Real-Time Strategy all purpose discussion thread


Starcraft 2 already has part of that, with the starter edition, doesn’t it? A limited version of what you wonder about, but a starting point. No idea how well it did for Blizzard, or even what can be gained from analyzing it, since it’s Blizzard and Starcraft.

Still, I’d think the issue with MP for RTS is that it’s not really enjoyable for most gamers. SP, you can cheese it, play it a bit like a puzzle, keep trying until you find holes in the AI code, MP, you need to be a very specific kind of person to enjoy it, or just to be any good at it. Maybe invest in genetic research to see if there’s anything in Korean DNA that can be useful for this problem? :D


I never really feel like I’m described very well when developers talk about multiplayer. MP is close to a requirement for me when I pick up a game but at the same time I have absolutely zero desire to play with random people. Multiplayer for me means playing a game with friends or family.

I’ve had some fun with Ashes and GalCiv3 multiplayer, but you’ll never see me hanging out online looking to join a game. That probably isn’t very helpful for developers that want to establish a community!


It depends a lot on the game in question, non? Some titles lend themselves to it more than others. SK, for instance, had no need for it, of course.

And it’s not like it’s a hopeless endeavor to crack the market. Every couple of years, something new and shiny manages to worm its way into the pantheon. For a time, it was all Age of Empires/Starcraft:Brood War/Total Annihilation. At some point, Defense of the Ancients via Warcraft 3 and Supreme Commander snuck in there. Then, Starcraft 2, League of Legends, and DotA 2 al became ascendant, but not without having to fend off other titles like Heroes of Newerth and Smite along the way.

A title designed to snag an existing market to an inelegantly aging title, or able to craft a new market entirely, can always break in. At which point, the costs pay off.

The trick, of course, is thinking you’re capable of one of those two, dumping a ton of money into it, and then failing to do so. Which, I suspect, would suck enormously. But eventually, someone’s got to. As much as Korean pros and “true” fans might prefer watching Pro Brood War vs. Pro SC2, the larger fanbase moved onto the newer title.

Sorry, this isn’t terribly helpful or informative. Just ruminating!


I used to love RTS games and play them multi player a lot, but mainly I played multi-player because I finished the campaign and didn’t find the AI challenging. Also the big problem with multi-player is the inevitable cheating. I loved C&C Generals, but the cheating just killed it. I remember it got so bad that people would pop down super weapons in the first 2 minutes of the game.

As far as the single player stuff, I do like a good story, but this seems to be really hard to do.
As far as general rts mechanics, I like truly different factions that each have many kinds of strategies. I do not mean simple stuff like air power vs ground vs navy, but more complex tactics, think of the Terran tank push from starcraft.

I also want my troops and formations to be smart (I hate micro managing stuff). IE: If you have selected a bunch of weaker ranged units like archers and you also have a bunch of swordsmen units, the archers will not run ahead of the swordsmen and then get trapped in melee. The archers will automatically form up behind the melee dudes.

I also like interesting techs and toys to play with. Techs that give you like 10% more damage are boring. Techs, like the GPS scrambler from C&C Generals Zero hour that permanently affected units in an AOE and made them invisible was cool. Another interesting tech in some game I played is that some tanks gained the ability to cloak and appear like normal trees and were essentially invisible while stationary. If they leveled up, they would also remain stealthed while firing.

Speaking of leveling up, I do like this as long as it is really meaningful. If units die quickly so that leveling up isn’t viable, then this mechanic is a waste. Also if the level up is just a tiny statistical improvement, it is also pointless. Again I prefer new abilities, like the unit regenerates, move twice as fast, does double damage, etc. along with smaller statistical improvements like more HP, armor and longer range.

Lastly, the factions need to be interesting to play. I do not know if I have lost my taste for RTS games, but since generals and zero hour, I have not found a new RTS that has really grabbed me. Perhaps they have all been somewhat generic and bland although if I could see myself playing a remade version of C&C generals zero hour if there was no cheating in multi player.


Didn’t World in Conflict do this?

ps: I have no stats for this, but I feel that WiC had a strong multiplayer community given it’s size, and I think most of that was because it operated a bit like Quake. Servers ran, and you could join and drop out at any time, just like you could in an FPS game, and the game was designed and balanced well around this.

Most RTS games require you to spend 10 minutes trying to get a full lobby, then load, then crash, then disconnect, then de-sync, then play furiously for 2hrs and lose. I can see why most people don’t generally play RTS multiplayer ;)


What would this actually achieve though? Why would it be any cheaper to maintain than if it were part of the main game? Conversely, if your goal is to build an audience, why not make the FTP client the main game?


Most of the value of Ashes is in the single player game. The multiplayer would be a relatively small part of the game.


I love RTS games, and I play exclusively in single player, whether through the campaign or AI. My faves are those with world map modes, like Rise of Nations or Battle for Middle Earth. So great.


Hey would any of you guys be up for some Demigod Revival? Get in touch on the Qt3 Discord if you’re interested so we can coordinate :)

More on topic, I’ve never really been into multiplayer RTS, mostly because everyone else’s skill levels were so high compared to my own. But man I love RTS games and any game with a good Skirmish mode ends up seeing a lot of playtime.

I’m very interested in the sporadic steps toward macro-oriented games like Ashes of The Singularity. Because like a few of you guys I mostly enjoy the “lean back and relax while flinging armies at each other” aspect. I’m not really interested in the furious clickfests, rapid panning and hotkeyed buildings thing. It’s just not… Relaxing.

Supreme Commander Forged Alliance singleplayer is probably my favourite AAA RTS of all time, and not just because of the scale and the focus on the economy, but in very large part because I could play it in my own tempo. Sins of A Solar Empire is likewise a favourite and for the same reason. But hands down my all time favourite RTS is AI War: Fleet Command. Surprisingly AI War doesn’t actually have a lot of macro or economic depth, instead it focuses on fleet composition and, more than anything, deployment of said fleets. It’s actually a fairly hands-off kind of game.


Many players are afraid of getting trashed (verbally and strategically) by other people. And time is too precious to let it go to waste when hell is (potentially) other folks. Multiplayer can take away your day before you know it while you might also feel more guilt when dropping out of it than with a skirmish game. I once had a Steam call from a friend who noticed I played Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion like him. We started to play co-op on a big map and eight hours(!) later (with a slow-motion universe on our screens) we got to signing off at last because I was hungry. Bye-bye sunday. :-) Entering a CounterStrike multiplayer session for example (smooth, lasting less than 10 minutes) is entirely different than entering a team game of SupCom: Forged Alliance that could take hours (even to just set it up with friends) and could crash somewhere in the middle due to connection issues or whatever. Getting a multiplayer event technically right isn’t easy for most developer teams. Also, there’s such a big focus from the “pro” crowd in regular RTS games on the 1vs1 mode while most players would rather not be confronted directly like that with another player. A big team or free-for-all game on a big map seems more alluring/safe, especially with friends but also with AI opponents or total strangers. I’d say it’s one of the reasons MOBA’s gained the upper hand; despite the toxic community (it’s so big that there have to be plenty of rotten apples) these kind of games are still team expriences first and foremost where your direct mistakes will never stand out too much as in a regular 1vs1 RTS match.

Therefore I think the focus on e-sports and leagues/rankings can be the biggest pull and at the same time the biggest turn-off for an RTS trying to take on an online life of its own. StarCraft II manages somehow to ease newbies into it and keep hold of the big competitive show-off players but that game has the Blizzard money/expertise behind it. It also automatically has a big crowd already due to its name so matchmaking after a few games gets you the right challenge most of the time, the player pool is just that big enough. A new RTS IP doesn’t have that luxury nor the technical “it works as it should” of You’d be surprised how many RTS-games fail in the multiplayer setup phase alone due to poor lobbies, desyncs, lower-strength hardware influence… SupCom, DoW II all suffer from it. Some have rightfully pointed out World in Conflict which had such an efficient and cool matchmaker I’d wish every developer (not only of RTSs) would adopt it. It even came with an extra trial DVD if I am right to get your friends playing.

So, how do you get the big offline skirmish/campaign crowd into your multiplayer lobbies/matchmaker? If I had my way I would focus on a proper online meta-game first and on rankings/leaderboards last. One often hears nostalgic talk about Boneyards and the Galactic War concept from Total Annihilation but I think it should be driven further. Getting people to care about more than just their e-penis/own skill level should be the biggest way to get “normal” players on board online. Put in story experiences and a big, influential but varied AI presence as well and you might have an MMORTS-concept that works and doesn’t necessarily need as much resources as a true MMO-game. It’s about dressing up your matchmaker/lobby and map list in such a way that it doesn’t seem like you’re playing the game at random just to get those measly ranking points. Why having an end-of-map state even? Dropping players in (à la WiC) makes it more accessible and players dropping out for whatever reason shouldn’t mess up a game completely. Connect maps perhaps or make them ever evolving with random events and new goals from time to time. Reward people for playing online in a meaningful way and not only for winning. Offering cosmetic rewards and avatars and whatnot is cool but there should be some other kind of meta-game like a confined homeworld/base you are developing, ready to launch into something more when a special global game event passes by. Sounds dreamy perhaps but at the moment the RTS genre can use any kind of new ideas to revitalize it I’d say.

I am also very much in favour of making the maps, unit count and player numbers in one session bigger and bigger. Ashes of the Singularity is taking up the technical challenge there but it has been long overdue (since SupCom: FA) and it’s disheartening to see no-one else in the games business trying to do something like it. It is very much like with the multiplayer shooter genre: people get roused about a new Battlefield but don’t ask themselves why the player limit (and frankly the game concept itself) has advanced beyond BF1942. Anyone who has PlanetSide 1/2 knows the scenes you see there are so much more thrilling and warlike but yes, that’s a huge technical hurdle. StarCraft II, aside from its decent execution, isn’t that challenging to make on a pure technical level. It’s still a 1998 RTS basics game if you get right down to it, even the unit abilities don’t wow me as they’re nearly all derived from other RTS greats.

Where’s our hope then? Not in all those RTS kickstarters apparently. Ever since the poor Planetary Annihiliton effort (Uber went backwards there, in terms of design, not just in terms of having an actual finished game) we’ve only seen their Human Resources effort (failed), and a minor Petroglyph game (also failed). Nothing else of note. :-( One can wonder what would have happened if GPG’s Kings and Castles would have emerged during the Kickstarter age… now that was an RTS I would have been more than willing to back instead of Wildman.

@sungnif Demigod is cool, relaunching that might be late now but I would have rather seen that game take in more of the MOBA-crowd than some other popular titles now. A pity.


So, i’ve played an RTS that actually does allow 10v10 play(Wargame) and… the results are less than satisfying. While this is a problem in team game, losing one side of the map with absolutely no ability to help it, or even read it(and being able to read situations all over the map in 10v10 is a big problem) is an extremely unsatisfying experience. There are ways around it, but in an RTS there’s only really so much a player can be expected to have awareness and I would say there’s an upper limit on everything you want to have to have a player be aware of. If people have trouble juggling a starcraft sized map and army with intricate unit abilities, jacking up the numbers on everything isn’t necessarily going to work.

Drop in/drop out play would actually be a nice boon in the bigger games but it would be hard to establish any sense of permanence in a game and that’s probably why it hasn’t been done outside WiC, which has a very particular play style in MP that I don’t think is universally appealing.

I actually think Total War:Arena had a pretty interesting way to do it and if that model were matched to a less finicky, more interesting formula(I like the idea of a Sid Meier’s Gettysburg! online where, say, every player can tackle a division or so) it could really work.


I recently replayed the original Supreme Commander campaign. After that I decided to check on some stats from steam (I don’t know how to get Starcraft or Warcraft since they’re not on steam) and I realize I missed a lot but this really shows there is a market out there for RTS and it seems like people just like their older RTS.

Supreme Commander - Peak concurrent players last week: 138, players in the past 2 weeks: 5, 134
(I should note I still play this on the original exe, not going through Steam and I can’t imagine I’m unique)

Forged Alliance - Peak concurrent players last week: 674, players in the past 2 weeks: 13,747

Supreme Commander 2 - Peak concurrent players last week: 580, players in the past 2 weeks: 19,047

Ashes of the Singularity - Peak concurrent players last week: 139, players in the past 2 weeks: 7,122

Homeworld Remastered - Peak concurrent players last week: 385, players in the past 2 weeks: 19,378

Homeworld Deserts of Karnak - Peak concurrent players last week: 124, players in the past 2 weeks: 3,313

Ages of Empire II - Peak concurrent players last week: 8,902, players in the past 2 weeks: 216,476

Ages of Empire III - Peak concurrent players last week: 2,161, players in the past 2 weeks: 57,307


Forged Alliance is still going strong! Do those figures include the community multiplayer functionality? (Forged Alliance Forever)


I think I talked about this in another occasion, but I will repeat it again:

The bolded happens because there is a chasm between the ‘single player experience’ and the ‘multiplayer experience’. They are very different, they are like different genres. So you can’t be surprised that people like one but not the other. There isn’t a reason of why someone who likes experience A (say, Starcraft 2 campaign) also should like exp. B (SC2 mutiplayer). One experience has narrative, missions with different objectives, a much slower pace who allows for exploration and experimenting with different things as you try to accomplish the mission, and in general it’s a more non-stressful experience.
Hell, going to the core gametype, single player missions are usually attack/defense (AI has a big base you have to destroy and he plays kind of passively, or the other way around and it’s a defense mission for the player) and multiplayer is more like RTS deathmatch, with players running to kill each other.

IMO it’s a failure of game design, multiplayer should give, generally speaking, the same experience as single player but with human intelligence. It should be an ‘enhanced’ version, not something different altogether. This is hard to do in a RTS, yeah, because AI in single player is scripted to give ample chances to the player, but imho it could be tried doing a more asymmetric mp experience, with a player having more limited resources but having to hold a base, doing patrols to know what the opponent is up to, etc.

There are other games in other genres that also had the same problem. Crysis for example is known to be a pretty good single player where the player uses a mix of action and stealth against poor Koreans with a supersuit, but in multiplayer it was a very mediocre thing where in Crysis 1 they attempted to do a bad a copy of BF and in Crysis 2 a bad copy of CoD, without really getting the soul of what was Crysis, why people liked it.


Nobody wants to play the RTS equivalent of a clueless Korean who has to fight guys in a supersuit. You have a big base that looks satisfying to blow up but you can’t really use it as a player? You can make the ‘Korean’ more interesting to play but then that takes away the feeling of power of being a dude with a supersuit.

I’ve played SC1 missions that kinda tried to replicate that in MP but it never really worked out, because you end up giving one player an unsatisfying experience and the other a very frustrating experience.

There are very good reasons that MP doesn’t play the same way as SP. The logic of game design pretty much tells you right away, if you want a player to have the experience of having to defend a base, well, let them build one and have to defend it while the other player does the same.


Speak for yourself! :P

You never played The Hidden, or Splinter Cell mp, or games like that I suppose.


It depends on what the games are. Something like Ashes or more classical RTSs are basically symmetrical MP games even in their SP campaigns. basically, it’s a MP game with an added SP component, but the design is for symmetrical MP, that is a competitive experience (we are talking a king of symmetry like Starcraft has, the races can be different but the play/flow is similar for them all).

Then you have fundamental SP experienced (full asymmetry) with an added MP element. A lot of times this MP element is going to be co-op (because of the huge asymmetry) but not always. Something like AI War fits perfectly here.

And then you have games that do both by basically being two games packed together (Starcraft II, with it’s progression system in SP and heav ily story scripted battles).

I don’t think it’s about SP or MP necessarily, but about the design goals, and where players gravitate. If players don’t play MP of some game maybe the choice is to give up MP and do a strictly SP design (with all the design space that opens) instead of giving it away for free. I mean, gaining enough of an MP community for even mid-sized indies is becoming really hard.

But of course, if you are designing a competitive symmetrical game suited more for MP, then that’s not an option. I wonder how Banner Saga did with it’s MP free-to-play tactic battle game…


I’ve actually played the splinter cell MP, and, ah, I don’t think it’s a particularly satisfying experience on either side. You miss the power fantasy of playing Sam and being able to completely own someone stealthily, and the merc side is actually kind of unsatisfying as a shooter.

You might talk about the more successful Dead by Daylight as well, which does the idea pretty successfully, though the game is dreadful against a coordinated group of survivors.

You talk about how the MP should be the same as the SP but those games are very different from the SP anyway. Splinter Cell tries to assume the form but fundamentally there is a difference between what’s good in power fantasy vs competition.


Check out this newly announced real-time strategy base building game:

After World War III, mankind got close to extinction. The player has to reconquer Earth from the outlaws by making better strategic decisions than their opponents. The most valuable resource that still exists is radioactive shale gas, and its possession will determine the outcome of battles.

The game offers a single player campaign mode and a skirmish mode where the player can fight against the AI.


That looks delightful.