Mid/End Game, tenacious "getting the upper hand". Can AoE4 fix it?

Mid/End Game, tenacious “getting the upper hand”. Can AoE4 fix it?

This is my Part 2 Analysis of the mayor Fundamental issue RTS did develop over the years:

We have seen a lot of changes in the gaming world,
by RTS case something went very wrong and did transit into so many games.
Tenacious, generic, & choiceless outcome basically by each game and match.
We have seen all RTS teams to come up with concepts nobody was asking for
and people were very clearly not supporting it at all.

Driven by analysts to reach a huge playerbase, some kind of dogma did establish itself.
Of easy, simplified, casual mass audience, for kids, accessible concepts.
But does it apply to RTS genre at all? The more simple the game is, the more repetitive it gets.

I find there is a very weird development double standard,
while dark souls like games have to be difficult and hard, why is for RTS said the opposite?

Problem is a game has still to be fun and appealing, for a complex game you require certain degree of depth and variety. RTS game is a learning experience. You learn and adapt to what you need to overcome. So accomplish your knowledge should be a satisfying experience. The difficulty of the RTS did became a genre trademark and was what helped make it so famous and successful.

Why is the RTS genre stuck in the past? Its no secret people prefer older games,
depth and variety did come from Efficient base build and many other mechanics,
that we do not see in modern games.

here as example for a big contrast for classic vs modern RTS,
like Dune 2000 vs Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
please check the picture.

Its not like abomination of Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight of 2010 emerged and disappeared.
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak 2016 and Warhammer 40.000: Dawn of War 3 in year 2017 have been basically designed in same way as C&C4TT.

Is AoE4 probably going to be just another generic football field/Arena? That’s how things were running in last 10 maybe even 15 years and developers/publishers still seem to be completely unaware of it.

With proper tools to “get the upper hand”,
you could win faster to move to next game to be still entertained,
instead developers kind of are giving people who are bad at games,
tools to play longer, making games during the process very lame and boring for everybody.

The genre is heading already for so many years very wrong, while it was achieved to make RTS more accessible, it does take the entire fun out of it. I just don’t know how current team is supposed to make there 180-degree turn and take a step in right direction.


Some game genres die,Some game genres live
Adventure is died years ago
RTS?It is on the way to death

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EA,Blizzard,Microsoft.They abondoned RTS years ago.
Now,MS returned.But i don’t sure aoe4 going to be a good rts

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It’s not a thing of genre, it’s a thing of game to be appealing to people. This aiming for “large demographics” rather produces games with no actual foundation to have a fan base in the first place.
A game for everybody, is a game for nobody.

Adventure games are right now more alive than ever.

Night in the Woods, Thimbleweed Park, Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka with Love, Disco Elysium, Beautiful Desolation, The Walking Dead: The Final Season

I see rather a problem how they do design games “as big companies” for example recent huge mega flop Crucible, from Amazon’s Big-Budget.

So we had for 300 million Dollars, where 250 people were working 4 years, a game similar to popular hero shooters like overwatch, that did flop just 1 week after its release.
Generic lame game, You don’t even have basic features like type text and speak with team-mates.

Besides, speaking of Blizzard it’s a prime example how “big corporation mentality we have to reach wide audience”, does corrupt the very soul of game development.

Just compare Diablo 1 and 2 vs 3 and 4. In Diablo 1 and 2 you can die, it does keep the game intense as there is a real danger out there, by 3 oh boy its so lame to slaughter masses of low stats creatures.

And just check failed Blizzard MOBA, people were telling from start that focus on casual players is a bad idea.

Why are big companies not able to understand “we have to reach wide audience” is a bad thing for games? Especially financial, that is not going to be a profitable thing in the long run.


Very good thread.
this is why i think we need Dev blog for AOE4 with update frequently, to push the dev in one or other direction


there are things that sound good, but are very bad in their final execution.

What makes situation even worse, big companies tend to think advertise lame generic games for E-sports Market to be the right approach. We require here long term tests of the actual gameplay.

Even there, I somehow did not see RTS teams to actually approach design mistakes, no matter how fundamental they were.

Modern RTS do fail on very fundamental level

-1- if game is about building base, hiring units and harvesting resources, there should be enough space to build your objects and resources to build and hire what you require.
How are you even supposed to enjoy a game, that doesn’t provide you with enough tools to play it?
Modern games do fail there very hardcore.

-2- They try to compensate it with some weird generic gain points in time system, but you get bored way ahead before the game is over. Because units are bad and lame, and you need too much time to prepare them.

And I am very against it, in classic concept if you are way better, you can simply stomp your enemy, without to be bored, modern games drag you way to long into playing something, actually simply waste time with something that is a clear win or lose.

I had even worse situations, where you are finally had reached mid game against worthy opponent, enjoying the game very much, but its abrupt over due to this weird timers/points.

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Somehow modern day RTS are simply less appealing than the older games. A good example would be Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-Earth from 2006 vs 12 years later Ancestors Legacy from 2018.

Just look how classic fast hiring large armies to crush your enemy,
did evolve into this lame and generic handful of units to fight over points.

Both games are played by experienced players, still classic needs only half the time and is light years ahead more complex than the modern day version and is much more fun.

Dragging RTS into more simple and accessible concepts did clearly not bring in the wished popularity, but is it even possible in a big company to defile the dogma ?
My main concern with AoE4, the team of today might not have the guts to make RTS complex enough.


I worry about this “Generally speaking, the longer a genre exists, the games that are responsible for taking it forward tend to make it more complicated. With Age of Empires 4, it was important for us to be like, ‘okay, how do we back away from that?’. We do not want to take on all of the complexity that we see in RTS games today,” he said. “This is a fresh start for us. We want to modernize the series and that means we are going to do things differently.”


That is a promising statement. One of the several hopeful signs that have been made known so far.

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I don’t know.

That sounds more like “let’s dumb the whole game down to make it more appealing to a bigger audience” which leads generally to at best mediocre games.


Big question:
Did he say it to please the Investors? Or does he really mean it?
The RTS of today are not complex, they are dumbed-down.

I think that’s a bad sign.
Let’s be realistic what going to happen if AoE4 will be generic due to it?
It will flop. Like recent Crucible and many other such soulless games.

Gigantic, Artifact, Battleborn, Splitgate Arena, Darwin Project, Isles of Nyne, Lawbreakers, Paragon, Realm Royale, Evolve, Radical Heights, Quake Champions, Gotham City Imposters, Brink, Tribes, Day of Defeat, Robocraft Arena, Guardians of Middle-earth, End of Nations and so many more.

Does AoE4 really have to be another one of those?

I would like to remind how people reacted to Diablo immortal.
And they linked to it a very great quote from Steve Jobs.


What’s troubling for one can be hopeful for another.

It is probably only a good thing that there are no dev blogs or periodic updates like some wished for, to, I quote: “push directions” on the dev team.
Even by quoting these words, I can already imagine how this would end up. Having a vocal and often angry minority twisting the image of what players would actually want or expect from a new game.

Such practices are usually reserved for smaller studios, indie games that are in real need of feedback, or quite different type of franchises, of which their communities seem to have some kind of homogeneity.

Aoe’s playerbase is already a very diverse one, different players want different things, and on top of that it was put to sleep for quite some time. What’s your measurement of success? 15-20 years old games? I doubt that is a good measurement at all.

I do not see how reaching a wider audience than just those old hardcore fans is a bad thing. I can understand that you do not wish for something generic but I do not think that’s what has been made known so far.
On the contrary, the designers’ seem to be both knowledgeable and ambitious enough to have the bar set even higher than your expectation of simply having a good game that will resemble the old ones.

Dumping down the game? That depends on what you mean. Some folks already consider AoE3 to be dumped down, which is not. The same folks are also putting AoEO out of the equation completely. So what’s left? 99’s AoE2?
Even AoE2’s DE version made efforts to reach this wider audience with qol features. Would you consider auto-reseeding farms or auto scouts as features that dump down the gameplay as well?
To me, this is just unnecessary and outdated complexity that’s been addressed.


For the moment we are only guessing. Shouldn’t we wait for more information?
It is true that a development blog could be a plus, however the developers are often very active on the current forum. I don’t think they would risk developing something that they couldn’t please. The only viable rts, except aoe 2 DE, are sc2 and wc3 (in my opinion) but they are old.

In addition, some people seem to say that rts are going to disappear, yet the demand is still high, and many players are waiting for Aoe IV to come out to start playing again! The game must just be competitive and allow esport competitions like we can see with aoe 2 DE. This is the reason for the success of real-time strategy games today. However, the game should not be too easy either, there must be complex mechanics to attract the “pro”

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not at all, they did it for Starcraft2 then they make Open beta for a year

E-Sport suitability doesn’t make good games. Just look at Grey Good or Dawn of War 3 which failed horribly.

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Yes it’s true I agree with you, but the game still needs esport support to preserve a massive community. Of course the game does not have to be designed for esports only, but it is important. I actually hope that the developers will not repeat the same errors as dawn of war 3 which you mentioned :smile:


While the demand for RTS is still high, they’re still going to disappear because developer teams are enforced creation of unrealistic and unprofitable concepts, resulting in very bad games.

But how are developers supposed to make a proper game, if they are forced to make same mistakes and flaws like by Dawn of War 3?

Em, we have seen their last games and we have the interviews.

AL: Is it tough to create a game that is accessible to new players, but still contains deep systems that will hold the interest of returning fans?

PB: It’s a challenge, but it’s one of those fun challenges of game design. In the case of strategy games fans know good ones because they have deep systems and lots to explore which makes the challenge of making a game accessible without dumbing it down.

Considering how big DOW3 did flop.
Why do they come again with similar sounding interviews and concept?
I am just asking it, do they really still think that’s a good approach for a game?

Let me simply quote this interview from glassdoor of one person who works there.

Employee Review
“One bad game away from the studio shutting down”
Advice to Management
The Game Side

The RTS and Strategy genre is pretty much dead and unprofitable outside of a few titles like Total War and Starcraft. As a studio we need to evolve or die and unfortunately we haven’t chosen to really evolve and make games that people want to play in this current market. We should take a very serious look at what the landscape for RTS and Strategy games are and assess if we have the right people and technology to create hit games.
The People Side

I think the biggest issue with our current leadership team is that we may have the wrong people in key decision making roles when it comes to the game’s direction. We don’t understand what gamers want and end-up over-analyzing what we think they want. There’s no culture or support for speaking-up as a couple of people on a team will make decisions that everyone has to follow. This has led to a culture of distrust and apathy.


  • Don’t do these post-mortems and bring in experts if there’s never going to be a proper follow-up or attempt to change and improve things. It frustrates the team when we do this big show around self-review and wanting to change and then never doing anything afterward. It’s good to see that we’re aware that there are problems that need fixing, but it’s a real downer to see that we don’t follow through at all with improving things.
  • We need to look at a different system of developing games where the balance of power and decision making isn’t placed on a couple of people who ignore team feedback and lead us down the wrong path. It caused a critical failure with Dawn of War 3 and it’s now causing our next big game to be an epic failure as well because the team’s opinions simply don’t matter. It’s insane that a couple of team members decide the entire direction of the game without any real effort to get input and buy-in from the team. This approach could work if we had the right visionary type people, but we don’t - instead we have design leadership who are invisible, out-of-touch or who are extremely difficult to work with due to their arrogance and bully-like approach.

The Bottom Line

A lot of us love working at Relic and working with each other. But we’re all honestly saddened by the direction the studio has taken over the past few years. It’s clear we lack an identity, a positive culture and the right leadership to inspire and guide us forward. There is a heavy feeling in the studio that if and when our next big game releases and is a flop then it’s game over for Relic. We’re not going to get a 2nd or 3rd chance especially after the Dawn of War 3 fiasco. Talk to your people and really dig-in to what worries them and keeps them up at night. There will be a common concern that we simply aren’t equipped with the right leadership to lead us to success.

For over 15 years different RTS teams tried to reduce complexity and make games more accessible, which resulted there is only 1 team left and that’s the last chance we have.

Each RTS community did disapprove this ongoing situation
-The C&C Community did disapprove Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight
-The Rise of Nations Community did disapprove Rise of Legends “game from MS by the way”
-The Relic Community did disapprove Dawn of War 3

So why is MS approaching AoE4 in same way?
That’s how it sounds based on the info we have from MS.


If this guy really was talking about AOE4, it’s worrying to say the least.

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Most of those games failed because they were clones of popular(“good”) games without any good own ideas. They flopped because there were already games which were better in every aspect.

AoE4 is a sequel in an already well established franchise in a niche-market without real competition, it doesn´t need to invent a formula - it just need to build upon. AoE4 wont reinvent the wheel it tries to improve it.

The demand for a good RTS may be high, however the market and the community is rather small compared to other genres.
And in a small market the RTS-devs have to fight for every customer, so therefore the devs try to stand out with their games by making them different compared to any competitors game.

You think people force the devs to make a bad game? And again DoW is not AoE.

Im sure they try to learn from their mistakes :slight_smile:

Well when was the last AAA or even AA RTS game made that is somehow similar to AoE? I have nothing against indie-games but they don´t have that much of a budget to add too much complexity(more complex game -> more dev-time -> in case of a flop -> high risk).
I don´t think that microsoft wanna revive the franchise and let it flop immediately with the next sequel. They know what people like/dislike about the franchise and wont take too much risk by shaking up the formula too much.

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Let me quote this.

says Isgreen. " But it’s funny, because Relic was, in some ways, more conservative than us [at World’s Edge] at times. They were like, ‘But this is different than what has been done in Age of Empires before!’ and we were like, 'It’s cool, it’s cool. We’re going to do it…"

And by now there is no other game official developed by Relic.

It’s a very big hint, MS might again like by Rise of Legends and Age of Empires Online not listen to own developer, community and the actual market situation.

We have seen a dozen of AAA and AA RTS games that failed.

Check maybe those projects from MS like Rise of Legends and Age of Empires Online,
From Isgreen, Universe at War: Earth Assault.
And other former big RTS IPs, that were killed with C&C4, Dawn of War 3 and Empire Earth 3.

Let me tell you the tragedy by Rise of Nations:

Microsofts Rise of Legends flopped 2006, 3 years before MOBAs did exist “Dota 2 was released 2013, League of Legends 2009”. At times as RTS games were at their prime time, where C&C and Dawn of War were selling millions of copies. Rise of Legends was AAA projects from an experienced and talented “Big Huge Games”

While Rise of Nations was a very successful game similar to AOE, that sold for over million copies.
After Rise of Legends flopped, MS refused to finance Rise of Nations 2.
Microsoft then cancelled the contract to develop Rise of Nations 2.

Rise of Legends was a game about less complexity than its predecessor, different unique faction, modernized gameplay and made things differently, to approach the wider audience. Which was very cartoony and generic, copied and pasted gameplay elements from Warcraft 3, like just 2 resources and 3 heroes. A game about expansions and take down one location on the map, the capitol.

just compare how it looks to AoE4

What happens if we take out complexity of the game? We take out the very core of the thrill experience that comes along the challenge. If we make it cartoony, it becomes less serious, we take out the Immersion from the game. Both makes the stakes meaningless.
If game is meaningless, people don’t want to pay for it.
For a very odd reason, a lot gaming companies, do not realize it.

What happened by RTS genre,

  • we have infos that sound clearly bad, but its told wait till beta.
    we have beta that is clearly bad, but its told wait till release.
    we have release that is clearly bad, but its told wait till patch.
    we have patch that is clearly not solving anything, but its told wait till rework.
    we have rework that does not make game any better, but its told wait till next game

Problem is, we reached a point, where no other Studio, will have a chance to make AAA RTS, but it seems like they are enforced to repeat same mistakes. Maybe they should intervene, before it ends in another and final flop?