Articles & Editorials: Developing A Better Future

  • Date: 02/07/2007 | Author: Saracen

Well it’s good to be back one could say, a new name, working for a community I know and love. But that’s not what’s important here. What I am here for is to discuss oh so obviously, RTS gaming.

Now my history with RTS games, like some others, is a long and memorable one. Over 15 years of the Genre and over 220 games later, I have come to the conclusion the RTS genre has seen virtually every idea possible. We’ve gone from turn based/Real time Hybrids, to full real time in 2D, to full 3D RTS games, and back again.

But if you take a look at every RTS that’s shelved in these past 15 years, you’ll see innovation has somewhat dried up. The games themselves are restricted to different user interfaces, different types of units with amazing powers, and structures with similar properties. What remains mostly though are many games with a heavy amount of dead end units, meaning the higher, more powerful takes priority. This means endless tank rushes, massing and hell knows what else. This without a doubt outright kills the game play for many. C&C, from Tiberian Dawn to Tiberium Wars, is one of the biggest named franchises to do this. But it’s a long term characteristic of the game itself and can not be punished, since this is one of its high end trade marks.

The most ironic thing that pops up after each RTS game hits the shelves is the feedback. Many will complain, scream that there’s a lack of innovation, or that the game is too fast/slow/boring (take your pick). But what are developers to do?

Supreme Commander went for huge amounts of units, big units, big explosions, big maps and even bigger nukes! They brought in an emphasis on dual screen support and the ability to have any zoom level possible. Some people loved it, and called it an innovative masterpiece. Other people hated it, complaining it was boring, complicated and nothing more than a Total Annihilation remake in 3D. So that didn’t work for the masses.

Going back further, there’s the current number one RTS developer Relic. Not only did they create the supremely awesome Dawn of War and it’s equally great expansions. But they brought forward a World War 2 RTS with a difference. Company of Heroes went for outright action, huge strategy, and supremely shocking realism in any RTS to date. While there were people who complained, that World War 2 had been done to death. One thing was clear, this was (and still is) the best Real Time Strategy game in the history of the genre. It ticks all the boxes and works so well, it puts all others aside and wears the crown.

But the interesting thing about CoH, was that it didn’t really do anything new. It kept Dawn of War’s features, placed it in a WW2 setting, and made crucial updates to the engine and game play. What it did after was to grab you, throw you in and it felt no different to playing an interactive Saving Private Ryan. It was all about the visual innovation with some seriously cool damage effects. What it didn’t do was attempt to create new and perhaps complex features that were needed to drive the genre forward, so all others could follow. The result? People were once again complaining about the game lacking innovations. They were not happy with not being able to play with new ideas that have never graced the RTS genre.

As I commented earlier, is no matter what developers try and do, people will complain. Be it constructive or just downright harsh criticism, you have to ask, what do people really want in an RTS game? There is no real definite answer to this other than the rather vague word, “Innovation”. But what does it mean when every thought of idea has been used, twisted, and has been somewhat taken on all angles?

A Possible Answer?

As some of you will know, I work for CNCNZcom’s sister site Petro-Gamers. It is a site that focuses upon a company called Petroglyph. The developers here are mainly from Westwood studios, but also from companies that worked upon games such as Earth 2150, Civilisation 3 & 4, Age of Empires 3, and many more. A young studio, they released a well known game called Empire at war. This Star Wars based RTS was deemed to be one of the best of the year despite some low scores and much criticism from those who played it. But as a game, it was a foundation. And LucasArts had them by the balls when it came to the game’s development.

But now things have indeed turned, and Petroglyph have gone crazy in an attempt to silence the RTS critics who claim innovation is dead. They have a new game in the works and it will attempt to herald in a change in the RTS genre. Universe at War is in a newly created game universe. With a story written and designed by the man responsible for bringing you much of the C&C storyline, and music done by the C&C music god, Frank Klepacki, This game already holds claim to doing some serious business.

To silence the critical of those who argue that factions are all the same these days. Petroglyph have 3 unique factions. None of factions will play the same, act the same, or even remotely resemble each other. Each faction requires different strategies based on what enemy they’re facing as well. So one moment you could be controlling a 250ft high walking structure, the next moment, you could be controlling several small 12ft units on the other faction, trying to take one of these heavily armoured mobile bases down.

To silence those who claim that real RTS music died once Red Alert 2/Yuri’s revenge was over and done with. Frank Klepacki is charging back on the scene with a unique soundtrack for each of the factions. “Metal is back!” exclaims Klepacki, who is determined to throw out boring old music in games, and give the player something that they would be proud to listen to in their car or on their iPods.

So what else does the game have to offer that other other games don’t? Well the game will sport much faster game play than what was offered in Empire at War. Like the aforementioned games, battles will rage hard, and they will rage fast. So hard and fast, it is entirely possible to turn a large sunny sprawling ubran city with bustling amounts of civilians, into a baron, raining, burning wasteland almost unable to sustain life in less than 30 minutes. That is something everyone would love to do.

In terms of resources, a lot of the carnage I’ve described above has a lot to do with resource management. Resources come in 2 flavours, one faction uses one, the 2nd uses another and the 3rd (as rumour has it) uses both. If you want to suck up humans, cows, plants, trees, wreckage, cars, planes, trains, your own cat, certain buildings, or even smaller units belonging to the enemy, you pretty much can here. And if you’re a person who hates police, you can even suck up or crush the patrol cars if it makes you feel better.

This game is nothing less than immensely different. It takes RTS games of the past and throws them off a high building to make sure they don’t survive. I could go through the sheer amount of different features in comparison to every other game out there. But time is something I don’t have, and telling you about the whole game might just ruin the experience for many who hold enough interest in this game.

But really, 2007 is supposed to be the year of the RTS. What a huge amount of crap! So far it’s been the year of retro clones. Supreme commander is Total Annihilation 3D, C&C 3 is nothing more than C&C 1.5 3D. World in Conflict seems to be shaping up good, but I’ve played the Beta, and I hate it, it feels nothing more than a modern day version of Ground Control 2, so I’m not holding my hopes. And then there’s the announcement of Starcraft 2, sorry I mean Starcraft 3D….. yep, it’s the year of RTS games, but nothing is new, it’s all old rehashed ideas that work, and it’s extremely f****** cheap! Thank God for Universe at War, that’s all I can say!

If someone wants the Truth, since my ballistic rampage at C&C 3 for being the worst excuse for a game I’ve ever had the misfortune to play. I haven’t touched an RTS game in 3 months, and it still goes on. I am that damn disgusted with what the Genre has become! EA’s poor attempts at creating C&C 3, only serves as one of the most boring non-innovative games in the f****** industry to date. I was once C&C King, but now I feel ashamed to use such a name, cos it’s tarnished thanks to a games developer that thought it would be great to go back to roots and turn it’s back on Adam Isgreen and the Tiberian Sun/Firestorm team, by blatently insulting the Legacy of such a great game. It ain’t about Westwood, it’s about the total disregard for the First Decade of C&C!

These days I go under the name of Saracen, I play Role Playing Games and First Person Shooters, and do not feel the urge to even go near another Real Time Strategy Game until Universe at War’s release. That has to tell you something people. I still only reside at for the sake of the site, the community and the support of my co-webmaster Sonic who’s been a good friend for almost 10 years now.

My only hope is looking forward to Universe at War, it’s still very much unheard of, and that’s very unfortunate, because the C&C community that once loved Westwood should be jumping at this game. If you found C&C 3 to be great, then you’ll find a hell of a lot more in UaW. This game has a real soundtrack, it has a story, more than can be said for a broken Legacy of poorly developed Corporate rubbish.

You might be surprised what you find if you follow some real industry experience. So take a trip over to Petro-Gamers and dig into all the Universe at War information there. It might make a difference in your gaming life.

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