Two weeks ago, Gas Powered Games launched a countdown timer for a ‘ProjectW’. And so we ask: how can GPG be revealing a new project and continue to work on Age of Empires Online? Ah.
Whatever content is due to be squeezed through Age of Empires Online’s pipeline over the next few weeks is to be its last, the developers have announced. GPG will continue to support the game with community challenges, streams, contests and PvP tournaments, but no new civilisations or updates are coming.
Players will keep hold of any unlockable features they already own, and continue to be able to purchase them in-game. Some bug and balance fixes, however, may prove “unfixable” - though GPG will be “watching carefully in case any critical bugs appear”.
Executive producer Kevin Perry said in a frank blog post: “This is a bittersweet announcement for me to make. While I wish that we had been able to add everything that we had wanted (especially a Roman civilization), I am very proud of the work that has been done to get to this point.
“Over the past year specifically we have made a significant amount of changes to the service, including highly complex changes like altering the business model entirely, while still adding a steady stream of high-quality content to the game itself.”
Age of Empires Online suffered a shaky reception at launch, but GPG have since addressed the most pressing player complaints with real solutions - random map modes, more varied quests and a mass-scale endgame.
This full stop in its development marks the end of Chris Taylor’s grand hopes for the RTS as online game, laid out in a PC Gamer podcast a year and a half ago.
“There’s a team of people working on it after it goes live. That is where [this] model is different,” said Taylor at the time. “Because you’ve got this business now that continues to live and grow, you don’t have to apologise like you used to in the past. Geez, you know, what do you do? When a game ships that team of people have got to move on to the next game, whether it’s an expansion pack or a sequel.
“In this model they don’t move on. They’re all there, because they love it. We’ve seen this in World of Warcraft, where people are playing the game five years later and it’s completely evolved. When has that ever been true? Go back twenty years, to your favourite PC game, and find me one that got more awesome five years later than the day you bought it. Sometimes a patch comes out, but frankly that’s like hoping for a miracle rather than what an online game does.”
Alas, we can only presume that Age of Empires’ playerbase hasn’t been significant enough to maintain its team. RIP Chris Taylor’s cool ideas. Are you still playing AOEO?