Exactly what is experience?

I really like this mechanic, because it is something that cannot be controlled directly and it is not a tangible resource like traditional ones. It is more than a “replacement” to the stone respect to the predecessors.

I have the following questions:

Does it make historical sense to call it experience?

¿Represents prestige, politics, influence, religion, or all at once?

Why is a certain amount of experience equal to one shipment? Did the colonies have to have a certain level of progress to request support from the home nation and the capital?

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Creo que representa el avance cultural de las naciones en los nuevos territorios.

Por ejemplo:
La capital de donde ser nos envía los recursos no es la colonia que usamos durante las partidas.

Los envíos son apoyo a las colonias y probablemente se justifican con experiencia porque son el avance de las culturas de las civilizaciones de origen en las tierras extranjeras.

Cada nivel puede representar que tan importante es la colonia para la metrópoli de origen.

PD: Básicamente una representación del colonialismo como una mecánica de videojuego.


It’s really just a gameplay mechanic for progression systems. In this case, it was for the home city advancement.

If you want to assign an attribute to it, “national prestige” would probably be the best fit. The shipments and delay in sending them are to portray the long distance communications and supply lines between colonies and the Metropole. It’s a bit of a tenuous link, but experience could signify more interest from the home country as your colony becomes more developed.


According to the wiki, Experience was originally called “Fame”. So… I guess the more famous your colony is, the more support you get.

Experience | Age of Empires Series Wiki | Fandom


Basically it is “research points” etc in other games combined with units and resources.
Maybe something like “logistics points” or “prestige points”.


Should have kept this titling.

There was an interview with someone from ensemble and the description was yeah like Fame, in that you do things and the you become famous and your home city sends you more support.

And as you gain fame and victory you build up and customise ur home city as well


Represents all that…the more your colony grows, the more experience your metropolis gains and level up (in aoe online it happens the same with your capital)… the United States has represented experience in the form of books, then you have the Asian export represented in tea leaves and the African influence represented in money shells…

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Exacto no lo habría dicho mejor…

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@ArrivedLeader22 @coffeeco01 Exactly, I wouldn’t have said it better…

Like above posts said, the original idea was based on the conceptual framework inherited from classics like The Seven Cities of Gold, Uncharted Waters and Colonization:

You play an explorer sponsored by a European Home CIty. Your exploits in the Americas win you Fame, which convinces your European patrons to invest more manpower and supplies in your venture. Originally, AoE3 was planned to have a single player Grand Conquests mode, comparable to similar meta-campaigns in Rise of Nations and Dark Crusade, making full use of this explorer-colony-home city dynamic.

However, it is also clear that during development, AoE3 and the concept of XP had become decoupled from this very specific scenario, turning far more nebulous and therefore flexible for game developers to use. The conceptual break was drastic enough that the XP resource we have in AoE3 is a new resource type added separately from the now-unused Fame, suggesting there may have been a period where they coexisted side-by-side.

Each expansion pack has further broadened what Experience Points entail. In addition to being generated from economic and military activities in the player’s domain, they now come from:

  • International trade (trade routes);
  • European religions (Mosque trickle in original, Church trickle in DE);
  • Intellectual movements, specifically early economic theories (Mercantilism in original, Bullionism in Spanish Consulate);
  • Grand native American festivities (New Year Festival big button);
  • Social connections (Gift Ceremony in TWC, Cooperation tech in DE);
  • Asian religions and eco-agricultural management (Shrine and Sacred Field animal trickles, Meditation tech in Zen Temple);
  • Book imports (XP crates - Pile of Books);
  • Education and culture (University);
  • Spiritual purification (Catharsis tech in Athos Monastery).

And can be spent on:

  • Supplies and manpower;
  • Economic infrastructure;
  • Technological advancements;
  • Social reforms;
  • Military and civilian training;
  • Traditional social institutions;
  • Discovery or obtainment of natural resources, raw materials;
  • and so on.

With such wide-ranging themes, it seems wise to not bog down XP with specific concepts like fame, scientific knowledge, or spirituality. Rather, I think it’s better to connect XP with the overarching themes of early modern history: collision and exchange of cultures and materials; global movements of human, animal and plant populations; waves of new thoughts and ideas; epoch-making social shifts. AoE3’s period is one where the earth became truly interconnected, when humanity’s ways of life changed.

This way, XP can then be seen as an abstraction of social developments, a sum of the subtler forces of history, unlike the raw materials we collect and troops or facilities we build. When these forces coagulate underwater and break through the surface ice into visible historical events, these are the shipments.

For comparison, Colonization also has two abstract cultural resouces: Liberty Bells, which are the colony’s growing intellectual vibrancy and independence sentiments, and Crosses, representing religious activity. AoE3’s XP may encompass them, and then far more.

Line infantry formations and skirmishers. Devastating heavy cannons and dashing hussars. The constant reforms in military science and institutions, represented by the home city cards.

Sweeping through old empires with new armies of revolution. AoE3DE is packed with content I love.

-- A random forum post from 2021

Well you see, AoE III is a… game.

It doenst need to have historic sense. Its a game mechanic of which XP is the perfect name. And its a game perspective for it increasing in cost as you will gain more xp the longer the game goes on.

Exactly, I wouldn’t have said it better…everything has to do with everything…

Of course, in addition the experience also took they from might and magic 3…

I think it makes sense, it’s just that what it represents cannot be attributed to a single aspect.

For me it represents the inertia of progress in different aspects that a civilization can (or cannot) control directly, or indirectly.

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XP in itself represents nothing of real life, it represents a game mechanic which serves as a resource to shipments.

Shipments are the only thing that represent something within the XP system.

Perhaps because in the game it is represented as a stackable resource. From this point of view it makes no historical sense. Also the name of the resource (experience) doesn’t seem to make sense, but I think experience is a good way to define what it represents, after all, many human activities generate knowledge and experience.

The shipments are basically support from the capital, but the experience represents if a new settlement in distant lands is worthy of being supported by the mother nation.

In short, I don’t think there is a specific way to explain what experience is, but it is good to give free rein to the imagination.

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Its a game mechanic, XP is what is used in a lot of games, basically any game which uses any form or kind of progression sysyem. It doesnt correspond to anything from real life. Its just experience you gather through the game, by playing the game.

I know what shipment represents, thats what I said its the only thing within the XP system that represents something real

First, as critic, I like to analyze a work and discover new angles of interpretation. :smiley:

Secondly, as arm chair game dev, I approach things from a perspective of holistic game design with emphasis on UX (user experience) and resonance. Thematic resonance taps into a player’s learnt intuition of how the world works, helps people connect with games in emotion, flavor and mechanics. Having something that a player can intuit is always better than something that throws off people’s intuition.

From that POV, “Experience” is an unfortunate name with several downsides. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Ensemble originally created AoE3 as WoWarcraft-mania embroiled the whole industry, and wanted AoE3 multiplayer to have a MMORPG-like metagame progression, where home cities are a player’s MMO characters which they level up over time.

  • Applied to a D&D adventurer, “Experience” is intuitive to any RPG newbie. But by transplanting it to “cities” where it makes no sense, Ensemble was relying on players to come pre-equipped with literacy of RPG mechanics from other games, and that’s not a given for AoE’s original mass market audience, who may not know what “XP” stands for. This is hurdle No. 1.

  • Moreover, XP plays double roles in AoE3: the name indicates its role as the progression resource at the metagame layer, but makes zero indication towards the more important role as the 4th main resource at the battlefield layer, equivalent of AoM’s Favor. Even if you are RPG-literate and instantly grasps the first function, the second function does not intuitively follow from it.
    In fact, due to the above “hurdle No. 1”, namely that XP is a concept transplanted from the RPG genre and makes no intuitive sense in the AoE3 context, players are more inclined to think of XP as an abstract “not real” thing floating in the metagame clouds, unlike Food, Wood or Favor of the Gods which are obviously very “real” to the battlefield. That’s hurdle No. 2.

  • Needless to say it gets worse in DE, where the first, namesake function ceases to be meaningful.


Figure 1.
The above is AoE3’s own tutorial message explaining XP, from the “Try a Game” tutorial level. The message is unchanged in AoE3DE. Note how it says “upgrading your Home City and earning shipments”, as if the latter function is secondary.


Figure 2.
For other resources, the UI displays their villager counts & income rates. For XP, there’s only the flag and a tooltip showing the XP until the next shipment.

While it’s far too late now to rename “Experience”, I think UI improvements can still be made.

  1. The tooltip can expose more info: current XP trickle rate, contributors to the trickle, and forecast for the next shipment’s total XP requirement. Example:

Click to view Home City shipments.
100/345 Experience. You need 245 more Experience for Shipment 2.
Shipment 3 will cost 397 Experience.
2.25 Experience per second
1 Mosque

  1. In fighting games, when player health bars are depleted, the “removed” segments are highlighted. The XP flag can be like that: any segment added by non-trickle XP bursts is highlighted.
    For beginners, this reinforces its connection to what the player is doing, which isn’t obvious in current AoE3.
    For experienced players, this visualizes each action’s contribution to shipment, and can potentially help them improve.

with all due respect, xp is literally the simplest component of aoe3, i dont think you can dumb it down even more

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