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
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
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.