Age of Empires IV and Rocky History of real-time strategy games

The real-time strategy is I have a moment.

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition regularly smashes 20,000 simultaneous players on Steam, placing him in a league with legendary role-playing games such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Unexpected remaster of the original from 2020 Command and conquer I saw more than 42,000 simultaneous players on Steam at launch. And the biggest gaming companies, including Microsoft and Tencent, are funding studios behind new RTS recordings such as The Age of Empires IV, which is scheduled for release on October 28.

This revival is good news for fans of real-time strategy games, but the genre must adapt to the tastes of modern gamers. Fortunately, the developers behind tomorrow’s blockbuster real-time strategy games are aware of the mistakes of the genre’s past.

The golden age

The seeds of the real-time strategy genre were planted when Chris Crawford published a treatise on the future of real-time gaming called The Future of Computer Games. in the debut winter issue of 1981 The world of computer games. He argues that “real-time play is both more realistic and more challenging than turn-based play. This may sound obvious today, but in the early 1980s it was a direct challenge to the status quo, which viewed computer strategy games as replicas of physical, turn-based miniature wargaming.

Crawford put his ideas into action in 1982 legionnaire, an early real-time strategy game that pits detachments of Roman troops against AI-controlled barbarians. legionnaire he was innovative, but also a little ahead of his time. The game proved that real-time play was technically possible, but it was a challenge, as modern computers could only handle small, static cards, with a maximum of a few dozen visible units.

However, the concept began to catch on. Games like Ancient martial art, released by Brøderbund Software for MS-DOS and Apple II in 1984, and Duke tworeleased for Sega Genesis in 1989, expanded the boundaries of real-time play. These ideas accumulated in 1989 Populus, “Game of God” by Peter Moligno’s Bullfrog Productions. Populus was not a real-time strategy game, but it had an attractive, intuitive interface that would be recognizable to fans of the genre.

If these games provide a plan, that’s right Dune II which laid the foundation. Released by Westwood Studios in 1992, it was the first game to mix base building, unit command and resource gathering with real-time gaming and a mouse-driven graphical user interface. He mixed the rush of adrenaline of an arcade game with the complex strategic decisions of a campaign builder of an empire. The game was just a modest hit, sold about 250,000 copies in the first few yearsbut convinced the game’s producer, Westwood Studios co-founder Brett Sperry, that further action was needed.

More Dune II did not receive a direct sequel. Sperry, frustrated by the restrictions and licensing costs of an established franchise such as Dune, prompted Westwood to rely on a new, original IP that extends to modern warfare and the technology that drives it. Louis Castle, spoke with Computer and video games magazine in a 2008 interview, Westwood said he “wanted players to imagine that their computer at home was a terminal to a real battlefield that communicated directly with your units in the field.” The Westwood team was inspired by the media coverage of the Gulf War, but added its own science fiction.

Gambling paid off. Command and conquer hit stores in 1995 and sold more than a million copies in its first year, establishing Westwood as a leader in a new, breakthrough genre. The studio doubled its success with the release of Red signal in 1996, which sold even faster than its predecessor and included the Westwood Chat online chat program, which players could use to organize online games. The rapid release of Westwood’s two hit titles has put real-time strategy on the covers of computer game magazines not only in the United States but around the world.

The market, hungry for RTS games, could support reviews like the one in Computer Gaming World, with more coming out each year.

Photo: CGW Museum

David Kim, a leading game designer in the newly formed Uncapped Games and a former designer of Starcraft II, was presented Red signal while growing in South Korea. “Red signal it was the main game that everyone played multiplayer, ”says Kim. “I really got into it and we were going to play after school. Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Japan and Australia were also major markets for real-time strategy games, with new RTS games often topping the charts in those countries.

But the success of Red signal was the tip of the iceberg. Blizzard Entertainment, which has earned a reputation for quality with its own hit real-time franchise strategy, Warcraft, invaded the stage in 1998 Starcraft. Kim and his friends, like many computer gamers, jumped on board the new game and never looked back. Blizzard’s sci-fi RTS jumped to the top of the charts, selling 1.5 million copies by the end of the year to become the best-selling PC game since 1998. It will continue to sell at least 11 million copies, a figure that precedes the 2017 release. Starcraft: Remastered. Activision-Blizzard does not publish remaster sales data.

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