Note: This article was started before I had surgery. However,
during my long recovery, I never felt like finishing it. Now
things have changed in the RTS world and some of what I was
going to write wouldn't be valid anymore. This will remain
have a truly grand-scale strategy game with lots of units
and lots of buildings, I believe that [a 2D engine] is necessary."
- Garry Gaber, LucasArts╣
awhile now, I've been kicking around the idea of writing an
editorial against Real-time Strategy (RTS) games going 3D.
After seeing the above quote in the June 2001 issue of PC
Gamer, I knew I wasn't alone in my thinking.
love RTS games. From the first time I played WarCraft, I was
hooked. There have been some stellar games put out in the
last few years. In addition to Warcraft, games like WarCraft
II, StarCraft, Total Annihilation, Red Alert I & II, Age
of Empires, Z, Close Combat and Command & Conquer: Tiberian
Sun occupied much of my free time.
of the above mentioned games were put out by two companies:
Blizzard and Westwood. These companies helped invent the genre.
But now there is an evil movement afoot. Gone are the days
of simple 2D sprites - 3D polygons are all the rage as Blizzard
and Westwood have gone to the Dark Side.
I was excited by the thought of going to a 3D format, but
after seeing it in action, I long for the days of old. The
problems are manifested in two areas: Performance and Presentation.
Since performance is easier to quantify (and isn't as big
an issue), I'll tackle that one first.
Red Alert 2 was released last October, the System Requirements
were a P2-266MHz with a 2MB videocard. With the release of
Emperor: Battle For Dune, the requirements jumped to a P2-400MHz
(P3-600MHz for 5 or more players) and a 16MB videocard. I
realize that is nothing for a lot of gamers, but it is still
a hefty increase for an 8 month period. Also, even on a fast
system, the levels take forever to load - even to the point
of thinking that the game has locked up. Finally, while 2D-based
games would slow down when a lot of units were on the screen
at one time, you down don't know slow until you try that with
a 3D-based game.
all for increasing system requirements for new games because
it gives me an excuse to upgrade my system. However, you need
to get something for that extra horsepower and therein lies
the second problem - Presentation.