Real time strategy games -- why not?

You’ve got a point Supertanker, but I think you’re being too superficial. Granted, much of the strategy in a resource RTS is on the gathering/production level, that’s absolutely true. And a poor or inexperienced player will fling their units into a roshambo hit-point chipping mass. But you can play these games with quite a bit of skill.

Let’s look at your example with Age of Mythology.

Two Greek archers are facing down a Cyclops. Fine. They lose. Except behind the trees I’ve got a hero and five horsemen hiding (and why not?). The archers chip away, then run, the cyclops player commits and dies. Using a better example, anyone who doesn’t consciously adapt and move his formation in AOM is toast. Regardless of how beefed up they are. The game automatically puts archers in the rear, but only if you move them to adjust after each melee. Don’t do it and your archers are toast. The rock/paper/scissors thing is five+ fold. Keep archers in back to slam the footsoldiers. Keep footsoldiers in front to foil horsemen. Keep heroes nearby to slam myth units. Keep myth units for mayhem and their special powers… then when your horsemen perform an end-around and destroy their archers. Or when you commit into battle a sizable suicide force while your myth units, or horsemen, or archers, kill their gold production… It’s all over but the lamentations of the women.

I’ve performed pincer maneuvers, misdirection, and not to mention the timing involved in using God Powers, and seen an equal battle hinge totally on tactics between two expert players. The problem you have is the same problem I used to have. In an RTS you have to make split second decisions and I don’t think you’re giving the game enough time to see the nuances. Hell, my wife once tried a hardcore wargame. She lost, because she could only think of her troops as “squares” - she never paid attention to their stats.

I think armchair generals (like I was before I really got into AOM) tend to prefer lots of time to figure out the odds and bonuses. RTS games look superficial but there’s more going on there, in the good ones, than it looks like there is.

But in an RTS it’s extremely difficult to do the tactical funnery like you’re suggesting; there’s too many damn other things to click.

There’s a barrier to entry, yes Jason. But once you’ve played for a while, you’ll know how to get, and keep, your economy humming and you’ll find you have plenty of time. Think of this “play learning curve” as time you’d spend reading the freaking manual and studying charts (charts? Studying?) in a turn-based wargame. RTS demands familiarty and with that comes… brace yourself… instinct. Anyway, I think you guys are mistaking intensity for superficiality. I used to do the same. Now I’ve become obsessed and found I was wrong for a long time… Actually Gettysburg is a good example of a RTS sans resources that is very complex. Only that is a game of quick and fast adjustments. “He’s too strong on the left, order them to fall back and bring up the cavalry. He’s weakening on the right… advance. CHARGE. Quarter turn and roll up the line!” - all done quickly.

In the “Age of” games, part of the secret is multiple collection points. I usually have 3 or so gold mines and 3 wood collection points humming at all times. Every so often I scroll around to see they’re still working. After hunting and domestic livestock butchering is finished, farms take care of themselves (thank god). I make 7-10 food gatherers and 6 each wood and gold before going to Classical. Then I round out whatever I need. Usually that means more gold than anything else. Once you reach classical you should be in army building/upgrading mode. (I agree with you about the insanity of a rush. When a Norse opponent hits Classical and I’m not ready yet, I usually quit right then. Pisses me off too.)

Really, it does cease to be a problem eventually and then the benefit (arguably) of it comes forward. Your resource gathering becomes a strategic target for the enemy. I’ve had stalemates broken by the enemy effectively guarding that last gold mine I needed. THAT! Was a long and intense game, I tell you whut!

Oh, it’s doable, I just really don’t like it. It’s not fun; it makes me want to tear my hair out.

Lately I’ve been trying megarushes with Loki though, and they’re just hilarious. It’s fun to make someone else frantically scramble at the beginning.

The guy that sent his villagers out to destroy my forward base was annoying though. :(

You’re right, gold mine control is way important. Unbelievably so, as on all but 2 of the maps (that island one is too open to pull it off), you can just starve them out.

I’ve always loved the immersion in my games and that carries to RTS. I’m also terrible at knowing build strategies and formulating the correct responses to my opponents build order. I spent three years of high school boarding with a Russian fiend who cracked the top ten at bnet. Losing to him and watching others lose to him - I just don’t have the skills to survive. Still I’m not wonderful at SMAC but I love it - perhaps its the illusion of running an entire society.

I could beat the russian in Myth. That was a game I could manage.

The pace in online RTS games is just too frantic for me. The single player games I still enjoy, though too much peon management turns me off.

I think the thing I despise about RTS games is having to fight against the interface. When time is a resource, information access and unit control are two things I don’t want to have to worry about. Hotkeys help, as does a minimap. You could argue that the ability to micro-manage a battle is a gameplay skill, but then it becomes a hand-eye coordination exercise. If I wanted that experience, I’d go play Soul Calibur or something.

Myth I like, not so much for the resourceless aspect, but more for the idea that formations and tactics actually matter. AoE2 tried to do something similar, but failed because their rock-paper-scissors unit distribution still required that you manually made sure that the paper went after the rock instead of trying to attack the scissors. (damn pikemen!)

Why do developers keep ignoring the lessons of the past? I think that’s what my RTS complaint really boils down to. Reflex-based RTS gameplay has its place, but it’s maddening that almost every single RTS games insists on making the same mistakes with respect to interface and mission design.

  • Alan

I don’t like RTS at all.

Games along the lines of X-Com, Warhammer: Chaos Gate, Jagged Alliance and Fallout Tactics (although that last one wasn’t deep enough and became repetitive) are more my thing.

I get more enjoyment feeling like I’m in control. When I’m playing an RTS (or Baldur’s Gate with pause turned off), I feel like a chaperone on a fifth grade school field trip. There are all of these spastic little units running around getting themselves into trouble if I don’t stand over their shoulders every second, but this is impossible due to the sheer numbers.

I don’t find it very believable that I’m supposedly commanding an elite group of troops, adventurers, assassins, or what have you, yet every time I turn my back for a second they wind up dead.

That’s pretty much it for me too,along with,as Mark noted,the frantic pace overall.There’s certainly a skill to playing these things well,but it’s a skill in which I have no interest.Added to that is the sensation that I’ve played this game before(name any RTS game),many times before.They’re all pretty much the same.

One could make the same case of sameness for FPS,but they are a bit different to me because they generally throw you in a unique(if the game is well done)world,which is interesting in itself,whereas RTS games just generally give you slightly different units,slightly different build paths,a few new tweaks,etc.Usually the only thrill I get from playing the ‘hot’ new RTS game is seeing the new graphics and animations,while the gameplay itself is mind-numbingly familiar.Frankly,it beats me why some people play all of these things.

RTS is like chess. Only two thousand times more exciting.

Not everyone is crazy about chess. Therefore, not everyone is crazy about RTS.

Those who are crazy about RTS enjoy it a great deal, as those who are crazy about chess.

Those who don’t understand chess cannot figure out why anyone would want to play.

Ditto for RTS.

Heh.So I take it you like RTS?Give me Chess anyday.Hell,give me Chinese checkers.RTS games in general bore me to numbness.

Of course, Kohan fixed EVERY ONE of the complaints mentioned in here. But no, people won’t buy that. WANT ORC! WANT ORC!

Here’s hoping Kohan II will generate enough buzz to change that. fingers crossed

I just grabbed a copy of Ahiriman’s Gift at EB for $7-something. I was just waiting for a good price!

I did play Kohan online, and while it was much more manageable, it was still a race against time to continually build new cities.

Well, Kohan sucked. Simple as that. Stupid story, boring visuals, fairly primitive game system, an AI whose completely random moves were offset only by insane cheating… the weird setting was just the final blow.

A real-time game isn’t automatically good just because it doesn’t play like a Command & Conquer clone. Like most (if not all) Strategy First products, Kohan was an interesting concept study – nothing more.

Well, Kohan sucked. Simple as that. Stupid story, boring visuals, fairly primitive game system, an AI whose completely random moves were offset only by insane cheating… the weird setting was just the final blow.

A real-time game isn’t automatically good just because it doesn’t play like a Command & Conquer clone. Like most (if not all) Strategy First products, Kohan was an interesting concept study – nothing more.[/quote]

Primitive gameplay?!?! Are you smoking crack or bootin’ black tar heroine? Kohan had more of the “S” in RTS than any I have played in a while and without a lot of the seed spreading and log carrying and pick axing. Kohan sucked? That is nothing but crazy talk.

Like most (if not all) Strategy First products, Kohan was an interesting concept study – nothing more

Ooops, almost forgot this nuttiness. Did you play Disciple 1 or 2? Or do you dislike turn-based games due to the lack of clicking and group circling?

Well they contain some strategic elements to be sure, but you could work the term strategy into nearly any genre of computer gaming. The emphasis on RTS games is on the RT not the S.


I love turn-based games. Good turn-based games, that is, like Advance Wars or Civilization III. I did play Disciples 1, and it was just as bad as Kohan, if not worse. What I recall most vividly were the countless gigantic static town control screens, each of which contained approximately 0.35 controls that you could actually manipulate, and the laughably dilettantic stick-figure battle screen that Jeff Green rightly ridiculed in his CGW mini-review.

Strategy First is best described as a company that makes “games” (i.e. essayistic concept demos) for people who hate games, much like the Xbox is a console for people who hate consoles. SF games are not just chronically underproduced, they simply aren’t any fun – in fact they play as if they were designed by aliens who don’t know what the word “fun” means, and obtained some aspects of this arcane concept only by poorly translated hearsay.

Fingers in Ears

La, La, La, La…I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you.


Are you implying that if people don’t like RTS games, they don’t “understand” them? The mind boggles.