Music by Stephen Rippy

Telcontar: In which format will the music be in the game? CD tracks, Midi or MP3? CD tracks use much space, so there may be only ~ 20 - 25 minutes of music then; MP3 uses some CPU capacity and Midi has a poor quality compared to the other formats. Each one has its advantages, which one will you choose?

Stephen: The music will be presented in the forms of regular CD tracks (called redbook audio) and MIDI sequences. As in AoE, the redbook will play in the single-player game. In multiplayer mode, the people that don't have copies of the CD will hear the MIDI sequences. When it's all said and done, this is the most feasible way for us to work right now. The limited amount of space on a CD is admittedly a nuisance, but no one wants to see the gameplay suffer because of the CPU being occupied with playing the soundtrack. But, hey - processors get cheaper and more powerful all the time, and it won't be long before we can find even better ways to handle this sort of thing.

Telcontar: Will there be medieval music in AoK or music that is "adapted" to our time? Would medieval music at all sound well nowadays? Not to mention that medieval instruments are probably not part of modern synthesizers :)

Stephen: The answer to the first question is that there will be a little bit of both. I've put in some time trying to absorb recordings of a bunch of medieval music, and want to incorporate it as much as I can. At times the songs are, to my ear, very authentic-sounding. On the other hand, it's not a music history lesson; it's a game and you want people to be able to relate to what they're hearing. I think that the combination of some of the medieval styles and sounds with more contemporary elements really lends itself well to the feel of Age II. So, my credo has been and remains flutes, lutes, and fat drum loops.

Regarding the instrumentation, there are quite a few CD-ROMs available that contain samples of various medieval instruments. The hard part is learning how to properly play the things!

Telcontar: What do you do when your tunes are composed, but the game is not finished yet? Will you sit back and watch the others work :) or playtest, compose new tunes?

Stephen: Well, you know, there's always room to tweak. Over the past two weeks, for example, I decided to scrap several finished songs because I thought they would lessen the impact of the rest of the material. That sort of thing happens regularly as the development of the game continues just because I'll get tired of a certain song or write something that I think is better. The final mixing of the soundtrack doesn't occur until code complete anyway, so nothing is really set in stone until the very end of the process.

Telcontar: What will you do with the discarded tunes? Will you maybe make them available at the web page? This would be a nice "teaser" that does not give anything away yet.

Stephen: Well, I'm not sure what will become of them. I'd like them to come out somehow, but I'm not sure of the best way to do this yet. And, at any rate, it's still a bit too early in the soundtrack's development for that kind of thing to happen.

Someday! :-)

Telcontar: Will the music be adapted to the age you play in or just randomly played like in AoE?

Stephen: Well, for the time being I'm content with having the soundtrack play almost like an album (as it did in AoE.) The ultimate goal is to have the music become interactive, with every facet of the game having some influence on what the music is doing. This is, in theory, possible now, but the tradeoff is a noticeably slower game due to the CPU hit. That kind of technology would also require that the instrument sounds come from the soundcard, which I'm not comfortable with at this point. I think the next few years will change that, though. In fact, we're already taking a few tentative steps towards some new technology that will vastly improve the way MIDI sequences sound. Once things get rolling on that front, there's no telling what kind of cool stuff could happen!

From Jason Stahl ( Will each civ have its own background music?

Stephen: Unfortunately not, due to the kind of limitations discussed above. However, the music represents a variety of civilizations' instruments, scales, and styles of playing. Hopefully this will give the player's ears the sense of multiculturalism that is so evident to his or her eyes.

Sound by Chris Rippy

Telcontar: Will we hear a more advanced form of "AoE speech" or will the units talk English? or Latin?

Chris: This is still up in the air at this point, as we experiment with different options.

Telcontar: Who makes all the "death screams"? Is it always you who plays the agony, or the entire crew after a long working night? ;)

Chris: The screams for Age 1 were just me. I recorded them while living in an apartment in Dallas, which I'm sure, raised the ire of many neighbors. Strangely though, it never concerned them enough to call the Police.

Telcontar: Will there be a sound editor in AoK?

Chris: No, we have no plans for a sound editor at this time.

Telcontar: How do you reproduce sounds that are not available anymore nowadays (e. g. catapult or other siege weaponry, ships)?

Chris: Its amazing what you can do with a microphone, a DAT deck, and those little springy things that keep a door from opening into a wall.

Telcontar: For "normal" sounds like horses and environmental noises, do you record them yourself or do you use archives?

Chris: Both. I try and record as much of my own stuff as possible, but sometimes using a sound from a library is the best solution.

Telcontar: What was the most difficult sound effect to produce in your career?

Chris: Buttons are never easy. Since it's a sound that you probably hear the most in a game, it's the most likely to become annoying. So, its got to be a sound that does the job, is interesting, and is not offensive; not easy.

From JAStahl ( In warcraft 2, each unit had a distinct accent, so you knew which unit was completed at training. This was missing in AoE. Can we look foreward to unit accents?

Chris: A great idea, that we are still looking into at this time.

Reader's questions that we can't answer at this time:

Paladin ( How will the off map trading work.

Patrick ( What are the new wonders of the world in the game?

Simon ( Could you explain more on how a ship captures an enemy ship, do you need to have a transport full of soldiers or do the men on an ordinary ship swing over and capture it? If the enemy ship is damaged and your ship is at full health is it easier for you to capture the enemy ship? Can you ram a ship into an enemy port? the bigger the ship the more damage, right?

Other interviews with Chris Rippy:

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