I know this is usually Erik’s thing, but he’s busy being super lazy at the Dark Knight Rises showing tonight. So, I’ll be doing this Friday’s Speculation. So I’m going to just jump right into the tank.
Editor’s Note: It was so worth it!
Ever play an RTS and think that it’s too structured? Out of your 10 units to choose from, you pick the cheapest, more economical meat hammers to shove out of your barracks and down the throats of your enemies. In the case of Company of Heroes, this happens to be the Wehrmacht Pioneers equipped with Flamethrowers under the Defense Doctrine with support of 88mm Paks (for me, hard to beat super effective anti-infantry and super resistant anti-tank weapons). You work out a system and most of the time it works without working up much of a sweat.
This is what I mean by structured. Little variation between units of the same faction between games. You pick your favorite and go with it.
So let’s switch things up a bit.
1. Super Customization (Kohan did this pretty well, where you could select a base squad of 4 and choose a hero and 2 support units to change their effectiveness versus certain enemy types)
To my knowledge, no RTS game truly allows a person to build a particular unit to the specific ideas of the player. Let’s say we have a basic infantry unit. If the player were able to customize the units weapons, equipment, armor and special abilities, the unit would change based on the player’s style, needs, and objectives. If a 6 person squad each has different weapons, they’re (as the saying goes) a jack of trades, but a master of none. The idea for this is that each squad would have higher and lower efficiencies based on what they carry, how efficiently they carry it, and what environment they’re equipped to handle (like a unit equipped in hazmat suits would be able to travel through radioactive or toxic environments, but at an extreme cost to defensive capability, equipment space, and vision.). These types of trade offs and the amount of equipment available would create the ultimate strategy games where every modification would make each unit unique (not like we’d be limited to one infantry or vehicle type, right?) and function in different strategies. Not to mention that online multiplayer games would be way more intense. No longer would there be units that are instantly predisposed to particular early game strategies. COUGHZERGRUSHCOUGH.
2. Random Events
I’ve also never seen this in a modern RTS game, except for Stronghold, in which random events would have a direct influence on morale, economic growth, or unit destruction. For instance, Stronghold had a series of random events, some good, some bad that would affect your kingdom in specifics ways. The most important of which was, kingdom approval, in which your subjects disappeared if you were viewed in an unfavorable light. I propose that this system be brought back. Though not in just the terms of morale (though that would be a great influence on combat effectiveness and require great measures to overcome such a slump). I feel like many RTS games are capable of applying environmental effects, like tornadoes, tidal fluxes, wildfires, sickness, earthquakes etc. that would allow for a dynamic game, creating obstacles with fallen trees, ravines, volcanic spill, etc (and hopefully not all of them would be bad, with maybe an increase in morale, supply output, technological advancements, etc.) The possibilities would be random. The ultimate redefinition of strategy. Of course I’m sure all of this is hard to pull off for the developers. This is all good though. In theory.
3. Adjustable Tactical Assets
As far as RTS games go, many restrict you to a small selection of assets and commander abilities that range anywhere between legitimately useful and completely useless. My idea is to make basic tactical assets available regardless of the way you play, with special assets available based on your tastes and play styles (with restrictions, of course). Things like recon, assault flares, border emplacements, securing supply lines, and minimal morale boosts would be the defaults, available to pretty much any military force anywhere in some fashion or the other. Special abilities could be selected based on your play style. Like having immediate air support and surgical demolition placements? Get them. You could send your infiltration team off map only to appear 5 minutes down the road next to an enemy encampment and destroy one of their buildings you’ve sited through short ranged recon. If they come under fire on the way, send in the air support and a flight of jets either strafe or bomb the target group depending on the proximity of your forces. Want a way to defend your units from a surprisingly difficult and unexpected situation? Drop a medium-sized cover piece in front of the squad from a standing helicopter at your HQ. Or perhaps airlift a tank to the position with an ability that allows for transportation of particular troops.
My ideas might be a pretty rough around the edges. But I think these aspects can greatly increase the appeal of an RTS. And to my knowledge, none of these aspects truly exist in an way, shape, or form. So any developers who read this and are interested in making an RTS, feel free to look me up and we’ll discuss the price for my intellectual contribution to your pocketbook.