Why are people who play co-op against hardest AI so bad?

I’ve mostly played co-op games against hard AI, and players generally seem good enough to do their share of the work in winning. I can play nice and relaxed, and teammates will progress at a decent pace, make villagers, make enough military that they don’t feel the need to quit if they get attacked etc. But there’s not that many people playing against hard, so it can take a long time to find a game. Today I needed to win a 4v4 quickmatch for a daily challenge and after 26 minutes, hadn’t found a game against hard AI, so I queued against hardest. The experience reminded me why I switched back to hard, my teammates were absolutely useless. There is absolutely no way those players would win a solo 1v1 against hardest AI. They might well lose against the easiest AI. The map was Mongolian Heights and nobody else walled any of the crossing points. I eventually walled them all myself, but can’t make enough army to defend them all, and no teammate defended any of the crossings, nor did they attack any enemies. After a while one of them just left the game. I don’t enjoy tryhard rushing the AI, but I can’t win 1v4 unless I do. By the time it becomes clear that my teammates aren’t going to do anything, it’s too late and you simply can’t move around the map fast enough to defend the sacred sites, defend your base, destroy their wonders, and you can’t split your army between all those locations and win 1v4 against a combined AI army.

So my question is why? What makes better players queue against hard AI, and absolutely terrible players queue against hardest AI? I just don’t understand it.

I’ve come to the conclusion that what is happening is the much higher number of people queuing against hardest has become self re-inforcing. The leaderboard for hardest has 6x as many players as the lower 3 difficulties added together. So I think players who aren’t good enough to do anything useful against hardest are queuing against it just because it’s the only way to find a game in any reasonable amount of time. Had another game today, 3v3, both teammates absolutely useless. It will be even harder to win these 1v2/3/4 games when the patch goes live :frowning:

So I think the reason why people who queue against hard are better (on average, you do get some games against hardest with perfectly good teammates) is because you have to be a bit more dedicated to wait the longer amount of time to get a game.

Im currently working on teaching my wife how to play and we are doing 2v2 Vs AI. Just started her on hard, soon to bump up to hardest. The difference between the difficulties to me, seems that the harder you go, the more active their early game is and the more reactive they are to your actions.

The reason I mention this is people who are playing VS AI are. I’m assuming, not skilled enough, or at least don’t feel skilled enogh to play vs players. (Not all of course, but probably a majority)

And the tendency I’ve noticed, even with my wife, is lower skilled players like to play a long, slow game. Build up their base, get some units, and go in for one big push and win. The reason you are probably noticing a skill gap I would say is due to 2 major reasons.

  1. As you mentioned, the lobbies are small, and so their tends to be a grouping on Hardest due to shorter queue times, but also probably due to a stigma around playing anything less than the hardest there is. Elden Ring has a lot of tools to make the game easier, but people online tend to say “if you aren’t using a starter weapon with no armor you aren’t playing it right” and I think a sikilar principle could be observed here with Vs AI.

  2. The players want to slow boom into imperial and the AI is much more active early on, and distrupts their play andnsi they either A) quit or B) look like they are doing poorly because they got attacked and have absolutely no idea how to come back after a minor interruption. (Example: My wife is currently in the “if im fighting and trying to build eco at the same time I panic” stage, and any counter aggression sets her off her game super hard because she is already pushing her limits on multitasking)

I had one teammate, for example, who at 12 minutes had zero military and half my villagers (I only had 1 TC). A lot of them are just really bad rather than it being about them wanting to slow boom vs early aggression. I haven’t particularly found that the harder AIs are more aggressive, they just eventually make much more military. It’s certainly true that many of the bad players I’ve seen can’t cope with being attacked early, but anyone who has played a few games against the AI should know you need a decent amount of military by 9 minutes on top of constant villager production. Even against the easiest AI you need to do this, though it varies with civ and if the AI is Abbasid it tends to make little military.

Personally, the reason I prefer co-op against AI is it lets me play in a variety of styles, rather than always using the tryhard meta to maximise my ELO. I look at the daily challenges and try to incorporate all of them into one game. The hardest AI is quite satisfying to play against if you turtle and don’t attack it before 30 minutes, it attacks enough around the map that it does need some effort to hold it off. From the few ranked games I tried, I’d say the best players I’ve played with in co-op games would be over 1000 ELO against humans.

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I think a good addition would be AI “personalities” selector like aggro, turtle, etc. And a randomizer for those as well. This would let you get more practice vs certain playstyles, and the randomizer would let you practice scouting

If you want good challange against AI, try “totally accurate empire” mod. The biggest difference is the Ai behavior that is more responsive and don’t do silly things. There are many other things, like size of units, cost of villagers and gather speed, more hp for landmarks and more.
I love play it against AI or in coop.
The standard hardest AI for me is not challenging anymore