Ensemble Studios, the powerhouse RTS developer behind the Age of Empires series has revealed a new direction for future titles, saying its going to be concentrating on the world of MMO and also branching out into the previously unexplored world of console gaming.
It was a move which was first hinted at in our interview with Ensemble's Bruce Shelley last year, but speaking in an interview with Next-Gen.biz, Ensemble's Executive Patrick Hudson said of the MMO market, "It's always been a risky kind of market to look at, and then you see WoW come out, and turn the industry on its head, and you start to re-evaluate."
However while a new MMO is certainly a target and the company already has a prototype, Hudson adds, "We haven't settled on anything, it's safe to say we won't be chasing the fantasy genre. It seems like there are so many coming out. [We're] still pretty far out from even thinking of taking that prototype to a greenlight phase."
However while Ensemble has traditionally been a PC developer, it certainly will be branching out onto next generation consoles, having solved some of the major control issues which have always been seen as a real barrier. Ensemble's CEO Tony Goodman said, "We're giving RTS games on the console a shot, we actually spent a whole year just trying to reconstruct how the controls would work on an RTS game."
"Because we wanted to focus on just controls alone, we just took a straight port of Age of Empires and worked on that first. Now, the game we're doing for our console has a lot of different gameplay elements, too."
Now Goodman believes Ensemble has cracked the central control issue saying: "Yeah, and we got there. Our gamepad people could beat our mouse people. The last thing we wanted was to start on a game before we solved that problem. We put in so much time, and effort, and made a series of little breakthroughs, and got it."
So looks like we might have to add MMORTS to our list of MMO acronyms and, with Ensemble at the helm, we look forward to some interesting developments. Ensemble certainly seems to have invested a lot of time and effort into honing that interface and, with a wealth of PC experience behind it, we could well be in for an intriguing new online genre on next-gen. We'll keep you updated as we hear more.
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