How we play RTS and what is wrong.
About the broken dynamics of the RTS genre, and how we can improve the experience for everyone.
by Eric Krutten
The author is a game designer and this is his thoughts about RTS genre. I will summary his points for you.
I. Where does the Fun come from in RTS game?
His experience shows the Fun does come from playing RTS game with friends and the Fun does seldom come from playing RTS game with online strangers.
II. The real situations of how do players play RTS games.
[I] Turtling / Steamroll
[II] Baserush / Towerrush / Engirush [Etc]
[III] Spamming / Spam
[IV] Excessive barrage / Poke
[V] Direct confrontation
He thinks this is the "Ideal" situation, but it happens rarely.
III. What would we expect from a RTS game.
[I] A sandbox with one main objective.
The core game was a big sandbox with nothing but 2 players building a base and units, set free upon each other.
Destroy the enemy base. No other rules or constraints given.
The downside is that you will only encounter an oversee-able amount of options as the game follows a really strict ruleset in their unit archetypes and possible strategies, that can be learned and applied up to the exact seconds of a build order. Starcraft's focus lies heavily on micro management and chess-like countermeasures. The dynamics are very specific in how they play out, and hardly comprehensible from outside. Just like Pac Man eats points and does harsh 90° turns, is Starcraft very special on its own and dosn't deliver on common expectations
IV. The problem lies in the objective itself.
Relic entertainment seem to be the first to see all the issues in the core dynamics and they made very heavy changes to the classic formula. This started in Dawn of War 1, evolved in Company of Heroes and reached its peak in Dawn of War 2. The most important changes for our matter are:
(A) Removing or simplified base building, giving more focus on units and the fighting itself
(B) Base defense structures are less convenient and powerful, making turtling less effective
(C) Every player starts with base defense structures, removing base rush completely
(D) Units became important, where every loss hurts, as opposed to build and throw away
(E) They added real tangible objectives that players had to control and fight for! (This!)
V. Eliminating Steamroll, Baserush and Turtling once and for all.
The listed additions resulted in drastic changes in the dynamics of their RTS titles,
eliminating nearly all of the toxic cheese strategies completely.
This was the first time I have seen players actually fight against each other,
and it was glorious. Capture points were not only interesting by themselves:
- Tension while capturing
- Accomplishment by completion
- Indirect control of landscape
- Giving vision
- Giving new points of interest
- Making every location in a map count
- Changing paths and routes
- Giving active control over game flow
- Giving players decisions to make
VI. All the time, for every player of any skill level.
Below is a very rough chart I made from various matches played, watched and past experiences. Its not accurate nor does it give any real data, (+ interaction between matches varies heavily), but it gives you a impression how many of the matches played tend to run, and how big the differences are. Please note that Starcraft and Company of heroes have pretty high player interaction for RTS in general.
To be continued........