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Ensemble and Console RTS

July 8th, 2008 by Troy Goodfellow · 8 Comments · Consoles, Ensemble, RTS

I need to check my blogroll more often since I missed this post from Bruce Shelley about many things. Most importantly, it says a few things about how their RTS Halo Wars will be controlled on the console.

I may have mentioned many blogs ago that we reprogrammed Age of Mythology to be playable with an Xbox controller as a proof of concept. Designer/programmer Tim Deen got to the point that he could play AoM better with the controller than the mouse/keyboard. We are very excited about how the new, built from scratch, control system is working. We know that if we do a good job with Halo Wars, especially the controls, it could encourage a much more rich and interesting genre of console strategy games for the future. Ideally we would like to do for strategy games on the console what Halo itself did for first-person shooters on the console.

I’ve written that Halo Wars could be the RTS to solve the controller puzzle since it is being designed with the 360 in mind. Mind you, a lot of people have said that they solved the problem in their ports of PC games, and been largely wrong. (My review of the 360 Supreme Commander is up at Crispy Gamer, but I’ll more to say on that once I’ve put the 360 Kane’s Wrath through the wringer. Gas Powered Games and Hellbent have done a lot of stuff right with the controller adaptation, but didn’t adjust the scale of the game to the demands of sitting seven to ten feet from what is going on.)

Does Tim Deen really think that the prototype console controls for Age of Mythology beat the mouse? I’d be stunned if this were the case, especially since there is a lot of micromanagment of economic stuff going on in AoM, and this is generally where the console controls start to come apart.

(Post spotted at Game, Set, Watch.)


8 Comments so far ↓

  • AndrewM

    The solution to FPSs on controllers was autoaim. Maybe the solution to RTSs on controllers is automicro.

    Also, you should use an RSS reader. They are especially good at tracking blogs like Bruce Shelley’s that update very infrequently. I use the Google one.

  • James Allen

    Do you think strategy games will ever be better on a console? I think they might be designing it for the wrong one, as it seems the Wii would be best fit for a port since the remote can sub as the mouse.

  • Troy

    I’m not sure about better. I think that TBS games can make the transition pretty smoothly. You need to work on the interface a little, but Shattered Union was just as average on the 360 as it was on the PC. And the DS is a great little strategy game platform for TBS.

    RTS will need a complete reimagining, I think.

    The Wii is an interesting problem. You’ll note that there is no Wii version of Civilization Revolution, yet, and I believe that the controllers were one of the issues. Console controllers are just not precision instruments, and flailing your arms is not a precision activity.

    So long as your strategy design requires lots of data, lots of balancing and lots of precision, it doubt it will work on a console.

    But then I look at Oblivion, a game whose UI is very inefficient, especially on the PC, but that can be managed reasonably well on the 360. I think that these problems can be solved, but it involves thinking about the tools you have.

  • James Allen

    Speaking of console RTS games, I’ve been playing the Multiwinia press preview, and it has an interface specifically designed for an Xbox controller (since it will be released for the 360 and PC). It feels weird playing it on the PC (well, different, at least), but the simplified control scheme seems to work well, although all of the hotkeys I am used to using are gone.
    Have you had a chance to play it yet, Troy?

  • Troy

    Haven’t touched it yet, which is fine because I am so far behind on other stuff.

  • Robert

    Tom Chick wrote not too long ago on CrispyGamer about console RTS games:


    I think he’s on to something mentioning games like The Outfit, Battlezone , Pikmin, Overlord, and Sacrifice. These were both titles that worked in a familiar console camera viewpoint (1st or 3rd person) with pretty conventional control scenes that console gamers can relate to better.

    This kind of perspective lends itself to a different sort of RTS game, but I agree with Troy above-the genre will need a reimagining to make it really work on consoles.

    Focusing on “hero” style units and their retinues, four or five “squads” of land units that can easily be cycled through and given simple orders that always relate to the hero unit (guard this point I am at, follow me, attack the enemies near me), and use-on-demand abilities for things like air support (ala Company of Heroes) seems like the way to go.

  • GotGame.com

    You just simply cannot beat a mouse and keyboard for RTS games. Even if the reason is solely because of the possible number of different inputs (different key combinations i.e. ‘ctrl + s’ is different than just ‘s’) for the mouse and keyboard vastly trumps what a controller can come up with.

  • Strategos' Risk

    What about Endwar? Consoles innovate with hardware accessories, after all- voice commander!