Real time strategy games -- why not?

I’m curious-- for those of you that don’t like (quality) real time strategy games such as Warcraft III, C&C Generals, and Age of Mythology-- why not? For my money, nothing is more fun then building a bunch of stuff and making it fight.

It’s not that the genre doesn’t have obvious pitfalls, because it certainly does. Some of the obvious ones are the eventual emergence of the single uber-strategy (see Command and Conquer), and an overemphasis on economy (read: outbuilding your opponent) winning wars instead of actual tactics (see Total Annihilation, and to a lesser extent, Age of Mythology). However, as long as those two faults aren’t present, I can’t imagine not enjoying a RTS game.

What I enjoy most about RTS games is that they work on a number of levels simultaneously. There’s a ton of strategy in simply choosing what to build and where to build it. And then of course, there’s how you use your forces-- stealth, indirection, counter-attacks, splitting forces, flanking, strategic retreats, etcetera. I also enjoy some aspects of managing economy, in that good players should never leave money on the table and always make sure they’ve secured additional resources as necessary to support their army. Anyway, it’s engaging (even “fun”) to multitask by attempting to all of these problems at once.

Games like Myth without the building aspect of a RTS game don’t appeal to me very much. They certainly have the tactics down, but they lack the additional overarching layer of complexity that resource management and unit/building selection and construction provides. I like being able to lose a battle and rebuild my army to better reflect the enemy’s weaknesses. In a game like Myth, if you chose your army poorly or you can’t manage your army well, you’re screwed. In a conventional RTS at least you have options other than utter defeat in thise situations. For example, you could turtle up and grab a bunch more resources.

The ultimate game, for me, would be the macro-level tactics in RTS combined with the micro-level tactics of a FPS. Multiplayer, of course, where both the units and commanders are all real people.


I just don’t have the patience to plan a strategy. Whenever I play an RTS, I end up building my basic town or whatever, and then following a handful of units around the map. I basically turn it into a little combat-intensive RPG with no healing kits.

RTS is a broad category though and it’s doesn’t make such sense to put Myth in the same group as Warcraft III and Age of Mytholgy. You might as well include Populous or Harpoon.

Myth is a real time wargame - kind of Sid Meier’s Gettysburg with exploding dwarves. The harvest, hoard and harrass model of the Warcraft and Age games has become such a big part of RTS games that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact there are other RTS. Europa Universalis is RTS, but is better compared to Civ than Command and Conquer.

On your general point that harvesting RTS games can be fun, no doubt about it. I am not a huge Warcraft fan and the second Age of Empires left me a little cold, but Age of Mythology is a blast, and a good deal of the fun is the resource race. It can be tough making that balance between soldiers and peons and the AI makes it interesting enough to keep me coming back. Plus, Cyclopes can throw elephants into the ocean.

I can see why some people would be annoyed by it. Sometimes it’s hard to feel like a king when you have order your peasants around. For me, this is the whole point - enough busy work so that the juggling act never really ends. For others I know this is like opening a hundred boxes in a room. Which I also enjoyed.


I don’t dislike traditional RTS games (and I like Warcraft III), but I’ll take a crack at this anyway, since I’m not a rabid fan of the genre. In general, I prefer simple RTS games to complex ones, because I like to succeed or fail based on the strategies that I choose rather than on how efficient I am at time management. That’s one reason that Myth is one of my all-time favorite games–it focuses on one element (tactics) in detail and does it very well.

The building portion in most RTS games is relatively dull. There usually aren’t a lot of radically different building strategies that work well, and most games don’t offer any sort of decision-making other than the order in which you build things. The process feels mostly the same from game to game–like jumping through the same hoops over and over again. I typically enjoy games in which you build things (SimCity, 4x games, et al), but the building portion of most RTS games doesn’t appeal to me.

Harvesting is even worse, in games that have it. It feels more like busywork than entertainment.

That feeling of doing the same thing over and over again is invariably what makes me tire of these games after playing for a while. I loved WCIII’s solo camapign, for instance, but I’m not the sort of person that’s going to play multiplayer matches from now until doomsday. I played some, and they were fairly entertaining for a while, and then I was done with it. Few RTS games have offered the sort of tactical depth that kept me playing multiplayer Myth for nearly two years. Not that I expect them to–Myth set a pretty high standard, for me.

I agree completely with this. I enjoy RTS games, but mainly the single-player portion of them. Usually when I take an RTS online, I get my ass thoroughly handed to me by the experts who have mastered the game within 24 hours of its release. As a result, I usually end up playing the offline portion and enjoying it. One big drawback for me is doing a ton of base management only to have the CPU pull out some super weapon I had never seen before, and by that stage of the level I am too broke or ill-prepared to defend against the new enemy or tactic. The result is that I have to reload a previous save and I feel like I’ve just wasted the last half hour or hour of my life. Almost every other genre I enjoy has a pretty smooth sense of progress and advancement, but RTS games often frustrate me with their dichotomy of total victory or total failure.

Here’s a few reasons I have stayed out of RTSs for a while.

-Man there’s a lotta clicking.
-I am not patient enough to learn all 47 keyboard shortcuts.
-When I win, I feel it is because I got the big guns out quicker and not because of any grand strategizing I have done.
-I do not have as much time to play as I would like and in order to improve any more, I do believe I would have to review some game films of my own and others. While I am sure it would work and cure many of my frustrations, it seems like I am wasting time when I could be playing more.

There are a few more, but most are common gripes or have been mentioned above.

Another big one that I, frankly, just put words to in my pea-sized brain, is a problem I have with unit upgrading in most RTSs:

—I realize that I am upgrading the stats of my units by spending resources. I am sure the little formula when battles between opposing units are resolved is working as programmed. I just see no physical representation. My units are getting stronger and I can tell that by the (+ 1) in the info window next to the “defense against pierce attack” stat. But when they are fighting, its just the same unit I produced 10 mins. ago hitting on the bad guy. Maybe as you upgrade more blood could spew when a hit is landed or limbs could fall off or screams could become more horrific.

Does that make sense? I am not sure it does. It is more of a psychological thing, possibly. My bronze shielded, silver armored Hoplite is better than the initial one, but when he is fighting how do I reeeeaallly know he is any better protected. Well, that’s what the manual says so that’s what is happening. Maybe that’s just not enough for me and I will never be happy with this aspect of “traditional” RTS titles.

I loved Myth. Again, as above, it is hard to include in the same category, but many of my problems with the Warcrafts and Ages of… are absent from Myth. Kohan was a step in a better direction for me and I dug it.

Having said all of this, I loved WBCII and Age of Mythology this year. Maybe it was the look of each. Maybe I had taken a long enough break from the genre that I could gloss over my irritations. I fear that now I have put one of my biggest and oddest problems into words, my brain is going to zero in on that and I won’t be able to enjoy my nightly AoM, hard difficulty random games tonight.

If this made no sense, just move on as I may just be a freak. I apologize. :)

quote wrote:

The ultimate game, for me, would be the macro-level tactics in RTS combined with the micro-level tactics of a FPS. Multiplayer, of course, where both the units and commanders are all real people.



The last RTS I played was Majesty and I liked that one, mostly because I didn’t have to micromanage. Kohen was cool, too. Yet, I don’t care for RTS games such as Starcraft or Warcraft. As to why… good question.

Like Jim, I got tired of getting my ass handed to me on multiplayer. I really didn’t have the passion to learn how to race through the tech tree to be a l33t d00d. The single-player aspect is entertaining, but quickly becomes boring – mostly, because winning involves going through the same build process over and over. Next scenerio. Build the same shit. Next scenerio. Build the same shit plus one more building.

To quote you, Wumpus: Yawn.

There’s simply not enough variety for me, I guess. How did Kohen click with me, then? I really don’t know. I guess I’ll have to go to therapy to figure that one out.

I don’t like them much because I’m just not that good at them. Too much clicking, too much to keep track of (too many units). It’s too hard for me (timewise, I guess. I’m certainly capable of learning) to figure out the “controls” (meaning the keyboard shortcuts, the time savers in terms of grouping and the like) to ever be fast enough to “compete”.

I probably also don’t have the right mindest for RTS, in terms of being able to think strategy quickly. I can do it (loved X-Com, and was good at it in terms of being able to think/plan well), but not under the gun. I routinely get thumped at the ORIGINAL WarCraft at about mission 6, for crying out loud.

Is there a pause function in WC3 (at least in the single player, it’d be obviously a pita in multi)? I loved that about Lords of the Realm II, being able to stop and think but still have some RTS feel to the combat.

I remind myself of this every time I look at WC3 at the store wanting to buy it because so many others love it. It’s just not worth the $40-$50 to play it for a week and realize it’s not in my wheelhouse.

I’ve always sort of liked RTS single-player but loathed multiplayer.

Yet I’ve been playing Age of Mythology online since November… daily… non-stop. I play about 3-4 games a day (this is also due to stress and having to keep my slate less busy due to imminent baby) and usually break even. AOM’s matchmaker is superb, but it isn’t working. Half the games I play are against newbies, half against the really talented. I’d accuse them of making dummy accounts but I’m no slouch and I’m still in the 1640 range on ESO. Which is very close to where you start out (my win percentage is 47%). My biggest foible is advancing too slow vs. the Norse. I really hate the Norse. They take Fortress creeping to a new extreme. Grrr.

For me its all about pacing.

RTS is great when I am controlling maybe ten “things” beyond that i get annoyed. Turn based can have pacing issues too but for some reason I find the forced stop/go format of turns more relaxing and better paced.

That and RTS’s dont seem to be evolving as a genre. They seem to be in a long slow creative death spiral.

For tactical combat I find the plan/watch realtime/plan form of Combat Mission.

Still each to his own.

Me too, Bub on the loathing MP front. My intent has been to start back with MP in AoM. However, 50% of the time at the 18 to 22 minute mark, I break down. I forget to add the few more villagers I need , I have blown my army on a first raid on the opponent, or I am just too slow. I do wonderfully on island maps because I assume I have time to get my economy going, but many of the other maps (on Hard) I get my ass handed to me. Frustrating.

Single player RTS can be entertaining for a while but I hate the multiplayer aspect. There are too many different things to keep track of. I much prefer the Myth model. That way it is down to all tactical descisions rather than resource gathering which to me is boring and tedious. For multiplayer my favorite genre is FPS because there can be tactics and the goals are fairly straight forward.

– Xaroc

I’m not sure that I agree with that. Certainly the most popular RTS games are, to me, the least interesting. But then we also have games such as Myth, and Kohan, and the Total War games mixing things up a bit.

“I’m not sure that I agree with that. Certainly the most popular RTS games are, to me, the least interesting. But then we also have games such as Myth, and Kohan, and the Total War games mixing things up a bit.”

True true. I like the total war series. Kohan was also excellent.

I’ll change my original comment to be similar to yours, that the “big” RTS’s feel stale to me in terms of gameplay.

They seem to be in a long slow creative death spiral.

Impossible Creatures is the little puff they make when they hit the ground.

The only traditional RTS game I really liked was Age of Kings. (Where “traditional” means “games not like Majesty or other games that happen to be real-time but don’t fit the RTS formula.”) Well, and Warcraft 3, but that’s only for the excellent RPGish campaign.

Why Age of Kings? Because defense was stronger than offense. That’s it in a nutshell, and that’s what makes AOK different from all other traditional RTS games I’ve played, including AOM. You could slowly build up, establish outposts at strategic locations, maybe even make a dumb decision now and then, without immediately getting obliterated by a gang of enemy raiders. Attacking fortifications required careful planning for those slow-moving, slow-deploying siege units, because the average swordsman was useless against walls – as it should be. And as a last line of defense, there were cheap units that could be massed in cool-looking dense formations and could hold off quite a few enemy super units.

All other RTS games I’ve tried were all about slinging more and better units at the enemy than the enemy slung back at you. Structures were made out of cardboard and would collapse as soon as an enemy peasant looked at them in funny way. Cheaper units were almost universally worthless against more expensive units, no matter how you used them. And that’s why the consequence follows that has been observed in this thread: fall behind in the unit building & upgrade race, and you’re done for, no matter how well you’ve planned your fortified positions. That just sucks.

My big RTS hope is Rise of Nations… that should be a fantastic game if it keeps just half of its promises. Looks like strategic planning will be rewarded even if you don’t frantically build and research units all the time.

Its extremely difficult to juggle having to dedicate player’s input with the hypothetical outcome of those actions on screen. Something most RTS games have decided is correct, and differing from wargames, is that units are mostly not autononomous. Close Combat isn’t an RTS game even though its taking place in pseudo-real time because your units can and oftentimes will act on their own. This necessarily caps, at some point, the number of units you can actually have a player can effectively (or at all) use, although many games have begun automating the brainless decisions for you (like autocasting in War3 or autoworking/autospecial ability in AoM) Unfortunately there have been few revoultionary improvements interfaces and controlling large armies easily hasn’t progressed half as far as has the rest of the genre.

RTS games often differ in their focuses naturally, but most have some sense of ‘strategy’ at their core. Most of the time this is economic, tactical, or timing strategy. Its not then the kind of classic war of position style strategy most old-school wargamers prefer and believe i think to be the only kind with any validity; though in most ‘map control’ is an essential element. Oftentimes against equal players it seems ‘strategy’ fails altogether and it becomes a the classic War of Work, where he who clicks fastest, and therefore does the most, wins. The energy level of a player is extrodinarily important, but it does come down to rather logical gameplay. If you can build 2x the villagers than your opponent, thefore having 2x the economy, shouldn’t you have a large advantage? Should players be punished for being more energic so that slower players can catch up? Most companies strive to balance intelligence and speed, so that faster can lose to smarter depending upon degree - and oftentimes against enormous resistance from the uber-experts themselves.

Everyone wants to force into RTS this grandness of scope, something like “Sun Tzu’s Art of RTS” because they’re confused by the idea of armies and empires into thinking this is what RTS games are about. Theyre really duels between players. That army being moved is the opponents arm; his town is his torso; his fleet are his legs.

I think many here dislike competitive gaming in general, and for some reason are very put off by losing to hardcore players. I have always been honestly baffled by this. I mean if your (like most here, including me) wasting tons of valuable time playing games don’t you want to at least try to excel at them? This single player for life mentality is strange to me. I don’t think the problems are as much about the nature of RTS and mastering its ideosyncries as simply playing out of competitiveness in general. RTS games offer a very satisfying combination of mental speed, flexibility, knowledge and creativity, when done correctly, that can only be demonstrated against other players and not the cold, unintellegent computer; and true RTS gamers recognize and enjoy watching this in others. Other games like Counter-strike offer just as satisfying competition in obviously quite different respects. To be honest i do spend 1/2 or up to 3/4 of my gaming time in single player between various titles; but thats when i do my piddling gaming. If i try to play a high level game of AoM i have to be conciensiously, mentally prepared. If im not i get clobbered. I literarly must get a coke and sit for a few minutes getting ready - and if im jsut not in the mood and know im going to lose i’ll just do something else rather than face the inevitable loss. Of course everyone has their favorites, and thats fine, just don’t confuse the reasons of dislike i guess.

Ramble ramble, thats how i see RTS gaming i guess. There are major control issues but its not absolutely necessary to memorize hotkeys or be a keyboard monkey - to a point at least. Other similar complaints can be lodge in different areas against any other competitive game. I think either you like competing online or you don’t :/ [/shrug], and RTS’s are a dish best served online.

The main thing that interests me most about computer gaming is how they can create an illusionary reality. The conflicts are what keep the dynamic narrative interesting and set up goals to be overcome. This definitely isn’t the only way to see the form and the competative model is just as valid even if I simply don’t find it as compelling.

Here’s where generic RTS games simply don’t grab me - they don’t create much of an illusion and, for me, fail to generate any interest in the contest or the outcome. I’d much rather play a Combat Mission, which does a great job of simulating a WWII battlefield environment, or a Medieval: Total War which offers me a setting that /feels/ more or less accurate and features interesting narrative developments and complications.

The RTSes I’ve played are just too busy and unrealistic for me to care about what happens as they offer little room for reflection or suspension of disbelief. That’s fine - that’s how they’re designed - but one size of any kind of game doesn’t fit all.