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The future of RTS Games

February 24, 2020

RTS is a beloved genre of mine (along with TBS, see podcast S1 E4 & 5) – when I first discovered Dune 2 (and Warcraft 2) I ended up staying up all night playing each until I’d made quite a pile of digital skulls and was too tired to carry on. So I’m both interested in making them and playing them. Which is why this article on PC Gamer caught my eye…

Can real-time strategy come back from the brink of death? … It was Westwood, however, that would give us our first successful RTS, Dune 2, in 1992. … It took a bit more time for other developers to follow suit, starting with Blizzard. The first Warcraft borrowed plenty from Dune 2, but switched the setting from sci-fi to fantasy and threw in the now-standard online multiplayer. That’s when things got really exciting, beginning a rivalry between the two studios that would give us what are still considered some of the greatest PC games of all time, from Command & Conquer to StarCraft.

Indeed. I enjoyed C&C but prefered Starcraft personally. We used to play it for a while as MP over lunch in the office when I was at Hothouse.

Indeed, I’m even less confident than I was a few years ago, when people still seemed to be fans of a lot of the mechanics and design philosophy inherent in RTS games, as evidenced by the popularity of MOBAs. They’ve never been my cup of tea, aside from Smite, which is probably the furthest from the RTS origins, and Heroes of the Storm, because I’m a sucker for Blizzard’s character designs. But now the MOBA genre has coalesced around a tiny number of enduring games. The behemoths don’t appear to be going anywhere, yet, but fewer and fewer games are joining them.

There is a forum to discuss this too. Now, I’d argue that RTS has actually had a huge and ongoing life – but more on mobile. Until a few years ago RTS-like games such as Clash Royale and Clash of Clans were the top grossing games (and the many, many like them). What they had done is taken the formula and re-posted it into a more accessible gameplay loop and it has become huge. It’s also seen a range of spin-offs such as MOBAs and Tower Defense games, which owe their lineage to RTS games. But still, I get they are not quite the ‘classic’ mode of RTS…

I also suspect that the vast, vast amount of games now on Steam means that the genre is now divided and sub-divided into many, many smaller titles that each tweak the formula in different ways. But each is not big enough to rise to the individual level of a Warcraft 2 or C&C was before. For example Conan Unconquered which adds coop and survival as a twist.

But ahhh. Dune 2 please.


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