AGE OF EMPIRES
First released to the world in 1997, Age of Empires has become a world-wide classic video game series with millions of players of all ages and a growing competitive scene. I partnered with producers at the Xbox Games Studio, World's Edge, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the franchise by creating an animated logo showcasing the many facets of the multiple game titles.
The goals to achieve were to generate a short animated sequence that showcases the Age of Empires franchise's moments throughout recent and past development history, and to celebrate the milestone of 25 years, while bringing to light the growing popularity for esports based around the games.
An additional task was to include the World's Edge logo in combination with the Age of Empires logo so to solidify the studio's presence as parent.
While this was an effort to celebrate 25 years of the franchise, it was also something producers wanted to use even after the celebration. Creating an alternate version for future use was also an end goal.
Early concept sketches and notes.
Over the course of three months I carefully curated footage from content I had already worked with in my library, including trailers, announcements, streams, events, etc. I aimed to find shots which helped form a "flow" that complimented the movement of the camera over these large blocks of space. The idea was to make everything feel lager than life and introduce viewers to the scope of the franchise.
I expressed a desire to stimulate, but not overload, the viewer with a montage of content that viewers could watch again and again and see something new each time.
Sam Bragg, [then] Senior Designer at World's Edge, created the 25 Years logo design and orchestrated the logo's 2D vector animation. The base of his animation is what helped me transition between the 3D elements into the 2D logo seamlessly.
Sam Bragg's original vector animation.
The idea was to end on the vector animation, where I would be able to play with the 3D environment in greater detail. Working backwards, I blocked out a 3D version of where the 2D vector animation begins.
I knew I wanted to lead up to the final landing of the 3D into 2D with a series of shots that would showcase gameplay and content from the franchise. Using the extrusion of the castle banner shape, I prototyped angles to see which ones would help show off the footage best and help the overall flow from shot to shot. This also gave me and the producers clarity early on for things like timing and what they would like to see in each shot.
I tried to avoid mostly long, flat sides and bring in some of the depth that the sharp angles provided.
Early prototype shots from angles that did not make the final cut.
While there were discussions about which clips to use in each shot, it became apparent that there was too much content from the existing 5 game titles in addition to content outside gameplay.
In the end, we landed on a 15-second animation that felt right for the goals set out at the start; create hype, introduce the esports element, and make it flow.
Extra touches here and there helped further display the franchise's art style with the "Ink As Light" design introduced in the latest title "Age of Empires IV". The light streaks act as a through-line from game to game. Lots of other elements, like flares and fire particles, help keep the visual language of the series consistent.
Building a shot from prototype to final render.
The World's Edge logo did not require as much design. Earnest (producer) wanted a simple reveal next to the Age of Empires logo in order to help make them synonymous with each other. Since this animation will live in the game and be displayed at every startup, it was important to make sure they were included in this celebration and ground them as the studio making it all possible. I opted to include simulated flames to represent the passion these developers have shown in their work for the long-time video game series.
Final World's Edge logo animation.
The music was composed by Senior Audio Director, Todd Masten.
In order to get the feel of the overall epic mood I was going for, I used temp music in some early cuts for Todd to use as reference. Here is one variation using a temp track:
After finishing the overall 3D composite in After Effects, I fine-tuned the edit in Premiere Pro and performed a sound design pass, including Todd's original music, for a final render. I used familiar sounds within the franchise to align with a consistent soundscape already established, while also putting my own flare into it.
A snapshot of the Premiere Pro timeline while editing.
Earnest then coordinated with the other studios involved in the franchise to ensure satisfaction across all titles. This included folks from World's Edge, Relic Entertainment, Forgotten Empires, and Tantalus Media, before being implemented into the games.
The result was a 20-second animation showcasing the best of Age of Empires throughout the 25 years with a highlight on esports and a new light on the studio responsible for it all, the World's Edge logo.
This logo animation sequence was introduced into the Age of Empires startup and can be seen when starting any of the current titles:
Age of Empires: Definitive Edition (PC)
Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition (PC, Xbox, xCloud)
Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition (PC)
Age of Empires IV (PC)
Producer | Earnest Yuen (Executive Producer/Principal PM, World's Edge)
3D animation, edit, sound design | Kyle Culver (Video Editor, MediaLab/Formosa Interactive)
Art Design, 2D animation | Sam Bragg (Senior Designer, World's Edge)
Music | Todd Masten (Senior Audio Director, World's Edge)
Additional motion graphics consulting | Kristian Tonnessen (Motion Graphics/Designer, MediaLab)
Additional thanks | Chris Rock (Technical Art Director, World's Edge)