Sunday, June 28, 2009

What I hate about RTS games

I like Real Time Strategy games. You know, the kind of games in which the player has to build an empire, manage resources and order units into battle. Some games I have played in this genre include Age Of Empires, the Anno series, Warzone 2100 and Transport Tycoon (OpenTTD). All of which are great games in my opinion. But there's something I really hate about all of those games.

In the beginning, everything is nice and easy. But after playing for some time, things are going downward. Shortage of resources, army units going in the wrong direction; chaos. As the amount of clicks per minute increases, I get more agitated and frustrated.
Am I the only player that totally forgets about resource management when I start attacking? The only player that forgets to research that very important new technology because I got my head al up in defending my main base? Or, referring to Transport Tycoon, the only player who can't manage 200 busses/trucks, 100 trains and 150 planes? Is that just me being a really bad strategist?

No, it isn't!
In real life, I would have an army commander, a city architect, a financial advisor and the like at my disposal. But no such luck in most RTS games. In a matter of seconds, I have to switch from building a 1x1 square of cobblestone road to directing an army of thousands into battle, and back. In the meantime, I have to monitor my resources and respond to all kinds of in-game messages.

It's all just too much! It means getting the ultimate fun out of an RTS game is only possible for folks who get a kick out of extreme multitasking and micromanagement. And that's just not me. Bringing in another player to assist me won't help either: most RTS games have no option for full cooperative play with resource sharing, which dramatically cuts the possibility of players sharing the workload (OpenTTD being the exception) .


Time for a solution. RTS games need new ways of task distribution and delegation. Where's the eagle eye view? A tycoon leading a business empire worth billions, or a general leading an army of thousands, should at least have an option to delegate the building of 1x1 road squares and similar tasks.
It would be a delight to see some RTS games that do better. Any recommendations?


  1. Good points! Collaboration is needed in RTS games.

    Why don't you start developing one yourself? I think it could take these kind of games to a whole new level and direction.

    But it would still be difficult since it requires you to design a distributed environment. It's therefore a tremendous challenge and I would be very respectful if this could be realized!

    You inspired me ;)

  2. I'd really love to make a game like that... But with still so many projects in the pipeline and not enough time on my hands, I highly doubt it will ever happen. But I might send a mail to some game developers someday :)
    Thanks for the comment!

  3. I googled "I hate rts games" and found this. So glad I did. I couldn't agree with you more on everything you said.

  4. ...the original homeworld was the first RTS I actually enjoyed, albeit in campaign mode, and mostly that came down to the ability to pause at any arbitrary moment, survey the entire theatre of play, assess the situations at hand, reflect on my each of my small-scale actions, medium-scale tactics, and large-scale strategies, and then issue the menagerie of commands at my disposal, all within that single instant of game time...

    ...effectively, the ability to engage the full interface while paused transformed homeworld into a turn-based game of infinite granularity, alleviating the twitchy frustrations of dispersed attention, intensive micromanagement, and complex control schemes which render most RTS games an exercise in reflex training rather than deeper contemplation...

    ...even beyond its control scheme, homeworld enjoyed an ongoing sense of continuation throughout its entire campaign, with the resources gathered, technologies developed, and forces mustered carried over from mission to mission, the antithesis of which frustrates me to no end in RTS games which require the player to start from scratch in each new scenario as a contrivance to support twitchy algorithmic playing styles...

    ...i've played very few real-time-strategy games which recognise the value of this sort of deeper gameplay, and consequently i just can't summon the patience to master the "streetfighter" character the genre as a whole seems to nurture instead...

  5. Agreed, it's all wayyy too much to manage at once and it just starts to feel like work and not fun after a while. I've been playing sc2 and it always seems that my opponent comes out of the blue with some b.s. strategy that I could not have possibly prepared for.

    There's just way too much going on and I'm beginning to find it frustrating. Even when I win I don't really get a huge sense of satisfaction I just feel like I invested way too much energy into something that's useless in any other part of my life.