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calculemus1988

Where to start with RTS game programming?

14 posts in this topic

Hello guys,

I have made couple of 2D games, I did some simple AI so far, I was wondering if you can suggest me books, articles, anything that can get me started in RTS programming?
I am comfortable with algorithms and data structures, the usual suspects C/C++/C##, math.

I want to have this as final work for college, which means I will have a year to work on it. Unfortunately I can't get advise on this from any professor, since not one does game programming.

Thank you
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how to start using a bicycle?

you just start it. You fall sometimes, you break some bones in yourself... And after a few weeks of pain, suddenly, bicycle!

Depends on if you want to make a 2d or a 3d game, maybee 1 year will be too short.
So its best to start it now.

1. step: go and check some opengl tutorials, and practice, how to build a simply graphics engine.
2. step: build some generic game engine
3. step: create the units in your strategy game
4. step: write your strategy logic and ai
5. step: write the game
6. step: profit
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I have already done steps 1 and 2. Not interested in step 6 :). I have experience in Maya, modeling, texturing, rigging and animation. I won't spend time on realistic stuff though, will make some simple stuff. My main goal to show to potential employee is programming. Well I was hoping to get some more info on steps 4 and 5.

To save time, I will model non-organic units only. I won't bother with textures much either. I can even leave them untextured, just throw some light.
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well, the 4. and 5. steap are = magic. those are all stands on you, only you.

and profit not necessary means money. if you get a good job by showing it (as you mentioned.), thats also a profit.
or at least if some RTS fangirl pulls down her panties for you, thats also some kind of profit ;)
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[quote]well, the 4. and 5. steap are = magic. those are all stands on you, only you.

and profit not necessary means money. if you get a good job by showing it (as you mentioned.), thats also a profit.
or at least if some RTS fangirl pulls down her panties for you, thats also some kind of profit ;) [/quote]

Wow that was amazingly incredibly helpful. You should try this general rule in life: If you have nothing smart to say, don't.
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[quote name='Geri' timestamp='1317034901' post='4866007']
1. step: go and check some opengl tutorials, and practice, how to build a simply graphics engine.
2. step: build some generic game engine
3. step: create the units in your strategy game
4. step: write your strategy logic and ai
5. step: write the game
6. step: profit
[/quote]

Ehm.

Just thought I should point this out; step 5 should go to the top and incorporates steps 3 and 4.

Step 2 should be iterative through all the other steps down through 6; you build the game engine [i]when you build the game[/i] (and if you feel like it, generalize [i]that [/i]into something useful for other exploits).

Step 1 doesn't need to go at the top; your learning experience should be iterative and as long as you have the basics of programming, game logic and 3D down already then you should make good progress towards step 5 without any need to 'pre-learn'.

Step 6 isn't really necessary, you generally don't profit (monetarily) from a venture that wasn't of a financial variety to begin with. But sure, you do 'profit' from the experience and whatnot.

My advice to the OP? Dive right in! Do plan ahead but keep the plan alive and moving; not something writ in stone for your to slavishly follow. Write down what the core mechanics of your game; maybe it's exploring? Trading? Warfare? Either way, find the core and write it down! Ignore flashy features and lavish graphic effects, you'll get to that later. Spend your time on finding the 'zen' of your game. Once you have, write those mechanics first and anything you need to get those mechanics going. After that, get the next thing working. So on, so forth. Find more features and make sure you have a roadmap of anything you come up with that could be useful putting in the game.

In the end, the important things is that you:
... [b]don't [/b]sit around [b]planning [/b]everything out perfectly before you commit to the project; this usually leads to an early death.
... [b]don't [/b]put it on hold forever because it's 'too damn hard'; you will never evolve without being willing to try the very bleeding edge of your skill level.
... [b]do [/b]try stuff and hack, test to see if things work and if not why is that so? Asking questions is part of being a programmer; ingrain that into your very soul.
... [b]do [/b]refactor when something ugly takes root in your project; never allow a nest of patchwork become your sole refugee for completing a project.
[i]... and finally [/i]if you do [i]need [/i]a hack then it's absolutely vital you understand [b]why [/b]it was necessary (i.e. what design flaw [i]created [/i]the hack) and that you find an alternative [i]better [/i]solution so that in the future you do not repeat the same design error.

Best of luck! :)
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DarklyDreaming thanks :wink:

A major question is should I do my own engine or just use a framework like XNA or an engine like Unity.

I guess it matters what kind of a job I am aiming for, not sure yet, but "AI programmer for games" I guess is what I have on mind so far. Based on that I guess I should use already available engines/frameworks and concentrate on the AI. You can't do too much AI so, still I would have lots of stuff to do.

Any opinions, suggestions drop em... Cya
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[quote name='calculemus1988' timestamp='1317247789' post='4866970']
DarklyDreaming thanks :wink:

A major question is should I do my own engine or just use a framework like XNA or an engine like Unity.

I guess it matters what kind of a job I am aiming for, not sure yet, but "AI programmer for games" I guess is what I have on mind so far. Based on that I guess I should use already available engines/frameworks and concentrate on the AI. You can't do too much AI so, still I would have lots of stuff to do.

Any opinions, suggestions drop em... Cya
[/quote]
I'm going to suggest something rather unorthodox here and say it doesn't really depend on the game you are making (it does) but rather what kind of [i]person [/i]you are. Take me, for example. I love getting down to the nitty and gritty of every program and will spend hours of my copious (read: non-existent) free time reading white papers, these forums and other places of interest to find out more about technical details and implementations. If I didn't get to spend time programming I'd be bored out of my mind when it comes to making games; the journey has become the goal moreso than anything else. Writing my own engine while writing the game is fun and rewarding to me since I don't view having a polished game as the end product in itself; it's nice when it happens, but I am content when it doesn't since I spend enough time making games that having the option to sometimes just work on something technical that sparks my interest is A Good Thing.

This isn't always true of course; if I just wanted to make a game I'd'nt think twice to use a pre-existing engine. There are far too many great options now to simply ignore that route. Reasons for writing your own are still there of course; not wanting to share profits for using an AAA+ engine (although, having done the math on this, it isn't even close to as bad a deal as some people make it out to be), wanting complete 'control' (silly, given that even if you do have 'more control' the importance is what you [i]do [/i]with it; in most cases, it remains fairly useless as 'more' here is less) or simply preferring to roll your own for whatever reason. But! I'd say that the time taken to create a new engine from scratch vs. the time needed to learn an existing one are practically 1:1 given a complete beginner - with one vast difference; you'll probably have a working 'game' at the end of using a pre-existing engine.

With a home built one, who knows. Maybe you will. Maybe you won't. There are far too many places to screw up to account for all of them. Of course, there is a higher up front cost to getting things running with a game engine - that is a major demotivator in the beginning. Once things get rolling though, it's usually easier to get game mechanics and levels implemented then if you had programmed it from scratch. In my experience however it's not [i]faster[/i], for a beginner.

My workflow goes like this basically: Idea -> Sketch -> Concept -> Design -> Pillars of Play -> Technical -> Coding + stuff -> Game. Very simplified, but a decent top-down view of how a workflow like this can work. Well, it has for me at least! Not that I'm a guru or anything :D


[b]TL;DR: [/b]It's up to personal preference as both have their cons and pros. Take a pick, toss a coin or roll a dice - it really doesn't matter. What matters is you get going.

...and that once you get going, you don't stop. Otherwise, you'll never finish.
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[quote name='calculemus1988' timestamp='1317247789' post='4866970']
DarklyDreaming thanks :wink:

A major question is should I do my own engine or just use a framework like XNA or an engine like Unity.

I guess it matters what kind of a job I am aiming for, not sure yet, but "AI programmer for games" I guess is what I have on mind so far. Based on that I guess I should use already available engines/frameworks and concentrate on the AI. You can't do too much AI so, still I would have lots of stuff to do.

Any opinions, suggestions drop em... Cya
[/quote]

I will preface this with "I'm not an HR person", but I think what will generally matter more to a hiring personel than the specific engine/language you used is that you completed a game.

So I'll toss an addendum onto Darkly's post that is.

"Develop with whatever will let you finish the game in a reasonable amount of time."

However, my above statement only assumes your primary goal is "I want to finish this game". There are other goals that could conflict with this, such as...

1) If you are looking to sharpen skills with a specific language/technology better, then this could be a great opportunity to dive into that.
2) If you know a prospective employer is looking for specific experience with a specific language/tool. There's a sliding scale on this since you can kind of cobble together an acceptable skill set at times (I got a job as an iOS game developer because I had general iOS app development experience and non-iOS game development experience. By their powers combined it was good enough for HR).
3) Special concerns matter greatly to you, such as cross-platform deployment.

I will throw my chips into the pile by saying that engines nowadays can be big, big time savers and you will still learn a ton about the development process even while using someone else's kit. At the very least, libraries to streamline a lot of the gritty of graphics rendering can be a big time saver.

Edit: Oh, there's this article I found on turn-based strategy game AI that was pretty cool. An RTS is different, of course, but maybe there's enough overlap that you might find something in here useful.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1535/designing_ai_algorithms_for_.php
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[b][url="../../user/188207-calculemus1988/"]calculemus1988[/url] [url="../../user/188207-calculemus1988/page__f__11"][img]http://public.gamedev.net/public/style_images/master/user_popup.png[/img][/url][/b]
my hints are my hints, and you can decide, if you find them usefull, or not.

but you are, who asked for help. if you think they make no sense, you should not complain about them. Just say: [i]thx, this is not my path.[/i]
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I completed a book on Unity 3D. Now having some experience in both XNA and Unity 3D I am thinking what to choose for my RTS? I don't see other options than these two, are there? I have also done my own engine with Tao, but that would be too much and I won't have that much time. So I am going for some already made engine/framework to use. So far I am more biased to XNA, Unity 3D is kinda too high-level and fancy for me.
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Well, I'm no expert, but RTS seems to be a very big challenge to complete in the time frame you specified. Why not try something simpler in the game genre? Reason I'm saying is that you've fixed a deadline and obviously you won't have all the time to focus on this project.

Even with simple graphics, developing an RTS game engine will still be quite a big task.
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Pick up Warcraft I: Orcs and Humans. Base your first RTS on its feature set. Very simple, but fun! Tons of room for improvement.

Take care.

EDIT: Oh, forgot to mention my other point...an RTS doesn't have to be Supreme Commander 2 or Age of Empires IV. You gotta' start somewhere, and by limiting your feature set you greatly increase the chance of you actually finishing the project.
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Im trying to build a game close to an RTS, if you feel like having a chat one day we might learn from each other.
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I finished a games programming degree last year where we made a RTS game for our major project. It didn't become as polished as we would have liked nor did the design on the code side really get to where we wanted. The main reason for this was time pressure as we got an internship at the same time and prioritised that which is where I am still working now on mobile games.

We decided to use OGRE, OpenSteer (for unit flocking), FMOD for audio but the rest was hand coded. We could have used something like Unity or UDK but we wanted to enhance our C++ skill set. I'd say the most important thing is to get it fun early, and start EARLY!

We also did a multiplayer RTS game for a networking project that turned out to be more fun than our major. It is funny how things on paper can sound more fun but when they are implemented it doesn't always go according to plan.

You should both shoot me a message if you want to have a chat about this stuff, I may shoot you one after work. I'd be happy to show you the game my reel is around somewhere and I think the source is still around somewhere too. But I wasn't too happy with the source truth be told, dirty rushed code.
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