Fanstock – Day 1
On Decemeber 5th and 6th 2002, myself and a number of other webmasters were given the honor of attending Rise of Nations Fanstock. This two day event featured tours of the Big Huge Games’ offices in Maryland, Q&A sessions with the developers, and of course several games of Rise of Nations.
Day1 : The journey begins
On the morning of December 5th, I woke up bright and early and headed off to the local airport in Boston. My flight was scheduled for 2:10 PM, but I was hoping to get lucky and catch an earlier flight that would allow me to be out of there long before an incoming snowstorm. For hours I got to sit and watch as flight after flight was canceled up and down the eastern seaboard. First D.C. was closed, then Raleigh, then Laguardia and JFK in New York. Things were looking grim and I began to wonder if I would even make it. After a few false starts and delays, I did get on a flight. The irony being that it was on the same 2:10 flight I was originally scheduled to board. So much for being early…
The flight and arrival into Baltimore were fairly uneventful(with the possible exception of an hour delay sitting on the runway while they tried to clear a plane that got stuck in the snow). After exiting the plane and collecting my bags, I headed off in search of the driver that would be taking me to the hotel. I found the driver and was greeted by Steve Cherrier (Microsoft Public Relations), product manager John Dongelmans, and Rise of Nations Eden’s Tiger. We jumped into the van and headed off to the hotel for a quick check in and a mad dash to the restaurant where the rest of the attendants as well as a few Big Huge VIPs were waiting.
At the restaurant we were greeted by producer Paul Stephanouk, Graphics VP Dave Inscore, Community Relations Manager Graham Somers, Bonnie and John from Rise of Nations Empire, and Mithras of Rise of Nations Oracle. Over dinner we discussed a great many things, and Paul took a few minutes to describe to us the guiding design philosophies behind the powers of each of the Nations. Their belief is that each Nation should have unique abilities that really make it stand out as a unique playing experience while at the same time making sure that no one Nation becomes the dominant player in the game. For those who haven’t seen it yet, check out the Official Nations Page to learn more about these abilities. You can also check out our very own Nations Page for more in depth history on the Nations and shots of the Unique Units. We also learned about Dave Inscore’s Boddington rating scale. All things can be rated on a scale of being almost as good, or slightly better than a Boddington’s Pub ale. The clam chowder received a B- while the main course received almost a full Boddington.
After dinner, we headed off to the Big Huge Games offices to play a few late night games of Rise of Nations. As I entered the offices, the first thing that caught my eye was a movie sized poster of the Rise of Nations logo surrounded by blinking marquee lights. Very cool. We were quickly whisked into the “War Room” an interior conference room that had been converted into a play test lab and began setting up for a few rounds.
For the first game we played a 3 Vs 3 team game. Teams were Steve, Tiger, and I Vs. Dave, Bonnie, and John. Not really knowing what Nation I should pick, I kept it on Random and wound up with the Turks. As the game started, I noticed my first change in the game since the marketing beta. The loading screen had been significantly altered. It now showed a summary of the Nations powers along with small images of each of the Unique Units for the Nation. Mousing over the unit image produced a short description of the unit and the age that it was available. Very cool, and it gives you something to do while you wait for the game to load. You can see a shot of it to the left here courtesy of Mithras from Rise of Nations Oracle.
As the game started, I began building up as quickly as possible. First order of business was getting my food and wood production up and running. In a few minutes I had established my second city and was beginning to gather wealth via trade caravans. It was time to start building an army. As my first troops began gathering outside of the barracks, I discovered that Dave had built a city very close to my borders. Sensing a quick victory, I used the Turks special ability to get an instant 2 catapults by building a siege factory. I moved my troops into his territory and began to attack the city. I was able to take the city in short order, but attrition took its toll on my invading forces. Supply wagons had been moved so that they were not available until the medieval age, something that came as a very rude surprise. What was left of my forces was not much of a match for the counter attack. A pitched battle began over the city as we both fought for control. The deciding factor in the battle would come when John of Ron Empire flooded into Steve’s territory and I rushed to the defense. This drew me out of position for the crushing wave of the combined forces of Dave and Bonnie. The flood came and I was done for.
Game two was a 6 player Assassin game. For those unfamiliar with the game style, Assassin is a variation on the standard free for all game type where you are assigned a target that you are supposed to eliminate while having to defend against the person whose job it is to eliminate you. You can enter into other player’s territory, but the attrition damage is so severe that your troops only last a few moments. For this game, I was the Nubians. Their power of Trade gave me a great initial boost as I got the benefits of all the unique resources that were within my borders automatically. My elation was short lived though as I learned that my assigned assassin was none other than BHG Community Relations Manager Graham “Thunder” Somers. I began by building up a defensive force all along my border with him. He sent in a few scouting parties that were quickly thwarted and then he began to leave me alone. Feeling confident, I began sending troops into my targets territory. I headed straight for his capitol and possible quick win. It was not to be though as Mithras was able to repel my attacks over and over again. It would not be long before Thunder built up a sufficiently large military force and wiped me from the map.
Dave inscore would step away from the game and leave his nation to build up resources. This would allow programming VP Jason Coleman to take over from him later on and build up a massive number of nuclear missles. The game would eventually end in Armageddon as the remaining players would fire nukes at each other until the world ended.
Actually I had given up on being able to defeat Thunder and chose to step away rather than allow Graham the satisfaction of my resignation 😉 Jason was able to sneak in under the radar, rebuild, and make an interesting go of it. However, as he goes on to explain, with so many nukes being hurled around the game ended in Armageddon. – Dave Inscore