How to make a revolutionary medieval RTS in 2021

… without losing the AoE essence.

Leaving graphics, sound and UI choices aside and just focusing on game mechanics, this is how I believe Relic and Microsoft could have made a truly revolutionary and fresh AoE. All things mentioned here were missing from the closed beta and stress test builds (but we may hopefully be surprised at release, who knows):

  • Complex unit formations - Block, wedge, line, etc. which give units specific bonuses or nerfs. Example: block formation could increase armor but reduce speed.
  • Flanking bonuses and retreating units receive more damage.
  • Customizable squad formation - We can keep the classic AoE mechanic of single units spawning, but you can select a handful and form them into a squad, which may not be necessarily tied into a CTRL+# group. Every time you click on one of the units in the squad, the whole squad gets selected and there would be bonuses (e.g. shared damage) and cons of grouping units that way. You can disable this if you prefer to manage individual units.
  • Mixed squads - Have the ability to join melee and ranged units into a mixed squad to get extra protection in exchange for mobility (e.g. mix pikemen + archers).
  • Keeps with destructible hardpoints (towers, gates) and having the option to capture (if you go for the gate) or destroy them.
  • Manned siege which you can capture if you kill the operators. You can “spend” some of your soldiers to recapture an abandoned siege unit.
  • Proper cavalry charge mechanics - Not timer-based but momentum-based. You can’t spam it because you need to build distance and speed to reuse the ability, which takes time and exposes your cavalry.
  • Units that don’t stop to perform the attack animation - Retreating enemies don’t run away easily like they do now.
  • Proper physics - Cannonballs, trebuchet projectiles, etc. that can keep knocking units down instead of disappearing after the first hit (AoE III comes to mind).
  • Weather effects, time of day (readability be damned, you can keep your sunny noon if readability is a priority).
  • Expanded building autogen - Besides the farms and flowers that spawn automatically after constructing a building, trails/roads could form where trade routes are, where villagers walk to drop resources and where soldiers march.

I’m sure if I’m given the time, I can come up with a lot more things. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun playing the betas, but the game is formulaic and is desperately trying to stick to past and stale AoE mechanics. The modifications above wouldn’t radically change the way AoE “feels” but would bring the game to modern RTS standards.


Idk what modern RTS mean. SC2 is the last master class RTS game, and aoe2DE is in a good shape with pretty “old” mechanic as well.


Valid point. Let’s say fresh then. In any case, most of the things I mentioned have been implemented by older RTS games at some point, so they are not modern.

Playing the AoE IV betas they always felt too familiar, to a fault.

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Why any developer would look at the success of Age 2 and NON success of age 3 and mix them?

Another studio given reigns to a title they never played.
it doesn’t take a genious to realize the mechanics in age 3 are not popular.
Age 3 didn’t get Age 4 made
It’s been age of empires 2 the entire time… Why the ■■■■ did you not make Age of empire 2.5

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I’ve always found that when this gets gamified its silly. I’ve never understood why people want this.

Flanking is already a bonus - you do it not for bonus damage, you do it cause you have now surrounded your opponent, and either forcing them to reposition or retreat because the surface area of your attack has increased. It works because of its very nature, flanking is a good thing to do!?

Retreating units are already taking extra damage - they are no longer fighting - they are taking extra hits as they retreat for free - you don’t need to code in extra damage - its already there by the nature of the action.

Its like have a giant realistic physics simulation of bouncing balls but then adding in extra code to make the balls drop faster cause gravity… its already there by the nature of the program. You don’t need to code it.


So this one got me thinking:
a) we already kinda have this, you can use your enemy walls, and towers on walls are destructible hard points, the keep is meant to be the centre hard point of your castle, not just a building by itself.

b) Idea though: what about custom blueprints? You could design a small fort or keep or farm array or something (I’m remiscing factorio) and you can place the blueprint of these as a series of foundations with a simple click… Could be hidden in a special building menu under hotkey T, and you could have room for 8 custom blueprints or whatever.

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I’ve always wanted this - at least the ships and horse archers can attack whilst moving - so we’re getting there,

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If they wanted to make something “fresh”, they should have mixed their previously established mechanics from Company of Heroes/Dawn of War with AoE formula. They were to scared so we got this.


Not really. Don’t you think that cavalry approaching a line of pikemen from the front should have a completely different result than from the flank or behind? Right now in AoE it’s all the same. It may be the case that for certain units the flanking itself is the bonus (e.g. archers can’t escape), but many medieval units were very directional.

Exactly. It’s like Apple not changing the overall iPhone design or Porsche not messing around with the 911. You risk scaring away your customer base, but you end up looking boring and iterative, not innovative.

For that reason an iPhone is always a good phone and a 911 a good sportscar. The formula just gets tweaked with each new version. The problem is that when you do this, nothing is memorable.

AoE IV is going to be a good game, but it won’t stand out and I think the infamous “council” is to blame for the most part.

No I don’t think the cavalry need the bonus there, I think its far better to leave it as it is - a default passive bonus from the system itself.
Sometimes flanking should be bad, cavalry charges on flanks were usually on routed positions, they didn’t actually magically stop spears from still being pointed at them from the sides, pike squares were a thing, and the sides of such spears were seconds away from changing the orientation of their spears, its not like the sides of pike squares didn’t see the cavalry coming, just like ingame - it takes a second for the AI to repath and hit the nearer cavalry unit anyway? Again it feels like its already strong enough / built in.

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If you want to play AoE II, then just play AoE II.

I’d like to have a few more formation options and things like weather effects. I love the dynamic roads, more of that would be awesome. But I don’t think we need most of these; complicating something for the sake of raising the skill level doesn’t make for a fun game. For example:

That’s too complicated. A couple archers can not just kill my bombard, but capture it? There’s no need to add a mechanic like that, and it easily snowballs.

I think one of the design choices in this game was to make losing engagements more survivable, and prevent too much snowballing. Yes, if you are going into a fortified position, you need siege - but frequently infantry can produce that themselves. I never felt like it was impossible to assault positions, but I also never felt like winning or losing a small skirmish meant I won the game. That’s a good balance, IMO. Same thing with this:

This just makes it significantly less likely to regroup some of your units and mount a defense. Again, snowballing.

Flanking is an interesting idea, though. I’m not sure how it would work when units are individual and not groups, however. Let’s say you have three spearmen fighting three other spearmen, and one of them is in a C shape pointing in three directions. Do the opposing spearmen get a flanking bonus if they are each fighting one unit, because they’re surrounded - even though all three are fighting one-on-one? How far away do they have to be? Or is this just if one unit is being attacked by multiple units… but that kind of already has a “built-in” bonus that the unit can only attack one at a time.


I agree that allowing siege weapons to be captured is too complicated, and would snowball. Personally I would absolutely hate that if it was in the game


Say you have a trebuchet manned by 3 operators, you lose 2 to enemy fire: you have time to make a decision and the option to “delete” the unit before it gets captured (think of soldiers dismantling it in the face of defeat). Also, if the enemy uses something like a cannon against your siege, the whole thing goes down, can’t capture it because it got obliterated. So in short there would be health bars for each of the operators and the siege unit itself.

Finally, think how this would really work: Your enemy has to decide which 3 units to “sacrifice” in order to capture the abandoned trebuchet. It may be more valuable for your enemy to keep those units in the battle. Not to mention that those 3 units would have to run to where the trebuchet is, which is very likely territory controlled by you (not an easy feat) and you likely moved that trebuchet close to the enemy base to attack it, so now the enemy has a trebuchet, yes, but it has to travel back across the map.

It’s really hard for that to snowball because in practice there are just a few instances in which it’s advantageous to take control of abandoned siege.

Let us see witch moment it is advantage to take over a trebuchet:

  • Use trebuchet to conter siege at base.
  • Use trebuchet to destroy enemy production buildings, close to your base.
  • Use trebuchet to break wall that protect a sacret site.
  • Reposition trebuchet at out-range of your base and set a trap when enemy come reclame it. :smiley:
  • Use trebuchet to destroy enemy keep rush, close to your base.
  • Use trebuchet to attack enemy main base.
  • Use trebuchet has a decoration of victory, outside, but in sigth, of enemy base.
  • Use trebucet to safe keep a secter, to conter enemy that start building buildings.
  • other stufs that i can’t think about at the moment.

Whait a second, the attacker become the attacked and financed a trebuchet to the enemy…

What horrible way to lose… and i don’t care.

Give enginear to the siege weapons, for more fun. -_-

master class? currently best modern RTS is COH2…

“Leaving graphics, sound and UI choices aside and just focusing on game mechanics”

You simple cannot leave those features aside…

What do you mean by “best”?

Age2:DE and SC2 have 3x the amount of players each.
Both games have less agressive micro transaction concepts.
Both games live in an older RTS style with basebuilding beeing a big part of the game, in which C&C and DoW have shown that this “no building, low macro, arcade bulky unit squads movement and capturing the map with them” is an overall less engaging concept where it’s hard to hold playerbases with.
Both games are way more consistent with balance while CoH2 is shaking up the balance table completely, just for the sake of changing it, every 6-9 months, which scares people off in settling on the game.

Ofc it all comes down to personal preference, so some point might be a pro rather than a con for you, but playernumbers are kind of disagreeing with your statement…


More players? so quantity is equal to quality? if that the case then fornite, Minecraft and dota will be the best games ever, or wow lol…

"arcade bulky unit squads movement and capturing the map with them”

jaja, coh arcade? coh has 4x more deep mechanics that any 1999 rts like age or sc.

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No, I was genuinly asking you, when you were saying that “one game is the best” which metrics you use to determin that.

Don’t do a switcheroo here, you were the one leaning out of thr window and making these claims.

I explicitely said that certain game designs seem to be more engaging than others, and while some points are more a pro than a con for some people, it seems to be that more people gravitate towards this and that design.

If you like CoH2, great man.
But saying that it’s the best modern RTS release is pretty yikers.

And yes, CoH has an arcadish approach to the scenario ofc.
Which doesn’t make it bad, just pointing that out now.
I prefered it way more over MaW in a longterm playing sense.
Alot of dicerolling with soft damage models and squads of units that are harder to lose than single units.
It is meant to be a depiction of a tabletop in realtime.

A more hardcore depiction of the scenario would be MaW.

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Well you can´t measure that, but I you want you can use press… you will see coh2 with 93,

I can give you at lest 20 reasons why coh is not arcadish in any game, but this forums is about age you already diverting the discussion, coh2 released almost 10 years ago and had 9k peak players per day, age2 DE released 1 year ago and has 18k peak players per day, do you think age2 will hold those 17k player base by 2024? don´t think so, is a old game with very old mechanics that just doesn´t fit in 2021
I am not going to keep the discussion on this here, I just want to point out that you don´t make a ¨revolutionary game using very old mechanics that at the time were design flaws like castles throwing arrows to other castles.

Nice switcheroo AGAIN.
You were the one bringing it up, asking questions about it and trying to “defend” or justify it.

If you like the game, all power to you, I was just saying that “this is the best modern RTS” is just a stupid claim to make, since there are multiple metrics.

What it always comes down to is your personal preference.
This was all I was saying, no matter how you try to twist it.