Developer: Age Of Empires 3 Was A ‘Huge Mistake’

Developer: Age Of Empires 3 Was A ‘Huge Mistake’

Fans of genre-defining real-time strategy game Age of Empires likely won’t be surprised to learn that the father of the series wasn’t a big fan of third game.

“With Age of Empires 3 we tried all of these new ideas,” said Bruce Shelley, founder of Age of Empires creators Ensemble Studios. “I think it was a huge mistake.”

“We wanted to create something that was 30 per cent the same, 30 per cent borrowed and 30 per cent innovative. I think we tried to do too much.”

Shelley said that when they decided they had gone too far and tried to rebuild the game as a classic Age of Empires title it was too late.

“It was like being a child changing all of the dials on a television and then trying to get that picture back,” he said. “It just wasn’t an Age game anymore.”

Shelley and his team were so aware of the changes and their inability to return the game to the folds of the series that they wanted to change its name from something other than Age of Empires, but Microsoft, he said, wouldn’t allow it.

Shelley now works with Zynga, a developer that created the game he played the most last year.

“Last year the game that really affected me was Frontierville… this is a real game, this is serious and this really opened my eyes about the potential that could happen here,” he said.

He says the game was very different from Farmville, a game that he described as pretty simple.

Now, with his work at Zynga, he is working with an external studio on a game. Zynga gets it, he said.

“We want more people from the Sid Meier school of iterative game design,” he said. “I think it has been a learning experience for (Zynga).”


  • As “weresmurf” points out. The guy(Bruce Shelley, founder of Age of Empires creators Ensemble Studios) makes a bad game and lays the blame on someone else. What joke of a person. He’ll do it again at Zynga as well. So he ran out of steam but couldn’t admit and couldn’t cut it anymore. Got make farmville 2 then blame someone else again.

  • Personally I really disliked Age of Empires III. I played II and it was great (apart from the low unit cap). I had such high hopes for III but it was just boring! I can’t quite put my finger on what I didn’t like about it, but the story was really crap.

  • I worked at Ensemble full-time while Age3 was in production. Bruce was pretty much checked out at that point, having made a tidy sum from the Microsoft buyout. He didn’t work at the studio on a full-time basis by this point. I doubt he spent more than a few hours each month in Dallas at the studio (and this is being very generous).

    Anyway, Age3 was far from perfect, but a lot of folks actually worked very hard on this product and it did sell reasonably well (2+ million copies, not counting expansions). It would be more productive if Mr. Shelley talked about his current work at Zynga, but I doubt this would interest the press as much as bashing Microsoft, Ensemble or Age3.

  • Age of Empires, the greatest RTS series ever (shush starcraft fans) which he trashes while working for Zynga, makers of putrid rubbish, I think he should be ignored and let to slip into obscurity as he clearly deserves.

  • This really doesn’t surprise me at all. I played the first and second AOE for weeks on end. Played AOE3 literally for maybe 3 hours max.

    I just didn’t enjoy what they had on offer. Here’s to more AOE inspired games that haven’t lost their way in the future.

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