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Supcom Tactics - Ed's journal
Supcom Tactics
Real Time Strategy, vs. Real Time tactics.

So, having played SupCom 2 demo, and been distinctly unimpressed, has lead me to wanting to have a rant.
It seems that every 'controlling multiple units' game out there, is billed as a strategy game - real time or otherwise.

But most of them - at the moment - seem to focus on the tactics, rather than the strategy.
Total War does this quite clearly - you have a strategic map, and you have tactical battles, and the outcome of either is linked - good strategy can make up for not so good tactics, and vice versa.

But the thing is, there's a LOT of games currently, that are really more 'real time tactics' with a little bit of strategy over the top - Star Craft and War Craft for example - possibly some of the biggest names in the genre.
But the thing is, they're tactical games, really. The units have special abilities, which are decisive in small scale fighting. The unit numbers are capped, so you have to choose where to deploy them - that's a tactical decision too.

And you have resource depletion, so you will only get a finite number of units before you have to stop. I'm not saying there's no strategy in SC or WC, but just that it's a game that's _about_ the tactics.

Supreme Commander was a game I liked, because it was a game that was about the strategy. The units are 'smart' in terms of use of weapons and targeting priorities. You can define orders and assists, and all manner of things to automate the tactics. And then you set it going. You don't need to manually focus fire, and you don't need to press buttons to tell each unit to heal.

Which is why I'm a bit annoyed about what they've done with Supreme Commander 2. They took a very elegant strategy game, and ... seem to have tried to turn it into the next StarCraft. They've 'dumbed down' a lot of the strategic elements, in order to improve game flow, and accessibility.

I think that's a huge mistake - SupCom 2 has thrown out the baby with the bathwater - it's trying to elbow in to a different market niche - one where there is no shortage of competition.
I mean, playing chess with only Pawns, because it's too hard to understand how to use a Knight just seems a bad design move.
14 comments or Leave a comment
phlebas From: phlebas Date: March 12th, 2010 12:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
That does sound retrograde. How does it compare to the original Total Annihilation games?
sobrique From: sobrique Date: March 12th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Simpler. Imagine TA:Kingdoms, crossed with C&C.
phlebas From: phlebas Date: March 12th, 2010 07:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
Starcraft, then?
sobrique From: sobrique Date: March 12th, 2010 07:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's still got the infinite resources, and no unit cap, but ... well I think that's what they're trying for.
But much like when they tried to do 'TA' with C&C Generals resource farming, it just doesn't fit if you try and fit your square peg in a round hole.
jorune From: jorune Date: March 12th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
4givensins From: 4givensins Date: March 12th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I guess it's easier to write an "AI" that can do tactics, especially in real time. Also, it fits better with quickish multiplayer game, which is desirable in my opinion. A proper strategy game would be quite cool though.
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sobrique From: sobrique Date: March 12th, 2010 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
ok. Give me a another example of a strategy game?
Cuz I don't see many. C&C? No, at least not any more.
Civ? Well, maybe I guess.

Edit: When I referred to Warcraft and StarCraft, I'm thinking that WC3 isn't _that_ old, and Star Craft 2 is on the horizon.

Edited at 2010-03-12 07:27 pm (UTC)
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sobrique From: sobrique Date: March 12th, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's largely the point of my post though - there aren't really any that could really be defined as strategy - TA did it, Supreme Commander did it, Total war does it, but intersperses the strategic map with tactical battles. But the strategy part, isn't real time at that point.
Civ is a non-real time strategy game as well.

It's a bit of a grey area, I'll grant, but ... well, if you've played both Supreme Commander and StarCraft - one has a small ish squad, and micro managing your squad is important. The other, you get a massive army, and a way to specify what you want it to do, without having to actually clicky click to do it.

That's the thing that I've not seen in some time.
jorune From: jorune Date: March 12th, 2010 10:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Looks like you have found a gap in the market, now go write the online game that will make you millions.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: March 13th, 2010 01:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually, as online games go, I was thinking:
Supreme commander style thing, but played via a phone/GPS.
As an MMORTS of some kind.

Use the various GPS/camera overlays, and have 'you' being the commander, and your tanks driving around on a google map view or something.
From: dj_rws Date: March 12th, 2010 10:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
As with most past and present real time strategies I've found that winning has been about:
1. Building as many units as possible
2. Doing this as quickly as possible
3. Sending all your units en masse into the fray irrespective of unit specialisation and ability.

Limiting units merely extends the time and care you use a particular unit(s) to do the job if you can't just churn out more and win by sheer force of numbers. This is a quite unsatisfying tactic as it usually means guarding your base long enough to make a force large enough to steamroll any opposition. Or using commando like tactics to control some "dumb" unit(s) every mouse click to victory. However there's nothing like winning C&C Generals like using some 40 ion cannons to blast everything away without even building a single tank ;) Although I think the initial Warhammer 40K games with bases and unit limits for infantry, special units and vehicles was quite good but again sending everything you have en masse will always win the game.

The turn based strategy games of the past I enjoyed were the UFO games, mainly Enemy Unknown and Apocalypse, the latter of which could be both turn and real time but was defintely far more fun turn based.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: March 13th, 2010 01:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Try that in Supcom, and I'll stomp you flat.
That's part of why I like it :)
14 comments or Leave a comment