End Of Nations Devs Reveal Throwback RTS Grey Goo

By Nathan Grayson on March 14th, 2014 at 12:00 pm.

Strategy, presumably unfolding in real time.

When I first heard about Grey Goo, I assumed it was some kind of World-of-Goo-style puzzler, except all gritty and probably about a goo blob with No Family, No Loyalties, And Nothing Left To Lose. I was woefully, hideously incorrect, but can you blame me? Grey Goo isn’t really what I would’ve titled an RTS that attempts to hearken back to the genre’s golden age, but former End of Nations developer Petroglyph is sticking with it, so here we are. In the wake of Victory’s sobering defeat, the recently beleaguered studio is going back to what it knows best. Base building, three unique factions, and a handful of profoundly important decisions instead of 100 inconsequential ones. Debut trailer below.

So that was… insubstantial. The Grey Goo website offers a whole lot more, though, including screenshots of the actual game and plentiful information. Here’s the gist:

“Grey Goo is a real-time strategy game with roots in classic strategy mechanics. Utilizing traditional base building as its core, the game aims to reinvent the modern standard of RTS gaming by placing emphasis on tactics over micro-management. By freeing players from having to issue hundreds of orders in a match, each decision is made more valuable and can mean the difference between victory and defeat.”

“At the heart of Grey Goo lie three unique factions whose functionality and strategies vary significantly from one another. Whether it’s the adaptive Beta, the impervious humans, or the unpredictable Goo, players are sure to find the play style they’re looking for. Don’t get too comfortable though. Skill with your preferred faction is no replacement for truly understanding your enemy.”

So far only one faction has been detailed, with the Beta being described as spacefaring “Guardians of Legacy.” They sound kinda Protoss-y, basically, but their units and tech are more mechanized.

It’ll be interesting to see what sorts of roles the other factions end up playing, though I do worry that this could end up stumbling over the “throwback” line and right into generic territory. Title aside, Grey Goo looks and sounds nice enough, but what sets it apart? Petroglyph claims it has “one faction in particular that is unlike anything players have ever played before,” but it’s not talking details yet.

Grey Goo is coming to Steam at the end of 2014, and it’ll offer multiple competitive and co-op modes in addition to LAN play. It sounds pretty solid and Petroglyph has the track record to back it up, but I’m not quite sold. I’m not sure if I want another RTS that’s like the classics but also ever-so-slightly different. I’ve already sunk countless hours into series like StarCraft and Command & Conquer. But maybe that’s just me. What do you think?

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32 Comments »

  1. tsmike says:

    It sounds pretty solid and Petroglyph has the track record to back it up

    It does? Most of their games have been failures, right?

    • Sardonic says:

      Seriously, Rise of Immortals is the worst version of Dota ever, which is saying something.

    • Kushan says:

      Their “track record” is Command & Conquer but realistically, when was the last time we had a good C&C game? More to the point, when was the last time we had a good C&C game from them? You’re talking RA2, which is 2000 (or Yuri’s Revenge, which is 2001). Anything Petroglyph has made since they became Petroglyph hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire.

      Still, I’m cautiously optimistic that them going “back to their roots” will bring back some of that C&C greatness that once was.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Anything Petroglyph has made since they became Petroglyph hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire.

        Well, yes. Westwood Studios‘ track record was awesome, but whatever fragment shattered out into Petroglyph no longer seems to have the right mix of talent.

        • TechnicalBen says:

          That’s a nice way to put it. They probably do work really hard. But just as a game with all artists lacks programming/gameplay finesse, a game with no art is difficult to digest/interface with.

          Having a nice mixture of both really helps. So I wonder if some of what is needed for a complete gaming experience was lost in the split of so many studios past.

    • ThTa says:

      Their recent games have been failures, for sure. (Nearly all of them were F2P games that got shut down within a year. And EoN was that with ten times the budget, so the sunk cost fallacy had it sputtering on for a bit longer.)

      But I’m pretty sure the Empire at War games were successful. And while Universe at War was a commercial failure, it wasn’t an outright bad game. It had some pretty terrific parts that were both excellent in concept and execution (most notably the faction diversity, which supports their claims here), as well as some unfortunate failings (Games for Windows Live, even if it did allow for PC vs Xbox 360 multiplayer in the only genre where M+KB is even more hilariously mismatched than FPS), so personally, I’m pretty excited for them making another game along those lines. It’s not like I’ll lose anything if they fail, and I do believe they have the potential to succeed.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        Yes it was ouright bad. Literally everything Petroglyph has made has been TERRIBLE. They simply do not know how to make good RTS games (and considering their MOBA attempt, it looks like they don’t know how to make good GAMES, full stop.) They are utterly terrible at UI, utterly terrible at coding, utterly terrible at unit AI. The only thing they have is good faction design, good concept artists and good music (and I’m fairly sure they lost the CnC Music guy so that whole bulletpoint is gone too).

        Journalists need to stop using idiotic phrases like: “It sounds pretty solid and Petroglyph has the track record to back it”, when that is clearly not the case and has never been the case.

      • Premium User Badge

        FriendlyFire says:

        Empire at War was reasonably successful, largely because Star Wars, but I still think that it had some of the worst ground combat of any RTS ever, and that’s like a solid third of the game. Space combat was extremely average (2D plane, terrible sense of scale, annoying maps), especially when you recall that this came *after* Homeworld.

        Universe at War was okay, but also felt really generic and personally didn’t hold my interest for particularly long. The fact they tried to make it for consoles also didn’t help it, as they had to simplify many things in the wrong ways so that a controller would be viable.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    That sounds familiar. Goo, nanobots, emphasis away from micromanagement. Perimeter‘s legacy lives on?

    • KDR_11k says:

      Grey goo made me think of Perimeter but I don’t think it actually matches that well, for an actual grey goo gameplay I’d look at Creeper World which is about fighting a liquid that simply consumes everything (the player’s side is based on Perimeter but the enemy is not and the enemy is what reminds me of grey goo).

      Also I don’t see how Perimeter was low on micro, not only did you have to manually click your units together (“how many engineers do I need exactly for X of this unit?”) but you only had a cap of 250 base units which translated to maybe 5-20 combat units so micro was crucial for using them (especially since range was calculated from the edge of the circle around all units of a squad so spreading your units out via movement tricks allowed them to shoot further). The perimeter shield itself was also a form of microing turret combat and then you had the terraforming and other terrain stuff that could be used as a weapon or defense.

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        Don Reba says:

        Not to be condescending, but you seem to have been playing Perimeter wrong. Broadly speaking, there are quantity-based RTSs and there are rate-based RTSs. Perimeter is of the latter kind.

        Normally, you would be constantly producing units and almost constantly attacking; you would choose the ratios of soldier/officer/technician-producing factories to facilitate the kinds of armies that will further you strategy. This becomes more apparent in competitive multiplayer, but few people played it all that much.

        • KDR_11k says:

          Yeah, I never found a human opponent who had any experience with the game so all I managed was what could beat the AI. Though I still fucking hate the unit building interface.

  3. OpT1mUs says:

    @tsmike

    Well SW: Empire At War was kinda good I guess

    • Awesumo says:

      Empire at war was okayish… But if it wasn’t for the Star Wars license no one would of played it.

  4. Horg says:

    Interesting trailer. By claiming that ”War is evolving”, they are boldly stating that they have found a way to break the first rule of War; ”War never changes”. As we have known for almost two decades, the first rule is an irrefutable truth, held in similar regard as ”E=MC²” and ”Dogs can’t look up”. They are not the first to claim that War can be changed, but history has shown us time and time again that those who claim to have done the impossible are mere fraudsters, slapping a fake mustache and comedy wig on the old War and hoping we don’t notice. What do I think, you ask? I say that it cannot be done, as to change the nature of War is to alter one of the great universal constants.

  5. LionsPhil says:

    one faction in particular that is unlike anything players have ever played before

    Gee, I wonder which one it is.

    I also wonder if Petroglyph ever played Perimeter.

  6. Schiraman says:

    It really depends what classics they’re aiming to emulate IMO – I’ve got no interest in a Starcraft-like RTS, but something that takes its inspiration from Dawn of War and/or Total Annihilation/Supreme Commander would get my attention.

    • KDR_11k says:

      I dunno, both DoW and TA are getting modern games made after them (assuming Relic isn’t just idling) so there’s still room for a “standard” RTS.

  7. LionsPhil says:

    Y’know, rather than going on about how you should all fire up C&C1 in DOSBox and enjoy its remarkably solid singleplayer (GDI have some great missions), or that Zero Hour was great, and we could do with more of either rather than yet more Starcraft clones or SAUSAGES, I’m going to say something potentially contentious:

    In terms of “evolving” and exploring new directions in the RTS genre, I wish someone would take another crack at what C&C 4 allegedly tried, without all the encumbrances of an existing series to wildly stray from, or of being EA. “Multiplayer that doesn’t turn into most people sitting out from being crippled or eliminated” was a laudable goal to try.

  8. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    Their RTS games were all good. Shame that Universe at War never got off the ground, having been released in a time when GfWL wanted money for multiplayer, and generally was even more shite than it is now.

  9. Ramshackle Thoughts says:

    Didn’t watch the trailer, so not sure if I’m explaining the explained but…
    ‘Grey Goo’ is an end-of-the-world scenario whereby mankind creates self-replicating nanobots. These bots then subsequently break down EVERYTHING and multiply infinitely until nothing remains but a grey ocean of nanobots.

    Also this looks kinda cool, I am intrigued.

    • KDR_11k says:

      I wonder if Nathan really didn’t know that or if he was just silly to make more of an article.

      Also some people say that life is basically a grey goo scenario being applied to the lifeless Earth.

  10. Kollega says:

    In this day and age, “screw micromanagement” is frankly enough to sell me on an RTS. I’m sick of all RTSes trying to be Starcraft. Red Alert 3 tried to be Starcraft, and it sucked to play despite looking good. Achron tried to be Starcraft, and it didn’t fare too well either. Supreme Commander 2 tried to be Starcraft, and… well… that one deserves a minute of silence. So yeah… if someone made a Red Alert 2-type RTS, I’d be all over it. But since Petroglyph haven’t made anything good in ages, I doubt they can do it now – even if “screw micromanagement” is indeed enough to sell me on an RTS.

    • KDR_11k says:

      There are a lot of games that say “screw micro” but in the end micro benefits you because you’re smarter than the unit AI.

      • LionsPhil says:

        There are still aspects you can do to affect how “micro-y” an RTS is. Aside from all the tunables and AI qualities (how quickly units can kill each-other, pathfinding competence, etc.), there’s big design decisions like if your units have manually-triggered special moves.

        • KDR_11k says:

          Well, okay, you can make a conscious decision to make your game micro focused but even if you don’t want to it may still end up that way. Think about Total Annihilation, people micro their light tanks a lot to dodge shots and such.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Yes, but in TA (or SupComm) that is a lot less essential than, say, Dawn of War 1 (to avoid going all the way to the Starcraft extreme). Maybe the pro-tier types are able to juggle micro and also ramping up economy at the same time, but below that level units are mostly capable enough of being left to their own devices (except perhaps smaller numbers of submarines and their blasted overkill problems) and you can win instead by dealing with them as large death-clouds being pumped out by a terrifyingly strong economic machine.* The advantage gained my micromanagment is not dominant, and you can be competative (if not top-tier) without it.

            (*Which I’m pretty sure we used to call “tank rushing”, but shhhhh.)

          • KDR_11k says:

            My only experience with that is the better players of Spring RTS, they’d usually decide a game with Flash micro before it got to the macro stage.

  11. Thrippy says:

    I was impressed Grey Box (what assemblage of mysterious private rich people is Grey Box?) comissioned Weta Digital to deliver concept art, then dismayed to see the result looks like Starcraft meets Avatar.

    Over the last two years, I’ve played half a dozen east european RTS that tried to introduce “unique game elements never quite seen before” at the expense of making a solid “Go To” RTS that RTS gamers could call a new home. Matter of fact, I just uninstalled them all. But it looks like these guys have more money, a playable build already, and going directly to Steam without any public funding needed to move forward. That in itself is promising and rare. My chief concern is that Petroglyph has enough money to continue patching the game after release. Not being able to fix outstanding bugs, address balance issues and exploits, with ongoing patches in the long term really hurt the company’s reputation.

    I lack confidence in this recent chorus of conventional tenets that: RTS is too clickey for the masses, let’s shoehorn the RTS UI onto a (Steam) gamepad (when many previous console attempts have all failed). To think outside of the the box, you must first perceive the box. I don’t think this is the box. Gimme something new that shuns, dispenses with, boldly sneers at standard RTS tropes. Company of Heroes was new – they made a non-deterministic RTS, which many to this day still do not fundamentally understand why that was awesomely new.

    Otherwise I’m going to assume the grey goo faction is just yet another warmed over rushing/swarming Zerg faction in just another asmmetrical tri-race RTS clone (like the bunch I just uninstalled).

  12. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Are you absolutely sure that this game isn’t actually called GREY 600 and someone just chose a terrible font?