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

I would say modern day AAA games do suffer from same issues as modern day Blockbuster movies.

A blockbuster is a work of entertainment—typically used to describe a feature film, but also other media—that is highly popular and financially successful. The term has also come to refer to any large-budget production intended for “blockbuster” status, aimed at mass markets with associated merchandising, sometimes on a scale that meant the financial fortunes of a film studio or a distributor could depend on it.

This video here does pretty well explain the big picture of the issue we see.

High budget games for mass market tend to be generic. Just because you can play the game, does not mean you have fun doing so. As it comes to successful games, they are not created by making them “accessible”, those dull and boring. But by be the genre definition.

Take as example RTS vs RPGs, what game is today the genre definition? Sure for old days you can say Starcraft and Diablo, for modern day RPG you can say Skyrim or Witcher 3, but for RTS such counterpart doesn’t exist. There were a lot RTS games for big AAA and AA budget, but non of them can be called genre definition.

And its clear, if a game is already by merits of own genre a flaw,
why should people from other genres show interest to try it out?
That’s why something like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed draw so large numbers,
because they are genre definition games.

As it comes to AoE4, the big question is, what does the Publisher want to achieve?
Do they want to be like Disney with The Lone Ranger, John Carter, Star Wars Rise of Skywalker?

We have seen by each team entire make RTS “accessible” does backfire, as it makes game boring.

If we want a successful RTS, AoE4 has to become the genre definition.
If people ask what is RTS, the answer should not be look for something made over 20 years ago.

So how can we achieve to make AoE4 the genre definition for RTS games? It’s clearly has to appeal to people who play RTS games and most importantly the pace has to keep peoples attention to the entire game.


Honestly when it comes to modern RTS i would be fine with one designed in the same style of AoE2, just maybe give us more workers to jump start the start a little bit.

sort of like Empires Wars does, just not as extreme.


Base build is not improved by skipping and simplify it. A professional team would actually do quite the opposite like we did see by Starcraft2 and C&C Tiberium Wars 3. By speed it up and introduce more tech and buildings.

How do people win an RTS game?
By 1 produce more or 2 command better, so those both attributes have to be buffed.

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That’s why we got Ottomans in AoE 3,
a lazyman’s dream


But AoE3 does rather do the opposite, especially the Ottomans.
Its very boring to have no variety and be stuck at same locations

You are forced to take key points, which completely removes any proper planning and manoeuvres.
You can no longer win by world wonder. You have quite repetitive transit into second infinite economy. And the entire game is lame spam to middle 2 or 3 unit types. You spam soldier, horse and cannon and they have to take the resource making outpost in the middle, that’s it. You feel extremely stuck, compared to AoE2.

Problem is, the entire counter-chart is quite limited.
It’s basically 7 roles executed by different units, that don’t really have a difference.

By AoE2 its much more complex.

The more complex the counter system is, the more units are left after an encounter.
The easier you get the upper hand in the game.


i’m not saying start with more buildings, just starting with more workers. say 6 or 9 instead of 3.

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But Starcraft 2 does start with 12 and that game is already 10 years old.

I see here 2 big problems, “each team encountered”
-variant 1 they pull off something that is going to feel outdated or
-variant 2 they make something with random changes, that feels odd and bad
and by the way, they start listen to casuals and do make it even more simple and generic.

What I do miss, they don’t have proper rules how to approach a new RTS. Like old Blizzard.
-1 do not listen to casuals, that’s a strategy game it has to be hard
-2 do not nerf and debuff gameplay
-3 look into a fluent pace, get rid of things that feel klanky
-4 game must have clear concept how to counter each build
-5 game has to provide player with enough tools to overwhelm his opponent

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ok here some suggestions.

-first off, I find it weird that by select the worker you can’t directly select the building you want to buy
buildings are separated in 2 different categories, you have to select first the category civil or military, than the building that feels quite klanky
I know 30 years ago monitors were very small, but 3 decades later its really no longer necessary

-why are workers drop off resources if you assign them to harvest something else ?
like they harvest stone and you let them harvest wood, I think that can be changed that if they already have 5 wood, they harvest 5 stone and deliver all together and don’t simply drop 5 wood.

Already there it could feel like a massive improvement.

-Secondly I find it odd that you start so minimalistic,
------Why can’t Town Center be mobile for the first age ? Like Mobile construction vehicles till you find proper place to place your settlement. And after deployment + advance to next age it does stay.
------by the way why not start also with “mobile” Mill, till its deployed.
------ And 2 camps where you can drop of resources once they are deployed too. They are anyway making such mechanic for mongols, so why not for other factions in their first age?
Alongside lest say 16 workers, sure it sounds like many first, but you have to harvest 4 different types of resources. Its just 4 for each.

I think for modern game you need a slider how many workers should be there at start

but still its only buffing the early game, we require proper mechanics for mid and end game.

Why don’t Villagers level up ? Like villager gets XP for working for 5 levels, each level makes them work after 1 min +5% better. This would make kill enemy experienced villagers and keep own alive much more rewarding.
I find n general it quite odd why units dont level up, in so many RTS games,
it’s a good skill mechanic to gain upper hand in a match.

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There is a third:
To outperform your opponent through ploys & plays.
Each player has access to x amount of time to manage their civ.
By down-sizing, and auto-managing certain pieces you forsake some booming potential for ploys and plays.
It doesnt mean better at micro-managing.
This is one reason behind why Ottoman can gain victories despite being sub-par in certain other fields in AoE 3.

I am poorly trying to say diversity between civs is/can be good.

  1. Would you forsake settler training speed, starting units, starting units HP, or first age-up politician to begin with a mobile/redeployable TC ?
  2. Would you wish to forsake +33% of a mill’s cost on uprooting so it can be placed anew elsewhere?
  3. Drop off-camps that can be ‘uprooted’ for 33% of base cost, to be repositioned. Do you believe this to be useful ?
    Why not more workers?
    If starting in ‘nomad’ age; a player trying to reposition their TC will get severely behind the more settlers a TC summons on construction.
    From my understanding, the optimal yield for colonialisation is about the same cost of base as total cost of starting workers/settlers (ex 600 for base, 6 x 100 for settlers).

Do you think the first minutes are ‘wasted’ or ‘tranquil’ in the game ?
Personally I like how slow everything is at first.

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  1. Casuals are at least 90% of the community.
    “that’s a strategy game it has to be hard” is like saying dark souls is only “hard”(which is wrong on so many levels)
    Easy to learn, hard to master. -> Thats the right approach.

  2. So lets keep unbalanced things unbalanced ?

  3. This is quite subjective. Do you think that the gathering system in age2 is more clunky than age 3 or would you say its more complex? Some would say its more complex, some would say its unnecessary clunky.

  4. Balancing. -> Nerfs + Buffs + Patches

  5. Yes, but the game has to provide enough tools for a come-back as well. It also has to provide tools for different playstyles in such a way that multiple styles are viable. The game should provide tools so that the better player with better decision wins.

I like this system more than having a seperate hotkey for each building. It has to do with the amount of available buildings. Hotkeys should be easy accessible with your keyboard-hand and you dont want to move your hand unnecessary distances(speed and therefore tempo-loss), so they decided to reuse hotkeys by grouping buildings into categories.

Fair point. Maybe to punish wrong macro decisions or maybe because the implementation would be very confusing or the whole implementation of different economy buildings for wood/food/stone would be unnecessary.

Example: Vill gathers 3 food, moves to trees gathers 3 stone and moves to wood and gather 4 wood without putting any resources back.
Where is the vill allowed to put resources back and how many?
a) Only TC (and all)
b) TC, lumbercamp, mill, mining camp (all or only the right type of resources???)
Case a -> You would block carrying-amount for your vill until he drops resources on TC or you only build TCs.
Case b -> The whole resource-mechaninc and its different eco-buildings is unnecessary.

I guess its clear why they implemented it the way it is.

  1. Nobody would use this option - you lose uptime for villager creation.
  2. Adapting to a given map is a key skill to learn.

Why dont start with a (mobile) [insert any building here]? Because the devs want you to start only with TC in standard game mode. Its their vision for this game. I dont expect that AoE4 will start with more than a TC.(in competitve/ranked mode, for other modes -> e.g. empire wars)

This is my opinion on this, i know that there are a lot of people that´d like to have more vills starting.

For me AoE is about building an empire from ground up. Of course the devs could change starting vills/resource-numbers but they intented to choose not. Also vill-differences between players is more impactful if the number of vills is lower.
Compare the following 2 scenarios:
You are 2 vills behind with 10 vills vs enemy’s 12 vills.
You are 2 vills behind with 100 vills vs enemy’s 102 vills-

Losing a villager early or macro them to different resources is way more impactful if you start with a lower number than a higher number.

Assuming AoE4 is similar to AoE2 depending on building costs -> Why would you need stone/gold in Dark Age or stone in Feudal?

For different game modes/unranked fun games: Ok.
For competitive/ranked: No. Imagine playing the same civ on the same map and the starting-villager-coun) is one time 5 and one time 50. And then building a elo-ladder on top of it and comparing players. How should that work, or how do you measure improvement is a player’s skill.

Unit level or upgrades, but please not both. They are 2 mechanics to achive the same thing(make units stronger) with different approaches. AoE uses upgrades so therefore no unit levels.

Also you would punish players even more for losing vills in the later stages of the game.

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What RTS do people play these days? As we can see by recent big launch of C&C Remastered, StarCraft Remastered and AoE2 Definitive Edition, people do clearly prefer those old “hard” games.

This “casual friendly” approach is the reason why RTS is dead today.
Just as example Universe at War: Earth Assault from Adam Isgreen
Creative Director Petroglyph Games, who is right now in charge of AoE4.

So why did this game flop so hard, that it was removed from steam?
It’s clearly developers did put there a lot of money, thoughts and work into the product,
problem is due to the dogma, it was simply lame.-

In the end it was just buy 7 workers, 3 large stomping walkers and 40 units, and you pushed your blob slowly to other site of the map. The game was limited to have around 50 or 60 units. With zero variety and depth, as you either let all units attack one big unit, or let the big unit stomp enemy base. Yes there are ideas, with teleportation, walking bases, unit abilities, powerful heroes, for a casual friendly slow paced concept. But what is the point if people simply don’t play such games?

I think it’s quite clear why those "modern day "casual friendly RTS do die off online so fast, people simply can’t outperform each other, especially for casual it’s lamer to play a casual friendly RTS.
In a casual friendly RTS game, it’s simply a staring contest for casuals if they play vs each other.
You are ending quite a lot in situations where the game is very slow till stuck on its design, because due to casual friendly dogma, there are simply no mechanics to properly end a match.

To outperform in C&C you would use your tanks, in Starcraft any unit, in AoE2 your base build.
Modern day games do have non of it. We can pick up there any modern day game and see exactly same issues to come up, lack of outperforming. We did end up there each time with quite awful games.

That’s why I do think to nerf AoE2 gameplay for AoE4 would be a big mistake.


I´m having troubles to even find any similarities from this game compared to AoE.

Personally i find it very difficult to compare RTS-games with such different time-settings. The middle-ages are well documented and you have clear references to build a game upon. Its not sci-fi.

I wouldnt call C&C Remastered or StarCraft Remasered a “big launch”. How many new players does any of those 2 attract? AoE2 DE is doing good tho, because its just incredible timeless and really well done. Also the competitve scene is quite alive and microsoft is pushing the franchise(e.g. sponsoring tournaments, patches,…). They want to attract players for AoE4.
Do you expect a new StarCraft or C&C game in the next years? I wont.

People prefer those games because they played them when they were younger and now they can experience their beloved games with updated graphics/gameplay. And yes, all those games are good, but they came from a time when RTS games were AAA/AA and a major player in the gaming market. Those times are long over.

And as already mentioned, there is not much to choose(good games) from besides the mentioned titles. There are no AAA titles in RTS since years, most titles you post are maybe A-Titles at best. Even AoE4 wont be AAA. Dont expect that a indie studio with a new RTS-IP can match an already existing franchise with clear root that is well established like AoE.

The market is casual and always be casual. The majority of all games are casual friendly, devs would be stupid to gatekeep most of their audience.

Because all “modern RTS games” came from indie-devs making their 1st RTS game(a new IP).
Compare RTS to MMORPG. 100’s of trash MMO from no-name-studios and maybe 2-3 good MMO’s every 5(or better make it 10) years. Gaming market is simply shifting.


First of all, maybe we should clarify some questions

Does casual market apply to RTS?
Already here it is a clear no, casuals are not going to play an RTS. Casual are going to play something like fruit ninja where you cut vegetables with fingers on phone, but not a game that requires skill.
Already there this entire idea is very wrong to begin with, for a strategy game.

Did ever a market for casual RTS exist?
We have seen a lot of RTS by now, but non of them is played by casuals. And I don’t think somebody who does play call of duty or assassin creed, will suddenly say, yes I need to play now a strategy game.
there is no current market for it, and wont be in the future.

I know very well the arguments for mass market,
they just don’t apply to the genre of RTS games.

What market did exist for RTS can can be established today or in near future?
I know considering how bad RTS are performing, that must sound devastating for people who plan to make an RTS, but there is a very big market, they do for very odd reason completely avoid for years:
professional gamers
lets be clear, RTS used to be market for professional players,
just looks how good next relatives to Realtime are doing like turn based and 4X Grand Strategy.

Why can’t Age of Empires 4 be a mega hit by be complex like Stellaris, Hearts of Iron or Age of Wonders Planetfall?

Stellaris and Hearts of Iron IV sold for millions and are selling for over 100 dollars different DLCs
And has on steam like 70.000 or 80.000 positive reviews.

Why can’t a real time strategy games have such success?
Maybe because RTS are made these days too simple for the professional games market?

Why should people buy another simple generic RTS?
They don’t have to, there are already too many such flops out.

Year of Rain, War Party, BANNERMEN, Re-Legion, Empires Apart,Ancestors Legacy, Sudden Strike 4, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III , Act of Aggression, Grey Goo, Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight, Empire Earth III, Age of Empires Online, Universe at War: Earth Assault.

RTS from last 15 years, do suffer from a very clear issue, they are generic and boring.

Is Age of Empires 4 going to be just another generic, simple and boring RTS?

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The concept in AoE3 with the ‘unknown’ map by Rikidimaru (forgive me if I misspell), is an approach I think could be explored as an ever-altered scene with almost endless variables, which could place any RTS manager/gamer into a different setting each time.
Each new game could therefor provide new experiences to grow from, each game.
Yes, each game.


There’s a LOT of casual players in the RTS genre. Forged Alliance Forever, Zero K, AoE 3, AoE 2, Starcraft 2 all have a substantial number of more casual players. Between singleplayer, campaigns, coop, arcade modes etc etc, competitive multiplayer is always far less common than casual gaming is. Saying there isn’t a casual market for RTS is just wrong.

I think that there are a lot of different factors that go into a game making it big other than pure gameplay considerations. Visibility, setting, the coordination for E-sports and money for tournaments can all have big impacts, to name a few. Few pros liked SC2 more than BW when it came out but they played it anyway because blizzard threw so much money at it and forced the E-sports angle. To be bigger than AoE 2 and draw a more hardcore crowd you probably need to have a game with some E-sports appeal.

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I think random maps , where the scene and ways alter would provide good variety.

But does it still apply for year 2020?

So how is the fail of Crucible to explain? The big AAA game from Amazon. Over 250 man team “included some developers from Blizzard”, 300 Million Dollar Budget, 4+ years development, less than 300 people online after not even a month. Crucible is this casual game for a popular genre with E-sports appeal. Maybe that’s not what people want to pay for, at least in year 2020?

Maybe RTS are just not longer in touché with the current player base?
If this “concept” was true, than millions of people should had buy Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight, with E-Sports translations, twitch streams, big YouTubers play it. For some very odd reason Relic basically did copy paste it with Dawn of War 3, with same flopped result.

As I did chat with dozens of my friends who still play C&C, Age of Empires, Dawn of War and Total Annihilation, everybody has a bad feeling what is going to happen to Age of Empires 4. Problem is, years of development, huge team and budget, massive advertisement appeal to casual and e-sports market, do not make a game successful, if the game in the end has no player base for it. The concept they did try to create, did lead so far to mediocre and too simplistic games.

If they have in mind a “casual appealing game”, who is supposed to buy a simplified and dumbed down version of AoE2? They all fail with this concept for over 15 years.

What I was saying was, there are things other than just gameplay to consider. A casualish game designed for e-sports makes zero sense btw, that should seem stupid on its face to everybody. Having good and fun basic gameplay is a must. If a game fails at that first step you can’t use it to judge anything else by.

Zero-K is going to be my example of an amazing game with little reason that it’s as unpopular as it is. It is a Spring game that deviated away from the TA units, does away with factions and separates all the units by factories. It has insane micro potential (a few SC2 pros are in the top 10 of the ladder and say it’s much harder than SC2), amazing tools for performing unit tasks of all kinds, a steam release, is free, has very satisfying weaponry etc and I’ve never seen more than 300ish people online at once. And the most popular game mode is a big, 32 person team game.

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Em, Zero-K is a 9 years old no-name indie free multi-platform open source game, a clunky game some kids did do in their free time. That’s clearly not type of project that can pull genre back together. OK maybe over 9 years it got better, but last time I checked 8 years ago it was barely playable.

Problem is it’s exactly what they are doing and AoE4 shows right now same symptoms.

In big brands and franchises where jobs and a lot of money are on the line, it does happen a lot that very bad decisions are done. Maybe pick as example something where its easy to explain. Like Star Wars, what they did to Luke Skywalker, the brands face. They basically did pick the most famous character and removed any kind of dignity and completely humiliate him. I think this 1 picture from last movie does very well summarize what is going wrong right now across all the entertainment franchises.

Even if you are not a fan of the franchise, you are not going to like it and imagine how insulted it is to the fan-base. But still Disney that bought four billion dollars Star Wars IP, did think this scene here is OK to show in theaters.

And here we see in comparison C&C4, that is basically the same. Where this handful of units has to hold 3 out of 5 locations to gain victory points. And no other way to play it, because you can’t exterminate the enemy. People were from first pictures against it.

And here is their last game, Dawn of war 3, where they wanted it to be E-Sports and game for everybody.


Where it was about use broken overpowered units to destroy 1 object on the map.

What is going to happen to Age of Empires 4?

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SC2 was also designed with esports in mind, and is currently the most played rts so no. Dawn of War 3 was just a poorly designed game. Moba games are more complex than DoW 3.

And yeah Zero-K has changed a lot since back then. Doesn’t stop it from being a no-name indie game though, sadly.

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The significant difference is, Starcraft 2 was designed from start on for people who are already used to play RTS games.

Dawn of War 3 poorly design resulted from the " casual friendly approach", based on official interview they do plan for AoE4 " casual friendly approach" too. So isn’t it logical with same team, with same concept to have same bad result again? Its not like people all of sudden started to like “casual friendly” RTS and do by them in masses?

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