Blog

Summer Update Balance Changes
5/16/2012

Interested in knowing a little more about our Summer Update coming in the next 3 to 4 weeks and how it might affect your gameplay? Read on!

Late last year, we took a long look at the core balance of Age of Empires Online and asked ourselves, “What can we do to make this game even better?” Here’s an overview of the major improvements we’re bringing to Age of Empires Online gameplay.

Unique Champion Techs

One of the first things we wanted to improve was the way you upgrade your units. We felt that the unit upgrades often led players to pigeonhole themselves into a certain strategy. While we like that you’re able to specialize, it didn’t live up to our expectations and led to frustrating experiences.

The old unit upgrades offered little new gameplay or flavor. Let’s face it, increasing health and damage by 15% for every unit upgrade wasn’t particularly exciting. When you upgrade a unit, we want you to feel like it’s more than just a flat stat boost. It should mean something, and it should open up new strategies.

As a result, we’ve reduced the number of unit-specific upgrades to one and made them completely unique. Now when you get a Champion upgrade, the difference is truly noticeable, and varies.

Champion Techs

Passive Star Techs and “Factory” Techs

In case you had not already heard, passive Star Techs have been removed. We didn’t like that there was virtually no choice in whether or not you should spend points on Military Star Techs – it was always the best choice. Not only that, but we wanted all players (free and paid) to experience the uniqueness of each civilization, so many of the old Military Star Techs have been permanently baked into the units.

By removing passive Star Techs, the idea of favoring one Military production factory (e.g. Barracks, Archer Range, Stables) over the others was lost. This specialized strategy was interesting, but we didn’t like that it could mean your Infantry units were just better than your Cavalry units depending on which Star Tech you chose. To keep this idea alive, there are now a line of techs at each factory that give your units utility bonuses instead of combat bonuses. For example, now you can now upgrade your Barracks units to train faster or you can upgrade your Stables units to move faster. The best part is, you’ll always know exactly which units the bonuses affect.

Conditioning Horsemanship

Armory Techs and Stone

One point of confusion for new players has been, “Where do I make my units better?” Previously, there were at least 3 different places where you could improve your Military units’ combat efficacy: factories, the Armory, and Star Techs. Not only did we find this to be pretty confusing, but it also deemphasized the role of the Armory. This has been greatly simplified; the Armory is now the place to go if you want to make your army better in combat.

Shield Rim

We’ve also changed the way Armory techs work and made some revisions to their effectiveness. Armory techs are no longer applied by unit type (e.g. Infantry, Ranged, Cavalry), but instead by the damage or armor type used by all Military units. For example, researching the new Scale Mail tech in Age 2 will increase melee attack resistance for your Military units (including Ranged and Priests). This will allow you to easily respond to one-sided enemy compositions.

Iron Smelting

The last major change we’ve made to the Armory is we’ve added a Stone cost to its techs. This change has several large benefits. Overall, it makes Stone that much more meaningful. Early Stone income will make it much easier to transition into building Fortresses, Town Centers, or even when advancing to Age 4. In PVP, this change has an even greater impact. Before, you were discouraged from building Walls and defensive buildings because the other resources generally had more benefit. Now, if you want to keep up with the powerful Armory upgrades, you’ll have to gather Stone. As a result, you’ll often find a happy surprise of disposable Stone income for Walls or other buildings.

Snare

To snare or not to snare? That is the question. Snare has been a love-hate relationship for us. We like many aspects of its gameplay: we like that it helps keep raiding in check, we like that it punishes a committed army when retreating from battle or when in bad position, and we also like that it makes for some awesome questing experiences (ex. The Great Camel Gauntlet).

All things considered, we just couldn’t get over the fact that snare simply was not fun. The fun had by the player who snared is not outweighed by the anti-fun had by the player who got snared. It’s just not fun to see your units running like they’re moving through molasses, or to feel so completely helpless after making one little mistake. As a result, we’ve almost completely removed it. Snare will remain only where we got the desired benefit: on Spearmen, Huntables, and gear. In some rare cases, snare will make an appearance on Champion techs as well.

Early Town Centers

Town Center limits have been changed so that you’re granted 1 extra Town Center per Age, rather than 3 extra Town Centers all at once in Age 3. This change is huge – and in a good way. The number of strategies and build orders has increased, games are making it into Age 3 and Age 4 more often, and Town Center positioning is more important and meaningful than ever.

Egyptian Economy

One of the biggest complaints about Egypt and its economy is that Empower really doesn’t feel like the benefit it should be. If you didn’t utilize Empower, your Villagers – and therefore your economy – were at a flat-out disadvantage. We didn’t like this, and so we’ve shifted some things around so that Empower feels more like an Egyptian perk rather than a detriment. So what does this mean? Egyptian Villagers now gather at the same rate as normal Villagers, with some slight unit cost adjustments, all while the empower bonus remains the same.

Ranged Unit Dominance

Simply put, Ranged units were a better counter to Infantry than Infantry to Cavalry or Cavalry to Ranged. This was actually a very complicated and difficult problem to solve, given the simple inherent advantage of Ranged units. We found that one of the biggest contributors to this issue was how well Ranged units were able to kite – they could easily hit and run without ever being chased down. To counteract this, a wind-up time has been added to most Ranged units’ attack animations. As a result, Ranged units are a little less dominant overall, especially when caught alone with enemy units chasing after them.

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