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Age of Empires 2 is one of my favorite games of all time, and I used to play it all the time. With the recent release of the HD edition of the game, I have gotten back into it, and even watched some pro games, but I was disappointed by its lack of serious Esport credibility. Already, a hardcore community of AoE2 players exist, and are even organized into a league in the form of the Grand Masters League(GML). Unfortunately, this is much less popular than many Esport RTS games such as Starcraft(2), Command and Conquer, and even Warcraft 3. I love the game though, and think it would fit in perfectly in the MLG or Starcraft style Esport setting.
Here's a few things that would help it stand out from the crowd:
-18 civilizations, each with their own unique units, upgrades, and strategies. Obviously this would create a larger variety in pro games, but it would also make 3v3 and 4v4 games more viable as each civilization could be unique, unlike Starcraft which has only 3.
-Random maps: in many RTS games, the best get to be this way simply by knowing the map well enough. While this is certainly possible in AoE2, there is also the option to randomly generate a map, making each battle unique and keeping all players on their toes as they have to make a point to explore.
-Upgrades: One of the most defining part of AoE2 for me, is the number of upgrades available and the difference between civilizations. Firstly, you start in the Dark Age and make your way up to the feudal, then castle, then Imperial ages. Each age gives you new units and buildings, which gives way to a number of different strategies. You can postpone advancing to rush in the dark age and delay your opponent. You can fast castle to get out the powerful knights. You can focus on archers in feudal. The possibilities are further increased by the number of upgrades available for units. You can both upgrade all military units to more powerful versions, and purchase upgrades for the unit type as a whole. This gives branches such as a small but strong army versus a large but weak army.
On top of unit upgrades, you can also upgrade just about every building in the game, which is important because of the significance of resource management. Making bigger farms, faster woodcutting, gold mining, and stone mining is extremely important if you want to keep your economy up to snuff with your opponent.
-Resources: as I said a minute ago, resources are extremely important, and end up being an intense micro. There are four different types of resources: stone, gold, wood, and food. One early choice to make is your resource focus; focus on wood and gold if you want early archers, food if you want to fast castle, etc. It also leads to the extra challenge of protecting your villagers and keeping them working. In the later game, you may have up to 70 or 80 villagers, and it is easy to lose track of them, which makes it easy for them to either become idle, from a lack of nearby resources, or to be picked off by an enemy raid. This shows the importance of micro not only in a combat scenario, but also on the homefront.
-More ways to win: of course, you can win by simply killing all of your opponents men (although someone usually surrenders long before this happens), but you can also win by making a wonder, or capturing all relics on the map. On top of this there are other game modes such as King of the Hill and Regicide that add to the variety.
Of course, the game is not perfect, no game is, but the problems that exist have become a part of the experience rather than a detriment to it. The first time you see units doubling back on themselves it will seem odd and out of place, but it is easy to get used to quirks like this. The biggest problem with the game now is problems caused by the HD remake, but these will be sorted out.
The Esport community has expanded exponentially over the years, but most of the games are ones specifically built for the tourment scene. I would love to see Age of Empires 2 make a comeback in a bigger way than a mediocre HD remake.
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