While the release date is lurking closer, we’re hitting the game hard with the balance hammer! But before we’re going down that rabbit hole, let’s take a look back at The Forgotten expansion, to see what we did right and what we did wrong.
Balance changes always come with the necessary controversy. And no matter what you do, not 100% of the players will be satisfied by it. But we can try! Looking back at AoF, we wanted to make sure more of the existing civilizations and units would have a chance to shine. Huns are nerfed all across the board, Mongol Mangudai aren’t as completely OP anymore, Aztecs lost some of their early strength and Mayans see their Plumed Archers come at a higher price. Good starts but in some cases, we could’ve gone further. However, not all of those changes were as popular. Players prefer to see boosts to unpopular units, rather than seeing their beloved units being punished directly.
Which is also the road we’re taking from now on. We’re focusing on bringing extra strength to some of the civs that desperately lack it and we’ll keep the nerfing limited to places where we see no other realistic options.
The Forgotten vs The African Kingdoms
With a second expansion coming out, how do we combine this with the first one? What about people who just have The African Kingdoms, will they miss out on the earlier balance changes? A lot of questions to answer, but we picked the most player-friendly one. All balance changes will be the same in both expansions. This means, that regardless of the expansion you own, you’ll see all balance changes and also all new generic technologies and units. Speaking of which, there will be 3 new generic units, two of which will be revealed later in this dev blog.
This also means that with the release of The African Kingdoms, owners of The Forgotten will also see those new units pop up alongside the new balance changes.
So, which civs to balance? Overall, we’re quite happy with the state of the game now, some of the original civs will see changes, but most of the changes will come to the Forgotten civs. More specifically to “the 3 I’s”, Italians, Incas and Indians. We’re still deciding how exactly they’ll change, but expect some powerful Eagle Warriors streaming from the Andes. Last but not least, a lot of the Castle Age unique technologies will see their costs slashed.
Claiming the sea
Water warfare is a tricky business in Age of Empires II. Most water maps are decided by who has the most galleys the quickest. Even though we tried to boost Fire Ships and Demolition Ships in The Forgotten, it didn’t touch the base problem: there is no counter system in the Feudal Age. Because of that, flawless execution of a standard build order often meant more than having tactical insight and adapting to your enemy’s choices. Even though all are core elements of RTS games, we had the impression the balance was tipped too much to execution rather than tactical decisions. Time to go to the drawing board!
We figured that no matter how strong you make Fire Ships, they would have to counter large fleets of Galleys, which could’ve been massed easily for an entire age before you can get out your fire nozzles. So instead of making the Feudal Age a galley-fest, we decided to introduce 2 new ships to make a proper rock-paper-scissor system.
We’re still in the progress of balance testing and tweaking them properly, but so far, water maps have never been so fun and varied right off the bat. We can reveal however that the Fire Galley will be the first unit in the game with just 1 attack. And despite that, they rock your boat. Literally.
And to spice it up even more, one of the new civilizations will have a naval unique unit. Until recently its unit description in the game was “does funky stuff against galleys”, good thing we have an attentive testing team. Regardless, they still do funky stuff against galleys! 😉
Last but not least, play-testing a game doesn’t go without players. Although, when it comes to balancing the basic bonuses, it oddly enough doesn’t come down to players, but to a lot of spreadsheets with calculations and statistics. However, playing a game is much more fun than statistically analyzing it, so it’s time for a LAN party! For the past few years, we gathered with a group of players just to have some fun AoE2 LAN parties, but with The African Kingdoms coming out soon, we figured it would be the perfect opportunity to turn it into a full-fledged playtest-party! The location this year was inspiringly medieval as we all gathered up in the wonderful city of Prague.
In case you’re wondering how we’re holding a LAN party on Age of Empires II HD, this option was never really removed from the game. It just has been integrated with the rest of the multiplayer system. If you host a game and have your friends join locally, the connection will then turn local as well. The only requirement is that you need an internet connection to set up the game, but after that, the whole game goes and stays local, so you can enjoy pings of 1-2 ms 🙂
Voice Acting competition
Thanks to everyone who submitted their entry for the Voice Acting competition! We received a total of 56 entries and we’ll contact the winner next week. He or she will have their line featured in the game and a special thanks in the credits 🙂