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Real Time Strategy too imprecise.

December 16th, 2004 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

While reading a thread on “Best RTS of the Year”, I noticed a lot of votes for Rome: Total War. It’s my favorite game of the year – so far – so I understand the sentiment. But is it really RTS? The real “strategy” component (the campaign game) is turn-based, not real time. The battle engine is actually tactics, not strategy, though some of the battles can have strategic consequences – especially when you hunt down that 8-star Celtic general who has been driving you crazy. In fact, if you simulate most of the battles, there is precious little real time stuff going on at all.

You often hear people say how much they hate RTS games, but in this case they usually have one type of RTS in mind. They are talking about those Warcraft/Starcraft type games where you assign peons to collect resources and then build an army to smack your opponent.

Then you have the RTS games like Paradox’s grand strategy games – Europa Universalis and its progeny. Clearly strategy, clearly real-time, but nothing like either the Total War games or the *crafts.

You could even go so far as to call city-builder or Tycoon games RTS, since they require strategy and unfold in real-time.

In short, RTS is as broad a category as strategy itself. With turn-based games largely being pushed aside (except in ye olde wargame circles), RTS may simply become synonymous with strategy.

I would prefer to separate the *craft and Age of X games from the lot by calling them 3H games – Harvest, Hoard and Hassle. We already have 4X as an abbreviation, so 3H fits just fine. Plus, it is more descriptive of the game style than the simple delineation of how time is measured.

The Paradox Games can just be called Real Time Grand Strategy since that’s all it is. Everything is done in real time, the decisions are all pretty high level, so RTGS it is.

As for the Total War games (and the upcoming Imperial Glory from Pyro Studios), they kind of stand alone. Real-time Historical Battle Sims doesn’t do justice to the campaign component, and Action Risk is too snarky to be useful. So feel free to contribute a new acronym for these types of games.


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