How to improve the multiplayer experience?


At this moment the AoE II multiplayer community is divided over some platforms to play our beloved game. Currently we have:

  • Voobly: 3.4k players online
  • HD: 11,2k players online
  • DE at steam: 19k players online
  • Gameranger: Unknown number of players

This means there are around 35k players around who play this game at this moment. I think it would be great if we can unite all communities at DE. It would be great if we just have one platform where everyone plays. So I decided to make a list of improvements I really want for DE, so more players from Voobly, HD and Gameranger will join DE. These improvements are solely focused on the multiplayer experience. It is possible that some of the ideas are already discussed in other threads. I decided to still include those in this list, because I wanna post my complete opinion about the current MP state of the game.

Before I start with the list of improvements, I will say: I do enjoy DE. So this post isn’t meant as rant to DE. I just wanna make it even better!

Before the game start: ‘Ranked’ vs ‘Lobby browser’

I do like having a matchmaking system. For me matchmaking needs to be the way to get into an enjoyable game against equally skilled players. What does this mean to me?

  • Most matches are made by matchmaking.
  • Games are fair (both sides have equal strength.
  • Settings are enjoyable for everyone.

I do like the current matchmaking, but I also think it really can be improved, so the number of games on a ranked ladder will rise and the number of games at the unranked ladder decreased. I do feel many players play unranked, because they don’t enjoy ranked games. I would even say most players play unranked games. They walk against some walls and you see suggestions like ‘Please at a ranking to the lobby’. Most of these kinds of complaints are solved by a good working matchmaking. These players will move to ranked. I have had a look at for the number of players at each ranking:

RM 1v1: 35k players
RM TG: 51K players
DM 1v1: 1k players
DM TG: 1k players
Unranked: 195k players

The unranked ladder (which is hidden ingame) has many more distinct players than other ladders. So besides how do we get the players from Voobly, HD and Gameranger move to DE, I also think we have to ask the question: How can we move the players from the ‘Lobby browser’ to ‘Ranked’? More players in the ranked queue mean better games to me. The chance of a match against an equally skilled player will be larger. Also waiting times will decrease for everyone. This mean you can get into a game quicker.

So now up to the ideas to improve matchmaking:

Rename ‘Ranked’ to ‘Matchmaking’

I feel like some players don’t wanna join the ranked queue, because it sounds too competitive for them. I can understand this idea based on the name. By just renaming ‘Ranked’ to ‘Matchmaking’ it will lower the threshold to join the queue. This change is nothing but psychological, but I think it will really help to get some players for the lobby to join the matchmaking queue.

More control over the maps you play

Players of AoE II are just to pick their maps. Most of the players have their preferences. Some of the players just want to play 1v1 Arabia only. Others want to play only 4v4 Black Forest. Some are a bit less stubborn, but still want to play Arabia in 75% of their games. These are just some examples. In the current matchmaking system is this not possible. This point can be fixed with introducing unlimited bans, so players can pick their map. This means the waiting time will increase. If we can get more players from the lobby and other platforms to join the matchmaking queue, than it really won’t have much effect to the popular maps. The waiting time for unpopular maps will like increase, but that is just the risk of playing unpopular maps. The same would be true for playing these maps in the lobby browser.

Add more game modes to the queue

If I have a look at the ongoing games at, I see around the same amount games for Empire Wars or Regicide than for Death match. Death match is part of the ranked system, but those game modes are not part of the ranked system. It would be great if we can have these game modes as part of the ranked system. I do think such game modes are played frequently enough to have some ladder for this. You can also think about a rotating system, every month another game mode next to the current RM and DM games. I would love to see some love for those game modes.

Base the map pool on the preference of players

I do think it is great to have some diversity in the maps. I also love we got be challenged to try other maps and step outside our comfort zone. The devs do need to know how much they push this. I don’t think that the current map pool is a real reflection of the preferences of the players. If we divide all maps into Open, closed and hybrid maps, we get the following:

1v1 pool:

Open: Arabia and Serengeti
Closed: Arena and Hill Fort
Hybrid: Four Lakes, Islands, Golden Swamp, Nomad and MegaRandom

Team pool:

Open: Arabia
Closed: Black Forest, Arena, Hill Fort, Oasis
Hybrid: Nomad, MegaRandom, Golden Swamp, Scandinavia

Note: The place of some maps is pretty much debatable.


1v1: We have 2 open maps, 2 closed maps and 5 hybrid maps.
Team: We have 1 open map, 4 closed maps and 4 hybrid maps.

What maps does the community wants?

1v1: I would go for 5 open maps, 2 closed maps and 2 hybrid maps.
Team: I would go for 4 open maps, 3 closed maps and 2 hybrid maps.
(Note: This is my opinion based on the post is read)

I really do think this is a much better reflection of the preferences of most players. I would also personally love to see more open maps.

Note: This set up is mostly for RM. I would make a completely not related pool for DM with maps that match for death match. I think that some of the current maps are just bad for DM. To me, DM just needs to have much of open maps. Maybe at some hybrid maps, but we don’t need any closed maps. Also adjust the map pool for other game modes like Empire Wars. I do think Empire Wars is meant to be played aggressive. So you also want to have some open or maybe hybrid maps, but no closed maps.

A small personal preference: Take maps from ongoing Tournaments. This will make tournaments even more immersive. You can play on the same maps as the pros!

In the end, we can even end up with more maps in the map pool, based on the popular maps played in unranked. If those maps are part of matchmaking, then there is less reason for players to play in unranked lobby.

More rankings

One of the drawbacks of HD and Voobly was everyone just play one map and your Elo was only accurate for only that map. If you play another map, your Elo was not really accurate. DE tried to fix this by adding a map pool, so players have to be more all round, thus the gaps between your level on every map will be smaller. This still doesn’t seem to fix the issue. I really feel the disparity between playing on different maps and the Elo fo my / my enemy. This issue will only be larger if add unlimited bans. Some players just go to play only one map, other play every map and games will be more unfair.

I would suggest some more rankings for random map (other game mods are too small):

  1. RM 1v1. This is just like what we already have. This can be used in the matchmaking if someone has played many games, but not on this specific type of map. This is also used for some kind of global 1v1 ranking.
  2. RM 1v1 – Open maps. This rating will be used for matchmaking on maps like Arabia, Serengeti and all other open maps. Open maps will most likely play like Arabia.
  3. RM 1v1 – Closed maps. This rating will be used for matchmaking on maps like Arena and Black Forest. At these maps you just go FC without any doubt.
  4. RM 1v1 – Hybrid maps. This rating will be used for matchmaking on maps involving water, like Golden Swamp and Four lakes. Also maps like Island (full water maps) and Nomad will be part of this category. I have thought about adding some kind of ‘No TC starts rating’, but I don’t think these maps are popular enough to have their own rating.
  5. Same subratings for team games.

This results in better match up, I think. I did do some research. I think that Dota 2 has some rating based on your role, since all roles play different. Different map types is the AoE II variant to my. Every map type just plays different. You can also say every civ, but I don’t think we need a ranking for every civ you play. I also have taught about having a different ranking for pick civ vs random civ, but I decided to disagree with that idea. Yes, you can be much better with one civ, but if you pick another civ, you can be weaker than normal. In the end it levels out.


Most games have some kind of medals based on your performance. So if we already talk about some ranking, maybe we can also have something visible to this attack. Some kind of medal or rank. Things like top 5% is Gold, 5-25% is silver, 25%-50% is bronze, 50%- …
Most games has such system for a reason: People like it.

Better Elo

The current calculation of Elo is unknown for the players. So maybe things I mentioned in this part are already into the game:

  • Is there some Elo decay for inactivity?
  • Voobly and HD just used some basic Elo. Currently there are much better ratings, like TrueSkill available. Does this game make use of such system? So is there some uncertainty parameter, which is unknown for everyone? A raking based on something like TrueSkill seems better than just ‘Elo’.
  • Team game ratings seems pretty much inflated. I don’t know why.
  • In team games you can get carried by allies. If some top players team up with a noob, the noob can get a high team game rating, because of this carry. I do think we need some thing to fix this. In the current state the pros in 1v1 get also teamed up against pretty noob players. This makes team games just unfair from the start. This needs to be fixed in some way. I do feel 1v1 ratings are a much better indicator of someone skill than teamgames. I dont know how top rated players do team games on voobly, maybe we must have a look at it and improve the current team MM system, so we can have a better team game experience.

Most questions I can ask are just the same as in

To me it looks like the Elo system can be improved.

For example: How does the game deal with 4 friends queued up vs 4 solo players for a 4v4. Giving everyone has the same skills, the friends will most likely win, because of much better communication. Is this something taken into account for the matchmaking / rating system? I even heard that SC2 has a rating for every duo/trio/… Also other games do take this into account… It would be an improvement to the TG matchmaking.

Play random civ games

Players loved to go random civ in the past. Both sides go random. I would love it if it would be an option in the matchmaking. This idea was posted many times on the forum. I don’t really have something to add to this already existing request.

Knowing / Chatting with your enemy/enemies

I would love to know my enemy before the game start. Just show the name, rating and if he go for pick civ or random civ. Also add the option to chat with enemy. Saying ‘gl hf’ before the game start is just part of the game and DE killed this. You can also discuss some other things in the minute before the game really starts. I don’t know why the devs removed this part of the game in matchmaking. Please add it back to the game.

During the game

I don’t think this is the place to really change the game. No balance suggestions or ideas for new civs for me. Most important thing to me is bug fixing. Fix the lag, fix the freezes, fix melee path finding, … Just to name some of the improvements for during the game:

Save and exit

I dont know why the devs decided it is a good feature to take out of the game. There are issues where save and exit make sense. It is most likely for bugged maps.

Penalty for leavers

At this point you can leave early. Just when you have the match or in the first minutes of the game. This make no sense to me. You play against someone else who waited for the game and than in it by leaving. I think we should implement some penalty for leavers. I was thinking like add extra waiting time in the queue. A system like:

1st leave: + 1 minute waiting time for 24 hour
2nd leave: + 5 minutes waiting time for 24 hour
3th leave: + 10 minutes waiting time for 24 hour
4th leave: + 20 minutes waiting time for 48 hour

Such system. Number are just an example. Note: This needs to be implemented after fixing matchmaker, so players have more control about the games they play.

Many other games with matchmaking have such system.

After the game

More statistics

I would love to see more statistics after the game. The current statistics are really 20 years old. It is time to have some renewal at this place. I just want to see how many vills I killed. Not just the number of kills. You also see the stats for at the end of the match. I just want to see some graphs, like about the current graph about your population. Add such graphs for the resources gathered over time for example. Same for the number of Kills and the number of loses. It will give you much more info when you analyze the game. So I really would like some redesign of the statistics at the end of the game.

Revenge button / rematch button

Instead of joining the queue again for another game, you also must be able to ask for a rematch, so you play against the same guy again. Together you can pick a map from the map pool and new civs and you can play again. Sometimes you got beaten, but you want revenge. The current matchmaking tool won’t allow this. With this option it will be possible.

General points

Anti cheat

Recently I see an increase of threads about cheaters and hackers. This won’t only happen at this forum (even tho it is kinda forbidden to post such thing on this forum because of calling out other players, I also see an increase on Aoezone en Reddit. It seems like Voobly anti cheat feature works much better than DE anti cheat feature. I think it will be good if the devs expand this feature, so cheating and hacking will be much more difficult.

Player profiles and ranking

The ingame player profile is pretty bad. It won’t really give much info. At this moment you can better go to third parties why do have much better info:

I think this data needs to be available within the game. The current player profile is really lacking info. Also think like the ranking: Only top 100 is shown. Why not the complete ranking? I also like to see some things als winrate into the game. Maybe even add win rate for civ in the pick civ window at the start of every game. You can even base the win rate on the elo, like also do. There are many things to improve for this subject. In my profile I want to see:

  • Last games + results
  • Overview of the maps I played (frequency + win rate)
  • Overview of the civs I used (frequency + win rate)

For the casters - Saved games

For ranked games: Save games are stored in the profile (see previous point). Caster can use them, like they already did at Voobly.

Recorded game Viewer

Recs become broken after every patch. Please give us something so we can still have a look at games of older patches. Nice for looking back at your own games to analyse the games. Also nice for casters, who can also use older save games.

Final words

I will adjust this post if I have more ideas. I will also try to revisit most ideas after every patch.


We have to wait for Capture Age for more statistics. I also agree that the game should have a universal profile instead of being divided. I hope everybody plays in DE someday.

P.S. Yes to watching older games.

As much as I love your suggestions, I seriously think we’re past the point where they can be/will be implemented. I hope I’m wrong.

I genuinely hope another developer is looking at AoE2 and seeing the massive opportunity that is in the market if someone had the tenacity to actually build a proper multiplayer system behind a game that was structured like AoE2 is. For me, that seems to be the only measurement of success for DE at this point.


Hi mate,

We have debated quite a lot regarding 1v1 Arabia, more bans, etc.

Glad to see your post here. I dont 100% agree with it, but I do think you are putting a lot of effort towards the right things and your suggestions are great.

Thanks for what you are doing for our game, your passion for it shows in all your posts.


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Love all of these suggestions. Exactly what we were pleading for months now with the devs. Too many good things to comment on.
The multiplayer experience can turn this game into a major cultural phenomena, instead of being a minor game currently. Devs should put more effort into it, than any other part of the game. It would reward them (with more sales) and us a lot more than any other changes.

I also like your suggestion to rename the “Ranked” to “Match Making”. Most players wouldn’t see a difference if the ELO for UnRanked games showed as well in the lobby. If you are ranked anyway, the name of the lobby or ELO wouldn’t matter. It is just a psychological barrier.

I think having multiple ELOs would allow us to:

  1. combine all lobbies to be ranked lobbies. Just with more freedom in game settings and team selection. Bringing all 200K players to ranked, whether it is lobby or MM.
  2. Increase the number of maps from 9 to 100s, so you get more map variety if you like it.
  3. Allow everyone to play the maps he like, with unlimited bans and unlimited map options.
  4. Allow full-random games to happen, as you guarantee that the other team is also abiding by that limitation, and that ELO is accurate for that type of game.

I just made a topic about this without seing this topic. Shouldve answered here obviously, I’m just gonna link what I wrote now:

There have been many complains about the online map pool and experience in general. We can probably all agree it needs some improvements, so let’s brainstorm a bit and examine the ongoing problems since the start of DE first, first and foremost the map pool:

  • To many closed maps, often at best 1-2 semi-open or open maps
  • To many onetrick-pony maps
  • Maps with problems that are only being fixed after they rotate out
  • Unfair map generation
  • Maps that give some civs a big advantage often through unusual starting food sources so you only see the same civs everytime
  • Not enough Arabia/standard maps
  • DM matchmaking has the same maps as RM
  • (Controversial) Pick Civ and Position can be boring (just wanted to mention it, would probably need its own topic)
  • No friends list/social features

These complaints have been valid since the release of DE until now. The proposed fixes I have seen so far are:
separate Arabia qeue: would probably make the non-Arabia qeue bad and also a step back in terms of map innovation
Arabia unbannable: We would probably see Arabia in 90% of the games since the chance that you and your opponent unbanned the same other map is small.
Now I like Arabia and I do think that if you master Arabia you will be absolutely decent on any other land map so I don’t see the problem with “wrong” Elo but it’s clear that these two ideas would be a step back in regards to other maps.
All maps bannable: Probably an ok solution but it doesn’t change the fact that many of the ranked maps just aren’t good.

I have seen some more complicated solutions but I don’t think it’s realistic that they will be implemented ever. Thus the changes to MP i propose are:

A remake of the DM matchmaking to a non-RM matchmaking. As of right now, DM players aren’t that many and it honestly doesn’t seem fair how they get their own qeues while other players who like to play on such niche-settings have to go to the lobby. In this qeue the gamemode would be tied to the map, so for example the map pool could look something like this:

Arabia DM, Land Madness DM, Kawasan Empire Wars, Cross Empire Wars, Arena Capture the Relic, Four Lakes KOTH, Atacama Sudden Death, Triple Tech Mod Megarandom, Maximum Age Feudal Not Socotra;

this would incent players to try out different settings in AoE2. The more experimental settings could rotate out each month while DM and maybe EW always stay. Of course DM players wouldn’t like this change, which leads to my next suggestion.

Ranked Lobby: I don’t think there is a way around this if you want to satisfy the majority of players. I guess the fear is that this would hurt matchmaking but most people I know would prefer a good matchmaking to lobby playing. Now there would be 5 different Elos which are much but honestly you could maybe merge TG RM and TG non-RM Elo since the first doesn’t matter much anyways or 1v1 non-RM and TG non-RM. But even if not, 5 Elos are still ok I think. The reason why Ranked Lobby is so good because it would satisfy so many players who care really much about their fav setting and there are so MANY players like that. BF players, DM players, Arena clowns etc. and this would also help matchmaking since you don’t need to cater to these players there anymore and it would help the players who only want to play their fav setting. The Lobby would need to work properly then though, and it would need better filters and the the option of only allowing players of a certain Elo range in a lobby. Maybe there should be settings you can’t change if you want your lobby to be ranked so that it’s not too easy cheat your way to the top on unfair settings, though not sure if that would do more good than harm.

A matchmaking qeue on competitive settings (1v1 and TG): Competitive Settings mean tournament maps. Now the devs have tried their hands on improving the standard maps before but I really think hiring talented mapmakers like Chrazini to make the competitive maps with their input and input from the top players would really help. Or alternatively copied tournament maps would also be good. A criticism of tournament maps in the past were that they weren’t pretty (looking at you HC3 maps) but the TeTe and BoA2 maps have shown that this doesn’t need to be true. Something that should be standard on this qeue are that many of the maps have standard starting food ressources around the tc (1 sheep under Tc, 7 sheep elsewhere, 2 boar, berries, 3-4 deer) and that the map generation is fair. It would also be nice to see more maps that are either trickier to play like Four Lakes or maps that just provide some good unusual competitive gameplay like Land Madness. Something that the current map pool currently lacks is diversity. A diverse map pool could consist of:

2 Open Land Maps (eg Acropolis, Wings), 2-3 Semi-Open Land Maps (eg Arabia random civ, Slopes, Cenotes), 2-3 Hybrid or Water Maps(eg Bay, African Waters, Islands), 1 Map with starting walls (eg Hideout), 1 easy wall map (eg Graveyards) and 1 Gold Rush type of map (eg El Dorado).

I also think it would make sense to have 2 Arabia maps to satisfy those who just want standard gameplay; Dry Arabia which has desert setting, ponds, many hills and is hard to wall and Green Arabia which has a grass setting and is a bit less punishing/obnoxious with the map generation.

The last thing I would improve on Multiplayer are the social features. A friends list is needed and easy to implement. A rematch button would also be nice. A game series option would also be really good, with that I mean an option to play a b0X with friends with civ draft and all that. The lack of social features does have an impact on player behaviour, before DE toxic behaviour was more of an exception I think.

Will probably edit the post later to make it more readable. Let me know what you think of my ideas!

Unranked multiplayer team games are hugely popular, and it would be super helpful to show unranked ratings, number of games played or other useful metrics which can help balance the teams out. Otherwise a lot of times unbalanced games can result.

Plus it would also be helpful to learn the latency of each player in the lobby, so that those with high latency can be identified.

Unranked rating is pretty useless, because it is pretty meaningless. It is just a mix of all settings. 1v1, team games, special maps, death match, open maps, closed maps, … You cant really draw conclusions from unranked rating. I also much more like to improve ranked games, so many players in the unranked lobby will join the ranked queue. I made my own thread about this idea.

I think it would be great if almost all players join the ranked queue. At this moment we are not that far. So it will need some changes to the ranked queue system.

The current match making algorithm will solve all issues around unranked games. For example: If most players just play ranked, and you wanna play unranked at some time, the ranked rating will be the best indicator of skill levels and can be used to balance teams.

Showing latency in lobby is a good idea.

The problem with the ranked queue is that it takes too long to find team games. Waiting for 5 minutes or more tests the patience for a lot of people who dont have the time and want to find a quick game and start. And I am not too optimistic about that wait time improving.

So while unranked rating may indeed not be a very good indicator, it is an indicator. Perhaps the metric could be improved. Some info might be better than no info at all in this case.

I once tried unranked. It was a nightmare. After around 20 minutes i decided the just leave the unranked lobby. Randomly getting kicked. Host not responding. Endless discussion about teams, unfairi match ups. I just couldnt get any normal game to start. After 20 minutes i decided to just quit the unranked lobby and join the ranked queue. Pretty quickly i got into a good game.

If you want quickly into a game against equally skilled players, then ranked game is the way to go for me. This is THE reason why i played ranked games only. I just want to get into a game quickly. I dont want all the nonsense of the lobby. It really takes ages to start a game into the lobby.

I think i have played around 150 ranked games. I still can count on my hands the number of games with a waiting time above 2 minutes. That is pretty solid to me. I really cant imagine you can get into a balance games within the same time in the lobby.

And if players from the unranked lobby starts joining the ranked system, waiting will even further decrease, because you have more players.

I have to say: This is not the first thread about showing the unranked rating to the lobby. Most threads end in the discussion about how to improve the ranked system, so we dont need the unranked rating in the lobby any more. Most complaints of the ranked queue are not able to pick a map. Players who want more control about the map picks. I dont think i heard many complaints about long waiting times as reason to not join the ranked games. Waiting times above 5 minutes only happens to pros, because the number of players is pretty thin at their level. That isnt really an issue for i think around 90% of the players.

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Well then my experience is obviously very different than yours. I have always had to wait 5 minutes or more for a game, certainly never 2 minutes. And it is the prime reason me and my friends never join the ranked queue and go make our server in unranked.

Moreover, unranked has other advantages, such as choosing your map, and not being restricted to a certain map pool. So to say that to solve the unranked balance problem we should just go play ranked doesnt seem to be a solution. Unranked is a completely different game mode that also deserves attention and improvements.

gotta agree with this… as much as i might be upset by ranked MM atm, the unranked lobbies are living ■■■■… after all of the 20 min in a lobby it can quite easily lead to a 1-5min game because someone rage quits, desyncs etc

True, but the disconnect issue is a separate one. It is a bug which causes people to disconnect within the first 5 min. I guess it depends on what you are looking for. Again, ranked and unranked are completely different game modes, players shouldnt be forced to choose one versus the other if both exist.

My experience has been different from Woodsier. I have played some 80 games in the ranked MM so far, and I have never waited less than 5 minutes. This month after the last patch, it typically goes up to 8-9 minutes, not even counting the games that fail to launch in the 60 seconds screen.
Another problem that forced me back to the unranked lobby, is that 6 out of the 9 team maps in ranked currently have no water whatsoever, and I am going through a Malay phase right now, where I want to build docks and navy. Unranked lobby needs patience too, and I’d say 33% of the games are horribly balanced, but you can eventually find something.

Again, I don’t see a reason why we need a separate ELO for ranked vs unranked. We need multiple ELOs that separate game types / map types, and then the same ELO is applicable whether it is a MM ranked game or a friendly weird settings kind of lobby game. It is not like the skill set will change. The ELO doesn’t change much if you lose to much higher players, or win against much lower players. So it wouldn’t be inflated that much anyway when you play with friends.

I am around 1500 in RM team ranked games. I am curious as to your team RM ELO guys?

Does anyone know if capture age will allow you to watch old recorded games? Being able to watch “old” recorded games can be an important learning tool, whether from pros or your own. Unfortunately regular patches (and some accidents) mean that I never got to watch the Boa2 and other tournament recorded games.

A real shame indeed as not everyone can crank out 14 hours a day on this game anymore.

You are suggesting that everyone are actually interested in Ranked Games, however there are many people who only play custom games/gamemodes. Maybe these numbers reflect that in some way, as to how popular something actually is? However I’d actually like to see numbers of people who actively play on these different ladders, instead of just the total amount of people who have ever achieved a whatever rank.

I have had a look at the ungoing games at, but that list of ongoing games isnt a full list. I dont really have a good source about what is played in unranked games. If we exclude games against AI, you will end up with many random map games on maps that also are in the map pool, team games on black forest, Arabia, … I think they play just one map only / want more control about the maps they play or are just scary by the name ranked. I think we can get those players with some tweaks of the ranking system into the ranked queue. Next are players who play other modes, like empire wars, … I suggested to give this also a place into the ranked environment and that will also take care of those players.

Do anyone know how the number of user who play multiplayer is divided between ranked and unranked at other games? Like Dota, SC2, …

There is also the fact that custom maps don’t show up on location (ie. map name) at all. Only lobby name might give away the fact that people are actually playing custom content.

Also, some people might just not be interested in playing ranked games even if they played the ranked maps and settings on the lobby, cause they are more interested in playing the game casually. Which is what the lobbies are for anyway, not having too much stress for playing the game.

Like i said: Ranked isnt the best name. One of the suggestions is to rename it to match maker. There are also many casual players in the lobby. They just have a lower rating and that is fine. They can use the MM system to just get equally skilled opponent. That will be opponents that also play the game casual. Ranked seems to be scary to those.

The number of players who used a custom map was pretty small when i checked last time. Aoe2 showed ‘custom’ at that moment.