Demo. Finally, our Demo Screenshots has become large enough to be worthy of a mention. In it, you can find a plethora of new screenshots which include cinematics and the user interface. Finally, I've managed to change the lighting in Empires, resulting in two screenshots: Night and Dusk. Enjoy! ;)

Empires Aeon Reviews the Demo

Empires Aeon has put up a pretty good review of the Empires demo by DoJo_AntiAmi, which covers a nice amount of information and is quite complimentary on the game; giving it a 9.5 out of 10. Here's an excerpt:

"Overall Rating: 9.5/10
This demo is awesome, and I really can't wait to get the full version of the game! I would recommend this to all RTS fans of the world, you will enjoy it. I'm only playing two civilizations and scenarios, and I'm totally hooked! Buy the game, you'll be happy with it."

Poll Roundup

Which do you spend the most time playing? had most of the votes going to multiplayer games...by one percent, just ahead of single player skirmishes. Surprising just how close those two are; though considering that most everyone visiting this internet site likes multi-player to some extent, the amount of votes going to that is higher. Here are the full results:

[41%] Single Player Skirmishes
[18%] Single Player Campaigns
[42%] Multi-Player Games

Total: 243 votes
Since we've recently gotten a lot of information from SSS about air and naval warfare's balancing and mechanics, I thought some people might be forming their opinions on such subjects. Which "medium" for warfare do you think you'll prefer? Air? Sea? Land? Answer in our poll!

Messiah on Air Balancing and Mechanics

Messiah made a long and detailed reply in our forums concerning how air combat works in Empires and how SSS effectly balanced it. Bombers destroy unprotected buildings, fighters take out bombers, AA guns mow down all air. Of course, that's a very short summary of what he said in great detail here:

"Following the general theme of the game, Air is balanced in Empires. Bombers are very powerful, and can destroy buildings and even units (if they can hit the units) VERY fast. Bombers are also pretty expensive, hard to mass, and most importantly VERY fragile. Anti aircraft kills planes very quickly, so unless there is a large fleet of aircraft, a few AA guns will be enough to not only ward off air attacks, but to completely kill them off. Basically air is great for raiding and harassing the enemy. It forces them to build AA guns and can really distract them, ie it is effective. BUT, if you know it is coming or just prepare for it in general then it won't be able to do large amounts of damage. On the other hand, if someone builds up 8 bombers in their base, then releases them all at once, with no previous hint that they were going air, then you could concevably win a game that way, or at least very badly cripple your enemy."
Messiah also addressed the effectiveness of air rushing; which is apparently a not-so-effective strategy, since other rushing with other units can be done far easier and earlier:

"Air rushing is not a very likely strategy, and certainly will never be a dominant strategy. The reason for this is it is so easy to rush (in action mode) with just infantry. If you go straight for air, you will be dead long before you get your first plane out if someone does a hard infantry rush on you...

So basically it takes time to build up an airforce. Planes are excellent support units, and in big team games it is possible and even good for one player to go all air, and support their allies, but it is not over powered. It can be easily countered when expected, but can be devastating when not."
And he finished his post by talking about the fighter's ability to strafe, which is an apparently quite effective way to take out units:

"Just as a side note, fighters are also of course an excellent counter to bombers, and can be used to clear out villagers and army very well. Strafing someone's undefended land army can wipe it out quite quickly if you have many fighters."

Empires Preview at Gamechronicles

Gamechronicles has posted a short preview of Empires. This one doesn't really cover all that much information, really only an article to check out if you haven't seen any of the previous previews, or just want to read something else of the game. Here's a snippet:

"From renowned game designer Rick Goodman and respected game developer Stainless Steel Studios comes Empires: Dawn of the Modern World, a detailed RTS that lets you completely command unique, historically accurate civilizationsófrom China to Germany and the United States. Each civilization's strengths and weaknesses affect the gameplay experience. Your ability to adapt to these differences is only one of the challenges you will face as a world leader."

Hands-On Preview at IGN

IGN - following their visit of Activision in California - wrote up a fairly detailed preview of Empires. The preview goes over the basic overview of the game and how the various civilizations work; it's not a bad read. Here's an excerpt:

"Stainless Steel and Activision hope to have Empires: Dawn of the Modern World on the shelves soon. From the build we saw, there's not much more to do than some last minute bug crunching. The 3D visuals are looking as impressive as ever and an adjustable camera has been added to give your best attacks a cinematic flavor. Be sure to stay tuned as we have a review sometime next month. "

Messiah and Hank on English Naval Warfare

In a thread concerning the balancing of naval warfare during WWI and WWII, Messiah cleared up some things on the true superiority of English ships to the other civilizations'. According to him, English ships - on a basis of cost - a slightly better than the other ships:

"England/UK ships are slightly better than the other ships in the game. This is not to say one british ship can beat one of any other civs ships (although one english ship can beat one ship from most civilizations)... Basically, British ships are slightly better "for cost" then the ships of the other civilizations. This in itself is a balance issue, as the england/uk civs have a higher dependence on wood than the other civilizations. This means it is actually harder for them to get as many boats, which is why they have slightly better boats for cost. In the end, all the civs are nearly equal on the water, as they are on land. This is necessary to have the game balanced, and is definitely the best way for the game to be, otherwise one civ would be too powerful, and would get played more than the other civilizations."
Hank followed up on that reply with a reply of his own, further commenting on the power of English ships; in this case with their Heated Shot ability to sink a ship immediately:

"Right, Messiah is correct. However, if I have 4 English ships vs. 4 Frank ships I would choose the 4 English ships every time. While the Flagship ability is not a gigantic advantage, the extra hitpoints and the ability to nearly sink any full-health ship with its special Heated Shot ability will quickly turn the tide on the enemy. If I only had 3 English ships vs. 4 Frankish ships, I could effectively sink one Frankish ship right off the bat and even the odds and likely end up winning that battle."
And to follow up Hank's reply, Messiah further cleared up the issue of the power of the English navy, stating that although they are extremely powerful on the water, they aren't the civization to always play; there are other civs that have navies with other superior aspects:

Hank is correct in saying that the British are the best of the civs on water, ignoring economy and other considerations. The british also do have the flagship bonus, which can make them must stronger on the water, when the bonus is used well. You will find that there are a variety of other things the english and uk can do to further enhance the flagship ability to make it even more powerful. I could be wrong, but I am fairly sure England has the second strongest ships (as in raw fire power and hp's), which I believe is also true to history (although I personally am not a history buff)...

I assure you that each civilization is still extremely unique. They all play very differently. They have a different feel, they use different strategies, they have different strengths and weaknesses, etc etc.

Empires Heaven's Easter Egg Hunt!

I thought it was about time for some kind of giving out of prizes 'round here, so Empires Heaven is holding what I like to call an "Easter Egg Hunt". Similar to its Real Life counterpart, you need to look all around the differerent pages on this site (not counting this page ;) ) for 5 of the Egg Hunt logos with the SSS salamander on it. If ya find all five, just send me the url's of the five pages that the logo is in; your name will go into a hat for a chance to win one of two HeavenGames t-shirts!

Well, what are you waiting for? Get ta huntin!

Best Buy Demo Box Art

Today, at around 8:00PM EST, I managed to get my hands on the Best Buy singleplayer demo (Multiplayer demo available at Electronics Boutique later this week). The Best Buy demo includes the following:
  • Empires: Dawn of the Modern World Singleplayer Demo
  • Empires: Dawn of the Modern World Official Mini Guide
  • $5.00 off coupon off BradyGames' Strategy Guide
  • A Call of Duty Advertisement
  • Installed fully at a whooping 583MBs
I have a lot of work right now, however managed to scan you guys the finalized Box Art for Empires: Dawn of the Modern World. Tomorrow I will scan the Mini Guide and post some screenshots of all the action. For now, you can view the Box Art (Front and Back) in our Screenshots Gallery. You can expect a new section tomorrow dedicated to demo Screenshots. Note that pre-ordering Empires at Best Buy actually costs $10, not $5 as it says on the box

Multiplayer Preview at GameSpy

GameSpy has recently released a preview that covers the multiplayer aspect of Empires: Dawn of the Modern World. Overall, it was a pretty good preview and gives various strategies for the multiplayer game. The preview also goes into detail about the civilization's powers, namely Franks, Britain, and Germany. The author also hints some good strategies for the civilizations. Also, he seemed to learn from his mistakes:
"What kills me, though, is there was a point where I could actually have won the game myself. While the British planes are no match for the Americans, they're more than a match for their German counterparts. Even better, the British planes can collapse mines, forcing opponents to dig them out before they can be used again. The problem was the Germans had managed to put together a pretty good collection of resource sites, including stone and gold mines, and a large protected forest for wood, and just kept pumping out equipment. As long as the Germans could replace their units, there was simply no way the British land forces could stand up to them."
It's quite a good read. You can find the preview at GameSpy.

GameSpot's new Preview

It seems GameSpot has a habit of bundling their previews with videos and screenshots. After a full day of news, we found that GameSpot has done yet another preview. The preview is two pages long and spans many topics. The first page discusses of basic workings of each civilization and goes in depth on the Korean civilization. The second page is related to World War II and the multiplayer lobby. Here's an excerpt from the preview:
"The game's multiplayer lobby lets you quickly and easily change options, like choosing how many epochs your game will span, establishing beginning resources, and others. According to lead multiplayer designer Richard Bishop, Stainless Steel Studios is emphasizing fast-paced multiplayer games that let you quickly find opponents by using an auto-match option that will pair up players with comparable win/loss records--since the game will also track your stats online. Bishop also explained that one of his most important duties, as multiplayer designer, is making sure that the head-to-head action mode plays well."
You can read this preview at GameSpot. I suppose this won't quench your thirst for Empires, eh?

Empires Demo at Best Buy!

Dave Boghdan over at Stainless Steel Studios has noted that the Empires: Dawn of the Modern World demo is available at Best Buy today! However if you get it from Best Buy, you must pre-order the game. For those who have already pre-ordered Empires, wait a little longer. The demo can be bought at Electronics Boutique later this week. What are you waiting for? Stop reading! Gogogo! Be sure to give us plenty of screenshots, those who have it!

A Canadian forumer, Carro_LS, has recently informed me that his Best Buy will have the Empires: Dawn of the Modern World demo available this Wednesday, the 10th. While this may not apply to all of Canada, I'm sure it's great news to our friends across the boarder that they have a greater chance. Be sure to call your local Best Buy beforehand!

PC Building Guide by ThePerfectCore

Everyone has to do it some time during their time of owning a computer: get a new one. But what exactly do you need to get? What kinds of hardware are preferable to others, and how does each one work? Well, ThePerfectCore has written an extremely extensive guide to answer those questions and then some; and when I say extensive, I mean it. It's 5 pages, chock-full of information that anyone building a new computer could use. Definitely a read for anyone, check it out!

"It happens everyday.

Someone runs out to buy the latest and greatest in computer gaming software, and end up with one giant headache when their machine fails to meet the requirements. It's a fact, folks - games are getting bigger, better, and more complex. Your little K6 300mhz Compaq desktops just aren't going to cut it anymore.

By request, I am writing this guide as a service to the HeavenGames community and the members that are a part of it. Hopefully someone can use this info to build an uber-machine and dump their current crapper, and finally get down to playing whatever it is that's out now; AoM, RoN, Empires, whatever. I'm not going to make specific hardware recommendations, because I want this thing to stay valid for more than a weeks. I'm just going to explain what each component does, and pointers on what to look for."

Imperial Review!

More demo news came around this week, with David Boghdan confirming that weíll be able to pick up the Empires near the end of the month. Great news; he also released the current system requirements on the game. Theyíve optimized the gameís performance quite a bit, and the 600MHz/128mb RAM goal that they set out was met; even people with fairly old computers should be able to play it. Messiah posted a bit, with the first post concerning how Armory upgrades work. His second post detailed how fishing upgrades work, along with other information concerning the food source.

As for previews, screenshots, and such this week, we got a couple. 16 new screenshots were added to Empires Heavenís gallery for the communityís enjoyment, check them out! PC Player released a preview on the Empires, which was translated by Empires Aeon. And finally this week, GameSpot released a video interview of Rick Goodman and Richard Bishop. Although it is only viewable with a GameSpot complete account, Empires Aeon has a writeup of the interview and several shots of the video were posted in our forums.

Whatís coming next week? Possibly some more previews and information on Empires being release, but ya never really know. Iíll keep you updated, though!

Thatís it for this week, see you Ďround the empire!

Goodman and Bishop @ GameSpot

GameSpot has recently released a video interview with Rick Goodman and Richard Bishop. The interview is actually pretty long although the video quality is somewhat unsightly. Much of it covers play balancing and historical accuracy. For example, Richard Bishop informs us about the traits of the Chinese and Frank civilization while Rick Goodman talks about balance and historical accuracy:
"One of the interesting things about doing an Asian campaign aside from the fact that that history of the world is foreign to many Europeans and Americans like myself, is that we had to get our history very, very accurate, because people in that portion of the world really know their history, and they have famous heroes which to them are an important part of their national culture. So we made sure to research this Admiral Yi campaign very meticulously because its important to us to make sure the way in which the story unfolds is not only fun but it has to be highly realistic than in other campaigns that we've put together which are focused on other which history may be a little less unknown to take a little more opportunity to take creative licenses."
Finally, Richard Bishop also mentions an interesting bit about the multiplayer:
"Well over the last year, the envelope has really been pushed forward, I mean, if you don't have certain features in the game, players aren't going to flock to your game. So stuff like automatic matchmaking, were you just hit a button and you're placed against someone with equivalent skill, we got that into the game, we have rankings that are automatically computed to display for everyone, leaning towards stuff like that is my main concern, to make sure we were up to par and beyond certainness of our competitors."
Of course, the video interview is only for those with a GameSpot Complete account. For those who have one, you can find the video at GameSpot. For the many who don't, Empires Aeon has transcribed the interview. You can find the transcript at Empires Aeon. Also, you can some screen captures of the video in our forums.

PC Player Translation

Empires Aeon has recently translated the preview from this month's PC Player magazine. The preview does not contain much new information. Much of it explains what is now well known. However, here's a bit from the translation:
"Besides the ability to recreate those classic battles, there will be 3 campaigns in Empires. The first follows Richard the Lionhearted in the middle ages in his fight against English traitors and a French invasion, in the second, you are a Korean general in 1592 defending against a Japanese invasion force of 100,000 men with a much smaller navy and fewer resources. In the third campaign, you play as General Patton in Sicily, D-Day and other historic confrontations. In other words: There should be enough to please any RTS player or history freak, and with several hundred hours of research by the workers at Stainless Steel, Empires could very well become the first game to remove the dust from the old history books and animate history!"
You can read the full translation at Empires Aeon.

In more local news, forumer Guardian has put up a great thread called "Complete Empires Information". It contains a good amount of information for those wanting to learn more about Empires: Dawn of the Modern World. You can find the thread in our forums.

Messiah goes Fishing

Messiah who is now back in college dropped by Empires Aeon's forums and answered some questions about fishing. It's quite interesting how much fishing can boost your food production. Here is can excerpt from the full post:
"Fishing is in patches, like the age games, but it is depleteable. It is much faster than in the age games, so you need many less fishing ships to get enough food for all purposes. You cannot do shore fishing with villagers, but it really isn't necessary. Once you have a decent number of fishing ships in action you will not need to gather food in any other way. There are plenty of fish on all the water maps, and chances are you will never run out of fish... and if you did, you'd have so much food in your stockpile you wouldn't know what to do with it. There are no fishing traps, but like I said, they are unnecessary because your ships will always have something to do. Fishing ships can't do anything besides fish and scout

Because fishing is so fast, it is a tremendous advantage, forcing everyone to fight for the water. If one player has the water uncontested, it'll be no contest on the land battle. This is true even more so in Empires than in Age of Mythology, which I personally think adds to the strategic depth of water maps."
He also goes on to talk about the map types and how they go about balancing them:
"The variety of the coastal map makes it potentially less fair. But the more variety in a map, no matter what, the less fair it will be. The perfect map for fairness is one where everyone starts with the exact same resources near them, and the exact same resources equidistant from each player. They must each have the same amount of fishing within the same range, and the water must be the same shape. Ie, the only way to have a 100% fair map is to have it be perfectly symmetrical for each player. This is boring, and is not a random map. Coastal therefore sacrifices some of its fairness for variety."
Finally, I've put up a Frequently Asked Questions for the Empires: Dawn of the Modern World demo. You can find it in our forums. Please refer to this before asking questions about the demo. If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to post them.

Empires Revolution Forums up

Thanks to Warbird for this news: Empires Revolution is still in production but should be out in a couple days. However, during that wait, check out the site's forums that just opened up!

Empires Demo Place and Date of Availability

I recently recieved an email from David Boghdan on where and when one can pick up a copy of the Empires demo. You can get one at Electronics Boutique for just $1.99, or get one at Best Buy by preordering the game; both will be available by the end of the month. I'm eagerly awaiting it, here's the full scoop from David:

"USA: First we are running two exclusive demos for Electronic Boutique and Best Buy. The E.B. demo is $1.99 and will have both Single Player and Multiplayer options. The Best Buy demo is a pre-order, which means you are reserving your copy of Empires and receiving a demo copy. It is Single Player only with two scenarios from different campaigns. The pre-order also includes a strategy guide for those scenarios.
These demos have already gone gold and will be available towards the end of September.
USA & International: There are also plans to include a demo in some of the game magazines both in the United States and Internationally. I do not have the list of magazines at this time. We also have plans to have the demo available for download through File Planet on GameSpy. Both the magazine demos and the downloadable versions should also be available at the end of September or early October."

Messiah on Armories

Recently, Messiah commented on how Armory upgrades will work at Empires Aeon. The system seems pretty robust and easy to use. Here's what he had to say:
"I don't know if this is any clearer of an explanation, but here goes. Every unit type can have one upgrade placed on it. In order to upgrade a unit, one simply researches the upgrade in the armory. This produces an icon in the corner. You then click the icon, then click on a unit of the type you want to upgrade, say a king tiger. Once this is done, all King Tigers will always have this upgrade. There are many different upgrades, and different civilizations get different upgrades. When one ages up, you always get access to new upgrades, including repeats of older ones.

No unit type can ever have more than one upgrade on it.

Upgrades tend to improve whatever stat they are upgrading by 25%, so a hp upgrade increases the hp's by 25%, attack attack by 25%, etc etc."
Unfortunately, Messiah no longer works for Stainless Steel Studios. He is back in college. You will be missed!

Sixteen New Screenshots

Have you ever wanted to know what Empires: Dawn of the Modern World REALLY looks like? Tired of those small screenshots that barely fill your monitor and leave you wanting more? This may sound like an advertisement, but it's not. We've added sixteen new Empires: Dawn of the Modern World screenshots so big (1600x1085), I guarantee they will fit any monitor. They are so detailed and crisp that you can see the the wrinkles on the Sorcerer's bald spot (No, not really. You get the idea).

Most of the screenshots depict the new Fog of War. The new musket smoke is also a sight to see. You can find the screenshots in our Screenshot Gallery.I just love the new smoke!

Finally, Chooch709 dropped by our forums to inform us of the Demo situation. Apparently, the Demo download will come after the Demo CD. Here's what he had to say:
"Then wait the extra week or two or whatever till an internet demo is released... voila, no monetary charge."
So for those who do not buy a demo or can not buy it, there may be more waiting in your future. Thanks for the update Chooch!

Poll Roundup

The question of What Multi-Player features are most important? for last week had fairly evenly distributed results, though having lots of game options ended up coming on top with 19% of the votes. I also believe that to be the most important, as many game options increases the replayability of a game considerably my not having the same game twice; and considering that in multiplayer people play games over and over again, that would seem to logically be the most important factor.

[16%] In game matchmaking browser
[7%] External matchmaking service (like GameSpy arcade or the Zone)
[10%] Persistent statistics
[7%] Instant matchmaking
[16%] Random maps
[12%] Ability to save and load multiplayer games
[19%] Having lots of game options
[14%] Multiple victory conditions, such as Wonders, Regicide

Total: 314 vote
Just as with the previous poll questions, this one comes right from Stainless Steel Studios: Which do you spend the most time playing? Multiplayer, singlplayer scenarios, or singleplayer skirmishes? Answer in the poll!

Empires System Requirements

David Boghdan of Stainless Steel Studios recently mailed us the current System Requirements for Empires: Dawn of the Modern World. It is possible that these might change in the the future, however these are the most current requirements:
    For Single Player and 1v1 Multiplayer:
  • Pentium III 600Mhz

  • 128MB RAM

  • 32MB Video Card

  • 875MB of free disk space (856MB installed plus 20MB for save games and etc)


  • For 2+ Players in Multiplayer:
  • Pentium III 600Mhz

  • 256MB RAM

  • 32MB Video Card


  • Recommended System Spec:
  • 1Ghz Machine

  • 256MB RAM

  • GeForce Video Card
It seems that Stainless Steel Studios has stuck to it's goal of a minimum 600Mhz processor and 128MB RAM. Interestingly a GeForce Video Card is now recommended instead the previous assumption of it being the minimum. I'm sure this is great news for those with older computers.

Tell your Friends!

Carro_LS, who used to work for various sites such as AoM Center and Empire Earth Gamer sent me a little note. In the note, Rick Goodman explained a bit about the Demo and Beta. Here's what he had to say:
"The Beta is coming to a close.

The good news is that you can get a demo at the register of
Electronics Boutique in Sept. for $1.99. Tell all your friends.

Regards,
Rick"
It's September right now, so we can expect the demo some time soon. If you see it, be sure to tell us so we all can rush to Electronics Boutique. For now, we must wait. May the force be with you! :P

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Empires: Dawn of the Modern World is a game by Stainless Steel Studios and published by Activision.