Developers Log #4: Strategy and tactics


What was yours first strategy game? Do you remember? Mine was Johnny Reb II, some strategy set in America’s Civil War, on great home computer of that time – ZX Spectrum (i had 128+, with integrated cassette player!) and it was in late 80s. After that comes long series of strategies from Spectrum, over Amiga and to PC. Civilization, King’s Bounty then Heroes of Might & Magic, Deuteros, Dune 1 and 2, Battle Isles, Warcraft, Master of Orion and many more.

johnny-reb-ii(1)Picture 1: Johny Reb II from 1986. Go, go, South! 🙂

Therefore, yes – i m bloody fan of strategies. I just love them too much, much more than any other genre. Chess like execution in turn based strategies was great thing, and appearance of real time strategies with Dune 2 (hard core players will tell its second RTS, because there was one more before it, just less popular) , completed my imaginary world of kid that want to be general.
But, after all these years, something started to bothering me. New games come out, but it’s always same old story, few new and nice features here and there, new and better and hardware more demanding graphics and visuals, cutscenes and cinematics and that’s it. Ok, that’s it could be said with quotes, but still in bones and structure, it’s same old, same old story.

Plus, naming entire genre is one thing, but reality in both of gaming style and real life is completely different story. There are not all strategies. Here is nice and short explanation:
“The terms tactic and strategy are often confused: tactics are the actual means used to gain an objective, while strategy is the overall campaign plan, which may involve complex operational patterns, activity, and decision-making that lead to tactical execution.”

When we apply it to games, strategy games, then we have practically two sub genres (ok, there are more separations, but i ll focus on execution here): strategy games and tactical games.
First group could be represented by games that put players in higher positions, as Battle Isle series, Panzer General, Heroes series etc.

battle-isle(1)Picture 2: Battle isle 2, i love this series, and Blue Byte Software works

In previous group we might put Command and Conquer or Warcraft, but it is more because production aspect and number of possible troops. Also, Warcraft gone down with it – it moved from strategy (WC 1 and WC 2) to tactical level (with WC 3). With them could be Homeworld, Supreme Commander, Age of Empires and many more. So I would call all of them hybrids, where you have strategy on the level of production, and with it focus on resources, while in the army and combat aspect they are more tactical then strategy based.

Maybe the best representative of the second (or third?) group is Company of Heroes. Great game, great atmosphere and great tactical game. Of course there are many more: Total War series (battle aspect), Warhammer 40k, Starcraft, UFO…

company-of-heroes(1)Picture 3: Atmosphere, sounds, visuals – game of the year and great in teaming up with Band of Brothers TV series

This gives us situation that most (not all) of strategies are turn based, while most of tactical games are RTS. And there are those hybrids with production aspect or with many troops as Sudden Strike for example. It’s no wonder that separation is in that line – TBS for strategy and RTS for tactical. It is natural – to lead vast number of troops and to achieve some greater goals, you need time and planning. For smaller numbers with lower goals, you need fast thinking and in multiplayer – fast mind and even faster reflexes (selecting troops, switching, picking one by one to apply different “specials” and common rock-scissors-paper… -lizard-Spok principle).

And finally – give us a break with that million mouse clicks in a second! And “us” i mean on older players which will soon have problems of finding bathroom or own shoes. With years comes slowness, reflexes are some past tense, which are replaced with more wisdom and tranquility. So, there are no good RTS for old people 🙂 At least not for multiplayer with younger and faster people.

old-man-pc(1)Picture 4: I… m… telling… … you… I… ll… own… your…base… as… I… owned… your… grandma… afk… bio

Ok, enough for now with this and other introduction things, mumbling and philosophizing. I promise – next article is about the game. Told ya that I m old and slow, you have to forgive me! 🙂

Stay well,