From humble beginnings, Petroglyph’s “8 Bit” series has some quite a long way. They’ve gone from 1 faction at launch to 6, with army themes including near future military, WarCraft 2-esque high fantasy, and most recently they’ve added 2 science fiction factions. The games have 2 campaigns in each version, and recently their free-form territory control game mode has been rolled out across all 3 titles. They’ve even launched a multiplayer-only version of the title for $5, and a free version of that offering, which I see as a really smart idea. Additionally, a version of the game is inbound to consoles, further increasing the visibility of this zany little franchise.
If you’ve been interested in playing, but unwilling or unable to pay the cost of entry, I might be able to help. I have a spare key to the latest 8 Bit title, 8 Bit Invaders! and I’m offering it to you, my readers.
Just leave a comment on this page. However, during my last giveaway the winner didn’t leave any contact information which caused some problems delivering the prize. So, this time, please leave a comment from a connected account, or provide your twitter handle or email address or some way to contact you in the event that you win.
Comments will be accepted as entries through 3/23/2017. A winner will be chosen on 3/24/2017. Only one entry will be accepted per person.
Good luck, and see you on the battlefield!
This is my 4th patron-supported article. Thanks to everyone who supports me, both financially and otherwise. I deeply appreciate everyone who pays attention to what I write, challenges my ideas, and engages with me in thinking about the fascinating experience that is real-time strategy gaming.
My particular thanks to Ashes and Ian Richard (@McTeddyGames), my top supporters on Patreon.
In my personal definition of what constitutes a real-time strategy game, one of the genre’s key requirements is that there be some sort of economic component. Specifically, a real-time strategy game asks players to acquire and expend some sort of store of value in order to expand their ability to modify the game’s state (that is, to build units, perform research, activate abilities, et cetera in pursuit of the game’s objective).
In most RTS (what I will call “traditional RTS” in this article), the resulting system is a variant or extension of the model introduced or popularized by Dune 2: players acquire resources to build structures, which provide access to units or additional structures, produce units, add functionality (e.g. turn on the minimap) or make research options available. Some of these structures may play a role in the game’s economy: serving as a drop-off point for one or more of the game’s resources, generating resources themselves, and/or producing units that harvest resources.
In previous articles, I have advocated for the efficacy of such systems. They have a lot to offer, and it is my firm belief that competitive strategy games suffer when a player’s ability to have nuanced control over a game’s economic interactions is restricted. In short, competitive strategy games best serve their player base when they provide multiple paths down which a player can exercise mastery and drive success: economics, infrastructure, combat tactics, research, scouting, et cetera. I tend to think of this, personally, as vectors or hooks on which a player can hang a victory.
It is my contention that the “traditional” model of RTS design contains some inherent or baked-in features which provide players with incredible autonomy, but ultimately drives a very steep slippery slope or “snowball” curve that can erode the quality of gameplay. In this article I will attempt to address what I see as the strengths and weaknesses of common themes in real-time strategy base and economy management, and attempt to identify aspects of a variety of games I see as ultimately the most empowering and engaging for players. And hopefully, I will be able to explain why I feel this is important.
Thanks for reading. Let’s get started.
This is my 3rd patron-supported article. Thanks to everyone who supports me, it means the world to me.
Every so often, I return to one of the RTS I played when I was a kid. Some of these are broadly popular, like StarCraft or WarCraft or Tiberian Sun. Some may be less so, like Earth 2150 or War Wind. In part, these ventures are driven by nostalgia: to recapture or relive the wide-eyed enthusiasm and untrammeled joys that I remember from childhood.
But, as a student of strategy games design, I also find it interesting to analyze the design of older games. It is fascinating and instructive to struggle through less-than-optimal user interfaces (truly a first world problem, right?) to explore mechanics that have fallen by the wayside and to examine design practices from the pre-esports era.
Recently, to satisfy both of my inclinations, I’ve picked up and begun playing copies of a variety of classic and/or remastered RTS: Earth 2150, Battlezone ’98 Redux, Homeworld Remastered, War Wind 1 and 2, Battle Realms, and Bitmap Brothers’ Z (well, the steam version, which is based on a remake of the original). I hope to find time to write analyses of all of these games, but I thought I’d begin with Z.
In the following paragraphs, I’m going to describe the game as a reminder for those who have not played it recently and as an introduction for those who might not have played it at all. Then, I’ll discuss its mechanics in more depth, along with their limitations and what I see as their potential in modern strategy games design.
Let’s get started.
This is my second patron supported article! If you enjoyed it, please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks! https://www.patreon.com/waywardRTS
I’ll admit, despite the popularity of mobile or web-based strategy games, I never thought I’d set out to write an article talking about one of them in a positive light. While I’ve played a pretty decent cross section, from Star Wars: Commander, Age of Empires: Castle Siege, C&C: Tiberium Alliances, Vega Conflict, Battle Pirates, War Commander, Battleplans, The Incorruptibles, etc., I’ve never really been captivated my one, nor thought of them as inherently strategically or tactically fulfilling games. Magic-esque card games, a somewhat similar and more appealing genre of strategic mobile game like Hearthstone and PvZ: Heroes, as fun as they can be similarly have failed to keep my attention.
Let me go a step further than that. I have, not jokingly, listed browser/mobile RTS games a complete affront to the legacy of the real-time strategy game. I do not consider them by and large as a valuable part of the RTS genre mechanically or thematically, and their debasement of RTS systems is a constant source of frustration to me. But in in Supercell’s Clash Royale, a formula may have been derived that… I think I might actually be OK with, or at least not opposed to on principle.
I’m frankly a little surprised with how I keep coming back to Clash Royale, so I decided to try and evaluate my interest to determine its roots. While there are some things about the game to which I am resolutely opposed, I do appreciate some core elements of its approach, as well as much of the underlying logic driving its model. Let’s explore it together, shall we?
I have made no bones about proclaiming Deserts of Kharak my most-enjoyed RTS experience this year. Its visual direction and mechanical design are compelling: capturing the haunting, stark brutality of the Homeworld franchise, while pulling the user along on one of the best narrative experiences in the RTS space. I also enjoyed the game’s multiplayer while its community was active.
It just so happens that I have a spare key for Deserts of Kharak, and I thought that I’d spread a little Christmas cheer by giving it out on the 24th of December.
To be eligible, all I ask is that you write a comment on this post before December 24 (as determined by Eastern Standard Time). On the afternoon of the 24th (approximately 6PM EST) I will assign all posters a number, and use a web-based RNG to pick the winner. I will ask the winning user to contact me either on twitter (@waywardstrategy) or Facebook (via the Wayward Strategy Facebook page) to receive the key, which will be delivered to that user before midnight EST.
This post is supported by Patreon.
The MOBA genre of games grew into popularity with the WarCraft 3 mod Defense of the Ancients or Dota Allstars, and took off like wildfire with the advent of Riot Games’ League of Legends. Now, roughly 7 years after the launch of League, MOBAs are a saturated genre, with their own sub-genres, spinoffs, and so on. More or less coincident with this, or perhaps slightly before, was the beginning of the real-time strategy genre’s slow slide into its present state of relative obscurity.
While I would like to shed gallons of digital ink on why this might be, I won’t for two reasons. First, for my current purposes it is enough to note that MOBAs are a highly popular competitive phenomenon, and real-time strategy games (with very few exceptions) are not. Secondly, I have not done extensive research into the topic and feel that I have little light to shed on it.
For a long time, I was preoccupied with the question of how MOBAs seemingly supplanted RTS. I am no longer interested in, specifically, that question or line of thinking. What’s become quite interesting to me is the modern RTS that seek to merge the multi-unit management, base expansion, and/or harvesting of real-time strategy games with some combination of heroes, creep camps, itemization, map design, or in-match leveling found in MOBA games.
This is, I am convinced, the incorrect approach.
NOTE – this article was originally published in June of 2014 on the website RTSGuru.com, a website which has since closed down. In an effort to preserve the writing it has been reposted, unaltered, here by Brandon “wayward strategist” Casteel – the original author and proprietor of this site.
Wargame: Red Dragon is one of the best games you might never play.
The third entry in Eugen System’s Wargame franchise, this is a game of incredible scale and scope, including hundreds of tanks, aircraft, helicopters, infantry, seafaring vessels and other weapons of war spanning over a decade, from before 1980 (some, like the T-34, hail from World War 2) all the way through to 1990. Eugen Systems, the developer, has put some serious chops into the game’s realism, with vehicles themselves having 12 stats, and weapons having up to 9 apiece, as well as individual ammunition levels and type(s) for each weapon a unit or squad might possess.
Maps span kilometers of space, with multiple towns, farmlands, forests, rivers, oceans and more included. It’s truly a spectacle, with nuanced and fulfilling gameplay worthy of it being considered one of the best games in the genre.
Unfortunately, all of this complexity is as much a bane as a boon, resulting in one of the steepest learning curves in the genre. Read on to get the full scoop on this amazing, frustrating game.