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Re: popular RTT games?

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  • Brandon Van Every
    ... Unfortunately the level of the competition keeps marching relentlessly onwards. Here s a clip of motion capture stuntmen for the upcoming Empire: Total
    Message 1 of 10 , Jun 1, 2008
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      On Fri, May 30, 2008 at 5:08 PM, Brandon Van Every <bvanevery@...> wrote:
      > Does anyone have a sense of what Real Time Tactical games are currently popular?
      >
      > I have this idea about making a realistic Roman infantry legion game.
      > The Romans would actually fight with shields interlocked,
      >
      > The problem is, realism is one thing, sales are another.
      >
      > I playtested Medieval II: Total War but found the command and control
      > to be irritating from a military realism standpoint.
      >
      > What I'd really like to know is what would get a
      > non-grognard jazzed about interlocking Roman shields.

      Unfortunately the level of the competition keeps marching relentlessly
      onwards. Here's a clip of motion capture stuntmen for the upcoming
      Empire: Total War. http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/?p=1804 Now, to
      my experienced martial eye, this fighting is certainly not junk, but
      in the scheme of things it's not that great. To a realist, it's play
      acting. The vast majority of consumers aren't realists however.
      People do stuntfighting to please an audience of rubes, mostly. Hong
      Kong stuntfighters are more sophisticated in what they'll do to get a
      good shot, they'll take a week to do something that an American film
      crew will only take a day for. But really, how many people can tell?
      How many extra sales is it? I guess if there were some other major
      commercial hook for the realism, like "This is authentic UFC fighting"
      rather than authentic Roman butchery, then maybe the product could
      differentiate itself. Because let's face it, if you do the UFC
      unrealistically, you get the WWF.

      So from the mass consumer's standpoint, I probably can't do the
      fighting any better than these mocap guys are doing. I could do it
      cheaper. I know a thing or two about fighting. I have delusions of
      grandeur that I could write a physics engine to simulate it better
      than it has yet been done.

      I have to wonder at all the big budget game stuff. Like, why make a
      game about Rome that has everything and the kitchen sink in it? Why
      fight every Roman enemy that ever lived, which inevitably leads to
      diffusion of quality and silliness about it all? Just the marketing
      mentality of "bigger is better, the more bullet points the more we'll
      sell?" Seems like a good treatment of the defeat of the Romans at
      Cannae would make a perfectly good game, at least to me. Or a good
      pile of straight battle scenarios, rather than putting this whole 4X
      production thing on top of the game like Rome: Total War did. Seems
      like an incredible waste of production effort to me, putting too much
      in a $40 box. I could see a studio doing it for political reasons, to
      keep having a certain level of $$$$$$$$ relationship with publishers,
      but I'm not seeing how the effort is justified for the play value.

      Then again I felt the same way about the production process of The
      Lord Of The Rings movies. They discarded so much amazing artwork on
      the floor, just because they had to have exactly the right vision for
      everything. If I could have had a shopping spree, and just ran in
      there to grab a few piles of their discards, I'd have enough art for
      dozens of games! Why did they do it the way they did? "Because they
      can." They convinced some studio to pay for it. Now, at least in
      their case they've been vindicated with huge sales. But is any RTT
      going to gross $2.9 billion like LOTR did?
      http://www.boxofficemojo.com/franchises/vs-lotr-ww.htm
      Halo 2 grossed $389 million. That's not chump change, but it's still
      1 order of magnitude less money.
      http://www.mediapundit.net/2007/09/halo-3-sales-numbers-pathetically-overblown.html
      Rome: Total War is 1 magnitude less again, $16.8 million.
      http://www.next-gen.biz/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3695&Itemid=2&limit=1&limitstart=6
      I guess there's nothing wrong with Creative Assembly's business model.
      They've continued to make the same kind of game and are well
      respected as a franchise. I'm just thinking that to compete with
      them, you wouldn't have to do things at the scale and expense that
      they did them, and you could still make your $40.


      Cheers,
      Brandon Van Every
    • Richard James
      ... I just played a demo of the Warhammer 40K soulstorm game and unfortunately for people like me that like to think about how to win a battle they have opted
      Message 2 of 10 , Jun 1, 2008
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        Brandon Van Every wrote:
        > The problem is, realism is one thing, sales are another. I don't have
        > a sense of why people play RTT games, as it hasn't been my genre. I'm
        > a Turn Based Strategy / Civ kind of guy. I loathe Real Time Strategy
        > games, which I consider to be mainly about creating buildings really
        > fast to spew units really fast to click the mouse really fast to have
        > them stand around and get killed due to bad AI really fast to beat up
        > your buddy in a completely nonsensical way really fast. A RTT with
        > the time scale slow enough to have a sense of WTF is going on would be
        > more appropriate to my idea.
        >
        > I playtested Medieval II: Total War but found the command and control
        > to be irritating from a military realism standpoint. I couldn't tell
        > my pikemen to form up into squares to ward off the cavalry. I
        > attempted to do it manually, but it was way too slow compared to the
        > speed of the cavalry. Basically in that game, the guy with the most
        > cavalry wins. They move so much faster than everything else, relative
        > to the speed of the command and control, that any static formation
        > gets completely munged. In short, although Medieval II may be very
        > popular, I think it's completely silly.
        >
        I just played a demo of the Warhammer 40K soulstorm game and
        unfortunately for people like me that like to think about how to win a
        battle they have opted for how to click the right buttons fast enough to
        win a battle. If I wanted to click buttons fast enough I would play one
        of those insanely hard 80's arcade games that require pixel perfect
        jumping and shooting. I used to like RTS in the early days of DuneII, I
        can remember buying Command and Conqueror because the game play was that
        much better. By the next iteration of RTS (Dark Reign/Total
        Annihilation) they had the controls down pat but the one thing they
        truly lacked was strategy. How can you call it a RTS if it has no
        strategy or tactics? So it appears that if you actually want strategy
        you have to buy one of the TBS games. If you could effectively apply
        strategy into a real time setting I think that gamers would take notice.

        It is the little things that count. Like the ability for your units to
        act in coordination. For instance in most RTS "if" you can tell your
        units to stay in formation then they won't stay in formation. If they do
        stay in formation the gameplay will be so fast it is ineffectual. That
        doesn't even cover moving in formation or being in formation with units
        of a different type. Yet alone any of the tactics used in an actual
        battlefield.

        If the RTS games can't do simple tactics imagine what they can't do
        strategy wise! Modern games may have all the flash graphics and mo cap
        but behind them all the engines are brain dead.

        That is just my opinion of course, hopefully someone can prove me wrong
        and sell me a RTS that actually requires thinking and not clicking.

        Richard James
      • Gerry Quinn
        ... Only die-hard wargamers would touch that, it would seem too restrictive to most people. ... A large set of scenarios would get a bigger market. But my
        Message 3 of 10 , Jun 1, 2008
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          ----- Original Message -----
          > I have to wonder at all the big budget game stuff. Like, why make a
          > game about Rome that has everything and the kitchen sink in it? Why
          > fight every Roman enemy that ever lived, which inevitably leads to
          > diffusion of quality and silliness about it all? Just the marketing
          > mentality of "bigger is better, the more bullet points the more we'll
          > sell?" Seems like a good treatment of the defeat of the Romans at
          > Cannae would make a perfectly good game, at least to me.

          Only die-hard wargamers would touch that, it would seem too restrictive to
          most people.

          > Or a good
          > pile of straight battle scenarios, rather than putting this whole 4X
          > production thing on top of the game like Rome: Total War did. Seems
          > like an incredible waste of production effort to me, putting too much
          > in a $40 box. I could see a studio doing it for political reasons, to
          > keep having a certain level of $$$$$$$$ relationship with publishers,
          > but I'm not seeing how the effort is justified for the play value.

          A large set of scenarios would get a bigger market. But my guess is that
          there are more 4X-ers than wargamers.

          That said, wargame niches could be available - for example are there any
          squad-based tactical wargames nowadays?

          - Gerry Quinn
        • Brandon Van Every
          ... Well, the venerable Waterloo did it in 1990. http://www.the-underdogs.info/game.php?name=Waterloo It attempted to model Waterloo as it occurred in actual
          Message 4 of 10 , Jun 1, 2008
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            On Sun, Jun 1, 2008 at 8:01 AM, Richard James <rjames13@...> wrote:
            > If you could effectively apply
            > strategy into a real time setting I think that gamers would take notice.

            Well, the venerable Waterloo did it in 1990.
            http://www.the-underdogs.info/game.php?name=Waterloo It attempted to
            model Waterloo as it occurred in actual time. Dead opposite of a
            clickfest, that's for sure. Command and control was difficult in that
            era, you'd have to send your horses out with messages and wait for
            them to get back. A game at such a timescale would suck for
            multiplayer lobbying, as not many people are willing to make such a
            large time commitment. Nevertheless maybe there's a niche market for
            that sort of thing, as groups like the Society for Creative
            Anachronism do stage wars with real people. The key would be to do it
            virtually and develop some kind of business model around it, that
            causes people to spend their Saturday in battle or whatnot. Maybe
            MMOGs already manage that for all I know, I haven't been paying
            attention, and maybe all that's needed is a MMOG focused on hardcore
            wargamers rather than RPG treadmillers. I'd certainly blow a Saturday
            to play such a game, but I wouldn't blow every day, so there would
            have to be some kind of "short twitch" aspect to the game also.

            The less extreme approach would be to adopt a timescale that's not
            RTS, that's slower, but nevertheless is "real time" in the sense of
            being slaved to a clock. Difficult to keep it interesting during the
            long boring bits though. I remember trying the Shogun: Total War demo
            and yawning when waiting for my guys to march over hills to wherever I
            wanted them to go. I guess the timescale could vary based on whether
            there's any combat happening, i.e. go into slo-mo or bullet time.

            > It is the little things that count. Like the ability for your units to
            > act in coordination. For instance in most RTS "if" you can tell your
            > units to stay in formation then they won't stay in formation. If they do
            > stay in formation the gameplay will be so fast it is ineffectual. That
            > doesn't even cover moving in formation or being in formation with units
            > of a different type. Yet alone any of the tactics used in an actual
            > battlefield.

            Yeah, formations in any RTS game I've seen is really hand-wavy from a
            historical perspective. Greek Phalanxes and Roman Legions simply
            didn't exist without their tightly coordinated formations.

            > If the RTS games can't do simple tactics imagine what they can't do
            > strategy wise! Modern games may have all the flash graphics and mo cap
            > but behind them all the engines are brain dead.

            This is why I think it's possible in theory for a small guy to compete
            with the likes of The Creative Assembly. We have all this shader
            technology on 3d cards nowadays, how difficult can it be to make
            polygons look good? They don't have to look like Romans, they just
            have to be aesthetically pleasing. They could be shiny steel men
            stick figures as long as they're cool. Actually that's one of the
            ideas I had for peacekeeper drones in Ocean Mars. They were basically
            these very intimidating 8 foot tall stick figures with smooth
            unadorned surfaces, used for riot suppression. They'd just bat you
            around with their super-robotic abilities, their mechanical
            architecture was so simple and tough that they're impervious to normal
            damage, and they have the AI finesse to use their overwhelming force
            gently in crowd suppression. Until of course they all go haywire in
            the AI riots during the Declaration Of The Rights Of Sentience. I
            realized at the time, however, that it was a fundamentally FPS or RTT
            idea, and not appropriate for the Civ / SMAC style TBS I was trying to
            write. Would make perfect sense for a game that's not about strategy
            but instead is all about close quarters infantry tactics though.


            Cheers,
            Brandon Van Every
          • Brandon Van Every
            ... Well that may be what everyone says, but blockbuster movies like Gladiator are based on not much more than that. Hollywood doesn t deal with battle after
            Message 5 of 10 , Jun 1, 2008
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              On Sun, Jun 1, 2008 at 10:25 AM, Gerry Quinn <gerryq@...> wrote:
              >
              > ----- Original Message -----
              >> Seems like a good treatment of the defeat of the Romans at
              >> Cannae would make a perfectly good game, at least to me.
              >
              > Only die-hard wargamers would touch that, it would seem too restrictive to
              > most people.

              Well that may be what everyone says, but blockbuster movies like
              Gladiator are based on not much more than that. Hollywood doesn't
              deal with battle after battle after battle. Replayability + a story
              about the specific battle might be a valid business model. Although
              arguably, if you go the route of story you're unnecessarily increasing
              the production effort in another direction. Maybe the right business
              model is The Passion Of The Chirst. A set of events focused in a
              short period of real time. They could be done more with the game
              engine and the event system, less with extraneous set building. A
              "playable movie" perhaps. Your main job is to kick ass on the
              battlefield, but the effects upon the story would be of interest too.

              > A large set of scenarios would get a bigger market. But my guess is that
              > there are more 4X-ers than wargamers.
              >
              > That said, wargame niches could be available - for example are there any
              > squad-based tactical wargames nowadays?

              I think there's a disconnect in how we codify and market games.
              Clearly, my Mom loves movies like Braveheart, and knows lots of things
              about European history, but would never touch Medieval II: Total War.
              She is a gamer, she plays tons of "hidden object" games and also likes
              the "Gold Digger" grab a nugget with a grappling line kind of games.
              Now I don't expect my Mom to become a military tactician, but I think
              the categories we've historically pigeonholed people into are somewhat
              mythical. This has been noticed in the casual segment of the industry
              by some people, that you can't assume there's some kind of "casual"
              player that will never embrace a "hardcore" game mechanic. Some of it
              may be a question of marketing and packaging. i.e. dark armor clad
              Norse warriors vs. cute bunnies. And then there's the ultimate
              challenge: what would cause my Mom to actually play a military
              historical game? I think she'd really have to be the general in a
              cinematic sense. Like she's Queen Elizabeth, she waves her hand, and
              the Spanish Armada sinks.


              Cheers,
              Brandon Van Every
            • Richard James
              ... I think the idea in a RTS is to abstract some of the nitty gritty details of warfare so that the player does not have to deal with them. I believe there is
              Message 6 of 10 , Jun 2, 2008
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                Brandon Van Every wrote:
                > On Sun, Jun 1, 2008 at 8:01 AM, Richard James <rjames13@...> wrote:
                >
                >> If you could effectively apply
                >> strategy into a real time setting I think that gamers would take notice.
                >>
                >
                > Well, the venerable Waterloo did it in 1990.
                > http://www.the-underdogs.info/game.php?name=Waterloo It attempted to
                > model Waterloo as it occurred in actual time. Dead opposite of a
                > clickfest, that's for sure. Command and control was difficult in that
                >
                I think the idea in a RTS is to abstract some of the nitty gritty
                details of warfare so that the player does not have to deal with them. I
                believe there is a large "plane" of possible games between the hardcore
                wargame and the clickfest RTS. I don't want to have to tell my units to
                reload but I do want them to at least understand what formation means.
                > The less extreme approach would be to adopt a timescale that's not
                > RTS, that's slower, but nevertheless is "real time" in the sense of
                > being slaved to a clock. Difficult to keep it interesting during the
                > long boring bits though. I remember trying the Shogun: Total War demo
                > and yawning when waiting for my guys to march over hills to wherever I
                > wanted them to go. I guess the timescale could vary based on whether
                > there's any combat happening, i.e. go into slo-mo or bullet time.
                >
                >
                I think that this might be a good starting point. Slowing down the time
                of the game so you can think between all those mouse clicks. Should I go
                through the swamp or up the rocky mountain pass? Many RTS maps are quite
                linear and terrain differences don't mean that much.
                > This is why I think it's possible in theory for a small guy to compete
                > with the likes of The Creative Assembly. We have all this shader
                > technology on 3d cards nowadays, how difficult can it be to make
                > polygons look good? They don't have to look like Romans, they just
                >
                Yes there does seem to be some place in that area for indie game
                developers. I just don't know how much market there is there.
                > have to be aesthetically pleasing. They could be shiny steel men
                > stick figures as long as they're cool. Actually that's one of the
                > ideas I had for peacekeeper drones in Ocean Mars. They were basically
                > these very intimidating 8 foot tall stick figures with smooth
                > unadorned surfaces, used for riot suppression. They'd just bat you
                > around with their super-robotic abilities, their mechanical
                > architecture was so simple and tough that they're impervious to normal
                > damage, and they have the AI finesse to use their overwhelming force
                > gently in crowd suppression. Until of course they all go haywire in
                > the AI riots during the Declaration Of The Rights Of Sentience. I
                > realized at the time, however, that it was a fundamentally FPS or RTT
                > idea, and not appropriate for the Civ / SMAC style TBS I was trying to
                > write. Would make perfect sense for a game that's not about strategy
                > but instead is all about close quarters infantry tactics though.
                >
                >
                That kinda reminds me of the squad based combat in say Laser Squad or
                X-COM. Although in X-COM you built stuff, when you go to battle it
                changes into a squad based combat game. It might be interesting to do a
                CIV style game where the combat is like in X-COM. The computer generates
                a map and your units are placed on it, you can use the terrain to your
                advantage to attack the enemies units. This could solve the problem of
                how stacked units attack each other although it does slow down the gameplay.

                Richard James
              • Gerry Quinn
                ... From: Brandon Van Every To: Sent: Sunday, June 01, 2008 7:11 PM Subject: Re: [gamedesign-l] Re:
                Message 7 of 10 , Jun 2, 2008
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                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: "Brandon Van Every" <bvanevery@...>
                  To: <gamedesign-l@yahoogroups.com>
                  Sent: Sunday, June 01, 2008 7:11 PM
                  Subject: Re: [gamedesign-l] Re: popular RTT games?


                  > On Sun, Jun 1, 2008 at 10:25 AM, Gerry Quinn <gerryq@...> wrote:
                  >>
                  >> ----- Original Message -----
                  >>> Seems like a good treatment of the defeat of the Romans at
                  >>> Cannae would make a perfectly good game, at least to me.
                  >>
                  >> Only die-hard wargamers would touch that, it would seem too restrictive
                  >> to
                  >> most people.
                  >
                  > Well that may be what everyone says, but blockbuster movies like
                  > Gladiator are based on not much more than that. Hollywood doesn't
                  > deal with battle after battle after battle. Replayability + a story
                  > about the specific battle might be a valid business model.

                  But few people watch Gladiator twice. People explect replayability, and
                  most will simply doubt the replayability of a game based on a single battle
                  IMO.

                  It's true that Sid Meier has made games based on single battles. But Civ
                  surely has a much broader appeal?

                  - Gerry Quinn
                • Brandon Van Every
                  ... My experience of both Shogun and Medieval II is that unit command & control isn t good enough to really take advantage of terrain. I do remember occupying
                  Message 8 of 10 , Jun 2, 2008
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                    On Mon, Jun 2, 2008 at 9:30 AM, Richard James <rjames13@...> wrote:
                    > Brandon Van Every wrote:
                    >> The less extreme approach would be to adopt a timescale that's not
                    >> RTS, that's slower, but nevertheless is "real time" in the sense of
                    >> being slaved to a clock.
                    >>
                    > I think that this might be a good starting point. Slowing down the time
                    > of the game so you can think between all those mouse clicks. Should I go
                    > through the swamp or up the rocky mountain pass? Many RTS maps are quite
                    > linear and terrain differences don't mean that much.

                    My experience of both Shogun and Medieval II is that unit command &
                    control isn't good enough to really take advantage of terrain. I do
                    remember occupying higher ground to be of some advantage in Shogun,
                    but that's about it. Units don't hide themselves well when cover is
                    available. Pikemen do not coordinate correctly to provide a
                    pincushion for either cavalry or infantry. The result of the weak c&c
                    model is that cavalry beats everything, because it's faster to move
                    around than any of the other buttons you're going to fiddle with.

                    > That kinda reminds me of the squad based combat in say Laser Squad or
                    > X-COM. Although in X-COM you built stuff, when you go to battle it
                    > changes into a squad based combat game. It might be interesting to do a
                    > CIV style game where the combat is like in X-COM. The computer generates
                    > a map and your units are placed on it, you can use the terrain to your
                    > advantage to attack the enemies units. This could solve the problem of
                    > how stacked units attack each other although it does slow down the gameplay.

                    This approach can be majorly dull if you have to fight every single
                    low level battle in great detail. Age Of Wonders did this, and after
                    awhile it was like watching paint dry!
                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Wonders If I do a low level
                    battle for a TBS, it'll be out of the player's control. He'll just
                    zoom down from space to watch it if he wants to; watching it will not
                    be the default. I thought I'd have a cinematic combat window insert,
                    so that as you mouse over things on the map, the cinematic window
                    shows a thumbnail of the combat that's occurring. If you think it's
                    really interesting you can go watch it. Also it would be possible to
                    replay the battles after the fact. Once you get up to trying to push
                    a certain number of units around, even watching units move on a
                    strategic map is a real drag. It's just not cool to have them move
                    one-by-one, it takes forever. So they all need to move
                    simultaneously, the player is not going to be able to see what's going
                    on at once, they're going to have to go back over stuff later, and
                    it's a big scientific visualization problem. This is also what chaps
                    me about people saying, historically, that TBS games are "low
                    performance" and don't have to be particularly fast as far as their 3d
                    graphics. Not true if you actually want to push around a lot of units
                    and data!

                    If the player is going to control the RTT combat then I'd make a RTT
                    game only. It's pretty clear to me that by making a TBS + RTT hybrid,
                    the Creative Assembly isn't doing the optimum job in either genre.
                    That's fine, they're profitable, they've made a valid series of games
                    that a lot of people like to play. But the game mechanics are limited
                    by the perceived need to be everything and the kitchen sink.


                    Cheers,
                    Brandon Van Every
                  • Brandon Van Every
                    ... What s your evidence for that? I know several people who have seen Gladiator multiple times. It also comes on TV and people watch it then. Of course
                    Message 9 of 10 , Jun 2, 2008
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                      On Mon, Jun 2, 2008 at 9:57 AM, Gerry Quinn <gerryq@...> wrote:
                      > From: "Brandon Van Every" <bvanevery@...>
                      >>
                      >> Well that may be what everyone says, but blockbuster movies like
                      >> Gladiator are based on not much more than that. Hollywood doesn't
                      >> deal with battle after battle after battle. Replayability + a story
                      >> about the specific battle might be a valid business model.
                      >
                      > But few people watch Gladiator twice.

                      What's your evidence for that? I know several people who have seen
                      Gladiator multiple times. It also comes on TV and people watch it
                      then. Of course they are not watching it back-to-back, it's months or
                      years between the watchings. But of course there's no game in a
                      movie, so why would they? You can't extrapolate all media
                      possibilities from film, games are a different medium after all. The
                      important point is that Hollywood has plenty of ways of presenting
                      subject matter to large audiences of varying taste. Whereas in the
                      game world we tend to say things like, "Oh, casual gamers aren't
                      interested in war, they only like four-across games that go BLING."
                      My Mom is plenty interested in history, and war as an aspect of
                      history, if not the mechanics of war itself. She's watched Braveheart
                      many times.

                      > People explect replayability, and
                      > most will simply doubt the replayability of a game based on a single battle
                      > IMO.

                      Where's your evidence for that? Have you ever conscientiously devised
                      a marketing campaign to dissuade people otherwise? I agree that it's
                      a perceptual issue that needs to be dealt with. I don't agree that
                      it's unsolveable.

                      > It's true that Sid Meier has made games based on single battles. But Civ
                      > surely has a much broader appeal?

                      With "Gettysburg!" he picked the wrong war. The US Civil War is kind
                      of a geeky thing to be interested in. I've only become interested in
                      it since living in the Southeast USA as an adult. You'll notice that
                      most of the popular games are either about WW II, Rome, medieval
                      castles, or feudal Asia.


                      Cheers,
                      Brandon Van Every
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