Interesting Handicaps

Most RTS have an option called “Handicap” that can be set for each player.
This is normally a positive of negative modifier to the resource production, training time and some other variables in the game. It is there so you can balance lobbies with players of varying skill levels.

But this setting just doesn’t feel fun. If you give a noob more resources they don’t learn how to play the game correctly and giving a good player less resources makes the game feel slow and annoying to play.

AoE4 should have more interesting Handicap options.
Different Bonuses or debuffs that can be chosen and not just a flat percentage value on everything.

Some ideas:

  • Only increasing/decreasing the cost of certain things like Age Up or Technologies
  • Disabling some units (like remove unique units)
  • Only increasing/decreasing the collection rate of some resources like Gold or Stone
  • Always building two instead of one unit at the a time for the same price (only of military units or only for villagers)
  • Small resource trickle that increases every time you Age up
  • The price of villagers increases by n% for every villager build
  • You have to pay n% “taxes” on the resources in your stockpile every minute.
  • Landmarks don’t give a bonus anymore
  • Villagers have more HP/Attack

But those modifiers could be funny ones too that can help or harm a player

For example:

  • Some units explode when they die
  • Some units have a limited lifetime
  • A random unit dies every n seconds (interval gets smaller over time/on age up)
  • A random building starts burning every n seconds
  • Every time you build a villager there is a chance you get a random military unit
  • The price of every unit changes randomly (by +/- n%) every time you build one

One idea is that you have to complete achievements to unlock the more exotic handicaps.

Removing mechanics from the game (like unique units, buildings etc) will also not encourage the noob player to learn the game properly and he will not even see things and tactics that might be very relevant and straight forward in the normal gameplay.

One of the best handicap methods that have been implemented is a direct boost (or direct minus) on the % of a players units health. This way all the basic concepts of the game work. But, the handicap balances a players shortcomings in every mechanic by making the units fight ability better (which is the ultimate goal of all RTS mechanics). So for example, if you are bad in economy compared to your opponent, your units are stronger so less of them make up the difference. If you are bad at micro, same things happens… in any kind of different skill or mechanic , since the ultimate goal is to take advantage in a fight and kill units and villagers and buildings, your extra hit points help you offset the disadvantage while at the same time rewarding you and your opponent for all kinds of skills and tricks the normal gameplay has. Important thing: the buff is only on the health. So every other mechanic (dps, armor etc) works the same

My point was that there should be more options for handicaps and not just one.
So you can play with different types of handicaps in each match.
Even good players can use that to spice up the game when playing against other equally good players by deciding to both play with the same handicap.

Maybe a random, but the same for everyone, handicap/modifier mode could be a fun option.