I grew up playing strategy games long before I knew what the genre itself was. My grandfather had acquired a copy of Warcraft for his PC and I spent many afternoons in his study to refrains of “Zug zug,” and “Dabu.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was hooked - I would be a gamer for the long haul.
Now, nearly 30 years later, I’m immersed in games in a way that I would have never thought possible for myself. As I grew up, I gravitated more toward puzzle games or RPGs, and yet somehow my career found me back to my RTS roots.
When I was first hired at Stardock, we were gearing up to release Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation. They gave me a copy and said “here, go check it out.” I remember that as soon as I booted it up, I felt a sense of familiarity and for a moment was transported back to sitting at my grandpa’s computer trying to learn how to get the units to do what I wanted.
My RTS background is comprised primarily of Blizzard franchises - specifically, Warcraft and Starcraft. I played a ridiculous amount of Starcraft in high school, and also loved both Warcraft 2 and 3. I’d like to share a little secret with you about me and RTS games.
I’m absolutely terrible at them.
BUT, despite that, I love playing them anyway! I am not particularly good at managing so many things at once and I swear my economy either seems to be so overflowing with resources that I’m obviously wasting them by not building fast enough, or drier than the Sahara desert with no hope in sight. I am easily lost when trying to manage multiple units, and honestly if there isn’t an “auto-scout” feature then the map just isn’t getting scouted and that’s the way of it.
I hadn’t touched an RTS game in a good long while until recently. StarCraft made a bit of a comeback in my friend group so we started playing games of StarCraft II together. I was definitely the hard carry in pretty much every single match we played. This is in part because I hadn’t played the game in over 6 years, but also because I’m just not great at it to begin with.
As we played, something that struck me in particular was just seeing the different ways we all chose to lay out our bases - and, ultimately, how consistent we all were in how we built up every game.
My friend plays Protoss and is very organized and methodical in how he lays out his bases. Because the Protoss have restrictions on where they can build - they need a nearby Pylon - it’s important to choose their placements carefully so that you can utilize the space efficiently. Zerg, with their Creep restrictions, are similar. My friend manages this very well, and his bases are almost like a work of art.
I tend to play Terran, and to be honest - my bases are less a work of art and more a chaotic cesspit of entropy, but, you know. I was at least of sound mind enough to remember to place bunkers at potential entry points into my base, but in general I didn’t really have a rhyme or reason to where I would put buildings. This is in part because I am so frantic to just get things built that I don’t always pay attention to where I’m putting things - which is a real problem if I play any race other than Terran.
In an effort to get better at the game, I did a little research. I wondered if the way I structured my base really played a huge part in my strategy, and overall I found the answer was somewhat nuanced. There are ways to make your base work harder for you - by putting buildings in certain areas to create choke points, for example - but that depends largely on the map you’re playing. It also varies from RTS to RTS - it’s not like there’s a blanket “good” way to build a base!
While I was thinking about this topic, a little voice tickled the back of my mind. I couldn’t shake the thought that perhaps at one point I’d had this conversation with someone before - and then it hit me! Callum, one of our Ashes experts, made a video about base building for his Strategy Visions series a couple years ago. You can see it here:
It's a good watch, and Callum dives much more deeply into the topic than I ever could. I want to hear from my RTS players out there! What's your favorite RTS game and what's your stance on base building? Share with me!
I'm the same as you almost to a T: love RTSs, aweful at micromanaging. I grew up in the Command and Conquer days playing multiplayer with friends over a 14.4K modem. Back then as more units were built, the slower the game ran allowing me a chance to keep up.
The next evolution of RTS for me was Supreme Commander with battles of 100+ units and bases with 20-40 buildings (or more!). In this game, base building/denfense planning was extremely important to prevent a rush destroying your base in one go. But the introduction of complex order queues really changed the game and kept things somewhat manageable with "order-and-forget-it" queues.
Unfortunately my skills over the years have not kept up or even improved from those years. Thus single player is where I continue to game with normal difficulty being quite a challenge.
As a result I've gravitated towards turn based strategy games eventhough long term they have less thrills of a RTS but the pleasure of a well executed long term strategy.
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