Feedback from 5 of the top beta players

Reposted since Stress Test forum was deleted.

Hello!

Some of you who were around for the Closed Beta will recognise this sort of post from myself and iaguz providing our first impressions (First impressions from two former SC2 pros). Well, now we have 3 of the top 25 closed beta players (HuT - 6th, Seither - 9th and iaguz - 11th) with 2 more high level gamers (PandaBearMe and TheChapster) with our combined thoughts on the game. As I mentioned in the original thread months ago, we are all competitive RTS players so that skews our perspective on certain things. Our desire is to highlight opportunities to optimise the competitive multiplayer aspect of the game. With that in mind, we can also be wrong. These are just our opinions. Long post, but hopefully some of the feedback gets looked at (specifically UI and Hotkey / Unit Control sections) as the game is solid but falls short of what can be a great RTS.

There are probably minor things we all collectively missed, so perhaps a few things might be added to this post… but theyre probably not that important since we got most things.

Enjoy the read.

HuT

Bugs

  • Prelate (HRE) bugs out randomly, stops auto-casting. You can’t manually cast it either; the button greys out. Sometimes garrison>ungarrison fixes it, sometimes he is just a deadweight healy boy

  • Mills will sometimes destroy a berry bush if placed next to a patch of them

  • Docks also do this with shore fish sometimes, however this is less worrisome

  • Lumber camps can be placed on top of currently felled trees, destroying them

  • HRE Man at Arms two handed maces upgrade severely reduces the unit’s attack speed, to the point where it’s actively harmful to upgrade it.

  • Relics can spawn on the very edge of map and are not able to be collected

  • Buildings can deform the terrain through fog of war, specifically TCs when they are placed are able to be seen without vision

  • Some map seeds on Archipelago would occasionally place both Sacred Sites on the same island, on the same part of the map, sometimes within the same screen, example:

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Buildings

  • Town Centre should be able to be retargeted. Ram allins are probably unstoppable due to how the TC currently functions.

  • Tower and keep upgrades should not cost gold - stone + wood/food

  • Walls can be buggy, especially when ending against a treeline. The final segment will sometimes be unable to be built

  • The repair building cost should only consider the resources used to construct a particular building in the first place when considering repair cost – keeps require wood + stone to repair when they only cost stone to construct

  • Building LOS is pretty bad, including the Outpost. Town Watch upgrade perhaps? Alternatively increase the outpost line of sight as you age up.

  • Farms feel too expensive for every civ but england, it’s too hard to secure map resources if you aren’t unit spamming. (iaguz- the issue with farms is that, well, the game currently feels like a staring contest and the first person to blink, ie start adding farms, loses. 75 wood seems like a good deal for infinite food but timing wise, if you’re adding farms and your opponent is still collecting berries/deer/boar then you’re significantly behind. Now, perhaps this is fine since encouraging map control throughout the game is something to be encouraged and I can understand perhaps not seeing this as an issue, but it may favour cav heavy playstyles a bit too much over the long term.)

  • Palisades should be cheaper. The initial 15 wood for starting a wall should be removed too. If the game is going to be about securing all the food sources before adding farms then walls are necessary to prevent cav raids from just endlessly ruining you. Also possible Mongols should be allowed to construct palisades at least for this reason.)

  • iaguz - Houses should not be built by more than one villager and the Chinese building speed bonus should not apply to houses. When a player attempts to train a unit and lacks the supply then it shouldn’t start training until supply is available. The game is far too lenient to players who get supply blocked, players should be more impacted by missing their house timings.
    (HuT) – disagree with guz regarding houses being built with more than 1 vil, however housing is definitely very lenient in this game, so would prefer a longer build time on houses.

Civ – Abbasid

  • HuT – Great civ. Eco wing bonus is insane for games where you get to boom and having the ability to play camel rider / lancer to force enemy off cavalry is very strong. Culture wing might be interesting, but Eco wing and Military wing are way ahead in terms of power. Civ is so incredibly bad at water though, T1 navy are only good when you have a numbers advantage and can swarm enemy since they are able to shoot + move. T2 boats are unusable vs other civs T2 boats since they do half the damage. Water maps suck though so whatever. Only downside of the civ is that if you messed up your Castle Age or Imp Age timing, you can’t speed build a Landmark to help you urgently get up. This might not be an issue because the civ is certainly strong now, but perhaps if they end up with a negative winrate, villagers should be able to be tasked onto the House of Wisdom to speed up construction.

  • iaguz- I played almost singularly Abbasids this beta. Simple mechanics, some good units, not much to fault design wise. I do think the villager discount technology being at 50% is insanely powerful and that there’s a large disparity between the House of Wisdom’s technology’s efficacy just in general. AoE 4 is a game focused on economy and military primarily and having two wings devoted to these two concepts makes them a no brainer to get first. Either exchange a few upgrades between each wing to keep each one balanced and interesting or promoting their own styles of play/unit compositions. Also, buff Dhows a little bit, they are far weaker compared to galleys than I think they should be.

  • Seither- very strong, I quite enjoyed them. I think camels are too good though since cavalry is the best thing to play and they just make it impossible for your opponent to match you. I also like that the villager’s decreased food cost makes it so you don’t want to get into an expansion war with them because mass expand meta is lame. And the free ram ranch tech is great to punish the infidels!

  • PandaBearMe- Cool design with the camels, but it feels like they can snowball very quickly in the mid game. I wish there was more variety in the order of the wings you could take. Even if I was intending to be aggressive, The Economy wing ended up feeling so much better than the others. I think the culture wing has a lot of potential if upgrades already weren’t so overpriced. Overall Abbasid feels honest to play defensively, and has the best ram all-in in the game to back it up.

Civ – Chinese

  • HuT – Oh China, how you have fallen. I didn’t play any China this beta but did play against it a few times and my god, they’re so slow now. The landmarks for China need looking at, the only redeeming one is the Astronomical Clocktower but even this, I think, is pretty bad now. It should have a similar effect to Council Hall, creating siege faster, not with more HP. Perhaps they should have the Zhuge Nu available at Feudal but this civ is just so slow at getting going. Probably a powerhouse in late game if you can get there… if.

  • Seither- I thought china was bad before the nest nerf. They have good boom potential but nobody will let you. I tried playing zhuge nu last beta but it didn’t seem good enough to warrant 2 landmarks (mind you the villager build buff was nice). Especially vs civs that could go lancer or maa counter in feudal.

  • iaguz- Civ stinks. What happened to the extra starting vills? It’s a staple Chinese civ trait in other Age of Empires games. Why not here? In any case, I recommend a massive price decrease to the second landmark construction. Unique units and dynasty bonuses are not worth such an immense cost to attain. This may require reducing the strength of certain dynasty bonuses, like maybe Song’s 35% vill production speed decrease had ought to be closer to 10 or 15%, but it’s the biggest barrier to playing Chinese.

  • PandaBearMe- I only used this civ on water maps to rush people with junks and fishing boats to repair. They seem pretty good for rushing on water but not much else.

Civ – England

  • HuT – wayyyyyy too OP. Council Hall dictates the entire game since England can play 2 TC and be fine, they can rush you from 4 minutes and pick away at exposed vils, they can play fast Castle and grab a free TC at their landmark and be ahead in eco, this civ does it all. Network of Castle aura means static play is king, as well as meaning Vils can easily fend off Horseman raids if seen in time, not to mention the ability to snipe the enemy scout if it gets too close. Farming giving gold is such an insane bonus. They have better spearmen for free, MAA in Dark and Feudal Age, the best Archer unit which they can mass from minute 4, one of the best economies because farms are so cheap + free TC… wow. Such an insane civ. We all thought palings was the issue! Probably the strongest civ on water too. Upgrade to give 50% attack speed aura with Network of Castle is wayyy too strong since it affects every type of unit.

  • Iaguz - Delete Council Hall from the game. Most of England’s issues balance wise stem from their Feudal age landmark being far and away the strongest one. There might be other issues but it’s impossible to tell because the Council Hall is just too damn strong. Might also need to reduce Longbowman’s damage from 6 to 5. They get +2 range, they’re incredibly strong vs archers already.

  • Seither - as above, England just has it all

  • Chappy - England is too strong. Council hall gives them an extremely explosive start which instantly dictates the game and can be used for high eco or insane all ins.

  • PandaBearMe - English is a great example that if a civ has a strong unique feudal unit you can control and snowball the game to a very strong advantage. Longbowmen have the ability to be used in some of the strongest all-ins in the game or some of the hardest defenses to break with their defensive attack speed boost from buildings. Even if you don’t go for a FE with english you could just go for a FC and still have a relatively quick town center behind it. Choices feel irrelevant when planning your long term strategy if you have so many easy mechanics to fall back on.

Civ – Holy Roman Empire

  • HuT – prelate is S tier eco bonus but I struggle to see how this civ will play out on release. Infantry sucks in general since they can’t raid compared to cav and they can be kited by Archers. Probably gets overrun in Castle by Knights. Landsknechts are too weak.

  • iaguz- What’s the point of Landsknechts when I can upgrade my Man at Arms to be not just good at soaking up arrows but also really strong vs Knights and other MaA’s? It seems an awkward pairing to me. Also, and this was an issue I noticed playing Delhi last beta, if you want Prelates/Scholars to have efficacy in combat then they need more than a very slow heal and a mass conversion ability that only works vs Easy AI. Also, I seldom found myself garrisoning relics in anything other than a church or landmark. Never really took advantage of the strong defences much either, but then I didn’t play HRE all that much and this could be a style of play that develops over time.

  • Seither- the prelate eco buff and the relic castle landmark feel insanely strong. I think the factions biggest downfall is its speciality (infantry) just aren’t as good as going knights and mangonels. They can still do it and with a mighty fine eco i just think abased ones are better at that style. It probably didn’t help that the maa heavy hitting upgrade was bugged?

  • PandaBearMe- To me, this is clearly the 2nd best civ in stress test. I think the prelate is an insane econ bonus, as well as having a turbo repair ability to hold on longer than you normal makes HRE a relatively strong defensive civ in the early game. Mid game ends up feeling won or lost based on relics which is very HRE esque. Units like Landskenchts feel kind of underwhelming. Ultimately I ended up just using uniquely upgraded MAA as a meat shield in place of what would have been my lancers. I think MAA are a better/cheaper meat shield than lancers, but with the obvious drawback of harass compared to a lancer. I ultimately end up playing a slow ball of death inching across the map with MAA+siege+prelates. It feels relatively strong, but all in all HRE feels strategically uninspiring compared to a civ like Abbasid.

Hotkeys / Unit Control

  • All army hotkey grabs prelates (HRE) and (maybe?) tax collector (China) – should not

  • Hotkeys should be fully customisable – some hotkeys such as map rotation (alt) are not able to be altered

  • Mouse buttons should be able to be bound in hotkeys

  • Modifier hotkeys (using shift + a button or alt + a button or shift + alt + a button) should be allowable

  • Would prefer an alternative to grid being the only hotkey setup – AOE2 style economic / military buildings or similar system would be nice

  • No patrol hotkey

  • Monks should be able to return relics to a Monastery via shift-queueing (like in AOE2)

  • Shift queuing unit indicators are too hard to see, should be clearer in game and also displayed initially on minimap when setting (so you can shift queue on the minimap itself)

  • TC rally indicator is also too small and hard to determine if it is rallied correctly (rally chages colour but the current thing being rallied too is too hard to see, whether its a sheep or a tree)

  • Felled trees should have a different coloured circle hitbox to make woodlines clearer

Allow control group stealing

  • Allows better control of units and splitting off small groups

  • Allows for better harass and defence for players

Allow wireframe/command bar selection and deselection of units

  • Allows players to have more control over units

  • Easier to send out single units out to scout

  • Better to send individual vils to locations

  • Used in almost every RTS

Better centering of camera when double clicking control groups

  • AOE currently centres the camera in the middle of all control grouped units. Should consider changing it to snap to the largest portion of the units

  • Does not make sense for circumstances like 2 units on one side of the map and the rest on the other side of the map

  • Pretty common situation when control grouping rallies

Technologies

  • Upgrades across the board are too expensive, especially economy upgrades. (HuT - Level 1 eco upgrades are in an awkward spot – would like to see how games would play out with eco upgrades costing only food + wood initially.) (iaguz- eco upgrades costing gold is fine, imo, but they all cost far too much, especially in Age IV. The increased cost of Age IV landmarks should be counterbalanced with significantly cheaper upgrades, particularly the university ones.)

  • Dock upgrades besides fishing are either hit or miss – something like 2 extra armor as an upgrade is incredibly useless when Castle Age ships do 50 or 100 damage a shot

  • Probably a few too many niche upgrades available across the board (3 unique MAA techs for HRE for example)

  • Higher damage units need to receive more damage per upgrade level to make them worth it

  • Perhaps a +1 range upgrade for foot archers in Castle Age? They fall off hard in CA so would prolong their usefulness a bit

  • Scouts with Professional Scouts should automatically kill the selected deer and auto drop it off at the closet TC, way too much micro involved with this tech to make it worth it

UI

  • This game NEEDS a proper command bar / wireframe such as… pretty much every popular RTS besides C&C. This is the biggest thing holding back AOE4 and our main complaint since it limits how well you can manage your army.

  • Map is a bit too cluttered – relics especially are hard to see at a glance.

  • Larger minimap scaling option

  • Global command queue would be a welcome addition

Units

  • Unit hitboxes are far too small – if you can’t click on the first dead sheep being collected to see how food is left on it, you should probably make stuff like that larger

  • Wood/sheep/deer are too difficult to select/click

    • Eg. misclicked sending vils to a dead sheep at the start a lot when surrounded by vils. Also when rallying from TC
    • Eg. Sending vil to the already chopped down tree is sometimes blocked by other trees. I want to do the optimal play of sending my vil back to the already chopped down tree
  • An auto repair option for villages/fishing ships

  • Cavalry are too slow, especially Scouts and Horsemen. Horsemen especially should be able to gap-close on top of Archers to surround and stop them from escaping

  • Scout vision range is a bit too large, and other units a bit too small

  • Stealth forest vision should be normal for units hiding within them

  • Units should be able to body block to encourage micro and stop slow moving units from escaping from surrounds

  • Unit readability is a bit too hard - spearmen line looks so similar along its upgrade path, HRE Horsemen look too much like a Knight at a glance, etc.

  • Upgrades affecting units are not obvious enough - how are you supposed to quickly know if a unit has attack upgrades or not when there is no indicator of an upgrade being applied other than knowing the base stats of a particular unit. The UI should be clearer on which upgrades a unit currently has.

  • iaguz - Archers shouldn’t have bonus damage vs Spearmen. Spearmen lack any pierce armour as is, have the same movement speed as archers and therefore struggle to close the gap, don’t really have good damage once they do close and are generally extremely weak vs everything except cavalry. Properly microed archers would, I imagine, crush spearmen just as easily without the bonus damage.

  • Spearmen should be easier to use against Cavalry when attack moved into each other, giving a debuff on move speed or attack speed perhaps to the Cavalry?

  • Possible that Horsemen should have 1 pierce armour. This is a matter of some debate since they can struggle vs Archer balls.

  • Should siege weapons, or at least trebuchets and mangonels, have a ‘siege/unsiege’ akin to Siege Tanks in Starcraft? Mangonels especially are annoying to use when retargeting since they will pack/unpack sometimes. Again, debate.

  • Units that can shoot-move should be changed as they are hard to balance like this, will be OP and too easy to use or don’t do enough damage to justify the micro involved (Mangudai / Dhows)

  • Dhows seem a bit weak compared to galleys, they only cost like 80 gold less and are significantly weaker in combat. Explosive ships do not move faster than age III ships (Baglaghs, etc) and age II ships are invalidated immediately upon entering age III. Perhaps a meaningful upgrade for previous age ships like AOE2.

Final Thoughts - Metagame

TC IN FEUDAL AND BATTERING RAM RANCH

Seither - So right now in quite a few of the matchups (haven’t been able to test them all and England is probably sweet) you can punish a fast feudal TC by reactively going 3 range archer + ram all-in. It’s especially good with races that get the tech free or have production as part of their landmark.

In the patch notes TC’s were meant to be able to be individually targeted (so rams don’t tank all the arrow fire from it), however this change does not seem to work? And I’m not sure if it will make the ram all in stoppable.

Now, I like the ram all-ins because if you can’t punish fast expanding, the game turns into both players scouting each other’s stone and trying to build 1 more TC than their opponent. This has a couple of problems as it causes you to boom really fast and power through the game while also favouring the civs with eco bonus (Abbasids cheaper villages and Chinese 35% build time come to mind.) The other problem is, in the matchups where 1 civ is better at punishing fast TC play than the other mean you are coin flipping to do the same as them (1tc vs 1tc 2v2 ect) or reactively going for a later fast expand to keep up or just going for fast castle which seems to put you behind.

I think it would be better for the pacing and balance of the game if the TC was only buildable in the Castle Age and that would also allow for some nerfs to the ram and ram/TC interactions.

Another option would be to limit it so you can only make 1 additional TC in Feudal Age? But would need some balancing around the civs with too good/too bad aggressive options.

HuT – personally I think archers shouldn’t be able to build any siege at all until Castle Age, although having the option of just killing someone who is being greedy is enticing. The problem is for a civ such as Abbasids who can straight up kill you for being greedy or double down and go for 1 TC more than the opponent. Infantry generally suck in all AOE games because they’re slow, weak and cant raid so giving them all the cool siege building stuff is probably better. If the TC is able to retarget this might not even be a problem, however 2 rams still shred through a TC quick enough it still might not be possible to defend.

204 Likes

Extremely solid feeback, as a fellow player thank you in the name of the community for all this effort. I especially agree that the UI selection panel of individual units missing is the BIGGEST problem of the game currently and my.main complaint as well:

Unfortunately, as you will see, your feedback is in vain, because none of the developers interact here or have any care of what we have to say. It is a sad situation.

33 Likes

Really well put. I agree on most part, the game as currently stands lacks a lot of basic RTS features.

What I cannot agree with you tho is where you clearly start to bias your arguments and fall on the “we need Starcraft-y micro” due to your competitive background in said game.

Like, why would you take out the micro of scout hunting but ask for more micro-intensive work in battle trying to block units for example?
For me it’s good to have micro balanced and not go all the way into AoE II/Starcraft kind of micro-fest where some shenanigans can define an entire game.

34 Likes

This is how aoe3 plays and it’s fine there, but a key difference is that aoe3 has its “snare” mechanic-- that is, melee attacks also slow movement speed. Cav raiding becomes way more risky, melee units can’t be kited so easily if they successfully engage, archers can’t really kite against cav unless some units are left to die. Think this mechanic could benefit aoe4 in the same ways, and the lack of body-blocking would become a non-issue.

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I agree with most of what is said in this thread. But I do see some recommendations that do show that there is a bit of a SC bias. For example iaguz with his housing feedback regarding not being able to queue up stuff when population capped.

I think it is fine.

I will say with housing, I would say keep it the same it is now, but maybe have a limit on how many houses can be built and have a TC upgrade that gives more population for TCs later on in the game like 3rd age or something. So that makes it so that TCs are much more important to have and protect.

I have to disagree with the English feedback, mainly because in the open beta I was still able to do the longbow push without using the council hall. And I even had it timed that the only difference between the council hall and using 2-3 archery ranges was that I was behind by only 2 longbows in creation, but was able to snowball better as if an longbow got low I could send him back for some healing faster then just the normal healing, thus saving me the cost to make a new one to replace hi and allowed him to get back into the fight sooner.

I do agree that the longbow might be a bit to strong. But that might change as we have access to other civs who might be better to counter the longbow, like the French or Mongols.

Now for farms, I do agree that for civs besides the English, the cost of the farms are possibly a bit to much. Maybe balancing the farm costs for the English to 50 wood or have everyone else move down to 50 wood for their farms.

I should point out that I come from an AoM background, which the gather rates and just resource manage in AoE4 is more closer to AoM than any other AoE games, so having that experience probably has helped me manage my econ better than most other players.

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They are reading. They care.

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So why are they not replying? Is it too difficult to leave a few words here? Is it something to do with their pride that they won’t come down for a few seconds among us mortals? No, I honestly feel insulted.

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M’lord, they do reply and do actively acknowledge and reference specific discussions.

They just don’t reply all the time to everything you happen to mention or think is important

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Can you please point me to one of their replies?

And if this is not important, I dont know what is.

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It is very rare for developers to directly reply to the forum. I’ve been hanging around for about 10 years, and I can only think of a few developers who ever did it very much.

I agree with you, though, that presently there has been almost zero engagement on the forum. It would help dramatically with the climate if we had more engagement. This not withstanding, though, I can tell this crowd of developers are keenly aware of the things people are saying around here and elsewhere.

19 Likes

Why? They’re incredibly tanky, thus costed accordingly. It’s to prevent overly sedentary play. Unlike SC ,you know towers are tough to deal with. And if they were too cheap to upgrade they could be spammed in lower elos leading to negative feedback

If we change this . Then given enough time you can bet someone WILL post:

“Why bother with hunts, farms are cheap enough and infinite” risk v reward and forcing players out of their bases

This is such a ridiculously StarCraft biased view point. I can’t believe someone is so brainwashed by StarCraft that they think it’s a good thing

A lot of the mechanics are overly lenient and it is possibly to overcome the inherently high skill entry that comes hand in hand with an RTS… as opposed to being able to jump straight into a FPS…

It’s so funny we need pros to say this before it becomes a reality.i called it on day 1… but I’m just a pleb

I made a thread about this before HRE even dropped…how melee infantry have a built in handicap relative to other power units…

I wonder if they do properly fix the unique tech on the MAA and fix the landsknecht if they will make up for lack of speed and range with sheer raw power. .

16 Likes

I do agree with @IamDalv that for some topics, dev engagement was/is sorely needed.

Let’s take the zoom level clusterf… and how everybody and their mom is complaining that what we got in the stress test was a laughable change.

I bought Flight Simulator 2020 and even though devs rarely reply back on threads, there’s a weekly report from them showing the highest priority topics, most voted threads, etc. and reporting back on plans to address those issues. We don’t have anything close to that here, we are flying blind when it comes to feedback reception until we get to play the next build, or god forbid, we end up with the final game to find out that popular requests got ignored (or maybe were technically unrealistic, but if we get no responses we will assume we were ignored).

My feeling about the only quote we got from a dev about the zoom issue (“you can’t play like that”) is similar to when Steve Jobs said that iPhone users who complained about no signal were “holding it wrong”. That is not good PR and a lot of people are feeling that way.

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Excellent feedback. I really hope the Relic devs read this post and take notes from it. I would even tag them here if I knew their usernames 11

I don’t agree with everything as there is some SC bias, but I appreciate the effort.

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I hope for no arbitrary limits of how many X buildings can be built. That was one of the biggest mistakes of Age of Empires 3 in my opinion, these Arbitrary limits are the lamest way possible of doing things.

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Man, that response was so weird. Totally not what I expected from Isgreen, he always seems like a very comprehensive guy so that “you can’t play like that” came out of nowhere.

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A Dev replied to quite a few threads in the stress test forums.

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Well we also didn’t actually see the interview to get the full context and tone of that quote. Everyone blew it way out of proportion.

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I thought this was one of the most annoying things to be missing.

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Mate, thank you for this post. This is very insightful to see the type of feedback from hypercompetitive players who echo pretty much what we’ve been saying as well.

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That may very well be the case, but then if you are Isgreen and you are actually reading this as we’re led to believe, it’s your job to explain yourself, don’t you agree? Maybe not here, but take the chance in the next interview to properly convey what you meant. Especially after seeing the “improvement” in zoom we got in the stress test.