Solving Age of Empires II (AOE 2) Multiplayer Problems

After having spent an incredibly long time trying to get Age of Empires II – Age of Kings (AOK) to work with my friend, and stumbling along many web pages with tips and tricks to get the game working, I thought I would construct a collection of all the methods we tried. This guide might be quite useful to work through as a checklist if you’re having problems connecting in Age of Empires II. This also applies to The Conquerors expansion pack (AOE:C).

Some general advice:

  • The game relies on DirectX, albeit a very old version. You should really consider making sure that you have the latest version of DirectX installed. You can verify this by downloading the DirectX web installer. If you don’t have the latest version of DirectX, it’ll download and install it for you. You can download it direct from Microsoft, here.
  • The same applies to Windows Updates. There’s no excuse not to keep your copy of Windows up to date, especially since you can enable Automatic Updates to do it for you. If you check Windows Update to make sure that there are no available updates, it’s another thing to strike off the list.
  • Make sure that the game versions match between players. Get the latest update for Age of Empires 2 here.
  • Rather than delving into your router configuration pages, most people prefer to use a VPN solution like Hamachi.  Hamachi creates a virtual network between you and your friends with the intention of it being the same as both being on the same LAN. Hamachi makes the whole process a lot easier.
  • Another alternative is to use GameRanger which is a program that routes all the game traffic through a single port to your friends. This is usually less preferable to using Hamachi as it still means that you need to configure your router to allow traffic on this port.

Problem 1 – Cannot see the other game:

  • If you are using Hamachi, this problem is likely to appear for one of two reasons: either you do not have the correct ports open on your firewall or you are entering the wrong IP address to connect to. Out of experience, I’ve found that selecting the LAN option in AOE2 doesn’t always show the game and instead you need to enter the IP address when prompted after selecting the TCP/IP option. The IP address you enter should be the other person’s Hamachi IP address which you can find by looking in the Hamachi window. If the network you join is only with your friend or is with trusted people, you could even consider disabling the firewall on the Hamachi network completely. In Vista/7, you might consider changing the Hamachi network interface over to Private/Home which will disable a lot of the security.
  • The ports you will need to open on your firewall are: TCP 47264, TCP 2300-2400, UDP 2300-2400 in both incoming and outgoing directions. This applies particularly if you are not using Hamachi, but you should do it as well if you haven’t disabled your firewall on the Hamachi network. If you are not using Hamachi, you will need to properly open and forward these ports on your router. You should also add EMPIRES2.exe and AGE2X.exe to your firewall exceptions list.

Problem 2 – Can see the other game, but “Unable to Join Game”:

This was the problem that got me stuck.

  • If you are not both using the same operating system, the person(s) with the more recent operating systems may need to enter compatibility mode to match the person with the least recent operating system. For example, if you are running Windows Vista and your friend is running Windows XP SP2, you may need to change the compatibility settings for AOE2 to Windows XP SP2.
  • The above information about firewalls and port forwarding still applies here. You will still need to make sure the ports are open and forwarded on your router and firewalls.
  • Although Hamachi2 works fine for me, and every version of Hamachi previously has worked fine, some people report only to be able to get the game working with Hamachi verison 1.0.1.1 which you can download here.
  • You could also try changing the network priority of the Hamachi interface. To do this, go into Network Connections (from Network and Sharing Center, or My Network Places). In Vista/7, press Alt to bring up the menu and select Advanced -> Advanced Settings. Make sure Hamachi appears at the top of the Connections list by using the up and down arrows and click OK. You may need to restart your computer for this to take effect.

Problem 3 – Laggy Gameplay:

  • This is a problem that plagues Age of Empires II. Even if you have an amazingly up to date computer and are on the same LAN, there’s a chance you’ll have this problem. There are many theories as to what the exact cause is, with sync issues, clock speeds and such like being mentioned a fair bit, but the only solution I’ve found is to limit the population cap. I find it’s best if you don’t exceed 500 units in total, but less is always better. For example, if you are playing with 5 people, the population cap could be set to 100. If you are playing with 3 people, it could be set to 150 etc. If it’s successful, you can try raising the cap in your next game.  The problem is always significantly worse if you have AI in your game, with lag rarely occurring in games with just human players. Although it’s going to make the game feel that little bit more like the original AOE, it’s probably worth it to avoid the horrific lag.
  • Another tip would be to try and rotate the host. If you find with one person hosting it is laggy and your pop cap is low, try another host. It’s sometimes a bit hit and miss as to who will host the best game.
  • Sometimes after extended play, the game will freeze and all players will be kicked out to a screen that asks you to select an option from continue, wait, resign or save and exit. This usually results in the host unable to talk to the clients and the only eventual outcome is the players having to resign. Because of this you should save regularly, as the save and exit option inevitably rarely ends up working. The game is fine again if the host restores a game from a previous save.

Problem 4 – “Toxic Wasteland”:

  • Sometimes referred to as “toxic grass”, this is where the grass, trees and other objects in game change colour to bright reds and greens. This usually happens in Windows Vista and Windows 7.
  • At the moment, I’ve not found a complete solution to this. Sometimes it’s fine, other times it’s not. Usually I find what works is if I alt-tab out of the game, or press control-alt-delete and return to the game, it’s usually fixed. If that doesn’t work though, there’s not much else you can do.
  • As always though, make sure your copy of DirectX and graphics drivers are up to date. If you’re running Windows 7, you could try running the game in XP Mode (similarly, you could try running the game in VMWare, Virtual PC or VirtualBox on Vista) or disable Aero. However this could complicate diagnosing multiplayer problems.
  • If all else fails, changing screen resolution whilst in game from the options menu can sometimes work too.

As a final resort:

  • If you router supports it, you can try enabling DMZ on your computer. This will effectively forward all the ports to your computer, almost as though the modem was directly connected to your computer rather than to the router. This is a particularly unsafe solution, especially if you are not running a firewall on your PC, but it has been reported to be the only working solution for some people.

I hope you have solved your connection problems. If not, please feel free to leave me a comment and someone may be able to assist you. If you have found a solution that I have not outlined here, please also leave a comment and I’ll try to include it.

Thanks for reading.