Friday, May 29, 2009

Where's My Dictionary?

This has been a long time coming, but it is an issue that is dear to me, even if in the end my core arugment might be summarized as mere semantics, but I do not really care. The use of the term strategy, in Real Time Strategies has long irked me to great end. Because having focused rather extensively upon military history my professor took a class to carefully make sure we each understood what Strategy meant in war. He established it by stating that it took place involving certain numbers of troops, and if you went smaller then you descended into the realms of tactics. And there is a difference between tactics and strategy. 
Tactics wins battles, strategies win wars. 
Since almost all RTS games are more about battles than an overall war, it should stand to reason that tactics is what matters in the game. Being able to have better memorized a specific build order, or micromanage your troops to effectively maximize their damage outputted while minimizing whats taken has next to nothing to do with strategy. 
Basically I'm saying that the 'Craft' series by Blizzard, the C&C games, and the billions of their clones, have all failed to bring strategy into the RTS genre. This extends beyond mere multiplayer matches, most singleplayer games leave out the strategy as a part of the storyline. Which I can understand is necessary in many cases, but it means you are not playing a strategy game. You're playing a game in which you given tactical control of a series of battles to linearly progress onwards to the next battle. There are some actual "strategy" games, but the only dominating my thoughts at the moment would be Total War, and it is a partial Turn Based.
I should be clear, this is not a condemnation of the style of play that dominates RTS games, but rather a critique that most of them fit more into FPS style play than strategy gamers will care to admit. Precise skill and control is far more valuable in RTS games than it should be. I mean strategies are carefully formulated, but in an RTS time is of the essence so it is better to get a shit load of something. Put simply, it is my thought that RTS games contain as much strategy or less than a shooter. The only true strategy games are turn based games. Where you can form plans, respond to changes effectively and generally see a strategy fall apart and try to salvage it.
One of the most horrific moments of late is watching the Starcraft 2 Battle Reports, which feature two pros battling. The fact that blizzard is actively encouraging the use of workers as meat shields, the micromanagement of units for peak performance is complete garbage. It only promotes the multiplayer game as something that advocates a ludicrous style of play that has no real world significance and completely ignores the advances done in recent years of RTS. Sure Dawn of War I & II and Company of Heroes are just as guilty as being more tactical than Strategical, but the Relic openly admit to it; Supreme Commander attempted to bring the Strategy into RTS and made significant inroads. 
I'll still get and adore Starcraft 2, but the multiplayer is not a part of RTS games that has any appeal to me. Micromanagement fests between economy and battles is not my idea of compelling strategy gameplay. Being hit by an early game rush accomplishes nothing other than tell me that the game embraces quick reflexes over sound thinking. And if I want to play a game about reflexes I can play DotA, TF2, L4D, or any other number of shooters. If i want a strategy game I play turn based ones.  I'm pretty sure that story interests me more than the actual gameplay of 'Craft' games ever has.  Well that and the custom game modes that inevitably show up.

Thats all I've got to say and matters of 'strategy'.


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