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HIstory of RTS Games 225

Spuggy writes "Gamespot has got an excellent article (in Two Parts) depicting the history of Real Time Strategy Games (From Dune II to the forthcoming Warcraft III and Emperor: Battle for Dune). They cover nearly every RTS release and categorize them by generation. The article even has a mention of the old Sega game Herzog Zwei, which was the first game to incorporate RTS elements." It's all about WC2 for me. What a game.
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HIstory of RTS Games

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  • by CMiYC ( 6473 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @01:15PM (#2982565) Homepage
    Oh my god! I could not remember the name of that game! I have it stashed away somewhere in storage. My friend gave it to me because he couldn't figure out how to play it. (Well he wasn't actually a friend, just someone I knew.) I had no instruction manual and no idea what it was. I figured out how to play it all on my own and loved it! Man, I haven't thought about that game for a long long time.
    • I remember spending late nights with my buddies in high school wasting hours and hours battling each other playing Herzog Zwei during the height of the Sega Genesis. Having fond memories of this classic game, I searched google to see if anyone had re-released this game on different platforms or if anyone had tried to recreate it.

      I was pleasantly surprised to see this guy working on a recreation of the game he was calling HZ: []

      It seems to have been in alpha form for over a year now, which is unfortunate, but the source is available and it has been ported to Linux! NOTE: This web site also has a scan of the original manual for the Sega Genesis game.

      Also interesting is a site for a Herzog Zwei mod for UT (Unreal Tournament). I'm not sure how that is going to work, but it seems to be under active development: []

      This could be great. Herzog in a 3D world with online playing capabilities...
  • by Zarhan ( 415465 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @01:18PM (#2982575)
    Herzog Zwei? That's a new one.

    Doesn't anyone remember NATO Commander? Published in 1984, for Commodore 64. It was an RTS. No mouse driven interface, but it was real-time. Brilliant game (of the era) about the good ol' red storm rising and NATO and Warsaw pact fighting it out in the central Europe.

    Try it out on your C-64 emulator :)
    • I had forgotten NATO Commander.

      That said, I was completely apalled that Bolo [] didn't even get a mention.

      To quote the author: "Bolo is a 16 player graphical networked real-time multi-player tank battle game. It has elements of arcade-style shoot-em-up action, but for the serious players who play 12 hour games with 16 players working in teams in different networked computer clusters around an office or university campus, it becomes more of a strategy game. You have to play it to understand."

      Or does being network enabled back in '87 somehow disqualify it as an RTS?
  • Warcraft II (Score:5, Funny)

    by Digitalia ( 127982 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @01:21PM (#2982586) Homepage
    Nothing taught me the meaning of strategy better than spending 10 minutes straight typing "glittering prizes." To this day, I can still type those two words in under a second. Being such an excellent student of strategy, I realized I could save time in typing papers for class if I started working Warcraft I and II cheats into them. Consider the following:
    • "In Shakespeare's
    • Othello, Iago covets the glittering prizes of Othello, in the form of his wife, and uses every little thing she does to evoke jealousy in the iron forge of Othello's heart."
  • These games are some of the best I have seen. They so completely non-linear in their gameplay that they should be commended in some way beyond other games. The only trouble with these games is the fact that four hours never fails to seems to seem like one, and that can be a very, very big problem...
  • by Cynical_Dude ( 548704 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @01:24PM (#2982604)
    ... was Total Annihilation.

    3D graphics, order queues for your units, well thought out balance between the two factions and good (for the time) network support, allowing for a decent game against your friends.

    Too bad the company (Cavedog) went to hell and never released a decent successor.

    If you want to read what I'm blathering about, here is the link [] to the summary from the main article.
    • Total Annihilation never worked very well for me.
      When I used to go to LAN parties, we'd try to set up a game of T.A., and most of the time, it would blow up with errors right in the middle of the action, 15 or 20 minutes into playing.

      It always seemed to work fine as a 2-player or stand-alone game, but it seemed to have major problems with handling higher levels of network traffic.

      I was always disappointed it didn't work better though, because I agree -- it looked like one of the better real-time strategy games available at that time.
    • Yes, I agree completely. I have long thought TA the best RTS game, and I have played a *lot* of games.

      Bias in my thoughts: I have certainly played the games I like much more than the others, but the ones I profess to have experience in, I really have played and evaluated long enough that I consider my judgement valid. I love to play games, but I don't really enjoy single player games. If all my friends want to play StarCraft, then that's what I play, even if I consider it vastly inferior to TA. I have played War2, SC, AOE, AOE2, C&C, and several others. Each of these I have played for at least 50-100 hours... (TA I have played 1000s of hours worth).

      In the TA community, I played on Kali and was known as ''.

      Anyway, Total Annihilation:

      To corroborate King_TJ, the worst part of the game was its network code. Strangely, it seemed to work better in the early days than the later ones (and later patch versions).

      TA had lots of elements that were incredible, and some that still haven't been surpassed. The only good concept I can think of that another game had which TA lacked was random map generation.

      The resource model was better than any other. I have read AOE2 fan sites that lambaste TA for its 'terrible resource management'. This is ludicrous, they must not have spent very long evaluating it. More resources doesn't equate to a better resource model. TA had only 2 resources, energy and metal. The most interesting aspect of TA's resource model was that your resource store was "continuum based": All of your resource income and expenditure was like "+2.3 metal/sec -1.5 energy/sec" from an individual mine, and maybe you have a vehicle construction unit building a laser tower for "-5.3 metal/sec -30.2 energy/sec" or something... The different construction units built at different speeds. The most important part was that you could start building anything you wanted regardless of resource cost. For example, it might cost 2000metal and a lot of energy (metal was far more important than energy) to build an advanced construction yard. Even if you only had 100 metal on you, you could start the construction immediately... Your construction unit might use up 10 metal/sec, so your metal will be used up quick, but you can still build. If you run out of metal, some building projects don't get built during that second (if you bring in 20 metal and try spend 30, some things don't get done)...

      Also interesting about the resource model was "corpses"... If you attack me and fail to do much damage, there is a good chance you are in a lot worse position than you were, since your units die and leave behind "corpses" or "husks" which have lots of metal on them, and I can send out construction units to reclaim the metal (and then build my own army faster).

      Also interesting is the concept of the Commander. Other games have this concept in varying degrees now, and perhaps TA wasn't the first, but it was the first to do it well. The commander, (your starting unit), is very powerful fighting and a very quick construction unit. Also interesting, is that the commander becomes a liability in lategame. He is not powerful enough on his own to be useful (his build speed is still useful), but if he is destroyed, depending on the game settings you either lose the game immediately, or, he explodes with the force of a nuclear missile (which basically destroys everything within a rather large radius).

      One of the better aspects of TA is that just mindlessly churning out units and trying to overwhelm your enemy is not nearly so useful as in other games. (People who have played other games and then evaluate TA often say TA is bad *because* this is what happens, but that is typically due to their inexperience).

      Some people attack TA because it has "too many units", and "they all look alike": I suppose this is just a matter of taste, and I agree it can be daunting to new users. However, I can say without exaggerating that except for a small handful (less than 5) of the 300+ units, every single unit has its uses, and they all get used by experienced players. Contrast this with other games, where they have maybe 50 units, and perhaps 5 or 10 see regular use.

      My specific bitches about other RT"S" games typically come from the micromanagement factor. SC is by far the worst in this area, IMO, but the others commit the crime much more than TA. Examples from SC: the terran tanks, going out of siege mode, sneaking forward a tile, then going into siege mode. Also, how important the spellcasters are: A single spell can really spell(har har) the difference in the game, for example by taking out several 1000s worth of resource by killing a group of marines or zerglings... And every spell must be handled and cast manually! Another example: Look at the descriptions of "championship matches" involving SC or AOE and the like. Invariably they revolve around distracting your opponent and then surprise attacking another area. This is a high level tactic almost verging on actual strategy, which is commendable, but the fact remains that the units fight so terribly they must be handheld. TA has its own failures in this area, but they are not nearly so grevious as other ones.

      A million factors make TA a much deeper game than most Realtime "Strategy" games. I put "Strategy" in quotes because I hold that there is very little strategy that goes into them, but rather tactics. This is not to say they aren't fun, I rather enjoy some of them, but I do maintain that they are named incorrectly. TA has both strategic and tactical levels.

      OK, I suppose I have ranted enough. I don't even suppose people will care very much about an older game anyway.
      • I don't even suppose people will care very much about an older game anyway.

        Old, but still oft-replayed in spare hours. Although I've played several newer titles, I haven't yet seen a RTS game that I thought beat TA for pure gaming addiction. And I can still play TA on my P2/350. :-)

      • Hey, I care! TA is the only reason I still boot into OS9 (OSX rocks BTW).

        To continue your excellent rant, I've played RTS games since Warcraft, but I always go back to TA. Why? Because of all othe RTS games, it has the most Strategy. SC, WCII, CC all involve way (way way) too much micromanagement. (I haven't played AoE or AoEII yet). Everytime I play SC, I long for TA's movement and attach profile. Also, the small unit grouping limit is a huge pain in the ass. With TA, setting the profiles for Movement (Hold Position/Manuever/Roam) and Attack (Hold Fire/Return Fire/Fire At Will) can make a huge difference in how unit behave. This is exactly what you want when you send units out to patrol vs. guard vs. attack vs. sneak attack vs. targetted attack etc. Another big plus is the ability to have construction units patrol areas to repair structures and units.

        Over all strategy is incredibly important in TA (when played well) mind you. With a good defensive structure/web up (laser cannons and plasma cannons and missile turrets, Oh My! Oh and dragon's teeth, lots of dragon's teeth) I can guarantee that any rush without huge air support will get annihilated (haha).

        TA is still one of the few games where a mostly defensive posture is possible. SC, WC, CC and WCII all favor very aggressive postures. In TA, against someone who knows how to scout and scan their radar screen often, extreme agressiveness will get you wiped out quickly. Especially on metal deprived maps, attacking early can give your apponent a huge advantage in metal.

        On small maps, the race is usually who will get a (protected) Fusion Generator + Bertha/Intimidator up first. Note that if it isn't well protected, a full flight of bombers supported by distracting fighters/scout planes will reduce it to a pile of twisted metal in a blink of an eye.

        On large maps, air power/mobility is (IMHO) the way to go (with sufficient ground protection for your bases of course). The one thing I wish CD would have released before they went under is a heavy air transport (4-6 units). Radar cloaking can also make a huge difference against opponents who aren't thorough. I think of navies as primarily air support platforms and spy sub intelligence gathering.

        Check out planet Annihilation's Strategy Page [] if you want to see some of the depth of TA. I think it's still the RTS game with the most "S" out there.

    • Total Annihilation was fun in a "make a million units and throw them at your enemy" kind of way (Red Alert and Red Alert 2 were the kings of this subgenre of the genre.

      However, I don't think any game has kept me more engrossed than StarCraft. Way over WarCraft I and II. I was so pissed when Blizzard decided to make a third game of that when one of their most well-liked games has had players clammoring for a sequel. I'll be like every other shmuck who buys it, though - when it lowers to a reasonable price. :) You hearing Civ III?

    • Yeah TA was a great game. The sequel wasn't any good though.

      I can't believe they didn't even mention Age of Empires/Age of Kings. AoE held my attention even longer than WC2 did, a feat in itself. It garnered a fan club much larger than even Starcraft ever did. Some of my happiest gaming memories are trying to get to the Bronze age in 12 minutes instead of 13..
    • This is one case where I feel the game community's creativity really hurt the game - a lot of the people I play with will only play if you have such-and-blah third-party level packs, and many of these (I think) unbalance the game. That said, at a LAN party where you can prepare patches and unit packs in advance, it's an awesome game. A lot of people downplay the AI (and rightly so, it really isn't all that good) but sometimes it does put up a mean fight - I've spent days locked in epic battle with the AI, with the entire map filled with units, missiles flying everywhere - TA has a truly epic scale. And, you can get it for about five bucks from EB - with or without COre Contingency expansion pack, depending on the alignment of the stars. Best five bucks I ever spent.
  • by afabbro ( 33948 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @01:25PM (#2982605) Homepage
    The problem with RTS games is that the S is always the same: build a really large army of something and send it over to overwhelm the opponent. It's impossible to control your army other than mass-select-and-move, so a lot of the finer points of strategy are lost.

    • by Peyna ( 14792 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @01:30PM (#2982622) Homepage
      AOE II addressed some of this, allowing you to control you armies movements, stance, behavior, etc. Also, if you've ever played against anyone good, just sending mass armies doesn't work, you do have to work with timing and what order to send in what units in order to be more effective. It also depends what you're up against.
    • Europa Universalis had some new ideas, and you'll notice that people get really upset after a war lasts too long and its very difficult to annex large areas of a country (3 province max or everything). Only problem was this game is that it tends to take days on end at teh highest speed to finish a game, even if you're the first person to go out. Many games are working on that problem and its something people are trying to get away from. The truth is that in reality the bigger army usully wins. So whats the solution? Make the costs of bulding an army increase as it gets larger. For example, if you have 90% of your population off fighting wars you'll have lower food production and your armies will starve, all together leaving you with less fighting ready units. Or create demoralizing effects of full scale war and increasing desertion and rebellion. Don't create ways around the demoralizing effects (woman's suffrage in civilization) because though it supplies a goal, it can undermine the realistic aspects of a game. I'm sure there's other ways aroudn these problems, if just someone would put me in charge of creating an RTS:)
    • The article does an excellent job of addressing this, especially in part 2. Read the article and you'll see why this genre is evolving past that point and will most likely wind up turning into a new genre (either Role-Playing Strategy like Warlords Battlecry and Warcraft III, or God Strategy games like Black and White).

      FYI, I should have submitted this with the article, but here is Part 2 []. Also here is a feature on Turn Based Strategy [] (ie. Civilization) which might be of interest.
    • As a beta tester of WC3 I can tell you that it leans HEAVILY away from this. A pop limit of 90, heros with levels/items/skills, and a thing called upkeep* all force you to use real strategy, not just hordes of units.

      *Upkeep works like this. During the 0-30 food period you are in "no upkeep" and you get 10 gold for every 10 you mine. 30-60 is "low upkeep" and you get 7 gold for every 10. 60-90 is "high upkeep" and you get only 4 for every 10. This discourages you from building large armies and emphasizes strategy over quantity.
  • Nearly every RTS? (Score:2, Informative)

    by BWS ( 104239 )
    How is it nearly when you leave out...

    1) Command and Conquer - Tiberium Sun
    2) Red Alert 2
    3) Star Wars Galatic Battlegrounds
    4) Star Wars Force Commander
    • You know, I do play Galactic Battlegrounds, and it's fun - but it's also a blatant ripoff of Age of Empires II. Almost everything in the game is just an AOE2 unit converted to Star Wars graphics and sounds.

      If I had to list all of the memorable RTS games in an article I wrote, I'd probably leave this one out on purpose - just because it's such a copycat of a true classic.
      • True. There's something profoundly silly about having a bunch of R2 droids picking berries, catching fish, and slaughtering animals for meat.
      • there's nothing wrong with Galactic Battle Grounds, in fact I enjoy the game...i was never into AOE2, but since i'm a star wars fan, GBG appeals to me...

        i wouldn't excatly call it exactly a fact it actually uses the AOE2 game's like when they take Monopoly, and then give it a NFL theme to make it appeal to a different market...that's what GBG is....

        in any case, i personally find it more interesting to control units and such in GBG because they are units in a universe that we've seen and grown up with (through movies, books, etc...) our whole lives.... well, just my opinion...
    • Re:Nearly every RTS? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Spuggy ( 69103 )
      Two Parts to the article:
      Gamespot has got an excellent article (in Two Parts)

      Part 2 []

      They are all covered in that section.

      [ From Part 1 of the article:
      It's worth noting here because it has the distinction of being the predecessor of a game that will figure heavily in our next segment. We'll also take a look at some of the big RTS games currently under development, as well as how the genre has continued to evolve and influence other types of games. ]

      Granted my fault for not posting the second link as well, but at least read the article before you whine.
    • They included all 4 of those. You didn't read the second part of the article, did you?

      Mod parent down for being flat out WRONG.
  • ...including the upcoming Black & White.

    Er, exactly how recent is this article?
  • SimAnt! (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    shouldn't sim ant count as a realtime strategy game?
    • Good point, but it would be considered a God-game in the same vein as Populous or Black'n'White.

      I guess for RTS, the "Strategy" tends to be synomous to battles with several different units under your control.

  • This article was quite good, had all the basics, the classics and what was good about the RTS genre.

    What bothers me is, where is the section where they give you all the "dont do this when you make a RTS" games (eg, Star Wars: Force Commander). I know there were quite a few RTS games that I wouldnt touch with a 40 foot pole. I cant remember any of them offhand (it being 1:42am and all), but I do remember many a university lecture being skipped and me wondering "why the hell did I skip a perfectly good lecture for THIS crap?".
  • trying to load a site linked on /. as soon as the story has appeared and before the target has been slashdotted to death. This time it seems that I'm unlucky, my proxy is reporting "Connection timed out". Game over.

  • by Hobart ( 32767 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @01:37PM (#2982657) Homepage Journal

    This quote, from Gamespot's own site: []

    Some consider Dune 2 to be the most influential real-time strategy game. Others claim it was the 1970s mainframe version of Empire that laid the groundwork for RTS games as we know them today. That debate will never be satisfactorily settled, but we can honestly say that the RTS game that deserved the title of "being ahead of its time" is Electronic Arts' Modem Wars.

    (More info here [] on the work of Danielle Bunten, including M.U.L.E., Seven Cities of Gold, etc.)

  • Herzog Zwei was good, but I could never get it to play in an emulator without really annoying flashes that make you dizzy after a while. Picture dune 2 though with a split screen and you each play a transformer that can be a man or a plane and you go around and pick up units and drop them off and try to take over a bunch of bases. Then you run out of gas and have to go back to your base to refuel while your enemy is going around killing all your guys. You have to make missile tanks to keep the enemy transformer from flying too close to your bases too.

    Of course the best strategy game ever made for Sega is definitely Third World War for sega CD, which you will not find a ROM for because last time I checked there were no working emulators because they could never hack the sega stuff.
  • True, hardcore RTS (Score:2, Informative)

    by Axiom ( 95375 )
    My favorite RTS game is the lean and mean intergalactics [], a Risk-like web-based game that seems simple, but is amazingly complex. It doesn't have that aspect of "getting good at building up resources", like most RTSes do. Instead, you are thrown right in to pure human vs. human strategic situations. The amount of tactics and strategies that arise from this are astounding!
  • by ThomasMis ( 316423 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @01:48PM (#2982719) Homepage
    I'm currently a War Craft 3 beta tester. I've come to realize over that past two days of WC3 open play on Blizzard's game network, that RTS as a genera seems to be in a rut. Thinking back on my RTS experience from C&C to RedAlert2 to TA to StarCraft to now WarCraft3, the dominate RTS paradigm is managing economic efficiency. This leads to mass production of basic units and the eventual overwhelming of your opponent. In other words, RTS hasn't evolved much past zergling/tank rushing. The mindless action of highlighting a large group of cheap single functionality units and pointing them in the direction to roll over anything they come across. Once you establish the most efficent process of building economoy, you end up repeating the same damn steps each and every game you play. The RTS game now becomes nothing more than repition which equal mind numbingly boring games. Although Blizzard has obviously taken steps in WC3 to try and change the focus from economic centered game to a tatically centered one, IMHO they've fallen short (as for why, you'll just have to wait to see for yourself in about three months). The closest I've seen anybody change RTS was a Korean company that made Shattered Galaxy. That game had it's own meta repetative process that territory was never really gained or lost, but they changed the focus of the game to the battle (and added an interesting team and political aspect). All in all, WC3 is a step in the right direction in pushing RTS from it's simple roots toward the future, but we got a long way to go to make RTS's that rise above the complexity of Rock-Paper-Scissors toward something as copmlex as chess.
    • How is Warcraft III looking? All the reviews give it nothing, but praise, but I've come to expect that from pretty much any Blizzard game being reviewed (They take forever to make a game, but they usually do it right). I'd be interested to know how the Hero and RP aspect of it came out from an actual beta tester.

      • It looks gorgious. Everything from the interface to the in game characters is a new level of high for the Blizzard artits.

        As for the RP aspects....

        Your hero gains experience points from victory in battle either over your opponent, or over NPC opponents called "creeps". Exp leads to leveling, leveling leads to ability to cast different spells. All in all, the effort it takes to build your hero up to be able to cast spells is equivalent to building up the tech tree in SC to get templars that can cast spells. If I wasn't told this was a Blizzard game before I sat down to play it, I would have known as soon as the game started. It has that Blizzard RTS style. And therefore, the old SC way of thinking will bring you success in WC3. This is why I've been mostly dissapointed.

        Keep in mind, this is only the third day of beta testing. Therefore, it's most likely WAY to early for me to be making such judgements. But these are my first impressions. Expect the game to change greatly from now until it's eventual release. As Blizzard will be releasing a lot of game balance patches during the beta to see what happens.

        • Keep in mind, this is only the third day of beta testing. Therefore, it's most likely WAY to early for me to be making such judgements. But these are my first impressions. Expect the game to change greatly from now until it's eventual release. As Blizzard will be releasing a lot of game balance patches during the beta to see what happens.

          Oh yeah, to be expected, I followed during the Brood Wars beta and they made change after change to play balancing.

          'preciate the feedback though, kinda disappointed in the initial impression, but I'll keep following the news on it. Not like it'll matter though, I've bought every damned game from them as it is (more than once in several cases when my CD collection got stolen), and I doubt I'll stop now.
    • One thing that really irks me about this article is how they overlook Kohan. It practically rewrote the concept of an RTS, eliminating all micromanagement and placing the focus of the game on actual strategy. Everything is about taking account of your situation: there is no perfect build, or a perfect tactic. You need to adapt to the situation at hand. Rushing others involves reducing your economy to ruin, leaving yourself wide open to counterattack.

      This is the evolution you wanted, but everybody is too busy ooing over the graphic-update-by-the-popular-company called Warcraft 3 to care.
    • The mindless action of highlighting a large group of cheap single functionality units and pointing them in the direction to roll over anything they come across.

      Worked for Russia in WW2. It helped that they were mopping up an overextended army that depended on armor that no longer had any that was usable...

      Anyway, it's one reason I prefer games that do *not* involve resource gathering and unit production, such as the Myth games and the Close Combat series. In CC, you can expend infantry on rushing a position, but you'll find yourself short for the whole campaign. TA is one of the few settings I can think of where rush tactics wouldn't be ultimately suicidal in terms of undermining morale and logistics -- they're just robots that are literally sprayed out by the dozens. Otherwise, after a couple rushes, you might find a few unit commanders that are a touch reluctant to go on fire missions with 90% casualties...
      • Worked for Russia in WW2. It helped that they were mopping up an overextended army that depended on armor that no longer had any that was usable...

        Three things worked for Russia in WWII:
        1. Winter
        2. Germany's military-distracting insanities
        3. Russia's willingness to sacrifice millions of workers and soldiers

        And from Germany's invasion till the relief of Stalingrad a year and a half later, the Soviets weren't 'pointing them in the direction to roll over anything they come across' so much as digging in and trying not to be rolled over themselves.
    • Here's a slightly off topic question for you, does the current beta of Warcraft III support wide-screen's (eg have a 1600x1024 screen resolution). No one seems to know, but blizzard's site says that it will most likely only support 4:3 aspect ratios.
    • Apparently you are a 2nd class or maybe even lower starcraft/broodwar player because you don't understand the beauty of micromanagement of the units. Simply drag and go wouldn't get you anywhere in one of those big touranment. You should probrably learn to play more.

      That being said, stupid Americans dont know play anything besides the mindless FPS. Point and shoot, yah, fun fun
      • I disagree with what you wrote. Even players who rank high on the ladder system admit to what I claimed in my original posting, that their economic strategy is repetitive. They find themselves doing the same thing everygame. Don't over generalize on that too much, for instance, let's say your tank and marine drop in the peon line fails forwhatever reason. Suddenly as a player you find yourself outside of your normal routine to recover (and this seperates the good players from the average players). But the fact remains that the rock-paper-scissor aspect of SC is still there and forces you to follow pre-written paths of behavior.

        So the challenge to RTS game designers is who to get around this without throwing total randomness into the game (which is what WC3 does to an extent with the equimpent your hero can find).
    • It has.

      Go play BattleRealms []. All other RTS just seem stupid and overly simplistic now. I was quite looking forward to Warlords Battlecry 2 and WarCraft3 but I fully expect all RTS for the near future to have been ruined for me by BattleRealms.

      Tactics and combined arms not mere economy.
      Stamina (finally!)
      BattleGear giving each unit massive flexibility.
      4 balanced sides
      plus its pretty. :-)

      It really is a vast step up.
  • What about "Wargames" ? It's RTS game for Atari XL/XE and it was released long before Dune II.
  • by Spuggy ( 69103 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @01:59PM (#2982757) Homepage
    [Repost from some of my Replies to other Comments]

    Part 2 located here [].

    My fault for not posting it in the first place (hopefully they'll update it when they get a chance).

    It will clear up a lot of the posts I am seeing about "They missed xxx!!"
  • by Kirkoff ( 143587 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @02:02PM (#2982770)
    When I got Windows 95 on my 486/4MB RAM, and I installed Sim City 2000, it became a realtime stratagy game. As a matter of fact, if I maximized it, it would take a full month for a month of game time to elapse! Ahh, but I have to thank M$ and Maxis for that experiance. Being discusted with the performance, I went back to Dos/Win3.1. All the stuff I learned about partitioning helped me immensly when I got in to linux. (No that wasn't a powerful enough Machine, and yes I learned linux on a different Machine)

    Sweet, I'm off topic AND lame in this post.

  • by tmark ( 230091 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @02:02PM (#2982775)
    Any review purporting to cover "the earliest days of RTS" - as the referenced article purports to do - is incomplete without a mention of this game.

    I'm not even sure if this is exactly the right name - perhaps it was "Ancient Art of War" - but this was the first RTS game I had ever played, and it must have come out around 1987 or earlier. It ran on the PC, and if I recall ran in black and white, and certainly did not feature the huge armies or innumerable unit types that are available today, but games like WC and AOE play - in broad strokes - VERY VERY similar to "Art of War". It was, for its time, a great game.
    • Ahh... Ancient Art of War... fond memories. That was a great game for its time. In it you would command groups of soldiers and could change the battle formation, give special commands during battle, and so forth.

      Ran in 4 colour CGA, too!! :-)

    • Yes, "Sun Tzu's Ancient Art of War." I played it on the Apple //c. It actually wasn't RTS, though, because combat was not resolved in real time -- rather, when a conflict occurred you had to zoom in and command the troops while time stopped everywhere else. It was probably the first great war strategy game for the computer, unless there's another I haven't heard of.

      There was also "Ancient Art of War at Sea," which can still be downloaded to play in the Apple 2 emulator.
  • by iomud ( 241310 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @02:07PM (#2982786) Homepage Journal
    Sacrifice is a good example of an rts that broke out of the niche mold of traditional c&c/starcraft type rts's. It still maintains a unique rts feel though, along with an rpg and open ending element thrown in. It was somewhat overlooked when it came out but I think it was a pretty groundbreaking game. Resource mangement was downplayed but still there the focus was more on action and the unit behavior reminds me of shogun: total war. The cinematics and graphics were much advanced as well compared to other rts's.
  • Gamespot writes that the first real-time strategy ever was Herzog Zwei for Sega Genesis (1989), and first computer RTS was Dune 2 (1992). This is both wrong. There was a game called STONKERS for Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer (called Timex Sinclair in the U.S.) by Imagine Software, which was released in 1983 (!!!). It clearly falls under the definition of "Real-time strategy" (it features different units, map with various terrain, reinforcements, even zoomable map)! It was less than 40 KB long. You can play Stonkers online using Java Spectrum emulator here [].
  • It (and it's sequels) fulfill the "harvest, build, destroy" definition.
  • How is it that Ozark Softwares Command HQ is not the first real time strategy game for the PC? It came before the others, release date of about 1990, it's a strategy game, it's real time. Without a doubt I spent more hours playing HQ than any other single game, with the possible exception of DOOM. Yeah I know I'm a geezer, but I still can't see how this one slipped by.
  • by Spuggy ( 69103 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @02:36PM (#2982884) Homepage
    Granted it has its shortcomings, but I'm pretty sure I've never played a game (this is including every one of the Final Fantasy and Madden games) more than I played Starcraft (and the Brood Wars expansion). For a good year and a half of my life I pretty much played nothing else.

    The games greatness didn't necessarily lie in its features, (TA was much better looking; still had the build-gather-amass troops-rush problem in a lot of cases) but in its storyline and multiplayer modes. It was really the first RTS game to have Internet play planned for the start. Sure there were problems with kidiez running out on games on you and other issues, but for the most part, the Blizzard Ladder system provided a great way to compete for both fun and competition. (Still remember reading writeups of every match in the tournaments on bad the damned site is unviewable now in Mozilla).

    As far as the storyline goes, who doesn't remember Kerrigan's infestation or the Protoss Hero's (can't remember his name now--kinda killing my argument here) sacrifice. The Brood War expansion was a masterpiece as well--bringing back Kerrigan as the Zerg Hero, showing the uneasy alliance between the Dark Brethren of the Protoss, and of course the UED, who you just grew to hate. The storyline of the games were so great, that at several points I didn't care about the gameplay, I just wanted to see the Cinematics and the Mission Briefings.

    I'll admit that I haven't been as active in the genre as I once was, and could have had as much fun with another game, but it was Starcraft that really won me over.

    Looking foward to Warcraft III to provide the same level of greatness in 'net play and in the storyline.
  • Why not? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Edie ( 127295 )
    You can't forget games such as: The Myth Series, or any of the ogreBattle games. Which don't emphasize building forces, but rather managing what you have. Wars without the draft as it were.
  • Where's Kohan? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Sunday February 10, 2002 @02:37PM (#2982892) Homepage Journal
    IMHO, Kohan [] is the most deserving of mention in the "Future Evolution" category. It's an RTS that finally lets you actually build a real strategy and maintain an economy (you have to pay for your unit's upkeep) while making your armies. Destroy an opponents economy and his armies will soon fall into disrepair and eventually disband. Formations factor heavily into gameplay as different formations affect the strength of your attacks and the rate at which you can move (if you choose a strong defensive stance, you will only be able to plod across the battlefield, if you choose a superfast pressed move your troops will make it to their destination fast, but be completely exausted and useless for battle.) Kohan also prevents you from micromanaging much of the game. Your control happens at the company level, and the computer controlls the individual units in battle, even the spellcasters. The AI's are programmable (well tweakable) to allow you to build up stronger opponents for single or multiplayer.

    Additionally, Kohan is available for Linux if you look around, and there's a dedicated online community of Linux gamers that are great to play with. I can't reccomend this game enough, I havn't played a game this much since Starcraft. It is well worth the $50 sticker price.
  • I wonder why nobody mentions this game anymore. It was released in 1983(??) and still is great fun. Just download vice (a C64 emulator) and use your old floppy with the original MULE game (right...).

    Might well be the ancestor of all RTS games, IMHO.
    • It was a really fun game and I still play it sometimes. Problem is that it is turn-based, so not all the actions take place simultaneously. It was a good primer for situational economics (supply and demand) under specific conditions.

    • I wonder why nobody mentions this game anymore. It was released in 1983(??) and still is great fun. Just download vice (a C64 emulator) and use your old floppy with the original MULE game (right...).

      M.U.L.E. is not RTS. It's just perfect turn based strategy with few moments of arcade.
      BTW IMHO first game better than M.U.L.E. was Civilization (after 8 years).
  • I remember playing that. It was PC based, had a useable, but ugly 4-color interface. That was out in 1987 or so.
  • Hm, wouldn't Intellivision's Utopia be a RTS as well? I mean it was still turn-based but that was really only for scoring purposes. But you goy to build your structures, and control the boats.

    Utopia started the Sim-genre IMHO. used to have a PC version of Utopia, but it seems the site is down.
  • Populous (Score:2, Informative)

    by rednox ( 243124 )

    I can't believe they left out Populous [], published by Electronic Arts 3 years before Dune II, in 1989. See some screenshots, with bad translation []. Gamespot considers it one of the 15 most influential games of all time [].

    The concept was that you were a God, and you were battling another Diety for control of worlds. Both you and your opponent started out with a few followers, and they would multiply rapidly through making settlements. You could make the settlements produce faster by improving the land around them.

    You slowly built up Mana points that you could spend on disasters to inflict on your opponent's settlements and followers. Volcanos, quicksand, earthquakes, just to name a few. The more followers you had, the faster your Mana would accumulate.

    It was the first game that I had ever seen that had multiple units to control at once. Instead of having direct control over each unit, you could direct them towards a "Papal Magnet" that you could place anywhere in the game world.

    It even had a multiplayer option that you could play over a modem.

    It was much closer to today's RTS games than Herzog Zwei!

  • Someone correct me if I'm way off, but didn't It Came From the Desert (1990?) have some RTS elements to it? Been a long time since I've played it ...
  • This game (for the Amiga, though I believe there is a PC version as well) fulfills the basic criteria: harvest, build, destroy -- and in real time versus a computer opponent.

  • Dungeon Keeper (Score:4, Interesting)

    by InsaneCreator ( 209742 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @03:29PM (#2983104)
    What about Bullfrog's Dungeon Keeper? Wasn't this one of the best Real-Time Strategy games? Mine for gold, attract creatures, show your opponents the meaning of "hell"!!
    • One of my best ever moments playing a video game was at the end of Dungeon Keeper, when you have to kill the Avatar from Ultima.

      The first time I played that level I didn't know I was was supposed to kill it and captured it instead (never managed to do it again afterwards) so that after putting him in my torture room and feeding him plenty of chickens he came to MY SIDE. What really surprised me was when I received a message that the Avatar's followers had ressuscitated him. Being the first time I played the level I didn't understand (how can teh do that if he isn't dead) but when he attacked me with his friends I had the coolest ever fight in video game History: the Avatar against the Avatar. The one I had captured and converted against the new one. Man, that was cool.

  • I remember the first time that I played Warcraft II and blew up a building. The fire that resulted (despite being 30 sprites of some stock flame) was so incredible looking. It was absolutely amazing.

    Also, I remember WarII as being the first game I played online. I went by 'PeonMe.' Oh boy, my 6th grade years.

  • by Tjp($)pjT ( 266360 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @03:35PM (#2983127)
    I played net-trek on PDP-10s, 11s and Vaxes in the late-70s. These had the features of RTS mentioned just with text based graphics. Multi-player realtime action with texty goodness. I played non-multiplayer trek in the mid-70s. Empire and multiplayer Empire (I particularly like XEmpire with its cool graphics and would love to find an old source drop of it!, particularly the networked varient with multi-player support). Not to mention some other single player RTS like Rogue and DND (not to be confused with Dungeon, the text script game). All of these had a running clock, items or status to recover, entity interactions, and many were multi-player networked games. And of course the trade based games.

    Pre-Internet (with the capitalized I) on the Merit network was a game (that was banned _often_ by the system administrators) that created an adaptive universe to travel through (local copies of the universe were "patched" to have dimensional rifts when the local universe synced to a remote universe and the on-the-fly universe creation overlaped between the two universe, sometimes entire rifts winked out of existance (when sys admins quashed them :-) losing all that was in them at the time. I would love to find a copy of Galaxy!
  • is Shiny's Sacrifice! It almost requires a GeForce or later to run, but has a style of gameplay I haven't seen before. You play from a third person view as the general of your army on a huge island. It's worth looking at [] if you haven't seen it. Wine even emulates it.
  • by markj02 ( 544487 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @04:54PM (#2983488)
    I'm pretty sure there were several free, real-time strategy games for UNIX workstations before 1989, some of them even multiuser.
  • Two nominees for groundbreaking RTS games:
    - Homeworld (and the half-sequel, Homeworld: Cataclysm).
    Strategy in Space, with full 3d navigation. Huge battleships to form the core of your army (includes Carriers, which can be deployed remotely, and can be used to create strike craft and frigates), and smaller crafts like bombers and fighters to move quickly for recon and attack.
    The capital ships need to be defended, yet they are also your biggest weapons. The 3D factor is more important than it might seem, since it's quite hard to avoid attacking in a flat plane.
    Remember, the enemy's gate is down!

    - Shogun: Total War
    Cavalry, archers, pikemen (either peasants, who are cheap, and professional pikemen, who are hardier). Not in a one-on-one capacity, as done by Warcraft. Units have a maximum of 120 individual soldiers, and each army has a maximum of 16 units, including the unit which carries the army's general.
    Having 1920 soldiers on the field in medieval-oid configurations and formations is fun enough by itself. Each unit has morale. If this is too low, they give up and run for the hills.
    Morale of a unit is determined by the units around it. If you have a wavering line of pikemen, and allied cavalry is fleeing through their ranks, the pikemen are more likely to panic. Taking losses to the unit hurts morale. Having the general of an army killed hurts morale.
    Units also have stamina. Quickmarching soldiers and horses up hills exhausts them, and they really do fight worse if they are exhausted. Also, they become slower. It also affects morale. Horses don't go well through trees. That sort of thing.

    Okay, that turned in a (poor) mini-review. Anyway, Shogun takes the cake when it comes to scale and detail. It's on a level no other RTS has done, IMHO.

    These two had better be in the second part of that review. Anyone else have recommendations?
  • In 1989, maybe even a couple years earlier, there was a real-time version of Risk that you could play on Macs over an Appletalk network. All the rules were the same as Risk, except -- no turns! Move & attack as fast as you could click, reinforcements would appear gradually as a function of your territory.

    It was great fun, and definitely fits as a "RTS" game.

    Going back even further, to about 1982, Intellivision's Sea Battle had two players simultaneously deploying and giving directional orders to fleets on a worldwide map, with "zooms" into fleet-to-fleet battles (like Ancient Art of War). Sea Battle could definitely be considered proto-RTS.
  • If your really good at these games do you think you could add that to your resume?
  • I just got my beta copy of War3 on Friday, and I am already obsessed. Its a beautiful combination of Starcraft and Warcraft... taking the nice different-yet-balanced race strategy in SC and combining it with the idea of gold and lumber from War2 and much, much more magic.. since you can get heroes and such. Its a must buy when it comes out. Guess I'm just lucky that I got into the beta!
  • by Oxryly ( 35098 ) on Sunday February 10, 2002 @10:25PM (#2984634)

    Rescue Raiders, an Apple II game put out by Sirtech in the early eighties ('83 or '84) beat them all to the punch. It was a 2d side scroller, but it had most all the elements of present day RTSes. (it most resembled Herzog Zwei)

    You piloted a helicopter (a la Choplifter), but this chopper had a main gun, anti-air missiles, and bombs. You had to progress from the left side of the battle field to the right and kill your enemy's base. To help you do this, you could "summon" tanks, infantry, missile launchers, and demolition trucks. The goal essentially was to attack, and protect a demolition truck long enough for it to get to the other side and blow up your enemy's base.

    See the link [] for more details.


  • I used to play a game on my Apple //gs called "Reach for the Stars." This was released in 1988.

    Players were given planets, and could build space ships to meet certain objectives. A *very* basic Starcraft, I suppose.

    A quick review and download at or_the_stars.html

  • Ne1 played that game? the first part (harvesting) was kinda boring but as soon as you would get into a fight with aliens it was freaking cool...

    Thing is the game was so lame for starting, it probably killed itself, but once you were set, god.. addictive...

    To ring a bell: You had to collect minerals from other blanets, build better vessels with R&D, there was always one metal you'd need and trying to add more cargo to your transport ships.. you would start with a mining machine on one ship and harvest the meteor I think... oh here's better:

    Deuteros, a sequel to millenium []

  • The first realtime strategy game I'm aware of is "Modem Wars" for the Commodore 64 circa 1985-1986. It encorporated all of the elements you'de see in any RTS game.. Movement of forces, variable terrain, variable damage, differing strengths/weaknesses of each piece, execution of feild strategy, even grouping of forces. Quite a breakthrough game considering it could be done within 64K of RAM, and played head to head over a modem.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN