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Ensemble to do MMO?

AoE dev considers options.

Ensemble Studios, the developer behind real-time strategy series Age of Empires, is currently working on ideas for a brand new MMOG.

In an interview with Next-Gen.biz, executive producer Patrick Hudson said that after Age of Empires was all done and dusted, a team of designers was set to work on the project.

"And that's where those guys still are. A pretty small group, just noodling away on ideas, a long way away from anything substantive and shipping anything, that's for sure. But it's fun to explore," he said.

"It's always been a risky kind of market to look at. And then you see [World of Warcraft] come out, and turn the industry on its head, and you start to re-evaluate... Maybe it's not crazy to go spend 30 or 40 million bucks to actually make one of these things.

"At some point, they'll get tired of WOW and want to play something else."

Hudson said Ensemble hasn't decided what kind of theme their MMO will have, but did confirm that, "It's safe to say we won't be chasing the fantasy genre."

He also said that players would probably have to pay a monthly subscription fee, stating: "Yeah, I think that's the business model we mostly believe in. There could be things that come along and change our mind, but there's a lot of people trying different things... If anything, WOW is charging too little, not too much."

As for the future of the Age of Empires series - well, Ensemble will "slow it down, probably take a little break from it," according to Hudson, despite the fact "Microsoft would obviously like us to keep churning them out as quickly as possible.

"But you can only do that for so long," he went on. "And [we] prototype probably a lot longer than most developers would take the time and effort to do. To Microsoft's chagrin, probably spend more on prototypes than they'd ideally like."

As for Ensemble's console RTS project - it's coming along nicely, thank you, said Hudson.

"Because we wanted to focus on just controls alone, we just took a straight port of Age of Empires and worked on that first. Now, the game we're doing for our console has a lot of different gameplay elements, too," he explained.

And Hudson reckons you'll be able to play the game just fine with a controller instead of a mouse: "When they got it to the point where we had Age of Empires up and running, and our people with gamepads could beat the people with mice, then we knew we really had totally reconstructed the control systems."

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Ellie Gibson

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Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.

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