AoE4 Base Build Gameplay. A New Hope for the Genre or just another Menace of too simplified design?

AoE4 Base Build Gameplay. A New Hope for the Genre or just another Menace of too simplified design?

In my opinion the RTS main problem as genre, it did simply lost its ways and simply didn’t get better.
Sure units did learn in last decades some tricks, like go to cover behind other objects, switch weapons and activate magic abilities, but everything else didn’t really improve.

In case of modern games, Base Build isn’t the fun Part of the gameplay, due to be extremely simplified and developers not handle it well, there are various examples:
-You have no free base build
-You have no access to defense structures like Gates and Walls
-You have no variety, due to limited funds and map design

How is modern design supposed to be a good concept again?
You merely move a group, of very same units, to very same locations, that does get boring very fast.
These days you can barely afford 1 buildings to wait awhile for 1 unit, that’s embarrassing compared to old times.

Like the RPG character creation of Warrior “balanced” , Paladin “defense” , Barbarian "Offense, Rogue “fast”, Archer “ranged” the way you build your base, defines the gameplay experience.
Like have 1 of each building Barrack, Archery Range, Stable, Siege Workshop, Monastery, Castle
for a balanced army, or build not only several 5 Stables but also be able to produce from all of them lot of fast Knights. You have there a very big variety what kind of army you can create.

Just think of it, what was again the actual greatest achievement of our RTS genre in past 10 years ?
A yes, take something made like 20 years ago and make an HD, Definite, Reforged, Remastered Edition of it.

My concerns are for upcoming game:
1 AoE4 team has from Base Build point of view rather experience with “simple” strategy games.
2 these days “modern” design rather stands to make games simple and that’s does heavily contradict what is fun by RTS games.
3 “Modern” Different base build for each faction, does contradict gameplay variety. As it does enforce 1 play style, instead of be able to switch and change what you do.
4 It has been a while since we had RTS games, where you could very good use tactic to Turtle. Turtling is in modern games non exist, while in older games it offers to other people a lot of variety like have a siege warfare as the other player does build nice defenses to destroy.
5 By conditions of “modern” competitive multiplayer gameplay focused games, resources are often limited, to force people into fighting. That does contradict to build nice bases.
6 A lot of gameplay issues do come from Map designs, as those tend to be very similar to each other, because you have to make them very similar for “modern” competitive multiplayer. Worst thing ever, as it does take away gameplay variety.

So how should AoE4 base build be design and logically developed?


Base building design from the old days has a high learning curve for new players. (i know people who don’t play aoe2 just because of the “hard” basebuilding).
In aoe2 to aoe3 transition, for instance, the military aspect feels the same for me - got cavalry, rushes, bit of turtling, counters, even special units to spice the game and change the meta. Yet aoe3 is waaaay more welcoming to new players, due to simple basebuilding and economy. Can’t say the game has a good retention rate tho.
But as retention doesn’t really matter after the game was paid… 5 hours of gaming for casuals is what ends up paying the developers - and they will aim exactly for these.
What do i mean after all this speaking? I mean aoe4 will have “modern” base build, as to attract more money. If not, aoe4 will be doomed to become a niche game, with few profits and lots of disappointment - just like pdx games.
selling a lot >> player happiness


I don’t think having a simplified base building will increase sales


I do! Nowdays games are so focused on things like:

  • Ez gameplay
  • Graphics
  • Pay for advantages (for avoid say p2w)
  • The new tendency: Subscriptions. Paying monthly to get bonus, advantages, etc. (Most of these are actually on mobile games but some are on consoles too).

And new generations are so brainwashed with these stuff that it matters to them. Specially the EZ and Graphics part of course.

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Well… I am currently looking for a base/city building game. Can’t find something i like. But some hours ago i looked at this AOE4 trailer and thought… yees! this could be it. This game looks so promissing! But, i think it has to be just as Great a game as the old ones. By that i mean they have to make it mindblowing-ish. The new biig thing!

What i would like to see in this game:

  • In Foundation, there’s a possibility to kind of expand your buildings. I don’t think it should be exactly
    like this, but imagine if your main castle or church in the middle of your expanding land could expand also. levels etc.

  • To this point, I always wondered why walls in games like this weren’t more realistic, like merging/snapping building up to it. And maybe even to the castle to expand it with walls, towers, halls etc.

  • HOUSING! In a city, you have a lot of housing. Make this realistic, may be able to build different kind of houses with different sizes, and maybe even classes. I dunno. But 3 houses randomly placed with a instant +10 population. Come on, soo two decades ago!

  • City life. Taverns, Markets, Trading etc.

  • 360* rotation for placing buildings, maybe 12 to 18 snaps, you get the point.

  • In my opinion this wood,stone,food,gold is old. Get more stuff into it… Stronghold was out decades ago. Not saying it has to be bakery, mills and stuff but… just a little more…

  • Last i would really like to see a map, a big map where you should travel to get to others cities. It has to feel like an open landscape for you to own. And one day on that hilltop far in the horizon, where the sun rises. There comes an army…

And alot more, this is only covering Base/City Build.


Sounds a lot like stronghold. What about the “new” titles? i know, i know, stronghold 3 sucked, but i think it’s the closest to what you mean. Maybe Knights And Merchants or the Anno titles can grab your attention?
By the description of what you want for AoE4, i can tell for sure you want a The Settlers game. I never played a game from that series - i hate Ubisoft and their anti piracy policy! - but i recommend that you check it out.
btw, i’m against some of your ideas, and i will not buy the game if they are implemented. But don’t worry, it’s just my opinion.


These days if a player is unhappy, he can simply refund games. I personally did give a try to lot of promising games and some were really buggy or lame, so did get money back.

High learning curve and complex gameplay design, don’t seem to me, to be a problem for the people. I read sometimes feedback, post, reviews and forums of other players, their problems go rather in direction that they are bored and not entertained.

Base building should be in first place fun to use.

Well City Manager like Anno and Settlers would be definitely too much for AoE.
I like the Anno Series, but that’s base build gameplay is too much in my opinion for PvP RTS,
as you have to start over again, it should not be “repetitive”, but also not take an eternity.

We had already such AoE, AoE Online.
And it doesnt look like people did like it.


What I personally don’t really understand, where did this trend “to make RTS simple” come from?
OK lets say, you want to play a simple game, wouldn’t RTS be than the very last genre you would pic up for it?

Already there this “modern concept” simply does contradict what the genre is about. A successful simple RTS ? Such thing doesn’t even exist. You can’t make a simple RTS and have people like it.

Maybe a casual should be overrun, if he can’t manage his base?
Maybe a casual should fail to break enemies defences, if he doesn’t understand how to use siege units?
Maybe a casual should learn the difference between units, so he starts to properly combine his forces and use appropriate tactics?
Maybe a casual should lose all his sheeps, if he doesn’t understand he has to collect them early as possible?
Maybe a casual should be imprisoned in walls, if he can’t beat a single weakest in game unit?

But no, these days they make economy extra lame, all units very similar and remove almost all defense structures.

Every RTS that did somehow reach popularity, was in own way complex. Its quite sad that modern developers did lose the ability to make complex games and say “get good and learn how to play”, they are these days somehow afraid to let people loose.


In what world are pdx games low on profits and dissapointment for the devs? Just because you don’t like hard games or niche games as you call it doesn’t change the buisness models of a company. Pdx is an example of the exact opposite reasoning of what you claim. Yes, most companies thrive my simplifying mechanics for the reason you stated, but some that build good fun in complexity acquire niche customers that are so loyal it outweighs having a bigger audience.
Paradox went on from making 1-2 niche grand strategy titles, with a team of like 5-10 developers, into a big company producing a new IP every 1-2 years, keep adding content (in the form of DLCs) and revamping gameplay for ALL its IP’s that are currently 5-6 as well as PUBLISHING OTHER DEVELOPERS GAMES with success by buisness standards. How is that a disappointment for them? Seriously, if a company employs 5-6 people and in less than a decade employs hundreds and you doubt the success of its product from a business perspective, you need to rethink this.


It seems to me too, that there is a big market for people who do prefer complex games.

Paradox Interactive is a prime example of various complex games,
like Stellaris , Hearts of Iron, Age of Wonders: Planetfall or Steel Division: Normandy 44

There is for example a term “Souls-like”

Such games like CODE VEIN, The Surge 2, Remnant: From the Ashes, Nioh or Sekiro™: Shadows Die Twice would not exist without Dark Souls. It did basically reboot the RPG genre.


There is a prime example what is in my opinion a big problem for “modern” RTS games,
like Ancestors Legacy.

The game got very good rating and looks really awesome, but had no good retention of player base.
While everything is there, I mean it was very well presented in the media, it had several PR campaigns, got a lot of support from developers and its player base, has very decent AI, nice story mode, there is simply one point missing:

It simply lacks variety.

-1 by modern games we have this “odd” eco points mechanic, like 4 till 10 points on the map.
Ancestors Legacy does even call them A, B, C, D, E, F. Sure in game like Company of Heroes where you have a focused “Squad management game”, it might be an appropriate approach.

But I think its neck breaking for an actual base build RTS.
This means, it doesn’t matter what you do, you have to be with your stuff between 2 or 4 locations.

So you get your buildings and units together, capture first and second expansion. than there is some kind of small playground between you and the other player.

Modern RTS map design kind of reminds me of sports fields like “ice hockey table games”

Problem is very obvious, it does limit the way you can build your base and defenses, as the focus is shifted to simply control some points and a narrow line between them. It does even more limit where the units have to be located and have to scout.

It doesn’t matter if I pick up Halo Wars 2, Grey Goo, Etherium, Dawn of War 3, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, A Year of Rain, Forged Battalion or what ever was made in last 10 years, you secure some point on map and fight between them. You have completely different Publisher and Developer teams, from Indie till AAA. But in the end by all those games, you end up at playing move point A, B, C and fight between C and D.

What happened to diverse battlefields we once had?

-2 You can do very little in terms of your base by modern RTS, as resources are merely enough to produce 1 unit at a time and very small infrastructure, you merely generate a group of like 5 till 30 units. What happened to large armadas we once had? What happened to the base creativity?

Each village, city, camp and castle, people build in AOE2, did really neat represent their play style people and offered so much replay-ability. Can AoE4 really pick up there the large and heavy torch AoE2 has to pass?


I also long for a game where I can build a city that is difficult to defeat with an army strong enough to defend. The ideas you have put forward are awesome and I hope someone pays attention and works on these, especially different levels of houses and buildings you can level up. I would love to travel to other cities and ‘visit.’