"All war is deception"

Thursday, April 20, 2017

First Impressions: 8-Bit Armies

At first, 8-Bit Armies do not look at all that much. But once you get into it, it feels a lot like the classic Command and Conquer. And for a good reason, too, the game was made by Petroglyph Studios, which is a descendant of the Westwood Studios.

You have two factions, the Renegades and the Guardians. Both factions are a mix of GDI and Nod units and powers. For example, the Renegades have nukes but also the military GDI-esque hardware, while the Renegades have a Nod vibe, yet with an ion cannon satellite.

Campaigns play and look like mobile missions, with a 3 star rating for completing objectives. With each mission, you unlock more units and structures for a loadout, which is surprisingly addictive.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Just Interesting: Failure RTS

Failure promises to be a original cyberpunk RTS with some MOBA elements and other hybridization. I like how the units show what territories they get on a hex board, and also clear terrain manipulation.

Check out their website.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Game Design: A Soulslike RTS?

Anyone play Dark Souls?
So DS has a reputation of tight but deliberate combat gameplay.
And there has been a crop of games called Soulslike (as a genre) trying to emulate the tightness and deliberate combat.
For those who haven't played Dark Souls:
1. DS has a stamina bar, which limits your combat actions until it refills
2. Each combat action cannot be stopped midair, if you commit to an attack, you can't cancel it.
3. Each enemy has a distinct and non-randomized pattern in combat.
Is there an RTS equivalent? 
Starcraft is the first to come to mind. It is said to be the tightest RTS gameplay there is.
Dune 2's limitation of being able to select only one unit and attack brings it to mind. It felt deliberate, even though limiting.
But if there's no RTS equivalent, what if a Soulslike RTS would play as follows:
1. It would have a sort of stamina bar for the player to limit his actions of selection and combat? Basically, you get only a few actions per minute.
2. If you send out a unit/squad to move or attack or whatever, you can't immediately micromanage it out of the way to avoid an attack or whatever, so then you must commit to whatever action you put forth.
3. More experimentally, in a squad, you are able to command the units directly and instantly like a character with hotkeys along with mouse. Switch formations on the fly, use the WASD to "guide" the flow of attack. Right clicking is instantly responsive despite distance, for example, clicking for an archer squad will immediately fire a volley of arrows at the mouse location (without doing that hotkey then click or click button then click). Kinda like a MOBA style control.


Friday, February 17, 2017

First Impressions: 0 AD

0 AD is a free, open source RTS.

As an RTS, 0 AD reminds me most of a cross between Age of Empires 3 and Age of Mythology. They have almost the same resources and seeming economic focus. I tried the Athenians, which were the first in alphabetical order for the historical factions.

The most obvious difference is that soldiers also have all worker/builder abilities. There are no male "villagers", all are soldiers. There are female villagers who actually speed up male unit work. I like that dynamic.

The game is incomplete and unfinished so far.

I would love an Israel/Hebrew civilization mod for it.

Download and play 0 AD here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Just Interesting: SC2VN

SC2VN is not a real time strategy game. Rather, it is a visual novel based on a real time strategy game, particularly Starcraft 2, and even more particularly, the South Korean competitive e-sports scene of Starcraft 2.

It is actually pretty well written, and I felt like I saw and understood a subculture when I finished it. It definitely showed a side of RTS gaming I wasn't that knowledgeable in. I hardly ever play multiplayer on Starcraft, so this was, in effect, eye opening.

It's free on Steam and Itch.io, so go ahead and try it.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Meta General: Why I Love To Play RTS Games

Okay, I figured out a big reason why I love (slower paced) RTSes, and only like, say RTTs (real time tactics) like Dawn of War 2 or why I don't play multiplayer Starcraft that much (and again, 3/4s of Starcraft players don't play multiplayer). This might help some RTS designers in the group.

I like that you build the economy. I like that you fight and command in combat.

But what I love about it is that you keep on unlocking new stuff as you build your base and survive so you can finally have the epic toys of superweapons and OP units, or the end game.

*That* gives me a feeling of truly earned power and at the same time captures my imagination.

It's not base building that is important, it is the clear progression from weak to strong. Base building is just the expression of that progression. Removing base building is removing the expression of progression. If one removes base building, it must be replaced with a better sort of progression.

With fast paced multiplayer like Starcraft, I can't ever build a truly epic army with cool units before getting destroyed. Either I strike hard early with a bunch of low level units (ie Marines or Zerglings) and I win, or more likely than not, I get annihilated with a bunch of low level units while I tried to get to the Battlecruisers.

While that may be fun for some, winning early, that just feels... unsatisfying to me. It feels rushed and also you don't get to experience much of the content because of early winning and losses.

With Dawn of War 2 (just talking about early campaigns), yes, I like the combat is better inherently, but you just get a squad(s). While a powerful squad, it's just the same squad(s) the whole game! You get new weapons, but nothing spectacular to write home about. Dawn of War 1 had much more toys to play with like tanks and aircraft and titans. Combat may be better, but at the expense of the sandboxy variety.

So, tl;dr
Unlocking (not just having, as unlocking is earning) powerful units and commander powers like superweapons to use against my enemies is why I love RTSes.

It is not (always) satisfying for people (me, at least) to win a match with just weak units in the early game because it didn't give me (or my enemy even) a chance to use cool stuff!

I don't know if that helped you, but I just had to put it into words.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Just Interesting: Kravall

Kravall is an RTS set in the future where there is societal rioting. It seems to be a halted student project in a college. Their blog details what kind of technical specifications they were up to.

Friday, January 27, 2017

First Impressions: Art of War: Red Tides (Open Beta/Early Access)

Art of War: Red Tides can probably be considered to be a really basic, stripped down real time strategy. Although it has more in common with MOBAs, but on a single lane. The game describes itself as a "tug of war" game, and a tug of war is what it actually does feel like.

And it is addicting. There are plenty of unit variety and commander powers for each faction. You pick several units from your arsenal to deploy into battle. Unit composition is important! Every wave sends out your units automatically. You can sell the units for half price and buy a different unit as you study the enemy's composition. And you regularly unlock new units as you level up, which is awesome, unlike other free-to-play fare. You do not pay for every wave's units, just when you buy said unit initially.

All the units, and future unlocks, are balanced against each other. For example, you can opt to unlock and use snipers instead of a rifleman. A sniper is not necessarily a lot better than a rifleman, as it just has a longer range and slower shot, but it fills the mass infantry slot. Each unlock is simply a variation of an existing unit with a special ability and a different, balanced weakness. There is no pay-to-win, a low level player can win against a higher level player.

The thing that makes the game great is that there are hard counters and a rhythm. Explosive suicide beetles do not work on shields, when they can usually make a mincemeat of your other units. Stealth detectors reveal cloaked enemies. Cloaked enemies can make short work of the tough units you have if you can't see them. You an either swarm many small units or save up for the big guns.

I only got to play the free-to-play Early Access/Open Beta version of the game. I would be playing it right now instead of writing this post if it wasn't for the Open Beta ending. It is that addictive.

Apparently, it was inspired by a Starcraft 2 mod called Desert Strike. The influence from Starcraft is definitely present. Three factions, one of them being the Terrans. The Atlac are Protoss. The Yaguiaoi or however you spell it is supposed to be the Zerg counterpart, but with a more zoo-like aesthetic.

The soul essence mine resource acquiring needs a bit of work. Resource gathering is a constant stream of increasing soul essence, which is fine. However, at higher waves, you need to upgrade said mine, which stops resource gathering for quite a bit. I was not a fan of holding off picking units which costs essence to upgrade mines. The resource gathering is passive except for those moments. I think resource gathering tied more to the game flow and play would be better.

As you destroy enemy units and crates, you gain some soul essence but mostly gold. Gold is used to be spent on commander powers such as bombing runs or special "epic" units.

One thing though, the menu music is terrible. Please, please change it. The cheery tone does not fit the game, except possibly ironically. I also would love to have the English translation done better. There are story lore still in Chinese(?) that needs to be translated.

Regardless to say, I'm waiting for the full release! I hope it still sticks to being free-to-play. Free-to-play actually works with this game, and I'm interested in how the developers will take Art of War: Red Tides.

Game Design: Making RTS More Strategic Or Tactical

A pausable RTS game. Can be auto-paused when encountering an enemy unit. Orders can be given in pause.

Pre-set plans for dealing with different units. Like designing AI for each squad.
Plans would include:
Rough formations of the unit in the squad.
Orders in sequence: throw a grenade, hide in cover, etc.
This is all done either before the game or during. Like a planning session.

A focus on micro skills that can quickly turn the battle.

More political decisions and less total war.
More other macro decisions
Ability to set AI governors and automation to focus on micromanaging the mos fun parts (subjective to the player)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Just Interesting: Korix

I came across this game trying to improve this blog's SEO. It seems to be a Tower Defense RTS hybrid for Playstation VR. Neat.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

First Impressions: Achron, The Time Travel RTS

Achron is a 4D RTS that uses time travel mechanics. I've always wanted to play this RTS as I love the concept time travel. So I got the demo from Steam to play around with.

The tutorial is a bit confusing, as expected. I get what the game wants me to do, but I just got lost after the timeline manipulator was introduced and the enemy started to attack me in the past. Information overload led me to quitting the tutorial early.

It might take awhile for me to figure the intricacy of the game. I have created a similar game before, just with simpler controls and smaller scale.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Upcoming: Halo War 2

I don't own any consoles, but I have always been interested in trying out Halo Wars. It is set for release in February.

Friday, January 20, 2017

First Impressions: Tom Clancy's EndWar

Tom Clancy's EndWar is unique in that one can use voice commands to lead units into battle. There are three modern factions going for a world war caused by terrorist attacks on an anti-nuclear shield: America, Europe, and Russia.

The voice command interface actually works a lot better than I expected it to. That said, there are some things that I felt were missing and had to correct with the mouse. Things like having no voice command to get your units, especially infantry, into nearby cover or to garrison buildings. However, those are minor grievances. Everything else seems to work well so far.

Check it out here for Steam (Tom Clancy's EndWar) and support this blog!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

What Never Was: End of Nations

End of Nations promised a truly massively multiplayer online RTS game. It was a game I was excited for, even though I knew my PC at the time couldn't run it.

The backstory and setting of the world had some undertones of Biblical Antichrist world government end time shenanigans. You played as one of the many groups trying to take it out.

Unfortunately, it was first turned into a MOBA game and then got totally canceled after some layoffs.

This is one game, both in concept and in essence, I hope someone resurrects.