* There hasn't been a huge RTS hit in ages, so large studios aren't going to push large chunks of cash into them. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, and you may disagree with whether large studios should act this way, but that doesn't matter, because the observable fact is they do.
* RTS games are still pretty expensive to make well. There hasn't been a breakout indie RTS, and nobody has established a default cheap art style for these. It's not like platformers where the world has accepted we can get away with pixel art forever.
* Streamers rely on their ability to self-commentate, but nobody can play an RTS while talking.
* Even back in the heyday of RTS, everyone I knew played custom maps rather than the actual RTS. I'm pretty sure that crowd is all in Roblox or modded Minecraft these days.
And some bright spots:
* People /are/ trying to make indie RTS games, more than I've ever seen before.
* Tooth And Tail managed to look great while using pixel art. It's very high-production pixel art, but more importantly it's only one unit facing. Indie RTS costs will go down as people experiment with that.
* The game randomizer community keeps building new community-run tournaments and fan commentated races. This means there's an increasing amount of talent available in the wider gaming community for organizing tournaments and commentating.
With multiplayer games people can play the same title forever if it's deep enough. So new games in the same genre have to compete against a game that was made by Blizzard in 2010 and constantly developed ever since.
So what happens is - people check out the new game, and either get bored (it's too similar and worse) or get discouraged (it's too different to bother learning).
The only remaining market for RTS are so called "casuals" that want single player experience. But they don't engage with the game enough to justify years of gameplay development, balancing, innovative mechanics - they mostly want nice cutscenes and good graphics and beliveable dialogs and plot.
And most of them won't even finish the game. They will play for a week and move on. Single player games that don't achieve cult status - are finished on the market after the first month.
So for a new RTS to compete it has to be better than Starcraft 2 in multiplayer and gameplay or at least in storytelling. And that's a VERY hard thing to do for an indie studio. Risk is huge and required investment is enormous.
I've had high hopes for Iron Harvest and it clearly went for the casual/single player market and did pretty well, but not well enough.
1. competitive (Starcraft, DOTA, LOL, CS:GO, etc.)
2. low skill ceiling (usually thanks to significant randomness - see Hearthstone)
3. no skill-based matchmaking (for example in Warthunder AFAIK matchmaking is based on the vehicles you drive not on how often you win your games)
4. party games (you play with the same people repeatedly - see Among Us)
Option 1 discourages casuals, but makes for games with high engagement. People still play starcraft 1 broodwar and age of empires 2.
Option 2 is best suited for casual/mobile/pay2win market. It can work for the game developer, but I consider it a dark design pattern aimed at extracting the maximum amount of money from addicted people (usually kids).
Option 3 is weird - people don't care about winning games in Warthunder, they only care about killing enough enemies to get virtual money to repair and upgrade their tanks. It's also heavily pay2win because the best vehicles for their matchmaking rating can be only bought with real money. But few people care about winning so I guess that's fine? Also it's not mainly marketed to kids so I'm more ok with it.
Option 4 is the best because anything with friends is fun. But you have to have friends who are into it.
Among Us took of recently after years of barely surviving (probably thanks to the quarantine). But most multiplayer games that do well for years after the release are highly competitive. I don't think that's an accident.
The requirement for online multiplayer (while dealing with hundreds of units) is the bigger obstacle. Especially if they're working with Unity. Pathfinding (in a way that lets large swarms of units move smoothly through narrow choke points) is a non-trivial problem, too.
Then there's the design problems. How to get away from standard build orders, and how to make a game that's more accessible than Starcraft but still allows high-level competitive play.
Isometric views take wildly more art assets than side view. Notice how there are far fewer indie overhead adventure games than there are indie platformers. The engines for these are nearly identical, and Zelda is just as much of a cultural touchstone as Mario. I attribute this to these games taking 3x or 5x the art assets.
Needing multiplayer and pathfinding are good points. I don't think RTS multiplayer is particularly hard (the hundreds of units hardly matter if you're doing it right), but the fact that everyone expects the genre to have multiplayer at all is still a significant barrier to entry. Mass pathfinding is definitely a problem - the discussions I've seen online about it are mostly people confidently telling each other to use A*, which really isn't sufficient in an RTS.
I don't think design problems are that important for indie games. If the barrier to entry is low enough, there will be enough games to brute force the design.
You've missed some obvious issues around balancing range, special moves etc. All of which are hard to price and balance. Also, some things will not scale linearly, I expect. A particularly strong mob might only be attackable by 8 melee mobs at once. If it's a 16x strength mob itself, then maybe it wins an even "points" battle.
How damage is applied is also interesting, for example. Slow big hits vs fast small hits. Obviously continuous damage is far easier to balance, but plays un-engagingly.
Finally, whilst you could argue that health and damage are interchangable. How do you balance speed vs health? What are reasonable distributions of numbers? At what point do you create a fast ranged unit which can kite melee indefinitely etc.
basically even in a boring game, there's a lot to think about - and your playerbase if you get one will jsut be better than your devs at finding power spikes/discontinuities.
Some variables for each unit:
- Attack speed
- Attack damage
- Melee armor
- Ranged armor
- Pause between stopping and attacking
- Attack bonuses against specific units / classes
- Training time
- Cost balance among resources
Balance patches may tweak any one of these aspects. Interactions then occur with all other units in the game, econ stats that are also subject to balance etc.
People are very good at exploiting strengths and ignoring weaknesses. A slight advantage will be exploited quickly by experienced players; then others will catch on.
A contrived example obviously, but you really do have to see how the units interact with all other units, and how players actually use them, balancing damage etc is not enough.
Though some Zerg players like Reynor are starting to buck this trend a bit and are known for more aggressive, agile approaches.
(Or at least this was all the case as of about a year ago; haven't followed the game much this year.)
Emergent would be something like zerglings can burrow, so use them to burrow in the enemies chokehold to prevent them from constructing a chokehold until they can get to the next tech tier and use radar.
Also their speed upgrade gives them mobility to counter attack exposed buildings. Also their half supply means that they can be worked into compositions when close to the supply cap. Also their fast and parallel time to make means they can reinforce fast after a long battle. Also their general upgrades and late game attack speed upgrade means they can take down buildings fast if there is nothing around to do damage to them. Also if they are spread out they can draw splash damage from power but slow firing units like siege tanks. They can also be sacrificed to burrow and delay an enemy base, used to scout cheaply ...
All that is just from the first attack unit in the game.
The whole challenge of balancing a game is that you’re forever wrong about that score.
Underestimating the score of a single unit (or a more complex combo of multiple units) is precisely how you accidentally create an imbalanced metagame where that unit/combo can be spammed.
I am not trying to trivialize the problem at all. I don’t know much about it and that’s why I’m asking why it isn’t simple.
In theory. However if you change the balance then the mega game will change as well and you have to throw away the training data and start anew.
Also it’s very important to not change too many stats at the same time because then it will be hard to learn the game and the new meta will take too long to emerge.
The only other way I can think to do this would be to either change units incredibly quickly to not allow players to get too far into any particular strategy development before the unit is retired. Or introduce things like variations between units: two different marines might have different stats to not allow their 0.2 DPS advantage to add up, etc. Or I guess introduce acts of god type situations that might throw off a specific strategy. Napoleon supposedly lost at Waterloo partially because of a stomach upset that required him to keep running to the latrine and unable to focus on the battlefield. Imagine if you suddenly got fog of war over the area of combat because of “broken communication”. Basically more variability that would require the players to not concentrate on a single strategy and instead having plans A through Z for various eventualities. I’m not sure if that would make for a more exciting experience or not but might be fun to experiment with.
Much like in VS fighting games, people like that time and training translate to good skill.
AlphaStar is a grandmaster at Starcraft 2. Training it on a new game would cost too much though AFAIK.
You know Elo rating, as in chess? Something like that is needed in order to match players against each other.
An online multi-player game that fails the matchmaker system, will lose players eventually. Because if you match the newcomers with seasoned pros, everyone will be unhappy and churn rates will be high.
For example if a strategy that is easy to implement and relatively strong emerges, then you will have very boring games at low level and the only way to get out of the low rank would be to learn to counter one specific strategy. (This is for example what happened in the beginning of SC1 with Zerg rush and SC2 and M&Ms)
The fact that the co-op mode was released in 2015 with LoTV (5 years after the initial release of SC2) despite this being a substantially better default multiplayer mode that's unconstrained by multiplayer balancing speaks volumes about Blizzard's blind spot. They also learned the wrong lesson from DotA - SC2 isn't just a game but an incredible game engine, but Blizzard wasn't very good at taking advantage of this to broaden its appeal.
For Starcraft 2 there's replay commentary.
(I sometimes watch Lowko and WinterStarcraft. It's interesting how just watching pro players can unlock skills you wouldn't consider otherwise.)
For example in Polish sc2 scene there's Indy who usually talks while playing and is semi-proffesional (won some small tournaments but isn't considered tier 1 like Nerchio, MaNa, Elazer).
Roblox does have a couple RTS games! They're not very good.
Feels like an RTS engine could lead to an explosion and, with cross-pollination with other common mechanics, create a couple new genres.
It just seems to me RTS games are like chess, not easy to get into, not easy to watch / understand unless you pour a lot of time into it. People would rather just play Catan or other not-so-try-hard social games.
I think DotA is the best example of this, it's still try-hard yet somehow it strikes the perfect balance of try-hard but still easy enough that the average player can understand it and follow it.
(also: castle story, darwinia, star ruler in the simple graphics and indie category, zero-k and uncountable space rts in the indie category)
on the other side, Hearts Of Iron and Total War Warhammer sit quite high on steam charts, maybe not runaway success, but they aren't obscure, niche titles either, they both have more players and in-game hours than DayZ and Red Dead Redemption 2, to give you a point of reference, which were both considered hits.
I think the list it's missing two major points: developing a rts cut you off the largish console market (albeit some success exist, it's an uphill battle) and a rts has both a large time commitment and skill ceiling, especially in today online dominated market, so it's a thought sell to the ever growing casual gamers market.
I think that SC2 should be studied for its qualities but also for its mistakes.
I think it is overall an excellent game but at the same time I feel that it was not as well designed as SC1, even if patches improved it and fixed some glaring errors over time.
A few things that come to mind:
- Free units, they are extremely hard to balance and can easily lead to stale situations, and in my opinion they never feel right.
And to be clear, projectiles are not free units.
- Spell casters able to stand a fight on their own and be massed, again it does not feel right and lead to imbalance/abuse. Spell casters should be support units, fragile and not scalable to a whole army.
- stackable aoe damage, because it leads to death ball armies that can be extremely difficult to engage, with somewhat difficult to read and seemingly random outcomes. A good aoe design is the SC1 inspired Psionic Storm, powerful but not stackable.
- Hero units, there is only one hero unit in SC2, for no good reason.
- Population cap, in SC2 the population is capped at 200 supply, this is an inheritance of SC1 technical limitation, but it has a strong impact on SC2 late game, not for the best as players tend to invest in defensive structures to compensate, leading to potentially static/ boring games.
(Am also Masters SC2.)
Doubling the health of all units, would make the game more interesting.
I actually find the population cap to be super useful, and serves the opposite purpose:
Without a supply cap, the player with the better economy can just turtle up, defend their bases with strong tanky units, while they build a gigantic army. The supply cap forces them to move out and attack, trading units.
I think that diversity of ressources on maps should play the role of supply cap, leading to different strategies on different maps.
In most RTSes, once you collect resources they essentially go into a magic resource counter in the cloud. You can collect wood on one side of the map, and instantly create a building with that on the other side of the map.
I would be really interested in playing an RTS that focused much less heavily on variety of combat, and much more heavily on variety of logistics.
Imagine a game where you had to shuttle food to your army to keep it fed, or physically bring stone to a construction site to build a castle, and you had to physically stockpile resources in vulnerable depots that would become targets of enemy raids.
You'd have to do a lot of design work to make the ergonomics of setting up the logistics infrastructure not incredibly tedious, but I think it could be done.
The closest RTS I have seen to this is probably the Warrior Kings series which was definitely ahead of its time in many ways.
You've basically just described Factorio, which is all about logistics.
I strongly encourage you to give it a try, not only because of this, but because it is one of the greatest games ever made -- especially when played with mods, which make it 100 times better than the vanilla game (which by itself is fantastic).
You have sooo many options on what to do and how to do it in Factorio, it puts most other games to shame just by that alone.
I could go on about how great Factorio is.. for hours.. but I won't because there are plenty of other Factorio threads on HN that do just that.. so don't take my word for it, but read some of those threads instead.. or just do yourself a favor and play it already! If you're interested in logistics I don't see how you couldn't love Factorio.
Factorio presents a significantly more complex problem at a vastly increased scale.
Players who get way into Factorio see that as the beginning of the game, some 40hrs after starting in my case. If the idea of playing essentially a 40hr tutorial doesn't make you want to run away then Factorio might be for you.
I prefer Dwarf Fortress if I want to make large swaths of time disappear, personally... though I haven't played that in many years come to think of it. I guess as I approach 40 and my awareness of my own mortality increases I care less for making time disappear.
 I think pushing robotics much earlier in the tech tree may have made it more enjoyable for me, and there are mods for that, but I never paly a modded game until I've experienced it as it was intended and by that point I didn't want to pay more of that damned exercise in complexity-fetishism.
The outcome is too momentum-based. Once a player builds a solid early game lead, there is pretty much no way to stop them. There aren't really any offense tactics besides monopolizing resources, which pretty much has to happen early on. The various "black market" sabotages are pretty weak and expensive. None of them will stop a late game player with momentum. It feels like your starting position and the decisions you make in the first 1-2 minutes of the game pre-determine the outcome 30 minutes later--which is boring.
The stock trading system (which is ultimately the only way to win) is simplistic and just not a satisfying way to end the game. You're sitting there trading, making tons of money, doing everything right, then suddenly Game Over--someone had more money and decided to buy you out, which you can't defend against, even if you pre-buy all your own stock. You get a warning a few seconds before it happens (the red percentage number next to your opponent) but there's literally nothing you can do to stop them.
That should give you a feel for what the vanilla game is like, and what you like and don't like about it, so you'll be in much better shape to make your own decisions as to which mods look interesting or useful to you.
Then I'd experiment with mods to find out which one you like or not. Some of the most popular mods are probably not too bad to start with (as long as they're not full game overhaul mods or ones that add a ton of content, as those will almost certainly be completely overwhelming for a newbie.. they can be overwhelming even for advanced players).
Also, I'd start with just a single mod or two, and learn how to use those before adding more. It's easy to go mod-crazy, but that's useless unless you actually know how to use them. So learn a mod or two at a time, and then get a couple more.
There are usually videos on at least the most useful and popular mods out there, so those should be of great help in learning how to use them... but nothing beats trying them yourself.
For me personally, the top three absolutely essential mods are Fill4Me, Squeak Through, and Todo List. Don't expect to be blown away by these mods.. they're very small and very simple utility mods.
These days I actually play with hundreds of mods, so the three above won't even give you a small taste of what's possible.. they just cure a couple of annoyances, and add a tiny bit of useful functionality that I personally can't live without. But sooo muuch more is possible!
I did try Bob's and Angel's, but I found the formulas so nonsensical that it broke the "immersion" for me.
I think I'd be more interested in a mod that added something that fits the game world and just... extended it a little. E.g.: adding aluminium and titanium, not 50 new raw materials that inter-convert into each other in absurd ways -- loops even in some mods!
E.g.: One thing that feels "not fleshed out enough" in the vanilla game to me is the infrastructure related to nuclear power. The centrifuges have no use other than nuclear enrichment and related processes. The heat pipes can only be meaningfully used with nuclear reactors. Etc... Similarly, you never need to use circuit networks, the back-pressure from the belts alone is sufficient to achieve the desired throughput.
It does tweak nuclear a little, giving you a way to use reprocessing side projects for fusion power near the later part of the tech tree.
In terms of circuits, the one area in which I always use them is to control oil refining so I didn't end up capping on heavy/light oil but also didn't turn it all into petrol and leave myself without the resources to make lubricant or rocket fuel.
Space Exploration pretty much forces you to use circuits too in controllijy what goes to your space stations/other planets but it's a long mod with most of the content basically starting after a full vanilla playthrough
On the other hand, I think things like keybindings and mods that fix problems are probably ok (personally).
Factorio: Bob's mods, Angel's mods
Minecraft: Literally every
tech mod, most magic
Fallout 4: Horizon
Then go watch videos and do it again, but much faster.
Then if you’re still playing, you obviously have time to kill so go play Industrial Revolution 2, space exploration, and bobs mods on their own for a whole new experience.
Just so people know what they'll be getting in to with these mods: they add a ton of content and make the game much, much longer... which is great, if that's what you want.
But maybe you prefer more combat, or less combat.. or something that's focused on giving you some particular technology or technologies, or a dozen other ways to approach the game.
Also, many of my own favorite mods don't actually add much if any content at all, but are utility mods, which make certain parts of the game more manageable or more flexible... like train management mods.
- Long Reach: Highly recommended if playing on >1080p res display
- Squeak through: Once you start laying pipes for fluids this becomes an essential mod for moving about your base
- Even Distribution: Evenly distributes items when you click drag to fill multiple entites with items, eg furnaces with fuel
- EvoGUI: Simple display overview for keeping track of biter evolution and basic environment info.
- Vehicle Snap: Makes it easier to align to a given cardinal direction
- Blueprint Extensions mod (Continued): Get the Continued flavor for version >1.0 compatibility. This mod gives some basic tools such as mirroring or rotating blueprints, very useful.
- Bottleneck: shows a simple colored dot over some entities to show if it's input starved, output limited (overfull), or running normally. Makes it easy to see at a glance what is backing up in sections of your base.
- FNEI: Want to know how to make something, or what use a certain item has? this simple mod shows how anything inthe game is made, or everything it can be used in. Also has great mod support, even full conversion mods.
Conversion/Gameplay Changing mods:
- Bobs And Angels modsets: Think you've figured out factorio? Want more factorio? More logistics? More recipes and items to make More things? Step into Bobs w/ Angels modset to ratchet up the complexity by an order of magnitude or two (in a good way). Want an extra challenge? Get the Sandblock mod, which is Bobs + Angels but starting on a tiny island, and you have to harvest resources to build your factory - including the land you build it on - from the sea.
- Krastorio: I actually haven't gotten around to this, but it's another full conversion mod that is highly recommended by many members of the community. Definitely on my to-play list
- Rampant Arsenal + Pitch Black: Want more of a RTS-esque combat challenge? Biters too boring/easy now that you've come to grips with Factorio's core mechanics? Deathworld too easy? Give this ago. It greatly expands the arsenal available to you should you choose to build them, but also greatly ramps up biter aggression, difficulty, and variety, especially at night.
There are many many more mods to choose from, and the modding community is very vibrant, and well supported from the devs themselves, with an excellent mod portal and mod loading system integrated into the game. It's by far the best mod community and integration in a game I've ever seen, and people are still churning out all manner of new and interesting stuff, as well as improving upon the classics listed above. There are also many I've not specified (eg FARL, LTN, etc) that many would consider essential, but this is already a long list.
EDIT: Also just realized this is a 9 day old thread. Came back from the holidays to my desktop and this tab was still open, apologies for the necro.
There is also Foundation, by a smallish canadian studio (iirc), that kinda is a mix between settlers and sim city :-)
There's also an open source clone of Settlers II called Widelands.
(Just noticed Factorio is mentioned below; Mindustry is similar, but also Open Source cross platform Java)
The Wargame series from Eugen (the most recent one being Wargames: Red Dragon)
Logistics is a huge part of it, your armies can run out of ammo, or be stranded without fuel - there are dedicated units used for resupply.
Supply dumps, supply columns, and their protection, is a big part of the game as well.
You can trust your AT squad to understand that other infrantry needs to be shot at with a gun and that tanks should be engaged with Javelins. This makes the game way more strategic and fun to play than something like Starcraft where you need to babysit moronic units and manually trigger their abilities. In Wargame you can focus more on positioning, information collection and movement instead of having to focus on clickathons to win. By the time shots are fired, the winner is probably already decided.
Some mods fix the most glaring problems, but they require investing in all dlc and make almost impossible to find an online match
there's additional operational cost in the form of energy used if you have far off resources being harvested. and the transport shuttle has to go get the goods, which increases cycle time a little. i have less than a dozen games in but i definitely didn't feel like I was managing the logistics; that moving stuff around was an issue or concern. there's a lot of different resources but they all roll up pretty automatically wherever they are without thinking about it. that was my (limited) experience.
To really do this kind of gameplay well, you'd need to have the ability to task military units to guard supply train units, and for them to have the kind of intelligence / user interface that doesn't just have them defenselessly wandering around an opponents base.
It's been interesting to read the https://acoup.blog/ take on the importance of supply chains and logistics in warfare, and how to organise a properly defended supply chain. I agree that it's an area that could be addressed interestingly, but it'd be a game made out of the bits that other games deliberately abstracted away because they were hard to do well, so I think it'd be a real challenge. Even fiction tends to abstract away from the details of these things because it's so hard to make interesting.
This is the aspect that I wish was implemented in my favourite games such as Stellaris since disrupting the logistics of the enemy and protecting your own requires a much more thoughtful setup by players
* Where to site supply dumps for front-line forces
* how to protect them
* how to get supplies to where they are needed safely from your home world / base to these supply dumps and then to the front lines.
* how to keep forces supplied if you break-through enemy lines
* How to disupt the enemies logistics
Without things like the above the games usually devolve into "Bigger army / fleet wins, with a bit of rock/paper/scissor based on unit composition"
It's also fairly often on good sales
Economy/Resource - 2.8 / 10
"However when comparing it to the SC universe, WC3 has always been underwhelming to me when comparing its resource counterparts of mineral/vespene. Gold obviously being the most important, with wood generally feeling more like a chore than something I want to collect. To me the most limiting factor is the upkeep cost, a mechanic that not only limits strategies, but also deters expanding or larger scale battles."
This misses the point of WC3 vs. Starcraft / Starcraft 2. In Warcraft 3, one of the most important resources not present in Starcraft is your heroes and their levels. If you watch any professional WC3 game, there is rarely a discussion of who's ahead based on economy (although that is a factor at times) - but there is always discussion on hero levels. The importance of creep routes and disrupting creeping for heroes / races with favorable creep is a huge component of the game.
Also, upkeep is a specific choice meant to reward players who don't inflate their armies for the sake of it. Grubby said it on his stream, in Starcraft, it is universally a good decision to spend your money as soon as you have it. It's not strategy if it's always a good thing to do. Whether you spend it on X, Y, or Z is where the strategy comes in, but as long as you spend it something, you can be confident that it was better than not spending it / banking it. In WC3, that too is up for debate. You can spend on X, Y, Z (units, hero items, expansion, another hero, tech, upgrades) but at certain times in the game, it is also perfectly valid to hold on to that money for a specific reason. I think this is a smart design decision, and is one of the reasons why WC3 has some interesting dynamics.
This is my perspective as a really big fan of both games. They're different games, but it's clear HuK is using Starcraft as the rubric. No game is as Starcraft as Starcraft, Warcraft is its own game with its own complexities.
It's a 20-year old game that gets monthly patches, and is active enough to match you to opponent[s] in minutes.
Compared to SC2, I miss the asymmetry among Civs, and ability to pull off surprising strategies effectively. (eg Thor rushes, and going straight planetary fortress+Raven etc). AOE is more predictable by comparison.
Thoughts on if AOE2 DE players are mostly people who played the original, or if there are newer players? The pros seem to be a mix.
And I think the game is hands down played mostly by casual players. As of today there are over 40k people that have played at least a rated multiplayer match (how many more that never hit the multiplayer button?), and from those more than 75% have an ELO lower than 1200 which is on the lower end of the spectrum (best player of the world has 2500 ELO and one starts with 1000)
The game is still pretty challenging for newcomers, my 12 year old nephew loves watching me play, but whenever I offer him a chance to play he is "scared" because it looks to difficult, and says he prefers to just watch. When I was 12 (or even younger) I loved playing. Nowadays it seems games are designed intentionally to not being too difficult to play/learn
The client (from the original version through DE) runs a single-threaded simulation. That is a big barrier to getting more players or even larger maps (it used to be that ludakris size was unplayable before DE/UserPatch optimizations). Given how many players can't even clear the multiplayer performance benchmark without dramatically reducing quality settings, I'm not sure they'll bump up the player cap unless they decide to re-architect a good part of the engine internals.
Considering a single core can be dedicated to it these days we're approaching two orders of magnitude more performance available.
If it's become a bottleneck it's likely that there is very low hanging fruit to fix it.
> If it's become a bottleneck it's likely that there is very low hanging fruit to fix it.
This was true for the previous "remaster" of AOE2 (HD edition). That had persistent performance issues and was poorly optimized despite maintaining the same graphics style. If you read through a couple of the dev blogs for the DE release, I think it's pretty clear that there's little if any low-hanging fruit left before pretty major architectural improvements are necessary.
AOE2 HD wasn't multithreaded, so we should still have an order of magnitude more CPU performance at our disposal these days.
The pathfinding has been reworked, yeah. It shouldn't have made the game 10x slower.
In any case, if it already supports 8 player with 500 pop, 16 with 250 is not really any different.
I used to love RTS games (until I discovered Total War) and I have to say I'm a bit taken aback by this assumption that playing an RTS game must necessarily mean that the player is chasing some ultra-high performance standard, quantifiable in APM. I get that the author is a competitive player, but the vast majority of players are casual players who don't thnk of games as a career. If the reason no new RTS games are being made is that they are not very good for e-sports, then that's just sad. I would really have thought that making a good game that is pleasant to play, would do the trick. Maybe it's the ultra-competitive edge that's actually driving players away and keeping the incentives to make more such games low? If game procuders are thinking of how to make the next big e-sports RTS hit, instead of a game that many people will want to play, then yes, I can see how they are finding design constraints hard to satisfy.
In fact, in modern RTS this effect is probably strongest at the lower performance levels. Just executing something, anything faster will win far more than any deeper understanding of the game and its systems or strategy.
It's kinda ironic that "strategy" genre has ended up bogged down in small unit tactics, with units too stupid to actually use correct weapons by themselves. No wonder we all lost interest into the genre.
The problem is that we want to do both. The competitors to RTSes, games like League of Legends, Fortnite, Rocket League, and Hearthstone, are all (very different) games that are enjoyable to play across the full spectrum of skill levels.
RTS games really seem to be split into two categories: indie games that are appealing to casual players and competitive games that appeal only to esports competitors. StarCraft Brood War may be the most popular RTS from a spectator standpoint but it is a pretty terrible game to play if you just want to unwind after work.
So then the question is: why do we want both? The theory is that a highly popular spectator esport drives sales for the game. If your game doesn't do both then it either needs to succeed on its own (without any esports fame) in an overcrowded market or it's a spectator sport without any low-level players (and somehow needs to make money only from high level tournament play).
I'm mostly kidding, but I do think it's worth pointing out that most (if not all) of those games have been accused of being extremely unfriendly to new players and generally being miserable experiences until you acquire a baseline level of knowledge.
I think the more important part of those games you listed is that they're designed around team play (and thus friend groups), with the obvious exception of Hearthstone (which compensates for the burden of knowledge by having a lot of randomness and a VERY forgiving ladder at the low end).
Getting destroyed in League is fun if you're playing with friends; with strangers it usually just results in a lot of angry messages.
> it is a pretty terrible game to play if you just want to unwind after work.
I think this is really the crux of why games that encourage team play will always win out: It's fun to play with friends, win or lose. SC2 tried this a bit, but at least when I used to play it was very clear that the game was completely unbalanced around team play.
Most of these games, if you want to really succeed, are mentally taxing. You have to pay attention to a minimap, you have to constantly be on the lookout for other people, you have to remember exactly what cards they've played so far.
If you can't counterbalance that with at least some socialization and lightheartedness, it's just work.
For competitive games that are inherently one on one, I don’t think it’s necessarily the case that they feel like work. Yes, StarCraft definitely falls into that stressful category. Hearthstone would seem to not do so.
Chess is a pretty interesting example. It’s one where you can have fun games even at very low rating, provided you’re appropriately matched. Low rated games may even be more “interesting” due to volatility in the evaluation, where high level games might be much more likely to result in a draw. Of course, high level players online tend to play a lot more at fast time controls, bringing blunders back into the picture.
I think part of it is does has to do with how real time rts you have practically zero downtime. It's always improve economy, then improve army micro, then do builds. Even with league of legends there's some downtime when you're at the shop or just killing minions.
Sometimes it felt like a chess match where you had executed your strategy perfectly, but randomly three of your opponents pawns turned into queens.
I get that you're talking about something more subtle than that (and maybe more akin to just, well, card draw RNG) but it's a delicate balance because it can also feel really bad for players being on the receiving end of randomness.
The best equaliser I've experienced was the handicap in Quake 3. I can have a great balanced match with people both better and worse than me, having lots of fun. Even if without the handicap the matches would end with scores like 30:1. I'm not sure how that would work for RTSes though - handicap on movement speed? amount of gained resources?
It’s a MOBA-style game that is played 1v1, with the 5 “players” on each side controlled by autonomous bots. This design accommodates AI development as part of the sport, much like a F1 driver and their team of engineers and mechanics.
The game is written in Rust and will use WASM for scripting to accommodate a wide range of languages for both game modding and AI code. While it’s only 1v1 in its initial iteration, I agree that there’s immense value in cooperative and more micro-level play, so we do intend to incrementally move towards that as an alternative game mode.
I’d love to chat more with anyone interested in this particular design or RTS/MOBAs in general. You can find my email on my GitHub.
When I go to a field to play football, most people are just having fun, no one is trying to be like a professional. Those people that are extremely competitive end up not wanted around. On video games on the other hand it feels like everyone wanna be a professional of eSports and play competitively, even on games that are not meant to be. It just ruins the experience.
After I know the full tech tech tree RTS games become fairly boring to me.
IMO this is why RTS genre really died out - the studios focused too much on eSport aspect and abandoned most of their paying customer base which wasn't interested in crazy clickathrons. Multiplayer games are very very loud, but they're not the ones paying most of the money.
When smaller studios tried to copy Starcraft 2, they usually cut down on singleplayer content and sales tanked with that.
I'm also pretty far into creating a generative RTS and it's turning out well. Maybe you'll like it too!
SC2 has 3 very distinct races (he gives it a 8.8 for variety), hence there are just 6 possible matchups. AoE 2 (DE) has 35 (he gives it a 3), making over 600 possible 1v1 matchups. This creates a huge amount of extra work to ensure matchups are enjoyable - yet (at 1650+ Elo) there are just 2 races with > 55% winrate (Franks @ 56.98% & Celts @ 54.21% on random map). Despite the good balancing, tournaments also come up with rules to limit the impact of the best civs, normally with specific civ bans and limited picks in a series. It's really only because of the huge overlapping tech & unit tree that this is possible - if there were more diversity there would be too many variables to balance around. This is further compounded by the variety of maps which the game is played on - as he does mention the map does affect which of these are viable, and this makes the game even more interesting and diverse since you need to adjust to multiple types of map. SC2 on the other hand has a much smaller responsibility in this regard: provided there are interesting viable builds within each race the task to balance across-races is minimal. SC2 also only has 7 maps in the pool (at least, right now) and just spawn positions are randomized. This makes preparation way more important, and less dynamic.
Both AoE and SC2 also use the space as a stop-gap for specific strategies - it's a way for the less aggressive player to fend off early aggression, but also a way for a more dominant player to choke out resources. Traditionally this is done by controlling the entry to your main base or your expansion (in SC2), but in AoE it's way more open and difficult to accomplish this most of the time. This importantly makes players rely on very adhoc dynamic walling, often incorporating undestroyable natural resources (like gold deposits).
The 3 species in Starcraft are quite distinct in many key areas, whereas in Age of Kings and AOE3 (the only ones I've played) the differences between the factions were limited to a handful of units and buildings, but ultimately they all played pretty much the same.
High level tournaments include civilization drafting before a best of N series of games. Occasionally, one player/team ends up with a civilization match up which gives them a clear advantage (because they successfully predicted their opponent's civilization pick - it the opponent had picked something else the advantage might swing the other way). Occasionally games are described as "civ win" when the advantage is large and wielded well.
The difference is that there is more map variation than in SC2, so a civ which is good on water maps is probably going to be below average on land maps. Also team games are a thing at the highest level, so some civs fare better in that context than 1 Vs 1.
To elaborate: at lower levels, most civs probably feel or play the same. Macro and micro are in short supply, so economy and tech bonuses don't make much of a difference.
Once one starts playing above mid ELO on the ladder, this changes completely. Eco bonuses can make or break an entire match and dictate the style of play for each civ. For example, the Saracens have a unique playstyle where they exploit resource trading at the market to get aggressive early and still maintain a fast age up time (much, much more important than tech/hatchery levels in SC2). From the tech side, the Incas have a common strategy that involves rushing with static defence and fighting with villagers. Protoss can do this too with a cannon rush, but the Incas strategy is far more viable (and actually scary at mid-high level) because they get armour upgrades on their villagers.
So yes, there are only so many ways to assemble a unique army of military units in AOE 2. That in no way implies that there are only that many meaningful matchups. I respect HuK's RTS prowess as well, but I'm afraid he's missed the boat pretty badly on this one.
Some game designers claim that Blizzard's uses races to keep players interested by creating imbalances. The idea being that you keep players interested by making slight changes all the time to respond to alleged imbalances from the players.
As an alternative, a game could use positions for unit select. Kinda: Conquer the eastern flank to build Zerg units or conquer the western flank to build Protoss units.
Why do you say 'The downside is that it makes balancing nearly impossible.' when referring to MOBAs?
This seems to be the opposite of most games, where players tend to overestimate their skill.
This actually keeps a lot of players from even trying online play.
There is something different about RTS... I think in some way they aren't fun. They are really quite stressful to play in ways other games aren't.
You're right that there's a lot about it that isn't fun. One's ability to enjoy fighting games and RTS games begins and ends with understanding a multitude of different mechanics and having the physical execution to make one's plans a reality. People who play those genres have to practice daily to derive some decent enjoyment from the games in them, almost as if it's a second job (maybe even a third depending on what you do for a living, i.e. the software developers of HN still have to carve out time to keep up with tech advances).
It's worth it in the end in my opinion because of the people one meets in these communities. They're usually very dedicated, most like to see more people be able to compete and are really helpful, and will participate in group events in real life (tournaments for both fighting and RTS games, locals for fighting games).
Dota 2 is another game where I've noticed this trend.
> This actually keeps a lot of players from even trying online play.
True with Dota 2 as well, lots of people that only play locally with bots, or resort to just watching streamers and others play it, because they're tired of the feeling of "not being good enough" while playing.
The common factor, I think, is that in both cases there are a hundred things going on in parallel every second, a hundred ways you could be optimizing things, and crucially, you could list those things yourself if you were given time - but you never are, so every moment you're aware that you're doing something somewhere suboptimally. Mistakes don't feel like "Ah, interesting, I've learnt not to do that", instead it's "Of course I should have done this instead, it's obvious, I must be an idiot to not have done this" - even though in the moment you were getting a dozen other things right, and just didn't have the mental capacity to stretch to this additional thing.
So any skill growth in the game happens slowly by your mind learning to make many of the optimal decisions subconsciously, thus making things slowly more manageable. But that's not an easily visible, tangible change. And it still leaves you with twenty things you could be doing better, that are "obvious" in retrospect.
I noticed that in real life, most people think they are sub-optimal. I've wondered what caused the pessimistic attitude and if it has always been this way.
(Of course, it could just be the people I hang out with, but I suspect it is pretty common for people to be harsh on themselves)
Your theory explains it. Life is always throwing us a lot of stuff at once (especially if 65% of our mental capacity is taken up by a smartphone). It is a game where we usually only have a general idea of what to do, lots of reasons not to do it, and not enough time to decide about everything.
If you stop and think, you are probably doing much more right than not. But overall, in the game of Life, you are also blowing lots of opportunities that you are aware of and simply don't have the time and resources to get right.
> skill growth in the game happens slowly by your mind learning to make many of the optimal decisions subconsciously, thus making things slowly more manageable. But that's not an easily visible, tangible change. And it still leaves you with twenty things you could be doing better, that are "obvious" in retrospect.
Maybe we should focus more on our slow advances. Players that consider themselves good, enjoy the game more and probably do better at it (in RTS and in Life).
I played SC2 for a while, at rather modest level (got to gold). After a few years I tried getting back to it and couldn’t even get out of bronze as I found defending against constant rushes not fun.
This is not a universal truth though. I primarily play AOE 2, where map distances and good static defence mean that an attacker needs momentum to push their advantage after a mistake from the other side if they want any chance to close the game. Hence it's common to see even pro players recover from somewhat horrifying gaffes when their opponent fails to push aggressively enough.
And yep they're mechanically stressful. I used to play Broodwar competitively and it really felt more like exercising than gaming at some level. But it's also rewarding if you get into it, because just like in sports beating someone through mechanical skill is fairly satisfying.
At least, in my games it generally comes down to a single battle.
Maybe RTS games are not being actively made but the mods are very much alive.
This is the only game where I saw things like queing tasks for all units (whole construction schemes), estimated time of finishing each task, unrestricted zoom (from map view to the single unit) and multiple minor utility functions, like patrols of engineers (that can help creating units) or "help" function for factories (queued units in one factory and the other ones helping it).
Those functions greatly reduced cognitive load and micromanagement of most task, allowing the player to focus on the grand strategy.
I really hope that next AAA RTS game will be greatly inspired by this UI.
In an RTS the mechanical skill largely comes down to raw speed. And it’s relatively binary. As opposed to a shooter where mechanical skill is reaction time and accuracy.
Interesting write up. I agree with many points. I pray someone twists the RTS genre in a way that is radically less reliant on APM.
Nowadays the game's just too intense for me, though
For those who have not played Company of Heroes it is more about unit positioning and microing those units effectively. It requires a different set of skills than other RTS games.
Unfortunately I have not seen this catch on. Relic, the developers of CoH are working on Age of Empires IV and so I hope they will infuse their particular style RTS in it, but, for good and bad, it looks to be very similar to past AoE games.
It was more about decissions than APM. The resouce system was very cool too.
It was super streamer friendly; any viewer could look at it for 10 seconds and understand what was going on - zero nerdiness required. And it was gorgeous for its time.
Then Relic started making a lot of mistakes:
- New factions with units a viewer would need to "learn" to be able to understand what was going on in the match.
- Introduced a super defensive faction which could fight the old defensive faction, resulting in long, abhorrently boring games.
- CoH2 which sold new mini-DLCs each month with special units purposely not balanced for online play. Top scummy.
- A plethora of other things I won't bore you with. But Relic became a customer-toxic company in my eyes.
But vanilla CoH could be examined to find gold, IMO.
As such, it got significantly less fun for me with the exception of Ardennes Assault campaign.
And on the subsequent points ,again op just fails completely to understand the game at a higher level or simply has not seen any high level tournament in the last 2 years. Warcraft 3 is a masterful piece and the reason its not popular is it is fucking hard to be even decent at it online. Micro is more important than macro and thats a big deterrent for anyone thats a causal player.
With the rise of streaming I'd venture that most pro players do not rely solely on tournaments (and their tournament sponsoring) anymore, but the point remains that the game seems to have seen an increase in popularity in the past few years.
The Warcraft 3 scene is nothing compared to the biggest names in esport, but it is still remarkably healthy. One reason for this is that Blizzard let the community take the lead unofficially with things like https://www.w3champions.com/ which is basically like Battle.net but better than Battle.net has ever been in many regards.
I think it also helps that WC3, as a RTS, can still be relatively enjoyable as a beginner: fewer units to control, fewer resources and buildings to manage, and at the very beginning (say, with 50 APM) focusing mostly on the first hero (meaning a single unit) is clearly the best return on investment to increase one's win rate, which can become apparent after just a few games. Few RTS games are able to both offer such a gentle learning curve and the depth required for people having played the game for more than 17 years to still refine their strategies.
After being terrible at it in its heyday in middleschool and hearing about Grubby it was a delight many many years later to discover he streams. Watching his stream fully made me appreciate the depth of strategy in WC3. Not the top player when it comes to micro but he often beats the best with brilliant and constantly varied strategies. One thing he is known for is successfully base trading his way to a win that most would have already considered a loss. That grubby does so well despite his "low" APM I think is a testament to WC3's depth of strategy and balance.
I mean, the current monster of the genre - SC2 - can trace many of its gameplay mechanics and units back to a game that came out in 1994, which was of course primarily designed for single-player gaming.
An RTS basically expects a player to learn multiple games with completely little intersectionality between them - an early-game, a mid-game, and a late-game, wherein you use completely different units and strategies. Given the fact that the designers have to figure out how to make the "core loop" fun in several completely different gameplay modes, and players have to learn all of them, is it any wonder that RTS isn't more popular?
I love the RTS genre - the combinations of base-building and unit command and creativity and intensity scratches all the right itches for me. But every RTS game I play feels like it's bogged down in far more complexity than the game really needed. For a while I had a lot of fun playing with the Cambrian explosion of simple RTS games on mobile because they don't feel the need to bolt on so many mechanics - they figure out what their core loop is and stick to it... but the mobile gaming world has been ruined by F2P mechanics.
I've been enjoying Zero-K lately, which does reduce some of the RPGishness that I think hurts the genre - no upgrading, no teching, no tech trees... you just plop a factory and you start building units. But its mechanics are still incredibly complicated, grown organically over a decade of experimenting within the genre of Total Annihilation-style RTS play. But even then, it's still very tied to Total Annihilation, another mid-'90s RTS game.
I'd love to see more first-class attention to the "core loop" of RTS games, but I'm worried the only people who are truly experimenting with the genre are the mobile developers, and the economy of mobile gaming is an ugly place.
That's sort of ironic, as I've been missing higher tier units, as they were as close to a disruptable supply chain as it gets in TA: build factory -> make builder -> build factory 2 -> make tier 2 unit. Targeting builders or resources was a way to delay the coming of the next tier units. It also gave some predictability to the gameplay: not seeing tier 1 units meant tier 2 units were unlikely to come.
I agree with the complex mechanics, and I hate that there are so many factories, with so many units, many of them basically copies of each other. Same for defenses: do we really need 3 different anti-air towers? I much preferred the TA approach, where each unit was good at something different, and easily visually distinguishable too.
Also each factory has mid-tier and high-tier units with unique capabilities. Some factories even have low tier units with specific features (e.g. Jumpbot's pyro or Cloakbots cloaking builder).
I don't understand at all how you can say that many copy each other. That's blatantly unfair.
Furthermore despite the wide choice of units and structures, every stat and an helpful description of the typical role of the unit is available in-game.
The reason for the various AA towers is because you need bigger guns against bigger beasts. Your basic cheap and fast built AA tower will wreck locusts all day, but Ravens will laugh at them and crush your factory anyway. Depending on which style of unit you face (swarm of light units, pack of medium unit, or a few heavy and high DPS units), you need a different type of weapon (e.g. low DPS area of effect or single target high burst).
What I'm trying to describe is rather the feeling of being quite lost still after 20 games or so, because I can't remember for the life of me which unit from which factory does what, even less what it works well with, and almost nothing about what mid-game units I can expect from the enemy given the observed factory they have.
Yes, the chassis, costs, and speeds give them different edges, but a more perfect game IMO would turn "Some factories even have low tier units with specific features" into "there's few enough units that each feels like it has a specific feature".
I'm not sure which way this would be best achieved: by combining some factories where units overlap most? By splitting factory groups into factions? After all, the original TA had a good faction/factory overlap: kbots+vehicles * arm+core gives 4 sets of overlaps, with some unique units in between them.
I do like the different experiments: cloaks? shields? jump? meelee? mines? disruption? All are awesome riffs on the concept, but too much all at once. Alpha Centauri dealt with it by letting the player piece units together and save as presets, instead of letting them blend in player's mind.
In all seriousness, I get the point of having 3 AA towers: one that can shoot ground, one that is somewhat powerful, and one for mid-late game. What you say about adjusting to swarms etc is not something that I expected (and my AA defenses have been historically useless for some reason), so maybe I'm just playing a game I'm not able to enjoy :P
Of course it is better to have some knowledge about each of them, so you have a general idea of what to do when facing e.g. spiders.
Zero-K explicitly follows a rock-paper-scissors scheme (mainly raider-riot-skirmisher). Each category has a logo, which helps with selecting a counter-unit .
This is precisely the purpose of the campaign, which has been designed as a giant tutorial (without the annoyances of click-there-do-that past the very first mission). It restricts you to a single factory and often only a subset of the units of this factory, as you unlock the units when you complete missions. It is also RPG-y as you can unlock more modules for your commander as well. It is quite well done.
The thing that drives me to Zero-K is that it's much more polished than other Spring RTS mods, the constant metal/energy factor, that it has a good diversity, and actually works without having to guess how to run it.
Meanwhile I'm still going to looking for something where the diversity has less overlaps, where I can distinguish units without having to zoom out to see icons,… and where ships come in a whole range of sizes ;)
So far I'm not willing to give up the moveable commander, and that eliminates Nota.
Couldn't the same be roughly said for FPS+wolf3d/doom/quake? or RPG/Zelda/Tomb Raider/whatever ?
I love RTS but I almost never hear of friends loving this genre, they usually want easy, relaxing games after long days of work.
I believe another reason is that these games are mostly 1-on-1, so they don't benefit from the same team play benefits and network effects as other games.
plus you don't have to worry about losing to someone who just started playing, since they'll have to grind out dozens (hundreds?) of hours to be on a level playing field with you
I never paid anything for this game and had a lot of fun for years.
You get opponent that's either good with bad cards or good with bad cards. But you have 50% probability to win with either.
You are only winning as you climb to your level of opponents.
It's quite brilliant way to ensure players are appropriately challenged.
A game called Castle Burn was also very good take on RTS on mobile. Unfortunately defunct now.
You can scroll to the 'team' section to see their bona fides; the founding members have track records that make me want to believe it'll be a good product.
I've been playing for 5 years, strictly solo against AI in various configurations. I typically don't play for 3-9 months, then spend 2-4 weeks playing 0 A.D. with virtually all my free time. It's a nice sojourn from my usual side project, and a way to unwind after the day job and increasingly busy family life.
Dungeon Keeper comes to mind as a game that starts to go in that direction but it can be argued it is more a (very) fun management game than an RTS.
Probably not doable, we would lose a lot of expressivity in such a change. However, if there is a new RTS coming, I personally would love to see an innovative take on the genre, closer to Brutal Legends 2 / Sacrifice 2 (or as another commented posted, something emulating logistics would be another interesting avenue) than to the inevitable Warcraft 4 (for ios ;)).
I lost interest in FA around the time when FAF was in its first betas.
Planetary Annihilation is more or less a successor but I could not get into it.
I like its idea but in practice the micro was insane in order to keep an eye on several different planets.
Side note, openra is still addictive.
It's designed to be playable with a controller, and uses a player character who commands the army and builds buildings. (Units autoproduce to a limit per building.) It removes APM from the equation, and also adds a new resource as a result: Position and focus of your commander.
I just watched a retrospective on 20 years of Double Fine. Tim had some interesting comments in there about how BL came to be. They were avoiding very hard to make or market the game as an RTS because the genre already had a big stigma at the time.
It might kinda explain the weird state of the game. It was definitely a fun and interesting experience but it was also flawed .. way too many games packed into one for its own good.
RTS without macro would make no sense
actually, the game "world in conflict" has no macro - you get free units (in limited quantities), and you micro the set of units to take control of points in the terrain (which leads to more reinforcements/units).
Quite an interesting RTS, i would say. It's completely about tactics and micro, no macro at all.
I heard about it but haven't played it. Looks like it was made from the same team as Ground Control, so this would be a tactics game (maybe a bit of a pedantic point to make though .. the 2 genres are closely related) ?
Indeed, it was not what I had in mind but removing the strategic layer would also serve as making these games more focused and hopefully less frantic.
That being said, SC2 goes out of its way to make it frustrating. They intentionally design such frustrating UI elements into the game to act as skill differentiators. For instance, a Zerg player needs to click every N-seconds on each of his queens to spawn eggs or risk getting behind. That makes SC2 overall one of the most /execution-/oriented esports, where the perfect execution of a good strategy is the largest differentiator in skill. In contrast, dota2 is a very strategy/game-sense oriented game, where the top players are not necessarily mechanically the best.
I wouldn't say that's there to make the controls more challenging. You should default to doing an attack move instead of a non-attack move.
> Creating control groups and adding units manually.
While I would like to be able to make factories assign units to groups, that's still manual creation. What do you have in mind for automatic groups? There's always F2.
> Producing units manually in as weird as possible ways.
This one is definitely there to get in the way.
Its a classic really, the interface makes you feel dumb.
I'm suppose to be in command. My new trainee marine comes out of the barrack, he is not at all afraid of the hoard of terrifying zerg monsters, he just walks into them not even bothering to return fire. The SCV leaves the mineral line, builds a building, he is truly sophisticated at it! Then when done he just sits there.
>While I would like to be able to make factories assign units to groups
You can already put the factory in the control group, its just really annoying and doesn't do anything useful besides save a control group key.
Anyone here remembers natural selection I and II? They were hybrid RTS/FPS where a single player would play an RTS game and other players would play units. I felt like there was something to be explored more there...
Also one thing that always created great space control were front lines: total commander has that, and capture the flag (I remember league of legends having a “dominion” mode that was really fun). I also remember an RTS where you could occupy buildings.
1. Look into what build orders you should use for different strategies.
2. Watch the replays of your games afterwards.
You d be surprised how much that helps.
The doc talks about map generations in the AOE2 space section, but given the rational for prioritizing diversity, I expect this the variety in map generation should lead to a higher variety score.
I really enjoying watching the AOE2 tournament scene:
Does that mean that zerglings, zealots, ultralisks, firebats/hellions, banelings... (did I miss any) are ranged attack units? Because they swing claws and blades and flamethrowers around?
It somewhat surprises me that it died off so much with no sequel or replication of the format, I thought it was a decent team RTS with a reasonable amount of variety though maybe not enough. It also a baseless RTS and had not resource gathering component, iirc, and so could be argued it's more of a Real Time Tactics game.
Was there a multiplayer or longer / more replayable part? Perhaps that is the reason for the lack of long term success
The environment destruction was amazing for the time, you could call in carpet bombing, napalm and even tactical nukes and it left the map as a warzone.
Besides the hard limit on the number of units in StarCraft and other RTSes, there's also a "soft" limit on how much shit an average player can keep track of or care about.
I do completely agree with the analysis, though. RTS games are hard for a “casual” player to get into. It’s hard to even follow a game on Twitch, because the camera is frequently jumping around while a player handles logistics, and when someone is doing multiple actions per second it’s hard to observe them. The difficulty of casual play also makes it difficult for streamers to chat with the audience while playing.
It’s interesting to compare to MOBA games like League of Legends. They are very similar mechanically in terms of unit control, but you have much less context switching because you are only controlling a single character. So it’s easier to follow a stream or to play.
I think there’s room for a middle ground, a game that has more complex strategies like RTS’s do, but with casual play like a moba. We’ll see...
> I think there’s room for a middle ground, a game that has more complex strategies like RTS’s do, but with casual play like a moba. We’ll see...
One problem is that RTS genre is a bit stuck. It is hard to pull in new players given all the other genres I just mentioned. And old RTS players "like what they like". You can see this in new RTS games that try something new like Tooth & Tail. It has a lot of negative reviews from RTS players saying things like "No micro?!? This isn't a real RTS!" Even though the lack of micro is specifically to try to draw in new players.
Following SC2's announcement, RTS games almost stopped being developed entirely - no studio wanted to compete with blizzard's release. Unfortunately, Blizzard created a game which had very little of the UMS lobby scene, and very little of the captivating visual spectacle of SC:BW.
Blizzard's response to the decline of SC2 was made very clear very early; they didn't see the point in investing further in the genre when Hearthstone and WoW both featured recurring revenue and SC:BW had it's popularity owed to recurring fan based content at a set upfront price.
Well it's rated Very Positive on steam, for what it's worth.
It's definitely far from a standard RTS, though, with the way you have a single avatar character that runs around to personally provide vision and perform all actions.
I suppose it makes sense, but makes me a bit sad as I feel reconciling the strategic value in one to complement another was the magic - resources, units, and towns only have value insofar as they enhance your strategic execution. I could never get into Civilization or Rollercoaster Tycoon where it felt (to me) like building just for the sake of building or following how someone else defines "good".
When joining a multiplayer game, you can choose player number and team. If you choose the same player number and team as someone else, both players have control of the same units.
I'm truly shocked that he just describes the economy as too simplistic only because it has just 2 types of resources.
I don't get the comments on APM, since "playing faster" isn't a function of "my fingers don't have strong enough muscles" but much more "how much processes can you handle subconsciously or purely on muscle memory".
Also I really liked day's take on it that Starcraft focuses on Real time aspect of RTS instead of the strategy aspect (while that also goes incredibly deep!).
But let's face it, 1v1 esports is dead. Nobody enjoys mechanical heavy games anymore and that sucks!:<
Give a world where the top esports would be any starcraft, an arena fps like quake/diaboticals and GunZ and I would be happy.
SC2 is a short (~10-20 minutes) 1 on 1 APMs contest. (APM=actions per minutes). APMs are more than fast clicking. No pro player managed to do everything they know they should do. It is about prioritization. Even I, a modest gold-league player can watch pro replays and go "oh, they should have moved the drones there, they could have saved these 3 marines". Knowing your skills there, execute well, recover from errors, exploit your enemies' mistakes, cause them.
This is the kind of game SC2 is, and it is perfect in that regard. It fits a niche perfectly, has the good amount of complexity.
RTS can be about other things than APMs, but also, I believe they can be about something else than being an eSport. It is not necessary to be an eSport to be a good game.
This is the first time I learned this. (Sorry tongue in cheek a bit.) But yeah as an eSport (1v1), or in modes where people play 1 on 1 (and APM tends to win), your statement is true.
It is not the only mode you can play SC2, and while it might the most recognized or popular setup, the people I play with prefer basically ever mode except that one. (Many of us also enjoyed the campaigns!)
The reason you separate it there is that in a strategy game you should be able to win the war while losing every battle. You can't do that unless you can produce units, meaning if you plan well you can outproduce your enemy and win even though he kills more of your stuff every time you fight.
Unfortunately, the developer, Eugene Systems, didn't keep this in later games. The Wargame series are an excellent and very deep strategy games that further built on recon and other mechanics from Ruse, but it is, once again, a bit of a click-fest.
Still, I highly recommend both; Ruse is more on a casual side, and Wargame series if you want something more hardcore.
* gave StarCraft 1 a balance score of 7.4 / 10 while the game is probably the most balanced RTS ever and deserves nothing else than 10 out of 10
* Gave higher scores to games that are irrelevant (Company of Heroes?) and were never relevant, while people still play StarCraft 1 up to this day
... is someone who knows not much about RTS.
The scores there are completely wrong.
StarCraft 1 is a game from 1998 that is still relevant to today and overall the best RTS ever. Nothing else touched it when it comes to balance. Gameplay is debatable, but Id say no other RTS touched it too.
Also the author completely omits the thing that made StarCraft Brood War relevant: the map editor with custom games. Those were and still are revolutionary, since they allowed the players to create their own maps with own rules. Things like Turret Defense, or whole MOBA genere came out from custome StarCraft maps. Thousands such maps were made and played by players - the game gave the relatively easy to use map editor that also provided a relatively easy to use (and primitive) programming language. That added to the game's longetivity.
WarCraft 3 had it too -> the whole DOTA was probably more popular than the game itself.
StarCraft 2 didnt have real custom maps - as Blizzard didnt know what to do: they wanted to monetize them, yet didnt, so effectively they killed this mode with their wrong decisions. If SC2 had a decent ability for custom games from the start, the game would be much more relevant today. The whole paragraph about "ladder anxiety" goes away, if you can play custom games all day. As many player in SC1 did. But couldnt in SC2.