Author Topic: Is it possible to make an RTS that isn't speed-focused?  (Read 968 times)

Jubal

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Is it possible to make an RTS that isn't speed-focused?
« on: January 26, 2024, 12:51:13 PM »
So, a design discussion topic: I went back to doing a bit of RTS gaming once or twice in recent years. It's the genre some of my first computer games in - my four-CD set of Age of Empires 1 & 2 was one of my earlier proper PC games (Civilisation II being the first game I really owned). I've even worked on RTS games, when I was making the 0AD AIs a while back, and I've got a forthcoming academic paper about one.

That said, I'm not sure I've ever enjoyed a lot of the core gameplay of most RTSes, and my last two attempts (playing Impossible Creatures last year, and most recently playing Age of Mythology EE to play through the Chinese myth campaign) have felt a bit meh.

I think there's a number of reasons for that, but a lot of them boil down to effectiveness in the core gameplay loop being mostly focused on efficient gameplay over and above strategic thinking. I'm at least reasonable at macro-level strategy, and working out interesting ways to develop and use the landscape and react to opponents' choice of units, buuuut I'm very bad at extreme-efficiency micromanagement of an RTS economy and battles, which is often really the fundamental required skill. Most of these games essentially boil down to "know the meta, execute it efficiently and at speed" which isn't really the skill-set I want to test when I'm playing a strategy game.

So I was wondering if one could make something that was fundamentally still an RTS but focused on things a bit differently, and indeed if anyone has made RTSes in a different way. I think the essential problem is that the way I'd like to play - which would sort of be more of a "turtle" strategy as default either ends up prioritising rapid expansion anyway (because whoever turtles more of the map's key resources wins) or ends up being an eternal war of miserable attrition. I wonder if adding more strategic and map elements could help counteract this, though: I don't think I've ever seen an RTS where the focus was more on capturing rather than razing enemy settlements for example, and besides the very minimal mechanics for it in AoEII (with inter-player/AI alliance) and AoEIII (with trading post competition) there's rarely much of a diplomatic game to complicate the expand/exterminate loop.

Maybe it's just not my genre of game really, but I've always aesthetically really loved RTSes and it would be cool to find or see people building games in the genre that I got on with better. Would be interested in people's thoughts!
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Tusky

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Re: Is it possible to make an RTS that isn't speed-focused?
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2024, 01:17:33 PM »
I think you are right. You only have to look at competition level RTS Esports like starcraft 2 where they are literally showing you the clicks per minute of the competitors as a measure of how good they are / how well they are doing.

I enjoyed playing they are billions (which is admittedly PVE). It actively encourages turtling, the idea being you are going to have to survive some waves of nasties and your build planning will influence how successful you are. Although that being said, speed is also a big contributing factor to how well you do.

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dubsartur

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Re: Is it possible to make an RTS that isn't speed-focused?
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2024, 02:29:00 AM »
When I played Age of Empires II as a teen I tended to play it like civilization, bunkering up.  Or in prebuilt scenarios I built large, efficient armies and stomped methodically through the scattered mobs which the AI threw at me (eg. lots of English Longbowmen or Cho-Ku-No and a few Trebuchets, sometimes a few Peasants to build pallisades and towers or Castles).  That was also my approach to campaigns in Starcraft, Warcraft I, and Warcraft II.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2024, 03:03:31 AM by dubsartur »

Jubal

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Re: Is it possible to make an RTS that isn't speed-focused?
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2024, 09:38:43 AM »
When I played Age of Empires II as a teen I tended to play it like civilization, bunkering up.  Or in prebuilt scenarios I built large, efficient armies and stomped methodically through the scattered mobs which the AI threw at me (eg. lots of English Longbowmen or Cho-Ku-No and a few Trebuchets, sometimes a few Peasants to build pallisades and towers or Castles).  That was also my approach to campaigns in Starcraft, Warcraft I, and Warcraft II.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, also this is very much how I played it. It's by and large a kind of play that's only viable against mid-level computer opponents though: bunkering up against a good human player will usually lead to you getting boxed in and flattened.

Re Tusky's point (and some discussions in pub on the topic), I'm not sure I knew that clicks per minute was actually directly used as a competition measure. That's really interesting.

I guess some speed is inherent to the genre, I just wonder if it's possible to break the loop where hyper efficient economic micromanagement (which is really what all those clicks are doing, turning resources into advances as fast as possible) is the core of winning. Adding more city-builder elements or reducing player control in places might be interesting: I'm thinking of e.g. Pharaoh, where army units are under your control but civilians are not. That's a city-builder but an RTS could do the same: that would makes build placement and army control more important, and reduce the click speed advantage because you simply have fewer bits of micromanagement available? Does that sound like it makes sense?
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