More “MMORTS” ranting

Why do MMORTS makers always try to cram World of WarCraft features into traditional RTS gameplay? Seriously. It doesn’t work.

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Earlier today, I had a post go live on RTSGuru rebutting one of my co-writers on that site. He wrote an article stating that RTS games had a lot to learn from World of WarCraft. Aside from this being a knockoff of my own earlier article about improving the ‘quality of life’ in RTS games with features like Steam Workshop and plans for expandable content over time (like Company of Heroes 2’s Commander system), his article was frustratingly… wrong concerning what’s best for RTS Games.

Traditional RTS does not incorporate MMORPG tropes well. Not one example of this, to date, has been successful in creating a good game.

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I know, it’s misleading that like, a million people play TIberium Alliances or whatever. But these games, from Travian to Astro Lords: Oort Cloud, represent, in my opinion, the degradation and spoiling of everything that RTS truly stands for. In these games, the “macro” or economy phase of the game is spread out over hours, days weeks, while combat (often needfully, based on the limitations of browser based games) is often simplified to a vast degree. Even the more advanced such games, like War Commander, Vega Conflict or EndWar Online don’t hold a candle to the excitement and complexity of a StarCraft 2 or Company of Heroes match.

Worse, these games make a key decision: power in a battle (and RTS games are about nothing but battle) is, to a large part, determined by hours spent accumulating wealth and upgrading units. If you’ve been playing longer, your units are better, your economy is better… winning in these cases is a matter of vastly outplaying your opponent as the only path to victory. If victory is possible.

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Even worse yet, this encourages attacking players who can’t even fight back! Games like Clash of Clans or Royal Revolt 2 pit your offenses against your opponent’s defenses, but even if challenging this is no substitiute for actually pititng your wits against one or more actual people. 

Someone might eventually find a formula to make this work: the bacon-wrapped shrimp of MMORPG features and RTS features. Novus Aeterno and Avalon Lords look interesting right now. But for me, it’s a case of awful until proven doable. The first real MMORTS is not going to look a lot like either an RTS or an MMO, I think.

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