Gameplay: Early Game, Starting conditions & Act Direction: can AoE4 break the repetitive genre curse?

Gameplay: Early Game, Starting conditions & Act Direction: can AoE4 break the repetitive genre curse ?

Well I have here 2 Pictures, of games staring condition.
one contains 9 old games, one contains 9 modern games.
Please take a look.



The thing is not simply, about games identity, but how the design does influence the gameplay experience. And modern does have one issue, they are very comparable.

Well lets pick as example Classic Red Alert vs modern Forged Battalion, in Classic:

  • I have no idea where I am, I have no idea where the enemy is, I have no idea where the resources are.
  • I don’t even have the mini map at start of the game. It is later unlocked by build a special building.
    -My production building is completely mobile, I can move it anywhere and start to build there a base.
    This means, there are some quite important and possibly risky choices I have to make.
    -I can rush my enemy, but what if I do not find him?
    -I can go on and build, but what if my enemy does find me?
    -I can go scout, but by the time I do return, a lot of things can change, so I have to scout again.
    -I also need the right units to attack my enemy. And who know what he did prepare, as they do arrive, maps is quite big.
    -Where do I build my defenses? I do not have clear early info from what direction enemy might come and where he could attack.

I did not even play for a second the game, but here are already so many choices and possibilities.

In the modern game like Forged Battalion, I do not even have free will, like a robot, I do produce in exact same order same things, while they have to go to exact same location. And that’s by any modern RTS despite from completely different teams. They are all exactly the same.

While in old games, you have diverse starting conditions, you have a choice where to build your base, a map to explore and discover, modern games merely start with some kind of HQ, where you have to rush to certain location.

It’s not a thing of complex or simple design, the player requires a balanced design, where the game encourages him to play. And be forced to do exactly same thing all over again, especially quite slowly like in modern games, is not encouraging.

Can AoE4 break out here from the boring and repetitive modern day concept?


Great post ^
I took a look at the images of those old games and I like the ‘blackened’ surroundings and unknown position of the camp at the beginning of the game.

Through my priorities and cunning, I’d still expect by 2nd Age to have atleast 80% of all display-features to be unlocked.

However, I can see this being an ‘option’ rather than the ‘standard’, selectable on map-creation, as I believe all players like to challenge themselves differently.

The unknown is thrilling :footprints:

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I still don’t agree that aoe4 should be in same age ranges as aoe2. The ‘new’ game should be more comprehensive and it could include ages both in aoe2 and aoe3 and jumps between ages could give different opportunities. Age-up in aoe3 meant access to artillery in aoe3 or better cards but thats all. In the new game age-up could mean better access to unique abilities for the hero/explorer like an ultimate ability in mmorpg games. The new game doesnt have to stick with the same rules as the older ones.

Same goes for the start of the game the start of a match could be more comprehensive and player should be able to decide what to do in given conditions. Starting in a complete darkness will turn the game into an rng. This is a strategy game, to come up with a strategy you should be given a context, some data to develop that into an information and decide what to do with that information to beat your opponent. In my opinion you should have the will to decide what to do like in classic games but you should also be given some information, pattern to follow about the context you are in so you can evaluate your options like in modern games.

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It’s not random by AoE1, old C&C, AoE2, even with hidden and random asymmetric maps
as you have scouting units and buildings for it,
your income is based on how many workers you have.

Why should AoE4 be Warcraft3? Is this a good RTS game concept?

Let’s analyze the concept, take a look at the minimap picture, left original, right the one with explanations

you moved from Green Start location to Blue Expansion, there are zero choices.

Once you reach this point, yellow is the combat location where you know, exactly where enemy is and how much he has, as you both have to be on this yellow front-line, once you reached red, red is the “its over I have the high ground” or my enemy would usually give up location. As you have reached point in the game where you did win it. Its very boring to play on from it, as its clear who did win.

That’s it, no real choices or decisions, and we have seen this simply too much.

I understand developers want to make the game more accessible, but it did reach the point where they did simply remove the game entirely for many people.

Well the task should not be simply to recreate good gameplay. “Already this seems not possible”
But also to advance it, it has been like 2 decades since proper RTS games.

Well here some things

-1 why is town centre not available from start on and mobile like MCV from C&C?
I mean in C&C once you unpack it, it does stay where it is, why can’t we have such mechanic for the very first Nomad age?

“Nomad Age =In Age of Empires II, Nomad is a map where players begin with three Villagers scattered and no initial Scout or Town Center, but each player has in their stock additional stone and wood to built it. Usually, two of the villagers are closer to each other than the third one, so players often place their first Town Center in an area between the two closest villagers.”

-2 why do we start with merely handful workers? Starcraft 2 does start meanwhile with 12.
So my suggestion would be 15 Workers and Town Center that can be unpacked like in C&C.

-3 Against the Wall rush, I would suggest workers should use their range attack against other workers.

-4 Big Random maps, Asymmetrical Random maps and “blackened” surroundings is called shroud.
The lost of those feature did take away a lot of decisions and they have been not replaced.

And how else could we influence Act Direction? A old schoold blackened random surrounding means you have to discover it first, to make your choices and each game it’s a different situation. By a modern game, its each time same situation.

I really wonder why we did lose those features in modern games?
I simply see it’s as a big issue if each early game, is the same.

I began building a civilisation from scratch, going through various elements such as access to building blueprints, unit diversity, health, features, techs, mobility, scouting, explorer and startup options etc

Based on this, I came to very similar results to as what the current AoE3 settlements are designed.

  1. The reason an additional TC isnt available at Discovery Age is cause of how inferior creating additional settlers from a new point is by contrast of taking advantage of Terra-unique resources, such as fishing.
    However, there is a lack of a bonus card for quickening settler production at Age I at expense of their health or cost.
    (France is closest towards this)

This is also why the settlers don’t appear until after the TC is built. They are supposed to aid in the construction of the TC. (But I think the developers eventually forgot that), as a result, New Covered Wagons also builds too fast.

Suggestion 1
  • In the event of moving the TC during Nomad Age, I found it can be valueable of being able to unload its settlers and crates so as to create a resource base at where I am whilst my Covered Wagon journeys and then slowly builds at my chosen location.
    My settlers could then build an outpost at their location, making it a defendable gathering camp.
    I think it would be Good in Team games where you wish to build your main base together.
    Also: On the Covered wagon entering the construction site to build the TC, I’d like to see its settlers coming into existence spread out around the TC, automatically aiding its construction. (The settup-settlers in AoE3 spawns on finishing construction)
    I don’t know if I need the resource crates already, or can wait til finishing its construction.


  1. In journeying towards a new land, the most flexible ratio of investment spent on building quality, units etc involves an equal resource cost on gatherers as static constructions.
    600 wood TC, 6 settlers + Scouting & soldier type unit/-s (Explorer)
  1. The wall rush is such an inferior tactic, its not worthwhile having any trait spent on countering it specifically.
    Just build some own walls to break their encirclement, you’ll spend less wood than your foe, so you’ll have more soldiers than him to fight & raid with.
    Ignore the walls til 3rd age when you can siege them effortlessly.
  1. I agree.
    I hope others can enjoy this post’s input

The issue is, we had played those games for a while and meanwhile its no so “spicy” as it used to be.
If designer come around with just another lame and boring gameplay feeling, that’s simply devastating.

Tiberium Wars team did great job with a simple build crane, which allowed to build 2 buildings at once, not simply one. Starcraft 2 was amazing to introduce 12 workers at start. And that’s it.

Somehow there is a mayor “creativity” barrier, developers can’t pass or make it even worse.

I just miss for the genre to have a team, that does present an encouraging RTS to play for people, who do not for first time ever pick up a game. That’s the group AoE4 should aim, or it won’t find a foothold.

Mobile Civ:
Something like this?
—————Mobility Civ—————
/by Aurora Stardaze

Unique Units:


Producers can improve fattening rate, shrine output etc by being tasked at it.
Great at automatic producing resources, improves fattening rate and is an excellent builder
Only Producers can build all buildings.


Gatherers can gather from hunts, berries, trees, mines at increased rate but high spill rate.
Gatherers are limited to building only walls, outposts, houses & Trading Posts.
+50% resource gathering, -50% resource transference.

Food: 1.26 / sec || spill: 1.26 / sec
Coin: 0.9 / sec || spill 0.9 / sec
Wood: 0.75 / sec || spill 0.75 / sec
———compare to———
Normal settler: || spill 0.00 / sec
Food: 0.84, Coin: 0.6, Wood: 0.5

Ex. 300 wood tree, for 100sec;
Gatherer: 150 wood,
Tree 300 -150 & -150 = 0 remaining
Normal Settler: 100 wood,
Tree 300 -100 & -0 = 200 remaining

& Carts (see further down)

Civ Feature

Your ‘mobile’ buildings can train and upgrade with less disadvantages to Training speed & quality.

Civilisation Specifications

All buildings cost +50% but are mobile.
Mobile: Building can move at 1 speed constantly.

All buildings have less hitpoints, are smaller and trains units slightly quicker & slightly cheaper but at lower health.
Reversed for the soldiers: trains slightly slower, are slightly more expensive but has great health.

Unique: All buildings will involve population increase of +5.

150 Max Population.


Begins with 1 TC,
3 mini scouts,
5 gatherers,
1 producer &
2 Explorers called ‘Raiders’ which also have the Heavy Cavalry typing. Can also train units through a card.

New Building:

Producers can be within it to produce resources.
Can train unit:


Carts are mobile fast moving vessels (like Galley on land; fast moving whilst cant gather nor fight).
Cost 75 wood, Max Limit 7, 0 pop. Speed: 6.3
Can carry units up to 5 pop total worth.

Memory Note:

Mounted Ballista on some wagon.

Outpost is not mobile, instead it can be transformed into an outpost wagon, which can relocate its position.
Takes ~25 seconds to transform.

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-----#-1 Based on my experience, I am very against back-flip mechanics and different faction’s economics.

Gameplay should be logically polished based on the source material. For a fluent feeling.
12 Workers instead of 6, means 2 times faster gathering rate for early game its ok.
Build 2, instead of 1 building in same time is OK too by C&C.

So AoE4, could for example for same price of 50 meat build 2 workers instead of 1 and houses could provide population of 10, instead of 5. Or the first 50 workers are build 2 for 50 meat, workers 51 is build 1 for 50 meat. This slight change, would have a great impact to make the early game more fluent.

Also if choose to upgrade to next Age, it still should be possible to hire in same building units.

-----#-2 To make maps not repetitive. I honestly have no idea how to replace, re-balance, rework, the old mechanics. It would be nice to have them back. But I am aware modern day players need their bike support wheels^^

Maybe it could be a terrain thing?
For example ice, forest and green fields is modern day, clear and mirrored.
Swamps and Desert on the other hands, could be classic random, asymmetrical and shrouded.


Good idea.but make a mobile civ… it is very risky.i hope devs will make balanced civs.and i don’t want see a mongol civ *it is a mobile civ but without walls and towers.*thankfully we saw a mongol tower,
i hope they won’t make civs without important techs/units/buildings

I aoe2 de,they added a new game mode called empire starting with more vills and buildings(also starting age is feudal)

I love this mode because i am bored from slow dark age stuffs(hunting boars,collect foods with a few villager)

Your idea would solve the this problem.

My presented mobile civ also had static Outpost towers :slight_smile:
It can still happen. :grinning:
But walls can still be used with a mobile civ, its not like the settlement bounces from corner to corner.

Balance is the next issue to think about. Limiting the design to keep it balanced means repetition of things that has worked before. For aoe4 i would rather play unique civs with completely unique play styles. And this can still be balanced with unique advantages and disadvantages on certain conditions (simple example, mobile or rushing civs that can cover map faster than theiropponent can have harder late game phase while a slower or static civ can form greater siege armies once they survived to the late game). I want to see a mongol civ that you can pick to spread all around the map and control it as you raid your opponent. Of course more civs with more unique play styles.

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Well its very important they wont simply present “Quantum jumps” only, the original gameplay should be available too. Or we risk end up again with something like DoW3 or C&C4TT.

Problem is very different factions, rather extend repetitive gameplay.
Sure you are doing your thing differently, but you are doing it all the time same way.

By more similar factions, it’s much more easy to say, OK lets try a different thing.

Yes,i don’t want a french civ have powerful cavs but without archers&skirmishers.
This game would be spam cavs,spam cavs,spam more cavs.
But i want make hit&run with my archers.then my enemy trained a skirmisher army aganist my archers,i send my cavs

Which one is seems better?

In history, the civilisation used all sorts of units as each had their unique strengths;
Light Infantry,
Heavy Infantry,
Light Cavalry
Heavy Cavalry,
Light Artillery
Heavy Artillery
& Variants within.
In addition, civs then tried to improve each, some suceeded with all, others found a niche with a mix +combined with other advantages.
I think all players want to try variant strategies, and as such various civs would enable it, even though each civ has the potential to use each strategy.
As long as this concept is upheld, I think the gameplay will be highly enjoyed.

The main mistake of unsuccessful strategy games is stupid-extraordinary artificial intelligence and restrictive starting conditions / gameplay. Aoe4 should do a good job on these two mechanics.

While it is a nice mode, it still has one big downside, as by a base build RTS, people should feel “build the base” is the gameplay. It’s the most critical point for a game and is in same time greatly overlooked.

We have to address the gameplay flow of RTS games. I have simply the feeling after so many years even in classic games, build pace and flow did get too slow for people who are used to play RTS games. In same time developers tried to make games more accessible, so did make the pace even slower and gameplay simpler.

By the way I had made so far an odd observation, base build games are still very popular like Anno 1800, sold four times more copies than its predecessor Anno 2205, fastest sold title in the franchise’s 20-year history, sold over 1 million copies in 2 months. Why didn’t we see similar success by RTS ?

Anno 1800 does actually bring back many traits we miss in modern games, big random maps, shrouded map to discover. And a very nice complex, yet fluent gameplay in right hands.

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Probably not a popular opinion as a new person arriving into the AOE.

I think the whole game has a lot of potential but needs a lot of speeding up. I mean in the modern world (as opposed to when these games were originally made) who has time to play an individual game that takes 1hr+. I think over time the game has added more and more stuff making it bigger and bigger, but they actually need to tone it back.

Some of it can be fixed with QOL stuff, maybe better AI on stuff, but there’s a lot of redundancy in the previous games (especially AOE2 that I’m currently playing a lot of) that just pads out content rather than add anything meaningful.

Having more workers at the start, making the ages more meaningful which may mean take one out altogether should all be on the cards imo.

Most modern MOBAs or RTS have taken steps to shortern their games for this very reason.

I suppose it depends on the target audience, whether they want to make a game that will be the next big thing or just appeal to a niche AOE followers who will probably pay for the game regardless as long as it’s shinny.

Your opinion is by the way very popular across the game media,
but I honestly do very doubt if it’s the reality for the game customers.

A very legitimate question, if you are going to play an RTS game,
do you really expect a simple casual game?
What is Dark Souls without the challenge?

Problem is, making the RTS game dumber and simpler does rather result in opposite.
Check just C&C4TT and Dawn of War 3, they tried to appeal to larger audience by making the formula simpler and did have as result massive financial failure.

So can “making Age of Empires 4 simpler”, be a solution at all?

What some see as an obstacle, might be for others the fun part. The big question is, won’t be during the “modification” the very reason be removed why people did play those games in first place.

You are simply as player reaching a level, where watered down game doesn’t appease you.
The more easy and watered down game is, the gameplay itself start to feel like a redundancy.

RPGs had an exodus of Pro-gamers, as RPGs started to reach wider audience like Skyrim, Pro-gamers found their sanctuary in Dark Souls. If we would add there Rey for Starwars as playable character only, who can 1 hit kill any boss, won’t we destroy the last resort/refuge they have left?

RTS used to be the resort for Pro gamers, we are a Pro gamer genre.
I think you are very right by one point, we need more meaningful and engaging gameplay.


Problem is, you can’t make a single game mode, so satisfy all.

Well I think we have to keep in mind, all 3 variants, beside the classic experience, the simpler one for casuals, some kind of Pro-gamer mode too.

Launching game with several game modes would actually take a lot of pressure from game designers.
We had by Halo Wars 2 a very neat approach, we had one casual game mode with cards and one with base build.

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