Project Celeste proudly announces:
Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend us your ears:
We are thrilled to tell you that the long wait is finally over and that later this year we will be bringing to our community the most anticipated and requested additional content of our game's history. At long last, the elusive Roman Civilization is on its way to Age of Empires Online and we are eager to give you as much information as possible. However, to avoid over-promising and under-delivering, we cannot show you everything at once. So we have put together this Frequently Asked Questions to help everyone get on the same page.
1. How long have you been working on the Romans?
We have been actively working on them in secret for about 6 months.
Over the years, PF2K and Andy P XIII scavenged the internet and the game files to piece together the original plans for the Romans. However, without a technological breakthrough, we were unable to create new buildings and units. But now, we are able to do so!
Ryddag managed to find older (unreleased) builds of the game scattered around the internet, and we were able to find more data and info about their techs, milestones, and various other helpful data. So in November, 2018, we collected everything possible about the Romans and made a sort of scientific attempt to piece it all together and analyze how the civ could work.
We also have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak with a number of original Developers from 2010-2012. Their wisdom and personal support have been amazing.
Around January, our true designs began in earnest. We spent about a month of analyzing, debating, drafting, fussing, and second-guessing the blueprints for the entire civ. We wrestled with the designs for the other civs, the existing Roman designs, and tons of Roman history. Ultimately, we arrived at a final draft of the tech tree with every unit, building, and technology. We think we have everything in place, but if you move one thing, it can reverberate across the tech tree and upset the balance in all sorts of strange places. Meanwhile, though we have a lot of amazing original art, PF2K had to create a ton of images from scratch. That put us in really good shape. For instance, PF2K has already drafted up final versions of the tech trees, just as they will appear in the game.
Once we finalized the entire civ in two dimensions, we brought Happy Smurf and Chaos on board, who immediately began to create the 3d models. They are absolutely stunning, and we cannot wait to show them off.
After a few weeks of work turning the blueprints into actual 3d models that can be imported into the game, PF2K showed our progress to his Lead Developer colleagues, Kevsoft and Rydagg. They gave us their stamp of approval and jumped right on board. We have been formally off and running ever since. Even Luciano gave us his blessing and helps pitch in. With their help, PF2K has been making the tedious adjustments to the game code to allow for a new civ. We have since brought Jenks onboard to help us with new gear and other PvE considerations and kangcliff for some additional technical support.
Recently, Phillus joined us to help Happy Smurf and Chaos with their 3d modeling and animations. Just a few days ago, we brought in Striker, who made our trailer. Finally this Sunday we brought in all of the other Devs, moderators, and the PvP balance team. We will be adding some more people as we move ahead, as well. We still have an exceptional amount of work to go and untold challenges lurking in the shadows.
2. How far along are you?
We have the entire tech tree nailed down (every unit, every building, every tech, when and where they are available and what they do) and have finalized most of the 2d artwork we need. Happy Smurf and Chaos have finalized us almost every building and are working on the units. We cannot compliment the artistry from these guys enough. Without them, we never would have gotten the Romans out of concept. Phillus has recently joined Chaos and Happy Smurf to help with animations and the other 3d modelling. He’s a professionally trained 3d animator. We are incredibly lucky. It's all amazing stuff, and you guys are going to love it. We expect to begin playtesting this summer.
Rome was not built in a day, and we have no idea how long it will take us. But we are confident we will hit our 2019 goal. If we cannot, we will be sure to let everyone know immediately. Remember, this project was too large for even GPG to finish, and we are just unpaid players. To make things more manageable, we have decided that Rome will be a Pro Civ (starts in Level 20, has a single civ-specific city, and has no dedicated quest line, no crafting specialties). We may of course add those other things over time, as well. However, at this point, the requirements of a Pro Civ will keep us very busy. We plan to launch the Romans with all brand new units, buildings, techs, animations, vocals, soundtracks, advisors, a brand new unique gear class with a complete set of new items, vanity gear, PvP maps, milestones, advisors, quest givers, a dedicated global map region, home cities, home city buildings, stores, and, of course, the Eternal City of Rome in all her ancient glory and splendor.
Though we expect to eventually have new Roman PvE Questlines, we do not expect to work on any until after we launch the civ. However, if we have enough help, we may get started sooner. We also have several ideas for new game features that could arrive with the Romans. We have more ideas than time, and we want to prioritize getting the Romans into your hands as soon as they can be ready.
3. Are you able to use the original design of the Romans from 2012?
Our design leans heavily on the earlier designs for the Romans but will have striking differences.
The original Developers had made incredible progress with the Romans. Through a combination of luck, persistence, and kindness we’ve gotten our hands on a ton of it. We cannot overstate the value of all of it all, and we are basing our Romans on as much of the original designs as possible.
But it is not as easy as simply following their blueprints. First, the design of the Romans changed over time and was never made into a final draft. So it is a fiction to refer to their original designs as some sort of singular, finalized plan. The Romans appear to have first started taking shape around the time the Persians (our 3rd civ) were in development. The most recent versions of the design existed before the Babylonians (our 5th civ).
Second, the original Devs intentionally over-designed the Romans with too many units, buildings, and ideas to fit into a single civilization. They did this with the understanding that during testing they would pare it down and make changes. Because of this, even the guys who were working on them can’t quite say exactly what the Romans would have looked like. They never quite knew. Third, as the Devs kept leaving the Romans on the back burner, they kept sticking pieces of them into the stuff they were working on, such as the Babylonians, Norse, and even the Legion of Carthage Alliance. Therefore, though Rome was designed, it was never designed to live in a world that contained those other civs.
This means that in order for us to bring the Romans to life now, we need to adjust the design so we do not look like we are cloning an existing idea (which would be really ironic since they were supposed to be Roman features all along). Fourth, there are also gaps in our knowledge. We may know the names of certain units or technologies, but not necessarily what they would do. Sometimes this is simply because nobody had ever ironed it out. So we had to. Therefore, the original designs of the Romans were unfinished, full of holes, too big to fit into the game, and partially hijacked in other places. So it would be both impossible and a terrible idea to simply graft their designs into the game. But we fully intend to incorporate as much as we possibly can, capture their spirit, and finally bring the Romans home.
To do this, we are taking all of these clues together and shaking them into a civilization that is fun to play, filled with deep strategies, unique from the Original 6, and yet feels like a natural fit for our game. In addition to studying the Roman designs and ancient history, we had to dissect the Original 6 civs and decode the many nuances and design trends that are baked into them. It’s really cool popping their hood and seeing how they all fit together. Roughly, we'd say the original Devs had designed a Rome that was about 120 percent the size of a normal civ. Though it was packed with brilliant ideas, it was bloated and unbalanced and still had some holes that needed to be filled. So of that 120 percent, we cut it down to about 80 percent and then filled in the remaining 20 percent with glue to hold the whole thing together to form a cohesive, balanced civ. We’ve worked meticulously and are very proud of our design. We cannot wait to build it and see how it floats.
4. How do you guys work as a team to make decisions?
Very carefully. This is a very long project and particularly challenging to pull off remotely as a group. There’s an astonishing amount of details and countless decisions to make. To keep us pointed forward and in the spirit of those Developers who came before us, we have come up with a list of rules that we follow.
It would be very easy for us to smear our fingerprints on the Romans and come up with crazy ideas to make them feel more ours. In order to avoid that kind of mission drift, we use these rules to keep ourselves in check. This requires us to take a scientific approach to the game design. We constantly scrutinize how to make Rome unique without being too unique and yet also fit into our present roster of civs without stepping on their toes. It’s not easy. So far, we are making terrific progress. Though we are not professional designers, we are optimistic that we are still creating something enjoyable and in the same spirit as those who came before us. We are standing on the shoulders of giants and endeavor to respect this opportunity.
5. So what are the Romans going to be like?
We don't want to give everything away now, and haven't begun playtesting, so we cannot say for certain. However, if you have a careful eye, you can detect some patterns in how the Original 6 civs were designed. Each civ is above average in some areas and below average in others. And each civ has a couple of features and buildings that are totally unique and help them stand out in historically accurate ways. Meanwhile, each of the common buildings (house, storehouse, wall, watch post, guard tower, fortress, etc.) take turns serving a special role in different civs. Some have already been featured in a civ or two. Others are patiently waiting their turn.
If you know a little about Roman history and know a little about the Original 6 civs, you may be able to make some educated guesses about how Rome could follow these patterns and fit right into AoEO. We will reveal more in the coming months. Just don't put a ton of stock in the AoEO wiki version of the Romans. It has some basics, but a lot of that information has always been wrong and other stuff hasn’t been true for a long time. But since we haven't balanced anything yet and are new at civ design, we don't want to curse ourselves by promising specific things now that may need to be changed or cut later. You will be hearing (and seeing) more details as we get closer.
In the spirit of transparency, we have mapped out a series of weekly blog posts where we will showcase different units, buildings, technologies, and related details in an effort to sort of build the Romans for you in front of your eyes as we go along. We hope to help you see how we approach this civ design. Look for the first one to drop next week.
6. Will you make more civs after this?
We sure as hell hope so.
7. What about the Phoenicians? India?
We know the original Devs had at different times worked on these civs, but compared with the Romans, there is nowhere near the amount of information available about them. We aren’t in any position to commit to anything yet, let alone one of those two specific civs. No matter what, if we find a way to make an 8th civ, we will have at least twice as much work ahead of us as we have for the Romans. But, again, we are devoted fans of the game and have no plans of ever quitting. In fact, some of the things we cut from Rome are informally earmarked for a future civ or two.
8. How can players help you?
This is a free fan-driven project. We cannot and will not ever charge money for our work. However, we gladly accept donations for our overhead costs, which are larger than we have budgeted. You can donate using the launcher or from HERE
Due to the difficulties in managing a project like this from afar, we are intentionally keeping our Roman team small. We intend to increase our size a little now that we are going public. With so many of us working on the Romans. We have an awful lot coming in 2019.
9. You seriously can’t show us anything else about the Romans right now?
Alright, we will show one more thing. Tell us what you most want to see in the comments below, and we will see if we can shake something loose for you guys!
Thank you so much for your patience and understanding. Otherwise, please keep playing and supporting new players. We have a tremendous game, an amazing community, and are extremely fortunate.
Ars Gratia Artis and Roma Invicta,
Project Celeste Development Team
By PF2K on May 22, 2019 at 4:57 PM
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