Age of Empires Online now offline; “We were ambitious and risky in a number of respects”

Age of Empires Online: colourful, for a while.

A minute’s wololo, please, for Age of Empires Online.

Not even a priest unit could’ve converted the MMO RTS into a game Microsoft were willing to fund for any longer. Development ceased in January last year, and servers were finally shut down at midnight yesterday, July 1.

“None of this would have been possible, of course, without our friends and partners at Robot Entertainment and Gas Powered Games,” eulogised executive producer Kevin Perry on the AOE Blog. “They were the architects of the ancient world where we fought and played together.

“We were ambitious and risky with AOEO in a number of respects; some of these experiments worked, and some did not. As the saying goes, I do think that we ended up among the stars, most of the time.”

Age of Empires Online was built originally by Robot Entertainment – the Orcs Must Die! studio made up primarily of Ensemble refugees who cut their teeth on the Age of Empires series. Robot mixed traditional RTS mechanics with persistent base-building, plus a quest structure and aesthetic yoinked from World of Warcraft.

After release, Age of Empires Online was updated and iterated on by Gas Powered Games – the PC-faithful Supreme Commander studio run by Chris Taylor. But it didn’t manage to maintain a playerbase large enough for continued development to be “cost effective”, and support was reduced to a skeleton crew in January 2013.

Gas Powered Games later fought to crowdfund Wildman, an action RPG-cum-MOBA, with genuinely upsetting results. Taylor was forced to lay off most of his staff, and the studio was only saved by an eleventh hour deus ex machina from Wargaming, who now have Gas Powered Games working on a free-to-play MMO.

Our Jules went to see Robot recently, and had them reminisce about Age of Empires. Did you know they used to get letters of thanks from schools?