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Evolution of Mechanics: The RTS and Templates

I never quite understood why so many developers are lazy enough to just remake games instead of making new original properties. The last original thing I heard of in the Call of Duty series was introducing First Person Shooter mechanics into the first game. Remaking old games is all Kalypso ever seems to do anymore and Blizzard has not introduced an actual new IP since the 90's.

Thankfully, times are changing. The last few years have marked a change in tides that has been in the works and hopes for a long time; the rise of Indie Gaming. True, Indie Games are nothing new but ten years ago if you were a game designer, you worked for a corporation. Nowadays we have been able to fully break the mold and make the games we never could make before.

The Indie games movement has done what very few companies feel comfortable in doing: Acting like real game developers and coming up with new ideas. Creating amazing new worlds for the imagination with interesting new mechanics to play with. For a long time the RTS scene looked just about dead, with everything coming about as original as the repackaged Call of Modern Gears of Honor games that came one after the other.

It is actually kind of simple. You see, how corporations think is they take an IP and cater it towards a Genre, which is thought of as black and white and cannot be built or expanded upon at all. Real game designers seek out to expand and construct new worlds and mechanics to use. It comes to no surprise how the mass-produced Moba games which we can attribute the online game revolution to are all stolen from an original idea (A indie-made custom map on Warcraft 3).

I find that amazingly interesting however. Remember when the original big name shooters appeared and everybody started copying them in mass? That is basically what is happening to the MOBA genre, only instead of the same three-four games being remade being shooting games they are team action games. Which proves a very important point: A majority of game companies act in trend and are afraid of originating new ideas. This is pretty much the third time something like this has happened. First it happened in the late 90's with RTS games following Starcraft, which infamously ingrained a generic template of RTS games that is obeyed by uninspired designers to this day. Then it happened with shooters ingraining a similar template, and now a template for MOBA games is forming. We must break these templates if we are going to bring back creativity.

The template I am specifically mentioning is the concept of the Tournament RTS, which are strategic games closely based on Blizzard RTS structure and has been copied hundreds of times.

Tournament RTS

*Three Races (All Rounder, Spammer, Powerhouse)
*Resource Fields
*Buildings constructed to unlock new tech and make units
*Population camp raised by supply buildings
*Closely Symmetrical Maps
*Tiered tech tree
*Focus on using unbalanced units and basic tactics(Attacks/Diversions)

The focus of such Tournament games is usually to secure the most resources you can as quickly as possible, attempting to keep stronger units in your possession in order to cripple your foe. These games are normally based on reflexes and require little in the way of actual strategic thought but really requires nothing more than practice and basic understanding of psychology.

This template and genre exists because of how popular the games produced in that genre are to a wide audience. I can understand why MOBA's have become popular because of the mass public's prior shunning of proper strategy games. Though what I don't understand is why we cannot innovate on our own and forge our own genres as Indie Developers. In reality imagination is the only thing required. But the point remains that entertainment should never be reduced to a formula, it must be built upon.

A good example is an old german-made Strategy Simulation named The Guild 2 where you play as a land-owner and set up businesses of both legal and illegal. You need to get married, use goons to trouble other players, and play the political system in order to pull ahead of the competition. While the game itself was actually fairly buggy the concepts it introduced as a strategy game were rather interesting. Competitive diplomacy is what makes games like Civ 5 and 4X games rather interesting in multiplayer as well and made games of Guild 2 intriguing, seeing who would stab your back and when.

My curiosity is seeing a modern take on such a game, controlling mooks and establishing businesses. Sure, games like Gangland existed but due to bugs and poor design choices the games quickly fell into obscurity. These "City Control" games focus on slower, strategic thinking as well as diplomatic control.

City Control RTS
*Each team has HQ, which can be fortified and acts as the players home.
*Each player has an Avatar/Hero character, but may hire additional thugs and goons.
*Characters all possess a Loyalty to a specific side, but some characters can disguise themselves as other teams in order to infiltrate organizations.
*Player avatar can leave HQ and can enter buildings to interact with them, and can interact with other characters
*Plots of land can be purchased and then built upon, buildings attract tenants, staff, and business.
*Characters like groups of thugs or officers can be hired from your buildings if the character is resting there and available for hire.
*Diplomatic ratings with other players and with the local government. Causing firefights and bad press will anger the government and lead to more police hostilities and raids.
* Players can hold Titles of Office, and can apply for titles they meet the requirements for. Titles give political benefits and allow the use of Government resources like police or investigators.
*Characters or Squads(Like Thugs) committing crimes are witnessed automatically by other characters with line of sight, and this can be reported for the authorities.
*Ran on dedicated servers, additional players can join any existing faction or can join as Neutral.

The concept is that by introducing elements the player can choose to navigate around like in-game police presence as well as requiring players to work together diplomatically will help organize the players into their roles easier and promote tactical thinking. There also carries the risk that the next player that joins your team could be an enemy spy leaking your plans and positions, perhaps even an assassin!

While I am not expecting that idea to get too far, the point I am trying to prove is that with a little creative thought its more than possible to come up with a working idea you can expand upon and plug more details into. Something most game designers sincerely lack the ability to do.
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About Robert Cousineauone of us since 1:28 PM on 04.20.2012

My Name is Rob, and I am a amateur writer and gamer. I write blogs about pretty much everything under the sun from video-games, to tabletop rpgs, to old TV shows. My common online Alias is Necroscourge, and I subscribe to quite a lot of betas. I am also the Admin of the New World of Darkness Roleplaying Website Jagged Shadows
Steam ID:Necroscourge


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