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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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EDITED BY MODERATOR

Oluseyi, your reply was completely uncalled for and has been deleted. I'll ask you not to reply like that again.

Edited by - Wavinator on November 17, 2001 12:09:12 AM

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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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