...or 3-Dimensional Space Real Time Strategies.
0a. Homeworld (28.09.1999)
Hail to the king, baby! In some ways still unbeatable 3DS RTS.
Being the first, HW wasn't the ugly duckling: it has found it's style, and way of controlling camera, unit classes etc has become standard for similar type of games.
There are still advantages of HW1 engine, despite moddability problems (races, ships, abilities are hardcoded), it has more advanced physics system, ship behaviour etc then HW2.
0b. Homeworld Cataclysm (30.06.2000)
Only 7 month to develop! It included story, sound, models, gameplay design and source code update. Gearbox says, they're missing the source code, yeah...
Started as add-on, HWC became standalone game. Probably, because it would take too much effort to make HW engine flexible. So, HWC has become advanced mod for HW1 (like HW1 campaign for HWR).
Well, it have included two new races (1 consisted of old HW1 ships), completely different, with a lot interesting features - so multiplayer of HWC was totally different to HW1 and more interesting. Unit experience gathering, unit building restricted only to man count and other interesting features. Like, modules were first introduced here, waypoints, time fastening, ordering in Sensors Manager screen... Some buttons were redefined here, but overall nothing big has changed since HW UI.
0c. Homeworld 2 (16.09.2003)
New engine, new rules, great moddability with lua-scripting, but also simplified physics and unit behaviour. But now it had great multiplayer - with 2 races that were different enough to have interesting fights. But this time it was more about the strategy not tactics and microcontrol.
What was new in UI - slide camera when mouse at the edge, move and attack order, big formation for the whole fleet so that you could form up groups consisting of different ship classes moving with the same speed. And GUI that did not required to close view of battle to build, launch or research something. Also, movement was done more easy - just click RMB and select point at map.
1. The Rift / Far Gate (11.09.2001)
First competitor to HW - but it was few years late. No good engine, no good models - horrible trailer shows it all. BUT. I'd play this just to check what improvements or flaws they have made in UI of 3DS RTS.
Well, if the game itself is good, it could be remastered.
2. Project Earth: Starmageddon (26.04.2002)
This one looked promissing... BUT. Despite pretty good picture and quite interesting features, this game was ruined by UI. Bad voice acting - who's interested in this shit? But UI... It was using WASD movement to go through the space. No other chance to get to the point of the battlefield - no sensors manager a.k.a. big map to see whole picture of the battle, no concentration on units, no pause, to attack or move units you have to click RMB in space which may lead your unit engine knows where - it's fkn 3D not 2D! And then you had few plane battles that no one had told you about... Well, I gave it a few tries and I'd return to this game only if republished version would have HW-like UI.
Well, if the game itself is good, it could be remastered.
3. Haegemonia (01.05.2002)
This is not HW. It's more like 4X RTS - with planet colonisation, large technology tree - well, light version of SoaSE but with real 3D movement. Actually, it reminded me real time version of Endless Space - just simplified. Well, game is still looking good. Despite it's age, it's still beautiful - spaceoperish design of ships, planets, meteor belts etc - all was done with great love. Only 3D characters appearing from time to time - "I want to be your hero, sir!" - are lacking charisma. Music and campaign are quite spaceoperish also, so you won't find anything to catch on. Actually, sometimes I was misleaded by music into the memories of Disciples II.
But if we are interested in tactics and strategy, I'd say, that you will find strategy only: tactical fights are missing, big guns resolves everything. Well, of course there is possibility of controlling units in 3D space, but it won't help you much except for covert operations - like in O.R.B. you had whole solar system under your control (or several) but this time you could colonize them, and have radar sensors around, so sneaking here and there with 3D space is more interesting then two-way path of 2D plane. But overall big map was 2D - probably, that's why big map (on space) wasn't something you could rotate and fine tune to your needs (same problems like in O.R.B.).
It's interesting, that Haegemonia was first to introduce squads (at least among 3DS RTS) - ships came in squads (though you had to build them separately) so you have kinda balance of light ships in numbers to heavy ones outnumbered. Also, mouse side slide was first introduced here. Of course, by default, Y-axis was inverted, but it wasn't restricted by options to return it to natural statement. Well, focusing was working strange - instead of close focusing on ship, second click on MMB (or F) released camera from following - but that's more likely because of the 2D map nature of this game when you have no big need to turn your camera straight up or straight down - well, HW2 (don't know if HW1/C) had same problems, so that vertical maps are not quite welcome. Humans!...
Well, it's a nice example of a game, there are modding tools - I've seen them at modDB, so, any three races of HW would fit the mod for Haegemonia. Especially, as there is no need for diversity of ships - just, colony ship, marine ship, fighter, corvette, few more capitals and space bases. Voila!
4. O.R.B. (08.11.2002)
First pretty successful Homeworld clone. Beautiful backgrounds - great work with editor that allows to create solar systems. Even after 12 years it looks hillarious. But models - they are blocky and boring. Story - well, everything from HW combined together in not so effective manner.
In general it's HW UI. But There are interesting ideas on improving HW UI - like CTRL use for moving, fast waypoints and other things. Pressing middle mouse button (a.k.a. wheel) makes camera move along horizontal plane - well, it's the continuation of 3D modelling editors practices, just without unneeded features. Besides that there are a lot of features - like custom behavior setup, a lot of formations, spionage etc etc etc... But boring gameplay and gamedesign didn't help to use all these features.
Well, actually it's a pity, that there were no modding tools for this game, as it would increase life of a product. For example, HWC somtaaw would fit perfectly into this system: beautiful ships + beautiful backgrounds...
The game was quite good, it could be remastered. Or even to have some continuation. Who would dare? :)
5. Nexus: The Jupiter Accident (05.11.2004)
First, it was Imperium Galactica III, then it switched name and genre. Now it's 3DS Tactics. Very beautiful even now - just look at this solar system maps, at these ships inspired from Space Odyssey 2010... And they are even animated quite correctly!
Mouse RMB camera control and zoom in/out on wheel is HW-inspired, and it's quite confusing to have no default plane to orient to. At least it could have been setup by your main ship position (or special key + other one you select). But actually, you find out quickly, that picture in front of you is just for fun. You will assign all your orders by clicking GUI-elements. Press pause, check closest enemy, select way of destruction - by artillery strikes, by heavy gun usage or fine tuning by cutting out enemy ship subsystems - weapon systems, energy batteries, shields... Actually, in later game, it turns out to be game "who's shield is the weakest" - if you disable enemy shield and make shield generator dead, you just watch how enemy is cut to pieces by your forces. And to control every ship of your fleet, you need to use pause a lot - well, biggest key on the keyboard should be used most often, isn't it?
And, actually, there is nothing in this game but orders where and how to hit assigning. Oh, you can also enable stealth mode and scan your enemy, but you can't move anywhere except for predefined points and already existing objects on the map. You can't order you ships to move in random direction - just in direction of storyline object, or object to destroy to. And that leads to strange situations when two groups of ships just stand in front of each other and shoot without manoeuvring.
But overall, it turned to be a nice game, so it's pity, that Nexus 2 wasn't able to collect enough money on Kickstarter. Trailer was awesome, and I hope that some managers responsible for denial of N2 got fired after Gearbox successfully remastered Homeworld 1/2.
Btw, there is fine official modding manual and tools coming game install. At least, in GOG version.
6a. Star Wolves 1 (12.11.2004)
6b. Star Wolves 2 (2006)
6c. Star Wolves 3 (15.05.2009)
It's not 3DS RTS, it's 3DS RPG Tactics: you control carrier and fighters piloted by your mercenary team: fight pirates, get quests, gain experience and buy new fighters, weapons and ammo.
UI is similar to HW. But no big ships, actually. You will suck fighting government fleet ships...
Also, there is strange story about SW 2-3. SW3: Civil War is actually SW2 reincarnation. And real SW3: Ashes of Victory are stuck in development hell.
7. Flotilla (29.03.2010)
Fast session game similar to FTL or Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space or Atom Zombie Smasher (btw, Flotilla is from the same studio Blendo Games) - procedurally generated worlds, events. You have ship, then you travel from planet to planet, meet pirates, find new ships for your fleet...
Blocky design isn't a problem for this game, problem is about WASD-controlling. Even with pauses (set destination, facing and prioritisation - and 1 minute fight), it is hard to setup your ship behaviour. Imagine, you're in the middle of a fight, your ships and enemy ships are mixed - and what was OK while "chess starting position", is failed control now. You can't set camera to follow certain ship or group of ship (have a point to rotate around), as you are object yourself, so you are rotating around your own axis. And like in FPS games, you need 6 buttons + mouse to control your position, plus you need to follow what happens with your fleet and control it. So camera absolute freedom brings too much problems to 3DS RTS while having only one advantage - freedom of camera!
Besides that Flotilla pausing gameplay with manual ship control brings another problem: fight of 2vs2 already takes too much time - and with conditions when noone promises you fair fights (it's procedurally generated world!) but a lot of retries, you might be disappointed in this game. Well, there is a demo, so you can try it out.
8. Ancient Space (23.09.2014)
Haven't played this one, but I've seen "Let's Play" of it, and it was boring. WASD control, hard to tell if there's 3D or 2D space, static ships, positional battles... Reminded O.R.B. heavily to me, so conluding upmetioned, I decided to spend my money on something else.
9a. Void Destroyer (20.01.2015)
More like Wing Commander, but it seems like there is possibility to control units without piloting HW alike. It's a one-man-army game, so I cannot really complain about the overall design decisions of a first (?) big game, but still these cel-shading models make my feeling of a beatiful to be confused.
9b. Void Destroyer 2 (Early Access)
Looks like evolution of VD1, bigger, larger, better, but, IMHO, cell-shading 'lego'-design with ships looking like early childhood toys is not for everyone. Especially, those pictures from Kickstarter page made my eyes bleed seeing all these bright colors on a blue stub-skybox background. Not denying all the work the developer had done on game, I believe, he should hire some professional artist, just to add human color-correction, and color accents.
10. Nomad Fleet (14.07.2015)
It would have been a good mixture of FTL and HW, but the developer lacked a lot things - experience, game designer, tester, UI-designer and so on, so the game is frustrating and needs a lot of polishing. Mb, from technical point of view it's a release, but from the game point of view, it's still an alpha-version.
On the other hand, title had been created and I can only wish to its creator to develop it further in the right direction of remasters or NM2.
11. Ceres (16.10.2015)
Looks a bit ugly, and most probably it's not strategy but tactics game, like Nexus or Star Wolves, with a bit more complexity. I've tried to play it, but the demo failed on the menu level - setting won't close, so I decided, that with such testing and UI development level all the other things might be broken as well. You might be luckier then me, but the word 'lucky' is not what I want from application.
12. Deep Space Settlement (Abandoned)
3DS RTS. Base building, ship customization... No playable demo available, official site says game still in progress, but this ship seems to be abandonded.
13. Shallow Space (Abandoned)
Game's Early Access is available at Steam, but developer has abandoned the game. Enough said.
Article will be updated from time to time.