Honest discussion, why do developers struggle to design good RTS?

#1

Well I got on to play on recent sales and Betas Spellforce 3, Forged Battalion, Dawn of War III, Ancestors Legacy, Grey Goo, Steel Division: Normandy 44 and Empires Apart.

Sure it all kind of works, I can have some hours fun with it, but there is always something,
something I do miss, so I go back to older titles.
I am really glad steam offers meanwhile refunds, without it I would not try at all.

Is it only me, or are all new titles somehow lame ? The old titles are still fun to play, like Supreme Commander, Empire Earth, Age of Mythology, Warcraft3 or C&C Generals.
Somehow the new titles don’t feel like games at all.

Point is by new games, gameplay don’t feel polish,
it’s all does die fast online and play vs AI is lame.

Why is it by new games, while in old titles like, Age of Empires and Starcraft you never struggle to find online people, new games are somehow some month, sometimes even weeks later dead?

1 Like
#2

Good question. Just my opinion, but I think it is because developers have trouble with trying to reach new audiences. In trying to reach new audiences they either simplify the mechanics, or have progression systems in place that make games dull. However they can’t over-complicate or players will get confused and give up early. Walking the fine line between simplicity and complexity can be difficult. Also it seems that potential new player audiences today don’t like to work as hard to get better at games with some complexity, especially with RTS games. This leads to developers not putting as much effort into making quality RTS games because the audience isn’t growing or as big as other types of games.

#3

It’s kinda simple for me.
Progression systems and other stuff that don’t belong in RTS games is what kills them. After the golden age of RTS games they started to over-complicate the formula by adding all kinds of stuff in an effort to further bring innovation just for the sake of it. When they realized RTS games became too complicated for people to bother, they started simplifying them by removing things that were good, instead of the things that were superfluous. For example, removing base building, many of the units, maps and game modes, but keeping the progression systems. So now not only you can’t just jump into an RTS to build a nice base and use all the stuff in the game, but you have to grind over time in some progression system to be able to use everything which is already scarce as a whole.

#4

The whole thing about progression systems is just that nobody has ever bothered to properly implement one in an RTS game. You can have a “progression system” without it being predatory or grindy. Relic had a decent one in Dawn of War II’s multiplayer circa Retribution, where completing matches gave you XP which would level you up and give you extra cosmetics on your units. I have no problem with a “progression system” like that.

Of course, Relic also managed to completely fuck up their progression system in Company of Heroes 2 and Dawn of War 3, as well as completely fuck up the rest of the latter game and drop it so it’s doubtful Age of Empires IV will have any meaningful system of the sort.

In my opinion RTS as a genre isn’t dying completely but it is a lot harder for new games to get noticed because the audience has shrunk and the formula hasn’t changed massively since the genre’s inception and, as the OP says, the old classics are still around and are still held up as the pinnacles of the genre’s achievement. It’s mostly us old-school people still kicking around buying RTS games, and it means that new games are treated with a significant degree of scrutiny. Very excellent RTS games like Sins of a Solar Empire only attract modest followings because of this variety of reasons.

To get noticed at this point an RTS game has to subvert and mix up the formula, like the excellent They Are Billions.

#5

One of the things that I remember made AoE II so great was proper mod support in the scenario editor with a trigger system. A fair number of RTS developers now look at complete mod support as trivial to success and a feature which may be added after release. Look at StarCraft II Arcade and how that not only has breathed new life into the game but has encouraged players to become game developers themselves. If Microsoft Studios and Relic are serious about the success of AoE IV, the game needs to be built around the in-game scenario editor.

#6

@rhrmn said:
One of the things that I remember made AoE II so great was proper mod support in the scenario editor with a trigger system. A fair number of RTS developers now look at complete mod support as trivial to success and a feature which may be added after release. Look at StarCraft II Arcade and how that not only has breathed new life into the game but has encouraged players to become game developers themselves. If Microsoft Studios and Relic are serious about the success of AoE IV, the game needs to be built around the in-game scenario editor.

Mod support alone will not make or break the game as it needs an install base before it can go anywhere. Take my earlier example of Sins of a Solar Empire - it had fantastic mod support, with full conversions possible and a very robust in-game editor. There’s still a community active there but it has shrunk considerably, and you’ll essentially need to rely on third-party means if you ever want to start a game up. Not to fault the game at all as I love it, I think it’s the best RTS released in the last decade, but it never got the wide audience you need to sustain a modding community.

Modding is not the panacea to a game’s problems - the core game needs to be attractive to players on its own merits, and that requires any combination of polish, content and unique and fun gameplay.

#7

@IamDalv said:
It’s kinda simple for me.
Progression systems and other stuff that don’t belong in RTS games is what kills them. After the golden age of RTS games they started to over-complicate the formula by adding all kinds of stuff in an effort to further bring innovation just for the sake of it. When they realized RTS games became too complicated for people to bother, they started simplifying them by removing things that were good, instead of the things that were superfluous. For example, removing base building, many of the units, maps and game modes, but keeping the progression systems. So now not only you can’t just jump into an RTS to build a nice base and use all the stuff in the game, but you have to grind over time in some progression system to be able to use everything which is already scarce as a whole.

Well I personally think it’s not case of simple or difficult,
you had your easy C&C, medium Age of Empires and complicated Starcraft

but we had in last years, we kind of had a core shift in the design
-1-the huge change of focus from Macro, to Micro management.
Somehow you have to baby sit your creations, each unit/building is valuable

if you lose today 1 expansion or early some units its game over
in old games you did fast recover and did send another wave of units
You are literally dragged into the combat field, or you will lose.
You can’t be a King behind your walls anymore, turtle and send out units only if you want to

-2-the huge change of focus from base build variation, to combat variation

Somehow you don’t any more build a real base,
its kind of an outpost that does spam some units and you must take points or loose.

And units changed a lot, instead of large armies 40-100 units, you did send out
you have to by 5-10 units to explain them everything,
like where they should stay or what ability they must use

Why does every unit has some kind magic trick you have to activate,
why can’t units have passive abilities any more?

Combat is extremely messy meanwhile and you have to focus on combat, you can’t any more simply build good defences and larger army.

-3-the huge change of focus by AI:
instead of to be a fun script, to be some kind of Multiplayer tutorial teacher

Especially AI is well, how should I describe it? Annoying.
In old days they did simply script AI to attack in waves,
so attack 1, AI did send out after some time 20 units, you kill them,
so you have some time to chill and build till next wave.

Today AI does constantly annoy you with 1 unit attacks, it supposed I guess to simulate a rush ?
So you have to put each early game on same location same tower/units and thats it. The AI never ever even does try to attack you with a wave of units or to attack you from other location.
It gets really fast boring.

So far nobody did even try to make AI at least less annoying and a real challenge.

#8

You should try the AOE2 AI, it’s kinda good.

#9

The problem is, RTS genre is already fully discovered, there is nothing new to it. I think video game makers need to innovate in areas where RTS genre suck. RTS suck at :

  1. half baked single player campaign
  2. Missing skirmish mode
  3. Missing editor tools
  4. Cliche soundtrack
  5. Making only multiplayer focused game
  6. Blatantly copying other games in genre.
  7. Cheating AI
#10

Simple answer:

DEVS DONT BELIEVE IN REAL RTS ANYMORE!

-> Devs ruin RTS-games by oversimplifing, mixing it with other genres, killing base-building, …

-> We get only LOW BUDGET RTS games, because publishers think its not gonna make big money

-> Devs kill RTS-games with microtransactions, free2play, pay2win and other crab

Fingers crossed, AOE4 will make an exception!

#11

@arapiCOMMANDER said:
Simple answer:

DEVS DONT BELIEVE IN REAL RTS ANYMORE!

-> Devs ruin RTS-games by oversimplifing, mixing it with other genres, killing base-building, …

+1

They somehow mix up games to please everybody,
but in the end nobody like it, because it doesn’t have proper handy macro and micro management.

For Example Age of Empires III,

Age of Empires II and C&C Generals are great, but as mix Age of Empires III its kind of fast wears off.
You can’t simply stay like in old games at your place and build a great base and win with a huge nuclear blast and world wonders.

You have to take this rail station points, to get that cards and resources or you loose.
You are forced to fight and your defence towers do have a limit, so you can’t play properly defensive at all.
Sure you have this infinite resource generating things, but for that they did sacrifice all the depth, variety and strategy of real resource harvesting. And you have to anyway to dominate on the battlefield or you do lose.

Age of Empires and C&C series used to have great siege battles, something you won’t see in new games.

#12

Perhaps its even more simple ?

After all you have to make not only a working product, it must also be fun to use.
But how make a game fun ? Or why isn’t it fun?

If you make a jump game, jump too high = too easy / jump too low = too hard.
In case of RTS game that are like 1000 different things you have to make right.

Let’s stay by our examples with Base Build and Resource gathering RTS.

For Example Rise and Fall: Civilizations at War from 2006.

The game was really amazing age of empires on steroids, large armies to lead in RTS mod and switch to heroes that you could control directly like hack and slash. So you play Age of Empires, than switch to Skyrim or Witcher.

So was the game bad? No I really liked to play it.
Was it good? Well we never got a second,
so probably not enough people did buy it.

By why ? Something was not good enough there. But what?
-marketing ? Nop it had a lot of advertisement. even a demo
-technical issue ? Nop it does work good and looked back there really awesome.
-setting ? Its really cool, especially the combat ships did look amazing.

My only suspect would be the actual gameplay.
Something was not good enough there. But what?

At this point its just pure speculation,
but unlike Age of Empires it did have only 2 resources, gold and wood.
Another thing was, you could really fast harvest everything and spend it out so nothing was left.
Too small maps? Even Age of Empires 3 maps are huge compared to that game.

Was it too boring simplified and people were annoyed how fast you did run out of resources?
I personally did not buy instant the game,
because AI was not able to build and fight with the ships on naval maps.

You can’t say it for 100% it was this or that, you have like 1000 different things to consider by RTS.

#13

@Huge5000RTSFan said:
Perhaps its even more simple ?

After all you have to make not only a working product, it must also be fun to use.
But how make a game fun ? Or why isn’t it fun?

If you make a jump game, jump too high = too easy / jump too low = too hard.
In case of RTS game that are like 1000 different things you have to make right.

Let’s stay by our examples with Base Build and Resource gathering RTS.

For Example Rise and Fall: Civilizations at War from 2006.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rise_and_Fall:_Civilizations_at_War

The game was really amazing age of empires on steroids, large armies to lead in RTS mod and switch to heroes that you could control directly like hack and slash. So you play Age of Empires, than switch to Skyrim or Witcher.

So was the game bad? No I really liked to play it.
Was it good? Well we never got a second,
so probably not enough people did buy it.

By why ? Something was not good enough there. But what?
-marketing ? Nop it had a lot of advertisement. even a demo
-technical issue ? Nop it does work good and looked back there really awesome.
-setting ? Its really cool, especially the combat ships did look amazing.

My only suspect would be the actual gameplay.
Something was not good enough there. But what?

At this point its just pure speculation,
but unlike Age of Empires it did have only 2 resources, gold and wood.
Another thing was, you could really fast harvest everything and spend it out so nothing was left.
Too small maps? Even Age of Empires 3 maps are huge compared to that game.

Was it too boring simplified and people were annoyed how fast you did run out of resources?
I personally did not buy instant the game,
because AI was not able to build and fight with the ships on naval maps.

You can’t say it for 100% it was this or that, you have like 1000 different things to consider by RTS.

The game was forced to be finish to be released in an early stage.

The developers, however, did not finish the game due to the sudden closure of Stainless Steel. Goodman blamed Midway Games, the publisher, for not funding the project, which led to the firing of employees. A GameSpot news article on the subject read, “He [Goodman] reportedly told Gamestar that after the PC strategy game’s release was pushed from October to early 2006, Midway cut off advances to Stainless Steel, which in turn had to lay off its staff due to lack of funding.”[6] As former AI programmer Daniel Higgins said, “This is true, SSSI is no more. I can’t give details as to why, but I can tell you the product is in excellent shape, the team was in high morale and plowing ahead at full steam, and we were just weeks from gold disk.”[19] To complete the game, Midway, the publisher, shuffled it to their San Diego studios, where it was finished.[20] As The Armchair Empire said in its review, “Overall, Rise & Fall feels like an unfinished product. Besides AI that often lines up to be killed, the engine powering the game stutters often. After doing a bit of research, this can probably be traced back to the financial woes of publisher Midway. Close to going “gold” developer Stainless Steel Studios ceased operation due to insufficient funds, Midway shuffled the project internally. The lack of polish is the result.”[

#14

@Augustusman said:

@Huge5000RTSFan said:
Perhaps its even more simple ?

After all you have to make not only a working product, it must also be fun to use.
But how make a game fun ? Or why isn’t it fun?

If you make a jump game, jump too high = too easy / jump too low = too hard.
In case of RTS game that are like 1000 different things you have to make right.

Let’s stay by our examples with Base Build and Resource gathering RTS.

For Example Rise and Fall: Civilizations at War from 2006.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rise_and_Fall:_Civilizations_at_War

The game was really amazing age of empires on steroids, large armies to lead in RTS mod and switch to heroes that you could control directly like hack and slash. So you play Age of Empires, than switch to Skyrim or Witcher.

So was the game bad? No I really liked to play it.
Was it good? Well we never got a second,
so probably not enough people did buy it.

By why ? Something was not good enough there. But what?
-marketing ? Nop it had a lot of advertisement. even a demo
-technical issue ? Nop it does work good and looked back there really awesome.
-setting ? Its really cool, especially the combat ships did look amazing.

My only suspect would be the actual gameplay.
Something was not good enough there. But what?

At this point its just pure speculation,
but unlike Age of Empires it did have only 2 resources, gold and wood.
Another thing was, you could really fast harvest everything and spend it out so nothing was left.
Too small maps? Even Age of Empires 3 maps are huge compared to that game.

Was it too boring simplified and people were annoyed how fast you did run out of resources?
I personally did not buy instant the game,
because AI was not able to build and fight with the ships on naval maps.

You can’t say it for 100% it was this or that, you have like 1000 different things to consider by RTS.

The game was forced to be finish to be released in an early stage.

The developers, however, did not finish the game due to the sudden closure of Stainless Steel. Goodman blamed Midway Games, the publisher, for not funding the project, which led to the firing of employees. A GameSpot news article on the subject read, “He [Goodman] reportedly told Gamestar that after the PC strategy game’s release was pushed from October to early 2006, Midway cut off advances to Stainless Steel, which in turn had to lay off its staff due to lack of funding.”[6] As former AI programmer Daniel Higgins said, “This is true, SSSI is no more. I can’t give details as to why, but I can tell you the product is in excellent shape, the team was in high morale and plowing ahead at full steam, and we were just weeks from gold disk.”[19] To complete the game, Midway, the publisher, shuffled it to their San Diego studios, where it was finished.[20] As The Armchair Empire said in its review, “Overall, Rise & Fall feels like an unfinished product. Besides AI that often lines up to be killed, the engine powering the game stutters often. After doing a bit of research, this can probably be traced back to the financial woes of publisher Midway. Close to going “gold” developer Stainless Steel Studios ceased operation due to insufficient funds, Midway shuffled the project internally. The lack of polish is the result.”[

Was cancelled and the game was release in beta stage.

#15

+1

@Augustusman said:
Was cancelled and the game was release in beta stage.

Somehow its by all RTS games recently this way, they are not finished released.

-Spellforce 3, story wasn’t even working on release. They made like 40 patches post launch to fix.
-Is Age of Empires: Definitive Edition working ? So far I did see like each second customer can’t even start it.
-Dawn of War 3 even official admit they did run out of money, so they can’t make content for it.
-In Sudden Strike 4 you could not even choose medium or hard AI, it had at launch only1 AI setting,
was later delivered.
-Or my recent disappointment, I did back up long ago early access RTS game Win That War!, and it was shortly later abandoned. As I discovered, as I wanted recently to check how far they did progress with development.
http://steamcommunity.com/app/599040/discussions/0/1471967615888240829/

Somehow they all don’t have the money to release functional games
and cant keep upgrade them, because they run out of money.
And they run out of money, because they don’t release functional games.

I like RTS games, but somehow they maybe don’t have any more the funds to make it ?

#16

I think the RTS gaming is starting to rebirth.

#17

The challenge behind “good” RTS games is the fact that the industry is FLOODED with a bunch of trash, which may make it hard for developers to aim at the general audience because of the overwhelming abundance of different game mechanics.

#18

@JasonStevens15 said:
The challenge behind “good” RTS games is the fact that the industry is FLOODED with a bunch of trash, which may make it hard for developers to aim at the general audience because of the overwhelming abundance of different game mechanics.

+1
I am really, really glad steam has refunds, its just incredible how many trash developers do disgrace RTS genre. Why do developers today, design RTS games people don’t want ?

Here is another example of today development mentality.
Empires Apart “AoE2 clone” massively failed.just 3,531 sold copies lol

http://steamcharts.com/app/530630


Yeah if you look there in steam into reviews, you do see pretty well how a big chunk of garbage was put together and tried with nostalgia hype to get people to buy a completely broken game.

-you can’t even play the game, because you do too fast run out of resources
-AI doesn’t even work properly
-no story mode at all

Still it does get ratings like 80 from IGN.

@Augustusman said:
I think the RTS gaming is starting to rebirth.

Sure there are a lot “RTS” called games in the making,
but the developers behind them have pretty much no idea what they are doing.

They can’t even get base build right,
in Age of Empires you are always building something and have time to command units.

In for example Planetary Annihilation you can’t command units, you have to build and spam all time, zero strategy and in Grey Goo or Spellforce3 it takes like forever till you did build your army.

Somehow they always fail to make a decent AI, it always dumb send 1 by 1 unit into same position. .

#19

Empires Apart was released too soon for the good of the game, it’s a small dev team and they ran out of money and thus time. There are too many things still broken about the game, and the single player content is just bells and whistles for a multiplayer focused title, at least at this point. The game will need a big second chance to succeed financially, something already pretty uncommon for the first game a new studio makes, especially if they tackle something as complex as an RTS (the Age of Empires games really were a remarkable achievement). I’m not going to claim everything will be fixed. The development team is working really hard on it at this point, they’re dedicated fans of the genre, but there is going to be a moment where they will have to review together with a few financial folks from the publisher and wherever they found their start up funds in the first place whether it’s worth to chase after more improvements, given that the biggest chance for hype ad high sales, release day, has passed. One things that has already drastically improved since release is the AI. They have a cheating version now that gets extra resources, and combined with the coding improvements that means that even if development is cut short completely at the 3 months after release mark there will be an actual fun single player skirmish option in the game. (No campaign, I’m not saying it’s a brilliant experience, but it will work.) The multiplayer works peer to peer without dedicated servers so it too should stay in the air. And that’s where the game shines to begin with. (Player numbers wil be a problem in this scenario.)

However, if you say things like “you do see pretty well how a big chunk of garbage was put together and tried with nostalgia hype to get people to buy a completely broken game.” and “-you can’t even play the game, because you do too fast run out of resources” it’s pretty obvious you haven’t actually tried very hard to find out how the game works. Gold runs out after around 40 minutes on the standard maps (at my skill level, probably more like 30 or sooner for a match between two good players). For this game however, that’s plenty long. The equivalent of the imperial age (war 2 eco 2) comes in around 15 minutes of game time in a realistic match (again, at my skill level). If you build only for getting there fast it can be done in under 6 minutes using the Mongols. The mechanics of Empires Apart are simply not as similar to those of aoe2 as you were assuming from taking a look at the unit list. It can be a faster game because a lot of the factors that determine the pace are different, there are for instance less really important gameplay upgrades tucked away in semi-random places (bloodlines, ballistics) so learning to play at the required speed without missing something big is a faster process. It’s definitely not a “just spam, no time for micro” experience. (Not for me at around 30 APM anyway.) The resource balance is one of the things I wouldn’t note down as bad, incomplete or broken. It’s pretty spot on for what the game wants to be. As is the user interface. It’s a delight to learn to play on.

I’m not going to be fanboying some more here (I already did plenty of that in the Empires Apart thread in offtopic), but the game definitely has some merit, it’s not Big Rigs 2: more over the road racing. If a developer just wants to cash in they just make some idle clicker game with 10 dollar “microtransactions” after all.

#20

@“Pan Calvus” said:
Empires Apart was released too soon for the good of the game, it’s a small dev team and they ran out of >money and thus time.
The development team is working really hard on it at this point, they’re dedicated fans of the genre, but >there is going to be a moment where they will have to review together with a few financial folks from the >publisher and wherever they found their start up funds in the first place whether it’s worth to chase after >more improvements, given that the biggest chance for hype ad high sales, release day, has passed.

So in other words they tried to scam people with unfinished and badly done product,
so people refunded and wrote negative ratings for it.
With such attitude any type of game would be dead
and developers condemned as incompetent scammers.

On steam there is a legit way for indie devs to release unfinished games, its early access.
So people know they do buy a risk product, that might never be finished
and developer is honest with it.

@“Pan Calvus” said:
it’s pretty obvious you haven’t actually tried very hard to find out how the game works.
The resource balance is one of the things I wouldn’t note down as bad, incomplete or broken. It’s pretty spot >on for what the game wants to be. As is the user interface. It’s a delight to learn to play on.

Considering the genre did went near extinction, perhaps its developers fault?
They have to design a game, players can enjoy to play,
so they don’t refund and write negative ratings about it.

And if people, who do play actually RTS games, have to hard try to find out how economy works,
than pretty sure the dev did really mess up economy right?

Empires Apart is a massive disgrace for Age of Empires, em sure it does somehow look like a 3D version of AoE, but how are people supposed to play a game if there are like only 6 gold and 6 stone locations on the entire map LOL. And they get really fast depleted.

Economy is a really, really simple thing, collect resources and spend them out,
but most developers these days have no idea about it and do fail up ridiculously badly.
Because if there is a point, where you can’t collect resources and spend them out, the game is broken.