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Casual real time strategy games August 6, 2009

Posted by jeremyliew in game design, game mechanics, games.

Gamasutra has a nice writeup of the game design behind Corpse Craft, a causal RTS (real time strategy) game on Whirled:

In a traditional RTS, resource gathering is largely automated (players send designated resource gathering units out to harvest materials and bring them back to base, and they do it until either they’re killed or the game is won), and it’s the combat that has to be managed. Conkling decided to invert this model in order to eliminate the need for unit micromanagement. In Corpse Craft, resource gathering is micromanaged through the match-3 game, and new units that are created behave autonomously based on a very simple set of rules.

In other words, players spend resources to create undead creatures but don’t actually control them. There’s no base to manage, and no map to explore; all of the action takes place on a single non-scrolling screen.

According to Conkling, traditional RTS games typically keep combat interesting with a simple unit ecosystem, and battles are most exciting when they’re epic and unpredictable. Corpse Craft maintains that feel through a basic rock, paper, scissors relationship between units, where each unit has an obvious strength and a weakness that can be mitigated by sending the unit onto the battlefield along with other units that offset that weakness.

“Each unit behaves predictably, which is important because they’re not under player control, but when you throw lots of units together into a battle, there are interesting and unpredictable things going on due to the huge variety of interactions between those units,” Conkling said. “Battles are emergent in the sense that there are a few basic rules that drive the combat units, and from that you get chaos, unpredictability and interesting gameplay.”

Web based casual RTS games are a very interesting genre to me because they offer so many opportunities for virtual goods based monetization. We’ve seen several MMOGs make the leap from hardcore client based games to more casual web based games and retain their ability to monetize through virtual goods, and I think RTS is the next category to make that leap. That’s why we invested in Casual Collective last year, which has developed a number of such casual RTS games including Desktop Tower Defence, Flash Element Tower Defence, The Space Game, Minions and Desktop Armarda.


1. simo - August 6, 2009

would people stop playing to click an advertising that redirects them somewhere else?

jeremyliew - August 7, 2009

Many web based MMOGs have a virtual goods model that also allow users to buy virtual goods by responding to an offer instead of paying cash, and in those cases they do effectively click on an ad that takes them somewhere else

2. Matthew Warneford - August 7, 2009

> “I think RTS is the next category to make that leap”

I completely agree. I was talking with one of our partners about Total Annihilation (RTS from 97) only last week – everyone who played that game looks back with fond memories! Flash is now sufficiently performant to manage a significant number of sprites and resources in real time to make these kind of games possible.

Of course, by choosing to build the game in Flash the developer is choosing ease of access and low barriers to entry over computing power and graphics.

Indeed, it would be fair to say that a Flash RTS is a casual RTS. And that, I think, is the interesting challenge. What does a casual MMO RTS look like? Who are the audience?

The people who play RTS games today are probably not the audience for a casual Flash RTS tomorrow.

One of my criticism of casual virtual worlds are that they’ve pulled back too far on the MMO dynamics. Of course casual players don’t want to spend hours leveling up, but something more than mini games and buying digital items needs to keep them engaged.

I believe narrative within the work is essential – everyone loves a good book. Narrative is the broadest of the three types of immersion. Thats been the focus of our virtual world platform.

The potential risk for an casual MMO RTS is not pulling back those game dynamics far enough, or of course pulling back too far.

I think – in a round about way – I’m in complete agreement with your post, but the guys who take on the opportunity will need to do some work to understand and define the game mechanics.


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