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Op Ed

Tiny Little Frogs - RTSís arenít dying. Theyíre waiting. By Stardock CEO Brad Wardell.
The third phase games can be broadly described by the technology under them: 64-bit memory, massively multithreaded. And these 3rd phase RTSs will be breathtakingly beautiful to look at, have amazing scope and micro AI (sophisticated rules for units interacting with one another without human involvement) that is astounding.

Publishers arenít approving these designs not because there isnít demand. There is. The problem is you canít make a game that only a fraction of the player base can currently play.

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14. Re: Op Ed Feb 9, 2013, 05:38 jdreyer
 
Thanks Brad. Strategy games, both RT and turn based, are my favorite type. There haven't been too many lately. Glad to know it's something you're putting a lot of thought into.  
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13. Re: Op Ed Feb 8, 2013, 23:13 draginol
 
It's not even limited to RTS's. Try making a Baldur's Gate style game or a Ultima VII style game today (that is, a third person, party game with a rich environment) with the production values equivalent of Skyrim or Far Cry 3. It would be really really tough for the same reason - memory and cores (though mostly memory).

The 2GB limit was hit half a decade ago. Designers have had to work around this for years and it's slowly snuffed out certain genres. It's not as if there wouldn't be huge demand for a Baldur's Gate 3.

The beauty of first person is that you can greatly limit what is on screen. DirectX 10/11 lets you put your textures in a different address space so you can do amazing visuals in them.

Anyway, time will tell. We can revisit this in say 2 years and see where we're at. That's when I'd imagine 64-bit required games will start being the norm (I would be shocked if the next gen consoles aren't 64-bit).
 
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12. Re: Op Ed Feb 8, 2013, 22:57 Orogogus
 
I feel like a game with thousands of units is basically the Total Annihilation model, and we probably don't need more than a few of those on the market. The same way that the majority of FPSes aren't Battlefield, I wouldn't think gamers necessarily want every game to have thousands of high fidelity units. It's just a lot to manage, and going in different directions a la MOBAs, Tower Defense games, FTL seems more like a viable pathway than a glut of RTS games with 10,000 units with individually modeled bayonets or flak batteries fighting it out.  
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11. Re: Op Ed Feb 8, 2013, 21:19 draginol
 
jdreyer wrote on Feb 7, 2013, 22:04:
I agree with Oro. What could be so revolutionary that it requires 4 cores as standard? Brad, give us a clue (Brad sometimes hangs out here)! And given the lead time it takes to bring these to market, now is the time to get started, no?

Hi JD,

In terms of cores. RTS's are very parallel processing intensive (unit AI, physics on a large scale). A game like FarCry 3 only has to manage a few units in memory.

Pretty much every next generation design I've seen for an RTS involves increased scale, better graphics, etc. We're out of memory / CPU to do that.

I remember in Sins of a Solar Empire people wanted the ships to have turrets (become Homeworld had them). Gamers often ignore the difference between having 1 ship with physics and 1000 units with them.

Even SupCom had to cut a lot of corners to do what it did. Its maps, unlike TA, were largely 2D with effort made to give the illusion of 3D because it would have totally bogged down having that kind of scale and dealing with trajectories, etc. on a single core.

The cool designs coming up (which you will see over the next couple of years) will involve thousands of units fighting high fidelity battles where the player is managing armies because the units themselves will be able to have sufficient smart AI (CPU is always the AI coder's bane) to have them operate as combined arms groups.

What game designers have been doing in recent years is working within the limits to create squad based RTSs (CoH) and of course we saw the birth of MOBA games which allow for a very limited number of high fidelity units (but still with very limited physics).

In short, we need more than 2G so that we can be visually competitive with other game genres that only have to make a handful of units pretty and we need more cores so that we can do more parallel processing (physics, massive pathfinding, massive collission detection, unit AI, etc.).

Hope that helps.
 
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10. Re: Op Ed Feb 8, 2013, 07:33 Bhruic
 
jdreyer wrote on Feb 7, 2013, 22:04:
I agree with Oro. What could be so revolutionary that it requires 4 cores as standard? Brad, give us a clue (Brad sometimes hangs out here)! And given the lead time it takes to bring these to market, now is the time to get started, no?

It's no secret that SoaSE is horribly CPU-bound. Trying to play bigger maps with large numbers of opponents results in some serious game lag once the game is running. Having a (well designed) multithreaded engine would reduce that problem considerably. Even dual core would help, although quad core would be ideal.

So it might be that type of thing he's talking about. However, he's wrong about the "fraction of the player base" comment, as publishers have been approving DX11 games for quite some time now, and while the majority of gamers have the ability to play them now, when they first started popping up, it was a much smaller percentage that could play them.
 
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9. Re: Op Ed Feb 8, 2013, 06:10 InBlack
 
I would be all over Sins if it had a campaign. Right now it looks like a fun (but longish) multiplayer game and not much else. The scope of Sins is ambitious, but they really should look at how to integrate that with a grand storyline ala Homeworld.  
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8. Re: Op Ed Feb 8, 2013, 05:09 mag
 
jdreyer wrote on Feb 7, 2013, 22:04:
I agree with Oro. What could be so revolutionary that it requires 4 cores as standard? Brad, give us a clue (Brad sometimes hangs out here)! And given the lead time it takes to bring these to market, now is the time to get started, no?

I was playing SupCom:FA last night. Such an awesome game. So many tactical and strategic possibilities. Brad, if you read this, maybe you could hire Chris Taylor? He might need a job soon.

BTW, my hat is off to Stardock for keeping the strategy candle burning with games like Fallen Enchantress, Sins, and Gal Civ.

Consider how bogged down SupCom and FA got in late game with a couple thousand units. It becomes almost unplayable at times as units can't figure out how to get where they're supposed to be. Simulation speed drops to a crawl even on current processors. Even to perfect what we had years ago would require a game that could fully utilize a multicore processor. SupCom was only weakly multithreaded, didn't support 64-bit memory addressing, and suffered pretty greatly from both.
 
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7. Re: Op Ed Feb 8, 2013, 02:56 Cutter
 
Hats off to Stardock? The company that pushes alpha state games out the door? Uh no. I wouldn't count on Stardock for anything. Wardell is all talk no walk.

 
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6. Re: Op Ed Feb 8, 2013, 00:58 Cabezone
 
I think the 64 bit is more important than the 4 core.  
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5. Re: Op Ed Feb 7, 2013, 22:25 Sepharo
 
I assume like most software you can do things easily but expensively (in terms of system resources) or you can really brain-up and put everything in a few kilobytes demoscene style but it just becomes more and more difficult.

Now I don't know anything about programming AI but I assume the more complex it is the more processing power needed to run it and run it as quick as an RTS would need. I keep thinking about Civ 5 and how slow it got later into huge games and that was turned based... Wouldn't be practical in an RTS with the current resources game devs are limited to. /ramble
 
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4. Re: Op Ed Feb 7, 2013, 22:04 jdreyer
 
I agree with Oro. What could be so revolutionary that it requires 4 cores as standard? Brad, give us a clue (Brad sometimes hangs out here)! And given the lead time it takes to bring these to market, now is the time to get started, no?

I was playing SupCom:FA last night. Such an awesome game. So many tactical and strategic possibilities. Brad, if you read this, maybe you could hire Chris Taylor? He might need a job soon.

BTW, my hat is off to Stardock for keeping the strategy candle burning with games like Fallen Enchantress, Sins, and Gal Civ.
 
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3. Re: Op Ed Feb 7, 2013, 21:05 Smellfinger
 
I'm still waiting for the genre to catch up to what Bungie was doing in 1997 with Myth.  
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2. Re: Op Ed Feb 7, 2013, 20:57 Orogogus
 
I don't know if I agree with Brad's analysis that next generation hardware is going to revolutionize the RTS genre, though. I feel like there's a lot that can be done with control, gameplay and scope without DirectX11 and all that jazz. You look at a game like FTL, which isn't pushing any kind of graphical envelope, but gets the job done fine.

I feel that even with fancy bells and whistles there's only room for so many variations on a theme (the Dune II/Starcraft RTS, the Relic squad-heavy RTS, the Total Annihilation/SupCom million unit RTS, etc.). Brad mentions innovative designs that cross his desk but can't be made with current tech, and it would be interesting to see what those are.
 
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1. Re: Op Ed Feb 7, 2013, 20:37 jacobvandy
 
Yeah, I saw that statement by what's their face, who made Sins of a Solar Empire... That the reason their new game is a MOBA is that the RTS genre is dead/dying.

To that, I say, nay. You are dying as a studio, because you couldn't handle the moderate success of your first big game and tripped all over yourself trying to keep the momentum going. Releasing a full-price standalone expansion that lots of people refused to buy because they already owned 80% of its content doesn't help, either.
 
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