Interview with Chris Rippy

Ensemble Studios Interview
18 Oct 1997


Chris RippyEnsemble Studios (Sound & Scenarios)
Imperious RexGameStats News Network
Archangel MichaelAge of Empires Heaven
TelcontarTelcontar's Empire of the Ages

Chris: Howdy
Archangel: Hi Chris
Telcontar: Hi
Chris: hey
Imperious Rex: Greetings
Chris: Hello
Telcontar: Hi
Telcontar: The RTS market is very competitive, and your game is the first product of a new company. What were your expectations of the success of AoE two months ago?
Chris: Well, we new we had something good on our hands from the beginning. Age just seems to have a good vibe about it...
Telcontar: it was one of the highlights at the E3...
Chris: Of course, you never know what's going to happen until you see it stacked up to the latest games on the market...
Chris: E3 gave us a pretty good idea on how things stacked up.
Telcontar: AoE is seriously addictive; when testing, the programmers may end up testing all the time instead of working :) How was play testing handled?
Chris: Playtesting was handled a few different ways...
Chris: First there was a lot of multiplayer testing..
Chris: That allowed us to get the units as balanced as possible. As more and more single player scenarios were finished..
Chris: we started throwing those out to the wolves for playability. When we felt comfortable with the scenarios, we went back to multiplayer to get all of the bugs out.
Archangel: I has seen a couple of sites say something about Maps, its my understanding that only scenarios can be save, not the maps by themselves.. The Map.bmp is only for the intro graphics into a scenario is this true?
Chris: Map.bmp is for the intro map. I do think, however, that you can press ctrl-f12 to do a screen capture of the map.
Archangel: Is there a detailed doc file that explains all the different scenario text files (Ai, Bld, Cty, Per) - the AI files seems to offer unlimited customizing of an scenario - how does this work?
Chris: I believe that its in the manual. The Ai files are truly limitless in their powers...
Chris: you can change basically every aspect of their characteristics, from how they hunt, to how many attack.
Imperious Rex: Good morning Chris. Thanks for stopping by. Are there any plans for future "Scenario Packs" to keep the single player AoE fans happy?
Chris: Good morning. I'm not sure that we will be putting too many official scenarios out for the single players..
Chris: But I think with the scenario editor, there should be plenty of great homemade scenarios for people to share...
Chris: I hope to make more and pass them out.
Imperious Rex: With random maps being such a great feature in multiplay will Ensemble be developing more multiplayer maps or are you leaving that to the players?
Chris: Probably leaving it up to the players. Fortunately, the with all the work that was put into the map generator, the players get very well balanced games on a very consistent basis.
Telcontar: How did you choose the tribes? Obviously variety was important. I miss the Roman tribe though, being one of the most important cultures ever.
Chris: Yeah, its too bad some had to be left out. The tribes were chosen by Bruce, Tony and Rick, and I'm not sure what their basis for choosing was.
Telcontar: Which RTS game from this year other than AoE has impressed you most of all?
Chris: Actually, they all have some very interesting aspects to them. Being a sound guy first, I tend to notice that when I take a look at these games. From that angle, Dark Reign seems pretty cool.
Archangel: In that "strange language" you invented -Which speech sound hides your wife's Name? - And are there any more surprises in the sounds?
Chris: Lots of surprise sounds! Her name is actually in there twice. Maybe we'll have a contest to figure out which one. The hint would be that it begins with an R.
Archangel: hehe - From the Scenario editor - Is the gaia player have access to special "Hidden" units?
Chris: I think we kept the hidden units hidden. By the way, I don't know anything about hidden units ;-)
Imperious Rex: How were the sounds of the animals, etc., created? Was it done with sampling or another technology?
Chris: The animal sounds were done with sampling technology. Nothing too fancy on those, just actual recordings. Now the animal death sounds..
Chris: The falling sound is this fake tree I have in my office that I dropped beside a mic.
Imperious Rex: :) Now that is pretty cool info. What was favorite part of being on this project?
Chris: Well, actually both sound and scenarios were a blast..
Chris: On sound, my first job, I loved doing the cinematics. I think they turned out pretty well...
Telcontar: What do you think will be features that will characterize the next generation of RTS games?
Chris: On scenarios, I liked watching people in the office, who have played the game millions of times, find something new and fresh in one of the scenarios.
Chris: On next generation stuff..
Chris: I'm guessing that they will go 3d like the rest of the gaming world. Units will become more realistic. And of course, sound will rule the world!
Telcontar: Will there be more or less RTS games next year? This year there has been a flood of RTS games.
Chris: Good question. I think, unfortunately, that there will be some weeding out from this huge onslaught of RTS games. So, from that, I think less.
Archangel: I heard the animal death sounds, were done a little differently - whats the story on those?
Chris: Just a fake tree in my office. The mystery has been shattered.
Archangel: .mmm What are the best ways to divide up responsibilities in Coop play?
Chris: Well, first of all communication is the key in coop..
Chris: Early in the game, both players should take a portion of the map, and stick to it..
Chris: Once things get going, its probably a good idea to have one person concentrate on military and one on economics.
Imperious Rex: Is there any one part of Age of Empires you would go back and improve if you could?
Chris: But, I'm sure that there will be some great teams out there with completely different strategies.
Chris: On Empires..
Chris: I'm not sure yet. I've been so close to the project, for so long, I need to step away from it for a while and try and see it as a new user would..
Chris: right now, I suppose there are just a few wish list items.
Imperious Rex: Let's pretend for a moment that there will be an AoE2, and that you can have any band do the musical score. Who would you choose?
Chris: Rush, of course.
Imperious Rex: WooHaa
Imperious Rex: Go Canada Go
Chris: I thought you'd like that.
Telcontar: Will the significance of single player games decrease in the future?
Chris: Not from Ensemble Studios. We know that there are millions of people who still like to play games by themselves. There's a cool feeling being able to take on an Ai, and beating it. Games tend to take on a life of their own in single player mode.
Telcontar: Will there be strategy games with thousands of people in the next millenium?
Chris: Sure. It'll be a blast too.
Archangel: Last question for me - don't want to take up to much of your weekend: - ES has Put Microsoft on the Games map with Age of Empires! - Do you see this relationship continuing?
Chris: We have really had a great relationship with the guys at MS. They are truly a group that cares about gaming, and about us. We'll just have to see where the future take us, but right now we couldn't be happier.
Imperious Rex: Thanks for talking to us today Chris! My last question is why have no Ensemble developers played in our AoE tourny? The fans are screaming to try to kick your butts. :)
Chris: I'll have to speak to our guys about that. Nobody calls us yellow :-)
Imperious Rex: :)
Archangel: Telcontar - last question?
Telcontar: Two questions remaining: Will LAN and internet games go separate ways in the future?
Chris: We'll have to save that one for our Com guy, Mark Terrano. Nobody has a grasp on future technology like this guy.
Telcontar: Last question: The guys at idsoft have Ferraris, ION Storm people buy old Arcade game machines in masses - is there anything particular that ES programmers collect? :)
Chris: Right now, just sleep :) Some of the guys like old computer software and machines. Some like to collect music. Lately there has been an influx of 4 wheelers.
Archangel: Thanks Chris! - Great stuff - will do a little editing and send it to you for approval before posting on our sites.
Telcontar: Thank you very much for your time, Chris.
Imperious Rex: Thanks Chris
Chris: Excellent! Thanks a bunch for having me today!
Imperious Rex: See you on the Battlefield Chris.
Chris: Talk to you soon.

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