This being my first blog, liek ev@r, I'd like to take things a little slowly.
I'd like to point you towards one of the most glaring issues in strategy video gaming nowadays, RTS (Real Time Strategy) to be precise. With approximately half the universe waiting for Starcraft 2, and Command&Concquer Red Alert 3 being released recently, people seemingly failed to notice that both of these games (and in fact most of the other, smaller releases which I did not mention earlier as well) seem to have stopped evolving around the time Duke Nukem Forever got announced. All of them still feature baseline strategy, where victory depends mostly on your mouseclicks per second and unit choices, presenting the old Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanics.
Don't get me wrong, this is how the franchise grew big, this is what made it so popular in countries like South Corea. What really buggs me though is the fact that the games DID in fact evolve in the past years, it just seems like no developer noticed.
Relic Games, a canadian developer company, was responsible for three of the most ground-breaking strategy games franchises that I can think of: Homeworld, Dawn of War and last but not least Company of Heroes.
Whereas Homeworld introduced full-3D strategy gaming into my world for the first time, it was Warhammer 40k : Dawn of War that really came in with a big bang into the RTS fanchise. It featured in-depth combat, with a manageable amount of forces, relying heavily on tactics, usage of cover and different weaponry, differing in performance depending on range, line of sight and other variables. It also abolished the old concept of ressource-gathering, as it' reduced the total ressources to two, both of them being collected on-the go by either capturing enemy strategic points, or building energy generators. All of these factors made for a truly fantastic game, immensely rich in depth and tactics, and of course : Full of imbalances. Due to the fact that all of the factions were not carbon copys of one another, and all of them using different weaponry, some units were not at all balanced for competitive play, thereby voiding all it's chances of being recieved with open arms by the ever-growing RTS playerbase. It seems like only games approved by the Chinese and Corean playerbase are worthy of public interest. But wtf, right? It had awesome graphics, so that's one point where C&C and SC:2 copied from.
Then along came Company of Heroes, the last release by Relic. It managed to combine all of the godly elements a video game needs to have nowadays, it seems : It had top-notch graphics, a WW2-scenario (which, combined with the visuals made for some "Oh-AH, this must be Call of Duty"-moments when I showed my buddies some screenshots), and best of all: it had the same systems that Dawn of War used, but it improved it by one tiny little extra: Suppression.
While it was still possible to just spam the crap out of your opponent once you had your ressources in Dawn of War, the new suppression system implemented in Company of Heroes meant that a well-placed machine gun could theoretically hold of a near infinite amount of enemy infantry, as long as it managed to suppress all of them. This nifty little feature took the gameplay to a whole new level and, together with range- and cover-dependant weaponry, made for all-new tactics. For the first time ever, flanking moves were the most important part of a game. Sure, flanking had been in games like Panzers:Phase one already, but there it was merely a notion of tanks being weaker from one side then another. This however was something completely different: Tank battles decided within seconds, as one vehicle managed to flank the other due to superior speed. Infantry with flamethrowers flanking Machine Gun nests and burning each and everyone. Epic Sniper Battles. Area denial. Company of Heroes featured everything a good strategy game should. It even introduced a completely new ressource system, relying on you to capture connected territories. It was even possible to deny other people's ressources by cutting them off the main sector. All this made for heart-pumping action strategy gameplay. But guess what? Of course, it was not accepted by the wide majority of the playerbase, because once again, it was partly unbalanced.
Now, with the approach of Starcraft 2 as close as the release of Dawn of War 2, I'm really afraid that once more, strategy gamers will have to choose between a highly polished, "yes we've been there before" title, or an unfinished diamond, with so much innovation that most people's heads would explode.
We have accepted Battlefield 1942, and it's method of changing how we look and play modern team based shooters, so why can't we accept that sometimes some small imbalances are a little price to pay for an awesome gaming experience that goes against the grain? read