We first set out to reproduce the rich detail of Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. As we strove to make the fascinating Age of Empires III time period come alive, that goal quickly evolved: We at Ensemble Studios wanted to create the best-looking game ever. From the stunning water effects to the hundreds of units battling on-screen, you'll feel like you're a part of the action in the New World.
Tone mapping This photo imaging technique balances the colors in a scene on the fly. The end result is a rich, warm game where bright colors are vibrantly rendered alongside darker counterparts, such as shadows.
Lighting and shadows The sun is always shining in Age of Empires, so it's important that lighting and shadows be an awe-inspiring experience. Units and buildings cast shadows according to a real sun position, and even cast shadows on each other. High Dynamic Range rendering allows us to represent the shiny glints of sunlight that bounce off highly reflective surfaces.
Bump and specular mapping Water glistens like water. Metal shines like metal. These advanced techniques serve to provide an extra level of rendering detail heretofore unseen in real-time strategy (RTS) gaming.
Water We felt that portraying stunning, realistic water effects in the game was so important that we devoted a programmer to it full-time. You'll find the water rich with details like foam near the shore, accurately modeled water motion, flotsam in rivers and realistic water colors. Plus, reflections change with the viewing angle, the angle of sunlight and the motion of the water. The overall effect is breathtaking.
Cliffs & Riverbeds Instead of just stretching terrain, we built a system to attach geometry to the terrain map to allow for realistic overhangs and steep cliffs, from areas like the American Southwest. This effect is supported on random maps too.