I've spent the past 3.5 hours listening to a very interesting book on tape while driving, and I'm filled with a question:
Why do I play RTS games?
The problem with answering this question is that the behavioral center of the brain and the reasoning center of the brain aren't the same. As a result, you might think you know why you did something, as you can conjure a perfectly good explanation for your behavior. But it very possibly might not map onto why you actually did (or didn't). For example, I might think I want to play an RTS to find a competitive experience, or practice the nuances of micro.
When thinking of those ideas, do they give me a real urge to play? Not really. So what gives me a strong urge to play the game? It turns out it's two things:
- Exploring new mechanics. I love delving into new mechanics of games, finding new builds, toying with units. I love the learning phase of games, and it keeps me going despite all else for a while. Eventually I run out of really engaging things to explore, so I need something else to keep me going.
- Developing a story. I want to create a game experience that is memorable and a story I can tell/share years later. I can think of several instances of stories we still share in my circle from Dawn of War 1 in our college days, and they spark a very strong urge to play again. To me, an anonymous ladder doesn't matter. Queuing doesn't matter. I don't want to grind games out for rating, and I don't want to repeatedly play with strangers. I can remember 10 minutes of 1 game of Dawn of War 3 that I've played that really hit home.
In fact, I'd argue the best part of Dawn of War 1 had nothing to do with the game, and everything to do with the fact that we had 6-8 people in my dorm in college who played regularly. It wasn't balanced, but that didn't matter. Like, at all.
I look at all the posts that keep floating down the pipeline on this forum, and I see a lot of "what". What do people want to see, what should Relic change about balance, what new content should be developed. I am thinking, though, that we're putting the cart before the horse here, and trying to define what we want without a good understand of why we want to play Dawn of War 3, or an RTS in general, in the first place.
"Because it's a Warhammer game", "Because it's the only big Warhammer RTS in town", and responses like that aren't really the core, because then it raises the question: why do you want to play a Warhammer RTS? In that case, for me, it's the larger-than-life sci-fantasy universe. It's the breadth of races, the over-the-top scale, and the identification (in any way) with one of the races that draws me to Warhammer. And as a result, without Chaos, I have a very reduced desire to play a Warhammer game. None of the other races resonate.
Going further down that line, I think it's interesting and important to examine Relic's "why" for making Dawn of War 3. Unfortunately, based on decisions so far, I think their "why" is because they saw an opportunity to release a new Dawn of War game with a formula that is pretty unique when it comes to the RTS genre. The decision seemed based on an identified niche, and so their design decisions were oriented more towards making an RTS game and trying to monetize an RTS game, and not a Warhammer game.
Why does Gabriel leap? It's a clear animation identifying what he is doing at a glance. Makes sense.
Why were sync kills removed? Because they hindered the flow of battle in a way that was difficult to balance for.
Why are the colors vivid? Because it helps identify abilities and units at a quick glance, especially at large scales.
Why is Gabriel's scale, including the size of his head, make him seem more like a primarch? He needs to stand out in the crowd very easily to identify him as an Elite.
These are all logical explanations that people didn't feel good about in their gut, but I think had a difficult time articulating. Simply saying "It's not Warhammer" doesn't quite cut it for discourse. Saying "it's not Dawn of War" also doesn't really cut it, or explain hardly anything, because "Dawn of War" means different things to different people.
Then again, that's what those engaging in a logical discussion think when they hear it, me included. I think the truth is, people could sense that Dawn of War 3 wasn't being made to be a Warhammer game. It was being designed as a new RTS with a Warhammer skin. Sure, the scale of battles was designed to be large, but that isn't anything new or different. Many RTS games have large scales. Skin packs are all well and good, but those sorts of things are novel, and most likely won't generate long-term loyalty. Game modes are a nice start, but that bridges one gap to run into another a bit too quickly.