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Tuesday Talking Points: Two Descriptions for Every Civilization
Background: Of the 35 Age of Empires II civilizations, only 15 are described as specializing in two different areas. For example, Aztecs are described as an Infantry & Monk Civilization, while Britons are only described as an Archer Civilization, and to be verbatim, Foot Archer. Because I like organization and order, I wanted to add a description to those civilizations that only have one so that all civilizations would have two descriptions.
Method: The first step is to make the list of all possible descriptions. These specialties are what are shown under the civ’s name in the Tech Tree, and generally indicate that a civilization is known for that kind of unit. Below are the descriptions, with ones in Bold the descriptions that I added (descriptions to follow);
Most of these are straight-forward, like an Archer civ would have good Archer units or bonuses that pertain to Archers, but don’t necessarily need to have a Unique Unit that is an Archer. Defense is a very broad description that could mean they have good towers, walls cost less, their buildings have higher HP, etc. The one outlier is Economy, which is kind of a catch-all I made for when I felt a civ did not have a clear second-best military option, and instead had things like villager gather rate bonuses, unit cost discounts, and other similar bonuses.
I broke out Camelry and Elephantry from Cavalry since those units have clear differences, and a case could be made that Cavalry should be further divided into Light Cavalry and Heavy Cavalry, but I thought that was maybe getting a little more pedantic than I already was. I had similar lines of thought when I separated Archer and Skirmishers, and Spearmen from Infantry, since again those units serve different roles. I felt like Ranged Infantry was different enough from Infantry to justify making it their own category, but I can see why some people might say it is not.
I did not make Trash a category, although it arguably could be an adept description of several civ’s specialties. I thought that was too general, and when I think of what a civ specializes in, it makes me think of their idealized best units for a knockout punch, not their ability to win a post-Imperial war of attrition. Similarly, this thought experiment was solely looking at what units a civ specializes in, and not more conceptual specialties like a ToweScout Rushing civ, or a Fast Castle one, or a Booming one, etc.
As a final note before sharing the results, it was not the intention that these two descriptions would be the only things that the civ is good at. For example, the Koreans are described as a Navy and Defense civilization, but they have excellent Siege too.
Results: So without further ado, here is my list of all civ’s with two descriptions. If the second name is in Bold, that means that I added it to a civilization that previously only had one, or in the case of Berbers, I changed it from the original description.
Aztecs – Infantry & Monk
Berbers – Cavalry & Camelry (changed from Cavalry & Navy)
Britons – Archer & Economy
Bulgarians – Infantry & Cavalry
Burmese – Monk & Elephantry
Byzantines – Defense & Monk
Celts – Infantry & Siege
Chinese – Archer & Economy
Cumans – Cavalry & Cavalry Archer
Ethiopians – Archer & Infantry
Franks – Cavalry & Ranged Infantry
Goths – Infantry & Economy
Huns – Cavalry & Cavalry Archer
Incas – Infantry & Economy
Indians – Camelry & Gunpowder
Italians – Archer & Navy
Japanese – Infantry & Navy
Khmer – Siege & Elephantry
Koreans – Defense & Navy
Lithuanians – Cavalry & Monk
Magyars – Cavalry & Economy
Malay – Navy & Infantry
Malians – Infantry & Cavalry
Mayans – Archer & Defense
Mongols – Cavalry Archer & Cavalry
Persians – Cavalry & Economy
Portuguese – Navy & Gunpowder
Saracens – Camelry & Navy
Slavs – Infantry & Siege
Spanish – Gunpowder & Monk
Tatars – Cavalry Archer & Cavalry
Teutons – Infantry & Monk
Turks – Gunpowder & Cavalry Archer
Vietnamese – Archer & Skirmisher
Vikings – Infantry & Navy
1) Civs with Two Descriptions per Age of Empires II Game Version
Here is a breakdown by Version of the civs that the developers originally gave two descriptions;
Age of Kings (3/13) – Celts, Saracens, Vikings
Age of Conquerors (3/5) – Aztecs, Koreans, Spanish
The Forgotten (3/5) – Indians, Italians, Slavs
African Kingdoms (2/4) – Berbers, Portuguese
Rise of the Rajas (2/4) – Burmese, Khmer
Last Khans (2/4) – Bulgarians, Lithuanians
I’m not sure if there was a conscious effort by the developers to increase the percentage of civs they added that had two descriptions in the expansions, or it just is a coincidence the two or three of each expansion merited giving two descriptions. I’ve long argued that these descriptions are important because for developers adding new civs, they want to be sure they aren’t crafting a new civ that specializes in and feels like one or more existing civ. Which brings me to my next point.
2) Unique and Repeat Descriptions
Overall I came up with 24 unique descriptions with 8 repeats, which are:
Archer & Economy (2) – Britons, Chinese
Cavalry & Cavalry Archer (4) – Cumans, Huns, Mongols, Tatars
Cavalry & Economy (2) – Magyars, Persians
Cavalry & Infantry (2) – Bulgarians, Malians
Infantry & Economy (2) – Goths, Incas
Infantry & Navy (3) – Japanese, Malay, Vikings
Infantry & Monk (2) – Teutons, Aztecs
Infantry & Siege (2) – Celts, Slavs
This is not to say that civs that share a description with another civ are exactly the same, since the developers included other bonuses, units, or playstyles to ensure variety, but it does show that some combinations are more prevalent than others.
3) Unique Unit Not Always Civ Specialty
There aren’t many civs with a Unique Unit created at the Castle that is not the same type as one of their civ’s specialties:
Burmese – Monk & Elephantry UU – Arambai, Cavalry Archer
Byzantines – Monk & Defense UU – Cataphract, Cavalry
Indians – Gunpowder & Camelry UU – Elephant Archer, Cavalry Archer & Elephantry
Koreans – Navy & Defense UU – War Wagon, Cavalry Archer
*Malians – Cavalry & Infantry UU – Gbeto, Ranged Infantry
Persians – Cavalry & Economy UU – War Elephant, Elephantry
Slavs – Infantry & Siege UU – Boyar, Cavalry
*Malians would not be included if you do not think Ranged Infantry is different from Infantry
While a military unit probably would not be considered Defense or Economy, certain Unique Buildings could be, like the Krepost or Feitoria. An interesting specialty though is Navy, which could be a Unit or Building. Of the seven civs that specialize in Navy, three do not have a Navy Unique Unit, three do have a Navy Unique Unit, and Malay have a Navy Unique Building.
4) “Main 3” Military Specialties
If you consider the “Main 3” specialties in Age of Empires II to be Archer, Cavalry, and Infantry, six civs specialize in Archer, eleven are Cavalry, and twelve are Infantry. Subtracting the two that double up as Infantry & Cavalry and the one that is Archer & Infantry, these Main 3 military categories cover 26 of the 35 civs. For the remaining nine civs that do not already fall into one of those Main 3 categories, Gunpowder is the most frequent specialty with four civs, since all six Economy civs fall into one of the Main 3 and four of the five Cavalry Archer civs are also Cavalry civs.
Archer – 6
Camelry – 3
Cavalry – 11
Cavalry Archer – 5
Defense – 3
Economy – 6
Elephantry – 2
Gunpowder – 4
Infantry – 12
Monk – 6
Navy – 7
Ranged Infantry – 1
Siege – 3
Skirmishers – 1
Spearmen – 0 :(
Motivation and Conclusion
What was my motivation for doing all of this? Besides my borderline obsessive-compulsive desire for organization, I am like a lot of people on this sub in that I like to think about new civilization concepts. I like reading any New Civ concept post on this sub (at least those that aren’t made in jest or as memes), but I think I enjoy them far greater if they are well thought out, researched, and meet these criteria, in this order:
#1) Did that civ exist in the general time frame of Age of Empires II (500 AD - 1500 AD)?
#2) Does this civ do something differently than one of the existing civs?
#3) Was there an attempt to make that civ balanced for gameplay?
#4) Is this civ not closely related to, or a sub-culture of, a civ that currently exists in the game?
#5) Did that civ exist for several hundred years, or have a large impact on Medieval history?
I hope that people know that AoE2 is largely based on history, and since this is a historical-based game, any new civ must fall into the general time frame of AoE2. But the second one on the list is also extremely important, because I feel like a lot of the New Civ posts I see are just modified versions of ones that already exist. By organizing the civs this way, it is clear that there are niches that new civs should try to fit into. Ranged Infantry, Skirmishers, and Spearmen seem to be ones that could be applied to a variety of new civs in all areas of the world, while Camelry is confined to the Middle East and Elephantry is only for South East Asia (not Africa, there were no tamed African Elephants during the Medieval period. Hannibal and the Romans literally drove the North African Elephant to extinction by using them in war and circuses in Antiquity).
And to address Ranged Infantry a final time, one of the reasons for including it was units that throw Tomahawks (Puebloans) or Boomerangs (Aboriginals) have a corresponding and fitting description. But that is information for a later Tuesday Talking Point.
So what do you guys think? Would you describe any of the civilizations differently than I did? What is your threshold for saying a civilization specializes in a type of unit? Did anything from the Analysis section surprise you, or are there other conclusions that you guys see? If you were using my 5 Criteria for New Civ concepts, would you order them differently? Are there types of units you think should be more prevalent in the game?
1st attempt at 'What we know about AOE 4' compilation
Note: This is a compilation of comments and other information on AOE 4 made available in reported media. It is currently a living compilation and will be edited and updated as new information or confirmations are made heading up to game release. Comments are preceded by a bracketed number e.g ,  ect which indicates which source provided the information, links are provided at the bottom in case you want to review the original articles in full.
Development partners:  Relic Entertainment (known for Company of Heroes, Dawn of War). Microsoft is overseeing development from its newly created bloc, World's Edge.
 Shannon Loftis, head of World’s Edge, the brand new studio Microsoft set up to work on Age of Empires.
 We’re a small group in Washington State, but then we’re working with Tantalus in Australia and Forgotten Empires, who are literally all over the world, and Relic, and then other people that we’re not talking about yet. And the idea is that nobody works in a silo. Everybody owns their products, but we get people together – Tantalus has visited Relic, and we’ve had Forgotten Empires down at Tantalus – and they swap their best ideas, but we’re getting to the point where eventually we’ll have an Age Dev Con kind of thing.
Creative Director: Adam Isgreen
Originally Announced:  2017
Expected release window: Currently unknown but almost certainly wont release in 2020 or early 2021 since that is the release date of AOE 3 DE.
Teaser Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYwZ6GZXWhA
Gameplay Trailer 1: first shown at XO19
Game's time period:
 Middle Ages (same period featured in Age of Empires 2)
 "Our time period is the Middle Ages, but it's slightly bigger - on both ends - than the time period from Age II," Isgreen explained. "So we start a little bit earlier than Age II's time and we go a little bit further, kind of bumping up against the early Renaissance."
 "We're not going to give you specific dates, because then people would be like 'ohmygod the campaigns must be this if the dates are this', and we're not talking about campaigns. I'd love to, and I could, but I'm not allowed to."
Confirmed Civilisations: English, Mongols
Game engine:  Isgreen tells me that Relic has been hard at work engineering a brand new iteration of its Essence Engine to support the ambition behind the mechanical and system-end evolution
 "Generally speaking, the longer a genre exists, the games that are responsible for taking it forward tend to make it more complicated. With Age of Empires 4, it was important for us to be like, 'okay, how do we back away from that?'. We do not want to take on all of the complexity that we see in RTS games today," Isgreen explains. "This is a fresh start for us. We want to modernise the series and that means we are going to do things differently."
 But not too differently. "But this is still going to be an Age of Empires game," Isgreen laughs, holding his hands out in front of him as he does, as if to make a direct plea to the dedicated Age of Empires community to step away from their keyboards.
 "We've taken a lot of creative steps to take Age of Empires into modern gaming," says Isgreen. "It's been 13 years since the last Age of Empire game so we have a lot of catching up to do. We're doing things that no other RTS game has done before..."
 Microsoft is also keeping its lips locked on the civilisations we should expect to see in the game, as well as what the four core resources to be used across all civilisations will be, although he has confirmed that Age of Empires 4 won't necessarily stick to the four-age rule that has been prevalent in previous instalments.
 "The English intentionally play a lot like what you'd expect of something from a previous Age of Empires game," Isgreen tells me. "The Mongols do not; they play completely differently. We have this wonderful spectrum of civilisations, and that's so there is always a super-accessible way that people can get into it […] there's going to be this wonderful spectrum of different ways that you can enjoy Age of Empires. We could never do that before."
 "Relic has done very different things in the RTS space in the past, but it understands that this is an Age of Empires game. The feel and pace of it is all there; you can build big cities, you can wall them in – and you can have fights on the walls now. All of that is really cool and it is so important," says Isgreen. " But it's funny, because Relic was, in some ways, more conservative than us [at World's Edge] at times. They were like, 'But this is different than what has been done in Age of Empires before!' and we were like, 'It's cool, it's cool. We're going to do it…"
 "They are the ones that are like 'is this too different' and we're like, 'That's okay! It's a different game, it's brand new.'"
 Classically, Age of Empires games deviate a little [from each other], but we really love the model from number two.
 “You can fight on walls, and you can take walls down, and there are all these fun ways to siege, and fight on the wall or over the wall. We wanted to make sure that all of that was still a part of the game.”
 One thing has been confirmed, though, Age of Empires 4 will have game modes, another way to include series newcomers and veterans of the series.
Number and type of resources
 So yes, there are four resources and all the civilisations use them. Do they use them in the same way? Do they use them in the same order? Hmm, don’t know. You’ll have to find out!
 "All civilizations use the four resources food, wood, stone and gold, but not all of them collect them in the same way, use them in the same way and need them in the same ratio.”
 we love the idea of moving through ages. We’ve actually taken it even further in this game – not in terms of the number of ages, although there are civilisations that don’t necessarily play by the four-age rule, I will say that – but there are also new aspects to ageing up, from a presentation point of view, that no one has ever seen an RTS game before.
 Isgreen also let us know that Age of Empires 4 still has four ages, but some civs might break the rules, and that AoE4 has a “wide spectrum” of civs, from familiar to very different, with some pretty big surprises in store for players thrown in.
 Several hundred units collapse on each other - what is the unit limit of Age of Empires 4? You don’t want to give concrete details yet. “We don’t want to promise any features until we’re sure we can guarantee them with our technology,” explains Shannon Loftis. But your Creative Director Adam Isgreen assures us that they didn’t cheat for the gameplay video.
 In multiplayer mode, Age of Empires 4 will support games for eight players and everyone should command a stately army. In single player mode and campaign mode, however, you can then distribute this common unit maximum between computer AI and the solo player to stage truly gigantic battles. Just like in the trailer.
 One of the pillars of the Age games has always been ‘a bright, inviting world’ and we certainly mean to maintain that in Age IV. Given the response to the trailer and the look, I think we’re pretty close to where we want to be. Being a PC game, we’ll be sure to include a vibrancy setting if players want to pull the saturation down a bit.
 As to blood and gore, we want the game to be playable by as many people at as many age ranges as possible, so we intentionally avoid that to keep our rating towards the low end of Teen. However, much like every other Age game, I’m sure we’ll have a bloody mess mod (or something equally creatively named) within a day or so of release by an enthusiastic fan for those that want that in their gameplay.
 "Even among our focus testers, it's fascinating, because we have people who have been playing Age IV already, that love other Age games. It gets to some things that are silly but so charming. 'Wait, my knights don't hit the castle with the sword anymore?' […] But the funny thing is that a lot of people, as they play the game and getting exposed to it, say 'You know what, this is a different beast and I enjoy it for what it is.'"
 "One of the important things was anything that happens, has to be on the screen. And so that's something that computing power brought, something we didn't have access to before. So every upgrade of a weapon, every armor change, all of that stuff is visual."
 Semantics can catch here, so let me be specific: I’m interpreting your definition of “environmental” to mean structure/man-made related elements, not say blowing up a cliff or causing an avalanche that changes the map topography itself. The latter is something we’re not doing. For man-made destruction visuals, yes, there will be all kinds of dynamic elements regarding destruction and, really, combat in general.
 So the TL;DR on it – visually you’ll have a lot of dynamic/kinetic things happening in combat. The team is still weighing the merits on whether any of it will have more than just visual impact.
 Advancements extend beyond the on-screen action, also supporting the soundscape with more natural dialogue and unit chatter. "[When] the units talk, it's not just that you select a bunch of units, and they say 'Yes sir, on my way.' That's not the game anymore. It's organic talking and cheering when they win, and panicking, all of these interesting aspects that you could never really do before that we can now bring to life through voice and other things."
 We’ve discussed diplomacy quite a bit, but much of our data from the other Age games shows that it’s a very underused feature by most players, especially for more than just breaking alliances mid-game. Where you will likely see more use of it is in campaigns rather than new elements to it for multiplayer.
 "We're doing something very different with the campaign… I can't talk about it, but it's really crazy-cool," Isgreen tells me as we ask for a little hint. "I can say that we will be bringing history in a fun and exciting way to people – the way we coined it for Age of Empires 4 is 'humanised histories'."
Will we follow Specific Heroes?
 Heroes have always been a fascinating thing about Age – there have always been heroes in it – but, you know, time passes. And as we talk about civilisations, we thought more about making the civilisations the heroes. That doesn’t mean there won’t be missions that focus on certain people in those civilisations, but that time moves on.
 The Mongol Empire [lasted] hundreds of years. If you’re covering the entire thing, the people at the beginning are not alive by the time you get to the end of that. So we had to make a conscious choice to do that, but there’s definitely a wide range of missions. I think the players can expect that it’s much more akin to what you see in a modern RTS than what you might have seen previously in Age.
Number of Civilizations (in initial release)
 You can expect fewer than the 13 that shipped with Age II, as we’re aiming for more uniqueness with each civilisation rather than quantity.
 While we’ve kept specific structures similar in shape language because we want them to be understood across any civilisation that has them, every civilisation in Age IV has unique visuals for every unit and structure in the game, from basic troops all the way up to… whatever may be near the apex of impressive structures.
Civilization Evolution through time
 There are aspects of the civilisations that do change across the ages, but at the same time maintaining clearly understood gameplay and balanced cognitive load is very important to us. I can’t go into more detail on this right now, but yes, we’ve thought about this quite a bit!
How each Civilisations Plays
 You’ve said some civs will be familiar to Age veterans while others will diverge dramatically in how they play.
 We have this wide spectrum of civilisations that go from very understandable if you played a previous Age game, to those you really need to learn a lot play them well. While there are certain rules of RTS games in Age that we haven’t changed, we’re exploring many places with this new game to really make the civilisations stand on their own.
 The English intentionally play the most like the Britons from Age II; the Mongols are the largest departure from that template. All the others fall in between. Our goal is that the cognitive load (i.e., how many things we want players to have to think about at any given moment) is similar in commitment across the civilisations, but each has a unique focus for where you spend that mental time.
 World's Edge and Relic Entertainment double down on history for Age of Empires IV, targeting improved accuracy over earlier installments. The duo is taking a revised approach to design and depiction of civilizations, better reflecting the realities of humankind's formative years. "The approach to civilizations was something we felt we needed to modernize and push the civilizations further apart," said Isgreen. That builds upon one of Age of Empires III's main advancements, steering cultures beyond a universal template.
 "For example, we showed a teaser that had the English and Mongols in it, two civilizations that couldn't be more different from each other. The way they play is very different from each other now too. It's one of the new things about a modern RTS system."
While the British play a classic game - from building a base with a village center to increasing the population limit by building new homes - the Mongolians are a very strong rush nation that can quickly launch attacks at the beginning of a game thanks to their cavalry. But also, their economy and unit recruitment could be extremely different from the other nations, as Isgreen suggests, without going into details. “Will the Mongols not have a base building? I didn’t say that.”
 I ask him: Are the Mongolians in AoE4 perhaps playing like the Huns in Total War: Atilla, as a wandering steppe tribe that only settles in tents from time to time to raise new troops? He grins. And he is silent.
 Movement receives a fundamental change in Age of Empires IV, pursing more natural interactions too, Isgreen explained. Gameplay showcases the first example of motion capture in action, diverging from the scripted sprites of before. It pairs with a revised approach to pathfinding, advancing fluidity and reliability of units. "[I]f know real-time strategy games, behind the scenes it's been run by a find path solution called A* for a billion years, pretty much since its invention, with a few exceptions here and there," said Isgreen. "One of our big changes is moving to a more organic, more modern solution for find path, which is called flow field."
 If you've played a handful of strategy games, you've likely encountered A* pathfinding. It utilizes fixed, path-based movement, finding the shortest route between points, but brings well-documented gameplay and computational limitations. Developers have experimented with more dynamic and adaptive systems like flow field, acclimating to large-scale scenarios, flocking, obstacles, and other movement challenges. "That allows us to do all kinds of interesting things with units, and get them to play in ways that feel more like real things," said Isgreen.
 The painstaking research going into Age of Empires 4 is a little astounding, and it's something the team is only too happy to shout about. "We're not interviewing University of Washington professors on Mongolian history," laughs Shannon Loftis, studio lead at World's Edge. "We are going to Mongolia [...] Relic went everywhere, all over the world, when it became time to start researching the civilisations we're going to have in the game at launch. It was so important to be authentic. "
 "The level of detail we've gone into with the civilisations is beyond…" Isgreen says as he jumps in, trailing off as he gathers his thoughts. "I've made a lot of RTS games in the past and this is beyond anything I've ever seen in an RTS game."
 "Age of Empires 4 is very much a celebration of all of history – not just the wars and the people, but the technology and spirituality too. We've gone to great lengths to make sure that our history is accurate to the places."
 "All of that difference came from the history, it came from us designing around history of how these civilizations fought." The team has changed up research efforts for Age of Empires IV in pursuit of accuracy and representation. Isgreen explains how Microsoft actively sought beyond historians, by visiting cultures and translating learnings to meaningful gameplay. "[W]e went to Mongolia, learned about Mongols. We didn't go to a professor here in London, or someone back in the States. We went to the source to learn how those cultures operated, because respecting them and doing them justice is so important."
 Rise of Nations was kind of the spiritual successor to the Age franchise.
 So one of the things we learned from Rise and from some of the other Age of Empires experiments that we’ve done, is there are things that Age of Empires gamers want to see: they want the variable pace, the building phase, and the combat.
 We were told at the beginning of Age of Empires II DE –, AI: ‘Do not touch combat!’ We were like, ‘hey, what do we improve?’ They said: ‘not combat! Leave it alone!’ SL: But there are some things that Rise did really well, too, and we are keeping a lot of that in mind.
Released Trailer footage
 "None of it's not going to be there. We don't want people to be like, 'oh, what happened to that Falcon that was circling around the Mongols; I can't believe they took that out!' Nope, it's all in. Wall combat as well, it's all in there – it's all in the game and it's all working, as of right now at least. As we continue through development and show more of it, it's our promise that it is all real. That's one of the reasons that it has taken so long to show anything new, we want to guarantee that we always show real gameplay."
 A tonne of input. We now have what we call ‘flighting’, which means we put a game out for people to play – we don’t really use the terms alpha and beta anymore. We ran that flight for Age II for eight months and we got incredible feedback.
 Age IV has had people playing it for the last year, and we have gotten a tremendous amount of feedback from people that play Age II and Age III Age online, Mythology, Age I, and we have good discussions with them. Our community is so passionate. They’re very passionate about telling us when they don’t like things, too, so there’s been these wonderful back-and-forths. We are driven, at a studio level, by community interaction. That’s an insanely important point for World’s Edge, the new studio that we created for Age of Empires.
Challenge of balancing New & Old elements
 It’s challenging, to be honest with you. It’s a constant struggle, both internally and with the fans, to provide aspects like, ‘ok, this feels like something that Age III players would really love.’ Because Age III and Age II players do not get along. They’re completely their own communities.
 We love them both, but it’s like, ‘ok, what can we put in that offers this from Age III’, without losing Age II players who’ll say ‘gah, this is from Age III, why would you put this in the game?’
 It’s just an iterative process of learning. The fun thing is, we’ll have something new in Age IV, and at first it’s like the seven stages of grief where players are like ‘how could you change this? This wasn’t in the previous games!’ and then they’re like ‘yeah, you know what? This is better.’ By the end they come around, they’re like ‘we’re glad you did this, I’m sorry!’ But that’s cool, we want that feedback – good or bad, it’s great. There are decisions we have to make that we will make with as much of the community as we can, but obviously there will be some that we’ll just have to be like, ‘trust us, guys’.
 we’re working on Age IV to take Age RTS into the future. And we fully expect there will be people that play both – who make the jump from Age II to Age IV, and then go back to Age II for certain experiences. We love these legacy games, and our commitment is to keep them alive.
User Generated Content Support (AKA MODS)
 I will tell you that one of the pillars of all of the Age of Empires games is mods, and allowing people access to tools that allow them to build great content. We all believe that’s one of the reasons Age has lasted as long as it has – because the community has been able to support the game. We have no intention of stopping now with Age IV. It is an integral, huge part of Age IV, and is showcased more heavily in some ways than any previous Age game.
 Microsoft views the launch of Age of Empires IV as only the "start of the conversation," promising steadily updates to follow, with planning already underway. However, Isgreen suggests it will also support modding through a suite of technologies, providing tools for community creators. "[O]ne of the reasons that Age has survived as long, it's been this franchise that people have loved for so many years, just because mods have been such an important part of it," said Isgreen. "We consider it one of the pillars of Age of Empires. The mods and good modding tools are tantamountly important to the success of Age of Empires. So you can assume that there will be a really nicely robust suite of mod tools and things that we can support."
Game Purchase Model (Will Microtransactions be a thing?)
 The interesting thing is RTS hasn’t really changed that much in terms of the way that they’re sold. If you look at something like Total War, they launch at $60 and then they do a nice hefty DLC pack every year or so, and then some smaller content packs every once in a while, and then their bundle opportunities and everything.
 I think the real disruptor to PC game pricing for Microsoft is going to be PC Game Pass. We will be part of that and see how gamers respond to the notion of subscribing to a game as opposed to outright purchasing it. But the number one thing is to keep our community happy.
 The idea of microtransactions in a real-time strategy game isn’t a thing. DLC, expansions – all of that, are things that we’re going to be exploring for Age IV. We’re actually going to be exploring most of that for all the Age games.
Potential Game Expansions
 So we want to have those conversations with the community to figure out what we can add, and things that they want to see in the game, [like] new game modes. So we’re starting that conversation with Age II or will be soon. Age IV is going to be the same. We definitely have ideas of where we want to go past Age IV in terms of expansions and those kind of things. A lot of that is going to be driven by the community and where they want to see the game go.
Accessibility (for new players)
 There’s a lot of things we’re doing, but unfortunately I can’t talk about it because a lot of it pivots on what we’re doing around campaigns. I will say we’re doing something completely different. I can’t think of another game to do what we’re doing for campaigns. But we’re also leveraging a ton of things we have available to us now, like the compute power to do analytics-based tutorialising, and all kinds of things where we can see how players are playing and be like, ‘hey, did you know you can do this?’
 Age II Definitive also launched with what we call the Art of War, which are missions designed to teach you how to play and improve. That actually came from Age IV – because I’m so adamant about teaching, I was like, ‘wait, we need this in Age II’. We have five or six scenarios – and they’re short, like five minutes – which teach how to deal with [things like] getting attacked early. Most people just melt when that happens, like ‘ahh! I don’t know what to do!’ So we made something to teach people to challenge and overcome that fear. In IV, because our civilisations are further apart now, Art of War will also have scenarios dealing with those specific civilisations.
 Isgreen details how improvements to visuals will also ease accessibility. Passive upgrades are now represented by on-screen cues, relaying changes directly to the plays. "Those things are all visually represented now in Age 4," said Isgreen. "One of the important things was anything that happens, has to be on the screen. And so that's something that computing power brought, something we didn't have access to before. So every upgrade of a weapon, every armor change, all of that stuff is visual."
 The entire multiplayer back end, in all the definitive editions, is all from Relic from Age IV. We’ve taken the entire technology stack of multiplayer, its security, anti-cheat, and all that, and put it all into the old Age games. So technology from the future is now helping the older games be more stable and have people all over the world be able to connect with play.
 In multiplayer mode, Age of Empires 4 will support games for eight players and everyone should command a stately army. In single player mode and campaign mode, however, you can then distribute this common unit maximum between computer AI and the solo player to stage truly gigantic battles. Just like in the trailer.
Game Length and Pacing
 “I would say, classically being an Age of Empires game, I think how we would address [game length and pacing] is, you can still have that game that goes two hours if you really want to, but because we recognise that people have more modern sensibilities, I think that we’re looking into all these different kinds of game modes, and ways that the game can be played and explored.”
 According to Isgreen, the choice is yours: “You don’t have to commit to a two-hour game, but you can if you want. Because, that’s a factor of Age of Empires that we didn’t want to lose – having epic battles with huge cities, with walls and siege, and that being so important now.”
 Age of Empires 4 was built in a new engine for PC (sorry folks, it doesn't sound like a console version is currently in the works)
 ‘It’s hard, as a PC game’, Microsoft’s Shannon Loftis told website Stevivor. ‘We want to make it great on PC. But then, I think the whole concept of platform is about to change with Xbox.’ ‘We are working hard to make sure to visualise all the different ways that people are going to want to experience Age [Of Empires]. But our number one priority is to make it work great with keyboard and mouse.’ The interview then points out that Civilization 6 has just come to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 (which isn’t a real-time strategy game, but never mind) to which Adam Isgreen replied: ‘We’re going to explore our options’. ‘Once we have our wonderful PC game, then we’ll start looking at other ways that we can show up.’
 If a console version of Age Of Empires 4 did happen though it would almost certainly be on the next generation Xbox, so horsepower wouldn’t be a problem. Although with Project xCloud on the horizon Microsoft may feel that it makes more sense simply to stream the PC version onto a tablet or smartphone, that already has a control system that is closer to a keyboard and mouse.
 I think the real disruptor to PC game pricing for Microsoft is going to be PC Game Pass.
Fan observations of 1st Gameplay trailer
Note – the developers have said everything we see in trailers will be in the game. However, the meaning behind everything is not clear and so do not take speculation on potential meaning of what we see to be what it will be like in the game.
- Falcon (Mongols probably use as scout unit)
- Falcon removes fog of war and can see Terrain map – perhaps the falcon specifically can show terrain map. Perhaps terrain map suggests terrain and elevation may play a more strategic role in AOE 4.
- Fog comes back after falcon disappears, so perhaps the falcon can give you a temporary view under fog of war during a fly by.
- Soldiers can man walls (widely known)
- I see the same units travelling at difference speeds (walk and run)
- Some buildings have lit fire lamps on walls – perhaps this suggests there may be time of day effects in game (day – night cycle etc)
- I can see that there is a greater sense of height and realism to the map terrain (comment from Dev  The topography of the presented map shows extremely high mountains modelled in 3D. . Hills and mountains are much more pronounced as opposed to the copy and paste mini cliffs in past games.
- Have siege towers – seems like siege battle fighting on and over walls plays a role.
- The Mongols I believe were nomadic people. We also know they play completely differently than prior AOE nations. I am speculating that these may have a movable base or at least buildings that you can pack up and move around the map.
- We get a zoomed-out view of the battle looking from directly above down onto the top of a large scale battle. I do not think this is just for the clip, I’m guessing this will be a possible in game view the user could have to help manage your forces and tactics during large battles.
Observations from u/GodsDelight to add from the trailer:
· You can build towers on the walls. When the tower is destroyed, the wall "underneath" remains.
· Confirmed buildings: Castle, wonder, monastery, mill, farm, wall, tower, town center, market, house
· Units: heroes, cavalry archers, pikes, longbows, seige towers, battery rams, trebuchet
· There are wooden spike barricades. Temporary (unit built) defences perhaps?
· You can see buildings as they are being constructed.
· Farms looks to be placed individually. There are variations between each farm suggesting they might have finite resources with varying graphics as it gets used up
· In the trailer, the gold line on black aesthetic at the beginning may be the aesthetic for the fog of war in-game
· The mongols on the hill suggests that there might be increased visibility to being on a hill
· There are some good looking roads in the english base. It's possibly an automatic graphics thing where placing buildings close to each other automatically changes the appearance of the land around them to road.