The myth of online multiplayer gameplay

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Last spring, I preordered Age of Mythology: Extended Edition on Steam for PC. It’s an updated version of the 2002 release of the real-time strategy game from Ensemble Studios, which has since been disbanded (Rest). Ensemble was known for creating the best real-time strategy games. Age of Empires II was a fantastic medieval strategy game and Age of Empires III took us forward in time to the colonial era. But there was something special about Age of Mythology. When the remastered Age of Empires II: HD was released (which is a great pick-up), the only thing on my mind and many of the minds that loved Ensemble was when are they going to make an updated Age of Mythology?

When AoM: EX was announced, my friends and I were extremely excited. There was a fairly large online community and I expected this updated version combined with the online presence of Steam to revitalize the competitiveness of the game. Daniel Starkey at Eurogamer.net wrote in his review of the game:

“For most, the most important addition in Age of Mythology: Extended Edition will be the beefed-up support for online multiplayer. This remake is running on Steam servers now, and while it’s possible that the service will go belly-up some time in the next decade, so far it has proven to be a decent safeguard against obsolescence.”

When we finally got the game and tried to play a 2v2 match, things were a little less optimistic. The multiplayer version of the game was unplayable. There was so much lag and dropped frames that you couldn’t tell what your clicks were doing. You really couldn’t tell what was happening, ever. Do I have a bad internet connection? Did install the game incorrectly? Does the game host have a network issue? No, this was a widespread problem that affected even LAN games which involves computers linking together directly instead of using an internet connection.

When you pay $30 for a game that is over ten years old, you expect to get everything the original game had and more. We definitely got a lot less. There has been an outcry for the game to be “fixed,” but I am unsure if anything has been resolved. Here and there you can find players poking around, asking if things have been worked out yet. It seems that the community has given up on the game, despite its mostly positive reviews on Steam. One of the reviews reads:

“-If you intend to play the campaign and singleplayer ai skirmishes only, go ahead and enjoy. HOWEVER,
-If you want to buy this for the MULTIPLAYER, – DON’T BUY THIS! (unless you can put up with massive lag)”

And that’s exactly correct. But what is concerning is that most of the reviews from the big names upon release don’t mention the massive lag. And since this is a known issue, and we’ll soon be approaching the one-year mark with this game, it’s doubtful that this issue will be fixed. The online community that wishes to continue to play this game competitively has found a home on Voobly, where you can play the classic version of the game online for free. Now that’s not a bad deal. It’s definitely worth a try because if you don’t like it, hey, you didn’t spend a dime.

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