Why Current RTS Games Suck – Part 1

Below is Part 1 out of something of a big long rant about RTS games. It’s probably incoherent and not really worth reading. You have been warned.


I’m a computer enthusiast who generally doesn’t play too many computer games. Generally when I do play games they are real-time strategy or RTS games.

Recently I’ve found myself playing less and less games and have been trying to figure out why. I think I’ve figured it out. Nowadays I’m finding RTS games boring. I’ve seen MMORPGs like World of Warcraft have taken off and now I understand why…

Current RTS games are very inflexible. The game is played within a specific set of rules. There is little room for the player to really think of interesting new strategies.

Think about it. When playing many RTS games you create certain types of units to do certain things. You build certain buildings to do certain things. When it comes to actually doing something, you do things in a certain way.

Think about it… in most RTS games there is one way to attack. Select a military unit, select its target. Do that with a sufficient army in the right places and you can win.

But there are much more interesting ways of damaging the enemy than simply killing units and destroying buildings with your soldiers. In many RTS games you can’t do that.

There’s also a strange lack of real civilian things in many RTS games. In many games you can create military tanks to transport personnel, but what about a bus? A train system? A lot of RTS games lack these things. In most RTS games there is one main objective and only one: win by military dominance. (This isn’t always the case as there are usually quite a few missions involving economic or scientific advancement, but the main aim is to win by military means.) That gets boring. Economic development is fun as well. But having a strong economy doesn’t really help you (except for the fact that you can train a bigger army.) Only winning by military success counts.

You can’t usually mix things or combine things. You are stuck with the combinations chosen by the game developers. If you could make things up yourself you could do very interesting things.

Another problem is that many RTS games tend to treat people and vehicles as the same things, just units. They are not the same thing. People can’t just be created and suddenly know how to work, whereas vehicles can. Vehicles can’t just drive themselves, they need people. People can’t just be ‘built’, vehicles can.

Due to the military focus of most RTSs, it is difficult to win with a smaller less advanced army. Some RTS games I have played employ a very simple and successful AI that simply builds military units and attacks. These are very difficult to defeat and often players get bored of having to use the same old tactics and just build a bigger
army.

Overall, most RTS games just lack balance – they are too focused on the military and forget about the civilian part, they only provide one real path to winning, they don’t allow the player to change things and work differently, they don’t discriminate between man and machine. RPG games do that, and that IMHO is one reason they are so
successful.

It would be interesting to create a game simulating guerilla warfare, where civilian items are used out of necessity, new strategies must be devised, and the ‘army’ doesn’t consist of too much. Sure, it would be difficult to develop technically, but it would certainly be interesting.

Perhaps the open source/free software community can do a Project Orange/Elephants Dream type thing except developing a really great, commercial quality, free/open game.

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14 Responses to Why Current RTS Games Suck – Part 1

  1. Yinleng Vang says:

    That is very true. I still play starcraft because it is a very complex rts. When things are right in front of the gameplay, such as the appeal or the looks, simple minded people take that instead. Some just play for fun.

  2. Maverick says:

    Good article. I’m not into RTS games either. In caveman terms, I just think the zoomout view where you command 20 little men that look like ants to move over here & there takes away from being totally immersed in the game, such as FPS’s (FirstPersonShooter). I played a Battlefield demo & some action was in the first-person but very little.

  3. Maverick says:

    I meant “unlike FPS’s”

  4. someone says:

    On the contrary, I do not enjoy games that force you into complex strategies when I don’t want to. For instance, Company of Heroes requries one to micromanage classes and armor and build defenses. Sure, its the more realistic approach and requires more thinking, but it’s not as exciting and fun. Some of the fun of Red Alert, for instance, is that you can just focus on building units and organizing an assault and technology rather than having to direct your troops into throwing a grenade or shooting at this target or aiming at an enemy tank’s weak spot.

    People argue for thinking in video games, but that’s a rather pointless idea, because the level of thinking in even the most complex video games is base and dull. It doesn’t require one to have much intelligence at all, its a very logical and easy to do thinking – so you’re not gaining anything from the game, besides making it more complex.

    For instance, people say Portal is a good game because it requires one to think. But the thinking is on the level of a toddler – who must put blocks together to form model houses or whatever. It’s not a complex thinking, its not a higher school of thought. It’s merely basic cognitive activity.

  5. another guy says:

    RTS is too arcade-like. It comes down to reflexes – how fast you are at clicking the mouse here and there. Explore the battlefield, build mines (or the equivalent), build units, launch counter-attacks. Blah Blah Blah. If the other guy is faster at it than you, then you lose.

    You can’t launch a co-ordinated attack in an rts. Here’s what I’d kill for: have a planning stage. Figure out what unit 1 will attack, figure out what unit 2 will attack and figure out what unit 3 will attack. Then click a button and have them launch the attack simultaneously. Instead, you tell unit 1 to attack there, and it does – unit 2 to attack there, and it does, etc. A real army would never attack like that.

  6. SmartGuy says:

    Your absolutely wrong. Rts’s can be found that have theese things. You obviously just dont like rts’s and have decided to come up with a reason. There is none. It’s just that you don’t like that style of gameplay. Stop acting like you know what your talking about you arrogant prick. In case you don’t know already, everyone that has commented also dislikes rts’s. The reason im the first commentor like this is beacause people who do like rts and know its games see this article and just laugh. That’s right I showed this to my friend and he just laughed. Stop being an ignorrent douche. Try talking about something that you have some intellegence on.

    • Sonu EK says:

      yup,your right
      he is just an idiot who doesnt like rts gameplay

      each inividuals has theiir own likes and dislikes
      eg; ireally like nfs wm type of games
      and command and conquer games other than anything

      but i hate games like prince of persia . in which you have to do things alone in a closed place

  7. LOL says:

    Ya I agree with the OP. I played wc3 and the game got boring super fast. I think I had around 400 bnet games on 2 diff accounts and by that time I was slowing my play time a ton. It’s all just rock/paper/scissors and no matter how you do a build order it always ends up taking the same amount of time, even on the human race where you can group build. And I mean early building where you only have the small amount of resources. So basically every game you start out and build the same boring build order and can’t make it go any faster than 2 mins 45 secs for a hero and 2 basic army units. Can’t do tower rushes. NE uproot and own the towers. Orc have burrows on the outside. UD have a ghoul to start and HU use militia to own towers. So the game basically drags on for a good 30 minutes where you can only do 1 strat to win…BORING

  8. dzmavi says:

    Strategy games are not very inflexible. Wc3 for example has the ability to play custom games. If your bored of melee you can play custom. In the total war series you can play campaign, or download mods.
    The Rts Genre is flexible, its just how you look at it. Learn to play games your own way. From what i see, this article is just a sterotype of Rts games. Can you please play a variety of Rts games, before you judge?

  9. Gary says:

    I just quit StarCraft2. It is crap! Cheap strats like rushing me with just workers and taking out my workers, rushing with canons and giving the enemy no chance to even fight. If I have to work at getting good at something hours a day for weeks, it won’t be a game. No life 20 somethings who chose to piss any would be future they have occupationally and family building wise can do so. I wish them all the best in their sad existence. Too bad being top in a gaming league does not a golden resume make!

  10. Gary says:

    dzmavi, WC3? LMFAO, that was the worst strat. game known to man!

  11. pssst says:

    nothing beats the first great rts’s, AOE2, C&C generals, rise of nations (ehh, sorta), Tiberium son. i’m surely forgetting a couple. but yeah the new ones suck

  12. Arild Fredheim says:

    These are a lot of the reasons why I stop playing which ever FPS game I’m playing, and start looking for a good RTS to either download or buy. I never find any, and go back to the fps I was playing. I would love to help with the ideas and development of such a sophisticated RTS filled to the rim with player freedom

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