A new patch dropped yesterday, and publisherhas outlined for the rest of 2015, including improvements to the Steam workshop, a reworked lobby system, and a whole new expansion.
Version 3.9 of the game, which was released yesterday, introduces a ‘team together’ option for 2v2 games that encourages team play, various improvements to performance, and finally ends support for Windows XP. Sounds a bit odd that an upgrade removes something from the game rather than adding it, but there will at least making a XP branch publicly available for die-hard fans of the operating system (yes, those apparently exist). They just won't be able to make use of any further patches.
As for the new content on the way, the development team is looking to initially focus on making it easier for the community to create content.
"Our goal in the upcoming months is to make some dramatic improvements to the Steam workshop for Age of Empires II to make the experience much better for users," writes Microsoft Studios' Ryan Chaply, program manager for the HD Edition. "This includes a mod manager in-game to reprioritize loading and making mods active / inactive, improved file sizes and update capabilities for mod authors to prevent users from needing to subscribe to multiple packs, and enhanced mod capabilities for certain files types within the game."
Another main focus is on restructuring the game lobby to make searching for multiplayer games a far more smooth experience. Right now players have to search for game lobbies in either the vanilla game or itsexpansion, which Chaply says has lead to fewer game lobbies available for players wanting to try out the new content. The aim now is to "adjust the data structure within the game to allow all game lobbies to be listed inline within the game, loading the appropriate game information on the fly instead of clicking a banner manually." There's some major work to be done on this front, the developer points out, in terms of making multiplayer games compatible between players who own the extra DLC and those who don't, but the goal is to make finding a multiplayer game far easier than it currently is.
Finally, Microsoft Studios has confirmed that it's working on a brand new expansion with the same team responsible for The Forgotten. Another new expansion for a game that's fifteen years old, and I remember playing back when Limp Bizkit t-shirts were still socially acceptable.
"As with the Forgotten Expansion, you can anticipate a lot packed in there," Chaply explains, "including new civs, campaigns, game modes, units, and more. If your focus is more on the original AOEII experience, the new content development means you can look forward to additional support and features that benefit every owner. Since launch, AOE II HD has come so far – and with the help of the FE team and Skybox, this year is going to be the best yet."
As for what those new civilizations could be, Chaply promises more information soon. He did, however, release a single teaser image of aunique unit, suggesting to me that one of them will be a middle eastern, possibly Arabian faction. We'll keep an eye out for more information on the new expansion - the team promises to release a developer diary "soon" revealing the first new civilization.