I think you just described like, every Paradox game, ever.
I’m under the impression it’s effectively feature-complete and just waiting on bug fixes, quality-of-life improvements and some finishing touches (the rumors of voice acting trouble me since I love the text-to-speech voices in the game right now, hopefully that stays as a toggle buried in the options somewhere).
Long-term viability has pretty much become synonymous with persistent progression systems. A series of individual skirmishes isn’t going to compete against the hooks daily quest & unlock systems got into everyone.
I’ve not played it in a while, but it’s definitely in a similar vein. I did play Seven Kingdoms recently, and it still has that magic. Some of the best economics and espionage in any RTS.
Back then, with fewer games to buy and play, I tried a lot of stuff and liked quite a few of them. Nowadays, with a much greater offer (and a lot less time), I’m a lot more picky about the games I buy and play (and even then I still buy more than I actually play).
Now, Ashes does look interesting to me, but since there’s plenty of other stuff coming out that I’d like to play, it will have to wait for a while. I’ll likely get it at some point.
And I’m sad that I forgot to mention Sins of a Solar Empire and Demigod in my list, which are two RTS games I really, really like.
I also refrained from mentioning city builders earlier - they are in a sort of limbo, in that they are and aren’t strategy games at the same time - but I love, love the Anno series, and I really enjoyed the Impressions city builders back then. Settlers 2 and 7 were pretty cool as well.
And just as a side note, I’m also watching Offworld Trading Company and I’ll likely buy it at some point.
Man, I miss Dune 2. Used to play it a LOT on my friends 486 before I got it for my AMiGA (Where I played it even more).
I believe there were one or two supposed sequels to it, Dune 2000 and another, but they weren’t as good as the original. Hopefully a fourth one will come soon. :)
Good to see SD leading the way into the 4th (PC) generation of RTS’ with the new engine using all the new technologies we’ve had for nearly 10 years but haven’t had a chance to fully utilize until now… hopefully the tech-jump has already paid off with Ashes and will continue to do so with further titles.
Only thing missing from Ashes I suppose would be a DX12/MGPU version that worked on Windows 8.1 :) then again I’m on Nvidia which hasn’t so far performed that well with DX12 from what I’ve been reading.
The unlocking of extra 32-bits and more multiprocessing should really benefit RTS type games, too long have we suffered with a 32-bit 1/2GB RAM ceiling. On the other hand - being constrained for resources did push people to innovate (at least for a while, before it all became bloat - ASM for life :) ).
I wonder what is next for the RTS – perhaps less micro and more macro, where you instead of controlling units or groups of units that are hotkeyed from 1-0 as well as handy hotkeys to go back to your base to set up another build cycle of cheap but effective fast units to harrass the enemy, or heavy units to go deep, or waiting for a counter to reach 100 so you can activate a special ability… you instead create a battleplan on a more strategic level, then watch your AI units battle it out from any angle or zoom (space and down), infrastructure and supplies having a role, losses having an effect on both morale as well as populace, political unrest, resources from near and far, stockpiles, and everything else that would fit into the battlespace and the society where it occurs. Basically you controlling the “back-end” and “supplies” for the war effort and set the goals, but your AI controls the actual movement of units and combat tactics involved (perhaps you could pick a doctrine they would fight according to, or even using simple scripts (like in Final Fantasy 12 or whichever it was) to make one…).
In a way; Midwinter 2 was ‘sort of’ what I’d describe above, except you did all your “Macro” from a “Micro” perspective and didn’t really see any of the other action - pretty sure they pushed the technology envelope when that game was made.
I suppose Offworld is the only recent title that have pushed into a new type of RTS game, but there is always room for something new using the “older” formula but using “new tech” to give more “fun” :) (like Ashes) (Haven’t played either but seen videos and read the talks here…)
Emperor Battle of Dune was a pretty good sequel.
For RTS, I really liked games that allowed a bit of Mixing and matching, and didn’t have a lot of emphasis on build orders and the like. It’s one of the reasons I really liked age of mythology (with cool decisions to make at every age) but I really loved Warlords Battlecy. The fact that heros could alter how your nation played was great fun. It was cool to see how a druid might affect game, versus a paladin or cleric. And so many races.
One game that I think should be mentioned is Dark Reign. I loved being able to set the AI to automatically patrol, or repair itself or attack till a certain health. The game practically played itself.
I hope so too.
I am sooooooooooo thankful for developers trying with recent games even if they aren’t always as successful as we all hope in today’s market. It has been awesome to have games like Ashes or Grey Goo as recent offerings.
I am also saddened by the sentiment that MOBAs have replaced proper RTS games. MOBAs only offer about 1/10th of a full RTS experience and are much closer to action RPGs than a well developed RTS.
As a dyed-in-the-wool PC gamer I will always love and support RTS games.
Will be reading Brad’s article soon.
My god I feel like an idiot.
I didn’t know you could pause and give orders in Ashes!
I was struggling with the final mission of the campaign. I did finally beat it after several attempts and I was moving my mouse so fast in real-time having my engineers work like John Henry in a frantic race to build a fixed point defenses against the swarming tide of the Substrate pouring into my base. I was having them build structures even in the middle of heated battles.
In retrospect I feel a lot of satisfaction having done it in real time though. :-)
Dark Reign was indeed pretty cool, but I had issues with its implementation of “3D” (or rather, the way they simulated elevation and how it was sometimes confusing). I remember playing Total Annihilation at about the same time and thinking how much more elegant the implementation of elevation (and, to a point, automation) was in TA compared to Dark Reign.
Warlords Battlecry 2 sort of ruined all other RTS games for me. Being able to have a persistent hero who levels up, and eventually dies (Ironman hero!) made the genre a lot more interesting to me. I wish that branch of the RTS hadn’t been a dead end.
I’ve said before, but I am (thoroughly biased and) really amused by Ashes as a multiplayer game.
It’s just a bit slower than StarCraft, with the emphasis on map control that goes along with that (especially with a streaming economy).
I for one am glad we have things to play that aren’t straight-up Blizzard games or their clones, as much as I’ve loved them all over the years.
I just remembered another RTS I loved: World in Conflict. Hmmmm. Maybe I like RTS more than I thought. Or at the very least, I used to like it more. ;)
I understand Brad just released an RTS game, but the article published under IGN is so wrong that i almost feel compelled to write a response; because the problem with RTS is not, by a country mile, processing power. The problem with RTS is design. And it’s a design model that, like Flight Sims, is a quaint reminiscence of a bygone era.
In other words, RTS really is dead. Just like the Cro Magnon, the Neanderthal, the Homo Erectus. It was the ancestor of modern games, but not a direct lineage. That companies still try resurrecting RTS on occasion just means they don’t understand, fundamentally from a design perspective, why RTS failed.
I’m so down with this, Deep. One of my frustrations with mainstream RTSes is that they have me building things (yay!) with the only purpose being destruction (meh). And the end state is a binary one–either I’m wiped out or the enemy is. Let’s instead have a contest of engines, with interdependent production lines, and various vectors of advancement. Can I crank out enough marble sculpture to dominate with a cultural victory? Or will you collect up a great library of books with your printing press and win via knowledge? I might be doing well until you spread religious texts to my marble-quarrying settlement so that they decide I’m an infidel and refuse to produce for me anymore. Maybe a shaky foundation for a game design, but at least it amounts to building something other than scads of expendable doods.
Offworld Trading Company is definitely a step in the right direction, and I hope it is successful and inspires more innovation in the genre.
This is sort of a tangent from your comment, but perhaps we need to update CliffyB’s infamous comment about mid-tier games from money to time – which is probably as it should be. I know my personal gaming tastes have evolved to the point where I want either a deep, replayable, skill-based experience for a couple hundred hours, or I want numerous little story/theme-driven games that deliver the experience in as little time as possible.
The problem is that I’m not going to dedicate hundreds of hours to anything less than the very best videogames in the market (or the genre I’m interested in). I simply don’t have the time.
I agree with your first thought, but disagree with the second.
The problem with RTS games is that they are designed for competitive multiplayer, despite the fact that the majority of people playing them are playing single-player or coop. The competitive RTS scene is all but dead, and the people left are scaring away any newcomers. If designers could throw game balancing and competitive strategy out the window, they could a whole lot of new space to explore in the genre. A good example is the indie game Infested Planet which has an AI that will ‘evolve’ at certain times, forcing the player to adjust to new tactics. My favorite mode of multiplayer Rise of Nations is coop Barbarians at the Gates, where the AI has higher tech and resources, and the players have 30 minutes to try to overwhelm and destroy it(or vice versa!). Balanced asymmetry is fine, but unbalanced asymmetry can be even more interesting!
I think that there is a lot of room for innovation in dynamic campaign systems for games. With all the new trends with procedural generation, it shouldn’t be difficult to create interesting and unique campaign systems that force players to mix up their strategies from battle to battle. Even though RTS games are inherently sandboxes, if you think about it, most games are actually pretty scripted (competitive build order being the worst offender). Sure, players have to adjust depending on their opponents and map they’re playing, but it all feels very similar in the end. I know that some games with dynamic campaigns will try to “mix it up” occasionally by randomizing game-modes (I believe RoN did this) – I think this is good, but someone needs to take it a step further.
Why are they dead/failed then?
My impression is that the market has shrunk or shifted but I don’t see RTS games as an evolutionary dead end.
So, RTS’s are dead, just like Space Sims? Or City builders ? Or RPgS? Or PC gaming? Of course it isn’t - The genres just ebb and flow with time.
Im still waiting on the RTS’s that bring back more base building personally, with more focus on turtling, than the rush-everything RTS games I see these days. At least, in the old games like Dune, Warcraft and the like, this was a viable tactic.
In my mind there’s a very elaborate, multi-page post about the evolution of RTS design over the years.
To try to distill it down to the barest concepts, RTS is about pushing little groups of soldiers around a board that have essentially no agency of their own. Without direct instruction they remain where you left them, waiting for you to push them around again. Therefore immediately there is a control limit as to how many units you can feasibly manage. At the same time there is a strategic limit as to what those units can feasibly do, because a typical RTS game play through - the way RTS has evolved over the years - is a careful balancing act between increasing your economy and increasing your military. Therefore neither military not economic strategies can be decisive, only additive. In other words, i can’t beat your army of 100 units with my 10 units, over and over again, because I’m using some uber tactical skill or strategic insight - that would mean the economic part of the game would be made irrelevant.
So you can’t really make complex strategic concepts possible because it would break the economy. You have to constrain economic expansion in various ways or else it threatens to increase exponentially, letting the other player simply overwhelm with sheer numbers.
All of these skill factors trickle down into typical RTS concepts, like macro vs micro, or hard vs soft counters, ect. Ultimately though the real resource is simply time and player attention.
The result of this is that RTS is a very lonely, hyper aggressive, hyper competitive gameplay that develops a very long, complex bell curve with a long, slowly descending tail of skill level. That was its hook back in the day.
But the result of this is that RTS games are just not fun to play in multiplayer. The purest, and most successful, RTS environment is 1on1, and 1on1 is rapidly a dying breed of gameplay. Team based games are where the future is at, not just because of the obvious reasons, but because in team MOBA or team-based shooter games mediocre players who only play to even against their opponents can still have a good time and hold the line while their one or two good teammates be the tiebreakers and win the game for the team. In RTS the exact opposite is true; because there is such a tight relationship between economy and military, in team games, a single weak player will bring down the whole team, and thus the larger the team the better the chances of one team having a weak player. So everyone gets frustrated and no one likes to play.
I’m half asleep but hopefully that’s the gist of things. That the real reason the MOBA style evolution of RTS games “won” the evolutionary lottery. In a sense saying RTS has ‘died’ is probably needlessly antagonistic. To use a more evolutionary framed term, MOBAs are “more suitable” to the needs of players than RTS games. Just like the platypus or the horseshoe crab, sure, they do their thing and you can play them and enjoy them, but gaming has moved on, and there are lots of games competing for your time. Most players today would prefer to play a MOBA to an RTS. You can still make flight sims, or sub sims, and you can still make RTSs. And you can also still see horseshoe crabs.