On Monday British gamers The Yogscast stream live on Twitch, with co-founder Lewis Brindley and Duncan Jones attempted to play Factorio, a conveyor-belt heavy survival game with RTS elements, amidst three hours of banter and salt. Recent Monday streams have seen the duo playing Crusader Kings, Northgard, and Empire Earth II. I too have played my wealth of RTS (Real Time Strategy) games such as Warcraft, Starcraft, Act of War, Halo Wars and of course the Command & Conquer series; personally enjoying Command & Conquer Generals: Zero Hour the most. As such, I have realized that regardless of the developer or the franchise, each of these games is, in essence, a reconstituted amalgamation of those that had preceded it. For example; the ability to appear invisible isn't just exclusive to the US Sniper units of Generals, but also for the Ghost units in Starcraft, whereas the Creep used by the Scourge in Warcraft 3 shares similar properties to Command & Conquers concrete. Although, as with every genre of video game, a new installment will see the genre evolve, with RTS games that evolution is slower than with most genres, with each new game shuffling the abilities among the units available, essentially giving players a recycled combination of units from the last major release.
Sadly this means that for players of RTS games, once you have played a few titles you have virtually played them all, which ultimately leaves fans of the genre left wanting, even more so when considering that the genre is not as mainstream as the shooter, racer and fighter genres that flood both the PC and console markets. What is needed for both fans of the genre and the genre itself is a title brave enough to take the genre into the next, needed direction that will both revolutionize and revitalize the genre, but this would have to be a new title unbound and unrestricted by the limitations of existing RTS properties.
Imagine a new, science fiction orientated RTS game in which players must first progress through a campaign within which the player creates, and in subsequent missions, evolves structures and units based upon the required functions needed to create, step-by-step, a balanced and strategically orientated 'army' customized and personalized to match each players personal playing style. Will your resource collectors be units, vehicles or aircraft? Will your constructor units be able to build structures quicker in groups or will your structures appear fully built once constructed after a delay off-screen? Will your anti-air defenses use missiles, lasers, bullets or EMP?
Such a game would require the developer to deconstruct the abilities and attributes used by units within games of the genre before reassembling those abilities into a table from which players can use to create balanced units within which each ability or perk gained also applies a negative effect, such as heavy armor reducing unit speed, or an increase in a units firing rate being offset by reduced accuracy. Once the campaign is complete each player should have created their own uniquely tailored army of structures and units ready to be used and further evolved in a multiplayer environment whereby players can lead their army with or against those of their friends, strangers, and challenging computer opponents - Will your heavily armoured army survive against your friends aerially dominated army? Will your infantry survive the dirty tactics of an army dependent upon lingering area-of-effect attacks?
Similar to titles such as GTA Online, Minecraft, and Destiny, this game would be an investment on behalf of the player, with prolonged play seeing each players army evolve over time, becoming finely tuned in tandem with the players style-of-play and proficiency at the game. Thus, an RPG inspired leveling and reward system would prove beneficial, allowing players to further enhance their army with elements released over time and as they progress through the level and skill trees.