Ave, all!

Thank you all for helping us with a very successful Steam launch. As we had hoped, we attracted many new players to Age of Empires Online; and, as we had asked, you the community have welcomed them with open arms. We have been in the Top 20 games played on Steam since that launch.

Communication between the development team and the community has suffered, though. We were unable to discuss the Steam deal until it went live; that was a business deal between Microsoft and Valve, and we could not share the details with you ahead of time. Now that the deal is done, we have nothing else that we need to hide.

Therefore, we are immediately adopting a new policy: transparency. Whenever possible we will tell you our plans, discuss our decisions, and solicit your feedback. Only a very small portion of the player base posts here, but those of you who do are dedicated fans, and we want to tell you about the future of this game, and to hear what you say about it.

Before I actually make any announcements (and I will!), let’s talk a moment about what that transparency really means. We cannot tell you things that we do not know. For example, I cannot tell you the day that the Summer Update will be available to you in this blog, because we don’t know yet. But we can tell you things as soon as we know them.

However, we cannot answer every question. We have limited time in every day, and our first focus must be on running and improving the game. We want to answer more, and we will, but we need to keep it within reasonable limits. Currently, we have developers answering some questions in some threads sometimes, which can be frustrating for you. To help with that problem, Solicest will be discussing our new Ask a Dev forum activity, starting on April 26th.

Also, we will not tell you everything at once. We have a plan for releasing both overview and detailed information about changes and upgrades, and we will release the information over time. For example, the Summer Update will likely contain a Tech Tree Overhaul. What precisely those changes are, and why we are making them, will be the subject of a major blog post from the GPG designers, and we won’t discuss it any further until then. However, we can let you know when we expect to discuss things further. Expect a blog post with more information on May 8th.

Finally, this is an experiment. It is our plan to be one of the most open and transparent online game companies when it comes to communication with our player base. So we may change the way we do some of these things as we go along. It’s helpful for us to hear from you what you like and what you don’t like. It’s also helpful for us to understand how you would prefer to receive the communication. Do you want lengthy in-depth articles? Forum thread conversations? Videos? Podcasts? Formal interviews? Please let us know.

And now, the irony. I’ve just spent the entire blog post babbling on about how we’re going to tell you more, and not left enough room to actually do so. But I’m not cruel enough to leave it there. I was one of the good Emperors, after all.

The Summer Update is in testing now. It will likely be released in 5 to 7 weeks, depending on testing progress. It does NOT contain a new civilization. It does contain two major features, among other improvements.

One of the major new features is a massive upgrade to the in-game economy system. Our old business model required players to purchase boosters and civilizations with real money. With the change, players will spend Empire Points, not money, to unlock boosters and civilizations, as well as buy entirely new items like new consumables and vanity items for units. Players will continue to earn Empire points in game, or if players choose to, they can also exchange real money for Empire Points, either through the LIVE store or through your Steam wallet. You will hear more about that in an Empire Points detailed blog, which will be posted on April 23rd.

The other major new feature is called Alliances. What do you do with your civ once it reaches Level 40? Alliances are a completely new mode of play that lets your Level 40 Civ join with others in a team struggle for metagame supremacy. All in-game activities, like quests, PVP, skirmishes, contribute Alliance Points towards a team total. In exchange, you’ll earn new passive civ bonuses, gear, and even Empire Points to spend as you like. You will hear more about that in an Alliances detailed blog, which will be posted on April 30th.

There is more in the Summer Update, but these are the two most significant improvements that will fundamentally change how most of you play the game. Please stay tuned for plenty more information. And if you ever again see a developer post on these forums that answers a question with the word ‘soon’, send a PM to Solicest for a special prize.

Thanks for playing!

AOEO Trajan

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