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| The RTS Myth and It's Effect On the Industry (8 comments )|
by: Gatt (41) | Posted in cluster FiringSquad Editors Challenge Round 1 Prelim 2
Posted 75 months ago ( edited 75 months ago ) in category DEFAULT
Many years ago, gaming received it's first taste of a new genre with the "Warcraft" and "Command and Conquer" series of games. Instantly popular almost overnight, these two series ushered in a new era of gaming. One destined to nearly erase PC Gaming.
That "Warcraft" and "Command and Conquer" were popular and huge money makers is undeniable, but it was those very qualities that would begin the slow erosion of developers in the following years. Gaming is an industry, and an industry desires profits. The fastest way to profits, like in other forms of media, is to emulate the "King" of the medium.
So following the success of those series, many companies decided to emulate the genre in hopes of realizing the profits. Such as the doomed X-Com: Apocalypse title from Microprose, which was marketed as "Turn based and Real Time!". An unsatisfying failure that started a once great series down the path of slow death, a walk the company itself followed. Many other Turn-Based games in search of the biggest dollar chose to follow this path as well, from "Axis and Allies" to "Magic: the Gathering" to "Pool of Radiance". Each time the end result was the same, poor sales, and a game that many felt was generally poor.
Exacerabating this was the massive influx of outright "Me too!" tiles, most of which were extremely forgetable. Does anyone remember the "Krush, Kill, Destroy!" Series? Likely very few. These titles didn't help their developers, they didn't sell sufficient units to allow a company to survive. Yet they flooded the shelves like an electronic plague, without enough thought put into them to make them sufficiently interesting for customers to buy. Much like a movie adaption they were thrown on the shelves with little design because "They'll buy it because it says RTS on the box!".
Many developer's eventual death can be partly tied to the rise of RTS, Microprose, SSI, Sir-Tech, and many others. Casualties of a war fought not on the store shelves, not with customer dollars, but in boardrooms by suits who weren't interested in anything but the latest buzzword.
The RTS Myth
Part of the reason why so many Real-Time titles fail is because of the fallacy of Real-Time itself. The belief that any title previously Turn-Based can be effectively rendered Real-Time without any loss of translation.
This is patently untrue. As an example, let us consider Monopoly. We all know how that game is played, so let's instead consider, How would it play in Real-Time?
Each person frantically rolling the dice as fast as they can, moving their pieces as fast as they can, throwing money at each other as fast as they can, because in the end the winner is likely he who moved the fastest.
Could it be done? Certainly. Would Monopoly be anywhere near as entertaining? No. The nuances of the game are lost in the frantic attempt to keep up with the person moving the fastest.
The parallel applies to gaming just as well, In translation nuances are lost. Let's consider X-com for a moment...
X-com was designed around a turn-based system, where you slowly moved your units revealing aliens at every turn, and attempting to slay them without losing your men. One thing that was possible, and a frequent occurance, was for a point man to reveal an alien standing inside a window just as his movement points ran out. You could kneel that soldier, select units from your main group of soldiers, and try to pull off the miracle shot that would save your point man. Failing that, you could pray that during his turn he wouldn't kill your man. The focus of the game was that somewhere out there, in the dark, were aliens that were going to kill you. You didn't know where, each step was a mystery. It was the long lasting tension that made it fun, and that made the reward screen seem so sweet. Another nuance was the ability to carefully shoot an alien just enough to knock it unconcious, but not enough to kill it, leaving you the ability to research it.
Now let's consider the RTS equivalent: You slowly move around the map, and reveal an alien standing in a window. You click wildly on the alien as he likely shoots your point man to death before you can react and/or before his animation kicks in, and watch as your men shoot the alien. No choices to make on what type of shots to take, maybe you can lob a grenade in before the combined constant firepower kills it, but likely you're just watching. Then you pick a new point man and continue. The focus is on brief moments of action and gratuitious destruction. The tension is lost because all you need to do is latch on to movement on the screen and shoot it. Capturing an alien becomes an effort in futility, becaue you need to move fast enough to stop your soldiers from shooting it to death accidently, making the whole thing a trial of reflex, and taking you out of the game's atmosphere as you concentrate on moving quickly enough. Certainly you could include an "Auto-stop" feature for when something's knocked unconcious, but then it again because a feature of "Watching", rather then "Doing".
Nuance is lost in translation. Does that make for a bad type of gameplay? Certainly not. But what it does do, is change the focus of the gameplay. Where the Turn-Based gameplay is focused on nuance and thoughtfull stress and extended tension, the RTS is focused on frenetic action and reflex.
In changing the nuances, you change the impression of the game, and change the effect on the gamer. Turn-Based strategy is for thoughtfull stress, for nuance, for carefull planning. RTS is for frenetic fast paced gameplay, for fast fun, and for the joy of watching a powerfull army mow down everyone in their path.
It's a lesson that the industry at large MUST learn for it to grow. RTS is not a "One-size fits all" feature. Turn-Based strategy allows for gameplay possibilities that aren't really feasible in Real-Time, and thus allows for gameplay experiences that aren't possible in Real-Time.
Gaming is made up of many different genres, which offer many different experiences for gamers. Most of those types of experiences are lost today. Master's of Orion, X-Com, Fallout, Panzer General, and many other classics are gone today, lost to the plague of "Make it RTS and slap it on the box! We'll sell Warcraft 3 numbers of units!".
RTS has it's place, Sim-City, Warcraft, Diablo, Baldur's Gate, and many others have shown that fast-fun is entertaining. Incredibly entertaining. The industry just needs to remember that there's other types of incredibly entertaining.
In closing, to refute the RTS myth, I would just like to point the industry at large to "Civilization 4". If TBS means no one buys it, then how has this series survived so well?
It's sold so well because of the RTS Myth.
|8 User Comment(s) • 8 root comment(s)|
| zippo (1) Feb 22, 2007 - 02:13 am|
|If I were the editor for FS, I would've immediately dismissed the entire review without reading it because of the improper usage of "it's" in the review's title.|
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| abtse (3) Feb 21, 2007 - 10:51 pm|
|This article has alot of opinion, but it seems you didn't spend much time editing. Also, you make really big accusations that are not backed by any facts.|
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