Creative choices that baffle me

I know this is probably old news, but I feel the need to ask out of frustration:

Who made the choice to remove the quirky boar aggro behavior we had? It was being exploited in fun and creative ways all the time, adding some spice to matches. I had tons of fun watching Drongo’s casts when players used the boar to attack rushing villagers and weakened military units. That unintended mechanic had to be embraced.

For a game that struggles to be memorable at all, the “we can’t have no creativity or randomness here” choice is baffling.

Do you know why Gandhi wants to nuke your butt in Civilization all the time? Devs programmed the “chance of using nukes” so low that it actually went full circle to the max. And THEY LEFT IT THAT WAY and we all know Gandhi in Civ for that. Or so goes the urban legend about the glitch, but the decision to keep it is of course real.

Lots of games have unintended behaviors that players find ways to exploit in creative ways or simply have unforeseen consequences. A lot of that is fun, good and should NOT be removed.

Heck, in the very first AoE, if lions and deer spawned close by (remember varied gaia?) lions would attack and kill deer. “Oh but no, we can’t have randomness or perfectly equal everything in AoE 4 for the sake of eSports! Somebody could lose the game because of 1 deer less!”

It’s a shame really that (some) people in charge of decision-making for AoE 4 have their minds in the wrong place.


ive said it many times, there seem to be some leadership issue with the many issues we’re seeing. from ui, to balance to pathing,bugs to just bout everything. and their focus has been just sad.


i think we both agree the aggressive esports push has to stop, if you want any life left in the game, idk what infected RTS dev leads since 2010 but its clearly not working, but somehow, someway, it keeps happening
and sadly every aspect of the game suffered from this

edit: i explicitly stated dev leads, thats not devs themselves, just the creatives in charge, or in this case, as it would seem anyway, creatively bankrupt in charge


Fun fact! This was in the original Civ, but wasn’t brought back explicitly until Civ 5.

Not disagreeing, I’m just massively into Civilisation and I like sharing stuff about it :slight_smile:

But would that happen nowadays? Would a full price franchise successor make that kind of oopsie and be lauded for it? Or would they be slammed by the fans for such an obvious oversight?

The relationship between developers and their fans is different now than it was twenty, twenty-five years ago. What we forgave when we were younger (or in a lot of cases, literally young) we wouldn’t for a new release now. We forget the bugs these games had on launch. We forget what these titles we may still play now, were like unpatched. I honestly don’t think “nuclear Gandhi” equivalent would work in a brand-new sequel in 2023. I think players would tear the devs down for it.

Is the problem that the game is missing that kind of flavour? Or is the problem that the game needs to offer more to non-competitive players, so that things like boar aggro aren’t so noticeable when they’re tweaked / changed / reverted / etc (pretty sure boar aggro was reverted, right)? I don’t think the game needs silly bits and pieces to force a meme. I think the game needs more polish, more love around the edges, and more content. This will let stuff like memes come out of it organically.

On eSports, I’m as casual as they come, but Age of Empires has a competitive playerbase. To ignore it would be as silly as ignoring the non-competitive playerbase. Ignoring custom games and campaigns would be as silly as ignoring ranked play.

I maintain, as I always have, that the problem is resource allocation. Regardless, I agree that the game really needs to look at what it provides to casual players at this point in its lifecycle, and I’m really hoping 2023 satisfies more players on that front.


ignoring it competely is certainly a no go, they’re part of the playerbase too, but only a part of it, a small one at that (at most 20%), but it also shouldn’t be the front and center of entire game’s design (smt that like it or not absolutely happened with aoe4), imo when game design switched from singleplayer first to multiplayer first, thats when fun started dying out in them

It was after a lot of backlash, at least on Reddit, not sure about these forums and not sure if devs actually saw the feedback or simply reconsidered in isolation.

But you did get my point of “we are noticing these things” because with a game so basic in its feature set that one minor thing gets a whole lot of attention.

I’ve seen posts complaining about maps having resources “not exactly X tiles away for both players” and that’s… ugghhh… For tournaments I guess the complain has its place, but randomness is good. Randomness can favor you or can destroy your game before it even starts and that is a good thing. That makes every match different and unexpected. “Can you beat your opponent with a bad spawn?” That should be a challenge, not a bug to report.

About gamers nowadays not accepting a Gandhi-like glitch? Yeah, things have changed a lot and I can only but begrudgingly agree that it may not fly in the present. This boar exploit is a minor version of that and that is nice, so I beg the devs to not touch it again.

The more varied and random and dynamic you make your game, the more of these unexpected interactions take place. Then you just leave it to people to find if they have any practical use. The problem with AoE 4 is that its biomes are so basic and devoid of dynamism that nothing happens at all, then you take away the only vestige of the world being alive and you get backlash.

I obviously have no evidence for this, but I think that if the devs revert something, it’s probably due to feedback (see: the upcoming revert to AI resources that they’ve announced ahead of time). Otherwise why push it out in the first place? Making the change is obviously what they wanted, and it was reverted far sooner than we could work out the competitive impact (as per normal balance changes). I dunno.

The problem is you can’t cater to the competitive scene without considering it from the get-go. A franchise sequel can’t “luck” into being competitive. It has to understand what the existing competitive scene(s) prefer.

This is a tricky thing to balance! Really tricky. I don’t have any good tips, here, as a casual player that prefers creative mechanics personally. I feel the pain laid out in this thread.

I don’t see why a franchise sequel can’t luck into competitive. That’s literally how all the 90s RTS games did it and they’ve got solid gameplay to this day.
I feel like design is much more organic when the Esports grows naturally than when it’s forced down our throats by min-maxing the game by design. It kinda just takes all the fun out of it.

BTW the nuke happy Gandhi in Civ 1 is an urban myth, there’s nothing making him particularly aggresive in the code.

1 Like

They didn’t put this change through though, so what are we complaining about exactly? They literally listened to the feedback immediately. They were probably making the change originally for consistency so it would behave the same as wolves (and the same as in AoE2 as far as aggro goes). Seems like a perfectly logical change, people didn’t like it though so they didn’t do it. Doesn’t even seem like something catering specifically to competitive players.

Well that was a terrible feature which clearly was not carried forward to AoE2.

That is NOT a good thing. Randomness of course has a place, but being random enough to “destroy your game before it starts”? That just takes all agency away from the player really. That is just bad design.


In this particular case we do have evidence. At least one of the pros said the devs were very aware of the boar feedback in the discord they use together.


Besides the original StarCraft and the very specific culture around “internet cafes” there at the time which made that game explode competitively, was there any intention of AoE 1 or AoE 2 (all 90’s children) to become competitive besides local LAN matches? I mean, was there any quote from the creators or Ensemble saying that was the intention? Where there tournaments in the late 90’s/early 00’s?

I genuinely ask because I don’t know. As a much younger person (teenager) I don’t recall any of that. With terrible latency and bandwidth the focus of most 90’s RTSs was the campaigns and skirmishes against the AI with multiplayer being relegated to the aforementioned LAN parties.

1 Like

Well Microsoft did sponsor a $100,000 AoE2 tournament in 2001.

1 Like

Interesting… here’s the details and results for anyone interested: International Tournament 2001 - Liquipedia Age of Empires Wiki

Lack of access to the relevant TV channels, no Twitch or YouTube or anything like that made knowing that impossible for me back then.

all aoe’s of old had their tourneys, but it is true that the games didn’t depend on them to survive like aoe4 seems to, also aoe’s of old all had stuff like AI scripting contests etc. thats the kind of thing that needs to start happening with aoe4

The popularity of custom matches suggests that Age IV doesn’t depend on ranked / competitive play.

I definitely think (and have repeatedly said) the game needs to focus on PvE / more casual players, as well as further enabling modders to do their thing, but I do think we need to stop with the division between pros and casual players (see @CRothlisberger’s post further up).

This franchise is an institution. Institutions develop institutional knowledge that needs to be preserved and passed on into future work. Where, as here, an institution has experienced a total replacement of its entire leadership (from the closing of Ensemble Studios to the various heads we’ve seen in the intervening years), institutional knowledge is lost, at least on the inside of the development team — we players have been the de facto stewards of institutional knowledge here for years.

To preserve and pass on institutional knowledge — from UI to varied Gaia, from complex civ design to popular maps and game modes — this franchise needs to redouble its efforts to study itself and know itself so future games feel natural extensions of the institution. This franchise needs an archivist.

The best thing the franchise has done in recent years (other than hire FE to steward its legacy titles) is to create a council of players to inform the devs of their blind spots. But I don’t believe they realized the scope of those blind spots until aoe4 was beyond the franchise’s grasp. I am optimistic those in charge now realize the deep importance of so many details of this institution.


You’re a refreshing voice of reason, as always.

Just thinking out loud here, but maybe losing that past knowledge was a blessing in disguise? Instead, what Relic was tasked to do was trying to redo all those past conventions as closely as possible (same 4 resources, gather points, town centers, villagers, same buildings, etc.) so we ended up with something that was lesser than what was already so mature around the AoE 3 era.

Since I like cars I like to make analogies to the car world. If you’re developing a new sports car you have two choices:

  • You either go the Porsche 911 way and iterate on the original design, making small improvements here and there to a proven formula. You can then easily trace back all those improvements to the original (the Civilization series is a good example in the gaming industry of this approach).
  • Or you start from scratch like Honda did with the NSX, you make it a hybrid, you remove all traces of the original design but you keep the name and hope people like it.

The latter is of course riskier but more rewarding if done right. That’s basically what Age of Mythology did with its groundbreaking 3D engine, straying away from historical accuracy, god powers, etc. More recently, Flight Simulator 2020 did it too, also coming from a long hiatus of no games released, also a Microsoft product and also with a pretty hard-to-please, diehard audience. I gave FS2020 a hard time at first, but Asobo has come through and the sim is now not only one of the most advanced, realistic and visually impressive games around, it’s also stable, moddable and getting consistent free content. The community was very afraid of the move to Xbox watering down the seriousness of the simulation part, but Asobo was able not only to make the move transparently, they also reduced resource usage to fit the Xbox specs and us PC users also benefited, how amazing is that?

As for AoE4, I see good indications that Microsoft and Relic are moving in the right way, but not at a pace or consistency that I saw with FS2020. The magical biome is another bad indication of a scattered focus.

1 Like

This game suffers from oversimplification, and that word doesn’t fit pc gaming, may be consoles.

1 Like

Especially in an RTS…

1 Like

Just look at coh3, the game has a lot of issues but it’s multiplayer is healthy, there is no ranked, no observers no replays yet, but people are having fun, no focus on eSports as it should be, first start with the core audience then over time you can go with eSports not forcing it.