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.