14 votes

What happened to the real time strategy genre

Tags: rts, history

12 comments

  1. [6]
    nacho
    Link
    Three central things I don't think the article adequately covers: Balancing an RTS strategy game is hard. Modern gamers put in tremendous amounts of theorycrafting and optimization. I played Age...

    Three central things I don't think the article adequately covers:

    1. Balancing an RTS strategy game is hard. Modern gamers put in tremendous amounts of theorycrafting and optimization. I played Age of Empires as a kid, and tried picking up the game to see how it holds up. Everyone is so extremely good now. Without great match-making, how am I supposed to learn without my interest being crushed as I learn the game?

    2. An RTS strategy game becomes stale if it isn't consistently rebalanced with patches. Otherwise the games become formulaic and the meta-game hardly shifts as the best strategies are "solved"

    3. The makers of RTS strategy games misread their audiences. Age of Mythology and Age of Empires III essentially failed because they set so many limits on different units, created hero-like units that dominated battles way more than the balance of different portions of army and resource-economy to support the troops. The Command & Conqueror series (Red Alert, Tiberian Sun, C&C generals etc.) probably went the furthest down that path with a straight up first-person game set in the universe.

    In combination with all the good points in the article, the long and the short of it is that the gaming world changed a lot as it matured. Looking back at the WoW players, the Runescapers, Battlefielders and all the rest: gamers went hardcore. Some put in absolutely fantastical amounts of hours nowadays.

    8 votes
    1. Silbern
      Link Parent
      Renegade wasn't really what ended the C&C series, though it is partially what ended Westwood studios. What really ended the C&C series was EA cutting the budget with every subsequent title. Red...

      Renegade wasn't really what ended the C&C series, though it is partially what ended Westwood studios. What really ended the C&C series was EA cutting the budget with every subsequent title. Red Alert 3 in particular was really unbalanced at first because the dev team didn't have the time and resources to properly balance it, and you can tell when the expansion (Uprising) came around, they just said fuck it and threw competitive balancing out the window, they didn't even bother making multiplayer mode for it because the Giga Fortress was such an incredibly OP unit that turned every match into a joke. C&C 4 was a straight up terrible game that had a horrid single player experience and straight up locked units away in multiplayer behind a leveling system, meaning you couldn't even fully enjoy what little strategy there was without completing the campaign.

      EA wanted a Starcraft II level RTS without any of the time and expense that it takes to make a game to Starcraft II's level, and that was bound to fall apart despite the team's efforts.

      On the flipside, at least they finally seem to be recognizing that, given that they're remaking the original C&C and have promised the public that it'll be a traditional RTS, no pay to win BS, and seem to have given the dev team a lot of leeway in making an authentic modern recreation. I'm optimistically hopeful that we'll finally get the first decent C&C game in over 10 years.

      3 votes
    2. [3]
      onyxleopard
      Link Parent
      I think the shift in focus to FPS and increased power of gaming PCs was a big factor. Half Life and Counter Strike came out in the 90s and suddenly isometric or top-down style RTSes seemed less...

      I think the shift in focus to FPS and increased power of gaming PCs was a big factor. Half Life and Counter Strike came out in the 90s and suddenly isometric or top-down style RTSes seemed less immersive by comparison. Then Halo and Call of Duty came on the scene and you also had the modding communities using the Warcraft III mapmaker to do stuff like DotA. The focus of gaming became more about being a part of a world as an individual character, rather than being a general of an army.

      That said, I think consoles did some neat stuff in related genres, but not full real time games. E.g., Final Fantasy tactics, Ogrebattle, and Advance Wars were compelling turn-based strategy RPGs. And Pikmin came along later and was an interesting take on the RTS.

      Interestingly, I think a lot of the audience for RTSs shifted to MOBA style games, or resource management simulation games: SimCity, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Cities Skylines, and even Dwarf Fortress. I feel like this article’s thesis that RTSes are dead ignores the impact this genre has had, and how the simulation games (Stardew Valley, various rail sims, even Minecraft) have taken the place of the single-player focused RTS, whereas online multiplayer competitive games have moved toward FPS, fighters, and MOBA genres.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        timo
        Link Parent
        Games like DotA still have a lot in common with traditional RTS. I think MOBA games have a bigger appeal: Team based but a lot of individual impact. They also appear to be much more addictive than...

        Games like DotA still have a lot in common with traditional RTS. I think MOBA games have a bigger appeal: Team based but a lot of individual impact. They also appear to be much more addictive than traditional RTS games.

        1 vote
        1. Grzmot
          Link Parent
          They're also easier. The ARTS (or MOBA) genre has a lot of the same characteristics as a traditional RTS game, but removes a lot of the mechanical skill required to actually play an RTS...

          They're also easier. The ARTS (or MOBA) genre has a lot of the same characteristics as a traditional RTS game, but removes a lot of the mechanical skill required to actually play an RTS competitively. And you have to keep in mind, games like Dota are still hard.

          3 votes
    3. Akir
      Link Parent
      This is a problem I have with every online video game. Why should I play FPS games when I am liable to be instakilled by someone halfway across the map? Why play MOBAs when I will be overwhelmed...

      Everyone is so extremely good now. Without great match-making, how am I supposed to learn without my interest being crushed as I learn the game?

      This is a problem I have with every online video game. Why should I play FPS games when I am liable to be instakilled by someone halfway across the map? Why play MOBAs when I will be overwhelmed in minutes? There is no reason to play games that consistently tell me how bad I am at them (and made worse by social features where other players can make it worse).

      I honestly think big game designers need to take a lesson from ancient free to play online board games. Matchmaking needs to take player skill into account and there should be handicaps to help even the odds for uneven matches.

      3 votes
  2. [6]
    StellarTabi
    Link
    Starcraft reached a critical mass and when it became outdated, it's weight held down the industry. It was common for new games and old players to dogmatically double down on engine limitations and...

    Starcraft reached a critical mass and when it became outdated, it's weight held down the industry. It was common for new games and old players to dogmatically double down on engine limitations and caveman mechanics that excluded and alienated new players, casual players, and even sometimes just anyone outside of the elitist esports echo chamber.

    EA also did a lot of damage.

    But then LoL happened. I think what's missing is a game that is casually 3v3 or 5v5, like LoL, but still an RTS.

    4 votes
    1. 0lpbm
      Link Parent
      Starcraft 2 supports(ed) a 2v2 mode called Archon. It allows one player to focus on economy and the other to control army units. Also when you say it became outdated, do you mean Starcraft 2 or...

      Starcraft 2 supports(ed) a 2v2 mode called Archon. It allows one player to focus on economy and the other to control army units.

      Also when you say it became outdated, do you mean Starcraft 2 or Brood War?

      2 votes
    2. determinism
      Link Parent
      There are subgenres of AOS-style maps in the WC3 custom map universe that are still based around team-oriented manipulation of creep waves but add additional mechanics (like, spending gold to...

      There are subgenres of AOS-style maps in the WC3 custom map universe that are still based around team-oriented manipulation of creep waves but add additional mechanics (like, spending gold to invest in better unit spawns, strategically meaningful capture points, complex side-quests). One that is very popular which I still haven't seen a clone of outside that WC3 map-making community is called Castle Fight. I think the genre could be referred to as "Tech Wars" because that's the first example I can think of. These games are usually lane-based, teams or 1v1, sometimes the player has a hero unit to control, they build structures that spawn waves of units that they cannot directly control, the waves of units basically just attack-move towards the opponent but some of them have special scripted behaviours. These games are very casual, you spend most of the time watching units that you aren't controlling and thinking about how to respond.

      1 vote
    3. [3]
      45930
      Link Parent
      There are team games in age of empires 2. Im very excited for the definitive edition to drop. Hoping we get a few new faces into the game.

      There are team games in age of empires 2. Im very excited for the definitive edition to drop. Hoping we get a few new faces into the game.

      1. [2]
        StellarTabi
        Link Parent
        "There are team games" does not instill confidence in me there is a good design around 3v3s or 5v5s like LoL.

        "There are team games" does not instill confidence in me there is a good design around 3v3s or 5v5s like LoL.

        1. 45930
          Link Parent
          To each their own, but if you want competitive RTS with a team element, then AOE could be for you. Check out this game played in a recent tournament if you’re interested....

          To each their own, but if you want competitive RTS with a team element, then AOE could be for you. Check out this game played in a recent tournament if you’re interested. https://www.twitch.tv/videos/475293368

          2 votes