Tagged: Age of Empires

Next week is a big week for Windows 10 and supposedly Microsoft Studios as well, with the live stream event due to receive an appearance from Head of Xbox Phil Spencer I’ve been thinking about what Microsoft need to do and what they should do in the PC space to earn their stripes and even potentially compete in the arena.

The most obvious thing to do is cross-buy! Its possible, we know that from Halo Spartan Assault discounts, Call of Duty and Destiny currently have the “buy on last-gen get on next-gen too!” offer going on and whilst it may need some work its possible and long overdue because Sony have done it for a while. But my stance on Microsoft’s plans for PC gaming centres around them having a store and not just using Steam, whilst its good they support it and continue to do so I largely believe that for them owning the platform in the first place gives them access to consumers much like the App Store which should give them the chance to make their own store and be successful if they offer things people actually want with it not to mention they would get a bigger slice of the pie when it comes to sales. (more…)

Skybox Labs working on an unannounced Xbox One exclusive

Thanks once again to Marcel for showing to me!

Skybox Labs are a 40 person strong developer based in Burnaby, British Columbia in Canada and are likely to more familiar to Xbox and PC gamers for Microsoft titles than gamers will realise. Founded by ex-Electronic Arts veterans in 2011 they have worked with Microsoft Studios for a while now on a variety of games to either help in development or port older games to PC, their credits for this work are on:

  • Project Spark (Xbox One/PC) – Assisting Team Dakota in development
  • Rise of Nations: Extended Edition (PC) – Porting the game to Steam
  • Age of Mythology: Extended Edition (PC) – Porting the game to Steam
  • Age of Empires II HD: The Forgotten (PC) – Continue to develop patches and updates for the game and help make the community developed expansion “The Forgotten” an official add-on to Age of Empires 2
  • Kinect Nat Geo TV (Xbox 360) – Assist developer Relentless Software in development

As you can see the main focus of their development has been on Microsoft’s RTS franchises which is no surprise given the developers background with the Command and Conquer series, they have also developed some mobile/tablet games and assisted on the development of EAs UFC game for Xbox One and Playstation 4 which release last year.

So what is the basis for this post? Well, their website gives some insight into what we can expect to come from them in the near future.

As you can see from the image below they have 4 unannounced games which they are working on, although no specific are given we can assume that at least one of them is likely to be for Microsoft Studios again, although I suspect they are working on more than 1. The main game that is of interest to me is the unannounced game in development for Xbox One.

We can speculate a couple of things here: possibly a game for the ID@Xbox program, assisting development on a Microsoft Studios game, a new game published by Microsoft Studios or perhaps a third-party developed game just for Xbox One. Given their size, current workload and history i’d say its much more likely they are either assisting in development of an unannounced title (like they did Project Spark) or they are doing work on a HD Remaster. There are multiple candidates for this from the Xbox 360 Fable 1-3, Halo 3: ODST – which has no announced developer, Halo Reach, Halo Wars, Alan Wake or perhaps further back from the original Xbox days. It’s also possible given their location they’re working with Black Tusk on Gears of War or even another new title entirely, Halo Wars as a console RTS title getting a sequel is also a distinct possibility.

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 15.54.58Next up is their other 3 games: two for “PC/Steam” and one for Samsung VR, I think we can all agree the Samsung VR game isn’t going to be Microsoft Studios related so we’ll leave that. They could be working on a new HD Extended Edition for Age of Empires 1 as well as assisting Microsoft’s new RTS studio Decisive Games on development of whatever they are making which is likely to be Age of Empires or Rise of Nations based. I think its unlikely any of their games for Microsoft are full titles (either sequels to older IP or original games) but that’s not to say they don’t have any in development.

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 15.55.09

Skybox Labs have proven themselves to be a very competent developer with their past work and it will be interesting to see what these new titles are as games are unveiled this year. With the Microsoft Windows 10 event in January perhaps we wont have too long to wait.

Job listing: Decisive Games, Microsoft’s new strategy game studio

Credit goes to Marcel for bringing this job listing to my attention!

Its been known for a while that Microsoft are looking at the Real Time Strategy for a comeback with the purchase of the Rise of Nations IP from the ashes of the 38 Studios fiasco and the Steam re-releases of Age of Empires 2, Age of Mythology and Rise of Nations made with Hidden Path Entertainment and Skybox Labs but Microsoft’s long awaited return to the RTS genre goes beyond that.

Earlier this year they were hiring for a Software Development Engineer for a “new AAA title within an established and well-loved strategy game franchise”, now this could be several things, really. The listing states for Windows and Xbox, Phil Spencer the Head of Xbox, is a well known fan of Halo Wars and I believe that sooner or later it will get a sequel on Xbox One, 343i are also hiring for someone to help in a new product line (of games) in the Halo universe, the other obvious candidates are the 3 franchises mentioned above that have been re-released recently.

“The Decisive Games team is focused on world class strategy game development, and is building a studio that will bring the next installment in a beloved strategy game franchise to the next generation of gamers around the world.” (Via Microsoft Careers – link reliability may vary as positions get filled)

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 14.50.14

The job listing seems pretty conclusive about what the studio is, they are called Decisive Games and they are building world class strategy game(s) as well as asking for “familiar” with Direct X11 and Xbox 360/One APIs.

This job listing comes at an interesting time with Microsoft having a Windows 10 conference on 21st January next year in which Phil Spencer will be in attendance to talk things Windows 10 and has tweeted he will be “focused” on PC gaming but it doesn’t say exclusively focused on PC, so I suspect we will see how Windows 10 will tie in with Xbox One via the OS, likely a new UI and perhaps we will get a tease for something next year, E3 is a long way away and whilst this isn’t a gaming conference Microsoft have teased things before using the UI at the Xbox One reveal so its not unheard of.

Im not really sure if they would be developing a game that is multiplatform in the RTS genre, despite the great control scheme Ensemble Studios came up with Halo Wars I suspect an RTS released on both would not be very successful unless a lot of effort went into controls, UI etc and it would probably end up being two very different games.

Things at Xbox look like they’re about to get interesting for PC owners and the event in January would be a good place for Microsoft to show a renewed commitment to PC.

Incubation: [FUN]ction Studios/Group – Another new team at Microsoft Studios [Update]

[Update: Nothing major but some pre-E3 snooping shows someone else who worked at [FUN]ction Studios formerly but is now at Undead Labs]

Chris Willoughby [fun]ctionChristopher Willoughby – Senior Software Development Manager

The profile discusses “a brand new class of hardware” which suggests to me it whatever it is was (is?) being developed for Xbox One and possible Kinect as well, I made the Kinect connection from “interact, play and communicate” which doesn’t have to be Kinect, but still could be. April 2012 is just after Paola below joined the team, so what they’re doing it must have been in development for a while, if they still exist?

Hopefully E3 will provide some answers.

Original post 

Through some snooping last week I found yet another possible brand name for a team at Microsoft Studios. I’ve worded it like that but I think that whilst there obviously will be buildings dedicated to teams (like possibly LXP and/or Platform Next) based on the descriptions of the team it doesn’t seem like the same sort of organisational group.

To show what I mean, here are the two relevant Linkedin profiles I’m referring too:

Joe Thompson – designer

Joe Thompson - Function