Pet hypothesis: the “harvest-build-destroy” (HBD) subgenre of RTS games “died out” because they peaked so early.
Herzog Zwei, either the first RTS or a proto-RTS depending on who you ask, came out in 1989. Three years later, Dune II came out in 1992 and created what I’d call the first recognizable HBD RTS – harvesting resources, a tech tree, basebuilding, and different factions.
StarCraft came out in 1998. Age of Empires II came out the next year in 1999. Within seven years, the subgenre went from the first recognizable appearance of its core traits to its peak, releasing two games that still have large, active competitive communities and cash-prize tournaments decades later. After that, developers quickly learned that trying to release a new HBD-style RTS was tilting at windmills, and everyone would just see it as a crappy StarCraft ripoff.
also a smaller market, and hard to leverage graphical improvements in the way that shooters and sims could.
competitive multiplayer and online dissemination of strategies destroyed RTS.
playing with friends any RTS in the old days: lots of cool shit to figure out, tactics, strategy, FUN! the most fun you could imagine!
playing any RTS (except, sometimes, Blizzard games) in the modern era:
“the correct strategy is actually tank rush that hits at 5:53. look, everyone is doing a 5:53 tank rush.”
ironic, the genre killed by the meta.
I wonder if you could kill the meta by including so many random-per-game variables that you couldn’t decision-tree your way through all of them.
“You should rush tanks” not this game tovarich, the RNG pulled up the Problematic Logistics modifier for me so all my fuel costs are 20% higher. I’ll build cannon half-tracks and depend on scouting to keep them safe from enemy guns.
Additionally: Procedurally generated maps. Make them symmetrical around one axis to avoid gross imbalances. Probably still not great for a pro meta, but way better for the high-casual market.
The problem with this approach is the amount of mastery needed for map changes to really come into play. At the peak of my caring about StarCraft 2, four gate was the to to Protoss strategy on any map. Sure it’s a strategy that’s uniquely positioned to not care about the map early game (except via scouting and where you put your proxy pylon), but the main difference was in what your transitioned to.
At the high level, long vs short distances, places to do lifts and drops, etc are all important, but at the casual level, building the most efficient units, competency at macro and a modicum of micro ability way outweighs anything like that.
There are a lot of things in SC2 that I want excised with a skilled game-designers scalpel. Most of those will have the competitive scene screaming that I’m lowering the skill ceiling and just.
Watch me not care.
SC2 promises, on the box, to be a game about space warfare. Therefore I should never, at any point during the game, have to decide which mineral patch a worker is harvesting at. If stutter-stepping is the correct way to fight Zerglings, why isn’t that what my marines do automatically, were they trained by an idiot? But if they were trained by an idiot, how do they have such perfect drill and attention to orders?
The game sacrifices so much of what it could be, in order to be something else that I have no interest in.
too many RTSs want to be both high-level grand-strategy games and operational art games
(or even tactical games, for the ones heavy on micro)
I should not have to be the head of state, the general of the armies, and every lieutenant-colonel in my armed forces all at once
the limiting factor in my success is never my strategic decisions, always my attention; makes it more frustrating than fun
Even the ones that try to get it right by focusing on just one thing can get it wrong sometimes.
E.g. Company of Heroes 1 is my favorite all-time RTS but it has some nonsense.
For Example: Hand grenades.
Not because the grenades are too good, they’re pretty much exactly what they should be – but because the men are smart except not about grenades
If a squad is patrolling somewhere and gets attacked by a machinegun, they all throw themselves to the ground and crawl to the nearest bit of cover (unless that’s too far away, in which case they get real close to the ground. There’s no “get low” button.)
If a squad is assaulting a position, they’ll shoot as they move – and if they’re assaulting through ground with cover, they’ll use that cover as they move up. There’s no “use cover” button.
If a squad is ordered to defend a position, they’ll get in any cover near it. You can order them to take cover from one direction, but if they get assaulted in the flank, they automatically move over to take cover from enemies shooting from that direction. There’s no “shift cover” button.
But if your squad is subjected to a grenade attack, they’ll happily stand directly on top of the grenade until it blows. There is a move button, and you’re expected to use it.
That’s super ridiculous.
(This is also true of e.g. flamethrower attacks – if your squad is attacked by a flamethrower, they will happily stay where they are instead of moving out of the fire.)