Real time strategy games (RTSs for short) are computer games that pit two or more players against one another in real-time battles involving building and deploying units against opposing armies. Furthermore, this genre specializes in resource gathering, base construction and technological development.
Games that involve strategy are typically highly complex, requiring players to make multiple complex decisions at once. A battle could involve multiple armies attempting to capture each other’s bases while at the same time thinking strategically about upgrades for units and ways to halt enemy advances.
In order to be successful, players must also ensure their economy runs smoothly by allocating enough resources to their army and research advanced units. They must also consider strategically how best to deploy their units so as to exploit weaknesses in enemy defenses or take advantage of advantageous terrain features.
RTS games encompass an expansive spectrum, from ancient warfare and world politics to modern conflicts and outer space. Yet most RTS titles share several key gameplay features.
RTS games typically use a three-dimensional (3D) gaming interface, with the camera moving in real-time. Early RTS titles used isometric 3D graphics; however, the genre experienced an explosion in popularity following 1997’s Command & Conquer and its sequels which introduced pre-rendered 3D tiles into gameplay and introduced the concept of units and terrain being one unitable entity; an idea now standard across most modern RTS titles.
RTS games move much faster than their turn-based predecessors, yet still present an intimidating learning curve for newcomers. Without an adequate attention span or finger dexterity for fast decisions, RTS titles may quickly overwhelm newcomers, leading them to quickly lose their edge and give up.
One of the greatest challenges faced by any RTS developer is striking a balance between quick decisions and depth and complexity – something which becomes all the more crucial when designing multiplayer games, where experience quality can vary significantly from player to player.
RTS games may often be perceived as simple “clickfests”, where the faster player often prevails, yet many fans of this genre counter that this claim with evidence showing that good RTSs require much more than simply quick clicking to be successful; rather they require careful consideration and planning in order to prevent mistakes like turtling that could occur without careful consideration and planning.