RPS Asks: Do You Play Online RTS?

By Alec Meer on February 9th, 2010 at 10:41 pm.

Tiberian Question Time

Today I went to have a bit of a fiddle with the upcoming Dawn of War II stanpansion (did I say it right?) Chaos Rising, my thoughts on which I will be expressing by repeatedly placing my fingers onto a series of plastic blocks arranged in a grid formation tomorrow. Today, though, I want to scratch at an itch that’s been bugging me and, quite clearly, a lot of RTS developers for a little while now. While playing – and getting roundly spanked at – CR’s multiplayer, I once again mulled over the problems multiplayer real-time strategy faces in trying to remain true to its build’n'bash roots whilst also finding ways to be accessible to folk who weren’t raised on years of it, or at least aren’t heavily invested enough to learn all the statistics, hotkeys and timings necessary to do well in online matches. Is there a danger that the new trend towards less building and more co-operation is throwing out too many babies with the minutiae-filled bathwater or, are those babies horribly mutated anyway? Whether you like to think of yourself that way or not, if you’re reading this site you’re a pretty hardcore PC gamer. You’re the audience for these games, and for the attempted changes to them. So: do you like to strategise online, in real-time? How? Why?

This is mostly about hearing the PC gaming community’s thoughts on that matter, and how their habits in this regard have (or haven’t) changed over the years, so the meat of this post is yonder comments thread below. But in the name of MATHS-POWER let’s have ourselves a wee poll too. Pray forgive the floating ns – a bizarre bug in our polling software, and also an attempt to hypnotist you into sending us some pudding. We do like pudding.

n
{democracy:37}
n
{democracy:38}
n
{democracy:39}
n
{democracy:40}

Personally: I play some RTS multiplayer amongst friends, but I steer well clear of going online unless it’s necessary for some article I’m working on. The disparity in knowledge and mastery of the game, the units and the bloody hotkeys between people who play it regularly and fiercely, and little old me, who’ll play it only until I have to/want to turn my attentions to another game, is huge. And the results of that disparity are often depressing. Or: I’m a weakling. But I accept that entirely. The question is whether I’m relatively alone in it and should indeed be jeered at, or if it’s a general trend – and, if so, should developers be striving harder to find more ways to let us weaklings in?

So, yeah. Share your RTS multiplayer habits with us: what, why, what does and doesn’t work, what do you wish the genre was doing? YOUR WORDS. WRITE THEM.

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197 Comments »

  1. Get Out Of Here Stalker says:

    I never play RTSes online unless it’s in a team game, I don’t feel comfortable unless I know someone’s got my back and can make up for me sucking.

  2. Krondonian says:

    ‘Proper’ RTSes are too scary too even think of taking online. I get my ass kicked by easy computers, so that’s a no go area.

    I did play some Rome: Total War though, which is completely odd. About half the available games say ‘NO ART NO ELE’, which is people they want neither Artillery nor Elephants in the game.

    This sounds odd, removing the more interesting units, but I’ve known games with very overpowered stuff, so I obliged. It turned out, when getting into a game, that the reason for it is that the ‘best’ strategy is to make a little box of phalanx spearmen and have them poke anything to death before you get to them.

    Sigh.

    So naturally, upon realising this, I start such a game. My opponent slowly crawls his little brigade of cowards over a hill, and is confronted by my glorious army comprised solely of elephants and siege weaponry.

    The most fun I ever had was ridiculous peasant fights of 10000 fleeing pitchforked farmers, or 1000 flaming pigs sieging Rome. Perhaps if some light hearted silliness was allowed in, people will begin trying the ‘real’ way of playing the game.

  3. Metalfish says:

    Being good at an online RTS is like being a champion at pacman: there’s the illusion of skill and strategy, but in reality you’ve just played the damn thing so much that you know exactly what to do as an optimum series of button presses (the original pacman was non-random).

    It’s like when some maths geek tells you they’ve solved noughts and crosses, or sudoko or whatever. There’s no X-factor any more.

    • DMcCool says:

      “Theres no X-Factor anymore”

      If only, my good friend, if only…

    • Joflar says:

      Sudoku doesn’t really have any calculations to it though, its more about logically removing moves and then going with the single remaining possibility. You could just as easily switch out the 1′s and 9′s for triangles and squiggly lines, and the game is the same. If you did that in a regular rts then the whole thing would be nonsensical because your infantry are whacking some tanks and damaging it by dodechahedron. I think World in Conflict is one of my favorite RTS games because the strategy makes sense without numbers. I don’t need to know any abstract calculations about damage modifiers or resource consumption, I just know that my tanks have an offensive skill that’s good against a certain unit type and a defensive skill that makes it more likely that they’ll survive.

    • Generico says:

      The “X-factor” in an online RTS is the other players. No matter how fast you are at pressing the buttons, there’s no accounting for a human opponent.

  4. RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

    Not yet, but I’m sure some one will one day manage to draw me into that.

  5. froibo says:

    I haven’t gotten into a good RTS online since WC3 the main problem with RTS online is that if you aren’t playing since the launch of the game you are at a huge disadvantage when trying to get into the game that it becomes frustrating to learn.

  6. subedii says:

    Great, BoTP’d

    The summary of my far too long post: The problem isn’t with RTS’s, the problem is that you need a good, working skill-based matchmaking system to go with them. Otherwise they remain impenetrable and largely separated into high tier players and the new guys.

  7. Shalrath says:

    I really wish, newer ones especially were more.. tactical, I guess I’d say. To me, being good at strategy is not telling squad 1 to fall back behind a wall while I build a tank while I upgrade my workers while I scout with squad 4 and feign an attack with squad 3 while I… and so on, rather it’s knowing where to attack, with what, and at what time. Basically I like strat games where you start with ‘x’ units and that’s it.

    I really like the Chaos Gate style turn-based strat games.

    • Fumarole says:

      Total War sounds like your cuppa.

    • Jimmy says:

      I gave up on RTSs after AOEII simply because they took too much time. I take out AOEII every now and then for a test run. I bought Medieval 2: Total War in the recent Steam sale and since then, have been just as addicted as I was to AOEII, but I have had a brilliant time. The complexity of M2TW is fantastic, and games are fairly emergent in how they develop, each with its unique flavour. The battles are brilliant, and feel much more ‘realistic’ than AOE.

      Not sure I will go online. I will probably give it a try, as I enjoy military strategies, both from historical accounts and from online recreations. I think a set battle in MP mode is far fairer than AOE, which as I remember was all about who could do the clickety click click fastest. AOE just seemed schizophrenic when played properly against humanz.

  8. PixelCody says:

    Formerly CoH and now plenty of DoW2 and Battleforge online. I love RTS games and enjoy them in many flavours so while I enjoy the direction that these games have gone in terms of base building, I don’t want other games to follow suit.

    DoW2 (which I can’t stand in single player) and Battleforge fill the tactical niche perfectly and there are already too many DotA games going even further down that path. I’m not reinstalling Age of Empires 3 and Rise of Legends to get my full on RTS fix and hope for a game along those lines soon.

    • PixelCody says:

      “I’m not reinstalling…” should read “I’m NOW reinstalling…”

  9. squintik says:

    Although I don’t play online RTS often, I find the “traditional” RTS really interesting, fun and rewarding in multiplayer (with people of a level more or less similar to mine).
    I imagine most people are afraid of going online just because they will probably play against a crazy uber-trained guy, and so the problem is perhaps more about the low player base and/or bad matchmaking instead of the game type ?
    The fact that you cannot join during a game and that games can be quite long probably doesn’t help.

    Gameplay-wise, I think most players understand quite well the basic game mechanisms after doing some singleplayer and/or some skirmish against AI, so they should be able to understand what is happening during the game and what mistakes/success they did.
    If both have more or less a similar “level” (knowledge of the game, of the game genre, personal skill, etc…), I think they can have fun easily. I’m convinced that the major problem is really about the probability of finding someone of a similar level.

    I played my first RTS multiplayer games with friends on games like Age of Empires 2 or Starcraft, and even without playing well, we were able to build an army with a specific idea in mind (more stealth units to suprise him and destroy his base ? Flying units as he likes building tanks ? A lot of defense structure to win with my economy ? etc…) and then fight with it and have fun easily.

    Perhaps it just lacks some “casual” RTS to attract new players to the genre. (games like RUSE perhaps ?)
    Games with really short rounds ? (as it seems a lot of players only connect for a quick game on FPS)
    Games with 16-32 players but with less units to control per player ? (so that you can easily join during the game, have a team helping you so that it’s more balanced, etc…)
    And still, nice and rich games like Dawn of War with tons of players so that you can have some fun and balanced 1v1 or 2v2 games !

    By the way, I guess there’s the same problem with FPS : “rich” (and so, complicated) games (enemy territory, tribes, natural selection, …) don’t have a big player base, but there’s always a strong community which enjoys their originality and would be really sad if they had to only play on more “casual” games (halo, cod, etc…).

  10. Gabanski83 says:

    Bring back Dune 2.

  11. Capital-T-Tim says:

    I took a crack at creating an RTS that is accessible to less hardcore audiences. In particular, it completes eschews unit micromanagement in favor of simple autonomous units, and places the focus on the gather-resources-create-creatures-repeat loop instead:

    http://www.kongregate.com/games/tconkling/corpse-craft

    • disperse says:

      I played this. (I think it was covered by RPS at some point, no?) Absolutely loved the aesthetic. My problem with it was I was focusing so much on the puzzle game that I couldn’t appreciate the wonderfully hand-drawn units. Perhaps if the puzzle game only appeared during the daytime cycles I would have enjoyed it more…

  12. Ape says:

    Got totally fucking owned by someone once playing Red Alert 2, my first online RTS experience.

    I then realised, I will never be able to compete with the full-on, obsessive players who know every nuance of every map.

    So now I only skirmish against the PC which I guess is a bit predictable but better for my blood pressure.

  13. liq3 says:

    I’m a die-hard RTS fan. Along with FPS games (TF2/Tremulous style, not CoD/BFBC2 style) it’s my favourite genre. I’m a die-hard starcraft fan (and not half-bad at it). The likes of DoW and co just don’t match up to SC for RTS goodness.

    I think the main problem with RTS is that the skillgaps are so varied. It’s just too easy for one person to dominate another due to the slippery slope trait. So matching people up with equally skilled players becomes hugely important, and no RTS has really accomplished this. If an SC quality RTS were to come out with rock solid match making, I’m sure it’d gain a large player base.

    This is gonna make me sound like a bit of douchebag… I think most people can’t just handle how complex a real RTS (Starcraft) is. They’d much rather play simple games like Halo, since it just requires so much less thinking and gives them much more “instant fun”, which is pretty much the fad of the decade.

    • Serenegoose says:

      liq3: You’re right, it does make you sound like a douchebag. Presumptuous bollocks about how starcraft is so much more intellectual than other games out there. Bullsquid. It’s a game where people boast about their clicks per minute for crying out loud, which puts it on somewhere near the intellectual grounds of Typing of the Dead. It’s for people with the ability to micromanage effectively, it’s not some way of divining the Kwisatz Haderach.

      Which is not to say it’s a bad game, though I can’t stand its guts. I just hate this statement that ‘smarter people play Y genre and shallower people play X genre’

    • woppin says:

      Liq3 from GR? Agreed on people not getting Starcraft. You need to at least watch a casted pro game to have some appreciation of what’s going on and just how hard and interesting it is.

      Sorry goose but pretty much every serious online RTS gamer has accepted as fact that Starcraft is superior to every other RTS ever made. The strategies change on every map, for each matchup, and are affected by starting positions to give enough variety that no player can truly master them all. This doesn’t mean everyone plays it, some prefer slower games or different stryles, but it’s still THE example of how to make and maintain an RTS because of its perfect mix of balance and depth.

      That’s not to say people playing or likign the other games are shallow, but grasping what is going on in a game of Starcraft without any help from someone takes a significant time investment. People who haven’t ever even seen a pro game really have no idea what it’s like.

      As an aside for those saying SC is about speedy clicking and not strategy: I don’t believe you can make an RTS where there are a huge number of strategic decisions, because once you can effectively change overall strategy quickly, it stops becoming a major choice and is therefore smaller scale and deemed as “tactical”. For example in Starcraft going for Corsair/Reaver is a strategic decision, choosing how to move your troops when they engage is a tactical one. You can’t quickly change your build to go zealot/dragoon heavy because you won’t have the right upgrades and enough gateways so this is a strategic choice you have made based on what info you have. There are a number of these strategic choices made throughout the game by each player and they play a massive part in determining the victor because scouting is such a huge part of Starcraft.

      This is one reason why base building is a good part of RTS games: scouting your opponent to see what they have so that you can respond to it becomes a skill, and if you scout poorly you won’t be prepared for attacks and will be punished.

      For the inevitable respose saying “Supreme Commander was strategic!!11″, it really wasn’t, it had very little depth to it at all because there were no upgrades and you could win the game with T1 units reliably.

    • Serenegoose says:

      Woppin: if 20 million people say it, they can’t be wrong! Besides, didn’t really answer what I said. I didn’t say that starcraft was a bad game (as much as I hate it, I understand that of its specific subgenre it is considered exceptional) I said it wasn’t a ‘smart’ game. You don’t need to be a genius to play it, you just need to be good at starcraft. But you’re patently not correct. If every serious RTS player accepts that Starcraft is ‘the best’, then why aren’t they playing it? Why do people play other RTS games like Company of Heroes?

  14. BabelFish says:

    While I generally stay clear of playing RTSs online, I’m considering giving starcraft 2 a real attempt.

    I tried to play DoW2 online when it was new, but got supremely frustrated with the lack of balance in 1vs1 and the prevalence of pre-made vs pug in 3vs3. I’m hoping SC2 will be relatively balanced for 1vs1 from the first day, and new enough that I can at least partially make up for my lack of SC1 experience.

    There’s no way I’m going within striking distance of any of the “oldschool” RTSs like starcraft or AoE though. By the time I’m done overcoming the advantage the people who have been playing the game for decades have, the next great RTS will be out.

  15. Colthor says:

    I used to be good at Red Alert 2 multiplayer, but other than playing SupCom against friends I’ve not found anything more recent where going online wasn’t just an overwhelming pain in the backside.

    Particularly smaller scale things like Dawn of War where you have to click furiously and babysit every individual unit (and upgrade them. I really hate it when you have to upgrade things after they’re built – is it really necessary for me, the commander, to come down there and personally give every ruddy cannon-fodder grunt his gun and a motivational speech? Couldn’t they just come out of the factory useful?). I couldn’t even beat the AI on Normal at DoW, so taking it online wasn’t going to happen.

    Maybe if they stopped trying to turn RTS into action-games-with-really-crap-controls, and gave you time away from wiping your minions’ backsides to think about some strategies, persevering would feel more worthwhile.

  16. MonkeyPeach says:

    Play a fair bit of zero hour and ground control 2 with my mates (actually four player coop zero hour almost every day for a week!)

    ground control 2 is a building-less game – we just don’t find it as satifying as having bases. Not having bases is a great idea but we dont’ care for it.

    We can play us vs the AI with a huge range of player ability. We always rank in the same order PvP though, which is boring/frustrating.

    TLDR – online PvP needs very good matchmaking. Bases FTW

    (and no I don’t 4chan much)

  17. JuJuCam says:

    I find online anything multiplayer daunting enough without feeling like I’ve missed some 5 year boot camp that everyone else has gone through. To be honest I struggle to maintain interest in an RTS long enough to finish campaign mode. I can never escape the feeling that there’s something I don’t know and the lack of knowledge is putting me at a disadvantage…

  18. Kakrafoon says:

    I am a bit angry at the multiplayer modes of most RTS games. Because of them, I have to put up with that stupid thing called “balancing”, which means that the combat values of units change with every patch to create a perfect equilibrium in gameplay so that players of all factions, be they Space Fascists, Zerg, Imperial Guard, Protoss, the Wehrmacht or the Killer Clowns can all enjoy without somebody whining about “Über-units” or -tactics. My favourite example are the Panzer Elite armoured cars from Company of Heroes, which are, for some stupid balancing reason, vulnerable to rifle fire. Hello, they are armored cars! They are not supposed to go up against full-grown tanks, all right, but they should be completely impervious to small arms fire pinging off their moderately thick steel plates, except maybe the special AP ammo from the US machine guns.
    It’s just that most real time strategy games are about some war or another, and wars are not supposed to be fair. Did anyone start whining on some forum when the Germans started building Tigers in WW2? “OMG plz fix Tigr xploit”? Did Darius complain to the gods about Alexander’s Macedons? Well, yes, he probably did, but no one listened and released a patch to nerf them so that was okay. The only strategy game that is truly balanced is chess. I like my RTS games to represent war as it really is, and that means asymetrical.
    The only thing that should be changed to create balance in an RTS is the cost and availability of units (make it possible to mob that deadly Tiger with 5 Shermans), but never their actual combat values, which should be modelled as convincingly close to the original (for “realistic” RTS games) as possible – and that means that in an ideal RTS a Space Marine in power armour should, by the Emperor, be able to stand up to some wretched xenos with inferior alien guns for as long as it takes to kill them stone-dead with bolter fire, without seeing his health bar trickle slowly down. Hah.

    • Ace says:

      The entire PE faction is stupid.

      COH shoutcaster here. The PE armored car comes out so early that you need small arms to pen it in order to keep it from ending the game. It can easily flank and destroy MGs and comes out several minutes before the fastest possible M8. Balance > realism. Don’t even get me started on overdrive.

      The PE faction is currently the weakest, but the PE AC is still stupidly overpowered and really difficult to kill.

    • Kakrafoon says:

      Yeah, but.. that’s exactly my point! Did the Wehrmacht fashion the armour of their light armoured cars out of cheese, to give the Allied infantry a sporting chance of shooting them full of holes, so everyone could? I don’t think so, and I don’t care if a unit is “Tier one” or “Level one” or “early” or whatever in the tech tree. War is not supposed to be fair, and I’m not interested in any multiplayer balance. Another example: Why is the machine gun on the PE armoured cars, the US jeep and the Wehrmacht Motorcycle so puny? Essentially, the guns mounted on them are be the same gun as the crew-served machine guns. In the interest of balance, however, the .30 and the MG34 or MG42 mounted on vehicles (even the .50 available for tanks and halftracks) are in no way the infantry-shredding terrors they should be. Does a weapon suddenly fire cardboard bullets just because it is fired from a vehicle? Damn you, multiplayer gameplay balance!

  19. drewski says:

    My problem with multiplayer RTS games is that the opposition are too good for it to be fun. I played Warcraft 3 with some friends multiplayer back in the day, and died in about ten minutes in all three games.

    It wasn’t fun. And the time and effort it takes to learn how to play with good builds and right orders and speed of instructions is just too large for me to be bothered learning how – I get no more fun from playing multiplayer than I do singleplayer, yet with singleplayer I can generally pick it up much easier, at least on normal difficulty levels.

    I’ll occasionally play multiplayer shooters, especially on console, because I find my skill level is similar to that of my friends, and my basic competence is higher so it’s easier to learn advanced skills. RTS online is just too hard, to intimidating. However I don’t think dumbing down the games will help – there’s always going to be a huge skill disparity between people who bother figuring out how to be good, and people who just won’t invest that time.

  20. Severian says:

    @liq3

    Actually, I don’t think this makes you sound like a douce at all. I’m terrible at RTS’s, and I don’t think this is because I’m an idiot, but I do think it’s because I don’t have the patience/motivation to master the intricacies of a complex genre. RTS’s do offer a cornucopia of response options and I imagine it’s very satisfying learning how to play them well. It ain’t my cup of tea, but I like that they exist and I like that there are players out there who get obsessed over them

  21. Starky says:

    Most RTS’s utterly overwhelm the new player, the singleplayer/skirmish never prepares you for the speed and punishment of online play.
    Ranking only helps a bit, a team full of newbies is just a bunch of people fumbling in the dark, no one learns anything.

    The joy of something like Natural Selection or Demigod (and even DOW2 – all hybrid RTS games) is that even when you’re a newbie you can focus on some small task and contribute – and hopefully there will be one maybe 2 people on your team who you can learn from.
    Be it going Gorge in NS and simply paying attention, or running around as a skulk munching resource nodes – you’re contributing to the team effort despite being a newbie.
    Or as mentioned above just defending a lane, buying upgrades and doing things to help the better players out.
    Or in DOW2, just running around capping things and maybe trying to hold 1 or 2 key positions, because inevitably for any new RTS if you try and focus on too much you do it poorly.

    I’ve always held the key factor of accessibility (Dev buzzword of the Decade) in multiplayer isn’t dumbed down gameplay, or reduction of overall complexity. It doesn’t matter if it is an RTS, an FPS or what have you – new players need to be able to contribute, if they can’t they get frustrated and quit.
    Games that allow newbies and experienced players to be in the same game without the newbies feeling utterly worthless should be accessibility goal number 1 for any dev, because newbies who feel they contribute have fun, keep playing and become the skilled players of tomorrow.
    This is one of the key reasons IMO for the success of MMOs like WoW and Eve, because in both in raiding and in a corp, no matter how newbish you are there’s always SOMETHING you can contribute, even if it is just raw materials, poor DPS and a few buffs.

    Most FPS games manage this with player numbers, getting lost in the crowd is great, you can suck, but still manage the odd kill, and in many cases (if you’ve played the genre before and have some idea) see yourself improving round after round until you’re happily finishing mid-table.

    As has been often said in this thread, most RTS games are 4v4 at the max, which unless they are very well designed never allow a new player to contribute much to the team.
    The new wave of RTS games are starting to excel in this, World in Conflict, Demigod, DOW2 so on.

    There’s no reason why this philosophy can’t be adapted to traditional RTS games

    Give me command and conquer where I can focus on harvesting and then building units, and give control of those units to another more experienced player.
    Give me an RTS that allows me to upgrade my teammates buildings and units
    Give me an RTS that allows me to focus on one or 2 tasks, but important tasks, and then feed that effort to the rest of my team.

    Most RTS games have gone with the “every player is their own side” mentality, it’s not “us vs. them” it’s “me and him and him vs. them” – All starting in different locations.
    It would be so simple to add in simple tools for team cohesion into RTS games…

    Hell a nice start would be making maps where everyone on the same team starts at the same bloody place.

    No one wants to feel useless and worthless to a team, so the key challenge for Devs has to be making sure that never happens (or at east to minimize it as best they can) in their RTS games.
    This allows for comfortable skill-overlap – Skills in RTS matchmaking should exist in nice comfortable like WIFI channels that overlap happily – so each “skill bracket” can comfortably game with people 2 up and 2 down from it.

  22. caesarbear says:

    Starky, you stole my ideas.

    It so much easier for new players to contribute to a FPS team match, or even find some pleasure in free for all death match. RTS needs to get out of the 1 vs 1 tournament mindset before it becomes widely appealing for multiplayer.

  23. nichevo says:

    I feel like I’m pissing into the ocean on commenting on a site like this, but I do like RTS games so I may as well go ahead and do it…

    “How do you feel about the movement by some big games… towards building-free, co-op focused play instead of the traditional …. model?”

    I’ve got no problems with co-op or simple RTS games — they are enjoyable in their own right. What would be worrying is if they were _all_ like this. And I am rather concerned they might be following this trend en masse.

    I am concerned because there’s no gaming experience I enjoy more than mastering a fairly complex game and playing against human opponents. It’s a great workout for my brain. And the satisfaction of putting up a good fight (win or lose) is great.

    “Do you think traditional RTS multiplayer in general is hard/daunting to get into?”

    All multiplayer games, regardless of genre, become daunting to get into for one simple reason — people who like them and continue to play them are the people who are good at them and are able to win. The less talented people tend to drop out. RTS games are not special in this regard, save for the fact that the gap between novice and pro is usually quite large.

    The silver bullet, of course, is to play with friends. But that’s not always practical.

    There are some technical measures that help. A good ranking or statistics system allows you to seek out players of your level and avoid the pros. The ability to play team-on-team blunts the “fear factor” of facing an enemy alone. Game modes that don’t end well after victory is decided (because by the time there’s a tank army in your base you really lost about ten minutes ago, and this needless slaughter of your remnants is just needless morale-crushing pain). And of course it helps if the game is actually a good strategy game where knowing “the tricks” of build orders and play-sheet strategies isn’t a guaranteed win over someone who doesn’t know “the tricks” but can think strategically on the fly.

  24. Thiefsie says:

    RTS are a lot like MMORPG’s in my mind, and thus I can’t be bothered with them.

    90% of the game is about waiting, or managing time (ie. farming) and I just don’t find that fun. Toss in the general inability of me to compete with people online as I don’t play enough to learn or experiment to get effective strategies and I am in a downhill battle.

    Anathema to fun for me is click on something… harvest resource. wait until enough resource is gained to build something else. Wait for that something to build… then start again. Over and over… with minor tactical oppurtunities that boil down to waiting for something to happen before I can do something else. Even the waiting for units to move somewhere else is a pain to me. This is why I find the DoW /CoH gameplay much more effective and fun, although still a little tiring.

    I’ve thought about this a lot… and have decided that is why I will almost always not get into RTS that much… and without a decent story/mission/single player side of things… I don’t have much reason to play RTS at all.

    I do have a bit of fun playing co-op with mates to take out harder ai opponents etc from time to time (oh the joys of TA/DR/SC back in the day)

    Just too much chore without much payoff for me. Much like an mmorpg

  25. Total Casual says:

    I haven’t played an RTS online since the original Dawn of War. I played Company of Heroes and DOW2 quite a bit single-player, and almost summoned the courage to play DOW2 multiplayer. However, with both those games they were simply too complicated for me to feel confident enough in my abilities to face human players.

    Class systems, unit experience, inventory management, plus especially the porous nature of the player’s ‘territory’ in the resource-node-capture system makes the game very intimidating (for me), and I don’t understand why EA believes introducing that kind of gameplay to C&C4 will make it more casually approachable.

    Starcraft and Warcraft 3 were approachable because they were so much simpler than newer games. Build your peons, build some factories, pump out troops, and throw them at your enemy-of course, an enemy with better micro would beat you, but that’s why there was a ranking system.

    Another plus of the Blizzard games was/is the massive population of Battlenet with its wide spread of player skill levels-even if you do poorly there were plenty of other poor players to fight. SC2 needs to release in 2010!

  26. Generico says:

    I’d play more online RTSes if there were any that I really liked. Most of them are too slow and too dumbed down to hold my interest for very long these days. Most of them have either totally removed or relegated any economic component to the sidelines. That puts the focus more on the combat, but removes the only actual strategic component that most RTS games have. The vast majority of recent RTS games are really just pure tactics games.

  27. the_fanciest_of_pants says:

    The total war model of RTS’ is the only type that interests me anymore. Traditional harvest/build/research/fight RTS hit its apex at Starcraft and plummeted downhill from there.

    Games that allow you to focus on the fight and allow for more tactical options are just plain more fun. I don’t see the appeal in drag selecting 1000 guys and rightclicking them into the general area of the enemy so I can focus on building farm/depot/whatever number 43. Not anymore at least.

  28. Gentacle says:

    I barely go online with RTSs but I played DoW2 online regularly as Eldar. Between the nerfs from the beta to live and the overall squishiness it was fun, if not frustrating. Then that There Is Only War balance update came out and every race was squishy (and the eldar twice over) and I couldn’t keep up. Still looking forward to the expansion for some reason, though.

  29. Tom Camfield says:

    16 man RTS games.

    I don’t feel daunted about FPS multiplayer because I know I’m at least going to be better than one person, or that if I hold back and defend well then I might get a kill and help my team. I imagine that most RTS games don’t allow 16 people to battle it out in two teams. Once this happens, then maybe it’ll make multiplayer much more accessable.

    I, at least, would have a go.

  30. Scalene says:

    I’d play RTS games a bit more if they were more about Strategy, less about speed.

  31. Mr Popov says:

    TBH Starcraft is so hailed as the awesome RTS because so much time and thought has been put into it to master it. Basically it is successful because it is successful. So many RTS have come since that make the genre so much more interesting, but because they aren’t as big of hits as starcraft, not as much thought and analysis go into them as does Starcraft.

  32. Frank says:

    I think I may have tried Starcraft online once back in 2004 (when I first played it). I’m glad that the online community exists, but it would require a new branch of RTSs for me to join it. With changes like…

    Teamplay — What Gorgeras and Starky said.

    Simpler — Like Galcon or Plants vs Zombies, but complex enough for there to be no dominant strategy. Maybe ask David Sirlin how to do it: he made a Street Fighter **and** the very simple Kongai.

    Slower — Either slow enough for strategy to dominate “micro” (as in Rise of Nations) or turn-based with a timer (Plants vs Zombies or my favorite, Bang! Howdy).

    Shorter — 15 minutes max for me.

    As it is, I’ll still play anything with a decent story and interesting single-player missions (like Starcraft and Company of Heroes) in whatever genre. Oh, and removing buildings sounds like a terrible idea. I don’t follow RTS trends, but without building there would only be micro/twitch-tactics I imagine.

  33. The One And Only says:

    I never play RTS online since it’s never about strategy and always about clicking fast.
    Then again, I rarely play them offline for the same reason, so maybe I’m just not in the target group.

  34. pistolhamster says:

    I used to play RTS a lot, but they are almost all constructed in a way to make me feel like I am slipping down a slippery slope from start to end. Gotta build fast so I can get resources fsater. I gotta expand now or I will lose it. I have too many units now I cant control them all. Gah.

    RTS are fascinating, but many of them are by heart rubbish experiences if you want to play them STRATEGICALLY. Almost every single game I tried except Starcraft has these too good units and too bad units and some tactics just don’t work. In my aging age I prefer grand strategy tbh. Slower pace, less caffeniated maniac – slash – 12yo click-fest-a-thons.

    • JKjoker says:

      i also feel newer rps have very little room for playing them strategically, mainly because the games are designed for multiplayer and they cant have matches lasting several hours, so rushes are encouraged, defense, long planned strategies, clever moves (any second away from preparing your rush is death) are discouraged, sometimes not even allowed

      i logged a lot of hours in in these games since i first played Dune 2; c&c1, red alert1 and starcraft being my favorites, i tend to play long games, slowly taking over the map and fortifying my positions while i constantly harass the enemy with spells, infiltrators, spies and the like, i can and i have used rushes but using optimal builds and just concentrating in stream rolling doesnt feel fun to me, i rather having a situation where a frontal attack is impossible and i have to improvise something to reach my objectives, thats also why i enjoy the single player campaign a lot more than the “skirmish” mode and for multiplay i cant play slow, everyone rushing means i have to rush and it always plays like skirmish, adding coop mutiplay also mutilates any attempt at making a good scripted level, look RA3 or Resident evil 5, sure coop can be fun (with the right partners which is difficult without LAN support) but the single player experience is shot in the nuts to make mp workable

  35. Davie says:

    I’ve had so little luck with succeeding in RTS multiplayer in general. I do enjoy it, but I also get a bit sick of constantly having my ass handed to me by an army that could populate a small ocuntry in the first five minutes of a game.

    Whereas FPS multiplayer is much easier to get into, because even if you’re not great at it, the rules are the same–point and shoot–RTS online explodiness is far more complicated and pretty different for every game. I’ve found even playing against the computer in dozens of skirmish maps–and winning–doesn’t prepare me for the blokes I meet online, most of which have the uncanny ability to win the game in the time it takes me to get my resource production stable.

    Therein lies the biggest problem, which people have already mentioned–there is little time for strategy when the goal appears to be to win the game as fast as possible. The solution to this, if there is one, could be to start making RTS games with much larger maps. That way it would take five minutes or so for an invading army to cross the terrain, giving time to build up and prepare. One might consider it boring to just watch the troops cross the map, but they should also be adding to their base and exploring other areas. I’d prefer RTS multiplayer to be much slower-paced. Only once in any game I can remember have I played a match that lasted more than forty minutes.

    Anyhow, a slower-paced game would give newbies a chance to get used to the hotkeys, the counters, the resources, etc. and wouldn’t just be a frantic race to get your vehicle factory up so you can swarm your opponent with three billion tanks.

  36. DerShcraa says:

    Please let me apologize for the hype in advance, BUT.
    Men of War is the first RTS that has driven me to playing it online.
    The singleplayer campaign sucks, but the multiplayer part produces an uncountered sense of verisimilitude.
    Please, please, please at least try the haxcraxored version against your friends, it’s so good.

    • Lemon scented apocalypse says:

      Blasphemy! (Parts of) the MOW campaign are ace – any of the defence missions on hard are a geuninly terrifying experiance (No saves, mind) And building your own missions is also a blast. (although yes: the multiplyer is blindingly brilliant)

  37. DerShcraa says:

    PS: I bought this beast when it was given away for 7.5 Euro around Chrismas and not at the time when it was given away at the ridiculous price of 3 Euros in January.
    I still wish I’d have bought it at three to four times that price.
    It has a steep learning curve, but it’s very rewarding.

  38. Gabbo says:

    I must be a real oddity, as I used the asskickings I would receive online in games like Age of Kings and other RTS’s released at the time (Warcraft3, Starcraft, RoN, etc), to learn from and got better that way. With the focus shifting away from base-building, I see less incentive to go online (and haven’t in an RTS in a while). I still enjoy both types of RTS, but don’t like the trend of DOW2/C&C4 becoming the only style of play.

  39. Heliocentric says:

    I’m posting this without reading comments yet. But i play rts quite alot, i’d like to think i’m hardcore, i think rts is a difficult genre to get into, but that doesn’t mean difficult is bad. I love arma, but your gran can’t play it.

    These “entry level” rts are great as long as devs don’t forget about the hardcore. Anyone who changes the keyboard configs in a shooter can be hardcore in rts. But we need more turn based strategy which is action packed, i lured my ladyfriend into strategy games via advance wars, where she can now kick my ass, those skills (predicting traps, judging terrain, escorting units) carry over.

  40. Lemon scented apocalypse says:

    I realise its not an RTS, but does anyone here play Dominions 3 online? Now that really is intimidating….

  41. Premium User Badge

    Kelron says:

    I occasionally play against friends of a similar skill level, but I find online RTS in general to be flawed. Very few of them allow creative strategic thinking, it’s all about learning tactics and build orders by rote.

    Supcom is the closest I’ve found to allowing true strategy, with one memorable game having me put up a token defence in the middle of the map stopping the enemy scouts from reaching my start position, while I sneaked off to an island in the corner and built an army of submersible tanks he didn’t see coming and couldn’t defend against.

    Unfortunately most games still end up being about who can build their economy fastest without giving ground, just like every other RTS.

  42. Fashigady says:

    Only occasionally do I attempt to play online, mainly on DoW2. Originally I was mediocre at 2v2 but won a bit more than I lost – then nyds weren’t insanely overpowered and I simply sucked and stopped even trying. In my experience, playing RTSs online is only for the extremely hardcore and the masochistic.

  43. Anthony Damiani says:

    I don’t play them online all that much anymore because, well, they’ve gotten so dumbed down, sped up and action-oriented. I don’t HATE DoW 2, but there’s so little meat there.

  44. Tei says:

    I have played online Battlesomthing (I forgot the name), that one that is half a MMO, half a trading card game, 100% RTS. Even PVP.

    Like most other RTS, theres this Only strategy to “RUSH” :-P

  45. Premium User Badge

    MinisterofDOOM says:

    I dislike multiplayer RTS for the same reason I dislike multiplayer gaming in general: I personally play games to relax and enjoy myself. But everyone else seems to play games so they can yell at people. People take games too seriously. I enjoy playing with friends but beyond that multiplayer in any genre holds no appeal for me.
    Another reason I generally don’t bother with online in RTS games is that games can take far too long. With singleplayer missions I can save and come back later. With multiplayer I’m devoting a lot of time to a single game. I don’t always have that much time on hand.

    As for C&C4/DOW2…they are taking a lot of steps in the wrong direction. They’re trading strategic depth for ease of use. And things like cross-mission persistent units with RPG-like stats add nothing of value to a real RTS experience because in a real RTS it’s not the individual units that matter, but rather how they are used. These games shift gameplay focus away from STRATEGY toward built-in process. You don’t have to think very hard because they game assigns all your goals for you, does all the resource gathering for you, and pretty much handles all the interesting parts of the game so you can focus on the immediate satisfaction of clicking on something. I can understand the appeal of that to RTS-newbies, but we were ALL new to the genre at one time. It’s far more rewarding to work your way up to playing a deep strategy game well than to just play a shallow one well from the start. It’s PLAYER progression that matters, not unit progression.

    The RTS is just the latest genre to fall prey to the astoundingly misguided idea that old is bad, new is always good, so let’s just innovate for the sake of innovation. Cars don’t need 7 wheels. RTSs don’t need unit persistence. Cars DO need brakes. And RTSs need bases and resource harvesting.

    Thank God Starcraft II is stating true to the classic formula. There’s one area where I have something good to say about multiplayer. Blizzard’s desire to please their existing loyal fanbase (a concept which woefully few developers seem to understand) has led them to avoid unnecessary innovation at any cost. The result is a game that is improved, but not reinvented. Which is exactly what C&C needs. Improvement, not reinvention. C&C3 was exactly that, and did a fairly good job of it(especially after the addition of Kane’s Wrath). C&C4 and DOW2 are bastard children of every generic console genre out there and none of the ingredients are appealing to me on any level.

    • DerShcraa says:

      “I dislike multiplayer RTS for the same reason I dislike multiplayer gaming in general: I personally play games to relax and enjoy myself. But everyone else seems to play games so they can yell at people.”

      “Die schwierigste Turnübung ist immer noch, sich selbst auf den Arm zu nehmen.”
      -Werner Finck

      Throw it at Babelfish or something.
      The semantic translation is something as follows: “Learn to laugh at yourself.”
      Play with people who are able to do this and study this art yourself.

    • Premium User Badge

      MinisterofDOOM says:

      Oh, I know how to laugh at myself. The issue is that no one else does. I remember years ago playing low-gravity screw-around matches in dm_bounce (HL) while we’d take turns being the “target” longjumping the length of the map as another player stood across on the cliff and tried to knock the targets out of the air with crossbow. Brilliant fun. We’d have a key bound to “spawn item_healthkit” so we could heal up and keep going. It wasn’t about scores, it wasn’t about e-genital size. It was about fun. And laughing a lot.

      There’s none of that to be found today. That kind of thing would be considered “cheating” today and is likely to get you banned from servers. Because no one knows how to have any fun. Everyone takes things too seriously. Look at the videos of the MW2 servers with hacks for jumping and infinite ammo, etc. Tons of negative articles about them. But the fact is, if everyone wasn’t so worried about their effing kill/death ratios, those folks wouldn’t be hurting anyone at all. They’re just trying to have a little more fun with the game. 10 years ago those servers would have been met with joyous overpopulation. Today they’re frowned upon. That’s the trend multiplayer gaming has taken. Gamerscore is more important than enjoyment. It’s disgusting.

  46. Zanchito says:

    I don’t usually play online much, because of two main reasons:

    1) Too different skill levels: I work full time, train and teach, besides needing time for being a person, so I don’t have too much time. This means I can’t practice much so I’m not very good at competition. It wouldn’t bother me much if it weren’t for…

    2) Online gamers are the pox: the internet is full of morons waiting to complain and yell about anything and everything. I play games to chill out and have fun, I have no interest in having to put up with idiots who take games as if they were losing money on them. If you don’t like being in a team with random people, play bloody private matches or join a clan, man.

    Anyone here plays League of Legends? It’s free and it’s fun, I wouldn’t mind playing it with reasonable people for a change. :)

    • Zanchito says:

      Damn, I need an edit button…

      Don’t take my point 1) as wanting easier games. I like my strategy to be strategic, complex and involving, and I don’t mind losing if the opponent is better than me. I just would like to have some sort of automatic skill asessment (win/lose ratio?) system in-game so I can be matched with players of similar skill.

  47. Vague-rant says:

    I’m not too serious an RTS player, but I do play them, in part due to having played Tiberium sun to death as a kid. Even with that background I still find some of the newer RTS’s daunting. My friends and I play over LAN occasionally and its more of a laugh than anything else, and I prefer that to the uber precise macros and micros of the modern RTS world.

    As for the movement to non-base building? I don’t know… Whilst they do remove one part they seem to intensify the emphasis on unit control, so overall I’m going to say there’s no overall change.

  48. Asskicker says:

    Ditto, I suck so much at them I need somebody to cover me. :P

  49. archonsod says:

    I tend to find “traditional” RTS’s, and even more modern ones like DoW II terribly dull in multiplayer. I don’t know whether it’s down to the format (watching tiny little men shoot each other is not quite as exciting as putting a bullet through someone’s head in first person), the mechanics or the lack of tactics (or in some cases strategy) that does it.