Age of Empires IV in 2022 – introducing Seasons, an updated roadmap, and feedback tools

Shortly after the release of Age of Empires IV last year, we shared a quick view of what we were planning with our first ever Community Roadmap. Since then, we’ve been keeping an eye on your feedback across a variety of social platforms; assessing data to better understand what civilizations need more tuning in the short-term, and what civilizations and maps will require more focused attention over time; and running previews, such as the 1v1 Ranked Seasons Preview, with our Insiders hosted this past January. 

By compiling and synthesizing the above feedback, we’ve put together a more comprehensive view of the next five or so months, which you can find below. With our first major update of 2022 approaching, along with the official start of Ranked Seasons, we wanted to take a moment to thank you all for continuing this journey with us as we continue to maintain and grow Age of Empires IV. It’s not only your time playing the game that matters to us, but also the time you take to let us know what is or isn’t working for you; Age of Empires is built upon the premise that “it takes a village,” and we continuously learn that with you by our sides.  

To provide a more specific view of what’s coming to Age of Empires IV, we’ll be covering a few key items we think you should know, including: 

  • Our philosophy for Seasons and strong belief that Seasons can benefit all Age IV players, regardless of whether you lean into competition or prefer a more solo Age experience.
  • More insight into our strategy for introducing improvements to the game – including our approach to providing larger quarterly updates that introduce significant quality of life features and new content, as well as our commitment to doing balance tuning and bug fixes in between these major updates with our monthly patches.
  • The features and improvements we’re looking to introduce between now and roughly July 2022. Please note that some of these plans are still earlier in development and could change as we hear from you and as development progresses. If and when we decide to make significant changes to this view, we also plan to let you know.
  • How we collate feedback and data to guide our decision-making and how you can help us continue our journey to make Age of Empires IV the best it can be.

Community Roadmap & Seasons Philosophy 

Prior to diving too deeply into what to expect in our next two quarterly updates, we wanted to pause and explain why our latest roadmap looks a bit different from our previous roadmap. Chiefly, we’ve changed the way we’re referring to our quarterly updates (more on that in a second!) and visualizing our intention to approach balance and bug fixing at a monthly pace.  

So why is the Spring Update now called Season One? During last year’s What’s Next for Age of Empires IV post, we were reminded that we’re serving a truly global community and that generalizing updates based on the four temperate seasons, such as Winter and Spring, doesn’t work for everyone. As a result, we’re pivoting to a different type of Season and planning to tie major content updates to the refresh of the Age IV ranked seasonal ladder.  

While we’ll adapt and evolve our Season strategy over time, we’re starting with a few basic guidelines:  

  • Seasons will be numbered sequentially, starting with Season One. As we start out, the seasonal ladder and corresponding updates will span approximately three months. More often than not, the seasonal ladder will kick off at least one week after the update that introduces the new Season to give players the chance to adjust to any gameplay changes.  
  • Themes! Our Seasons will have them, and these themes will show up in different areas too – from supporting art to some in-game surprises.  
  • Seasons will contain something for everyone. Meaning, we’ll be looking to introduce changes that further the competitive experience and also quality of life improvements, new content, bug fixes, and more to meaningfully impact the way you engage with other parts of the game as well.

Season One 

Formerly known as the Spring Update, Season One is our first major update in 2022. While we can’t share an exact release date just yet, we can share that it’s not too far off and that there will be the opportunity to preview it in the near future if you own the game on Steam.

We’re viewing Season One as a cause for celebration, as it’s an entry-point for our modding community, as well as an opportunity for those of you looking to take part in some friendly competition to do your thing and climb the 1v1 Ranked Seasons ladder. We’re working on some fun surprises to ensure there are new challenges to face and rewards to earn regardless of your playstyle, but we don’t want to spoil too much too quickly.

Instead, we did want to provide a quick overview of features and balance improvements coming with Season One:

Features 

  • The Age of Empires IV Content Editor (Beta) and mods. We’re excited to kick off this new journey and allow creators to make and share their own content with the wider community! The Content Editor is a robust tool, and we’ve seen from you all in the past that the sky’s the limit with modding. Alongside the editor, we’ll be introducing a number of in-house mods and tutorials to get you all started. Though the Content Editor is launching as a Beta, it will remain persistently available following the start of Season One, and we’ll be looking to build relationships with our modding community to better guide the future of the tool alongside the game.  
  • The 1v1 Ranked Ladder. You can read about this game mode, the tiers, and more here. We’d also like to thank those of you who participated in the preview of this feature back in January. We’ve made some small tweaks to the system – including refining our map pool list and making the Tier numbers and images align more intuitively.  
  • Hotkey improvements. We know responsive and editable hotkeys with a range of uses are important to Age players, and we know that many of you are eager to see a fully remappable input system similar to what’s offered in other titles; we truly appreciate that you’ve continued to emphasize to us the importance of this feature. Fully remappable inputs require substantial development time across the board, and while we’re not there just yet, we expect to introduce fully remappable inputs in Season Two. In the meantime, Season One brings with it the following notable improvements to the hotkey system: 
    • Additional categories within the hotkey menu have been added that will enable players to quickly navigate between various functions and update input speeds. 
    • We’ve added the ability to rebind hotkeys to Mouse 3, 4, and 5. 
    • Quickly toggle on or off Control Group exclusivity, or use any number of new hotkeys to add or remove a unit from a Control Group.  
    • Players will be able to bind other commands to the “ALT” and “Shift” keys. 
    • New Global Hotkeys enable players to quickly find idle villagers, cycle through structures, and much more. 
  • Quality of Life improvements such as Global Build Queue, the Patrol move, a civ randomizer selection within the lobby and full post-match map reveal.  
  • MegaRandom comes to Age of Empires IV, as do in-house created mods, a new Art of War challenge, difficulty tuning across a variety of campaign missions, and more!

Balance

We’ve got some exciting balance changes planned for the Abbasid Dynasty, Chinese, and Holy Roman Empire civilizations in particular – you can read more about those plans in our recent Patch Notes here along with some details on how we’re planning to approach 1v1 map balance.  


Season Two

While our plans for Season Two are not as locked-in as Season One, we’ve put together an early view of some key elements we intend to prioritize. You can expect a more refined list from us as development continues, but in the meantime, here’s a quick look at some of what we’re looking to commit to in Season Two:

  • Ranked Season Two. You can expect updates to the Ranked Season ladder, alongside the refresh. We’ll be looking to grow this feature with your input in mind.  
  • Fully Remappable Inputs. As mentioned above, we want to make sure the game allows for the kind of flexibility and personalization you’ve requested. 
  • Map Vote System. We’re aware that appetite to play certain maps is strongly influenced by game mode, presence of water, and more. For the Season One ladder, we plan to start with a map pool based on data (ex. The maps we see are most actively played) and preview input (ex. Removing maps like Boulder Bay and Mongolian Heights, which many of you told us were not preferred) to ensure the maps you play in ranked offer the most competitively entertaining experiences. That said, we recognize that this doesn’t fully solve the issue; in the near future, we’ll be looking to introduce an in-game system that allows players more control over what maps they end up with during matches.   
    • Note: We expect our approach to providing players with more control over their map selection will grow over time, but we’ll be exploring in- and out-of-game solutions and will be looking into what steps we can take to introduce an in-game system as soon as possible.  While we’re still refining our vision for what this looks like in-game, this is a feature we’d introduce earlier than Season Two, depending on when it’s ready.  
  • Player Color Picker. We’ve seen this feature request pop up across a number of venues – from chats during our developer streams to our official forums and more. While we’d designed the current system to provide consistent colors based on the individual, team, or opponent, we recognize that player color picker allows for important customization. 

What we’re monitoring & ways to help! 

If you’ve made it to this point in the blog post, we’d like to thank you again! We recognize this is a lot of news all at once, and we also recognize that there may be a few items you’re not seeing on our roadmap and are curious about.  

Here are just a few of the other items we’re actively investigating for the future. Some of these are likely to land this year, and some may even be pulled into Season Two.  

  • Observer mode improvements  
  • Taunts 
  • Cheats  
  • Waypoint indicators  

Not seeing something on the list that you strongly believe needs to come to our attention, or seeing something on the list that you think should come faster? Here’s how you can help us build upon our strategy: 

  • In the short-term, let us know what you think of this information and more in our official Age forums! 
  • As well, if you want to help us get Season One-ready, keep an eye out for more news about the Public Update Preview coming very soon. We’ll be focused on polish during this timeframe, so the kind of feedback that will help us most is related to stability and unexpected bugs or user experiences. 
  • Following the release of Season One, we’ll be sending out a Community Post-Release Survey! This survey will seek to better understand our player base, as well as your response to this release. We’ll ask questions about how you’ve used the new features, what you’d like to see next, and more. This will be a real opportunity to make your voice heard and your responses will really help us.