I’ve noticed that with the exception of a few performance improvements and major bug fixing here and there, mostly in the initial patches, everything from that point on has been focused solely on competitive changes.
I was watching a video on why modern RTS fail nowadays and the author makes a good point that in basically all RTS, the “play a ranked match/play against another human” achievements are at most 10-20% the whole player base (and sometimes much, much less), so when devs focus on competitive changes, they are only catering to a vast minority, which then alienates the other ~90%.
Devs have been spending all their time nerfing/un-nerfing/nerfing mangonels, springalds, slightly changing resource, sacred site and relic locations, tweaking landmark behavior, etc… All the while the AI is still dumb as hell and easy to exploit, units still disappear if they die over water, water warfare is a joke, siege units clip the terrain or float, lots of unit animations are not looped properly, animals in houses and stables are still statues and poorly scaled, we still have no waypoint indicators and other very basic quality-of-life and overall polish (especially the awful UI) that I would expect from a modern RTS.
Don’t get me wrong, fixing all those balance issues is fine, but it should NOT be the only priority. Most players couldn’t care less if a relic is now 2 tiles closer to their TCs.
It’s no wonder why active player numbers don’t pick up. If the active player average is right now around 7k and only 10% of so of those players play anything other that the AI, that means you have only about 700 folks at any given point looking for matches. The two numbers go hand-in-hand. If the core game is unpolished and boring, people will go looking for something else (I’m looking at you, Dune. Please don’t disappoint me):
How many active players that’s not playing ranked or quickmatch is completely irrelevant. You already bought the game. Longetivity lives in competition. Not beating a computer you have set to a setting you can beat so you’ll feel good about yourself.
Most people don’t care about this competition. And you can’t force them to be competitive.
The real point is: other AoE games have a decent AI so that people who just want to beat the computer (yes, even on easy) can have a challenge appropriate to their level. AoE4 AI isn’t there yet and many people don’t want ranked or anything, just a decent AI to play a couple of hours against over the weekend.
I get a few hours over the weekend to play. I don’t want or need to get better at this game. Just want to beat some bots with my friends.
So me and my friends just play team games against AI in AoE3. It’s fun, we play two hours and then meet to play next weekend.
So you think that game companies only make money off the initial batch of people that bought the game at release? lol
Talk to me about longevity when AoE IV has had a significant active player base for several years like AoE II or StarCraft. Right now AoE IV is shaping up fall into oblivion not a year after its release and that’s because at its core it’s not a great game, it’s mediocre and people move on to other, better things. Make a GREAT game, and longevity will come naturally. It’s shouldn’t be forced and done by sacrificing other aspects.
Back when AoE II was created, eSports weren’t even a thing. That game is simply good.
Isn’t the whole point of gaming to feel good? So all the 80-90% player base that play against the AI or campaigns are somehow “cheating” or not worth taking into account? I don’t get it.
The development of a good (scripted) AI requires it to study the plays of good human players. For these studies, the parameters must be controlled, where the maps / civs should be a relatively small factor in the equation. It also greatly helps to have fixed build orders for the AI to follow, which is not available unless the meta is somewhat stable where no more major map / civ changes will be published in the near future. Therefore, balancing maps /civs is the prerequisite of making good AI.
Competitive play is also another revenue. Instead of selling one copy of the game and be done with it, tournaments can bring viewership and continued income to support more content, which eventually supports the non-competitive player base.
Why not just play against them instead? I used to play 1v3 against my friends ina aoe2 and aoe3 and it was pretty evenly matched, and a lot of fun. We never played vs the ai, because winning vs a computer we ourself set the difficulty of is worthless and don’t feel the same at all.
You centered your comment around the AI and I see your point, but what about all the other aspects of the game that have been left untouched?
Then don’t, I couldn’t care less, but then you’ll keep missing the point.
Can’t speak for RashEquation but I can give you another perspective: sometimes real life gets in the way. It’s not the same dropping (or pausing) a game against the AI than abandoning a game where some of your friends are, ruining the match for all. A lot of casual RTS gamers never go ranked simply because of that.
You’re pretty wrong there, pal. The video that OP posted has some solid data and makes for a solid point. And I honestly think, based on my own experience and the people I know who play RTS games, he’s completely right.
One of the things the video shows is a StarCraft 2 dev saying 90% of the playerbase are “casuals” that don’t play PvP competitive modes. In fact they added a co-op mode where you play with another player against an AI and that mode became very popular. More popular than the competitive modes I’d say. Not to mention the arena, MOBA-ish and so maps. Having played AoE1, AoE2, Dune, Warcraft 2, Tzar, StarCraft, Empire Earth, Warcraft 3 and StarCraft 2 myself, and knowing many people who play RTS too, my experience is very similar: most people play campaigns and custom games. Another of the points of the video is that RTS’ “S” could very well stand for “sandbox”.
I’m not saying competitive isn’t important. But a game focusing solely on that is going to struggle. Because everytime RTS games try to please to the hardcore niche and get even more hardcore, all they achieve is to reduce the potential playerbase even more. The people who believe competitive is the true experience and everything else is a distraction or a sideshow for the casuals and it doesn’t deserve the same effort and love put into it, are indeed harming RTS games. Most RTS players actually enjoy experiencing the main story, messing around with a map editor, beating the AI in ligh-hearted games where they can save the file, play and replay all the times they want and playing fiesta games that sometimes don’t have anything to do with strategy, more than going hardcore and devote themselves to learn how to be competitive.
There is actual data that shows that most RTS players never even try to play against other human players. The fact that some fo you guys actually want to shoo away 80-90% of the potential playerbase is mind-blowing, because all you’re achieving is making a niche genre even more niche, making a resurgence even less probable.
i agree that the single player should be a lot better. the game seems like it was rushed out prematurely. the interface was inadequate. the AI was inadequate
but the sad part is that the patches aren’t even focused on competitive players. they’re focused on cheese players
a competitive RTS would let you play whatever civ you want (based on what suits your playstyle or what you feel like doing). instead they let people change their civ pick after seeing the map and after seeing their opponent, so the game is optimized for people who just want to guarantee that they can perform whatever build happens to be overpowered.
that’s why the balance keeps going in circles. they keep fighting fires instead of making sure things don’t burn in the first place. most of the changes aren’t even bad, but rather ineffective at addressing the game’s basic problems:
the units should actually work with the game’s interface. the long-range units fail at this because the camera is so close and the line of system is difficult to use for anyone who isn’t an elite player
the battles should be exciting. age of siege balls fails at this, although maybe they’re slowly moving towards rectifying that.
the units should be balanced against each other, not just balanced for competitive 1v1. when someone is making a lot of one unit, it should be really obvious how to counter that. except for a lot of units there is no contemporary counter. the expectation is that you just repel them with defenses until you get access to stronger units, except that doesn’t work outside of 1v1. in teamgames, those units just go kill your ally while you sit at home waiting to tech up. you shouldn’t have to get to age 3 to counter armies that someone can make in age 2
the balance changes should have been focused on the stuff that affects lots of games, such as landmarks being super repetitive and not really a choice. they should look at adjusting technologies so that they’re interesting instead of just minor boosts that nobody even sees or understands. they should figure out how the game can incentivize that armies be more varied instead of just massing a lot of one unit in a single deathball. they should fix the maps, so that they allow for more creativity, letting different people play them in different ways. adding those kinds of decisions would make the game more interesting to play and make opponents more interesting to play against.
they did a little bit of that. changing the efficiency of fish boats and scouts collecting deer was a step in the right direction, and they affect many games at many different skill levels. the game needs more sweeping changes like that.
i don’t know what their budget situation is, but the game has a lot of isolated good ideas. some of the balance is even an improvement from previous aoe games. they just need to change it so that the games are actually about the things that make age of empires special (empire-building, maps and games being unpredictable, fighting in different historical eras)
right now it’s too much about building a small town (instead of an empire) and then mashing two armies into each other and seeing who made more. that can be part of an age game, but right now it’s the whole game. the feeling of progressing through the eras is lacking. the feeling of conquering a map is lacking. even besieging a town was uninteresting, because the overpowered siege weapons were mostly good for killing units, not killing buildings
I think the numbers show that in every single AoE game, the single players vs AI greatly outnumber the online players (let alone the competitive tournament players). So yes, single players should definitely be the priority.