Microsoft has revealed the Egyptians (a.k.a. the "blue guys") in Age of Empires Online, its two-faction freemium revamp of the series. The Egyptians will oppose the red team (obviously), which is hellbent on expanding Greece's borders across the whole world. Stay tuned -- we'll be posting our preview of the Egyptians gameplay later today.

Additionally, Microsoft has detailed some of the social and MMO features planned for AoE Online, which center on players' capitol cities, and has confirmed Game for Windows Live support (including Achievements). The capitol city -- you can have two; one each for your Greek and Egyptian civilizations -- will be the player's persistent headquarters, used to access quests and rule over the empire, and will function as a travel destination and interaction point for other players.

Aside from marveling at your flower gardens (think of your capitol as "FarmVille Lite"), visiting players can join up with you in co-op missions or simply shop at your unique store fronts. Paying players will have incentive to encourage visitors to shop, too, as the premium faction upgrade adds kickbacks: You'll receive in-game currency for purchases made from your stores. Microsoft's detailed "cheat sheet" of the differences between free and paid play is posted after the break.

Importantly, Microsoft has said it won't "nickel-and-dime" players -- upgrading from the free-to-play version of a faction is done through a one-time premium add-on, the "Premium Civilization Pack." Microsoft has not yet announced pricing for the upgrades. Age of Empires Online is currently in beta and should be released this year.
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Free vs. Paid Content Cheat Sheet (provided by Microsoft)

Key Features, Free to Play
Familiar Age of Empires gameplay, downloadable from any PC for free*!

- The greatest ancient civilizations, including Greeks and Egyptians
- Constantly new, exciting and evolving content
- Quest, battle, chat and trade with other players - all free!
- Build and show off your own custom Capital City
- Enjoy historical settings with gorgeous visuals and a cool new art style

And that's just where the experience starts! When you're ready, you can unlock even more fun ways to play with premium content!


Additional Premium Content for Purchase
Take your civilizations to the next level by purchasing a Premium Civilization Pack, which adds a tremendous amount of gameplay and offers entirely new experiences. Premium civilization packs add the following to your gameplay experience:

- Rare and Epic Gear: Unlock Rare and Epic Gear! Not only will your units be more powerful with their upgraded gear, but many will have a unique design to make them stand out in battle.
Advisors - In the Advisor Hall you can unlock Unique Units like Armored Elephants and Civilization Powers.
- Tech Tree: Experience the full tech tree with fantastic end game "Star Techs." For example, generate resources from your market, have your troops bandage themselves, or make your people immune to conversion in battle.
Initiate Player vs. Player games - Set the gameplay parameters and invite your friends to play,
- Additional Inventory Slots: More than double your inventory space.
- More Workshops: Drastically improve your capital's production with more workshops to create all of the materials you need for crafting.
- Crafting Halls: Learn unit enhancements from additional Crafting Halls and use them to your advantage in the game. There are seven to choose from, including the Military College (enhances infantry), Hunting Lodge (enhances archers/missile units), and Cavalry Hall (enhances mounted units).
- Empire Points: Gives you the ability to spend Empire Points on the best loot in the game. Empire Points reward you for having multiple civilizations.
- In-Game Stores: The ability to earn in-game currency from the stores in your capital city.

And that is just the civilization! We will create a variety of ongoing new content that will continually offer you a fresh and custom experience.


*Broadband Internet required (sold separately).

This article was originally published on Joystiq.