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What makes an RTS great?


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#1 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 07:54 AM

I've been toying with the idea of creating a small RTS.  I'm trying to figure out which features should get my attention for the first version.  (planning small)

 

Basically I'm looking for clarity in what people like about RTS's, give any reply you want about that.  But I have a few specific questions I'm looking for as well.

 

Tell me about what you like best about existing RTS's, popular or not, new or old.

 

In an RTS that you like, are there things you hate?

 

What feature have you not seen that you would like to see?  - Also, if you've seen a feature but it was terrible, but you think it has potential, what was it and how could it be better?

 

Thanks.


Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.


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#2 Waterlimon   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2515

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 09:19 AM

I would add a non-military economy, and make the game not strongly war based.
Something like:
-Multiple players
-Resources like oil, water, clean air etc. (which all players have access to and is shared.) For example if a player pollutes air, drains all oil from the oil reserves and dumps his waste to the river which you take your water from, you probably have a reason for war unless you can solve it through diplomacy
-You only need to defeat the enemys defense, not destroy him completely. Eg. Fill the streets with your army, and after a while youll get hold of all his factories etc (with reduced functionality for some time of course)

Edited by Waterlimon, 27 December 2012 - 09:20 AM.

o3o


#3 DpakoH   Members   -  Reputation: 964

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 10:14 AM

totally different races(units) with balance between them and fast paced action :)



#4 Waterlimon   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2515

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 10:27 AM

@DpakoH
I dont really like different races for different players.
Instead, there could be player made customizations, and the differences between them should vary every game. Eg. at one game player A might have a resource good for defense, while player B has a resource good for attack.
This would increase variety and force players to learn all styles of gameplay. You might not even know what youre fighting against, there might be a quick attack or might not.
So the "race" would be defined by:
-Player customizations (appearance, POSSIBLY some minor gameplay affecting factors)
-Player environment and situation when the game starts

Edited by Waterlimon, 27 December 2012 - 10:28 AM.

o3o


#5 proanim   Members   -  Reputation: 440

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 11:33 AM

Somebody may disagree with me on this but Starcraft (or Starcraft 2 which is practically the same) has everything one would want from RTS game. That is base building, multiple races, multiple resources, near perfect balance inbetween. But for me in all RTS game after a while it boils down to -> do this, this and this in exactly this order, under certain amount of time and you will win.



#6 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 12:26 PM

I like the ideas I'm seeing so far, but want to discuss 1 that was just brought up:

 

there could be player made customizations, and the differences between them should vary every game

 

I like this idea, however, one of the key things to these games is reducing think time for players.  I.e when you see a particular character type, you know how to react, such as sending squad B instead of squad A or choosing to run or go around.  If units become heavily customizable, and the game varies each time, it will be harder for people to figure out what to do. 

 

I'm not saying that's bad.  I'm just saying it's a mechanic that would need to be careful in its design.  How to keep it fun, and keep it working. 

 

 

My thoughts on that at the moment:

In a typical RTS, you manage hundreds of things, and split your attention all over.

 - Not being able to quickly determine what your up against (even after experience settles in) would be tough, potentially requiring more focus than should be alloted to a particular unit or squad in the game.

 

However, it does make sense to have a lack of knowledge.  If you see a group of guys with guns run past, you know they can shoot stuff, but do you know if they have mines, grenades, rocket launchers, or a laser for a guided missile system?  nope.

 

I kind of like the idea that you can have ways of detecting these things.  but that has to build up.  So mostly, each foot soldier looks the same, but as you see them do things, little flags raise around them on the screen indicating abilities that you are aware of.

 

In starcraft, if you see a ghost trying to get close to your base, you know it is most likely to setup a nuclear strike, or spy, but usually blow stuff up.  The game tactics would change if it were suddenly 10 guys sneaking around at different spots, and any of them could be it.  Fortunately you installed laser detectors, and could tell which ones were carring laser guidance systems.

 

Perhaps I miss understood your inriginal point, but I think the concept is interesting, and possible.  Just need to be careful with it.


Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.


#7 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 12:28 PM


do this, this and this in exactly this order, under certain amount of time and you will win.

 

That is something I'm trying to avoid to a certain point.  I like in Warcraft 2, how there would be lulls, time to think and plan attacks and defenses.  If the game provides some creative and changing elements, it will need to somehow allow more time for thinking plans through as well.


Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.


#8 shadowomf   Members   -  Reputation: 315

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 12:31 PM

boils down to -> do this, this and this in exactly this order, under certain amount of time and you will win.
Exactly, I'm not some korean robot that does that full-time, so I will never play it perfectly.

Some games try to rock, paper, scissor, where every unit has some counter unit, but ultimatly it means there won't be many surprises.
On the other hand if you put in too much randomness it's no longer a strategy game...

I guess it's because most games try to serve to competetive players. When I was younger and Internet wasn't something everybody had I played mostly with friends. I've got the feeling the games where more interesting and we experimented much more.

Nowadays it's all about playing regulary and climbing up the ladder. I don't have time or motivation to play every day/week/month just to stay good at a game. Besides most games just don't have enough content to keep me interested for such a long time. I mean after playing the campaing and maybe a dozen games in multiplayer you've seen everything there is to discover in SC2. Now one only needs to repeat until his hands are bleeding and he is a so-called pro.

Make a game that's fun too play and that a good player can win even if he/she paused for a few month. Make it different each time (maybe radomize the map) so it won't be possible to use some standard strategy found on the internet. Don't make it a race, where you just have to be faster than everybody else to win.



To me chess is the ultimate strategy game. No randomnes and complete view of the board, only the things in your opponents head are a secret (you can still try to guess).
And because there are also standard openings and opening books, some people suggested to place the pieces more or less randomly and then play, after a winner is found put the pieces back, just like the first time but switch sides. That way the board doesn't have to be fair, balanced or symmetric, you don't even have to place the same number of pieces for each color.

You could also take a look at bridge (the card game) as far as I know they are also reusing the same random hand of cards and switch them between SN and EW too keep it fair.

Edit: You could even randomize the available technologies each time to prevent boring standard tactics.
Easy: Don't allow Infantery unit X Hard: No flying units this round.

Edited by shadowomf, 27 December 2012 - 12:35 PM.


#9 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 02:33 PM

I'm also a fan of Environmental Interactions.  For instance, Wind and dist clouds.  Reduce visibility, slow vehicles, possibly prevent flight.  Setup some sort of Dust generator up wind from an enemy base.  Or an area you don't want enemies to fly through.

 

A catapult that flings trees perhaps, or A Ditch digger that can block off areas by water.  Perhaps even tunnelling.  or hiding ships in a cloud.


Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.


#10 vanattab   Members   -  Reputation: 194

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 03:57 PM

I really, really like RTS that have fewer more powerful units. Like in the best RTS of all time Company of Heroes the player typically has only a large handful of units 10-15 ish. Each infintry unit is really a squad of soldiers but they act as one unit. I don't like games were you just build a massive army of 40 units group them up and just click the center of the enemys base. CoH battles are all about micro-management and environmental interaction. If you have not tried it you can pick up all three games on steam pretty cheap. Also different races are a must IMO but it makes game balance hard and is a lot of extra work. Also having a couple of types of resources is ok but don't go overboard keep the game play focused on interesting and fun battle mechanics, not tedious base management. It’s not fun building a million harvesters and having to constantly keep an eye on them but it is fun to fight for control of the ore this is why CoH's capture of territories is so good.


Edited by vanattab, 27 December 2012 - 03:57 PM.


#11 shadowomf   Members   -  Reputation: 315

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 04:06 PM

I'm also a fan of Environmental Interactions.  For instance, Wind and dist clouds.  Reduce visibility, slow vehicles, possibly prevent flight.  Setup some sort of Dust generator up wind from an enemy base.  Or an area you don't want enemies to fly through.

 

A catapult that flings trees perhaps, or A Ditch digger that can block off areas by water.  Perhaps even tunnelling.  or hiding ships in a cloud.

 

Perhaps a look at Age of Mythology would be interesting to you. As far as I remember there are many Wonders that work alot like you described.

Not really by working with the environment but the effects where the same.

 

And Stronghold had Catapults that flinged cadavers of cows, which could cause a pleague spreading or something like it.

 

There is also the possibility to use some kind of zones to make gameplay more interesting. E.g. Warcraft 3 -> blight , Starcraft -> creep both as zone to build/prevent building and healing. Or the poisionous tiberium fields in Command and Conquer. But most of the time fights are far to fast over to really make them count.

Other things are also possible, like the lava that is periodically flooding the level in the Starcraft 2 campaing (or was it Dawn of War?) or the solar erruption in FTL both damaging or destroying enemies as well as player units.

And of course there is the classic, height. Units that fire from a cliff would get a bonus agains the units down below.

 

 

If you're looking for a departure from the classic RTS you should look at Majesty 2, where the player isn't controling units directly. You are only setting bounties for specific tasks and the heroes/units will do them if they decided it's worth it. From the earned bounty heroes could buy weapons, armor and potions.

Each unit also had a level like in RPG's (not those silver/gold or veteran/elite labels) and you could put them into parties to increase their chance of survival.



#12 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4850

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 05:34 PM

I'm not a huge RTS fan, so take this with a grain of salt.  But my two favorite RTSes are Warcraft II and Trash, both for their sense of humor.


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#13 SoundFX   Members   -  Reputation: 188

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 11:47 PM

Somebody may disagree with me on this but Starcraft (or Starcraft 2 which is practically the same) has everything one would want from RTS game. That is base building, multiple races, multiple resources, near perfect balance inbetween. But for me in all RTS game after a while it boils down to -> do this, this and this in exactly this order, under certain amount of time and you will win.

I completely disagree. I feel Relic has a far superior system seen in Company of Heroes and the Dawn of Wars. I will touch on what I love about them below and what I feel is necessary as well. Don't get me wrong SC2 has a tremendous following, but that doesn't mean it's the best RTS available.

 

I love Dawn of War and Company of Heroes over say Starcraft for two reasons. Simpler micro managing and no gatherers. The gathering is based off of territorial control which in turn forces combat. Simple micro managing lowers the skill base while still allowing room for expertise. By forcing combat and lowering the skill level required to compete you have now turned a time-sink RTS into a Thinking RTS, which is where I think most RTS' lack.

 

Other things like cover are just icing on the cake.

 

With that said here are some things I think are necessary for RTS:

  • Two (or more) Resource System
  • Objectives to force combat/taking actions
  • An easy to understand Rock-Paper-Scissors unit approach (Doesn't have to be direct counters, For example AA guns hurt tanks in Company of Heroes but they do extra damage in the rear, Self Explanatory really but it makes you want to get behind them, but you don't have to and can still be effective)
  • Keep the "racing to perform actions" to a minimum and the choice of "what actions do I take" at the forefront

 

Like another poster said I too also enjoy a limited number of unit choices but I don't mind if I have a small army (Company of Heroes) or a giant one (Homeworld). I



#14 DpakoH   Members   -  Reputation: 964

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 02:25 AM

@DpakoH
I dont really like different races for different players.
Instead, there could be player made customizations, and the differences between them should vary every game. Eg. at one game player A might have a resource good for defense, while player B has a resource good for attack.
This would increase variety and force players to learn all styles of gameplay. You might not even know what youre fighting against, there might be a quick attack or might not.
So the "race" would be defined by:
-Player customizations (appearance, POSSIBLY some minor gameplay affecting factors)
-Player environment and situation when the game starts

with those customizations of the units and different starting conditions you can't achieve any balance. and if a RTS game is not balanced it will be fun to play it 10 times and never look at it again. balance is achieved in two ways - the boring way is to make same units for different races (with little modifications) and the better way is to have totally different units and style of gameplay for each race. btw i am talking about RTS which will be played in a multiplayer. for a single player RTS only requirement is interesting campaign, no balance needed at all.

of course i am no master game designer at all, i am just stating my experience from 10+ years of gaming. i could be wrong :)



#15 Dan Violet Sagmiller   Members   -  Reputation: 896

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 09:23 AM

if a RTS game is not balanced it will be fun to play it 10 times and never look at it again

 

 

I agree, that the balance is important, but I have a different idea for how to balance it that what you suggested.  

 

1) If tactics are noticed that allows a race to beat another race without a chance to get around it, then that first race should gain some additional early on benefit.  For instance an early upgrade for harvesting speed, or a slightly quicker time.  

 

In fact, the entire online community can be part of a larger multiplayer story line.  I'll step in my Starcraft shoes for a moment, and imagine I just released Starcraft.  Perhaps I noticed that the Terrans will always beat zerg, if they focus on producing Goliaths.  Trying to act like all the online play is part of a large scale intergalactic war, where planets and areas of planets are won and lost every day, I would have announcements of the Zerglings have evolved to a slightly stronger armor.  Or if terrans had terrible air defense, then scientists would invent a new air defense turret upgrade, or something like that.  

 

The point would be that the upgrades you get in single player games would become part of the ongoing world. as weaknesses are found and exploited, scientists, mages and evolutional hives would study the problems and produce new techs.  like a real long lasting war.


Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

My Game(s), Warp Wars is in early development and can be found here: http://blog.WarpWars.Net.


#16 shadowomf   Members   -  Reputation: 315

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 10:32 AM

Actually the Idea of a connected universe sounds quite interesting.

I never liked that MMORPG's have battlegrounds and factions that are at war, but nobody ever conquers anything. Everything is static.
Maybe some kind of star chart or world map where you can see what race is currently dominating the game. Of course no race can ever really win the war or else you would have to restart it (well Blizzard is resetting their ladder every few month or did they stop doing that?).

Best regards.
-Christoph

Edited by shadowomf, 28 December 2012 - 10:32 AM.


#17 aattss   Members   -  Reputation: 383

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 12:02 PM

I like when not only are there different races, but when the races play completely different. For example, in warcraft 3, one race raises the dead and for another race almost every single building can uproot and attack the enemy or otherwise has a purpose like healing units. There should be completely different gameplay if you decide to have multiple races. Playing a different race should mean an entirely new experience. Otherwise, I wouldn't recommend having different races.

 

I despise micromanaging things. Micromanaging is what keeps me from getting into these games besides playing a bit of the campaign. It sucks when you have to tell all your units to target one unit (not to mention it's unrealistic). It's one of the reasons I like to play MOBAs, as there's plenty of strategy without having to command every single unit on the map.



#18 DpakoH   Members   -  Reputation: 964

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 12:34 PM

a little bit offtopic but @hpdvs2 are any good in programming, as developing even a small RTS is a serious task?



#19 Waterlimon   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2515

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 12:40 PM

What if, you only had 1 "race", but let the players heavily customize what theyre specialized in (defense,attack,big army, sneaky ninja attacks?), but because that might be had to balance, make the matches always (or by default) be between multiple players, which would even it out (so that both teams would have defenders, both have attackers etc.)

 

Of course you should still try to balance it, in case one of the teams happens to have 2 "general purpose" players and the other a specialized attacker and defender.

 

The more players the better balance of course.

 

 

 

Maybe you could even consider a whole new approach: Instead of each player having his own base in a multiplayer a VS b game, make both teams have a single base, and each player perform a different task.

Player A could have bought the ability to use advanced defence units, and as such might be tasked with the defense.

Player B might have decided to upgrade both attack and building, and as such has been tasked to handle both of those.

Player C might be new and have no upgrades, and thus simply aids by doing scouting, small attacks or making the defenses stronger.

 

 

You could even have a 1 vs 5 match, because both teams have equal resources. The lone player just needs to manage more. And of course the lone player better be good in all aspects of the game. This would work if the 5 players are noobs and the lone player is a pro.

 

Each player could have their own "tech trees" (i would prefer some out-of-battlefield bases with production buildings giving access to advanced units and tech)

which they can improve equally (build buildings for everything) or improve just some particular sub-area (letting them advance a bit faster in that sub area due to increasing costs)


o3o


#20 Mratthew   Members   -  Reputation: 1524

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 01:17 PM

Custom unit specialization

-Everyone starts as a basic soldier, I get to issue skills, gear and weapons (a la FPS) these custom units could be preset at structures and units could be assigned to report to those structures for upgrades.

 

Veteran command units.

-Surviving units that earn skills to become caster units or can have X # of units linked to them enabling that unit to tactically organize of those units.

 

Veteran training

-Assign a veteran command unit to a structure and custom specialized units can be trained by the veteran unit to be deadlier soldiers. Example: A veteran unit earns the ability to use (cast) grenades. The player applies the unit to a structure all units trained at that structure will tactically use grenades when they are equipped with them.






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