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In Defense of the Base I Sprawled (or why I think the RTS genre is waning)

GEEZZUZ, you decide you want to sign up and make an off the cuff post about...wait...did I really just think to open a post by saying Geezzuz?
This website, its laid back, blaze, playful nature, what is its ambient presence doing to me and my demeanor? it's like its...SEEPING INTO ME, JUST, OH GOD, EW. You're the reason I came to this website, Jim Sterling. I blame you.

*shudder*...so where was I...

As you may have figured, I'm new here, and I decided as good a reason as ever to sign up was I wanted to make a sort of off the cuff blog post in response to a recent article here, with perhaps other musings to follow from time to time in future, and next thing I'm being asked for my life story ("You want an autographed self portrait now?!").
Eh, I guess I've just never been one for friendly open communities...perhaps because I've never found a genuine friendly open community.

And that's who Willem Defoe is. Another case of a face you always knew but never put a name to.

(Am I done making an introduction and being a fool? no? shit...)

Anyway, funny this should come up. It was just the other day I made a blog post where I remarked "The RTS genre itself, also just seems to be waning.". A sentiment I've kind of had for a while. And it appears I'm not alone in that.

RTS games have always been a big part of the hobby for me, at one point I'd even say it was my preferred genre, as I certainly followed and played them more regularly than FPSes. And I find myself missing them recently, perhaps even desperately trying to find a new one to fill that void.

So why is RTS, once a genre that was omnipresent, now virtually a backwash?

I offer up my own personal rant of sorts about the genre, in no way accurately informed, mind you, but from my own personal observations.

* No one can really make a good RTS anymore.

Outside of Relic, I'd say. And even they've caught MOBA-fever as evidenced by Dawn of War 2.

But overall, RTS games never seem to get the same level of gameplay or design polish that other genres do.

Increasingly micromanagement hungry, fast paced gameplay, with special abilities having been added to individual units as mandatory, while inversely, automation and unit behavior control has been increasingly dumbed down or disregarded, and in some cases this has even become counterproductive.

Lackluster, darwinian AI and derpy pathfinding, even still observable in MOBAs.
And many designers seem to fall back on the crux of allowing the AI to cheat in order to add difficulty to the game. Free resources, the ability to see hidden units. Always knowing immediately where your base is. If you're fighting the AI, these things stifle the tactics you are able to use.

Video gaming has always had a history of cloning and follow the leader, but innovation in RTS seems to have dried up.

Recently, I reinstalled Battle for Middle Earth 2...and maybe it's just me, but I found that I just couldn't have fun with the game. The game at times seems at odds with it's own design, like it ticks off all the boxes but doesn't understand for what purpose.

It got me thinking about reoccurring elements of RTS games, and I'm starting to think that the ability to create a good, compelling RTS game, is simply a lost art.

* No one really cares about making RTS anymore.

RTS requires coding AI. Coding AI requires effort. The games industry hates effort. There is a reason online multiplayer modern military shooters are ubiquitous...they are the lowest common creative denominator.
MOBAs for their part lend themselves more readily both to competitive play, and spectator viewing as well.

And "Balance issues" my ass.
Maybe if you didn't have eight different playable factions, and went back to the old formula of just two, you wouldn't have this problem.
And balance issues hasn't stop people flocking in droves to MOBAs and MMORPG PvP.
Infact, I would coldly say, I suspect that part of why RTS isn't as popular...not enough ability to personally wank in your opponents face.

* The reason RTS became niche was because developers started designing for a niche audience.

I think eSports is the scourge of video gaming, but that's a personal opinion.
But, thanks to the success of eSports with games like Starcraft, RTS games got increasingly geared towards hardcore competition and organized play, instead of average joe.

Here's a news flash...some people actually play RTS games to relax, to have fun.
Some people don't want to memorize build orders and dozens upon dozens of key combos. Some people like using a mouse as imput. Not everyone is capable of 300+ actions per minute. Not everyone who wants to play RTS games are The Calculator.

* Every RTS tried to be Starcraft.

Or Command & Conquer.
And then Command & Conquer tried to be Starcraft too.
Yeah, I get it, Starcraft is this hugely successful eSports franchise, and you all want yourselves a piece o' dat action.
Say, anyone here remember that game that tried to be "The Command & Conquer Killer"?
Me either.
You'd think all these people now trying to be the World of Warcraft Killer would have learned from history.
Once again, a demonstration that Blizzard is the shadow beneath which creativity dies.

* Some people play RTS for the single player, of all the crazy things.

Yes, unbelievable, even blasphemous, isn't it?
Some people actually just buy RTS for the single player mode, the campaigns, and all that. And with online multiplayer being the 'big thing', less and less attention is being given to that mode, or the AI the player fights in it, because, hey, pfft, who needs to include good AI in the game when you're supposed to play the game against other people anyway?

No one has the patience for long RTS games anymore. Matches are being designed to conclude quicker. Combat is being made faster and more hectic. Units and structures have all the endurance of wet tissue paper, look away and they die. I like my RTS slow and methodical.

* The market share for RTS has gotten comparatively smaller.

I don't think there are any fewer RTS fans now as there were before.
What I think has happened though, is while video gaming has grown and seen an influx of people, and the playerbase for other genres has grown considerably larger, the RTS playerbase has remained stagnate. And game publishers always have their beady little eyes transfixed on the biggest pot of money they can see.
I'd say the increase in other genres is partly because alot of gamers these days only play video games more for the GPU melting explosions than anything else...Sensory Junkheads, I call them.

* RTS doesn't conform well to console.

What with all the piracy/second hand sales scaremongering, everyone is pushing towards console platforms because they think it will be safer money (I'll let you in on something...I don't own either a 360 or PS3)

But where does this leave RTS games? a genre traditionally at home on PCs, and very much tied to its particular user imput devices of mouse and keyboard?

Probably out in the cold.

* There isn't any Real Time Strategy in Real Time Strategy anymore, anyway.

This is probably more me than anything, but, most RTS games just boil down to a linear queue of actions that must be followed without deviation, or else. They don't involve dynamic, on the fly improvisation. Like MOBA, matches are often already won or lost before the game has even started, playing the match is just a formality. It would be just as effective to have the person tick a series of boxes, designating chosen strategic gambit, and then let a logical computer script do the rest for you.

* Instead of trying to correct egregious gameplay bullshit, instead, developers built shrines to them.

You know, I only ever played RTS online once. It was Tiberian Sun. Somehow, the other guy built an Obelisk of Light in the middle of my base 5 or so minutes into the game...

Once upon a time, 'tank rushing' was pragmatically accepted, but was none-the-less frowned upon as being cheap.
These days, not only has it become the meta of the genre, both in design and play, but I imagine it's now considered "A part of this genres proud tradition"...
Oh..."Cheesing". So that's what you kids are calling it these days.

* Is RTS simply going the way of the Space Combat Sim?

Once upon a time, there were space combat sims everywhere.
Is RTS perhaps just the product of a different generation and it's creative handicaps, that's time has now passed because of environmental changes?

* I just like Base Sprawling.

The official reason why base building got abandoned as I recall is people just saw it as an unnecessary obstruction towards playing the game.

And on the one hand, I can see how it had it's drawbacks, given that if you devastated an opponents base, they were essentially removed from the fight.
But I think this had more to do with the fact that you usually only had one source of builder units, and if you cut that off, you had permanently crippled an opponents ability to grow their forces.

But personally, I liked base sprawling, to me, it was part of the game.

I liked it when global special powers were linked to buildings that could be destroyed or disrupted. It gave you something physical to play with, a sort of mini-objective to work towards, instead of half your units just being destroying every 5 minutes like clockwork when some hit level 15.

I suspect also why base spawlers got chucked out was because a) gameplay got too fast for it, and b) bases can't be hotkeyed. I suspect this is also why we've seen a transition towards MOBAs. Less stuff to hotkey.

Maybe I'm just weird. I like real time strategy, but I also like base building (Or at least, having a base). I guess I just like having territory that is mine, that I feel invested in, and gives me something to protect. A part of the map that I've effected control over and the AI can't touch.

I'm the sort of person who likes methodically working across the map, clearing it of all enemy presence and stacking my claim, not just zerging towards the enemy base. When I do that, it's usually because I've finally gone "Fuck it".

I've always been fond of empire builders too, no surprise, but always been just a bit turned off by turn based strategy, and reloaded BFME2 mainly for War of the Ring mode.

Someone needs to create a Venn diagram, people who like strategy, people who like sim city, and people like me.

You know when you play a base sprawler campaign, and how you try and make your base look neat and tidy? try and organize the buildings and line them up. Then you look at the enemy base (setup in a map editor by the developers, of course) and how jealous you get that your base doesn't look like that, and then you try and capture the base and make it your own, and all the aesthetics you coveted gets fucked up in the process? and you're like STOP RUNNING OVER EVERYTHING, YOU FUCKING ARMOURED VEHICLE.

Anyone remember Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun? with PAVEMENT, and WORKING GATES, do you realize how cool working gates were back then?!

But I do think RTS as a whole has gone downhill, not just the base sprawlers.

So, what do you think people? anything thoughtful said here, or alot of crazy ranting or parroting the thoughts of others I've yet to encounter? Since I'm starting out blogging, any constructive feedback would be appreciated.

What reasons do you think has caused the decline of RTS games? do you even think there is a decline at all?

What was the last RTS game you remember playing that wasn't Starcraft or Command & Conquer? Is there an RTS on the horizon you're looking forward to? (*cough* Company of Heroes 2 *cough*)

Do you think base building is a good or bad element of the genre, and why?

Is there any reoccurring element of RTS games that really irritate you, or something that's just turned you off the genre?


(So, I actually tried posting this a couple days ago, shortly thereafter it appeared to disappear off the blog listings, and I thought perhaps a site mod had done something to it. Nor did I seem to get any responses of any kind.
Until I came back today, and realized that, when I had tried to edit the post, it had also reverted it to unpublished status (derp).
I was infact tempted to hit 'publish' again at the time, but didn't for thinking it may result in a double post. You see I'm used to that format where once it's posted, it's posted, and editing just updates the live post.
Meh, this way I get the chance to make some changes I would have liked.

So how I came across the unpublished revelation was going through my profile and noticing a few key things.
While there, I decided to try setting my design to 'Foe' again. 'only for the mad' it said. I'm down with that, but was disappointed by the amount of madness I saw.
And it didn't seem to save my preference the first time, so I went and changed it again, then thought perhaps I need to go to my profile and oh god why would you even.

. . .

Very well, madness quota achieved. I am approve.)
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Bronze Kettle   
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About Bronze Kettleone of us since 12:38 PM on 02.01.2013

So you want me to write something to show how interesting and unique an individual I am, along with all the other unique and individual people?

For a start, I'm cynical. And sometimes I try to play that for comedic effect. It falls flat.

What else do you want to hear? that I'm a man just trying to make my way in the galaxy?

Alright, imaginary peer pressure person, you win.

I've spent I dunno how many years playing video games...never seen an NES in my life, but I did have a Commodore 64. I play FPS, RTS, RPG, infact anything with an acronym, most likely.

And after all those years of gaming, I have opinions. Opinions that after years of silence, I've finally made a commitment to start sharing them with people who didn't ask for them.

If you want to read those thoughts and opinions, you can do so at my blog.

...Joining this website simply to try and expose it was totally not one of my ulterior motives.