RPS Asks: Do You Play Online RTS?

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.


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.


  1. Boldoran says:

    Is there an RTS that favors a turtleing playstyle over rushers in multiplayer mode? I prefer to play defensivly. Maybe such a game would be boring because no one would wan’t to take the risk of being the first to attack. But I still prefer a bit of a slower pace instead of the mad rushing that many online RTS are.

  2. Heliocentric says:

    Rushing doesn’t work in perimeter. Or play sots as hivers who are literally incapable of rushing moving at their fastest about 30 times slower than the fastest alien (to them) fleet.

  3. Ninjabutter says:

    I play competitive RTS games constantly and have done so for years. I loathe the direction they’ve gone with the lack of base-building, but I already wrote a huge article about that on my own website a few weeks ago.

    “I feel like this sometimes as well. I enjoy watching CoH replays and fancy going online to face some real intelligence, but I feel intimidated by the possibility that I could end up matched up with someone of far higher skill and not stand a chance (not necessarily the game’s fault, there aren’t always many people online).”

    You mentioned it yourself in the second part of your post, but that is the easiest way to quickly improve. You said losing makes you grumpy regardless, but bear in mind that that’ll happen less often the more the play; playing skilled enemies instead of retards simply makes this happen faster. Save every replay of your games and watch them; note what the other guy did that you did not. Even if you do absolutely nothing right, you can eliminate all of that from your strategy in the next match. If losing in any capacity makes you grumpy, even if it’s a justified loss at the hands of someone genuinely better than you, then you’re going to have a rough time coping with ANY game.

    @the wiseass:
    “I can’t be arsed to get butchered by some uberhuman strategy freak, making 120 actions per minute.”

    Amusingly, 120 APM is pretty average, if not below average, for “good” players in most RTS games currently on the market. You also seem to be implying that the ability to click really fast has something to do with skill, which it doesn’t. Players with extremely high APM (like in the 300+ range) are considered bad players in most games as they’re wasting a lot of energy with inefficiency.

    “I prefer that I hate playing it with strangers and in general it always feels like so much work and if you loose unlike a shooter it just feels like wasted time”

    How is losing an RTS match “wasted time” while it’s not in a shooter? The principles are exactly the same; you’ve still lost, and hopefully improved from the experience.

    “Also there’s the huge, though immensely satisfying to express, generalisation that these leets are deeply insecure souls who hate those lesser than them as they see their true self image reflected back at them in our mortal gaming skills. They’ll always say that it is not them who are abnormally skilled – for *everyone* should know the perfect builds – but that everyone else is stupid for *not* knowing them. Fairly strong negative energy all round, and i’ll happily avoid it.”

    I’ve been part of the Dawn of War community for several years and spent a fair amount of that time in the competitive community; the people like you describe aren’t the majority. There are plenty of skilled players out there who are willing to tell you what you did wrong after a match, and some will even play extra rounds with you if they’re not doing anything else just for practice if you ask them. Avoiding online play because of people like you’re talking about is like staying indoors during recess because there’s a bully on the playground. Who cares? There’s fifty other kids out there who’ll play with you.

    Good lord, there’s four pages of comments. I’ll stop here.

  4. SpArTy zE MAGNIFICILE says:

    These gamers they just need to be given doorbells to play with to satisfy their needs of instant gratification.

    These developers they just need to distribute the doorbells.