What is an AOE and How Does it Work?

Whether you’re casting a magic spell, dropping bombs, or avoiding attacks from an enemy, it pays to know the exact form an ability will take. Gaming includes many effect types, each of which contains different counters and methods of avoidance. Hitscan, projectiles, and LOS all present advantages and challenges, but today, we want to look at the AOE.

What does AOE mean?

AOE stands for area of effect. This is one of the most popular forms abilities can take, as an easily understandable way to reflect what an ability or attack will do. An AOE can act on its own, or combine with other forms of abilities and hit types. It's a part of gaming every player needs to know. Similar to a critical hit, HP or debuff, it is an in-game term, essentially affecting your gameplay.

AOE is a shorthand that refers to an attack or an ability that affects a usually round area. Anything inside of this area will experience a change, while anything outside of its borders will be left unaffected.

The Startup

Before an AOE begins, it first needs a way to reach its target. Different games and abilities use different methods for an AOE to reach its location, and available target locations can differ significantly depending on the game.

In turn-based RPGs, AOEs are often used by selecting an area on the ground. While this area is selected, the area of effect is displayed (usually in a circle), so the player knows the exact range. In a real-time game, an AOE might not have its area shown before the ability is activated, so the player must make an educated guess. AOEs might also select a target directly while affecting a radius around that target.

An ability reaching its target AOE can be affected differently. It might reach a target once used, regardless of interruptions. Projectile AOE abilities might be blocked off by obstacles, or a cast could stop if the user is damaged while activation is in progress.

An Active AOE

The AOE will trigger once it reaches its location. Here it can again have several effects depending on ability or game.

A helpful AOE might heal everyone in range, or provide a passive boost like a speed or defensive increase. A damaging AOE could cause instant splash damage, or it could coat the floor in damage over time and area denial effects like fire. Sometimes the AOE will hit hardest towards the center of the area, other times its effect will be uniform across the entire AOE.

As you can see, there are many ways an AOE can work, but the basics are the same. An AOE hits an area, usually a circle, they can help or hurt, and they’re an important tool in any gamer’s arsenal.

Does AOE have other meanings?

AOE typically refers to an area of effect, but it can have other meanings too. AOE can also be used as shorthand for the Age of Empires RTS series. Age of Empires even features area of effect abilities, so you could actually get AOE in your AOE. Very inception-y.