The Age of Empires II – HD Edition went live on Steam yesterday, and is a perfect example of what I meant when I wrote about games I would like to see revamped.
It offers up what I would call “quality of life” improvements such as:
- Re-mastered for high resolution displays 1080p+.
- Enhanced visual engine with improved terrain textures, water, fire and ambient lighting effects.
- New Steamworks features: Achievements, Leaderboards, Matchmaking and Cloud support.
- Share user created content with Steam Workshop support.
without changing the core game play. I have been anxious to try it out since it was announced last month. And given its position on the Steam Top Sellers list, I am not alone.
Granted, it is modestly prices compared to a lot of that list… just $20… and this is a mid-week reading, but that still shows there is some support for the game. And it has actually been on that list for more than a week now, with people grabbing the pre-order version which offered a $2 discount.
So last night I was able to download the game and take it out for a run. And it was good.
The graphic updates are small but effective. It looked good full screen on my 1600×1200 20″ monitor. And one of the first things I saw in the Steamworks mod library were replacement icons for the resources, to change them back to the old ones people are probably used to at this point. I must admit, I looked at those and kept thinking, “Is that gold?”
All is not perfect in the world though.
The launcher does not draw correctly on my system.
There is actually a link at the bottom of the of the launcher that says, “My launcher looks funky?” which actually shouldn’t be a question because my launcher clearly looks funky. (Might I suggest “Does your launcher look funky?”)
Clicking on that link brings up a page… explicitly in Internet Explorer because Microsoft is involved with this.. that say that if you have your desktop text size set to anything besides 100%, the launcher gets screwed up. I have mine set to 110% because I need the text just a little bit bigger on my monitor to be able to read things comfortably without getting out the reading glasses. And, frankly, I am not going to change that… it requires a reboot if I recall right… just for a game.
Fortunately, it is just the launcher than has this issue, and I only see that for a brief time. But this is not the first time the desktop DPI setting has caused problems with a game. I got into the End of Nations beta at one point and the game threw an error and would not launch if your setting was anything but 100%. That made it “end of beta” for me. Damn young engineers and their good eyesight.
Also on the iffy list are achievements. They do not appear to be hooked up correctly. I played through a couple of quick games last night which, if I read the achievements right, should have netted me a couple. But none were awarded. Plenty of time for that later I suppose.
The game also seemed to be confused as to whether it should use the name I entered in the game, Wilhelm IV, or my Steam user name, Wilhelm Arcturus, when playing the game. It seemed to use one or the other at various points. I might not have noticed this except for the fact that the in-game name field won’t accept a name as long as Wilhelm Arcturus.
And, not really going out on a limb here, I am going to guess that unless you already have an account, that this being a Steam only game is probably an issue for some.
Still, for me, none of those got in the way of playing the game. Now I have to get Potshot to get a copy.
I do wonder what the impact of this game will be. For example, there was a group that created an unofficial expansion for the game back in December. Will they forge ahead separately or will they embrace Steam and move what they can into the Steam Workshop?
And what about Game Ranger, the service that basically picked up the slack for Microsoft on the internet game play aspect of things. Age of Empires II and its variations look to be the most popular game played on their service. Will this hurt them?
And what will success on this front mean in the gaming industry? The current fad is to remake old games in a new image, something that has not been wholly satisfactory. The people who played the original often balk at changes. Would we better served with efforts like this that leave the core game play alone and merely polish things up so that the game plays and looks good on current systems?
And do game developers even want to do that sort of thing?
I recall being in college back in the 80s, back when the Japanese were going to take over our tech industry. They had conquered manufacturing and were producing software engineers at such a rate that they would clearly destroy the US software industry next. A professor, who wast gamely trying to teach us Pascal, stated that this would never happen.
His evidence was a then recent survey of computer science grads and what sort of projects they hoped to work on in their career. The survey showed that a vast majority of the Japanese respondents wanted to go on to established projects and help maintain and improve them over time. The US respondents went completely the other way and mostly wanted to work on new projects. That desire to strike out into uncharted territory, he said, was they key to ongoing success.
Now, I do not know if that actually played into things, but the Japanese clearly did not take over US software development regardless of how many Japanese cars there are in Silicon Valley. However, that survey remained in the back of my mind for all of these years because the desire to work on something new and interesting seems to be quite a common thread where ever I ended up.
And reworking old games to bring them up to current standards doesn’t seem to fall into that category.
Does that have any influence on how often these sorts of revamps get done?
What do you think?