In the mind of an expert- Strategy Article
There are people who have played the Age of Empires series since the beginning days of Age of Empires I and have never become super experts. I can think of a few who started their Age of Kings careers about six months ago and have become the cream of the crop and the best of the best. What do these individuals possess of the rest of us? Is it a third arm or one person with two brains? This article will unveil how to become an expert. It wont teach you strategy and it wont teach you the secrets of the game. It will teach you how to approach the game from a different perspective and unveil the characteristics possessed by elite experts (for lack of a better term).
I try to write with precision and conciseness so while this article may not provide you with a half an hour of reading time, it will pack pertinent information into detailed sections.
Supremacy of Experience
Experience is key and a fundamental building block of Age of Kings expertise. But it is undervalued more often than not. How do these people playing for 6 months become better than someone playing for 3 years? Jinx is known as the overnight expert and I am certain of how he came to his superior level. I remember him once writing that he plays 3-8 games a day on average. Furthermore, I remember one of the DevilZ (on the FOPT interview) saying that once he got hooked on AoK, he remembered playing 16 hours a day at a stretch. I can't be certain that every expert plays 16 hours a day but I know that Vasago aka Myth_Apollo said upon his return from Korea that Koven was definitely the best. He said that he had more experience than Mozory and IamJordan combined. Just from these examples, one must realize the commitment and the free time (or the free time made by skipping sleepJ) required to become an expert. With experience, things that an intermediate or low-level expert would have to think of, an elite expert has these actions down as common sense. It becomes like instinct and even seeing a combo of troops, experts can almost like a reflex respond with effective counter units.
Speed is power
Gutter Rat said that he had met YoungGunz at the Arizona Challenge. He mentioned that YoungGunz was hitting his keys so fast that he was afraid that the keys were going to come flying out. But realize that while YoungGunz is pretty good, there are many who are higher rated and (scarily) faster. I click very quickly probably about 3-4 clicks a second. This speed however is compromised completely by clunky old computer (A subject which will be addressed afterwards). No time should be lost on thinking and respond and experts can click, move and respond with the same speed of thought.
Experts arent Einsteins
Intelligence has nothing to do with Age of Kings frankly (Neither does it have to do with any other competitive online game). Probably the most controversial of my statements, I can assure you that expertise has close to 0% with intelligence. Anybody with even a moderate amount of intelligence can be amazing at Age of Kings. Age of Kings appears to me as being more like an action shooter. Its a matter of clicking fast, practice, responding quickly and effectively and moreover knowing what your opponent is and what hes thinking. Now my article will become slightly more focused:
Boom can be a bust
One of the MOST common problems with intermediates is making them realize that booming isnt the entire game. This problem roots itself with the overall beginning of every game. Building the economy starts every game and makes or breaks the game. But to what extent one should build an economy is a topic of concern and of individual judgment. I still have a pretty big problem of not willing to go to imperial with at least 90 villagers or so. I also become stingy in castle age with building troops because I like to spread and boom. Containing the booming virus takes a lot of practice and it requires sincere effort. Dont feel guilty not pressing HCHCHCHC. Sometimes fielding a huge knight contingent early in castle is key to containing a booming opponent. If your opponent is fielding a large castle army, its probably a good idea to slow down the economy and pump out effective counter troops. Simple enough. Trust me its common sense but its hard to curb the boom tendency.
Deny and Destroy
Whats hard to visualize are key areas in later parts of the game. Sometimes you get an unexpected attack from somewhere you would have never thought of that totally wrecks your economy (Very common circumstance in feudal rushes). Its important to know that all ground no matter if it empty space or full of resources is important ground. Denying opponent ground is a matter of containment and leads to increased pressure on the enemy as well as safety from something you never could have expected. Denying resources ground is of course important but heres one of the hardest parts of becoming an expert: realizing what is important to your opponent at that very moment. Just because an opponents gold is forward does not mean that it is the most prudent resource to tower in a feudal rush. Put yourself in your opponents shoes. What would he LEAST want me to do to him? What could I do to him that would make him go Oh Oh Trouble.. If your going to field a huge feudal army consider getting his stone if you fairly confident you could dispose of any of his troops. (This example is just for demonstration purposes.)
Need new parts under that Hood?
I am convinced that a persons computer is probably one of the highest values affecting the expertise of that individual. I have a Pentium II 300 that scroll lags in Dark Age (condition where your mouse cursor CRAWLS across the screen). This greatly affects productiveness. By the time I hit imperial, I am still operating at the same speed as in dark but I am 25% as effective or fast in the actual game. I think once beyond a certain point a good computer doesnt matter but if you cant play Age of Kings at the higher resolutions, it really hurts. Ive played at friends houses and man does it really make a difference. If you got something like mine, considering ditching your system because you wont go the elite expert level without a good computer.
Recorded Games: Entertainment or the Greatest Teacher
Note: Due to time constraints I have never done this mentioned technique but it seems to really help to those to whom I have told it.
Recorded games are an asset to really trying to understand what a player is thinking. Training your mind to be geared towards expertise can be supplemented by watching recorded games. A technique which seems useful is to pause the game every time you see a particular situation. When you see any situation that you question you could handle, pause the game. Examine whats going on and think of what you would do. Then unpause the game and watch what the player does. This can be useful in two ways: 1) if the player eventually wins, understand why that situation was better than a solution than you chose.
2) Understand what the player did and if they player loses try to figure out an alternative to the method the expert used that would possibly reverse the outcome of the game.
3) Dont take things experts do for granted. Theres a reason why experts research upgrades and build troops when they do. For example, forging is often researched in conjunction with knights. Loomed vills have +1R/+1 PA. Therefore the knight only inflicts 9 attack with every stroke because of the 1 attack absorbed by the regular armor of the villager. +1 attack to the knight means that the knight can take down a vill in 4 strokes. There are multiple instances where Age of Kings comes down to math.
Different means to an end
Age of Kings is open-ended and possesses an infinite amount of possibilities (possibly the reason why it is so addicting). Be open to new idea or thoughts and try them out. I would suggest playing rated because the newest strategy usually hit rated first. Plus, the sense of competitive nature of rated would at first seem harsh but it is actually where you meet quite a number of people who are serious about the game. I want to stress one thing however: Play rated for experience, NOT points. It doesnt matter if this is the first time youve gotten your rating to say 1900. If a 2000 comes into the room, play him even if you know youll lose your points. You must understand that if you ever want to get better, youve got to keep playing people who are better. When youre addicted to points, youre better off addicted to Hearts because youll go nowhere.
I hope that I've changed your perspective on what quality experts possess and moved you one step closer to expertise.
The correct outlook and commitment could be all that moves you from an intermediate to one of superior skill.