The growing problem of "Mechanics Creep", and why it's bad in the long term

I wholeheartedly agree with the opening post in this thread.

The characteristic feature of the Age of Empires titles of old (AoE1/2) was always that the all the civs generally use the same core mechanics. They differ a bit in strengths and weaknesses, but all use the same buildings and a subset of the same general tech tree. Very different approach to Starcraft back then, but that was fine. They were just two different types of RTS.

The original devs were wise enough to leave a couple of weird mechanics (especially for the “raider” civs Vikings, Celts, Mongols) out of the game.
My analogy was always, it’s like chess: simple rules, easy to learn, hard to master.

This may be a bit controversial, but from my perspective, the first problems got already introduced with the Conquerors expansion, in particular with the Meso civs and the Hun bonus of not needing houses.

I never played anything past Conquerors until the release of DE, so when I returned to the game I was quite surprised by the large number of weird civ-specific mechanics at that point already (especially Cuman feudal TCs and Portuguese Feitorias), but this was nothing compared to what came with the recent DLCs. There is not a single Civ post DE release that is actually well designed in my opinion.

I will say this over and over again and die on this hill: If you can’t add new civs within the existing game mechanics, then it is a sign that the optimal number of civs has been reached already and there is no benefit of adding more. It does not make the game better.

But of course, the devs aren’t primarily paid to make the game better, but rather to produce content that can be sold.

Edit: Just as one addition a small thought experiment: Suppose nobody knew the game and it would be released in the current state now. Would it be considered well-designed? I don’t think so. It contains just far too many exceptions to general rules.


I agree mechanism creep is a problem.

Though there’s a lot of mechanisms I don’t mind specifically. I like the Folwark for example. I could see other people liking other unique mechanisms, and I don’t know where that leaves us when looking for common ground.

Another unique mechanism you forgot is the % bonus damage resistance from Sicilians.

I think you’re onto something here.
When a whole new family of mechanics is introduced of “get resources under TC” (lama, bushes, sheep) or “resource X also gives resource Y” it feels more like enrichment.

Perhaps I wouldn’t even hate aura mechanics anymore if they were properly explored. Not certain about that one though.


A lot of people seem to misread OP and diverge the topic into once again another complaint of “no longer simple/pure/chess or whatever” then “don’t introduce new features”.

I think OP is suggesting the opposite: if you want to introduce a new mechanics, give it to everyone. Not to the new civ exclusively.

That’s exactly what I suggested with AOE3DE DLC civs: they once introduced the one and only civ that has better mercenaries, while the rest still cannot utilize this feature well. Same goes for natives, livestock, revolution, etc. They even introduced new European natives exclusively accessible to new European civs not the old ones (some of which are far more relevant).
However thankfully through constant updates most civs are enriched to a similar level of mechanics/contents. That’s what I think OP would like to see regarding new mechanisms.
Well unexpectedly people began another round of “no longer simple/pure/chess“ but that’s a totally different topic.

I even used the exact same wording XD

It’s not necessarily power creep or p2w. It’s not always going to break balance. It just causes inconsistencies in the interesting-ness of civs.


Since I am obviously meant: No, this is not what I have been saying. It is specifically the problem of introducing specific mechanics that apply only to single civs.

It is the problem that these mechanics are not introduced to make the game generally better, but solely for the purpose to distinguish new civs from existing ones, which is otherwise apparently hard to accomplish at this point.

For example: I don’t mind adding a ability to garrison fishing ships in a dock, although it is obviously a mechanic that wasn’t in original AoK. I do mind, however, if this mechanic is given only to a single civ.


I think you are saying the same thing as I did…

Free general updates do not sell, so they happen slowly. Any new idea the devs have they dump it into the new civ.

Would just distributing these mechanisms to more than one civ solve the problem? Would Flemish Revolution become more aoe2 style if given to other civs?


Some new mechanics aren’t that bad (such as resource X also generating resource Y), but I surely don’t want more Flemish Revolution-like mechanics in the game. There is a good reason why Flemish Revolution is banned from KotD5.

And some new mechanics like the “dodge” mechanic of Gurjaras can be more or less accomplished with existing mechanics (=> extra PA), so IMO in those cases it’s also better to use the existing mechanics instead of re-inventing the wheel.


Thanks for reading correctly. You are absolutely right, I don’t have any issues with new features.

If possible, add the mechanic to every civ. This might not be possible in many cases. In those cases, try to normalize the mechanics by adding it to lots of civs.

Steppe lancer is a good example. 3 civs get it, and kamayuks get attack through units as well. Just 4 civs getting this mechanic sort of normalized it. I think most of the community accepts steppe lancers as a part of AoE2 now.

Potentially, yes. If enough civs get that mechanic, it would eventually become an integral part of AoE2.

However, this would also change the nature of AoE2 as a game, eventually. So, you have to be pretty careful with it. I would recommend normalizing most of the other mechanics over this one.

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the folwark collecting the food instantly in a radius also falls under this imo


I’m not necessarily against introducing new mechanics, but I do think adding new mechanics for the sake of it needs to be avoided, even if the idea is to expand those mechanics to other civs. A restrained approach is preferable here IMO.

Also, changing existing civs too much is something that should also be avoided, I think. If this is done, then it should be subtle enough that it doesn’t change their identity. For example Berserks generating gold from killing vills/monks/trade carts is subtle enough that it doesn’t change the Vikings identity too much, so that’s fine. But I wouldn’t be pleased if Woad Raiders suddenly got the “dodge” mechanic.


I don’t think kamayuks or steppe lancers are anything special. throwing axemen were already in AoK and this is basically the same mechanic. the difference is just that throwing axemen have higher range with their melee attack.

Leitis ignoring armour however I would single out as another bad mechanic. this is very unique, and imo bad, as it also feels very weird that enemy armour upgrades are suddenly a complete waste of resources.


I can’t believe I didn’t think of that. You are absolutely right, taxmen, gbetos, kamayuks and steppe lancers use the same mechanics. That’s really neat.

Dravidians now have it as a UT now as well. So, not that unique any more. I do agree though, it is not good design. Not sure what to do at this point though.

Well, no, not exactly. Throwing Axemen, Gbetos, and Mamelukes are all similar to each other. Kamayuks and Steppe Lancers are different from the two in a separate group.

Kamayuks and Steppe Lancers do not have a projectile hit, and cannot miss, while also being unaffected by any projectile problems (f.e. they don’t get blocked by Shrivamsha Rider’s shield). They’re actually distinctly different from Throwing Axemen, Mamelukes, and more recently Gbetos.

I don’t really know the AoE2 code, but I assume the way it’s written is simply that units either have a ranged attack or melee attack (not meaning piercing or ‘melee’ damage), where the ranged unit’s damage is written into the actual projectile, and for melee units it’s… I don’t know. Every hit checks if the unit is within attack distance, and then for Kamayuks and Steppe Lancers, the distance is slightly increased? :smiley:

I think in AoE4 there was a bug with Spearmen, where they could get like infinite range or something. Units would get instantly hit because it was still a melee attack (so, no projectiles). I assume the same logic is happening in AoE2. If for some reason Kamayuks got infinite range, they’d just instantly gib anything on map, whereas with actual ranged units you’d still have to wait for the projectile to land (as you can see happening in those 256x tech mods).

Probably for the best there isn’t a Unique tech that gives your Spearmen-line +1 range in that case, or they’d just instantly win the 256x tech games, even if that’s a niche worry to have. 11


You have put in words many of my feelings that I was not able to give form.

Indeed, the game is suffering of “mechannics creep”, and it’s deviating from what makes it beautiful in the first place. Note that I didn’t say “what makes it fun” of “what makes it competitive”. I actually mean that the simplicity and, what I would call, humbleness in the kind of mechanics offered by AoE2 is what gives its charm and beauty.

While some new mechanics, like get X resources from Y, or the herdables garrisoning in mills does not bother me at all, some other kind of ruin the experience for me. And as was said before, there is no common ground on this regard, and people have different oppinions on what fits the essence of the game and what not. For example, most people seem to like the folwark mechanic, while in my oppinion it is as disgusting as the shrivamsha or (if it is what I think it will be) this new aura mechanic of the centurion.

I can see, as you say, that extending some new mechanics to other civs might make them feel less “alien” and more as part of the game. The charge mechanic of Coustillers and Urumis, for example, does not feel that it does not belong to the game as much (as long as it keeps causing extra damage only), but things like the shrivamsha shield, or the flemish revolution would make the game worse as you let it be available for other civilizations.

Another one of my concerns is that the game is kind of “rough” and “unequipped” to deal with these aura kind of mechanics. There are no clear indicators of area of affect, so in the case of the Hussite Wagon you’re never sure were the projectile protection ends; and in the case of the Centurion, it would be difficult to know which units are under its boost area and which are not. That makes the games feel clunky and unpolished.
It’s the same, though not as heavy, for buildings, specially for celts castles and caravanserais.


New mechanics are also numbers if you think about it. A unit dodging certain number of projectiles, or a unit doing extra hit after certain number of times.
Its just that you are used to it. The old you have become accustomed to and feel like boring while the new feels different. For a new player it wouldn’t feel different about new civ or old civ.

If Samurai (bonus damage versus against unique units) was introduced now you would have felt it is something special mechanics. But what about Leitis ignoring armour is it standard or special? It’s your mind playing nostalgia game. The complexity of game is still as consistent as it was before.


I love these games but they have gotten insanely over-complicated.


where they messed up is that too many of the new mechanics are active instead of passive

the whole point of the game was to build an empire. but instead they focused the power in these minigames about micromanaging something on a very small scale instead of at an empire scale.

stuff like toggling rathas stances and placing farms exactly in folwark squares and making more dangerous versions of boar (eg. rhinos/elephants) doesn’t add anything to the empire-building game or the battles. it just creates randomness in the result because some players will do those things perfectly while others wont. and then you combine that with the fact that the skill-based matchmaking doesn’t even work at a fundamental level, and the end result is games are decided very early because of small irrelevant things before people even build an empire

the new stuff which has worked fine is things that civs got without having to play an extra minigame to do it. stuff like relics getting food or foragers getting wood or military buildings doubling as a house is fine because players aren’t burdened by having to manage even more stuff. it just happens automatically. the focus on building your empire remains intact.

a lot of the stuff is kind of nonsensical, but that’s mostly because it’s impossible to do it elegantly without repeating bonuses for multiple civs. that design paradigm that made sense when the game had 15 civs, but it doesn’t scale to 45+ civs. for example, they should have just given the bonus of “gold miners work 15% faster” to multiple civs instead of whatever convoluted scheme they came up with to approximate that.

I initially thought that both of just did melee damage at a range. But that example you gave of Shrivamsha rider’s shield does change things. Yeah, these two are totally different mechanics. Kamayuks do melee attack at a range without projectiles, and taxmen do melee attack at range with projectiles. I am still not against putting these in the same category, but they are two distinct and different mechanics.

This would be kinda funny though. Kamayuks poking a vil 2 kms away with light speed spear that can pass though stuff.

Absolutely. If those mechanics are normalized, AoE2 will start to feel like a totally different game than what it is now. My worry is about AoE2 becoming more of a fantasy game like warcraft than a historical one. The Folwark bonus already kinda feels like a fantasy game mechanic.

The number attached is one of the base qualities that all units have. The base unit in AoE2 is not one which has a base quality of dodging projectiles.

Otherwise. you could justify anything. New units that can fly? just a number. Shoot laser beams? that’s a number too.

Nope. All bonus damage and bonus damage reductions fall under standard mechanics as I’ve defined it. Leitis ignoring armour on the hand is a new mechanic.

I have no idea how you can say this. I literally made a list of like 10 new mechanics. You might not agree with all of them, but you can’t deny that none of these are new.

Ignoring armour also needed a leitis special armour class to all units, and bonus attack against UU also needed a samurai special armour class to all UUs. Both are the same thing.

It’s just your mind which is unable to accept new feaures. Complexity per civ is the same.


That it is, in the code. But mechanics are different from implementation.

I do consider Leitis’s melee damage ignoring as a new mechanic, because melee armour of your unit is something you have a lot of control over. You can’t increase the bonus armour with blacksmith techs, but you can increase melee armour.

So, these two things play out pretty differently.

But complexity of the game is not the same. Complexity of a single civ doesn’t matter, if each new DLC increased complexity of the game.

And it looks like your mind is not able to perform the extremely important function of critical thinking. That, or you didn’t read the full post. In either case, engage with the material before you start getting personal.