Smoking Gun Interactive talks to us about Age of Empires: Castle Siege

Our interview with Smoking Gun Interactive's co-founder about the upcoming Age of Empires game made for touchscreens

Microsoft will offer Windows Phone owners not one but two new games based on their Age of Empires strategy franchise this fall. In addition to the previously announced Age of Empires: World Domination game from developer KLab, the company announced last week plans to release Age of Empires: Castle Siege for Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 sometime in September.

As the title implies, this game concentrates on offering players a way to build a castle, complete with defenses that will be made to keep it from falling to enemies. Developed by Vancouver-based Smoking Gun Interactive, Age of Empires: Castle Siege will offer a way to link up with friends on Xbox Live for alliances as well as support for online leaderboards. We got a chance to chat with John Johnson, the co-founder and CEO of Smoking Gun Interactive, to find out more about Age of Empires: Castle Siege, including how the free-to-play game will handle in-game purchases and more.

age of empires Castle siege

First, how did Smoking Gun Interactive get the gig from Microsoft to develop Age of Empires: Castle Siege?

"We had a great relationship with Microsoft having worked on many projects and many teams with them over the last few years. We were very excited to pitch for AoE: Castle Siege As our founders and many employees have extensive RTS experience and that gave us a bit of an edge."

Many people might be wondering how Castle Siege ties into the Age of Empires franchise besides just the name. What elements in the game make it a true Age of Empires title?

"AoE: Castle Siege brings AoE gameplay to touch devices. We've kept a lot of what made the original AoE so popular: We're grounded in history, you can play one of 6 civilizations and each have 3 unique heroes and 1 unique troop type. You can directly control all the units during combat just like other RTS titles. We have a tech tree to advance through as well as many ages to advance through that all gain better weapons, units, defenses and other structures. And as with AoE, the game is primarily about advancement and combat."

What sort of castles and defenses can players make in the game?

"Players can arrange their castles in any way they choose with lots of different tactical layouts that can work. There are a variety of defensive towers such as Archer towers, Crossbow towers, and ballista towers and, at higher levels there are more powerful towers like the flame tower that shoots Greek fire. In addition, there are emplacements which are more fragile than towers, but have a longer range. Walls protect your buildings and defenses and you can place troops on walls to defend them. In addition, Patrol points let you assign 1-2 squads of troops (of your choice) to defend your castle and Guard Houses will constantly spawn defensive troops until the guard house is destroyed so these are best placed in protected areas. There are a variety of traps players can hide such as caltrops, fire traps and engineer traps."

What kinds of units can the player access to lay siege to the castles?

"Players can access Infantry, Spear Infantry, Raiders, Ladder Invaders, Archers, Crossbow Men, Cavalry, Battering Rams, Siege Towers, Catapults and Ballistas. Some come in later ages and all troop types can be upgraded over time. Each civilization also has its own unique unit: Briton – Longbowman, Franc – Knight Templar, Tuetons – Tuetonic Knight, Byzantine – Cheirosiphon, Keivan Rus – Raiders of Muscovy, Saracen – Mamluk. Units have specific roles there are better at in combat and directing units in battle will maximize its role effectively. That is a key skill players will pick up as they advance through the ages."

What gameplay modes will be available in Castle Siege?

"AoE: Castle Siege is really all about building and combat. You build up your castle to defend yourself and protect you loot and your keep. You then build armies and attack other player's castles to try to destroy as much of their castles as you can. There are 10 historical missions you play as well."

What other features will make Age of Empires: Castle Siege stand out from the many mobile strategy games currently available?

"In the mobile arena we feel our touch based direct control sets us apart and really gives an RTS sensibility to the title. Each troop type has a specific combat role and players will have to master ordering their troops to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Hero special abilities can really turn the tide of the battle and are a lot of fun to use. Players can also do research on both an economic and military tech tree. We feel we've given the player lots of flexibility to lay out their castle with many tactical options available. The combat is truly a skill based game, which will take time to master but still accessible enough for the casual user."

How easy or hard was it to make the game work in Windows Phone and Windows 8.1 and will it be a universal app with cross platform support?

"There are challenges with any platform, especially with the range of devices available. We also had challenges making the game support both touch and keyboard/mouse input for desk top users. In the end we landed with something that really worked well for touch and PC. Yes the game is compatible on all platforms so you can attack players on PC from your mobile device and vice versa. You can log into the same account from multiple devices as well. So do some attacks from home, continue on your mobile device and when you get to work log in and continue from there."

The game will have some in-game app purchases. Can you talk about what these elements will be like and if they will be needed to successfully play the game?

"It takes time to build everything in the game. Players can skip the wait buy purchasing and spending gold (you can also acquire gold by attacking other players or setting up trade routes). There are no power ups or other consumables for purchase so even if you accelerate your castle's progression, you will still have to develop your combat skills to be successful. Everything is available in game without having to purchase, so you don't have to spend a dime, if you don't want to."

age of empires castle siege

What can you tell us about the art design and the graphics for Castle Siege?

"We wanted to make sure the game read well on smaller phone displays. We also had to support a wide range of devices with different resolutions and abilities while still allowing the player to be able to discern gameplay elements. It is a departure from the original AoE, but we were going for a balance between the original more realistic style and yet still appeal to a mobile audience and have art that was instantly recognizable on smaller devices. It's a fine line, but we fell we struck a balance that works well for both PC and mobile. There are lots of little touches in the game from collapsing wall animations to smoke and fire effects that give a real visual punch."

If the game is successful, could we see it on iOS or Android devices at some point?

"For now the game is being released for Windows 8 PC and Windows Phone 8."

Any plans for additional content to be added to the game after it is released?

"Yes. We do have plans for additional content."

Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Age of Empires: Castle Siege?

"We're very excited to see the game get released. We worked very hard to make a game that, hopefully, appeals to both casual players and fans of the franchise. We are hoping to bring in a whole new audience to the Age franchise. We're especially pleased at the level of player control and tactical gameplay depth we've been able to add to a mobile strategy title and we hope people like it."

We would like to thank John for taking the time to answer our questions!

  • My favourite game, Age of Empires the Conquerors expansion. I've been playing it for at least 12 years
  • Yes the Conquerors expansion is the best
  • Age Of Empires: The Conquerors made me fall in love with history, something my friggin' textbook couldn't do
  • Mine is the original age of empires(1999) :)
  • Yeah i play it on pc all the time
  • +525
  • Do you play aoc on Voobly?
  • No but I play it on Chinese online gaming platform
  • Try playing on its really fun and awesome ^^
  • You know they have it on Steam right?  I love the new AoE with Steam multiplayer.
  • Yup I have played on steam.. Still it was not upto the mark :)
  • I like that you can get gold from attacking players, how it should be, so dedicated players will benefit just by playing the game.
  • Will it be Xbox live enabled?
  • Read the article and find out :)
  • I couldn't find anything about Xbox live,the first time I read the article. But I read it again and found it.
    Thanks for all the help you could have done but chose not to. Thanks again. :)
  • Yes
  • 512 mb support pls
  • When is the release date?
  • Will it have 512MB RAM support?
  • Yes of course it is
  • Universal please will love it
  • I believe
  • I hope it will be available for 512mb ram devices
  • And game have feature like war between alliances???? Like clash of clans have
  • Looks like a great game! Hope it supports 512 RAM devices
  • Hope it releases on 1 September
  • Released it already! Got really hyped since I found out about the game!
  • Should have asked them how tough or easy it is to enable the Xbox features considering that Xbox on WP is in jeopardy.
  • I want everything for free as I am a windows phone user
  • You chose window phone for a very wrong reason.  Perhaps Android is better suited. 
  • You are joking, right?
  • Yes :D I love Age of Empires :D So glad to be a Windows/Windows Phone user.
  • I am very excited for this, though I must admit I have alot of time (not to mention a $100 gift card I recieved as a christmas present) invested in my clash of clans account, so it's going to be difficult.  Having it be on my phone, and native on my computer, will help sway me I'm sure.  
  • Looking forward to this. Been waiting for a decent RTS. Civilization Revolution was ok but looked a bit poor graphics wise.
  • Civ Revolution has poor graphics and poor gameplay, hope they release a new one based on Civ Beyond Earth.
  • 'Players can skip the wait buy purchasing and spending gold'
    Correction needed!
  • Guess it wont be available for half gig RAM devices :-|
  • Please don't say that
  • Love how its an exclusive on wp
  • Heck yeah. It's about time we get another good game exclusive to Windows Phone. Heck, even if it does go to ios and Android, at least we can say we got it first.
  • Age of empire!!
  • So excited for this game. Hope they release it soon.
  • Take my money upfront is all I ask. Don't IAP me. Please.
  • I find it annoying that you even asked them if it was going to iOS or Android.
  • Having Age of Empires with achievements on Xbox and cross platform play would be great imo. They just make the other versions without Xbox achievement support.
  • In case you hadn't noticed, Windows Phone needs all the big-name exclusive apps and games it can get. Microsoft bringing their own games to iOS and Android is essentially throwing in the towel. What's next: Xbox One games on PS4?
  • Well, Wordament is released on other platforms with Xbox Live support as well, so it wouldn't be the first time
  • This will make coc looks like a pre school game, you know the stupid AI
  • The best PC game... AoE
  • Bring it on! Can't wait!
  • I am excited about this! 2 new AoE games! Seems like it will be balanced for free vs pay to play.
  • looking forward to play it as soon as it comes. :D
  • I am waiting for this game to come
  • AOE my fav all the time.. Glad to know it bring to our device
  • This will be awesome!
  • It should be released on ANDROID and iOS as well .. I would much rather have a larger pool of players if we are able to attack others.
  • I like the fact that it is currently avail. Only for Windows platforms !! ;)
  • Why don't they come with AOE4. It's much better to have a sequel imo.
  • Please see that the video published in this article is private...
  • Error Encountered Connecting to the Server  I have not been able to log into Castle Siege for since the 21st of Dec I have uninstalled it several times as well have a fresh cpoy of windows 10 the game hub show me connected and updated. If i use my Skype ID it will log me in but back to LV1 if I use my primary Microsoft log in it will dispaly the Error everytime I have connected Microsoft and Xbox they haver not be able to provide me with a solution, I have been on the Castle Siege support page and found no help can anyone explain to me what this issue is and how I can reslove this issue