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Overload

RTS's, what makes them good or bad

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Me and my friends are starting a new game ( a real time strategy game ) don''t question if we can or can''t, because I know we can. Anyway we are trying to find out from people "what features in a RTS game makes it either good or bad?" Let me know your opinion.

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If you do a search you should find oodles of discussion on this. Ultimately, it depends on your tastes.

A lot of people here (myself included) seem to be more interested in Strategy and less interested in Resource Management. Ill list a few basic points.

1. Interface:

Interface should be simple, but comprehensive. AoK and Starcraft had good interfaces (AoK's was more complex and offered more options, but was still very clear, Starcrafts offered lots of control with relative simplicity)

2. Unit Balance:

You could discuss this for days. Basically, whatever your thoughts on this, I think it is safe to say that the following is true: All units should serve a clear purpose within the game. If all units can essentially fill the same roles and are perfectly balanced, there is nothing to prompt the player to use unit A over unit B - it makes no difference. The player will build the one with the prettiest graphic. It is better to have three interesting uni types than three hundred uninteresting ones, since of those three hundred the chances are the player will only use one or two of them anyway.

3. Micromanagement vs. Tactics:

This is related to the interface, but I thought I'd mention it separately. Many current games are designed in such a way as to make complex tactics very hard to coordinate. Ultimately, it is not so much the best tactical mind that wins, but the fastest guy with the mouse. This is fine, if that is the sort of game that you want (and they are very successful) but there is at least one good reason why you might want to try something else: the market is already overflowing with them. Figuring out how to make a game more strategy oriented is very hard though.

4. Graphics:

Everything is 3D these days. RTS's dont really NEED to be 3d, but most new ones coming out are. There are a number of good reasons why 3D graphics are being used, but that isnt the point. If you are using 3D graphics, how do you make the game non-sucky?

I think the biggest gripe with 3D RTS is the camera. It is hard enough coordinating all your units without having to wrestle with the camera controls as well. In my opinion, if a Starcraft or AoK player can pick up your game and play it without reading the manual then you are doing alright - the camera controls might be useful but you should not make it essential to use them for anything more than scrolling about the screen. Once you have a 3D camera, little effects like getting a units eye point of view, or a zoom function, require almost no effort to add, so put them in and let the player use them, but don't force them down his throat. If he wants to spend the entire game hovering above the battlefield using only the mouse to scroll around then let him. Dont force all these complicated pan and tilt controls on the guy.

5. Races

One of my favourite aspects of Starcraft is the fact that the races are all so different, and the different interactions between them add a great deal to the game. In effect, you have 9 different games to learn: Protoss V Protoss, Protoss V Terran, Protoss V Zerg, Terran V Protoss, Terran V Terran, Terran V Zerg, and Zerg V Protoss, Zerg V Terran, Zerg V Zerg. Importantly, it is not just the units that are different, but the way all the races work at a fundamental level. eg, Terrans have to build buildings, time consuming. Protoss just warp them in, and can send their probe off to do other things. Zerg morph drones into buildings, which permanently costs you a drone. But on the other hand, Zerg build units in a different way which enables them to build huge forces in a very short space of time.
So I would recommend the Starcraft approach: three or four very different races, rather than 100 races with only minor differences.

I tend to refer to AoK and SC quite a lot in my posts... If you havent played them already then you should do. But they are both RTPP games at heart (Real Time Peon Pumping) rather than RTS.

Edited by - Sandman on November 16, 2001 6:20:39 AM

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Thanks Sandman for the tips but, Oluseyi what the hells wrong with you today i''m only asking for some tips, NOT ABUSE!. Well anyway back to you Sandman, I''ve got AOK and Starcraft and I also think they are really good examples of "good" games and I think that games need to be less complex. Anyway I''m very gratefull for your help, thanks

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You don''t say what type of RTS you are planning on but my own preference is for those like Civ where you start with very little and have to develop until you meet the enemy and the war phase starts.

The difficulty is in getting the balance right. Too much micro-management gets boring. But games like Battle Isle lack interest as well IMHO (anyway those type of games are RTTs (Real Time Tactics) not RTSs. What I would like to see is a game that gives you the big picture and looks much more at strategy in its widest sense - troop build up, supplies, morale, weaponry etc...

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Personally, what makes an RTS game good to me is an original approach.

I think a better question would be:

"These are the things we want our game to do. What is the best way to go about it?"

To me, a bad RTS is one where in the end it comes down to whoever has the most units the fastest.

A good RTS is one where each player has different ways of winning. One where each player is forced to watch the tactics used by the other player, has to adjust his own, and is able to see the results (positive or negative).

Move away from ''start game, build, build, build, build, attack''.

Move towards ''design tactics, start game, act out tactics, watch enemy, determine enemy tactic, adjust own tactic, attack''

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Some of the better RTS games out now put much more emphasis on tactics through online play. Many are deviating from the over-used Warcraft formula of gathering/building RTS. Games like Shattered Galaxy have eliminated resources, building, and hording units altogether; replacing it with strategic points and a wider variety of units. Unfortunatly, games like this require a lot of upkeep in the form of powerful servers.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Read Sandman''s post twice because I was going to say a lot of the stuff he said, except I don''t like AoE/AoK. Also cut down the size of armies. With fewer troops to control you can control them better. They way to cut down armies is through the resource system. Let''s look at the resource systems of the five RTS games that I''ve been impressed by:

Warcraft II: gold mines that were hard to use, also lumber as a early/mid game resource (after mid game wood generally wasn''t an issue). Because of pathing problems gold mines maxed out, you couldn''t throw huge numbers of peons into them without getting stalls. This kept armies from getting too huge.

Starcraft: minerals spread into patches, since they were harder to max out you needed more peons. As a result SC had much larger armies than WC2. It also had gas, which limited how many tech units you could have but didn''t really limit your basic units. My favorite game ever but this was a serious flaw.

MythII: released in the wake of SC it never really had a chance. Still it was a great game. No resource system. You bought your units with points at the start of the game and just fought over whatever the goal was (such as being the last man on the hill at the end of ten minutes). While not really a success it is a significant influence on all hardcore RTS games after it.

Strifeshadow: I was on the beta, great game. The demo is out now (http://www.ethermoon.com/demo/). The main resources does not require peons, instead you have a network of towers. If the towers near your base are destroyed your network stops transmitting money back to your base. Makes small raids more interesting. Mines produce the secondary resource at a constant rate so it only takes one peon to work a mine, no matter where it is on the map. The game encourages smaller armies, perhaps half the size of those in SC.

Warcraft III: with the latest changes it is back to gold and a little bit of wood. Mines can only be worked by five peons so it is easy to max one out. Heros come with the tech tree. Then there are neutral buildings, making map control important. If goblin blimps (the only transport unit) can only be bought in one location you''re going to want to control that location. Additionally as you get more units you will mine at a slower rate. This will keep newbies from building up huge armies and then fighting. To make the game fun you should always be fighting, constant skirmishes and raids are required in a good RTS.

So the lessons are:

design your resource system so that people don''t need to peon pump, do this by making resource spots max out. In order to get more money they need to take over more territory. This gets people fighting. It also spreads them out which leads to a more intense game favoring small attacks over big boring armies.

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Thanks for more information I''m sure It will help me. But I decided to come give it a new approach, so I wrote up a new design doc and its in this forum and the post is called "New idea for a RTS/RPG game, feedback wanted" its sort of a cross between and RTS and an RPG. Well go and chack it out i''d like to hear your opinion on it, thanks.

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I have to inform you that from now on my lead designer/webmaster is taking on the name "Overload" and I have completed the final phase of being named "Lord_jonbon" If you find a post by Overload it will be my web master or i will tell you if it is me.

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Ok.
I`ve played SC, AoK, SC3000, Settlers 2, Ceaser 3, HW/HW:C, Rebellion, WC 1+2, and a pile of demos.
I`ve learned to really hate the RTPP appraoch used by all the fighting games, along with the limited AI.

So my first dictum is: Bloody good AI.
Make your AI have different tactics and have its tactics evolve.
Make your troops have INDEPENDANT AI.

Second dictum: Non-linear storyline. I HATE level-based storylines. They are weak.

Third dictum: Define your resources according to your level of play. If your character`s a general- he should get reinforcements and send requests for things. He should maybe forage for food but thats it ! For a president, it should be different.

Fourth dictum: Slick interface. Thi is SCs great boon.

Fifth dictum: Realistic terrain ! Be able to make breastworks, trenches. Be able to blow holes in it.

I could go on for hours, but this is a sampling of my views.


I came, I saw, I got programmers block.
~V''''lion

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I mostly agree with Vlion''s wishes except about the non-linear storyline approach.

I don''t think a truly excellent story can be crafted in the "meander however you please, and create your story a you go" approach. I think the key is to be able to craft the missions in such a way that it seems that you have freedom, but in reality, the storyline still goes by what the designer has planned.

That''s the whole reason I''m not into MMORPG''s. To me, there''s no way you will ever have a truly engaging story without some sort of moderator. So I''m all for linear story approaches, as I think it''s the only way to create a very in-depth storyline that pulls the reader in.

Otherwise I agree that AI for units should be independent and evolving. I think that the biggest sin or RTS''s is the "click-fest" style of gaming. Nothing is more dreading to me than having to micro-manage all my units. It turns the game from mental strategy to one of quick thinking reflexes...which is more a tactical style of gaming than a strategic one.

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I don''t know if you are able to do this but I think that this would be really cool in terms of unit control and such:

At the beginning of the game or in between battles or something you could teach your troops different manuevers that the AI could then execute through hotkeys or something. These units that went through the training would be your elite units and would be much more valuable. You could even train different types of units (train one group to be a light infantry battalion by teaching them how to hide in the jungle or whatever, train another group to be expert at interdicting supplies etc.) Then you could set up some sort of basic training that all new units would go through- the longer basic training was- the better the units you''d have but the longer it would take to get new units.

What do you think?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
All these games have non linear storylines. All you do is log on to battle.net and join a game. A story will unfold, sometimes a great one. Then watch the replay or write a battlereport (battlereports.com) so you can share it with others.

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quote:
Original post by ewiar
I don''t know if you are able to do this but I think that this would be really cool in terms of unit control and such:

At the beginning of the game or in between battles or something you could teach your troops different manuevers that the AI could then execute through hotkeys or something. These units that went through the training would be your elite units and would be much more valuable. You could even train different types of units (train one group to be a light infantry battalion by teaching them how to hide in the jungle or whatever, train another group to be expert at interdicting supplies etc.) Then you could set up some sort of basic training that all new units would go through- the longer basic training was- the better the units you''d have but the longer it would take to get new units.

What do you think?


I think this is a great idea.

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
All you do is log on to battle.net and join a game. A story will unfold, sometimes a great one.


Blizzard cannot write a good story. The story wasnt important in War2 (really..), or in Diablo... then comes Diablo 2, with is ever present story... and it got so boring after a while.

As for Battle.net... what a haven for the trash of society (at least it was for quite some time). I also feel that Blizzard handled bots terribly... 8 months of work to limit bots to 3 channels is a joke.

Blizzard has some major work to do in my eyes.

Sorry, that was a "bit" off topic...

I mostly agree with everything said here. AI is one thing that most RTS games and RTPP games lack. Some sort of moral system should be included.

Personally, I would be just fine fighting on a flat plane, as long as it had trees and bushes and stuff. Maybe you could dig holes, or blow craters in it, and that would be pretty much all that is needed, as far as terrain...

Z.

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I like the idea of how an AI evoles, (even though III don''t know how it would work) I also think the training soliders idea is good but It would make it hard for the player to control his units and give them skills, still it''s a good idea.


P.S I like blizzard, but they don''t have very good storylines,
but if you read the SC manual there is quite a good one.

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quote:
Original post by Lord_jonbon
P.S I like blizzard, but they don''t have very good storylines,
but if you read the SC manual there is quite a good one.


Poor excuse, Blizzard! =).

Z.

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Regarding the training idea, I believe there is an RTS out now which has a soldier-training system. Can't remember the name for the life of me, but it has a fantasy/far east sort of setting if that helps. Apparently one cannot produce troops with a barracks, or peasants with a town hall; instead, peasants spawn periodically and you can then tell them to work or to go to a training hall to become soldiers. You can then send them to other schools to learn special abilities, but this takes more time and money...

Anyway, that's what I remember. It seemed like a cool idea.

You can't have "civilization" without "civil".

Addendum: Good luck designing your game. I'm always in favor of more games, especially ones designed with such care to detail as you apparently have.

Edited by - SpittingTrashcan on November 20, 2001 11:28:54 AM

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quote:
Original post by SpittingTrashcan
Regarding the training idea, I believe there is an RTS out now which has a soldier-training system. Can''t remember the name for the life of me, but it has a fantasy/far east sort of setting if that helps. Apparently one cannot produce troops with a barracks, or peasants with a town hall; instead, peasants spawn periodically and you can then tell them to work or to go to a training hall to become soldiers. You can then send them to other schools to learn special abilities, but this takes more time and money...



That isn''t really the same thing - ewiar was talking about interactively teaching the AI, the system above is just an alternative approach (and slightly less unrealistic approach) to the Build Barracks Build Soldier paradigm.

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quote:
Original post by Sandman
That isn''t really the same thing - ewiar was talking about interactively teaching the AI, the system above is just an alternative approach (and slightly less unrealistic approach) to the Build Barracks Build Soldier paradigm.




Exactly. What I meant was that your units would learn the tactics that you yourself use when manually playing the game. It wouldn''t neccesarily increase any of their in-game ratings but they''d be a lot smarter and better able to fend for themselves. The units that had only gone through basic training would be cannon fodder- patrol them right into the enemy''s base and hope for the best. The more advanced units would be more valuable because of the time invested in them and because you could send them on more complicated missions. What Spitting Trashcan was talking about was just a slightly longer more complicated version of the barracks. Instead of spending gold, mana or whatever you had to spend time to create your units. Bad units weren''t cheaper now they were just faster to make. Slightly better but not really what I was talking about.

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I am currently in the process of designing such a game. Ill put a link up to the doc as an when it is in a fit state to be viewed.

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quote:
Original post by SpittingTrashcan
Regarding the training idea, I believe there is an RTS out now which has a soldier-training system. Can''t remember the name for the life of me, but it has a fantasy/far east sort of setting if that helps. Apparently one cannot produce troops with a barracks, or peasants with a town hall; instead, peasants spawn periodically and you can then tell them to work or to go to a training hall to become soldiers. You can then send them to other schools to learn special abilities, but this takes more time and money...

Battle Realms?


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For anyone who wants to see my design doc for the game i''m talking about go to the thread in the game design forum named: "New idea for a RTS/RPG game, feedback wanted"

thanks,

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