First off, just wow! Thank you so much for engaging with the community to get first person accounts of what the players want. Its a similar design process to how Ensemble Studios developed the title back in the day, and its a good first step in the right direction. I’m already looking forward to the masterpiece you all will inherit and tend to.
E.S. really struck a fine balance between history and mythology for a video game, let alone an RTS when they made AoM. However, the part that really shows its age nowadays is the technical limitations they encountered when undergoing development. With modern hardware being so much more powerful than it was 15+ years ago, one thing to keep in mind is that some concessions were made in terms of gameplay in order to meet a wider audience in the early 2000s.
A great example of this is the population costs and limits within the game. Many military units cost 2 or more population slots, while the population limit hovers around 200. While it has become somewhat of a standard in the RTS genre to have population limits set around 200, mainly as an archaic keepsake, I feel that when designing AoM:Retold, you could strongly consider following the AoE:2DE treatment and add variable population control in the lobby settings and edit the population costs of many units within the game to be less expensive. A Colossus certainly shouldn’t cost 1 population slot though! Balance is still a factor to consider.
Limitations on certain buildings could probably be relaxed for similar reasons as to what is stated above.
The User Interface could always use a new coat of paint, but keep in mind the balance between History and Mythology I mentioned before. A series of preset UI designs could be implemented and toggled on or off in the settings, giving players the option between more cumbersome but decorative UI, or sleek and minimalistic UI.
The campaigns should certainly be revisited with the intent of polishing within the confines of new graphical and technical fidelity. Humanoid faces should be more than a beveled rectangle. Endless abyss, devoid of detail in background shots and cinematics could be filled with accurate scenery and action.
The building crumbling effects we have seen in AoE:2DE could be used as inspiration for building destruction in AoM:Retold, considering they currently just disappear into the ground.
The Atlanteans, while a hot-button issue for some players, are generally widely accepted. And honoring the design choice(s) of the original creators would involve including the Atlanteans within the base game of AoM:Retold. On a similar note, the Chinese are even more controversial, but should also be included. I don’t like the Chinese civilization in AoM;EE, but I still bought and played them! In their current form, they are actually quite close to being a good civilization like the other four. With a bit of “elbow grease”, the Chinese could be polished to an acceptable level for casual and competitive play. Do not discard the Chinese. They are an important part of history and their mythology is rich for design space.
The editor in AoM is actually quite good. With that said, it is not without its flaws. Many new options could be included so that players do not have to create workarounds to existing issues and technical limitations.
Tying directly into the point about the editor, set AoM:Retold up for success. Games with active communities and modding scenes last far longer and generate more revenue over time than many similar titles. Ensure that their is reliable modding tools and support for creators to utilize. There will always be a large group of players who prefer official content releases over supplemental community content, but if you provide both, then you gain the revenue of both audiences.
The original soundtracks are iconic! They must stay, but thats not to say they couldn’t use a helping hand. Even one or two new tracks goes a long way to subverting the rythym many players have grown accustomed to, and thus spur that feeling of: “Wow, look at everything they’ve done to the- wait, the - thats a new song!”.
Its taken me this long to even think about it as I write: Graphical fidelity. In reference to the technical limitations AoM was originally developed with, you have the opportunity to provide a makeover to the title. More than just cinematic or campaign related improvements, every unit, building, tree, ground texture, and wild animal can be visually redesigned from the ground up. Show us how intimidating a Manticore can be!
Settings. Customization. Freedom of Function. There are many factors in current AoM:EE that cannot be adjusted. They are purposefully kept set in stone for a variety of reasons. I would hope that when working on AoM:Retold, the team takes the time to give players the option to customize the experience to how they see fit. More Population? Sure. Custom hotkey rebinding support? You got it. Number of relics per match? How about none, or a hundred, or anywhere in between.
Unit pathing in AoM and AoM:EE leaves a lot to be desired. If there’s one thing the Age franchise has had issues with, it has been unit pathing. The RTS that has always stuck out to me as having acceptable unit pathing has been Starcraft 2. The units feel fluid, but just as important, it creates design space for melee units of all kinds. Bad unit pathing hurts the balance and competitive integrity of the game at its core. When unit pathing is bad, melee units suffer the most, which creates the scenario where players over utilize strategies including ranged units. When an infantry focused civilization’s main strategy is to use archers, because the pathing is so lopsided - there’s a serious issue.
A new civilization should be the LAST thing on your mind when designing AoM:Retold. Yes, there is room for additional civilizations in the Age of Mythology universe, but when working on AoM:Retold, the focus should be on improving the core experience first and foremost. You can always add a new civilization in the inevitable DLC. But reiterating on existing systems is far more difficult post launch, so focus on those first.
I wouldn’t have mentioned, but someone else in the discussion mentioned excluding “Woke $%#&” if at all possible. I’m not pleased to say this publicly, but for the sake of the game doing well - include as little of it as possible. It works wonders for generating positive headlines and clickbait articles, but it actually hurts your sales and community relations. I see the responses the AoE:2DE developers and news posts get and its a bit disheartening to see the negative reviews, on an otherwise great game, that come from it.
I have faith in your teams’ abilities and look forward to playing Age of Mythology Retold, as if I were a kid again. I’ll be supporting you all either way. Voulome!