Every new civ that the DE team has come out with has been pretty stupidly OP. USA was OP for the least amount of time, but on release it absolutely had some overtuned things like state militia, which got fixed. Inca was also fixed relatively quickly by nerfing the age 3 light cannons, and Swede probably stayed OP for the longest. Hausa and Ethiopia were disgustingly op on release, and still remain pretty OP.
This pattern seems to suggest that this is an intentional strategy by the devs to create hype by allowing new players to experience winning in multiplayer more, by getting to use extremely overtuned civs that just decimate everyone else.
In this post I want to suggest that this approach gets player psychology totally backward. If you want to create lasting investment in playing aoe3 multiplayer, create an underpowered civ. Here’s some reasons why:
Underpowered civs require players to spend lots of time workshopping and fine tuning very specific build orders. This encourages players to thoroughly explore all aspects of the civ, unlike OP civs where you can do very simple and straightforward build orders that use only 20% of the civ’s units and cards to win. This will create more investment into the civ and identification with it, basically based on the psychology of sunken cost. It will also produce more interesting strategies.
Players love to feel special by being “that guy” who plays the underpowered civ and still wins. It feels great to win with an underpowered civ by using its assets in clever ways. There are a handful of players at every ELO bracket who take great pride in being someone who plays weaker civs like Aztecs or Russia (before they were buffed). Back in the day when Ports and Dutch and China were considered weaker, it was the same story. It brings you a certain amount of notoriety to play a weaker or lesser-known civ and still dominate players who main the big civs like Brits or Germans. It’s telling that currently, the most played new DE civ is probably USA, because it’s the quirkiest, and its seen as sort of mid-tier and certainly not OP. I dont have data for that but its my sense.
OP civs create a culture of scorn around them. Everyone flamed the guy back in the day who used to spam instant cuirassiers or who did the Iro BB rush. Everyone flamed the pre-nerf Svea Lifeguard Caroleans. Everyone flames the Port water boomers and the Hausa rushers. It’s no fun for anyone-- the people who lose to OP civs, and the people who lame them for a cheap thrill. It doesn’t encourage a supportive multiplayer community.
People just get really attached to their underpowered civs. I swear the people with the biggest civ loyalty are weirdos who only play Aztec or Russia or things like that.
In summary, people just see OP civs as tools for climbing the ladder. Whereas underpowered civs create greater player investment in, and identification with, the civ itself.
So maybe take this as a suggestion, if any devs are reading this who are working on the next civ. Give it a shot, make the civ underpowered! I think you won’t regret it.