By F1000003 8 Comments
I am continuing with the rather futile task of playing all the video games.
After finishing off the last of the games beginning with "007" I jumped straight in and downloaded 0 A.D. I don't actually have too much to say about that game - it's still in alpha, so is missing much functionality. However, before I embarked on playing all those shooters I put my cards on the table and provided my thoughts on the genre, (in order to put my views on individual games into perspective). Therefore I thought that I'd briefly talk about my past experiences with Real-Time Strategy games first.
Back around the year 2000, I used to play a lot of RTSs. I sunk dozens of hours into the first two Age of Empires games, and almost as much into Total Annihilation. I never really got into online gaming at the time - but did get around to networking the family computers, so I sued to play Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings and later Age of Empires II: The Conquerors expansion pack with my father. (Almost always, Regicide, Rivers on a small map with no AI... We both enjoyed base building, so found that the rivers provided easy early defence points, and regicide provided each player with a Castle to slow down early attacks. The other advantage of Regicide was that conquest just took too long to finish after one player had clearly won - so killing the King provided a nice abrupt ending without the need to hunt down the last remaining transport vessel hiding in a corner of the map.) Whereas Total Annihilation was the game I'd play with my friends.
However, I think it's probably not too controversial to say that while the late 90s and early 00s were probably the golden age for the RTS, (not only the games listed above, but also the StarCraft, Warcraft and Command & Conquer franchises were going strong). With the exception of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and the original Supreme Commander, the last decade has not been great - or at the very least, I personally have not been compelled to pursue my interest in the genre. Maybe I'm wrong though? Maybe there's some gem I've overlooked? If anybody knows of anything worth playing, let me know - I used to really like these types of game.
My hunch is that the genre has been partially absorbed into the Tower Defence format. Plants vs. Zombies, Mushroom Wars and Eufloria are all games I've enjoyed in the last few years - but I'd probably regard them as RTS-lite.
In conclusion - I like the RTS format. I especially like the epic, designed for PC, convoluted ones which you can get engrossed in. Things with massive tech-trees... you know the sort.
Game 000013: 0 A.D. (Alpha 11)
0 A.D. isn't actually out yet. Twelve years in development, Wildfire Games released alpha version 11 to the public in September of this year.
The game began life as a mod for Age of Empires II - but as that game began to show its age the team decided to build their own engine from scratch. In July 2009, the game became open source - and a community of over 100 people have now contributed to the game. 0 A.D. is available to download for free and is available for Windows, Mac OS and most excitingly, Linux.
I played the game for a couple of hours under Windows on a cheap laptop - but also got my house mate to test it on his gaming laptop, running Linux. The game was functional on mine, and featured possibly the quickest loading time I have ever seen in a video game, from double clicking the icon to seeing the main menu! However, as I approached a population of around 100 (of a potential 300), it did begin to lag. Still, it performed about as well as can be hoped for on a cheap computer with no graphics card. On the gaming PC, it ran smoothly - and although it wasn't the most amazing game graphically, it was certainly presentable and by no means a bad looking product.
I was impressed with what I did play. The game is clearly being made by a community of enthusiasts for enthusiasts, as can be seen in the attention to detail which has been put into the mechanics. It plays like Age of Empires, but where things just work how you'd want them to. For example, multiple villager being able to work on one form - and military being able to construct buildings and help out collecting resources. This one change did take some getting used to, as my usual villager rush strategy left me defenceless against an AI who would focus on military without having to completely sacrifice its early growth.
The game also has an interesting mechanic where it keeps track of your borders. Building additional town centres can expand your borders, but other than buildings may only be built inside your borders - so gaining territory is a more well defined concept than it is in most RTSs. This becomes important, when you find that you can't build a depot next to the stone you are mining, and your villagers have a long inefficient walk back to base.
I found it a little difficult to differentiate between my own units and the enemies at times, (quite a big problem when controlling an army!) So if anybody can think of away to improve it and knows C++ - please go and submit a change!
At present, the number of units and buildings which are available are quite limited, and I began to loose interest after a couple of hours with it. My hunch is that most of the development effort has been put into the early game, with the number of units, buildings and technologies available to research being rather low. The game does not yet have a campaign mode, and could probably do with a tutorial (although it should feel very familiar to fans of the genre.) Still, there was enough to it to make me excited to see how this progresses. The developers seem to have grand ambitions, and are taking their time with this project. I imagine it'll need another graphical overhaul before it's eventually released - but I'm sure that many people are just enjoying the journey watching how this game slowly develops. After all, there's no real reason to ever actually finish this game. They could just keep on making it better and better.