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What Makes A Strategy Game Good?

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    What Makes A Strategy Game Good?

    My brother and I have been using Unreal Engine 4 since release and we've recently begun playing some of our old strategy games, IE Company of Heroes (the first one) and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne.
    And after successfully completing a small project just to see if we could finish something, we've become excited by the idea of making an RTS.
    I've recently been going over Pally Qle's videos on Youtube in which he (in great detail) goes over the set up of a Command and Conquer style RTS in Blueprint, and that's got me thinking.
    What makes a strategy game good?
    Certainly everyone has their own tastes; some like Civ 5 or Beyond Earth because of its turn based, empire building; others like Starcraft for its fast pace.
    But I'd like to know what you guys think? What makes a strategy game good to you?
    Thanks for taking the time to read this.

    Also, for those interested here is a link to Pally Qle's RTS tutorial series (Which in my opinion does not have nearly as many views as it deserves).

    For me personally, i love tech trees. Like researching into oblivion. My favorite RTS game is gameplay vise, not a big fan of turn based games.


      At the very core, since we're talking in very broad terms (frankly, nearly every game has some level of strategy game built into it), the key to a good strategy game is adaptation to environmental changes.

      If I had to pick just one thing, that would be it. When you set out in a strategy game, lets say Civ for an example since it is both popular and easy to see how this works due to the turn based nature, you have somewhere between a vague and concrete plan in place for how you'd like the game to go. But then you realize you've spawned on an island, or, perhaps, next to mulitple barbarian camps. The way you shift your plans moment to moment to the unexpected, other players, or downright random chance, is what makes a strategy game good. It will reward you for adapting to the environment and careful, quick, and decisive action to changes around you.

      The rest is just fluff on top of that core idea My 2 cents.
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        Thanks for the insight guys!


          There is only one true answer to this question - meaningful decision making. However the game mechanics ultimately work, a good strategy game will frequently present the player with questions that must be answered; in the context of an RTS this can be as simple as 'what do I build next'.

          Starcraft is as successful as it is, because 'what do I build next' is often an incredibly important decision, and it requires prerequisite knowledge of what your opponent is doing. Command and Conquer 4 failed miserably because whoever was responsible for that mess critically failed to realise how important this kind of decision should be in a typical RTS. Company of Heroes often places somewhat less emphasis on what you build, but makes up for it by forcing you to think a lot more about how you use what you have instead.

          Civilization 5, and particularly Beyond Earth is an interesting one. Initially, it looks like a fantastic strategy game that presents a player many paths through the game and a variety of meaningful decisions with consequences (and I thoroughly enjoyed it). Ultimately, it fails though, as decisions cease being meaningful; there is actually a critical path through the game in terms of the order in which you acquire technologies, social policies and how you place and build cities. Once you've cracked this sequence, there's a colossal lack of meaningful decision making remaining and the game falls flat.

          Games like Hearthstone are also interesting to look at, because those game never fall flat; there are always meaningful decisions to be made and the PvP nature of the game means that there's a substantial metagame at play that constantly shifts and changes.


            For me I like the story aspect. The gameplay and tech trees and discovering strategies for each race are of course fun (and essential)... but the revelation of each race's story, motivation, struggle, revealed over time, that's very rewarding and engaging for me.

            Of course, the icing on the cake is missions where you play it again or play it the first time and you have the chance to do creative and unexpected things and still win.

            Starcraft 1:
            The storyline and variety of missions (including when you have just a small team). Very nice.

            Starcraft 2:
            Good too, because, well, Starcraft.

            Command & Conquer:
            A war-like simulation but less "boring" (for me). C&C Generals was prescient in the rise of China. Newer C&C games, those I never really got into.

            Dawn Of War 1:
            Brilliant, the uniqueness and ferocity of each race was very engaging, particularly Necrons and Sisters Of Battle. And the "Protoss-like" Tau was excellent too. The expansion packs gave good variety.
            Last edited by srmojuze; 09-23-2015, 05:39 AM.


              I fully agree to ambershee. For me it was always important to have wide range of meaningful solutions for single problem. I want to be sure that the solution I have chosen exactly represents my idea of what I want to do in this situation and I want to see the consequences.

              For me there is nothing worse than a strategy game which offers only a few solutions for a problem and at the end none of them made any significant difference.

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                Never interested in storyline, always skipping cutscenes.
                I like smart AI, a really hard, but not unfair game.
                No cheating AI!
                What i like most, is when you take your troops through all levels and they get upgrades.
                Healing and repairing ability is important.
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                  Resource management is always a big one for me. If you can out manage your opponent that is usually game :-D


                    Originally posted by Luftbauch View Post
                    I like smart AI, a really hard, but not unfair game.
                    +1 for that.
                    In my opinion a smart AI is crucial for an RTS game, otherwise it wont be fun to play


                      What makes a strategy game good?
                      After everything is affected by RNG, you go an extra level and add RNG on top of RNGs, like Hearthstone... $Profit$

                      Seriously though... The only successful game that makes no meaningful use of RNG in gameplay that I know of is Age of Empires 2.
                      (AoE2 still uses RNG on world map generation though and often on tournaments 1x1 players would request a restart due to unfair map generation)
                      Game designers in this last decade learned that players 'hate RNG', but it's a key element to keep them hooked and coming back often; sucks but true.
                      Last edited by BrUnO XaVIeR; 09-26-2015, 06:57 PM.
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                        Strategy games do not need randomness. Chess and it's various forms have survived hundreds, potentially thousands of years and don't rely on any randomness whatsoever; Stratego, Draughts / Checkers, Go / Reversi / Othello - all classic strategy games with no random elements.

                        This isn't to say that randomness is bad, because it inherently isn't in itself- it's just a gameplay element that can potentially be used for the benefit or detriment of a given game. The most obvious usage is to introduce risk / reward mechanics, but also to create variable game states.


                          my little list:

                          I love both RTS and TBS games, but mostly their combination, where I have time to think and plan, and develop economy, but also can play fast battles where tactics and timing is essential beside utilizing the different troops properly.

                          for me the historic era is important, and how the game represents it. normally things should be simplified to get a playable game, but the what and how to is the hard thing... you need to model a complex society and economy by a relatively simple system, and the player still should have the feeling to be in that era.

                          I play mostly ancient and medieval games because their warfare style is the most attracting for me. it is very annoying when the power of unit types is set wrongly, at least due to our historical knowledge of the given period. I got bored by fantasy themed games.

                          in case of RTS I prefer free play on random maps over a story based static series of levels. in RTS games the most annoying things are lonely skirmishing units taking your attention, while it is easy to handle for the AI. yeah, I hate cheating AI too. so imo it is better when you can control groups or squads of units, as normally happens in case of a real army, and the "group manager" should order the individual units to find their target intelligently.

                          I cannot tolerate pathfinding errors. e.g. Age of Empires I. was a pain to play, while II. was great. the efficiency of the pathfinder also determines how many units you can control, and normally the more the better, great battles are simply great

                          a good AI is essential, but it should have levels like easy/normal/hard... imo in strategy games it is the hardest, to create an AI decision making mechanism that is not predictable by the human player. it should be based on a good map decomposition system (the AI has to really understand the map content), tightly cooperating with the pathfinding system (timing of attacks, predicting human player army movements). aggressive/defensive AI techniques can also result in more interesting play.
                          "Age of Total Heroes" - RTS Pathfinding and Movement System for UE4
                          RTS Camera C++ Tutorial