Ensemble Studios founder Bruce Shelley has said Age of Empires III "just wasn't an Age game", and described the design process as "a huge mistake".
"With Age of Empires 3 we tried all of these new ideas. I think it was a huge mistake," Shelley told Kotaku.
"We wanted to create something that was 30 percent the same, 30 percent borrowed and 30 percent innovative.
"I think we tried to do too much."
Allegedly, the team was so disappointed in the resulting game that they tried to have it published under a different name, something Microsoft weren't keen on.
Late in development, Ensemble reportedly tried to roll back the sweeping changes, with little success, resulting in something that "just wasn't an Age game anymore."