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Underdone Strategy Settings

May 25th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

As wide and deep as the strategy genre is, you would think that we would see more variety in the settings for the games. The push for a familiar world to put the player at ease means that most games just repeat the same moments over and over again. Games with a broad historical sweep aside, strategy games today generally fall into four major groups:

World War II
Cold War gone hot

There were once lots of Civil War battle games and games that dealt with Napoleon, but the golden age of wargaming is long past. So these settings, though still popular with players, are a little out of fashion. As ancient themed games have grown in popularity, these early modern and modern themes have faded.

The Age of Discovery is also a common them in games, but is not a perennial favorite like revisiting D-Day is.

I have a few periods that could use the attention of a talented designer. I am not suggesting that people stop making games about familiar or popular topics – I need legions to command – but would a little change hurt?

Ancient Middle East – Besides Chariots of War, no other game has really dealt with this fascinating period. Though the tech tree would be simple, and largely focused on organizational stuff, the diplomatic setting is complex and deep. You could plop the player in as the King of Assyria, armed with the greatest military force ever seen or as the King of Judah, caught between Assyria and the Egyptian superpower to the south. There is probably a good Christian/Jewish religious game in here somewhere. Can you keep your faith and your kingdom?

Renaissance Italy – If you want diplomatic wheeling dealing, this is the setting for it. The Merchant Prince/Machiavelli games dealt with some of the scheming that the author of The Prince was talking about, but put some foreign and military policy in there. This was a cockpit of all kinds of fun. If Paradox is smart, they’ll package the Machiavelli variant with their Diplomacy game now in production.

Exploration – Someone on another forum had this idea, and I think it’s a good one. Let the player be an explorer in the opening of a great Continent. Randomize the world setting, put strategic decisions in his/her way (negotiations, supplies, speed, competition for renown) and let people act out their inner Livingston.

Creation of China – the Shogun Era of Japan has been done a few times, and Koei dealt with the early Chinese empire way back in the Golden Age of strategy gaming. The success of recent Chinese movies with the expansion of Qin as a backdrop may mean that there is an audience for this kind of historic strategy epic.

Trade Empires – Yeah, Frog City already did a game called this. But someone should revisit it and make it fun. Add multiplayer. Maybe if Frog City wasn’t too busy making a GTA drug lord ripoff, they could do it.

Ideas are a dime a dozen in the game industry, and I am sure that smarter people than I have proposed ideas similar to these to their bosses. None of these ideas is purely original, just underdone.

And, familiar settings means a ready made audience. Which means money. Most great games are variations on a theme – nothing way out in left field.

But take this chance to pitch the strategy game you want to see. Maybe somebody will listen.


4 Comments so far ↓

  • Jim9137

    Okay, time for the little scifi geek jump out from it’s shell, which apparently happens to be me now.

    Future, was it the SW/ST or more “serious”/”hardcore” stuff, holds great potential for creativity. I for one, do get pleasure from commanding Tigers to attack the masses of Shermans or command my bloody pikesman against those dirty heavy cavalry, but hey, why is there no bloody scifi strategy games out there? There are few tons of FPS’s, and by the looks of it, they’re selling quite well.

    Why wouldn’t this be the case in strategy games as well? Last larger scale strategy game in any of these settings were that genetics game where you mixed things together to create your army. (NOT the better game, Unnatural Selection mind you.) And for that I had to stretch my thinking a bit. OH! Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War is one too, but it’s rather straightforward Warcraft clone.

    I want to command Tigers of the future with huge laser cannons to attack those clonking robots of doom, thank you very much and give me some suger on my coffee now.

  • Michael A.

    I have a dream of “redoing” Emperor of the Fading Suns, someday, but redoing it properly. Some day…

  • Paul Stephanouk

    I’ve got this great idea for a game about the Peloponnesian War I’d like to make one day, but the market for simulation wargames seems like a scary place for a person of my girth. I don’t think I can go without food for that long…

  • Troy Goodfellow

    Michael: Finish Imperium first. You have no idea how much I need you to finish it.

    Paul: I think there is a good game there in the Peloponnesian War. You have the whole Balance of Power thing, the possibility of Persian intervention, two similar but different major powers…but ideas are the easy part. (Which is why I am here and you are there.)