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Kylotan

The essence of: RTS games

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Preamble: I am interested in starting a few posts addressing what the basic feature set is for a given genre and related genres. By this, I mean the ideas, features, and concepts that are almost mandatory in a new game of this type because a game with that feature is almost objectively better than a similar game without it. I am looking for fairly concrete ideas, not philosophy or story elements. Both of these are important, but not really what I''m looking for here. Some of these features will be prevalent throughout the genre, and others might be restricted to one or two of the newest games. To take an example from the FPS genre, ''mouselook'' or ''freelook'' started off as a rarity, and now it tends to come as the standard. Features such as this will occur in all genres, and just because something isn''t prevalent now, doesn''t mean it will never be. The idea of these threads would be to condense all this knowledge into one place so that designers of these genres know what is ''expected''. They can then add these features to their game, or think of a new and better idea to supercede or render one or more of features obsolete. Either way, their game is better. I do not expect 100% agreement on some features, but I am looking for things that work well in pretty much any game of the genre, simply because they fit the type of game. And I am not looking for features that occur in 90% of games and genres (eg. "save game facility") as they tend to be obvious. I''m not trying to restrict anyone''s imagination here: just trying to collect info so that nobody is reinventing the wheel. Everything here can be considered to be the baseline, and you can apply your new ideas to it. Ok, let me start the ball rolling with a few features I consider near to essential in real time games with a tactical or strategic element: - Band selection (term taken from Myth - dunno if they use it elsewhere), where you drag a box across all the units you want to select. (Seems obvious, but needs to be said.) Generally this group can be added to or subtracted from by holding down a key such as CTRL (following Windows convention) and selecting other units. - Minimap/Radar, to see much more of the playing area, making up for fact that the standard view is limiting in some ways. Generally this map covers the whole play area, or a large proportion of it. - Order queuing - the ability to tell a unit to do more than one thing in a given order. This started off with waypoints for pathfinding, but can be extended to resource gathering, combat, and so on. This is usually accomplished by holding down a key and clicking on various targets. - Ability to group units and assign them a number/hotkey/button for quick recall. Ok, any others? [ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost ]

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You seem to be focusing on the user interface "feature set". A game genre isn''t defined by its user interface so much as its gameplay, I would think.

A real-time strategy game is defined more by the it-never-stops nature of the game universe. The realization that while you''re pondering your next move, your adversary is *making* his next move...

Or were you actually *wanting* to focus on the user interface elements? To establish some kind of "ANSI Standard" RTS interface?


DavidRM
Samu Games

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I enjoy the ability to design my own units.

I also enjoy the ability to create maps for the game - so ship a map editor too

Regular updates to include new units (Total Annihilation did this quite well)

Lots of options for multiplayer game setup - like how fog of war should act, how Line of sight works, maximum units per side and stuff like that.

-Mezz

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This is not really a "mandatory" feature, as I''ve only seen it in one game so far (Homeworld), but I''d certainly like it to become more common: Band-box target selection (as a complement to target queuing), i.e. an order to attack all the targets within a box, in whatever order is most convienient to the units involved. A very handy feature in swarm situations.

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quote:
Original post by DavidRM
You seem to be focusing on the user interface "feature set"
This is not a bad thing, the essence of a game''s gameplay is transmitted through the user interface, so it is, if you will, a ''pipeline'' through which the game structure flows to the player.

It must therefore be put in review as much as any other feature might be.

I like the bounding-box attack command.

Designing units in-game might detract from the real-time aspect, unless it is a very fast process. Perhaps a stronger feature would be to have your force pick up technologies during missions. Then have access to new unit design methods outside of missions. At which point the player can mix and match pieces, and once (s)he has decided on his/her production line specs, the next mission commences with the ability to build the units that were designed.

However, havoc might come of this system if it became a multiplayer ordeal, unless it was very carefully balanced.

George D. Filiotis
Are you in support of the ban of Dihydrogen Monoxide? You should be!

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Let me see....

Interface:

Bounding box attack should definitely be more common.
Ability to jump to a particular screen very quickly, maybe also a remote camera option.
Simple camera controls. More advanced camera stuff might be nice, but it should never be necessary to play the game

AI:

Ability to put units in formations (AoK, HW, Shogun)
Sensible AI options (Hold Position, Attack-move etc.)

I''ve never been too impressed by ''Design your own units'' games. It sounds like an awesome idea, but in practice, I have found the feeling of freedom it gives you is very false - it seems to add little value, but gives the player more hassle. I''m not ruling it out altogether, perhaps an implentation like Symphonic suggests might work better.

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Balanced units and civilisations are a must. One of the civilisations in Age of Empires 2 wasn't balanced (I forget which). It had massive bonuses for the attack rate of it's town centers so as soon as the player got to the castle age it was simply a case of quickly building town centres near the enemy resources and wiping out their villagers and army when they came by. I belive before it was fixed in a patch, this civilisation were barred from alot of online games. So in conclusion balance those civilisations!

- DarkIce

Edited by - DarkIce on February 4, 2002 8:35:22 AM

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David:

The thread is misnamed, but I couldn''t think of anything better to call it. Suggestions welcomed But yes, I am looking for features that define the current expectation for the genre, rather than the concepts that determine the genre classification. In a sense, yes, I am looking for a ''standard''. However this is not to force it on people as an expectation, but to provide it as a starting point for people to build from. And yes, much of this is to do with the interface, as an interface is pretty much the only thing that all games have in common. However there might be certain concepts that are concrete enough to mention as well.

Some good suggestions everyone... any obvious ones we''ve missed?

[ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost ]

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People generally expect RTS to be fast-paced, have resource-gathering involved and to have structures to build which in turn ''build'' units.

Teams are really nice too, and hotkeys for storing and accessing them.
I don''t like the limit StarCraft puts on your teams, especially with the Zerg I always run out of numbers to map teams to. C&C, for example (SC and C&C are the only RTS I''ve played) allows the player to have an infinite amount of units to be mapped under one team hotkey.

On an interface specific note: It''s nice to have a default action for each type of clickable terrain or unit, which can be overriden with a keypress or by selecting it from a menu.

---
Allow me to clear my head for once...
Stop polluting the air!

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Actually, we pretty much forgot to mention the standard ''select unit, select destination'' left click and right click aspects of the interface.

So here it is: left button selects a unit, right button selects a target. Special orders are selected from a unit specific menu, and targetted with one of the mouse keys (usually the left - although this would seem to be slightly illogical)

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