It is difficult for me to find any other genre that was so popular at its height (when I was growing up Age of Empires and Warcraft were among the most popular games in the gaming community in my country) and then, a couple decades afterwards, has almost completely dissapeared (Maybe graphic adventures, but even at this day there are games still coming out, even if at a way lower pace).
I don’t really know what happened, it is not like there was some kind of big flop that convinced the industry that these games were no longer popular. The last big title that I can remember for the genre was Starcraft II, and I know that the more competitive part of the community had some problems with it, but from what I can tell it sold reasonably well.
After that however, there has not really been any big games coming out in the genre (you have some stuff such as grey goo, but it is just too different from the “classical” stuff such as Warcraft III or AoE 2, way more futuristic and less based on controlling a smaller number of units with abilities and similar stuff). Now we either have remasters with varying quality (looking at you Warcraft III reforged), or games that just go for another type of strategy (either ditching base building a la Total war or going for the turn based 4x experience like the civilization games).
Do you agree? Why do you think that this happened?
This is the story of almost every game genre as they fall out of fashion. Sometimes they make a comeback but only after a new generation of developers rediscover the genre and change it in some major fashion. It’s just a matter of time before someone starts working on a game concept that successfully fuses RTS games with X and manages to launch their game at the right time to the right niche audience. There is just too much nostalgia, fun and money for this to not happen.
Sins Of A Solar Empire, originally released in 2008 and followed by several expansions and DLCs for a few years, did this pretty well, even billed itself as RT4X and reviewers agreed. There is a ton of stuff I loved about that game. Graphically incredible (a seamless zoom from nearly system-wide view straight down in to see individual starfighters going at it), good tech trees, units. The combat was a blast, the different factions/species were pretty cool.
There was absolutely zero single-player campaign, it was nothing but battles against either AI or other humans, and the AI got pretty boring to me rather quickly. Maybe I’m a dork but the campaign stories were some of my favorite parts of RTS. That may be because I’m definitely a dork and my favorites in the genre are all Star Trek. Part of the problem was also probably both the name itself and the synopsis on the box seemed to hint at in-depth back stories for the various factions, their lore was pretty well developed in info tidbits (tech descriptions etc), and I just made the assumption there would be story. So it could be as much the game didn’t match what I expected, as anything else.
Yeah, while a pretty wonky series, I really appreciate what the Spellforce games are trying to do. They haven’t really managed to find the sweet spot between RPG and RTS, but I’m convinced the spot exists somewhere.
I think that kind of already happened with RTS, and it created the top-down MOBA genre. The original DOTA literally came from Warcraft III and the rest spawned from that point.
I desperately want the rediscovery/reinvention to happen with either Herzog Zwei or C&C Generals.
I agree with this in theory but are there any examples of dead/dying genres that had a real resurgence? I guess the idea that RTS morphed into MOBAs is maybe an example, but I’m curious if anyone has any others. Casual couch coop genre with Overcooked maybe?
Moba. Moba dragged a lot of interest on the competitive side which trickles down to the general public, because a Moba is a lasting and evolving game. Meanwhile RTS are fighting with them and their own history. A new RTS game competes with the older games and the “improvements” they have to make are hard to grap people.
So it’s hard to make a solid RTS in the current world.
I think grand strategy and 4x pulled away the less high speed action-oriented player at the same time that MOBAs pulled away the more action oriented players, leaving RTSes with only the middle ground.
That’s really not the reason though as they kinda struggled before GAS were even a thing
If you ask many players of RTS games they’ll tell you a major reason they don’t want to play them is that they’re often just too demanding to play a lot – they’re exhausting
They require a lot of high level and low level thinking and they don’t allow for downtime at any point
The same is not true in MOBAs, which feature both high and low level thinking but those actions are easier to execute in a MOBA
MOBAs also have downtime in the form of deaths or just those moments of idle farming
MOBAs have pretty steady learning curves as well, RTS games require a lot of front-loaded info in order to compete
RTS games are just, as a genre, extremely demanding – so they’ve branched off into titles that focus on those enjoyable elements but are less intense in the fronts where people struggle such as APM
I also think that RTS games have a pretty big gulf between the single player and multiplayer learning curves, and that kept them from massively blowing up like MOBAS did.
In a single player match, you’re going against an AI that probably isn’t playing at all like a true human opponent does.
Developers use all sorts of shortcuts to make the AI harder, like turning off fog of war for the AI, giving it free resources, allowing it to build units faster than normal, or other cheat-y things. Even with those handicaps, AI still fail to present a challenging game that even a moderately skilled human could, partly because it can be easy to learn the patterns of the AI and predict what it’s going to do, partly because the AI often subscribe to the USSR School of Massed Trash Units/s as a governing philosophy.
In particular, I notice that in RTS games the AI are usually very conservative when it comes to early game rushing or hit and run tactics, which is par for the course when playing against human opponents. When playing against AI, you can also often get away with having a much lower APM than a match against human opponents. Going into multiplayer where rushing and micro are common when you’re used to slow AI games can be disorienting.
So, let’s say someone plays an RTS game like AOE 2 for years, but never touching multiplayer. They feel like they know the game, win against the hardest AI regularly, best the campaigns, and might even picked up on some of the ideas behind the real metagame.
However, as soon as they pick up multiplayer they get absolutely crushed in the first few mins to a basic rush, or end up lagging behind in eco, or don’t attack quick enough, or miss the build order, or whatever. Due to the snowballing nature of AOE2, falling just a bit behind in the early game by taking too long to find the boar or getting careless with your hunters and losing one, can set you back in the later game severely.
Tl;Dr: The vast difference in skill level needed to play single player RTS matches when compared to a multiplayer match in the same game soured more casual audiences to the genre, which could partly explain the shrinking sales and development of RTS games in recent years.
I fucking hate MOBAs
Edit: Full disclosure: I don’t like multiplayer gaming in general, so my opinion towards MOBAs is def biased
We had a topic about this very thing on this very sub earlier this week. Here’s the general consensus from it:
RTS basically split into two genres: MOBAs for those who want the action oriented aspects, and grand strategy for those who want the tactical aspects. RTS used to be both of those merged together but you got a very niche audience because it required people who could be strategic and tactical yet also could push out high micro and actions per minute in combat.
Timeline does not quite fit. RTS peaked around 2000 and then went into decline with Warcraft III (2002) and Command & Conquer Generals (2003) being among the last titles of the golden era. There were still good games released after that, but a lot of the public moved away from the genre.
MOBA emerged around the middle of the 00s and became a phenomenon rather by the end of the decade. So we have a period of 5 years or more where RTS killed itself without any help from MOBA.
I would rather blame the FPS genre. RTS was at it’s highest popularity when FPS games were severly limited graphically, with abstracts and small level design, very limited capability in telling stories, clumsy shooting mechanics. But the 2000-2004 period saw a an incredible push in the capabilities of the genre, culminating with things like Half-life 2. If you were to show a person from 1999 the first Far Cry game (2004), their head would explode. While if you showed them a RTS from 2004, it wouldn’t be that different than what they knew.
Couple this with GTA succesfully moving to 3D and making waves, RPGs like KOTOR and VTMB making the successful transition to 3D, RTS found itself against much stiffer competition.
Dawn of War III went the MOBA light route and the series died. Relic is making AOE 4 though so there is hope.