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.

  • Hi, I’m the developer of GameRanger.

    Thanks for the mention. You are right that GameRanger routes all traffic through a single port, however the majority of people do not need to configure their router at all.

    In general, GameRanger is more transparent with routers than even Hamachi, which is why it has become so popular so quickly with AoE2.

    • duddi

      Gameranger crashes my game after a little bit of gameplay. No matter what host. Using Hamachi instead fixed this problem.

  • Dan

    I usually obtain an IP address from gamespy acrade, and then enter the address through AOEII, the conquerors. However, I am never able to find any of the ip addresses on AOE II-CONQ. I am not using a router (direct DSL connection), and do not have a firewall. I have left Windows XP un-updated to see if the updates were the problem. Any advice ?

  • Nakul

    thanks a lot
    ur guide is just great and awesome

  • Hi

    About the fancy colours in windows 7/vista. You can get rid of this effect by tabbing out closing explorer.exe from your processes before starting a match. It is possible to write a script to close explorer, launch the game, and then reopen explorer.exe upon closing the game.

  • This guy has done some work towards resolving the colour issues by hacking ddraw.dll and reimplementing in openGL. People might have luck with that – I haven’t had time to test yet. http://sol.gfxile.net/ddhack/

  • Anthony

    My friend and I love playing AoE:The Conquerors together and we’ve both managed to take care of the graphics problem (he closes explorer, I have the screen resolution screen up) but suffer from pretty bad lag. We’ll definitely try your suggestions.

  • Mattlekim

    I have a solution to fix the colours create a batchfile in your aoe folder

    write this in the batch file

    taskkill /F /IM Explorer.exe
    age2_x1.exe
    Start explorer.exe

    then run the batch file to play the game.

  • Alexander Cruz

    I found a solution for the “Toxic wasteland”, you just need to CTRL + ALT +DELETE then kill explorer.exe, you should be seeing everything in order, when you get bored of the game, press SUPER (windows key)+ R then type explorer.exe

  • asd

    “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.”

    If anyone knows solution to this problem, other than saving, please share it!

  • I’ll right away grab your rss feed as I can’t in finding your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Please let me recognise so that I may subscribe. Thanks.

  • Amalgamook

    “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.”

    This is the exact (and only) problem I’ve been having with AoE II on Windows 7 64-bit. It’s quite the annoyance, but only seems to occur when there’s either fighting going on, or large amounts of military units in production. Decreasing the population cap doesn’t solve the problem; it’ll occur under any circumstance which involves battle or copious amounts of simultaneous military production. As ASD said, if there’s a solution other than saving, it would be most appreciated if it was known.

  • joeHope

    I was able to correct extreme lag on Conquerors multiplayer by turning off UPnP under the administrations menu on my Linksys WiFi router. Maybe that will help someone? I host a game on Win7 x64 and play against two Vista machines no problem now — it was hardly playable before. Used the batch file to fix colors on Win7 and Ctrl-Alt-Del works on Vista.

  • dude

    What also works for me to correct the colors is leaving the “Change resolution” screen open while playing on the background. (Windows 7) Yes, just open it, alt-tab back to the game and it will work.
    Also works on Diablo 2

  • anon

    There’s a much easier solution to the toxic grass. Alt-tab to desktop, right-click desktop, “display settings” (the bottom one), then leave the resolution but change the color settings to “medium-16-bit”

  • duddi

    “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.”

    This problem came up when I used GameRanger with a friend. Then we tried Hamachi, and the game didn’t crash at all. So download Hamachi, create a network, go to AOE2, create a game and then your friends will have to connect to your Hamachi IP-address ingame to get in your game.

    Color issues will be fixed by killing the explorer.exe process with CTRL-ALT-DELETE and then opening up Windows Task Manager. Turn it back on with windowskey-r and typing explorer.exe.

  • Anonymous

    gente, tengo un problema muy grave, no me aparecen en la opcion multijugador las opciones de la misma (TCI IP, etc)

  • Anonymous

    Just what I noticed: the extreme lag with AI in the game, which usually leads to game being frozen and voting screen popping-up is perhaps happening only when yours or other AI units do attacking in enemy towns with villagers and garrisonable buildings (TC, Towers and Castles) around, which triggers AI to command Ring Town Bell.

    This appears to have serious effects, either on AI path calculation when villagers are no longer in danger and need to be sent to work again, or perhaps the ‘DANGER – on/off’ checker is checking and calculating too rapidly.

    If anyone has a solution, AI patch or any other info, please share!

  • Yashamon

    For color issue, simply exit explorer and run game. So to launch game create .bat file with:

    taskkill /f /IM explorer.exe
    c:\”
    start explorer.exe

  • Anonymous

    Leave the “screen resolution” screen open and then launch AOE2 or Starcraft

  • Patrick

    toxic wasteland solution: compatibility mode windows xp service pack 3

  • don j

    Problem 2 – Can see the other game, but “Unable to Join Game”:
    i have xp on one and windows seven on other.
    i use this trick: start a virtual machine on windows 7 whit xp, then run inside AOE.
    no have a graphics problems or unable to join 🙂

  • mrbakree

    There is another problem. When you try to a restore a previous match that was interrupted, it asks you for the cd. is there a way to bypass that if i don’t have one? i.e, can i restore a game without a cd?

    • Ast

      That is indeed a strange problem that occurred to me as well, and I only found a weird but working solution.
      If you have age2_x1.exe no-cd cracked (~ 863 KB), reverse the crack – replace file to its original, pre-cracked form (~2.57MB). This is 1.0c version.

      So basically, with no-cd crack you can play single player, but it screws restore option somehow, and you’ll have to overwrite .exe file every time you decide to switch between those two.

  • Dani

    my problem is that when we are ready and pressing start game button , it asks for inserting a CD into the driver please some help

  • G

    toxic wasteland solution: just kill explorer.exe from task manager. Don’t know why.. but it works every time for us. (PS: thanks for the guide)

  • Alex k2

    there is also a 5th problem you ignored. when i ve already joined a tcp/ip internet game while waiting for the other players after 1 or 2 minuites the game throws me out! will this continue happening when playing ? help me! thanks! (i hope someone sees my call for help)

    • I’ve not seen that problem before so I can’t help, sorry. I think at this stage you’re probably best getting the HD version from Steam though, as a lot of these problems have been fixed or at least improved.

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