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Age Of Empires (Articles) - good reading


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Edited 29 January 2015 - 4:11 am by +KGB_Crazy
* The Pros and Cons of 1.0 Speed - Author: CD

I hope this doesn't degenerate into another of my unnecessarily long posts but this is a pet peeve of mine so you'll excuse me if I err on the side of long-windedness.

In general, 1.0 speed favours the better player. The faster the speed, the easier it is to narrow the skill gap between players. The reason for this is that good players make full use of the extra time whereas new players often sit around watching their villagers gather berries and thus do not understand why it is necessary to sit around and wait.

For them, the game only 'starts' once they hit Tool or Bronze (and in many cases Iron) and they don't do much in the meantime except sit around and watch their SimCity, hence their preference for faster speed settings.

Good players, on the other hand, subscribe to the maxim - "God is in the details." They understand that games are won or lost in Stone, that starting positions, effective scouting, finding good places to wall and locating the enemy is important.

For them, the First Four Minutes are the most important in the game. It is in this time that you need to squeeze out the maximum amount of production and scouting before you finally decide on where to plop down that important first wood pit.

For players like these who understand the importance of making use of the extra time, 1.0 speed is the natural preference. (For those of you who are wondering how speeds come about, hitting F11 will show you the clock and the speed setting, whether it's 1.0, 1.5, 2.0).

The advantages of 1.0 speed for the non-newbie player also extend beyond the first four minutes. After the initial frenzy of economic activity, the extra time is now used to find secondary and tertiary sources of food, chokepoints in which to wall, a good place to dock, shallows to cross and control. All this is done while avoiding lions (or at least surviving lion fights where possible).

This again is the other distinction between a skilful player and a weaker one - the skilful player is a masterful explorer, and makes maximum use of his extra time on his way to Tool.

In Tool, the extra time is used to Wall - to make a snap decision on where to place the initial military building(s), moving villagers from food to wood and/or gold and stone - these little things improve your Bronze times, and often - strengthen your economy.

In sharp contrast - the new player who insists on 2.0 speed does not understand how to fine-tune and micromanage his economy even at 1.0 speed, and will be frustrated by having so much extra time.

Contrary to one other person in this thread said, it is not more difficult to play at 1.0 because you need more patience - in fact, the opposite is true - you can never run out of things to do. Whatever extra time I have is spent examining Achievements, and even that examination is limited to a hasty 3-4 seconds.

With 2.0, the efficiencies gained from fine-tuning your economy and effective exploration are lost.

I have a maxim of my own that pretty much sums up micromanagement and making full use of the extra time: "If you are sitting around waiting for something to happen, or have nothing to do, you are doing something wrong."

Good players always can do something with that extra time, and if there is nothing to do - they make something happen. In essence, this is why the better players prefer a game at a slower setting to a faster one. 1.0 allows players to seize and dictate the initiative while keeping their economy at full hum.

The other reason for not playing 1.5 and 2.0 is that it limits the tactics and strategies that can be employed. As correctly pointed out by Angel Omnivac in this thread, it does not allow you to try fancier tactics like outflanking, diversions, raids and surprise attacks.

You will find that even in DM, top-flight DMers (and I'm not talking about the big group that call themselves 'experts') prefer 1.0 speed simply because they can better manage a combined-arms army backed up with Towers. No single-minded 1 unit Choson Legion army for them - which is probably the easiest way to play DM if it is at 2.0 speed.

To follow up on that last paragraph, the faster the speed setting, the more difficult it is to manage combined arms armies - you are far more likely to see brainless single-unit armies like all Cav, all CA, all HA, all Cats etc.

I think though, that the greatest appeal of 1.0 for the better players is the ability to control multiple battles while keeping their economy at peak efficiency. It is not humanly possible (not for me anyway) to manage 50+ villagers/boats and invade/defend, 'dance' etc at the same time. Even at 1.0, when I pay too much attention to one, the other will suffer. How more so at 2.0 speed! Walling in those games would become doubly or triply hard due to the time-consuming nature of laying down walls - rushes would become even easier to execute, with higher percentages of success.

Simply put, higher speed settings reduce the diversity of options available in the game and streamline the game towards more of a 'rush' type game. It's a fair bet that if your opponent prefers to play at 2.0, they are either:

1. New to the game and therefore do not know what to do with their extra time; or
2. Are brainless single-unit rushers who have memorised their strat down pat, and can't wait to get to Bronze and kill you. These players are inflexible and will not know what to do if they are faced with unexpected situations.
If I am ever unfortunate enough to be caught in a game like this, I'll usually Tool Rush the hell out of them if they take Yamato or Assyrian - they usually have no conception of Tool defence, and won't have time to Wall.

Now don't get me wrong, there are many good players who can play extremely well at 1.5 or 2.0 - but these players do even better at 1.0 speed. The point here is not whether there are players who can play brilliantly at higher speed setting, but rather that every player, regardless of skill level, can do more, and is more efficient at a lower speed setting.

And that, I believe, is the strongest argument for playing at 1.0, irrespective of the civs, or game speed.

Even with slow civs, I prefer 1.0 - 1.5 reduces the time I have to wall - usually when I wall at 1.5, my economy suffers at a result. 1.5 also messes up my exploration, because even though the villagers walk faster - it reduces your reaction time to lion attacks. Trust me when I say you'll lose more villagers to lions at 1.5 speed than you will at 1.0. As you can see, it's not the fact that your villager walks faster at 1.5 that matters, it is your reaction time and your ability to multitask that is your cornerstone of success in 1.0 games.

The other reason, as pointed out by Angel Omnivac is that the faster the speed, the MORE lag it creates. Internet newbies think that faster speeds reduce lag - but it actually is the other way around. The faster the game speed, the more data has to be moved around to keep all players in synch. The greater the number of players, the more pronounced the effect of jacking up the speed will be.

I don't like 'labelling', but the moment someone presents the argument that 'you get less lag with faster speeds', I immediately think 'newbie'. I also think 'newbie' the moment someone tells me that playing at 1.0 is 'too slow' and 'boring'. As I've pointed out earlier in this short essay, you can never run out of things to do.

It's evil and sometimes unfair to 'label' players as newbies, but unfortunately in this context, the label often rings true. I will conclude by restating that key maxim of micromanagement and efficiency: "If you are sitting around waiting for something to happen, or have nothing to do, you are doing something wrong."
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Edited 29 January 2015 - 4:12 am by +KGB_Crazy
The quality of a good player - Author: Your_Old_friend

I found what makes a good player and distinguishes it from the less good player.

After being so frustrated with my whimpiness, I HAD to know why - which, in turn, taught me the opposite: what makes the good player.

Please note, this is NOT "HOW" to do these things - if I knew, I would be DOING them, LOL!...

This is a enumeration only.

The proportions in which these different factors intervene are also something I could not obviously find much about (would need to be much closer to the winners to find out...).

So, here goes, in the order I personally think that is more determinant, but the list is really what matters:

Things required (in varying scale and proportion) to be a very good AoE / RoR player.


Meaning the ability to CONSTANTLY DISTRIBUTE ATTENTION, AWARENESS and ACTION through a wide spatial matrix, in a very narrow timeframe.

The player should be able to execute simultaneously at least two different tasks going on in at least two different places of the playing field. Obviously, the expert will be able to perfectly monitor and act upon three and more simultaneous events.
This quality applies not only to "pre-programmed" tasks, but also at the level of mere attention: being able to constantly monitor all areas of possible problems, like menaces to Villagers - even when enemy presence is not detected - points of passage, depleted resources, idle Villagers, level of enemy forces in more than one spot, etc., etc. The ability to dedicate attention to any particular area is considered a "task" for this purpose - and the most important in RTS games, too.
One of the most forgotten "tasks" is the ability to monitor enemy situation. Sometimes I notice that good players never seem to quit important activities to attend others - while still caring to all of them.

IMO, this "awareness" and the accompanying "speed of response" is the most striking factor, the one that most contributes to differentiate an elite player.

I remember that once, while passivelly watching Dustyn perform the traditional Yamato Cav rush, I was completelly lost and unable to follow all the action, because he was scrolling and making things happen all over the place. The speed of jumping from here to there was dazzling - and in not one second was Dustyn the least confused. The beach was explored maybe 20 or 30 tiles in each direction, the enemy camp was found, storage pits were laid, berries picked and more than a dozen of 50-cost villagers created in just the first 3 or so minutes of the game. Whew!... Later, during the attack (the opponent's workers and assets were distributed in a 30-tile deep camp (not an easy task to hunt those fast villagers so spread out), not a single aspect of the economy back home was being neglected - more berries and shore fish were activelly sought, found and explored - all at the same time that the action was being taken to the enemy.

Simultaneous (or almost) activity throughout the board is the hallmark of expertise.


Competence is made of:

a) Deep knowledge all the fundamental aspects of the game (what, when, how and why).

b) Achieving a respectable level of execution through continuous practice.

The good players DOMINATE all the BASICS (even without thinking) and KNOW about even the intricate details of the determining factors in the game.
They are, furthermore, able to EXECUTE those routines without hesitation and in the proper context.

The debated stuff about "build orders" has ignored the fundamental aspect of it: a build order is a "probability-oriented" method of achieving an end. It mechanizes and makes efficient both the execution and the decision.
Example: You look at your TC and, just for the presence / absence of the required number of stragglers, determine if Celestial Dawn's "Crappy bronze" tactics are feasible or not. Imediatelly, you orient scouting to find a remedy for the perceived problem (by fetching "forest near TC" or close enough shore fish, or a sweet spot with forest/stragglers and shore fish), or to boost the probable avantage (by fetching shore fish near forest/stragglers, or plain old berries).
You CAN make these decisions almost instantly because you ALREADY know those basics and that knowledge provides you with a "free" mental slot to design and evaluate a possible general strategy for the game at hand.

The reason why good players and experts learn about the game is because it makes the minutes that they spend THINKING about the game more worthwhile than just figure out the same old routine for the "nth" time.

To achieve this result, good players will both learn and practice constantly.

Here, the difference between "competetent" and "expert" players is clear: Experts INVESTIGATE and CREATE new strategies, tactics and "build orders".

While the good / very good player is a great executant of true and proven methods, the true expert continuously questions even the acquired "evidence" and comes up with new stuff - or with the deep knowledge of why and how things are what they are in the game.


Yes, this is quite ovious, but not as influential and important as Multitasking and Competence.

It will just enhance and maximize those two great traits while they come to life in the battle field.

Dexterity, defined as great eye-hand coordination mixed with precision and lack of hesitation, is like the ointment in the wheel. It does not make it roll, it only makes the rolling smoother and the wheel last longer...

Dexterity increases its role with lag. With lag, every movement and every click that you make get coupled with a "forecasted outcome" and a "no-fail" demand. Your order to the unit must be so timed that initiation and completion of the desired action occurs in the forecasted lag factor. Everybody is aware of the drama of trying to save your HA from the unexpected greetings by Catapult boulders...


Now, we have players that are not tactically very clever and they end up being tops.
They master all the aspects of the game and can gain economic advantages that will, in turn, end up translating into military advantage.

The experts, however, are far more aggressive and flexible.

The experts have learned how to imaginate, design and execute an ALTERNATIVE tactical master plan for the game on the fly.

Starting with a generically applicable aggression and logistics support pattern, the expert is able to change the base pattern of his game to adapt and be responsive to changes in the enemy way of doing things.

An expert will change his weapon mix after the first few failures, so that he can fight you. People with less tactical sense will insist longer in a defeated course of action.


IMHO, what defines a good player and an expert is the presence of these pilars of RTS gameplay:

1. Multitasking abilities, which include both attention and action to many points in the board at the same time.

2. Competence, made of knowing what to do in each situation and swifness at doing it, qualities only possible to acquire by means of study and practice.

3. Dexterity, the ideal complement of multitasking.

4. Tactical acumen, the ability to correctly evaluate the situation and devise alternate tactical plans based on the actual game situation and balance.
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Posted 29 January 2015 - 4:14 am
Complexity of AOE - Author: _C

Any debate such as this requires a clear and careful definition of terms. Those claiming aoe to be the more 'complex' of the two games have defined complexity in terms of mathematical possibilities. Their argument is largely circular: aoe is the most complex game because it has the greatest number of possibilities and the game with the greatest number of possibilities is the most complex. Even overlooking the circularity of the argument, it doesn't provide a very satisfactory definition. Using this definition, a childs game of 20 questions is at least as 'complex' as aoe.

However, at least those arguing for aoe have ventured forth a reasoned (though poorly) response. As of yet, those of us defending the Great Game have not. So here is my attempt.

Complexity - The level at which a game allows a player to interact with his opponent.

In trying to explain myself let me first break down all contests into their two basic components: mechanical & interactive.

Mechanical - To put it simply, this is the aspect of the game which is self contained. Easy examples of this would be a basketball player's leaping ability, an aoe player's bronze time, or memorizing lines of a chess opening. A player's mechanical ability is that ability which might best be described as 'athletic'. This is the aspect of a game amplified by real time play.

Interactive - This is the aspect of a game which is not self contained, but is rather, well, interactive. Examples of this might be, a basketball coach's substitution scheme, an aoe player implementing 'guerilla tactics', or a chess player accepting a gambit. The interactive part of a game is what might properly be called intellectual. This is the aspect of a game amplified by turn based play.

Now - When using common vernacular, say in the realm of sports, it is clear that basketball is a more 'complex' game than say, diving. It is not for a lack of mathematical probability that diving is a simple sport (ask any diving judge and they will tell you the mathematical variations are infinite), but rather because it emphasizes the mechanical aspect almost to the exclusion of the interactive. Chess, on the other hand, is almost the opposite. Chess emphasizes the interactive element almost to the exclusion of the mechanical.

According to this more satisfactory definition of 'complexity' chess reaches planes of complexity that aoe cannot hope to attain.

Let this be viewed as an anti-aoe post, let me emphasize, I love aoe precisely because of its dual nature. It is a near perfect balance between mechanical and interactive. This is what makes aoe so much FUN.

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