Question Can real-time strategy come back from the brink of death?

PCG Fraser

Staff member
Dec 10, 2019
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We've already got some discussion on the state of the RTS or what games deserve a comeback here on the forums, so I decided to try and find a solution to the grim state of affairs the genre finds itself in. I did not. But maybe you lot have some ideas?


Tell me how we can rescue this quintessential PC genre!
 
Jan 17, 2020
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RTS is dead. Long live RTS. I (probably foolishly) backed Homeworld 3's fig campaign. I think that RTS will experience a renaissance, starting with AOE3 and Homeworld 3. I think what is necessary is that a new generation becomes excited with it. It lacks the flair of other modern AAA titles, but I think that it's going to be big again in the future.
I have played hundreds of hours of Starcraft 2 and a major problem was that there was so much micro involved in the game and rote memorization involved. It's not as bad as Warcraft 3 or AOE1, but there could have been a lot more automation.
Given the layers of complexity that are required to develop the genre further, they need a more in-depth system of controlling units, tactics, and reactions to further develop the genre.
I often wondered why I couldn't pre-set certain units with a certain target priority, allowing them to default attack, e.g., banshees first, then vikings, then everything else. I think that a lot of what made strategy games hard in the past isn't the fun stuff, so they need to change that.
 
Jan 13, 2020
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Guess it's now a luxury graveyard niche for older gamers. It"s too demanding and can't be played on mobile., who wants that in 2020?! :eek:
Maybe there will be a comeback in China...
 
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DreamerOne

Registered Developer
Jan 16, 2020
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I think it's possible, it just needs to target a wider audience and provide a more visceral experience that actually offers a new set of ways to play. The issue I've had with the current state of the RTS market is that very few people are doing anything innovative in the space, or if they are it's just pigeon steps. RTS as a genre needs a good kick up the butt if it's going to last another decade. The other issue is that RTS games generally require a big time commitment to enjoy to their fullest due to the, often, quite steep learning curve.

NeuroSlicers comes to mind as an RTS-like that's trying to do something different (full disclosure, I run the Studio making it!). We focus on macro over micro using clever AI powered units, where its not about how fast you can click but rather how fast you can think and strategize; we've reworked the idea of "Base Building" into something that feels and works very differently, but still scratches the itch.

We've combined PVP, PVE and campaign gameplay into a unified whole where you can play the content you want to play while progressing, earning cool stuff and unlocking more of the narrative. It's attempting to be a new breed of RTS that modernizes everything that you'd expect in an RTS.

We're running a PVP test this weekend (and every weekend up until our Pre-Alpha launches in Feb/March). Details about the game can be found here: http://www.neuroslicers.game

To join the PVP test just head to our Discord to download the demo: http://www.discord.gg/neuroslicers
 
Jan 17, 2020
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I still think RTS has a shot if done right. Cross platform multiplayer and innovative design can still rule the day. Take the game "Rusted Warfare". This game can be played on both a smart phone and on the computer through the "Steam" platform. I would love to see this idea, but have it to where you can create your own units through an ingame research system.
 
Nov 24, 2019
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Rumors of RTS demise may be exaggerated!

While there are fewer and fewer blockbuster level RTSs to date than there have been in the past, I'd say player interest itself seems to be doing fairly well by gamers. Most recently, Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition prompted a mini-resurgence of interest in the genre, and this game though decades old now is yet trending for the quarter in Steam's Top Selling Games. Despite release more than a month ago, it holds at the 21st top selling game on the Steam charts. Stats taken today from https://store.steampowered.com/stats/ show current players hovering around the 12.5k mark, peak at 13.3k. And! A closer look will show Age of Empires 2 (plain jane 2013) clocking in at 8.2k. If we take those concurrents together we're looking at around 20.7k combined for a single throwback title released 21 years ago and places it smack dab between Red Dead Redemption 2 and Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.

But dev studios don't want to touch it! I do think the issue the genre is suffering from is not enough adventurous stabs at new IP in this field. We've seen RTSs like Starcraft re-sculpt entire cultures around eSports and yet next to nothing in the way of experimental or development on new IP. The impact of mobile gaming and the expectations development studios have about what players want might well be flavoring why there have been no brave dives into this glorious genre that still engenders a lot of interest and retrogaming play. Not to mention some fairly big flagship fails in semi-distant history - Command and Conquer comes to mind.

What I'd like to see?
  • Give me a cyberpunk future-dystopian RTS where megacorporations fight each other.
  • Show me what the confluence of open world and survival would look like in an RTS. Let me play the Fallout wasteland real-time strategy game.
  • Where's the power of procedural generation and modularity in RTS? If No Man's Sky can build me a planet to explore, why can't I have a Game of Thrones-esque RTS where dynastic houses, their units, terrain, and campaign is intensely random along predisposed, fun patterns?
  • Give me a true persistent state world MMO RTS where my victories carry over into a private kingdom of my own, grown and improved like the old palace feature of Civilization.
My two cents!
-JP
 

MaddMann

A nerd that found his place
Community Contributor
Jan 17, 2020
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I think it very much can. Homeworld 3 raised over 1m in funding. What I would really love to see is another Sins of a Solar empire, but with an engine up to today's standards. I am rather surprised there is no mention of any of the Total War games in the article, they are still alive and kicking. Spitting out a new RTS every year. Not all of them are amazing, but I still play Total War Warhammer II all the time. Stellaris is also amazing (but still falls in the category of outdated engines). Personally I don't like turn based strategy games normally, but that is not because they are bad, I just like reacting to situations in real time and watching my carefully laid plans get blasted to pieces when engaged by the enemy.
 
Jan 13, 2020
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I am perfectly happy playing Rusted Warfare to get my RTS fix, mostly because I like to do my micro-managing in Rimworld or Civ 5. Or something that can be quicker like FTL, somehow it hits the intensity of Zaxxon and the choice-gambling of a CYOA book.
 
Jan 13, 2020
19
21
15
Rumors of RTS demise may be exaggerated!

While there are fewer and fewer blockbuster level RTSs to date than there have been in the past, I'd say player interest itself seems to be doing fairly well by gamers. Most recently, Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition prompted a mini-resurgence of interest in the genre, and this game though decades old now is yet trending for the quarter in Steam's Top Selling Games. Despite release more than a month ago, it holds at the 21st top selling game on the Steam charts. Stats taken today from https://store.steampowered.com/stats/ show current players hovering around the 12.5k mark, peak at 13.3k. And! A closer look will show Age of Empires 2 (plain jane 2013) clocking in at 8.2k. If we take those concurrents together we're looking at around 20.7k combined for a single throwback title released 21 years ago and places it smack dab between Red Dead Redemption 2 and Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.

But dev studios don't want to touch it! I do think the issue the genre is suffering from is not enough adventurous stabs at new IP in this field. We've seen RTSs like Starcraft re-sculpt entire cultures around eSports and yet next to nothing in the way of experimental or development on new IP. The impact of mobile gaming and the expectations development studios have about what players want might well be flavoring why there have been no brave dives into this glorious genre that still engenders a lot of interest and retrogaming play. Not to mention some fairly big flagship fails in semi-distant history - Command and Conquer comes to mind.

What I'd like to see?
  • Give me a cyberpunk future-dystopian RTS where megacorporations fight each other.
  • Show me what the confluence of open world and survival would look like in an RTS. Let me play the Fallout wasteland real-time strategy game.
  • Where's the power of procedural generation and modularity in RTS? If No Man's Sky can build me a planet to explore, why can't I have a Game of Thrones-esque RTS where dynastic houses, their units, terrain, and campaign is intensely random along predisposed, fun patterns?
  • Give me a true persistent state world MMO RTS where my victories carry over into a private kingdom of my own, grown and improved like the old palace feature of Civilization.
My two cents!
-JP
I love the thought of a Fallout RTS, the factions are established and there are plenty of great locations to visit/battle over.
 
Jan 13, 2020
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My friends and I have been using the Xbox Games Pass to play Age of Empires 2. It's really been a lot of fun to revisit. I'm also excited to revisit Warcraft 3.

The problem with RTS for me is micromanagement. I hate the meta. Actions per minute, getting kited, building buildings the fastest. I just want to send two big armies together, watch them fight and make bigger decisions without all the little micro stuff. I know there's Total War. Maybe my friends and I should play it.

Edit* Footmen Frenzy on warcraft 3 was great. Send giant armies into the middle and have a hero that you manage. That's something that always failed about dota to me. Not enough giant fights.
 
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Jan 17, 2020
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I love this genre, for me its most entertaining but people dont have same feeling about genre, why? Because they have never played one Why? bcs hey dont like looking above army(only this...). they dont know how does it feel when u decide how to attack or if it is worth to attack and u know deffend and things like this... I personally prey for ressurection of genre, yes there is one starcraft 2 its good game but its hmm hard oriented on 1v1 I think(dont judge me if i am wrong but its how i experienced, i like or even love ut anyway) soo i have big hopes for aoe 4, well i dont know whar reforged warcraft 3 will do i didnt enjoyed models... they could made it much muuuch more better i loved w3 i was amazed when i heard that it was releasing but i think reforge is bad (its just my opinion mabye and i hope i am wrong) so ehat i want from rts game is to be veryy good like Rpg s aree like red dead, like witcher3 gta and all of them, like Mobas are lol and dota, like shooters aree, is it that hard to make RTS type of game that is modernized and high quality like other genre games are?? please developers...
 
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Jan 17, 2020
4
2
15
Rumors of RTS demise may be exaggerated!

While there are fewer and fewer blockbuster level RTSs to date than there have been in the past, I'd say player interest itself seems to be doing fairly well by gamers. Most recently, Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition prompted a mini-resurgence of interest in the genre, and this game though decades old now is yet trending for the quarter in Steam's Top Selling Games. Despite release more than a month ago, it holds at the 21st top selling game on the Steam charts. Stats taken today from https://store.steampowered.com/stats/ show current players hovering around the 12.5k mark, peak at 13.3k. And! A closer look will show Age of Empires 2 (plain jane 2013) clocking in at 8.2k. If we take those concurrents together we're looking at around 20.7k combined for a single throwback title released 21 years ago and places it smack dab between Red Dead Redemption 2 and Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot.

But dev studios don't want to touch it! I do think the issue the genre is suffering from is not enough adventurous stabs at new IP in this field. We've seen RTSs like Starcraft re-sculpt entire cultures around eSports and yet next to nothing in the way of experimental or development on new IP. The impact of mobile gaming and the expectations development studios have about what players want might well be flavoring why there have been no brave dives into this glorious genre that still engenders a lot of interest and retrogaming play. Not to mention some fairly big flagship fails in semi-distant history - Command and Conquer comes to mind.

What I'd like to see?
  • Give me a cyberpunk future-dystopian RTS where megacorporations fight each other.
  • Show me what the confluence of open world and survival would look like in an RTS. Let me play the Fallout wasteland real-time strategy game.
  • Where's the power of procedural generation and modularity in RTS? If No Man's Sky can build me a planet to explore, why can't I have a Game of Thrones-esque RTS where dynastic houses, their units, terrain, and campaign is intensely random along predisposed, fun patterns?
  • Give me a true persistent state world MMO RTS where my victories carry over into a private kingdom of my own, grown and improved like the old palace feature of Civilization.
My two cents!
-JP
 
Jan 17, 2020
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2
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exactly what i want to see !! and i am sad when i know it can happen with modern day technologies but no one cares😔 i would be even happy to see new strong classic rts which will be dominant like moba and battle royales and all those genres which are all popular... i just want to help my friend in battle without his expectations and comeback battle or u know what rts fans love in genre
 
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Jan 17, 2020
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I’m really looking forward to Age of Empires 4. I hope they do it right! I and a couple of my buddies) have played each one over the years - 1, 2, Age of Mythology, 3, AoE Online. We were hooked on the first one. I don’t game as much anymore but do play Call of Duty (shooter). It would be great to get back into an AoE, especially a fresh new one with lots of diverse online play.

I’ll also mention I played online PvP on these, and remember that fondly as epic and intense games. But I (and buddies) never got super competitive micromanaging attacks and timing everything perfectly with really high click rate. I would lose to those people. So I would prefer that there were more than just “expert” level people playing PvP since it is a really lot of fun. I also prefer that the player base is not splintered into different versions and/or different game stores because that is crap.

And if AoE 4 didn’t turn out well for whatever reason, I might have to give the AoE 2 definitive edition a try since it still has a good player base.

Oh yeah, let me add - give the console people a mouse and keyboard and let them play in the same player base!! If they don’t have those, good luck, lol.
 
Nov 24, 2019
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I might have to give the AoE 2 definitive edition a try since it still has a good player base.
Give it a go while you wait! It's available via the Xbox Games Pass for PC, which is still only a couple bucks. And after you get tired of getting obliterated by the Huns, nab Age of Wonders: Planetfall or The Outer Worlds for a different kind of mildly enjoyable pain. :p

I thoroughly enjoyed AoE2 Definitive, until the old friend I played with did the thing he always does and memorized the build order to the microsecond, turning matches into stressful tragedies of attrition of one's patience. The classic RTS experience!
 
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Jan 17, 2020
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Here is my thought... And it may be a work in progress, but one I want to attempt.

Does anyone remember WBC3, if you played it, it was an RPG/RTS Game. But here is my thought, to spark interest in the RTS series... One starts the game building their leader, as with WBC it could be any race, with stat modifiers and class modifiers to portion out differences. Then from there the character must then gain one level to order their first research. From research then construct building in line with their research. Such as a necromancer building a town hall from bone or something.

From the town hall research peons or sorcerers, or something to get resources going. From there research different techs that could be used for recruiting troops, weapons and such.

The kicker, it's not all done in a match, it's done as the main leader levels... Which at level 1 maybe a battle or three, too hundreds of battles at higher levels.

Anyway, food for thought.
 
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Jan 17, 2020
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Give it a go while you wait! It's available via the Xbox Games Pass for PC, which is still only a couple bucks. And after you get tired of getting obliterated by the Huns, nab Age of Wonders: Planetfall or The Outer Worlds for a different kind of mildly enjoyable pain. :p

I thoroughly enjoyed AoE2 Definitive, until the old friend I played with did the thing he always does and memorized the build order to the microsecond, turning matches into stressful tragedies of attrition of one's patience. The classic RTS experience!
Well it might be better if he were on your team then :) Yeah like I said I’m not a big fan of losing to the micro-super-clickers that did the research and practice since it kind of takes the fun out of it but I don’t know where you draw the line. I’d just like to be able to win a game now and then (which I did fine at in the peak of those AOEs). Actually for me I usually played with one or two buddies on my team in 2v2, 3v3, or 4v4 matches and that was what we liked best.

All right, couple questions...

The Steam stats show 13k and 8k or whatever players online playing AOE 2 like you said, right? That sounds great. Can you tell how many of those are playing PvP matches or in multiplayer lobbies or whatever? Also, I have no idea what that Xbox game Pass is, temporary play or rental or what, but I’ll check it out. But if you are playing multiplayer, are Steam ppl and Xbox pass ppl playing in the same pool? I wonder because the fragmentation seems to be getting out of hand. Previously there would be just one player pool for everyone with the game which gave the best multiplayer playability. If they’ve are the same pool, then I wonder what the combined multiplayer pool size looks like.
 
Nov 24, 2019
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While yes, it would be good if he were on my team and we were up against others, his objective in playing the game is to get good enough to obliterate me. :p

Can you tell how many of those are playing PvP matches or in multiplayer lobbies or whatever?
Newp. No way to parse that out from Steam stats. Though might be able to in the actual game. It's got lively matchmaking - you won't wait long.

Also, I have no idea what that Xbox game Pass is, temporary play or rental or what, but I’ll check it out.
For real, the folks doing the marketing for that should really get their act together, because this is one of the little known awesome open secrets in gaming circles right now. Not to derail the conversation topic too hard, but Xbox isn't just Xbox. Microsoft is doing this brand mixeroo thing where Xbox is the console AND the PC side. And the thing called the "Xbox Games Pass for PC (Beta)" is actually a fairly spectacular value, because you start for a buck, then it's $5 a month. And you can grab games from a fairly decent and sizable library to play, almost any single one of which is worth 10x the price of the pass. I frankly do not understand the business model, considering they have a pile of very recent, very $50/$60 games. I've found it significantly lowers the risk to the gamer. Didn't know if I'd like State of Decay 2, or Age of Wonders: Planetfall, or Middle Earth: Shadow of War - but being able to nab 'em without worry about plunking down $60 for each to dip a toe was pretty awesome. It's kinda nice. jsimenhoff here convinced me to give it a whirl, and I was incredulous at first. "Pfft. Xbox. Console peasantry!" But it is legitimately great for PC gamers.

To segue back to the topic at hand, there's some great strategy games in there. I'm not sure you could consider Frostpunk an RTS exactly, but it's quite the experience. And and oldie but goodie, Rise of Nations Extended Edition is in there too.
 
Jan 17, 2020
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Ok, good to know. Yep I've been aware of the Xbox and PC mashup since Games for Windows Live (AOEO) required an Xbox account, which was odd, but a sign of where they were going. And the Xbox One is basically a Windows 10 PC anyway. They should be combined, at least in some ways, and that would give MS a leg up on the Playstation. Yeah that's a good way to go, at least try for a few months and then if I think I'll want to play longer term I may buy before paying $5/month. I don't know if I'd try any other games but I know that's an amazing deal for ppl that do. Also I looked it up and AOE2 DE has "crossplay" with people on Steam and Microsoft Store, good to see.

Resume RTS discussion :)
 
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Jan 18, 2020
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Your article really resonated with me. I grew up on Command and Conquer and enjoyed similar RTS games. The skirmish abilities in these were magnificent. The units were easy to manage and limitless. The gameplay was somewhat simple but really fun. The difficulty could be adjusted to make it more challenging and I still go back to play Red Alert 2 sometimes. These weren't perfect, small adjustments could be made to them to make them better. But even with a few small problems, these were the best games.

I'm not sure what caused it, but over time the newer Command and Conquer games started to change. The units started to become more complex and far from previous versions of what the game used to be. I submit Red Alert 3 as an example of this. Every unit can do some special ability, some people may like this but I do not. I like have easy manage units so it's not too taxing and takes away from the fun of playing. To me, Red Alert 3 didn't have the same feel as other Command and Conquer games. Another complaint of mine is that everything is tailored to online play, maybe this is more profitable, but I enjoy playing the campaign and skirmish maps offline against the AI. This is extremely fun since I can adjust the difficulty and enjoy it without having to be the most competitive gamer. I only have so much time to play so it would be nice to play something that doesn't require me to be the gamer. Generals and Generals Zero Hour introduced new elements but did a good job of it and the games were quite good. Another element of the games that changed was the population cap that was created. No longer could you mass produce an Army and sweep like a wave over the enemy. Why would they remove this feature? Command and Conquer 4 is a good example of this and represents maybe the worst game I have ever bought. I played a few hours of it then never touched it again. It just wasn't fun. To sum up my complaints: too complex units requiring excessive micromanagement, campaign and skirmish gameplay, population caps, and additionally I would like the freedom to build bases by myself wherever I want to without being restricted to a set zone.

I really wish there were more games like the old Command and Conquer. Company of Heroes 2 is decent but still doesn't fill the void. I plan to check out some of the games mentioned in the different replies on this forum but everything I have checked before this seems to miss the mark. They Are Billions was pretty decent but something like Halo Wars really missed the mark the mark with me. Maybe it's not profitable for developers to make these types of games but I would like to see them return.
 
Jan 18, 2020
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I really feel like RTS as currently designed has a fundamental problem with the disconnect between what most players want to do (have big cool battles with armies they built) vs what the game often demands you do to play optimally (the frantic hotkey dance, mostly ignoring the actual friggin battles).

RTS died as a mainstream genre when the concept of APM became widely understood, and this killed it as a simple form of entertainment. Playing StarCraft 'right' is not actually fun for the majority of people, but if you don't play it 'right' you're stuck doing skirmishes vs the easy AI.

The experience needs to allow for a wider range of playstyles. Perhaps a granular AI assist feature where players can choose to be more micro or macro focused, depending on what's fun for them, and let an AI counterpart do the heavy lifting when it comes to APM. For pro gamers who love mashing hotkeys, the AI assist should be something you can disable.

RTS can't grow as a thing if most people try to pick it up and immediately slam into a brick wall of APM accessibility.
 
Jan 18, 2020
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I think an RTS that has the building mechanics of C&C, the large scale maps with real time battles like the total war series and unit mechanics like company of heroes/Men of war assault squad 2(mainly the units being able to take cover) would be a great game to try to make. If those great ideas and mechanics from these genre's could be blended into one game it would be a great game to play.
 
Jan 18, 2020
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I'm of the mind that starcraft is basically the pinnacle of the genre. All of the games that tried to show the game down, reduce reliance on apm or basebuilding or micro just make it more frustrating. Rts has always been needing to split my brain between 3 different simultaneous functions and trying to tax the opponents attention to get an advantage. It's a fast, very pure genre, much like fighting games, and we as fans should embrace that instead of trying to dilute the experience.
 
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