Probably not the best place to post this question, but after all, I am interested in history and while cleaning up some stuff I came across the Age of Empires III game which I had bought a while ago. The game -in case you haven't it played it yourself- lists the spanish, british, french, portuguese, dutch, russian, german & ottoman civilizations but oddly enough, the website never states how accurate is the information portrayed in the game (apparently it's more important the 3d engine it's using) and Wikipedia also fails to say anything on the matter except for this quote:

Game Revolution said that it is "as detailed as a history book, and about as much fun;"

Which frankly doesn't make the cut either... I do understand there definitely was some historical research and an aim to make it accurate, yet it is more than often that history sometimes get skewed a bit just to produce a marketable product. If anyone has played the game and spot historical errors, what's the overall percentage of historical accuracy of the game or are there any studies/links as of to know how much of the game is based in historical facts?

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    It's a game! Any resemblance to historical fact is purely incidental and often unintended. Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 3:52
  • This question is hard to answer objectively, and also very broad.
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 3:56
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    I wouldn't say that any resemblance to historical fact is purely incidental and often unintended - the creators of many historical based games spend a great deal of time researching the history of an era; but, to paraphrase the lead designer of Shogun 2:Total War, when there is a choice between being historically accurate and making the game fun, fun wins.
    – Kobunite
    Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 8:17
  • @Kobunite: I might be convinced to espouse your viewpoint in regards to games designed as simulation games. However AOE III is most definitely mot designed to be an historically accurate simulation. Along the lines of most Hollywood historical movies, it is simply inspired by the relevant history. Commented Jul 31, 2013 at 23:39
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    @PieterGeerkens - To be fair, I mostly agree with you. Bruce Shelley (Creator of AoE) said to game spy "People shouldn't get their history from Hollywood or video games," followed by "We're creating a commercial product here, a game that we'd like to appeal to a lot of people. Creating a truly accurate historical videogame would not only touch on areas we'd rather not deal with, in the end it just wouldn't be any fun." specifically about AoE3 here pc.gamespy.com/pc/age-of-empires-iii/658725p1.html
    – Kobunite
    Commented Aug 1, 2013 at 7:11

1 Answer 1


There are many aspects of a computer game - gameplay, graphics, storyline, mechanics, etc. and it is always necessary for a game to simplify or distort the history a little bit, otherwise it becomes unplayable, or very expensive/difficult to develop. For example, I quickly scanned the Wikipedia article you cited and found

Each unit that is produced increases the population count to a maximum of 200. Basic units such as settlers and infantry count as 1, but others, including most cavalry and mercenary infantry count as 2. More powerful units, especially artillery or mercenary cavalry, can count for a population as high as 7.

Do you really think that a superpower country can be defended by a population of less than 200, including troops and civilians? No doubt this is a simplification to make the game playable, and there is always such compromise in any commercial game.

What normally happens is a trade-off between accuracy, playability, feasibility and cost. The optimal amount of accuracy differs from player from player, for example some people are bothered that the musket fire animation does not look like an actual musket fire from the era, but other people don't even notice that part and are more bothered by how simple and inaccurate diplomacy between countries is, or how they can't have population larger than 200.

That's why any question regarding a commercial game's accuracy is hard to answer objectively, unless you are asking about a very specific aspect, for example, "Is the depiction of British Redcoats uniform in this game accurate"?

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