Celebrating one of the best RTS developers of the 2000's!

So after months of constantly seeing new posts bashing on Relic non-stop, or predicting doom and their downfall, I thought it might be a good idea to recount the amazing stuff they have done over the years since they first stepped into the world. So let’s talk about the reasons why we might be EXCITED to know that Relic, one of the biggest names in Real Time Strategy since the early 2000’s, is picking up the torch of one of genres greatest names in its entire history!

Like a lot of folks, my first introduction to Relic was by what I think was their very first release (correct me if i’m wrong); Homeworld. Good god, this game was something truly special when it came out. Around that time, I remember most RTS titles were seriously struggling with the transition from 2d to 3d, most developers not really knowing how to factor in the new dimensions with their otherwise 2d based game play. Clunky cameras and overall less than stellar visuals made it a tough time, but not for Relic. They were one of the only developers to not only do an excellent job with the art itself, but to truly integrate 3d capabilities into the game itself. The ability to move ships along the vertical axis was truly unique, and even today is something we do not see. The epic campaign and soundtrack (which to this day I am convinced must have had some influence on the Battlestar Galactica OST) cemented it as a one of a kind gem.

The next few titles I got into were the original Dawn of War series (base game + 3 expansions, yes even the one not made by Relic). This one actually took a bit of time to really sink its teeth in, but once I was onboard, I never let go. To this day my fiance’ and I still boot it up (along with Age of Empires 2). The sheer chaos of the battlefield, the resulting carnage, and the fact that every unit seemed like an individual instead of a static piece on the field brought every engagement to life like few other RTS titles ever have. Though much more standard in terms of game systems than Homeworld, it all came together in such excellent form. In fact, the traditional game play (three tiers of command center upgrades, unit research options, vaguely rock-paper-scissors model) is what primarily gave me confidence in Relic’s ability to handle a more traditional series like AOE. The thing I loved most though; the fact that desperate gambits and back-to-the-wall battles could turn out all right in the end. My friends and I have had so many last stands against Nekron hordes, literally backed into the furthest reaches of a map, bodies piling by the minute, until FINALLY, the inferam tomb spyders were captured (downed and guarded) long enough for a desperate push. Or sieges where the Imperial Guard had our allies cornered in their own bases, shells raining down , till a duo of allied defieliers crawled up the ridge and smashed the enemy ranks like the Rohiram push at the Pelinor Fields.

The sequels did not command my attention like the first, though in part 2’s case, that had less to do with the quality of the game, more to do with the fact that I wasn’t too keen on its style. It LOOKED amazing, but I wasn’t looking for another Ground Control type game at the time. With that said, I do respect them for trying to experiment. Most studios get a ton of flak for taking no risks at all, and here these guys were actually trying to explore new avenues. It was hard to really hold a grudge over that, even if DOW 2 was not my cup of tea.

Likewise, Company of Heroes didn’t hold my interest due primarily to its setting (I tend to avoid WW2 titles, though not games set vaguely in the time period). What was amazing though, was the once again, the sheer destruction in each match. I certainly hope the dynamism we saw there will make a return to AOE 4. I mean, how cool would it be to see towns built by other players/ civs damaged and destroyed into partially interactive ruins? Imagine how neat it would be to see battlegrounds reduced from trade towns to crumbling ruins, each side fighting for the promise of rebuilding one day?

TL;DR: I’m pretty stoked. Relic has a history of delivering games that stuck in my mind, even if I didn’t get into them as much as others. As a developer, they also have a past of taking respectable risks, trying new things for the sake of the game, recent missteps aside. The idea of an Age of Empires with the visual splendor that only Relic can deliver is pretty exciting indeed.

What about you lot? Any good memories of Relic titles? Anyone else here grow up with Homeworld and Dawn of War (or any other titles) ? What kind of signature ‘Relic’ thing do you hope to see in AOE 4?

I also have respect for Relic and their works. Homeworld 1 is one of my favorite games of all time, a true gem with amazing athmosphere. I enjoyed the sequel as well. I still keep the Remastered version installed on my laptop, let me know if you want to have a chill game vs the AI. The game is just so relaxing.
Havent played any of the Dawn of War because the Warhammer universe doesnt fancy me, but I played a lot of the first Company of Heroes in multiplayer with my friends as well the campaigns. One if the best RTS games ever made as well.
When I saw Relic at the end of the AoE4 announcement trailer I was glad, one of my favorite game dev companies to make the next game in my favorite series. I would have chosen them as well.

@IamDalv if I should get my hands on it, for sure! I didn’t end up getting the Remastered games yet, mostly due to being busy with work and being a little careful with what I’m buying (last few months I ended up buying AOE: DE, Vermintide 2 and maybe in the next month or so, Pillars of Eternity 2), but Homeworld Remastered is definitely something I might want to grab eventually.

Dawn of War, funny enough, took a few revists to finally sink its claws into me and became one of my favorite RTS games of all time. I had no exposure to the Warhammer 40,000 universe before that, and while I have since developed an interest in it, it’s more out of amusement. I’ll probably annoy a lot of Warhammer 40K fans by saying this, but I can’t think of it as anything more than a goofy uber-parody rather than a serious sci-fi world :stuck_out_tongue: . Which is fine! It’s funny and silly, in a kind of dark way.

What elements of CoH would you hope to see make their way into AOE4, if any?

The ability to see a more detailed version of the mini-map on the full screen for sure, I love that feature in CoH! And it can work with a classical strategy game as well, especially for spectators.

As for W40k, yep, I think I couldn’t take it seriously either. Those guys in oversized armor with jetpacks and with hammers or swords?! Melee weapons as main weapons in the year 40000 when they’d have all kinds of technology to get shot from distance no matter the armor? That’s just non-sense haha, I’m too old for that. Same reason why I cant watch these superhero movies I guess, I got past that age.

@Eininfar Yeah I like them, but I think its SEGA who ruined their name.

Relic does not deserve your praise. They have consistently shown horrific mismanagement of their last two major games, the studio that they are today is no longer the young and up-and-coming developer of Homeworld or even the first Company of Heroes.

Company of Heroes 2 was fraught from the start but a lot of that can be chalked up to the change from THQ to SEGA - the game was extremely rough on launch and it took them a good year to get balance to an acceptable level for only two factions. They did a decent job adding content but it was always half-baked with shoddy microtransaction systems and unnecessary overhauls to the original systems that made the game confusing for new players - it took them the whole span of their development and updating, four years (when they originally promised five), to get intel bulletins to a state where they were anything more than either useless dongles or dangerously close to imbalanced, and they still ended up radically different from where they started, when they were unlockables. They threw the game to the wolves after that and let the community have their crack at patching the game, and it hasn’t been entertaining since, with no patches seemingly forthcoming.

Dawn of War III was an absolute fiasco from the start, and that much was obvious from the fan reaction. The game itself is actually good, but instead of actually taking the time to expand on the game which, like Company of Heroes 2 at release, lacked content, they instead decided the best course of action was to screw over the loyal fans who were still playing the game, ensuring the community’s demise by strangling the multiplayer in the process, while simultaneously validating all the criticisms that their detractors had lobbied their way. Not only this, they announced the game’s actual cessation in February of this year, when the community had been strung along with news of a major content update. The “major content” was three skins as a consolation prize for sticking with the game, along with the news that it would no longer be supported. They led players along to deliberately squeeze as much revenue out of the game before finally pulling back the curtain and showing everyone that there was absolutely nothing behind it, that the game hadn’t been worked on for months and that everyone’s speculation and hopefulness was for nothing.

So you can bring up the nostalgic episodes all you want. I loved Company of Heroes 1 and Dawn of War 1 as well as their most recent offerings - but you can’t judge the Relic of today on the basis of their old stuff. Look at these two examples - this is what you’re getting with Age of Empires 4. Nothing more than a cynical exploitation of both the consumer and the few talented developers remaining at the studio by the hopelessly out-of-touch management.

@Vermi1lionHawk Given that some of my favorite games came out of Relic, I’d say that they do indeed earn my praise. Bear in mind that I am one of the many people who was extremely disappointed with both the final product and handling of Dawn of War 3, so I’m certainly not of the opinion that they can do no wrong. However, as far as their micro transaction focus of the last few years goes, as you pointed out yourself, a lot of that is publisher influenced. Perhaps not exclusively, but in large part.

My main point, however, is that like anyone, they are capable of learning from mistakes, which they themselves seem to recognize. Personally, I see them dropping plans for DOW 3 as a good thing. The biggest problems I have with that title (and the same can be said for a lot of people) are not things that will get fixed by adding a new race DLC or whatever. So I’d honestly rather they focus on making a new and better product from ground up instead of desperately trying to wave updates as game changers when they won’t be able to address the things I was actually looking for. (of course, with that said I suppose I should admit that I only rarely go after DLC to begin with, only if the base game was a favorite of mine). That doesn’t mean people don’t have a right to be mad, because again, DOW 3 was doubtfully a fiasco in every which way. But if iD could learn from Rage (and to a lesser extent Doom 3), and Obsidian from Alpha Protocol (incidentally also another botched game under the Sega banner), I’m pretty confident that Relic can figure a way out of the slump they went down with their last two titles.

Again, I’ve had well over a decade of good quality fun, so I reserve some hope. And hey, if the worst should happen, I here by encourage you to draft up a post explicitly calling me out with an “I told you so!” :smiley: .

I would also love to be proven wrong that Relic isn’t now a shell of their former selves and a terrible developer strung along on the promise of their distant past. But the evidence, scant as it is, just doesn’t stack up in their favour. Look at https://twitter.com/relicgames/status/976172785625190400 this tweet from March 20th, where they’re still looking for a Lead AI Programmer explicitly for Age of Empires 4. Look at the careers section on their website - they’re still looking for UI programmers, systems programmers, gameplay programmers… the list goes on. It’s evident, both from this and from the shoddy, patchwork development of Company of Heroes 2 that they’ve had some pretty significant turnover in the personnel actually making the games.

And you’re well within you’re right to think that dropping Dawn of War 3 was a good thing, but then I’m also well within my right to call you a terrible and gullible consumer. By condoning the dropping of support for a full-priced, supposed “AAA” title it sets an awful precedent for the rest of their catalogue and fatally undermines support from some of their core customers. It was easily the worst decision they could have made. Not only this, if dropping Dawn of War 3 meant that resources were being shifted to Age of Empires 4’s development, one would expect that, given the revelation that Dawn of War 3 hadn’t been worked on since November 2017, we’d be seeing content or at the very least some sort of community interaction to rebuild trust in the intervening months. One would also expect that if the team from Dawn of War 3 was moved to Age of Empires 4, they wouldn’t be putting up a slew of job postings for extremely key positions in the game’s development.

I simply don’t think, focusing on the present state of the company, that Relic has what it takes to make Age of Empires 4 even halfway as decent as it deserves. Sure, there are rumours from people under NDA about what the game looks like, but there were also such rumours about Dawn of War 3’s expansion, and that turned out to not exist at all.

Despite all their talk of passion for gaming and RTS, if anything the abandonment of Dawn of War 3 and the leaving of Company of Heroes 2 to the community only says to me that the fans are far more passionate about Relic’s games than Relic themselves at this point. Relic has given me many years of enjoyment as well - but my so might a favoured car. But cars break down at one point or another, and eventually there’s nothing to be done but consign it to the scrap heap. Look fondly on those memories, but don’t let them substitute for performance where it matters, in the present.

@Vermi1lionHawk said:
And you’re well within you’re right to think that dropping Dawn of War 3 was a good thing, but then I’m also well within my right to call you a terrible and gullible consumer. By condoning the dropping of support for a full-priced, supposed “AAA” title it sets an awful precedent for the rest of their catalogue and fatally undermines support from some of their core customers.

No need for name calling here.

Not that I’m sure what you mean by “a terrible and gullible consumer”. I tend to be a little old school in that I buy games I like or am 99% sure I will like, and expect it to stand on its own. If it gets good DLC or emergency fixes for glaring software issues, great. If it had a huge quality or content gap that I didn’t want to put up with, chances are I wouldn’t buy the game in the first place. Games like XCOM 2 having tons of post-release goodies (not to mention mods) is a big bonus, but barring that, all I personally look for is that the software run as advertised and suits my preferences.

Either way, as stated before, my stance on them abandoning the DOW 3 ship is simply that if they, the people actually working on these projects do not feel confident in getting it on a new course, it’s probably better that they not keep throwing resources at it, and instead focus on a newer project while taking notes of what they did wrong. I fail to see what part of that makes me gullible, much less terrible.

Because it’s condoning the exploitation of their fans. If it actually went down like you said and Relic stated outright that they were dropping the project and moving the resources to better their other titles then I wouldn’t think that of you. But the way it went down, with months of promises made of major content updates and reveals all leading to that announcement just makes it horrific. They were stringing the community along, hoping to squeeze every last cent out of the game before revealing they were no longer working on it.

Making it out as if it were some sort of responsible decision on their part just smacks of naïveté.

Employees change jobs frequently, and I believe that is even more the case in the software/ video games industry. Relic has a ton of employees. It’s not strange to see they have some jobs posted.

I can’t speak about their prior titles or postlaunch support, but I’m not sure it’s relevant. Relic is building MS a game, and we have every reason to believe that MS will be calling the shots. The amount of postlaunch support we get for AoE4 should be up to MS, not Relic. That’s what we’ve seen with all Age titles that were outsourced to third party developers.

From all accounts, Relic has jumped in with both feet. Their community managers are already getting acclimated on the AoE stream, for god’s sake.

All told, Relic’s people know how to build good RTS games. MS knows the stakes. I’m sure Relic does, too. That makes them a solid choice for us. I’m very optimistic.

There isn’t anyone left from the ‘golden days’ of Homeworld, DoW and vCoH.

Yes there is, the AoE4 game director, Quinn Duffy.

@IamDalv said:
Yes there is, the AoE4 game director, Quinn Duffy.

Sure, and Greg Wilson was there until recently… he might still be, not 100% on that. When I used to chat to the devs during the CoH2 beta period both were there, but I have a feeling Geg has since left.

Either way, they are essentially managerial – they do very little by way of programming or hands-on development, and are more concerned with the broader product portfolio.

In terms of actual day-to-day development staff, there is no one left.

I’m not really sure where this line of criticism is going. Often in these threads Relic is in some sort of quantum state where it’s both a company with a terrible track record while simultaneously a company who no longer employees all the successful people responsible for its great history.

At any rate, Greg Wilson is at Relic, as are many people who have been there for years. I have no idea whether AoE4 will be a success, but I’ll figure that out once I play it.

While my experience with Relic’s games is limited, I appreciate how they try new ideas in the RTS genre. While some swear by the existing Age games, there are some aspects that are incredibly stale. I’m looking forward to seeing Relic build upon the core AoE experience and make AoE IV truly unique, interesting and fun to play.

I’m pretty sure Dawn of War 3 was likewise touted as “unique, interesting and fun to play” during its pre-release. The question isn’t bringing something new to the table, it’s not ruining what’s already there, and in Relic’s case I no longer have any faith that they are capable of that.

@Vermi1lionHawk said:
I’m pretty sure Dawn of War 3 was likewise touted as “unique, interesting and fun to play” during its pre-release. The question isn’t bringing something new to the table, it’s not ruining what’s already there, and in Relic’s case I no longer have any faith that they are capable of that.

Simply don’t buy untrustworthy games from these.developers

@Vermi1lionHawk said:
I’m pretty sure Dawn of War 3 was likewise touted as “unique, interesting and fun to play” during its pre-release. The question isn’t bringing something new to the table, it’s not ruining what’s already there, and in Relic’s case I no longer have any faith that they are capable of that.

It wasnt just the design in that case, it was the lack of. You cant really expect to ship such a game with only 1 game mode and very few maps and be successful. Hopefully they have learned from that.

@Vermi1lionHawk said:
The question isn’t bringing something new to the table, it’s not ruining what’s already there, and in Relic’s case I no longer have any faith that they are capable of that.

Hence why I said “build upon the core AoE experience” and not “build upon the core AoE features”.