Empire Earth III is the third installment in the “Empire Earth” game series. It came out in This is the newest game in the series at this moment. , BC. 50, BC. BC. BC. 0 AD. AD. AD. AD. AD. AD. AD. AD. World War I. World War II. Modern. SHACK/TECH_TREE. Tech Tree. Last year SSSI released a preliminary Tech Tree showing off the units they planned to have in the game. May they have .

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Technology trees are evolutionary tree diagrams that simulate the progress of technology in historical strategy games in a deterministic manner. Having the double function of representing the history of technology while being a core mechanism in the game itself, the tech tree plays an important role in the overall game design.

This article covers the question of how the tech tree determines the possibilities for representing the history of technology in historical strategy games, using the concept of technology determinism. In doing so it tries to bridge the fields of STS and game studies. I discuss and compare four important games in the genre Age of EmpiresEmpire EarthRise of Nations and Civilization IV ; and present insights from interviews with the lead designer of each game. Tech trees come in the shape of linear upgrade paths or interlocking vines structures, and fulfill various strategic and narrative functions in the games.

Technological determinism is present in tech trees under three forms: On the level of individual technologies it becomes clear that besides the broad concept of technology, there is a lot of freedom in how the tech trees are filled in. Both the selection of technologies and the effects attributed to them are different in all four games, which makes four interesting case studies possible.

The conclusion explains how tech trees determine the design of technological history in a general way, but that there are many ways for both designers and players to interpret history in their own way. In historical strategy games, in which the player controls a nation that progresses throughout history, the developers implemented a technology tree to help simulate the progress of technology from stone tools to nanotechnology.

It is a rule set of certain premises that have to be fulfilled to unlock a technology, which then has certain consequences, often including unlocking the path to newer technologies.

Little has been published on the topic of technology trees, although their technological determinist aspects have attracted some scholarly attention Macdougall, Despite losing credit in the academic world, the idea that technological innovation drives social progress and follows an inevitable course can still be found in popular culture Wyatt,including digital games.

Although scholars from the field of science and technology studies are aware of this presence, they have not yet laid bridges to fields like games studies to see how the determinism operates in concrete cultural artifacts like videogames.

Determinism is more than a pitfall in historical thinking, when embodied in a mechanism like a tech tree it can form a script that influences the design and content of popular culture. This article covers the question of how the tech tecchtree determines the possibilities for representing the history of technology in historical strategy games.

The technology tree plays a double role in these games: First it is a mechanism or technology itself, functioning as a system of upgrades within the game. Second the tech tree represents technologies and technological history. It will show how at least three forms of technological determinism are present in the structure of the technology trees, but on the level of individual technologies a great freedom for historical interpretation is still possible.

Empire Earth/Digital Age

I compare four iconic historical strategy games: The first reason for comparing multiple titles is that it broadens the discussion to historical strategy games as a genre instead of just one case. The second reason is empite it allows many interesting comparisons, among others the difference in which technologies are selected to feature in the tech trees. For selecting my four titles I used the following criteria: I focus on the offline game experience.

Furthermore there is a distinction between games that tend towards the simulation of history Civ4RoN by counting on historical mechanisms to drive alternative history, and games that tend techtreee re-enact specific historical events AoEEEalthough all are simulations emmpire a certain extent.

For this research I drew upon two important sources next to general background literature on game design and the history of technology. The first source is my own extensive analysis of the games themselves by playing them offline hours in total and studying the structure of the tech tree.


The second source consists of e-mail interviews with the lead designers of the games in question. In chronological order, I interviewed: This research is of an aerth nature as a consequence of its subject matter: Other research investigates the Civilization ejpire from an ideological perspective; its imperialist ideologies have been critisized by, for example, DouglasKapelland Poblocki Henthorne discusses the utopian ideological aspects of various strategy games including the Civilization series, and the political implications of Age of Empires and Civilization are also discussed by Weib It is not because little has been published on the subject of tech trees that an academic debate is nonexistent.

As he recounts on his blog, Rob MacDougall explicitly addressed the determinist assumptions of the games in his lectures. I want to refresh this debate by comparing multiple games and by paying attention to the technologies in the tech tree themselves instead of just looking at darth relation. Apart from some isolated cases see Basalla, there is no real tradition of depicting technological progress in evolutionary tree diagrams.

Ina technology tree first appeared in the board game Civilization Hartland Trefoil, Besides this, technologies are often linked to each other, so researching a technology can give access to a more advanced one. What is generally called a tech tree consists of both buildings, units and technologies. I call the latter the upgrade treeand from here onwards reserve the term technology tree for the dependencies between technologies.

Mathematically speaking tech trees are directed graphs. With vertical links I mean connections between old and new upgrades of the same type, by horizontal links I refer to connections between different upgrades but within the same timeframe. The Age of Empires upgrade tree actually looks like a real tree diagram, because a building tree underlies the tech tree new buildings allow new technologies click here to see Figure 1.

The tech tree itself however consists of linear, vertical upgrade paths. The same is true for Empire Earthwhich has fully separate branches of technology, all vertically linked click here to see Figure 2. Rise of Nations has a very interlinked tech tree click here to see Figure 3with cross-branch links horizontal and upgrade path link vertical.

A distinction must be made between the 40 library techs researched at the library and the 43 other technologies. The five branches of library technologies are independent of buildings, only having vertical links to each other, but serve as horizontal conditions for the other technologies and buildings. In Civilization IVtechnologies are linked to each other in various ways click here to see Figure 4. The first way they can be linked is directly verticallylike bronze working leading to iron working.

For example animal husbandry can be reached by either hunting or agriculture. Noteworthy, in Civilization IV all tehtree, units and other options come directly from the tech tree, meaning that they can only come into play when a new technology is researched thus the tech tree is the upgrade tree.

What is all this botany good for? Technology trees fulfil a number of functions that make them interesting for game designers, of which I will only cover the most important ones here. First eaeth all the tech tree forms a sort of decision tree, giving the player choices which add strategic depth to the gameplay.

Empire Earth Heaven :: EE Tech Tree

Tech trees that have a vine structure of interlocking requirements, like in Civilization IVare strategically interesting because they force the player to plan far ahead to reach certain technological goal. However linear technology trees do allow specialization within one game session, as Rick Goodman argues in defence of AoE: One of the most important design purposes of a tech tree is to act as a release mechanism: This comes in handy when empir a campaign, as each scenario can introduce new parts of the tech tree in line with moving further down the timeline.

Empie tech tree functions as a narrative techtrre on three levels in skirmish matches, that would otherwise lack the scripted story of campaign scenarios. On a macro level the player advances throughout the whole of history in one skirmish match, and the tech tree contributes to this experience by telling the story of technological progress. Especially in games that deal with alternative history this is important, as the tech tree offers a supportive framework that keeps things in tecbtree with real world history and recognizable for the player.

On a meso level it provides each game with a clear structure of a humble beginning a few root techseventful middle many choices and mighty end accumulated abilities. On a micro level, the tech tree creates immediate goals and drama for the player.


So far I have kept the concept of technology unspecified, referring to it as upgrades. We find machines steam enginetechniques sailingsciences and bodies of knowledge physicsabstract and religious ideas and rituals polytheism, philosophy and forms of social organisation guilds, feudalism. Lead designer Brian Reynolds defends his selection: Soren Johnsen from Firaxis shares this thought: The broad concept of technology in historical strategy games comes close to a constructivist approach of technological systems consisting of objects, processes and knowledge Bijker et al,pp.

This broad inclusion of technologies helps to soften the technological determinist aspects of tech trees that are examined here. There is some recent use of the term technological determinism in videogame studies Bogost,but it originates from technological history and generally refers to: Nowadays this belief is earhh a fallacy in the academic community, but is still widely diffused in popular culture Wyatt, The technology tree can be seen as a representation of ekpire idea because it is a driving force of history within the mepire and the course of technological progress is predefined.

One side is the fixed sequence of technological development and therefore a necessitous path of progress, and the other side is that technology imposes certain social and political features upon society.

A third perspective is the idea of technological determinism as characterisation Wyatt,p. Technological determinism as the set sequence of technology is clearly present in the structure of tech trees in all games, and is made explicit in some: The exact selection of technologies can earyh per civilization or follow the same track for all, as is the case in Empire Earth.

However the strength and set sequence of these links is not as strong in all eqrth. In Civilization IV a technology can have multiple prerequisites and form meaningful connections, while in EE there are thin and seemingly non causal links between technologies, only preventing the player from simultaneously researching technologies with the same effect. Soren Johnson has no problem recognizing that Civ4 follows a deterministic model of history, but replies that:.

To get an idea of what this deterministic orders implicate, it is worthwhile to look at the chains of necessity beyond the next step, for instance with mysticism in Civilization IV: No robotics without mysticism? These civics are unlocked by technologies, for example bronze working tech allows slavery civic.

Rise of Nations also has a branch of civic technologies, but these do not lead to new forms of government. Some links are quite subtle, for instance in Civilization IV there techtfee the seemingly strange requirement of needing either plastics or fission to research environmentalism.

I asked lead designer Soren Johnson about this puzzle:. The connections in the tech tree do not always go from mechanical to social technologies. For example paper, a mechanical technology because it refers to an artefact in Civ4has civil service or theology as its conditions.


Besides the names of the ages tool agetechnological determinism can be exposed in the characterization of civilizations in Age of Empires. In AoE each civilization has a different tech tree, which has the same structure as the others, but with limited options: This was an early way of creating diversity between factions, before Starcraft Blizzard Entertainment, introduced completely different sides to the Real Time Strategy RTS scene.

However some obvious mistakes can be observed in these tech trees, for example Persia tecchtree having coinage, despite being historically known for introducing its use on a large scale. It turns out that historical accuracy was sacrificed in the playtest phase of development.

I hope to have shown here how determinism can surface in different forms, and games can be more or less deterministic depending on what criteria they are judged: Not all orders are strictly determined nor causally intended, as alternative routes earty sometimes possible and within the tech tree can also be spotted influences going from social innovations to mechanical ones.

So far the focus has been on the internal relations in the system of tech trees. This part will zoom in further and explore the objects in the system and their attributes.