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United States of America Cometk
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13 Dec 2019, 15:08

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Age of Empires 3 - The New Player's Guide to AoE3, ESO, and ESOCommunity

So you're interested in Age of Empires 3! A great choice - even after almost 15 years since its initial launch, Age of Empires 3 is a game that has stood the test of time as a unique and beautifully designed Real Time Strategy game that expands on the Age of Empires franchise. Whether you have heard of it just now or are a returning player coming back with a quaint sense of nostalgia for the game you played as a kid, this guide should serve as a launching pad for quickly getting you set up and immersed in the world of Age of Empires 3 and its online community.

This guide presupposes that you have purchased Age of Empires 3: The Complete Collection, which includes the base Age of Empires 3 game ("Nilla") and The WarChiefs (TWC) and The Asian Dynasties (TAD) expansion packs. The most optimal way to play AoE3 is using The Asian Dynasties version of the game; this is considered the final official version of the game, and is where a majority of online players reside.

Glossary

Code: Select all

1) Installing the Game
1.1) By Steam
1.2) Common Installation Issues

2) Optimizing Your Settings
2.1) UI Options
2.2) Game Options
2.3) Graphics Options
2.4) Sound Options

3) Logging into ESO Multiplayer
3.1) Creating an ESO Account (& Recovering an Old Account)
3.2) Making a Home City (& the XP Mod)
3.3) Lobby Settings
3.4) Playing a Game

4) The ESOC Forums & Website
Features
4.1) Recorded Games Compendium
4.2) ESOC Wiki
4.3) ESOC Elo Ladder
4.4) Population Statistics
Forums
4.5) Welcome Board
4.6) Age of Empires 3 Discussion
4.7) Off-Topic Section
4.8) Tech Support

5) Playing on the ESOC Patch
5.1) Installing the ESOC Patch
5.2) Finding a Game
5.3) The XP Mod

6) Improving at the Game
6.1) Hotkeys
6.2) Strategy Wall & Guides
6.3) Record Games
6.4) Watching Streams & Videos
6.5) Asking Questions

7) Participating in Tournaments
7.1) Signing up
7.2) Scheduling
7.3) Playing Your Match
7.4) After Your Match

8) Conclusion
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13 Dec 2019, 15:08

1) Installing the Game

1.1) By Steam

You finally decided to buy that old game that you used to play back in the day. You discovered that old CD, but it’s not working anymore so you make up your mind to buy it again from Stream. As a prior notice, the game requires around 5-12 GB hard disk space and at least a 2 GB RAM. Hit the install button to download and install the game. A pop-up menu will ask you whether you want any shortcuts created on your desktop or start menu. Agree with the license terms and proceed to download the game. It can be later found in the following directory C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Age Of Empires 3. In the folder bin exists the Age of Empires III game app (age3y.exe), from which you can always create a new direct shortcut.

After Steam successfully downloaded it, click play. A pop-up menu should suggest you, which version of the game you want to play:
a) Age of Empires III: Complete Edition (Vanilla),
b) Age of Empires III: The War Chiefs (TWC Expansion)
c) Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties (TAD Expansion)
Make sure you copy the Product Code shown afterwards, in case it is asked to be filled in, and click play.

1.2) Common Installation Issues

Check out the AoE3 Reddit FAQ page for concise information on sorting through common tech issues associated with installing the game.
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United States of America Cometk
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13 Dec 2019, 15:08

2) Optimizing your Settings

After you've successfully installed and launched the game, and before we can get to enjoy the wonderful graphics and gameplay that AoE3 has to behold, we must address the game settings. Under the "Help and Tools" section of the Main Menu will be the "Options" portfolio from which we can customize the game to our needs.

2.1) UI Options

The first thing to adjust are the Game UI settings. The default state of Age of Empires 3 has many valuable and informative tools turned off and it is crucial that we manually turn them on for the best possible experience.

Below will list the Game UI Options and give a description on what they do. Bolded items are important ones that we want turned on.

Game UI Options

2.2) Game Options

Below will list the Game Options and give a description on what they do. Again, bolded items are important ones that we want turned on. Further comments will be noted in italics.

Game Options

2.3) Graphics Options

The crux of Age of Empires 3: its graphical beauty. Now almost 15 years old, Age of Empires 3's graphics were so ahead of the curve at the time of the game's release that most PC's of the era struggled to run the game at all. Nowadays, with hardware having caught up in processing power, most computers are safe to run the game at its graphical maximum while maintaining a comfortable frame rate.

The settings you choose for your graphics are completely up to you and what your PC is capable of handling. If one of your main goals is to improve at the game, then it is advisable to turn the graphics down to the lower side, so that performance is maximized and it is easier to see and control different units. However, if your PC is able to do so, there's nothing wrong with enjoying the game at its graphical height.

Some commons issues one might encounter with the game's performance might also occur from circumstances outside your PC's true graphical handling capabilities. Make sure that your game is running on your dedicated Graphics Processing Unit. To do this, go to your installation folder; for most, this will be C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\Age Of Empires 3\bin. Scroll down until you find the "age3y.exe" application; right-click it, and find the "Run with graphics processor" dropdown.

How to open your GPU control panel

The game should be defaulted to your dedicated GPU. If it is not, then you may need to go to your GPU's Control Panel to change the default. If it is set to your dedicated GPU but you are still encountering frame rate issues, sometimes it can be helpful to switch to your PC's Integrated Graphics and then switch back to your dedicated GPU.

2.4) Sound Options

To address the game sound options, first one should be aware of two global bugs.

The first bug has to do with tabbing in and out of the AoE3 client. If you have adjusted some of the in-game volume settings, upon tabbing back into the game those settings will be "reset" back to maximum volume. To circumvent this issue, you must utilize your PC's system volume mixer. You can leave your in-game volume settings alone, and instead adjust your AoE3 volume to whatever level is appropriate for you in your PC's system volume mixer. This way, even after tabbing in and out of the game, your volume settings will persist and remain consistent. Note: this bug is fixed on the ESOC Patch.

An example of system volume mixer settings

The second bug has to do with unit voices and in-game notifications not working properly after the AoE3 client has been open for a while. This is most frequently referred to by players as "the sound bug" and refers to this specific issue. The effects and occurrence of this bug vary from player to player, but it invariably leads to the temporary loss of some audio features.

Unfortunately there is no sure-fire way to prevent this bug from occurring. When it happens, you should restart your AoE3 game client, and the bug will go away. It is good to refresh your game client periodically to avoid this bug from being a frequent issue. One remedy is to enable VSync in the Graphics Options; this setting limits the game's max FPS to 60, and for players some it seems to ward off the sound bug. Results may vary.
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13 Dec 2019, 15:08

3) Logging into ESO Multiplayer

Ensemble Studios Online, otherwise known as ESO, is the game's integrated online multiplayer client. It is where the majority of online players reside and is the hub for Age of Empires 3 multiplayer.

There are other platforms for AoE3 multiplayer, such as GameRanger and Voobly, but this particular guide will only cover playing on ESO.

3.1) Creating an ESO Account (& Recovering an Old Account)

Each steam product key enables you to create one ESO Account. You must have launched Age of Empires 3 via Steam at least once in order to be able to create your ESO Account. After this prerequisite has been met, you should be ready to go.

In the game menu, go Multiplayer -> ES Online -> "New Account?" and enter the details as you prefer them. Be mindful of the spelling and casing of your username, because it will not be able to be changed later on!

If you are just coming back to Age of Empires 3 and vaguely remember creating an online account from back in the day, there may be hope. Using the Account Recovery tool, if you are able to answer the secret question associated with your account and access the email address it was tied to, you may be able to recover it. If you are unable to recover your account via this tool however, the account may simply be lost in time.

3.2) Making a Home City (& the XP Mod)

The Home City mechanic is what differentiates Age of Empires 3 from other RTS games. When in-game, your Home City will allow you to send "shipments" after generating enough experience points. Shipments may contain an variety of items, such as resource crates, economic upgrades, or military units. In an individual game, there are a limited number of shipments you can send - you must have a "deck" made of "cards", which are able to customize and unlock in your Home City. you Using your shipments wisely and effectively is a crucial part of the game and what makes it fun!

Before we can actually begin playing an online game, we must create a Home City. When you create a new Home City, it will start out at Level 10 unless you have other Home Cities already at a certain level. Your Level 10 Home City will allow you to unlock 9 new cards to add to your deck.

Home City Level Benchmarks

Unfortunately, Home Cities starting at Level 10 means a lot of content is locked for new players, who must grind their Home City level if they want to play a civilization without any restrictions. However, there is a solution - The XP Mod. The XP Mod allows Home Cities to jump from Level 10 to Level 100+ in no more than a few minutes. You can visit the ESOC Wiki page for more information on How to Use the XP MOD.

3.3) Lobby Settings

Most of the lobby settings are pretty self-explanatory. The default settings are almost always the settings that you will play on in tournaments. You can select a map or map set from the map dropdown menu. If you've previously downloaded custom maps, you need to check the "Custom Maps" box first. On the ESOC Patch (see chapter 5), you will have a wider selection of maps and map types. The game rules, starting age, and game speed should be left on their default setting.

Enabling "Free for All" (or FFA) in a 1v1 lobby will ensure that the game is not rated, meaning your rank won't be affected. Disable "Free for All" if you would like your game to be rated and to count towards the ladder. "Handicap" allows you to grant a player an advantage in resource gathering. This setting is obviously not used in competitive games, but it can be fun to toy around with. Can you beat an Expert AI with a 100% handicap? The "Record Game" box allows you to record your game so you can view your gameplay at a later point. Do note that only the latest nine recorded games are saved. If you would like to save a recorded game, make sure to navigate to your recorded games folder and to rename the recorded game to something recognizable so you can look for it later. Finally, the "Allow Cheats" box allows you to use pre-programmed game cheats to spawn fun units and resources. It should be self-explanatory that this option is not used either in competitive games.

Furthermore, in the lobby, you can choose a color, team, and civilization. Only the host of the lobby can change lobby settings and invite other players.

3.4) Playing a Game

Click on the red "Ready" button to indicate that you would like to start the game. Once all players have readied up, the lobby will start a countdown and the game will begin. Make sure you've created a Homecity Deck before you start your game as you won't be able to do this while playing. Pick a strategy from the Strategy Wall and start playing!
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13 Dec 2019, 15:09

4) The ESOC Forums & Website

eso-community.net is an Age of Empires 3 website that is operated for the community by the community. Founded in 2015, ESOC initially began as a one-off website to host the drought-ending tournament the Age of Empires 3 Spring Championship (ASC Spring). With its Grand Finals reaching an unprecedented 1000 concurrent viewers, the event was a resounding success, and the spirit of the community inspired ESOC to continue hosting seasonal, free-to-enter, crowdfunded tournaments.

As the website grew, so too did the brand: tournament notation changed from ASC to ESOC, YouTube and Twitch accounts were launched, and ESOC became the central hub for Age of Empires 3 community. The website now boasts over 10,000 forum members, a balance patch crafted by the game’s top minds, and roughly 40 completed tournaments totaling over $12,000 USD in cumulative prize pool earnings. Through the generosity of community donors and the dedication of an all-volunteer staff, ESOC has created a sustainable model to provide you, the community, with the best Age of Empires 3 content on the internet.

Home to seasoned veterans and newcomers alike, the website offers a variety of content we think you’ll enjoy:

Features

4.1) Recorded Games Compendium

All recorded games uploaded to the website, be that for tournaments or via the Recorded Games section of the forum, are compiled and easily accessible through the Recorded Games Compendium. Able to be searched by name, map, civilization, and patch, if you are in need of a quick strategy for the current metagame or looking for an AoE3 history lesson, this section of the website has something for you.

4.2) ESOC Wiki

The ESOC Wiki is the first AoE3-exclusive wiki in the game's history. Launched in Summer 2018, it is the culmination of a years-long effort by the ESOC staff to preserve and organize the vast wealth of knowledge available on eso-community.net. It is a key component of the ESOC mission of encouraging competitive gameplay and advancing the AoE3 dialogue.

4.3) ESOC Elo Ladder

The ESOC Ladders are intended to take third-party ranking systems to the next level. While based on the JP Simple Elo Ladders, our ladder recognizes differences between the ESOC Patch, Treaty Patch, and RE patch, and provides a unique Elo rating for each one. The ESOC Ladders serve to effectively rate current-day player skill and are used as the primary seeding mechanism for AoE3 events.

We have also tweaked the formula a bit to improve rating accuracy. Our ladder operates using the following formula: 16.0f + (team2Elo - team1Elo) * 2 / playerAmount * (32.0f / 400.0f)

4.4) Population Statistics

The AoE3 population statistics page contains live-updating graphical representations of various relevant datasets that we have available to us.

Forums

4.5) Welcome Board

New to the website? Presumably you are, since you're reading this guide! As a new member, we encourage you to make a thread in this forum to briefly introduce yourself: tell something about how you found us, how often you play AoE3 and what your favorite civilization is. Since it might be scary to make your first post somewhere like the strategy board, we hope we can give a warm welcome here. Feel free to ask questions as well, there are plenty of friendly community members willing to help. You can also find the Forum Rules here.

4.6) Age of Empires 3 Discussion

The Age of Empires 3 section of the forums has various boards for all matters AoE3. There are dedicated boards for Treaty discussion and discussion of the ESOC Patch, as well as places to upload your Recorded Games for analysis from top players or show off your newly created scenario in the User-Created Content section. This part of the forum is also host to the Tech Support board.

4.7) Off-Topic Section

The Off-Topic section of the site is for discussions about the community, players, forum games, grudge matches, memes and everything else related to ESOC and its members. It's also a place for discussions about news, politics, sports, other games, culture, philosophy etc.

4.8) Tech Support

The Tech Support board is for all questions related to running the game. With over 4 years of answers, it's possible you might find the solution you're looking for without even needing to ask!
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United States of America musketeer925
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13 Dec 2019, 15:09

5) Playing on the ESOC Patch

The ESOC Patch (also known as "EP") is a balance and content patch designed to improve player experience without making major gameplay changes. It is a fan-made patch made by the ESOC team, and is an alternative to the official patch (sometimes known as "RE", which stands for Robot Entertainment, the game studio who developed the most recent official patch for the game). Some of the EP's major features include:

  • Cheat protections - patching out security holes to prevent common forms of cheating
  • New maps - a wide selection of brand new maps designed by our team, well-balanced for competitive play
  • No major gameplay changes - staying true to the original game while balancing its elements
  • Easy to install - custom-made installer that handles all the heavy lifting for you
  • Automatic updates - seamless updates received through the ESOC Patch Launcher interface
  • Easy switch between ESOC and official patch - fear not, you lose nothing by installing the patch and can switch to the official game version at any time
  • Quality of life enhancements - enjoy improvements such as more teams to choose from, diplomacy mode, faster ESO login, watching recorded games of various patch versions with ease, and many more
More information about the EP, including balance change notes and the FAQ can be found here here.

5.1) Installing the ESOC Patch

Download the latest ESOC Patch installer from here.

The most common difficulty with installing the ESOC patch is getting past the "Windows Protected your PC". This is a warning from Windows since ESOC is not a known publisher, but is normal, and does not indicate that it is a virus. To get past this, simply hit "More Info", and then "Run Anyway":

Windows Protected your PC

If you have a third-party anti-virus, you may also have to disable it temporarily to prevent it from blocking the installer.

Once past that, the installer will prompt for administrator privileges and start. It should automatically find your game installation and use that as the install location. You should be able to just leave the default settings and click Next until it's done.

5.2) Finding a Game

While the ESOC Patch does have many players, it is typically the minority of games hosted on ESO at any time. To play with other players, you must be playing on the same patch; i.e., when on the EP, you can play with people on the EP, but not with people on the official patch. Not to worry, though, as the ESOC Patch's launcher conveniently allows you to launch either patch.

In the ESOC patch, the game browser will display all games by default -- whether they're hosted on the EP or the official patch. Games hosted on the official patch display a "≠ EP" to indicate it is not on the EP.

Game Browser

However, you can also adjust the settings to only show games hosted on the EP:

Filter the Game Browser

Other great ways to find games include:

- Checking out the Active EP players page to find other players at your skill level who play on EP actively
- Watching the #eso-ep-activity channel of the ESOC Discord server, which shows currently hosted games:

Discord Channel

5.3) The XP Mod

See the ESOC Wiki for information on How to Use the XP Mod.
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United States of America Cometk
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13 Dec 2019, 15:09

6) Improving at the Game

There are many avenues to help you improve at Age of Empires 3. The most natural way to improve is to play a lot and increase your familiarity with the game. However, ESO-Community, as a site first established for competitive play, has many active top level players who are available to answer questions and dispense knowledge.

6.1) Hotkeys

Hotkeys are an essential part of any RTS game, and AoE3 is no different. Learning even just basic hotkeys will put you at a decided advantage over fellow newbies and is an integral part of becoming a well-rounded RTS player.

This Video on Controls, UIs, and Hotkeys made by @harcha serves as an excellent guide for even intermediate level players who are seeking to improve their game.

6.2) Strategy Wall & Guides

The strategy wall serves as an anthology for all walks of gameplay improvement. There are a multitude of detailed guides for all skill levels from a variety of users.

6.3) Record Games

As covered earlier in the guide, the Record Games Compendium is an excellent resource for discovering current metagame strategies or for getting an overview of the game's history and evolution over time.

The Recorded Games board is not just a place to find recorded games but also to find further information and discussion on particular strategies and build orders. There is no skill restriction to who can post recorded games - if you are a new player, feel free to post some recorded games of your gameplay for advice from top level players!

6.4) Watching Streams & Videos

At almost all hours of the day, there will be a high level player streaming first-person gameplay. Especially for RTS games, livestreams provide a unique perspective into how the game is played and how

YouTube is also another place to find resources to improve with, sometimes in a more digestible format than Recorded Games and easier to rewatch and come back to than Twitch livestreams.

6.5) Asking Questions

A fundamental step to improving at the game is immersing yourself in the community and reaching out.
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13 Dec 2019, 15:09

7) Participating in Tournaments

Winning tournaments is your ultimate goal as a competitive AoE3 player. In tournaments, you play against a opponent on a given map pool. By winning tournament matches, you move onto the next round. Although there can only be one winner, tournaments are both a fun and an educational experience. In a tournament setting, you challenge yourself by playing against players you might not normally meet and by playing civilizations or maps that you might not at first be comfortable with. Personally speaking, practicing for and winning a tournament series has brought me some of the most fun I've experienced in Age of Empires 3.

7.1) Signing up

You can sign up to participate in a tournament by using your MyESOC panel during the sign up period . This period will always be announced in a news post, so keep an eye on the home page of ESOC. The most important part of a tournament are its rules. Most general rules, such as the obligation to respect your opponent and tournament staff, apply to all tournaments. Some minor tournaments have specific civilization rules which you must adhere to. Make sure to read the tournament rules before signing up so there are no surprises!

After you've signed up, you'll automatically be seeded at the beginning of the tournament. Check the tournament information to figure out when the first week starts. You are obliged to play your games in the given week(s), excluding possible extensions.

7.2) Scheduling

Before you start your scheduling, you've hopefully already read the tournament rules. The tournament rules tell you that you need to schedule a time to play your matches with your opponent using the forums. The tournament admins will create a scheduling thread for you and your opponent which you will be tagged in. An example of a scheduling thread can be found here. If the match is not played in time and an admin decision is required, scheduling effort will be evaluated to determine the winner. It is therefore important that you put in sufficient effort to schedule and play your match on time!

For a comprehensive overview of ideal scheduling, check out the ESOC Guide to Scheduling.

7.3) Playing Your Match

Matches should be played on ESO. Matches may only be played on GameRanger or Voobly if ESO is unavailable due to technical reasons. Almost all tournaments are hosted on the ESOC Patch (EP). Before playing your match, make sure you've read the tournament rules and reviewed the maps. Civilization rules are often the most difficult to understand, so make sure you and your opponent understand these before you begin your series. And don't forget the most important thing: all tournament games must be recorded using the "Record Game" feature within the game.

7.4) After Your Match

Hopefully you won! The winner of the series will submit the results to ESOC using the match results submitter tool. This tool will only work if you have tournament games pending, so you probably won't see anything meaningful at the moment. Once the games are uploaded, you can bask in glory until your next scheduling thread is created. Good luck!
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United States of America Cometk
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13 Dec 2019, 15:10

8) Conclusion

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Age of Empires 3 is a fantastic game, and that there is still a thriving community almost 15 years since the games initial launch is a testament to that fact. We here at ESOC hope that AoE3, whether it be your first encounter or a quaint nostalgia trip, can become an enjoyable way to spend your time for years to come.

Thanks to @BrookG, @musketeer925, and @Mr_Bramboy for helping to write this guide. And thank you to the community at large for all the resources and materials needed to put this thing to together!
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13 Dec 2019, 15:13

9) Final remarks

Thanks for choosing ESOC.

Keep in minds that having 9999 posts is dangerous and might lose semi-finals. Everytime you beat someone good or you don't like, don't forget to post ego-post to the "recorded games" section.

If you are having any questions, please contact @princeofkabul
Thank you.

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