Trent Polack's site for cats, games, game development, and undeniably powerful sociological insight all with a healthy dose of narcissism.
mittens's Articles In Real-Time
February 12, 2009 by mittens

Over the last few years, Relic has been crafting and evolving their very unique take on the real-time strategy genre with every new title they have released. Their shift in focus from a game like Homeworld to their, now, action/RTS genre blend was most apparent in Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War (2004). Dawn of War introduced the concept of cover as an actual game mechanic that players had to think about and plan a strategy around. The game also provided players with a lower unit count than most other strategy games released at the time while also treating infantry units as somewhat customizable squads rather than individual units. Dawn of War also was the first of Relic's games that really attempted to differentiate itself from the conventions of the real-time strategy genre at the time by reducing the gameplay emphasis on resource management.

Unlike games like Warcraft, Starcraft, and Age of Empires, Dawn of War treated one of its two resources as a capturable commodity. The map designers placed several important requisition points at key locations around a game map and these capturable points were the only means of harvesting requisition. Once a resource point is captured the flow of a given resource was dependent on nothing else but time (and maybe an upgraded listening post on the capture point). There were no workers to manage and not supply flow to contend with, simply a group of "hot points" that littered a game map. There were, however, constructable power nodes that players had to build in order to acquire power -- a design mechanic that felt out of place in the scheme of the game. Relic's next game, Company of Heroes, took this design methodology one step further and made the source of all resources a capturable point on the game map that had to be claimed and then, in some cases, enhanced through the construction of a building atop the point.

October 6, 2008 by mittens

A real-time strategy game is, by definition, a game where players are forced to make strategic and tactical decisions in real time. As the game industry grows, the real-time strategy genre has narrowed its focus to a very specific type of game that does little to force players to consider an over-arching strategy as comprised by numerous tactics. Instead of allowing a player's large- and small-scale decisions to adapt and change as events in a given skirmish unfold, RTSs just make players think of resource usage (I have X, I need Y, and I get Z/minute) and basic army composition. Everything else in the span of a game flows from these two mechanics into what is, typically, one large battle near the end of a game. Relic's Company of Heroes changes this design and, as a result, makes its real-time strategy gameplay into a more dynamic and far less predictable experience that forces a player to make harder decisions more frequently.

It's a commonly-held tenet in real-time strategy games that when an enemy unit is right-clicked upon that death befalls it after it takes a certain amount of damage from units that deal a specific amount of damage every few seconds. Blizzard's Starcraft is practically built around a very definitive combat model that follows a rock-paper-scissors methodology with very consistent unit performance results. The micromanagement that occurs within battles in Starcraft has nothing to do with centering an army around a well-covered/fortified position or ensuring that when your Dragoon attacks that his bullets will hit the right part of the enemy siege tank; instead, cover is just determining if a Protoss melee unit is in range of a bunker filled Space Marines and any hit a Dragoon lands on a Space Tank will do the same amount of damage whether it hits the armor-heavy front or the weakly-covered rear.

March 19, 2008 by mittens
Video games are such a fantastic medium. I just finished playing through Gears of War cooperatively with a friend over Xbox Live and it was absolutely enjoyable, hilarious, and challenging as hell. As a child of the, uh, Manboy Generation? YouTube Generation? Whatever kind of generation I’m a part of, growing up with video games has obviously had a large influence on my life being that I am what some may consider a "hardcore gamer" along with being a game developer, designer, and so on. So...
February 26, 2007 by mittens
Jump to: Introduction :: The Big Picture :: Nuclear Hugs :: Tech of the Infinite War :: Conclusion

War is Fought with ACUs
To say that I have been looking forward to the retail release of Supreme Commander is an understatement of epic proportions. With this game, we have a Real-Time Strategy title centered around large-scale warfare -- such a concept may sound unspectacular on paper until you realize that, while some RTSs certainly have an epic scope in terms of storyline and setting, they ...
September 8, 2006 by mittens
Jump to: The Introduction :: Real-Time Tactical :: Modability :: Battle.net :: Graphics and Physics :: Conclusion, etc.

The Introduction -- House Mix
I'm always amazed at the kind of great feedback some of you folks give to these articles; so, for those of you who read the first part and commented in some form (in-site/e-mail) and showed the thing to your friends, I do thank you. I enjoy writing these kinds of things, and hearing all you folk get some form of digitally strategic education o...
September 3, 2006 by mittens
Jump to: The Introduction :: RTS101 :: A Brief History :: Trent + RTS = :: Conclusion and Preview

Back in the day, when I was a strapping young lad on the brink of finally convincing the parents that the household needed a computer as much as it needed gas and electricity, there were two games that I was introduced to through two third-parties that I loved like no man should love software: Wolfenstein 3D and Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. Wolf3D was considered far too gruesome and controversial ...
May 22, 2006 by mittens
I figured it was damn near time that I actually wrote about a game and there's really no better title to suit that necessity that the only game I've been playing for about the last two months (I was on the beta): Rise of Legends. This is the second title from developer Big Huge Games, which features Brian Reynolds at its helm (who, if memory serves, was a kind of protege to simulation thinktank Sid Meier. The first game from BHG was the very well-received Rise of Nations which, in my mind, was k...
March 5, 2006 by mittens
Age of Empires 3 came out in fall 2005, but it seemed to come and go with little-to-no fanfare. The came received decent reviews and apparently was considered a letdown to RTS gamers who were looking forward to it. I actually played it when it first came out and got a nice bit through the first of three acts in the single-player campaign, and thought it was a very well-done game. I quit playing it at some point shortly afterwards, mainly due to a fairly annoying campaign mission, and haven't tou...
February 9, 2006 by mittens
Over the course of the last week I have become quite infatuated with the popular RTS released early 2005 (or was it late 2004?), Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War. Dawn of War is set in the futuristic version of the pen-and-paper universe (there's also a fantasy version of the franchise, which also has a big-name RTS in development). And while this is all nice and well for people that find themselves getting all sorts of turned-on by that kind of thing, it doesn't really mean much to me other than t...