Project: Warcry (Working title) is a 3D science fiction RTS game based around squad, vehicular and aerial combat with base building, resource gathering and split tech trees. Set a thousand years from now between the sinister Human and the brute Hyperion armies with plans for two additional races. Our main focus with this project is a competitive online experience.
One of the key aspects that define the entire RTS genre, are the games economic systems. Today we’re going to be talking about what makes a good resource system for a competitive RTS, and the system in place for Project Warcry.
Posted by L0K on Jul 5th, 2010
Most, if not all, competitive RTS’s have some key components to their resource system that they all share. These are:
1. Limited Resource Types: Most competitive RTS’s have no more than 3 or 4 resource types, including population capacity as a resource. There are a few reasons for this:
a) Keeping the number of resources low allows players to focus on combat and expansion, something essential in a competitive RTS. With too much focus on economy, games become very drawn out, which bores potential viewers and is not conducive to pro gaming, where a lot of practice games are required. Shorter games also allow for more testing of new strategies, because it won’t take an hour or two to play each game.
b) Having more than 2 or 3 mineable resources also adds little to no additional strategic depth. With one resource, all units that are more powerful have to cost an appropriate amount of additional resources. This is not only boring, it also severely limits how designers can cost the units. Two minable resources seems to be the sweet spot, where costing of units and buildings can be tweaked, without too much of the player focus being on where to get the next resource type.
2. Map-Based Resources: A key feature of competitive RTS’s is the inclusion of at least one map-based resource. A map-based resource is one that is located in certain strategic areas of the map and must be mined or captured, and defended. Some games have all map-based resources (such as Starcrafts minerals and gas) whereas others are hybrids, having some map-based resources and some which are generated by buildings or units (such as Dawn of Wars power generators). The key reasons of having map-based resources are that they provide areas of conflict in the game, and they also encourage players to expand rather than staying in their base and “turtling” (which leads to long boring games). They also provide an additional layer of strategy, where the player must evaluate whether or not capturing another resource area will pay off in the long run.
3. Economic Fragility: Another key aspect to a good resource system is its economic fragility. By this I mean the ease of which one player can disrupt the others economy. Having an economic system which it too fragile, leads to paranoia and lucky victories, whereas a system with is not fragile enough becomes pointless strategically since there is then no way to affect your opponent economically. For example, in cases where a building mines resources, it should not be fragile enough that even the weakest units can destroy it in mere seconds (unless it is also appropriately cheap to build). The same can be said for the other case though, in which entire armies are needed to destroy one mining structure, or the structures are so cheap they can be easily spammed across the map. Buildings or units which provide population capacity also must be balanced in this way, otherwise there is little to no point in having these buildings unless they also serve other roles.
Warcry’s approach is to use a hybrid system of both map-based and user generated resources to provide the maximum amount of strategy with the fewest types of resources. Players capture Remnants, old facilities built by the Mor’rossan to fuel their empire, which provide resources at a steady rate. They may build refineries which increase the rate at which these minerals are collected. These resources are used by all units and structures in the game, and so a steady supply is essential to any player’s war effort. By placing them in various areas of the map, players are encouraged to expand to new areas and they provide a source of direct conflict.
The second resource is Power, which is a user generated resource provided by Power generators. These generators can be built anywhere and produce a steady supply of spendable Power. Power is more predominant for later tier units, and for the numerous squad upgrades available. Generators also increase the player’s population cap, meaning generators are valuable targets and must be protected accordingly.