I’m going to start this conversation with this: I was a huge AoE 2 fan, as were many of my friends. I was in college when this game was new and big, and we loved to play all night fighting each other in a big free for all. That game has a special place in my memory.
With that being said, I’m also a huge fan of the Blizzard games. The first time I saw Warcraft (1), I was interested in the idea of making large armies, but didn’t have a PC to play it. By the time Warcraft 2 was released, it was the best thing I had ever seen. I begged my parents to get me a computer just so I could play. I was more than overjoyed when I learned I could use a dial up modem to call my cousin’s computer and play him in a game over the phone line. We would do this for hours, playing horribly, but it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing video games.
After learning I could play online with many other people through the modem, I got into a lot of ladder competitions and really enjoyed the level of skill required to be good and win games against others. StarCraft eventually came out, and that game needs no introduction.
StarCraft came out in 1998, and it is still played professionally today. Why? The competition. The amount of skill required to play the game at a high level is astounding, however it is still simple enough for anyone to just jump in and have a good time. What else kept the game fun? The custom maps. There was so many things you can do in the blizzard games outside of just playing the game as it was meant to be.
StarCraft offered great competition with a decent ladder system, a great way to speak with and keep up with friends (battlenet), random diversions when you got bored (custom maps), and most importantly; the game was simple to play, but difficult to master while being fun to watch.
Let’s forget about how good StarCraft is/was. Let’s look at why other games fail to surpass StarCraft (1):
StarCraft 2: A huge success, however it never gained the same following as StarCraft 1. It lacked a good communication system (no battlenet upon initial release) and most importantly, Blizzard didn’t make a better, new competitive RTS, they basically remade StarCraft 1 with worse units. They changed things that made the original game work well only to force in a new mix of units that are sub par to their original. This is a matter of opinion, but I feel as even Blizzard understands this, as they released a remastered version of the original. StarCraft 2 is still a decent game, but it just doesn’t have the same magic that the competitive multiplayer of the first one had. (They even added in battlenet later because people were bitter at the lack of being able to communicate with friends).
Warcraft 3: Long awaited, fun at the time, but another strange diversion from the original formula. Warcraft 3 failed to establish a good competitive pace. The games were slow and the majority of multiplayer matches were spent fighting AI instead of your opponent. The game felt like a step backwards from the RTS we really wanted and left most people not feeling a strong urge to continue playing after defeating the single player campaign. At least in my own experience, myself and friends would rather play AoE 2 online over Warcraft 3, even after it just came out. That spoke volumes to me at the time. StarCraft was still more fun to play. (Thank god Warcraft 3 had custom maps…DOTA).
AoE 2: Came out in 1999. From what I remember, it had no real online system to speak with people (like battlenet…and correct me if I’m wrong). It had no match making? From what I remember, the game only focused on single player (which I don’t really care for) and had the ability play people online, but it was more of a custom game scenario setting instead of a competitive game setting. Still, this game is (IMO) the best AoE game and is still played a lot today. I believe the only reason it’s not played more is because it’s lacking good match making. To find a game, you must float through lobbies. It’s not fun, it’s frustrating.
You can add any RTS game here, but the only one that I feel is still worth playing (other than StarCraft) is Company of Heroes 1/2. These games seem to capture many of the important things that StarCraft 1 did. Even though they aren’t perfect, they are immensely fun to play. (Even though I’m not fond of the microtransaction thing that CoH 2 did, but that’s another story).
To end this, I’m hoping AoE 4 does these things:
- It has good communication between players (either through Steam or a Battlenet type chat system).
- It has good competitive match making and shows your who’s in the lead. 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, 4v4, FFA, etc.
- It does not have microtransactions. It’s a plague on gaming, unless it’s all cosmetic changes.
- Making custom maps and settings is included.
- Most importantly, it’s balanced/fast paced, while being fun to play AND fun to watch.
They could pretty much remake AoE 2 with these features and I would be delighted to purchase it. I know that’s not going to happen, but I’m open to some new and exciting features, as long as it doesn’t cripple the essence of the game…making it a play once and done game. I’m hoping to enjoy playing this game online for a long time after it’s released.