Interview: Talkin’ ‘Bout The End Of Nations

By Adam Smith on March 3rd, 2012 at 10:08 am.

The future does not look pleasant
I’m rubbish at multiplayer RTS games, my fingers are unable to keep up with my brain and eventually I shut down entirely, wondering how it’s possible for my opponent to have so many
units. To my surprise, I wasn’t entirely rubbish at End of Nations when I sat down to play it recently. During the session, I found time to talk with producer Chris Lena and, among other things, asked how Petroglyph’s MMORTS will encourage different styles of play, and how the team are hoping to balance character progression, strategy and teamwork.

RPS: Hello! Before we go into anything more specific, could you just talk a little about why you decided to have the MMO layer on your RTS?

Lena: Well, I think in the RTS genre the same game has been made, almost, a lot for the last ten years. We found ourselves playing more MMORPGs and even now FPS games have become more persistent and online, so it occurred to us as lovers of the RTS genre, why hasn’t that happened? It seemed obvious at first but then we worked through a lot of problems.

RPS: Nothing is as simple as it seems.

Lena: It was a lot harder than we thought! But that’s great, because then it evolves into something that works. We said to ourselves, we make a good RTS game and if we like some element of an MMO but it doesn’t fit in the RTS then we just dump it. That was the key to us finding a good formula.

RPS: What kind of things got dumped along the way?

Lena: One of the things we talked about in the past was this persistent headquarters that was off the map. It was really cool, it looked cool and lots was going on there, but the other day we realised it wasn’t really adding to the RTS aspect of the game. Maybe later on we’ll figure out a good way to add that back but if it’s not having a real effect on what people are doing, let’s not have it in there. We’ve got enough problems to deal with and concentrate on!

RPS: Was the metagame always in place?

Lena: Always always always. That idea of persistence and having an effect on the world, a living world, it’s always been a key element.

RPS: And presumably it’s not just one world. How many servers are you planning to have?

Lena: As many people as we have! Each shard will have their individual metagame.

RPS: Is it possible, with this battle across the globe, for one side to be so badly beaten that they’re just screwed and can’t recover?

Lena: One thing that we’re doing is that we’re approaching it almost as a sport, so there will be a season. Every two or three months, or whatever amount we decide, there’ll be a winner declared and we’ll restart. We’re also talking about the possibility of an early victory if somehow one faction really rolls over the other one. Maybe then you’ll get a super victory.

RPS: When I think of RTS pro-gaming I think of people clicking a mouse 5,000 times a second and End of Nations doesn’t seem to lend itself to that, which I like.

Lena: We still have that aspect of being able to micro-manage units but we don’t have that basebuilding part that really splits your brain.

RPS: As soon as you have the preparation, where you choose to build your army, it takes away from the speed element a little. It lends more strategy and less speed.

Lena: That’s exactly what we’re trying to do and we think that does a couple of things: it’s a more interesting strategic battle rather than a more physical contest, and it’s more accessible to people who have left the RTS genre. Although there’s a lot to it, you can concentrate more directly on what you’re looking at, and being multiplayer you don’t have the stress of being the one on one guy who gets beaten over and over again until you finally learn the game.

RPS: I am that guy.

Lena: As part of a team, you can learn and ease into it.

RPS: Based on what I just played, it’s almost like a raid, you’re looking for people who complement what you can do.

Lena: Right. And everyone can play a role and that role isn’t necessarily hectic. It may be a support role at first.

RPS: And in the 28 vs 28 battles, it’s going to require a lot of community planning to make sure teams work well together. What kind of tools will be in place to help with that? Is there any kind of structure outside the game for that planning?

Lena: Yeah, we have the basic clan system with different levels of people and their own individual chat channel that they can communicate through. We expect people to use some voice solutions. We make the team size four, so when it’s 28 against 28 it’s really seven teams of four on each side. In that way we’re breaking people down into squads.

On the bigger maps though, it’s really about map design, so there’s a lot of different objectives that have to be done in order to win.

RPS: Different squads going their own way to achieve different objectives?

Lena: That’s right. And you have your general perhaps, the guys leading the squads.

RPS: Was there ever an idea of having a person with oversight who isn’t a unit controller? A commander role?

Lena: We never really entertained that idea. At least for this game, we thought that creating a separate game on top of the game was a distraction we didn’t want for now. It’s possible but it’s not something on the horizon.

RPS: If you do take on more of a support role, maybe it’s possible to have that kind of oversight anyway?

Lena: Right. There’s no reason somebody can’t take that role and I think that’s a real challenge for people who are serious about RTS games. Are they up for the challenge of trying to organise other people while also looking after your own units, because that’s a challenge they’ve never really had before.

RPS: And how important is the campaign? I didn’t even realise there was a single player component until today!

Lena: Well, it’s intended to be played multiplayer but it can be played alone.

RPS: But it has a narrative?

Lena: Yeah, a strong narrative. Some people are only interested in a campaign and some people are only interested in PvP. We want to make a fully functional RTS game, a high quality game, and that includes a campaign, PvP matches, and we have the freedom to roll it out in separate pieces because we’re a free-to-play game. The campaign is also a good way to learn.

RPS: That’s often the case, perhaps increasingly, that a campaign is in many ways an extended tutorial. It’s the way that you learn and prepare yourself for PvP.

Lena: Yeah.

RPS: But in terms of the fiction, even during the missions we played today there are story elements.

Lena: The fiction is very important. Even if you’re playing a PvP match and you’re not thinking about it at all, we want the strong backbone of story that makes it coherent. Even if you don’t realise it when you’re playing, it’s there. The campaign will obviously put it across more strongly, but we’re trying to feed it in everywhere we can.

Every map has a video intro that explains what to do, but it’s all ficitonalised so you get the story that way as well. I don’t know if you noticed that we have the company commanders? Those hero units are people from the fiction, again plugging in the story. And when you’re doing an online game with persistence, you want people to feel attached. Longevity is the key to success in this case and story provides that.

RPS: There’s a strong aesthetic too. Is there ever a conflict between having that art design that fits the fiction and the world, and then having the sillier cosmetic purchases on top of that?

Lena: I think it works. You can’t take yourself too seriously. The game has to be fun. Being able to paint your tanks with zebra stripes, I don’t think that is going to destroy the fiction for anyone. We’re good with it!

RPS: And all the pay elements are cosmetic and XP boosts, not pay-to-win?

Lena: Absolutely.

RPS: You said earlier that you want to introduce new content until the end of the world, but new maps and playable content will be available to everyone so nobody is shut out?

Lena: That’s right. That’s the plan.

RPS: So the entire commercial aspect is through the in-game shops?

Lena: Yeah, pretty much. We think we have a system that’s very fair. This game in particular really suits the model, because there’s an inherent balancing model in the units you bring into the battle, and the point cost of a squad.

So even if you have one hundred versions of a tank, for instance, you can only take in ‘x’ many. You always have to unlock a vehicle to get it and then if you want multiple copies you can use in-game wealth or real currency, but if you have 30 tanks that just gives you the flexibility of building more companies, it doesn’t really give you an advantage. Even when you play for the first time you’ll have enough units to join a company.

RPS: And as people progress and they unlock things in terms of units and abilities, can everybody unlock everything or do players choose a path?

Lena: No, absolutely not, they can’t have everything. There’s a limited number of ability points to go down the tech tree, so even among the classes there’s specialisation.

RPS: So as soon as you start playing and choosing a path, you’re creating a certain kind of commander?

Lena: You’re choosing an emphasis. And you can further emphasise that…emphasis…through the modifications on your vehicles.

RPS: Do these specialisations have MMORPG type names attached when you discuss them internally? Do you have the equivalent of a tank and a medic, or does it not break down so neatly?

Lena: In some areas but usually not. We find that in this game, as a commander, you’re much more multi-purpose than you would be in most MMORPGs. It’s more like having tactical structures and those structures do a bunch of different things.

RPS: The question about giving names to specialisations probably relates to this idea of teams of four; how do they balance each other? Are teams made up of people whose abilities complement one another or can an entire squad be specialised for a certain task?

Lena: It’s based on both loadout and player ability. First of all, the two factions play very differently and the classes have a huge impact. For instance, take the Liberation Front, they have a Spartan class and a Patriot class. The Spartan is a little better at tanks and defense, very slow moving, so it’s a good defender. It can take a lot of damage. I guess you could even call it a ‘tank’ if you’re going to do that (laughs)!

The Patriot has a little more utility to it, a little more variety, but both of them still have infantry and tanks and aircraft. And then the emphasis really comes in during loadout. Choosing to bring in infantry, tanks, to play a certain role based on what you’re bringing in with you, although there are emphases in the classes themselves and within the factions.

RPS: In terms of the enemy faction, The Order of Nations, they have their own unique abilities and units, and those can’t be player-controlled ever, can they?

Lena: Not currently! But we’re a living, breathing game so if we want to do that later, we sure can.

RPS: Is there space to move the fiction forward as well?

Lena: Oh, yeah.

RPS: And that could involve developments that create new factions?

Lena: Yeah, we would like to do that.

RPS: Going back to strategy and speed, because as someone who used to love playing RTS games in multiplayer but got left behind it interests me -

Lena: (laughs) You’re exactly the person we hope to get involved!

RPS: Well, my fear is always that if I divide a game into two things, strategy and speed, a lot of games allow speed without a great deal of strategy to be much more useful than strategy without a great deal of speed. The balance has tipped away from me! Do you want End of Nations to tip it back?

Lena: It’s interesting, especially with the multiplayer PvP maps, that with any one map there are different roles to take. If you are really slow physically then you can focus in on a defensive role, sending team mates to a victory point and then moving in and sitting on it, protecting it. Being successful without being physically fast. But if you’re the type of player who likes to have lots of different units, you could have six different types, say, which means you have six different abilities to use.

Micromanaging at that point is very important to be successful. So the two player types can and probably should exist on the same map together. Helping each other.

RPS: My tendency today has been to pick the loadout with the least types of unit so that I can learn how each one works, methodically. Some people jump straight in to the more complex stuff. Whenever I play an RTS online, I panic because I think I’m going to be against one of those multitasking gods, but I quite like the idea of having one of them on my team.

Lena: Yeah, you order him around, tell him to go and take a strategic point for you and then go in and bed down, set up defensive structures and let that guy micromanage his bits and pieces.

RPS: Which kind of allows me to take on the command role.

Lena: Absolutely, yeah.

RPS: In terms of the metagame, with the seasons and resets, you reckon two or three months?

Lena: It’ll come through in testing but we’re thinking that kind of length. Long enough that it’s a full campaign but short enough that people can always see the end. We think that space in between is going to be really key to keeping people interested, looking back over what happened and preparing to start again. The restart is going to be a little boost for them.

RPS: And people will come out the other end having been hammered or having steamrolled somebody, or maybe a close thing –

Lena: I think it’ll be close! (laughs) But that’s the thing with having a persistent game, we’ll see.

RPS: With the unlocks, you’re actual ‘character’ in game never resets, that remains?

Lena: Yeah, your collection of things always stays, that never gets taken away.

RPS: And how many characters can people have per account?

Lena: We’re not sure, but it’s a free to play game so people can always just create a new account! There’s no point in limiting people to a certain faction or build. People can switch out but each commander, each character, has a unique name.

RPS: One thing about persistent worlds and characters, and this is true pretty much across the board I think, in the world it’s possible to be pushed back or to gain ground, but a character is always going forwards, never backwards. In terms of the philosophy of that design, do you have any thoughts on that?

Lena: Yeah, that’s true. Our power differential between first level and max level is not as pronounced, because we want to keep competition a little tighter. But we always want a sense of progression and we will continue to add to the game and add new tools for someone to respect, change or create new character.

We want players to feel like they are always progressing and able to pick up new skills, or rethink and rejig what they’re doing. That’s an important part of feeling connected to the game.

RPS: You never want people to feel like they’ve put themselves in a corner?

Lena: Exactly. Plus we have, compared to some other massively multiplayer games, a lot of replayability on maps, so learning a map can lead to new strategies and play styles.

RPS: And we’re getting the look, which means we’re out of time. Is there anything you’d like to add before I go back to playing the game?

Lena: Just that we’re really excited to finally get to this point.

RPS: How long has it been?

Lena: Three years plus. I’ve been on the project for two years.

RPS: And is this the first time people outside the company have played so much of the game?

Lena: We’ve shown it a few times, but now we’re actually doing alpha testing and moving into beta testing. So we can show the armoury, 1vs1, 12vs12, so we can finally show how it all fits together. It’s a really hard game to talk about because we’re doing so many things that are new, so it’s good to let people get their hands on it.

RPS: The letters MMORTS made me think I’d be fighting everybody straight away, but the first thing I saw today was a battle against AI.

Lena: Yeah, we hope to surprise people!

RPS: Thanks for your time.

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38 Comments »

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  1. GT3000 says:

    Even in an “Alpha State” it’s an incredibly tight and articulate game. I expect great things, incredibly disappointed at the lack of the off-map “base” they were suppose to implement.

  2. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    The last Petroglyph title I played was Universe at War, which I’m rather fond of. Can’t wait to try this out.

  3. Duckee says:

    What does the actual game-play feel like? Lightweight, arcady, tactical, rock paper scissor, realistic? Which game is it the most similar to in terms of gameplay; Tiberium Sun/Wars, Generals, Company of Heroes/Dawn of War, World in Conflict, Supreme Commander?

  4. Jutranjo says:

    I don’t particularly like the idea of an RTS where what tools/units I have depends on how much time I’ve put into it. Unless the units you unlock are bland copies of the starting tanks you won’t even learn how to properly use the units you have until you’re max level.

    If speed isn’t going to be important, are they going to just remove micromanaging your units? There should always be room to get more out of directly controlling units, in the extreme each one individually. Are we talking Dawn of War 2 amounts of units?

    • Steven Hutton says:

      That kind of thinking is why I refuse to play starcraft. I just don’t want to spend my time doing a series of very small, very fast, rote actions to maximise my damage in a particular combat.

      If a game is “a series of interesting decisions” then too much (or poorly thought out) micro is barely even a game. You’re hardly even making decisions, just executing a predetermined sequence of actions as efficiently as possible. Quite apart from the question of whether those kinds of micro-scale decisions are interesting – which they’re not.

      (Insert spirited defense of DoW2 here).

      Also, to answer your question (instead of just getting pissy for no reason): It’s by petroglyph many of whom are former westwood staff. So it’ll likely play a bit like some of the older command and conquers (hopefully). And it seems like the units are in the 20-40 individual units range.

    • onodera says:

      I hate the micromanaging culture in RTS. One of the Spring games goes so far to avoid it that it micros your units itself: the faster units kite, etc.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, and I particularly like the use of Meier to rip that form of “gameplay” apart. This part really encouraged me:

      RPS: Going back to strategy and speed, because as someone who used to love playing RTS games in multiplayer but got left behind it interests me –
      Lena: (laughs) You’re exactly the person we hope to get involved!

      With regards to unit unlocks…let’s just hope it’s not C&C4.

    • Jutranjo says:

      Then don’t call Civilization, the epitome of a series of interesting decisions, a game. The genre is real time strategy, or I suppose MMORTS here. Half the point is it being real time. Or at least a major part.

      edit: Alright misread the 1st bit

    • Droopy The Dog says:

      He’s saying that a “series of interesting decisions” is what makes defines a game, not the opposite. Think you got the wrong end of the stick there.

      That said, saying all micro is inherently uninteresting is just a bit mental. There’s certainly a bad kind of micro that requires you to do things manually when there’s only one sensible course of action that an AI could easily handle instead. But there’s just as much opportunity for meaningful micro which is essentially snap tactical descision making and adds further depth to any strategy.

      For example a feinted attack that then kites off defenders to the side just enough to allow some form of glass cannon units to close with a high value target through the sliver of FoW the defenders have lost LoS into.

      The details of how you execute a stratagem with that level of finesse are certainly still interesting.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      Ok, sure. I’ll cop to that. There are absolutely good and bad kinds of micro and it’s perfectly possible to have micro management of individual units that is interesting.

      I’ll give some examples of what I think counts as good and bad micro.

      And example of bad micro, many units with individually targeted abilities. You have a unit which is strong against infantry but weak against tanks. However, this unit has an ability in which it fires a single powerful shot that is very strong against tanks. So, when confronted by a group of tanks you’ll select each unit in turn, activate its ability then select an enemy tank to fire on. Repeat until all of your units have used the ability. This means you have to take three actions, select unit, activate ability, select target, for each unit that you want to attack. All of this for what is basically one decision (use anti-tank ability). A better way of doing this would be to rework the ability into a self buff for these units, temporarily increasing their damage against tanks. One decision (damage armour), one action (trigger buff). Individually targeting the abilities of many units isn’t interesting micro, I’ve made the decision, I want to use the ability, asking me to make fifteen individual clicks to execute my decision is just poor design.

      This is not to mention the fact that this is just a stupid ability. It deals high damage to tanks so I’m just going to use it as soon as I see a tank. That’s not an interesting decision, it’s hardly a decision at all. There’s rarely going to be a situation in which more damage is going to be bad.

      Not that there aren’t ways to make an ability of this type interesting. Dawn of War2’s melta bombs work quite well. Largely because using them is an interesting decision. The melta bomb has a high energy (mana) cost that means the player has to choose between the melta-bomb and it’s other (very powerful) ability. It has a long cooldown meaning A) I’m not constantly cycling through my units looking to use their abilities as soon as they’re ready and B) I’m going to want to save the ability ’til it is needed, not wanting to waste it at the wrong time. It also deals huge damage so when I do use it there’s an worthwhile pay-off. Also, vehicles are easily repaired and quite fast in DoW2 so there’s a decision to be made about whether I want to use the melta bomb early (potentially driving the vehicle to retreat) or late (longer fight but with a greater potential to kill the vehicle once it gets to low health).

      Using this ability at the right time, in the right place, against the right target is much more important than being able to click to activate/target the ability in 0.03 of a second.

      Also, this ability is different in that it has a timer. After it hits an enemy tank it will stick to the target and countdown for a few seconds before exploding for serious damage. During this time the opponent has to make a decision about whether to retreat and repair, give up the tank for dead or accept the damage and press the attack. The decision to use the melta-bomb forces another decision in the other player.

      This is to my mind the difference between good and bad micro. Good is when I control exactly what my units do and I’m making interesting, consequential decisions about what actions they take. Bad micro is when I’m controlling exactly what my units do because they’re too fucking stupid to fight properly.

      Edit – wow, long post, Who am I? Wulf?

    • Steven Hutton says:

      Ok, sure. I’ll cop to that. There are absolutely good and bad kinds of micro and it’s perfectly possible to have micro management of individual units that is interesting.

      I’ll give some examples of what I think counts as good and bad micro.

      And example of bad micro, many units with individually targeted abilities. You have a unit which is strong against infantry but weak against tanks. However, this unit has an ability in which it fires a single powerful shot that is very strong against tanks. So, when confronted by a group of tanks you’ll select each unit in turn, activate its ability then select an enemy tank to fire on. Repeat until all of your units have used the ability. This means you have to take three actions, select unit, activate ability, select target, for each unit that you want to attack. All of this for what is basically one decision (use anti-tank ability). A better way of doing this would be to rework the ability into a self buff for these units, temporarily increasing their damage against tanks. One decision (damage armour), one action (trigger buff). Individually targeting the abilities of many units isn’t interesting micro, I’ve made the decision, I want to use the ability, asking me to make fifteen individual clicks to execute my decision is just poor design.

      This is not to mention the fact that this is just a stupid ability. It deals high damage to tanks so I’m just going to use it as soon as I see a tank. That’s not an interesting decision, it’s hardly a decision at all. There’s rarely going to be a situation in which more damage is going to be bad.

      Not that there aren’t ways to make an ability of this type interesting. Dawn of War2’s melta bombs work quite well. Largely because using them is an interesting decision. The melta bomb has a high energy (mana) cost that means the player has to choose between the melta-bomb and it’s other (very powerful) ability. It has a long cooldown meaning A) I’m not constantly cycling through my units looking to use their abilities as soon as they’re ready and B) I’m going to want to save the ability ’til it is needed, not wanting to waste it at the wrong time. It also deals huge damage so when I do use it there’s an worthwhile pay-off. Also, vehicles are easily repaired and quite fast in DoW2 so there’s a decision to be made about whether I want to use the melta bomb early (potentially driving the vehicle to retreat) or late (longer fight but with a greater potential to kill the vehicle once it gets to low health).

      Using this ability at the right time, in the right place, against the right target is much more important than being able to click to activate/target the ability in 0.03 of a second.

      Also, this ability is different in that it has a timer. After it hits an enemy tank it will stick to the target and countdown for a few seconds before exploding for serious damage. During this time the opponent has to make a decision about whether to retreat and repair, give up the tank for dead or accept the damage and press the attack. The decision to use the melta-bomb forces another decision in the other player.

    • Jutranjo says:

      Sure, making you use a seemingly non decision ability on tanks might be bad design, unless it counts your attention as another resource. If you have to split your time between managing your base and units or even units in more than one place you suddenly have to decide where you wish to use your time gaining extra potential out of your units. It’s only an inarguably bad design decision if there is only ever one point of focus in your RTS or rather only this one type of unit. You might have 2-3 different kinds whereupon the decision is which one of these you think will gain you the best advantage.

      Not having this just puts the game closer to WoW supposedly brain dead click buttons to do rotation (PvE or a bit less in PvP) or all the CoDs of the world.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      I disagree. you can count attention as a resource and still give me meaningful things to do.

      If we’ve established that giving the player a bunch of meaningless (and therefore tedious) busywork to do during the game is a bad idea. Then I don’t see how it can possibly be good design to say “but there’s SO MUCH busy work that you can’t possibly do it all!”.

      The actions per minute culture in Starcraft seems to be a consequence of this kind of design. If you have to do 120 actions in a minute then the best thing to do is train to be able to do 100+ actions in a minute. When two players are making the same moves in a game (because the moves are trivially obvious) and the winner is decided by who can do those moves most quickly, that’s real time but it’s not really strategy.

    • Jutranjo says:

      Instead of making things not be automated, you could give the player’s camera a limited fuel budget so he cannot observer and control everywhere, replacing his actual attention with an in game mechanic. Then you could slow down the game as well if you wanted to. This feels clumsier though.

      Attention/APM is a resource.
      You have 500 points income per minute. Do you spend these on 10 infantry that cost 50 points each, make more barracks at 100 points so later on you will be able to make more infantry or do you make more bases at 400 each for more points income.

      You have 120 actions per minute. Do you spend it controlling your units better than the default AI in the direct engagement or try to avoid said engagement, keep your base working, or command a flanking attack around the enemy’s forces. You can also save yourself some APM by building base defences so you do not need to focus so much on opponent’s attacks/flanks there.

  5. Tom OBedlam says:

    Bob Dylan reference?

  6. kzrkp says:

    Still waiting for a beta invite. :(

    • Talamira says:

      They are not doing invites yet. However if you like them on facebook, they have been posting multi use beta keys for the first 20 or 100 visitors. I’ve already managed to wrangle ones for me and my fiancee.

  7. Brosepholis says:

    Gist of this interview:

    RPS: Starcraft is too hard for me!

    Lena: That’s OK, we’ve removed all the hard parts of the genre. Macro, micro, both gone. Your granny could probably beat you, it’s so easy!

    • PleasingFungus says:

      In this episode, we discuss the word ‘elitism’ and how it relates to contemporary gaming culture.

    • DK says:

      Any who thinks Starcraft is a good example of the genre can piss right off anyway. Starcraft is a bundle of bad design enshrined forever unchanging because “it’s always been that way”. See manual Larva Injections as the ultimate in brain-dead gamedesign.

      Everything that CAN be automated, has to be a toggle that gives the player the option to HAVE it automated.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      Brosepholis represents the other end of the terrible ‘bro’ spectrum.

    • Jutranjo says:

      If you decide the player’s attention is a resource not everything has to be automated. Things suddenly get a cost attached, see my other post. Larva inject is in almost all cases the best course of action except possibly skipping it early for creep tumors or saving energy later to heal bigger units. It also costs you 1-2 seconds not looking at your fragile units or making you stop actively harassing with mutalisks. Maybe you delay the inject a few seconds till you know that your mutas are safe from marines and thors for a few seconds so you can inject.

      Point is, it might not be game design you like but it isn’t brain-dead design.

    • luckystriker says:

      “Any who thinks Starcraft is a good example of the genre can piss right off anyway.”

      I usually ignore the SC2 hate on RPS and chalk it down to personal preference. I understand the logic behind disliking the game and why many prefer DoW and CoH; after all, I too loved those games and played the shit out of them. But to call SC2 a shit game just because you dislike its design choices is just going too far. I find SC2 to be an incredibly fast-paced, almost perfectly balanced and highly strategic game that is bloody difficult to play. This is what I love about it- and I’m sure many people out there feel the same way. As jutrangjo has pointed out many times, the most precious resource in the game is not minerals or gas; it’s your attention.

      The funny thing is, I’m not very good at SC2. I barely micro because I don’t have the time/apm for it. I spend my in-game time thinking about scouting, “probes and pylons”, build orders and expansion timings, that’s it. That’s my level of suckiness, but I’m utterly absorbed and concentrated when playing the game and it doesn’t ruin the experience by putting me up against immeasurably superior players; I always know why I lost from looking at the replay. DoW2 was far and away a more micro intensive game that at the same time left me wanting something more to do with my time when playing multiplayer competitively.

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  9. dsi1 says:

    What is up with the notion that XP boosts aren’t pay to win?

    You’re paying to get ahead, getting ahead means more power, and more power means more winning.

    • CobraFive says:

      One assumes that players are matched relative to their level.

      Paying to level faster means, sure, you get your stronger men faster, but you go up against stronger men sooner, too.

      Its a pretty standard notion in F2P games and in none of them that I’ve played has it been an issue. In fact just the opposite, strictly free players often have an advantage of experience over ones that have boosted, where for example say if I got to level 30 in 100 matches after boosting up, the guy I’m facing got to level 30 over 200 matches and has quite a bit more experience then me.

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  11. Dreforian says:

    First, HI (first time commenter, long time reader). I love RPS writers and comments because they (you) make me feel like I’m not the only one in the universe who has played some of the games I considered my most favorite. THEREFORE I’m gonna be that guy who remembers and mention Shattered Galaxy. The MMO-RTS has definitely been done before and, (at least in the beta) done well. Got messy after release when they tried different balancing models but prior to that it was my dream game. To this day it’s still the only pvp oriented online game that didn’t make me smoke from the ears or smash my peripherals.
    Now that I think about it, it was kind of like Mech Commander which was mentioned in another recent article’s comments, only more persistenter-er. You could purchase units to fill out your hanger, decide loadouts and choose what to deploy. The number of units you could deploy simultaneously was limited so you had to make similar decisions too; drop a firepower unit for a sensor unit? Send fast/light units to blitz points of contention or slow/powerful units to hold important positions for the long haul? Shattered Galaxy had this, and because of the focus on players controlling small squads it evaded the scourge of APM. It left tactics to the individual while sharing the strategy amongst your teammates so you didn’t need inhuman reflexes and perfect judgement to have a chance at victory.

    Really it was a game that a computer could never play on its own, pitting intellect against intellect instead of merely decision tree against decision tree. This was in large part due to the format of battles. The “meta” game involved the fact that the world map was divided into territories and battles only happened when members of opposing factions tried to occupy the same territory. Peak hours saw forces arrayed against each other across the planet fighting potentially grueling battles and ever shifting territorial borders. In off hours, a single player could claim most of the map unchallanged, but another player could just as easily cancel those gains with his own stint of landgrabbing. It was a self regulating system that could essentially change the style of gameplay just by it being a different time of day. You could engage in small skirmishes and chases around the map at lunch or jump into a massive slugfest before bed. I think Shattered Galaxy truly realized the MMORTS because of these things. Some of the modern offerings (read: attempts) seem to be more like glorified matchmaking services for the traditional RTS multiplayer format. In my opinion, that misses the “MMORTS” mark. Of course I haven’t really given every modern offering an in depth try so I’m operating on what I’ve read.

    TLDR: you crazy kids think you made somethin’ brand new? Shattered Galazy HOLLA;
    Also, any modern suggestions for SG/ Mech Commander/ Hegemonia fans like me?

    Opinion, away!

    • marcusfell says:

      Shouldn’t you go play the game you love instead of talking about it? Or can you not find someone to play it with?

      I never heard of SG, but now I can’t help but look into it.

    • Catfishsupreme says:

      Looking into it now.

  12. Dreforian says:

    @marcusfell
    I played it in beta, ~in high school~. This is when Runescape had only 2 realms if that helps you to visualize how long ago this was. I didn’t buy it at release because I only got computer games on holidays back then, plus I wasn’t into paying a sub. When it had free trials I tried going back several times but it just wasn’t the same, especially when they changed up the equipment balancing system. Now it’s ages old as far as online communities go. You’re right though, I could go and check it out again. It’s more free than it used to be and I’m pretty much retired from WoW for life….

    edit: curse my RPS comment noobality
    edit: I guess my really real message is, EoN didn’t do it first, but what it’s doing is a good thing for the RTS world. I just hope that however they plan to make money from it doesn’t cancel out its strengths.
    Also, SG STILL LIVES YET!

  13. crinkles esq. says:

    “The future does not look pleasant” …or Syria, for that matter. I love RTS games, but as much as things may superficially look apocalyptic and broken, they sure do provide a very clean view of war in terms of the cost to civilians. And this “sports” approach End of Nations is taking to war sure doesn’t help. I find it a bit distasteful that they’ve gone to the trouble of designing these bombed-out cities to fight in, yet treat the conflict as a sports match. I guess most people who play war games don’t want to deal with the harsh realities, horrors, and ethical conflicts inherent in wars, and just want to focus on strategy. Perhaps that’s one answer to why “RTS games have been the same game the past 10 years.”

    Has there ever been an RTS game where civilians were present on the battlefield? I can’t think of one.

    As I was writing this, Dylan’s Talkin’ World War 3 Blues came on. Funny that.

    • Dreforian says:

      I can totally see war ~simulation~ as a sub genre of RTS happening, but I don’t think it belongs at the core of what an RTS must have to be good. Like any other feature, including civilians has to be considered for its contribution to gameplay mechanics, story, etc. I think including civvies just to have them around as potential collateral damage isn’t necessarily compelling in and of itself.
      Also, I can think of some games that had civilians: C&C series (not so much in the later games), Warcraft 3, Starcraft 1/2, Company of Heroes. I do have to agree though that the civilian cost of war has not been a main focus in the RTS genre for quite a long time. Treating “war” like a sport does seem a bit disingenuous too. I guess it’s difficult for the industry to separate heavily armed strategic contests from the theme of all out war.