Why real time strategy games die

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Project: Armament

Why real time strategy (RTS) games die?  This is a question I think we should address now.  In recent years the RTS community has faded in my opinion.  There are article on the net about this very topic think each of us should review and see what we can do to bring this genre back to the main stream.  I envision TC to be a leader in this area so let talk about what kills it.

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James Fleming
Why real time strategy games die

  1. I think number one should be the long game play it normally takes to play.
  2. The idea that you must know many units and structure as this makes the game more complex opposed to something were you have only one character.
  3. A connection to the character as in you immerse yourself as this person or thing.


James Fleming

737.43 SSgt Jono Lansdale Artist 3D
1/14/2018 8:30:53 PM

Hey so i have some thoughts on this topic.  And unfortunately i think this is serious enough to consider some sort of "streamlining" Ill explain in more detail.  


[1] A lot of players clearly found the single-character-focus satisfying.

A. This is not avoid-able and not achieve-able for RTS games.
B. The basic rule of RTS game is:players have to control at least 7 groups of army.
C. This problem can not be solved, so we pass it.


Even before I read the article i intended on bringing up mobas and how they lie on the evolution of RTS genre in the past 20 or so years.  Its important enough to discuss and i think we need to address it and give it the respect it deserves.  I absolutly adore how this article adresses it and brings up warcraft 3.  I was lucky enough to be a part of the dota days and the pioneering ages of Mobas And spent a ridiculous amount of time with the genre.


That genre makes a free to play model work.  Like really work.  To the point of perfection where issues that arise are not even issues.  So once again something i think we need to take a serious hard look into.  But while reading this article i have to be honest it got me thinking about solutions and i have some ideas id like to throw into the pot.  


Complexity.  Players and consumers love it I can speak to that personally.  Regardless of your demographic for the more intelligent and hardcore players you have a great tool to flex their minds with and for more casual players or slower/dont have much time to learn they at the very least have layers of gameplay and entertainment to poor over to keep them playing maybe not 300+hours a week but definitely a month or year.   

    I cant remember who said it but someone once said  that the audience is most susceptible to your film in the first 15 minutes.   Now this applys to everything from plays, to books and video games.  If we bombard the player with to much at once then we lose their attention depending on our audience.  However complexity in layers, thats one way to look at it.

     at least if there is an easy layer to get into/not spend much money/time/or effort to get into then they can get straight into having fun at the core level.  And thats important.   But then when they burn through that content theres another layer of complexity and then another.  I feel this is a good idea or a path towards a solution.  And ill even spit ball and idea I had based on a portion of the article.


[4] Easy to consume the content in an RTS.

A. RTS is not MOBA, so we can not have a new "Hero" content for every month. (I mean the commanders DLC.) 
B. What can we have are:New maps, New campaign, New Co-op and MODs.


(as a GD, Game devolper . I dont like it when someone tell me i cant do something, figure it out and make it happen.  Probably my cook background but if it needs to happen find a way to make it happen.)


So how about this then.  Streamline the experience in a way where not everything is thrown at you at once or even needs to be.to experience the core experience we want them to....experience.  Well 7 "groups" of armys boy....that was always hard to figuire out.  

I mean micromanaging that many units!  Yup kept me from truly having fun with starcraft and other titles.  But i mean lets be honest at its core level your really only controling....7 units?  I mean you group them up and you micro manage but its between 7 groups.    So maybe we only have 7 ...units?  

So this is just a spit ball and mostly to help the team discuss and get the blood pumping but the more i thought on this the more ideas i had.  


Well instead of individual units we make into our theoretical "7 groups" We create a sort of "hero unit" warcraft 3 style.  And they command and control an army with saaay 10-25 units whatever is a good group or platoon size.  We script those units and the player controls the hero unit.  Now thats an interesting idea to play with.  

Hey Need a good model to make money and fund the whole project?  release a new "hero" with their own army and own playstyle and strategies?  I dont see why that wouldnt work.   Coding issue?  I mean thats allot of manpower but honestly it would just be a shift in the work not the manpower if you think about it.  Does it fit the GDD?  I would say so.  Your "units" or "heros" would have the sized army based on their hp maybe?  You could heal and keep these units or heros and level them up.  More hp they have the more Units? 

You could even be attached to these units.  What i mean to say is theres allot of room to work with there.  And it wouldnt change gameplay on the core level.


Hmm maybe it would but let me try to explain.  If you control these "groups" the difference would show more on the way you would "build" these groups or armys.   Something we could maybe even do outside gameplay?  Dont have time?  Patience?  Maybe you just wanna chill and watch funny cartoon characters blowing eachother up?  Well this would be a way to maybe...not seem so intimidating?  Lord i know RTS games scare me a little but a moba?  Maybe a large scale moba?  


Now i keep talking about mobas because i want to bring up a game thats currently in development.  I dont mean to bring up a game for an example but let me explain.  

So supernova is a moba that wants to innovate on the genre and bring it back to its RTS roots by letting you control what kind of minions rush down the lane.  Everything else plays out similarly to LOL or dota if you will.  Interesting idea but im afraid is doomed to fail.  

They rely on an Rock paper scissors model and it just doesnt mesh well, Last 
i checked however that doesnt matter.  What they are doing interest me and ties in with the solution i suggested.  Im talking the opposite of that,  No moba map no moba units.  But heros who have spells and abilitys that help their units on a large map.  Combat could be fast, combat could be silly.  Combat would be strategic as well as being fun and easy to get into that first layer of content and complexity.


First im sorry if at all im confusing im a cook and i can dug some holes for a living so this whole desk work stuff is all new to me so if at all i am confusing just quote me and ask for more clarity and i will do my best.  

This is just my thoughts and some ideas for you all to think on if anything at least to get the gears moving on the topic.  I hope it helps :D  


One more thing...i dont know much how the military works...but isnt this how it works?  You have a commander who tells 7-9 people what to do and they tell 10-25 people what to do?  What do you guys think?

737.43 SSgt Jono Lansdale Artist 3D
1/14/2018 8:34:48 PM
For more clarity instead of controlling 7-9 groups of 10-25 units you would tell 7-9 units what to do with their 10-25 units.  

So in a summary you are talking about having the AI help with micro management of some or as many task as possible to allow the player to control only a subset of the units but give orders to their XO etc.?

I had this idea as well just want to see if we both are on the same page here.

James Fleming

737.43 SSgt Jono Lansdale Artist 3D
1/16/2018 9:39:35 AM

Exactly.  The AI controlled units wouldnt even have to be complex givin that we can simply have them prioritize the right targets in a "group unit" and this allows the player to focus on strategist elements of the game that have more of an outcome for the battle rather than rifle men attack carvery and mortors attack ship, or whatever the rock paper scissors method works out to be.


That being said i think also that you could even have certain "unit groups/heros" have an advatage over others.    Or even combo with other unit groups.  We could free up certain commands so that we can focus the players attention to game changing plays involving skills/abilitys.  

I think we could do interesting things with a moral system here too since that would be easier to micromanage outside of combat.  


I think the idea of builing your unit groups outside of combat to be interesting but i think limitations would have to be set for balance and to encourage the player to try new comps.  

737.43 SSgt Jono Lansdale Artist 3D
1/16/2018 10:54:31 AM
Plus since i believe we are going the F2P route this makes it super easy to realease content.  Not only could players purchase "heros" but also units that the "heros" can use in thier squad.  As well as cosmetics.  Only reason i bring this up is because players are extreamly sensitive to this while most players recognize studios have to make money we still want to make sure we dont ride that line to hard.  So basicly a simple change but one that makes the entire process a little more streamlined as well as some innovation.   Which lets be honest the age of refinement has passed and we are now entering another age of innovation.  Arguable maybe but something i believe atm

8149.59 WO Tessa Toney Producer
1/16/2018 1:55:45 PM
This was an interesting read.  I was happy to see that a lot of the problems they mentioned with RTS are things that we are already trying to correct with the personality cards and faction competitions.

"[1] A lot of players clearly found the single-character-focus satisfying.

A. This is not avoidable and not achievable for RTS games

B. The basic rule of FTS game is: players have to control at least 7 groups of army.

C. This problem can not be solved so we pass it."

I think saying the problem cannot be solved is ridiculous. Also, we have already begun developing ways to solve it.  The use of personality traits applied to the player character is hopefully a way to create a connection between the player and the character. 

Also, in line with @Jonathan's suggestions, using commanders brings more opportunities to use the personality cards and allow further personalization for the player.  Each commander would start with a base card that can be customized (by the serious player) but doesn't have to be (for the casual player).

We had previously discussed the possibility of commanders that are added to the player's arsenal as the player character goes up in rank.  Introducing the commanders in this way would apply to the statements in [4] A. "...we can not have a new "Hero" content for every month."  While this may not be new "Heroes" on a regular schedule it does keep adding interesting new content for the players. These commanders could also make the game more playable for players that don't want to spend hours planning out their strategy while giving the strategist plenty of toys to tinker with and find the perfect balance for their style.

"[3] Complexity of everything."

We can again offer complexity to those who want it while making things easier for those that don't by categorizing units/structures as an offense, defense, or support unit/structure. I think this will make the programming easier also because I have the personality card bonuses classified as Base, Offensive, and Defensive and they refer to units and structures in these categories.  This also goes along with what Jonathan was saying: "Regardless of your demographic for the more intelligent and hardcore players you have a great tool to flex their minds with and for more casual players or slower/dont have much time to learn they at the very least have layers of gameplay and entertainment".  We give the basic presets as the easy layer and allow them to be modified by the players who want a more in-depth and strategic experience.

Another aspect I think we should add to the gameplay is the ability of the player to set the units into a formation that will behave a certain way depending on the settings.  Units set to 'offense' will move toward enemies and attack without player intervention while units set to 'defense' will hold position and only counterattack but will not follow retreating enemies.  Such groups that are inside the base or close to it could function without the oversight of a commander.

"focusing on giving the player an objective, letting them choose the tools and waiting for the player to solve the problem."

We have already discussed multiple loadouts for units.  We can also make the commander personality cards dynamic outside of gameplay to allow the player to try out all the options and get the strategic group they like.  Player character cards should remain static.

"Making battles feel almost realistic as you get reinforcements from all manner of players who come to your aid in the time of need, rather than building up from scratch to duke it out in what is a glorified arena."

This is the kind of situation we are hoping to create with the faction competitions.  Once we have enough players assigned to each faction we can have competitions that run for a week or over a weekend or something and are accessible by all players of each faction allowing them to play alongside one another in an ongoing struggle.

Another option I've been thinking about to further insert the player character into the battle is a kind of special situation in which the player character and maybe one or two commanders are caught in a hostile situation and must fight/negotiate their way out.  This might be possible to achieve using the suburbs.  This could also be possible during the faction battles.  One side could sneak into a base of the other side in assassination attempts and forced the few commanders in the tent with the player character to fight.  Of course, this would not permanently kill the player character in the game but it would put them out of the competition if they are successfully assassinated.

737.43 SSgt Jono Lansdale Artist 3D
1/16/2018 3:25:53 PM

Okay 100% love the assassination idea @tessa What a great way for alternative game play.  Doing something like this could possibly be used for taking out large groups of units at only the cost of a few.  Or maybe will reduce those units moral and make them weaker, while also loosing a high valued commander.   


One of the things i really enjoy in the GDD is the idea and concept that losing troops should suck on a more personal level.  Ill sacrifice waves and waves of troops but if i had a commander who would level up with me/ interact with me as a player and as a general.  I wouldnt say just completely kill em out in battle if they die but a penalty would definitely have to be in order.


Im considering these generals allot like the hero units in warcraft 3 or any moba.  Once purchased we cant just take them away from the player.  But maybe if you lost all the units assoiciated with that commander (unrealistic so kinda a bad idea but something we could spin to work) Not a fan of taking away xp on death.  I think thats a very sore thing to do to a player.  But.   What if we did the same thing, but in reverse.

waaay back in the early early days of world of warcraft back in the beta they had a system where the longer you played the less xp you recieved.  They did this in an attempt to keep players from playing 10+ hours a day.  However this was met with an absolute outcry from the players.  So what did blizzard do?  Basicly they did just that but disguised it in such a way the players didnt notice.   Instead of gaining less xp the longer you play they simply changed some numbers around and made it so the longer you are offline the more xp you would gain in the game.  It would deteriorate over time but it is the exact same system just...switched.  And how did the players react?  They absolutly loved it.  Heck i remember as a kid i thought it was the coolest mechanic ever.


So learning from them my suggestion would be dont have the penalty be lose xp.  Rather give bonuses for not losing your commander?  So scenario lets say my commander got assassinated.  Not only do i lose on the xp  that i would have gained maybe he/she is lying in the infirmary for a time?  Or maybe there are bonus's (strips maybe?) that a commander will get for each successful win?  Maybe an xp multiplayer or anything really we could play with that all day honestly.


@tessa also suggested the idea of custamizing your commanders as well.  Again...Love this idea.  However we want to be careful with that.  As I would say customazation should be limited to a degree.  Let me explain.

Each commander should have special, skills or tactics they can use in battle.  I dont think anything relating to the Core design of a commander be altered.  So lets say we go this route and I design a commander.  speaking personally though im sure you all will agree Im going to make every decision and every choice based off an idea and a concept and role i want that commander to fullfill.  So if i wanted to make a commander whos specialty is making sure your troops survive battle and are sustained it would break the character design by letting the player use that commander to say be an anti tank commander or whatever.  

That being said there are loads of ways we could customize them.  One of the ideas i suggested and i really like this idea but each commander would have a "platoon" assigned to them.  troops that they command, and bring to the fight with them.  Now inside of the game is one thing but outside of the fighting combat.  As in not map battle or scenario the player could not only customize what troops the commander brings with them but also the formations and even maybe simple AI changes.  Such as priority targeting or things like that.  I wouldnt say let the player put whatever unit with whatever commander but if the commander is a medic then medical units and supplies will be available to equip.  

Maybe we have a special forces commander who specialized in taking out armored vehicles.  Well he would have allot of antitank units and heavy vehicle/ infantry.  I hope im making sense with all this haha

Other ideas we could play with like tessa suggested using "cards"  we could have all shorts of cards that provide bonus's and special effects for the commander and the units with him.  anything from xtra hp/dmg to a special effect like intimidate (troops fighting this commanders platoon with have -2 moral modifier)  

"Making battles feel almost realistic as you get reinforcements from all manner of players who come to your aid in the time of need, rather than building up from scratch to duke it out in what is a glorified arena."

Okay so tessa mentioned the factions with this but i would even go so far as to seggest that if you lose a fight a battle, maybe even the map maybe you could then move troops from a location near yours for reinforcements.  Now this is a tricky one because im not 100% how the gameplay and combat will play out givin there are many more decisions to be made but basically following tessas suggestion just intead of other players maybe just a nearby base you have troops at in a different location.  But the idea of having special faction fights sounds really cool too.  Such as an alert that theres some ground to be claimed who will claim it your clan or the opposing.  That would be cool too but that would work best in a territory struggle scene.  Which i imagine the out of combate feature will probably look allot like rise of nations territory system just on a much larger scale correct me if im wrong of course.  

Okay before i finish this book of a post i just want to reiterate on something myself and tessa stated.

"A. This is not avoidable and not achievable for RTS games

C. This problem can not be solved so we pass it."

Wrong.  We are game devolpers.  Gods to the worlds we create.  We can do whatever want, just so long as we do it right.  

8149.59 WO Tessa Toney Producer
1/16/2018 3:52:51 PM
I absolutely agree that the faction battles should be short struggles.  We had previously talked about doing these contests maybe once a month for a few days at a time as a way to offer new challenges to players and reward the winners with new content.  The idea was that the losers could buy the new content if they wanted it and the winners got it as their reward instead of lots of xp or something.  Giving them lots of xp, I think, would make the losers a little bitter and be discouraging to people who end up with a bad team and can't win.  They would feel like they're being left behind and demoralized.  But gaining access to the newest helicopter or commander for free is motivating.  This way playing in the periodic faction wars wouldn't make any real permanent changes to the rank of the player character it would just give them a little more access to units and equipment and such.

Also, I have started a wiki listing the bonuses that we want to include in the game.  I think this will help a lot in the development if we know what we want to let people do we can more easily decide what units can be provided to accomplish that.

Just a thought but we should separate pro from causal players and allow them to earn the right to be a pro player.

  1. No fog of war for causal
  2. No Control key for causal
  3. what else... ?

James Fleming

737.43 SSgt Jono Lansdale Artist 3D
1/16/2018 5:15:35 PM

While an interesting idea @james I would be nervous implementing that.  For a few reasons.  i would hate to have game changing elements happen just to make the game harder.  Im a hardcore gamer but that doesnt mean i will shoot myself in the foot just to have more of a challenge.  Also very few casual players are happy to admit that they are casuals.  Its almost like a dirty word.


But its an interesting idea that i think could be implemented subtly.  An example @tessa brought up was having features that would appeal to the harder gamer that a casual player could just ignore if they want to. 


Just want to buy a commander and start playing go for it.  But we can "reward" hardcore gamers with an interesting system to min max or customize their commanders themselves.  This way being a hardcore gamer you arent shooting yourself in the foot.  Your just picking up a more advance weapon.  Analogy aside I think their should be different experiences to offer depending on the players dedication.  


Another example a casual gamer probably wont hop on and fight to hard to win a faction war.  While their experience of the game should in no way be lesser for it, the rewards will be blocked off for more hardcore players with the dedication to push forward and fight for more goodies.  


fog of war...interesting you bring that up question is fog of war an outdated mechanic?  Could we maybe come up and innovate on a better system to hide exploration?  I dont see any reason not to use it but also i dont see any reason not to evolve it.  I remember reading about how people were getting kinda fed up with FOW but what would be a good way to achieve the same effect without having some unrealistic atmosphere that blocks you from seeing anything.  


@tessa Yes faction battles or other special events would be great not only to break up the monotony of normal gameplay but also as an enticing reward.  While I dont think the ammount of XP is tied with players frustrations of a bad team though.  That has much much more to do with the game play.  If we are going to force a player to be stuck with 2 other people that arent that good would frsterate a player.  But the toxicity you see in most games in not only just that.  Its because half the time that player is STUCK on that team for lik 45 minutes cant leave without a penalty and most of those games really really suck to play when you are behind.  So to adress that I think would have more to do than just what kind of reward we give.  

That being said im not going to play an event for just xp as a player.  I play multiple games that have a very similer mechanic to faction battles and i think rewarding them with a commander or unit for free or even like a timed thing where we give it to them for a week or x amount of games that would be really neat.  Now i may have read your post wrong but when you said
"The idea was that the losers could buy the new content if they wanted it and the winners got it as their reward instead of lots of xp or something"  Made me think that if we realease a new unit maybe we could realease and event right?   Heck we could even layer some serious lore and story like 

"Splinter cell is a master of stealth combat. 30+ Years ago he was captured and exposed to all manner of machine and bio engineering parts to truly turn him into the best assassin in the world .   He currently lays in stasis and been there ever since."  right?  Bad story but stay with me

Now we have an alert on everyones account

"The location of splinter cell has been lost since he was put into stasis.  But 24 hours ago a signal has been seen from deep within the desert and is being broadcasted too all the other factions.  Will you follow the signal as certainly you will not be the only one to arrive.  grab you commanders and your allies and fight for control of this long lost agent" 


Or whatever just using it as an example.  So now not only do you get the commander that just got realeased for free or a limited time but it wouldnt be just some boring event that we recycle every month but an interesting and new event with a new map/hero/units i mean all sorts of things.  


I would still give the players xp though.  No one wants to do something for nothing i would just give everyone xp so that way even if you lose you walk away with some xp and maybe a little bit of currency.  



Ok for now let turn our attention to getting the MVP application complete for beta and keep this in mine once that's done we will put a list of idea together for A & B testing.

James Fleming

8149.59 WO Tessa Toney Producer
1/26/2018 6:44:24 PM
In proceeding with the idea of AI assistance, Bishop an I have begun calling the AI 'officers' to prevent confusion with the commander personality card. The bonuses for the different officers will lean more heavily toward a category of units/structures to strengthen a more specific element of the players military based on chosen character and strategy.  Conceptually, these officers could have their personality cards altered out of game. Additionally, the possibility for monetary gains exists in allowing the player to purchase a university education for the officers to increase their bonuses.  I will create an agenda for the officer concept development.

For the operations officer you suggested, will there be prefabricated base layouts that the officer follows or are you thinking that it will just be the player choosing the order in which the buildings go up?

@Tessa I'm not sure at the moment.

James Fleming

737.43 SSgt Jono Lansdale Artist 3D
1/28/2018 10:25:58 AM
I think that we have to be careful to maintain the integrity of base building.  Im not 100% on good ideas on how to do this but ill keep the gears turning in my brain on the topic