All the headings you see below are scattered thoughts and opinions of mine. They don’t necessarily follow on from each other.
In the beginning
Well, where to start? I guess I’ll mention first that Ensemble Studios has to be one of my favourite developers due to their sterling work on the Age of Empires series. I grew up playing Age of Empires, and I have fond memories of playing historical campaigns and battling friends over a LAN. Yes, Ensemble Studios has a special place in my heart.
The good times
Things were never better than when Ensemble Studios were making Age of Empires. The pinaccle of the series must be either Age of Empires II or Age of Empires III. My personal preference has to be Age of Empires II. That’s the game where I spent many hours over LAN- battling my friends, and the game runs on practically any PC! I won’t go into great detail about the history of Age of Empires, or all its wonderful features but suffice to say, it remains great till this day.
An ever-closer union
Ensemble Studios got the Age of Empires II expansion pack out of the door as an independent developer- The Conquerors. By the time of their next game, Age of Mythology; they were Microsoft-owned. Now, I’m not saying that this has been a bad thing, but if you’re independant, you have more leeway to do what you want. Some great examples of independant studios having a close relationship with publishers and major players are Media Molecule and Insomniac Games. Undoubtedly, once you become the property of a larger corporation, their objective become your objectives.
Halo Wars speculation
Halo Wars has been in development for quite some time now, and as of writing this article, it’s still in development. Apparently:
all non-essential staff have been laid off and remaining staff have been given incentives to remain until the completion of the project
My guess is that something has gone wrong. It would be easy to guess that development has probably gone way over time and over budget, yet there could have been some other factor. This is my thinking, because Microsoft isn’t exactly strapped for cash. And even if that were remotely true, why kill Ensemble Studios? They were able to grant Bungie its independance. Maybe we’ll find out the truth at some point…
Age of Kings II
That’s right, you heard me. Out of the ashes of Ensemble Studios, if it is possible I’d like Age of Kings II. To me, the medievil period remains the best slice of history served up by Ensemble Studios. Age of Kings was released almost 10 years ago, so how amazing would a new game be? Of course, you’d get updated graphics and physics like Age of Empires III, but there’d also be the opportunity to breath new life into the game, by tweaking the gameplay to pefection. This is assuming they’d have any rights to the franchise, which as a new studio, looks unlikely.
Well those are my thoughts, opinions, and hopes. I haven’t intended to provide any answers. Anything I have mentioned is purely speculative and should be treated as such. Signed, a confused and uspet fan.