“an RTS is about clicking speed, in the same way that an FPS is about how well you can aim; that’s what makes Starcraft different from Civilization.”
While I agree that Starcraft and most of its clones are by and large games of reflex, I don’t believe that all RTS games must be by their very nature: why not make issuing orders cost resources?
I mentioned the “Berkeley Overmind” a while back. The AI is a great technical achievement, but what really makes it unstoppable is an exploit. Its signature unit-type, a sort of flying organic gunship called a “Mutalisk“, was balanced with humans in mind: humans are unable to use the unit nearly as well as the AI, which is quick enough to babysit each individual: dancing it in and out of range of attackers.
The AI thus gets more than its money’s worth each time it purchases one.
Arguably this is how all good players get their edge: producing units costs in-game resources, but issuing orders is free. Units cost a fixed amount of resources, but the value that you get out of them depends on the order they are issued. That orders should be free colours every interaction with the game system: it’s only natural that play should become all about taking advantage of this limitless resource!
But what if issuing orders cost money? In another RTS, Archon, it is possible to change the present by issuing orders to units in the past. This costs “chrono-energy” however, of which the player has a limited, regenerating amount:
This simple mechanic prevents click-spamming, at least when it comes to changing history.
So let us imagine an RTS game where all commands have an associated resource-cost. Players are forced to choose the “if, who, what, when and where” of their commands with great care or risk bankrupting themselves. This brings the emphasis away from the “real-time” part of RTS and towards the “strategy”.
An arbitrary constraint perhaps but games are, by their nature, full of arbitrary constraints. The turn-based strategy game “Solium Infernum“, one of my favourite games of any genre ever, imposes a limit on the number of orders that can be issued per turn, and competitive chess imposes a global time-limit for each player. These limitations only serve to turn the gameplay experience into something much finer, with more interesting trade-offs to consider.
Similarly the passage from turn-based to real-time doesn’t have to ruin any strategic gameplay that might have existed. Unless, of course, spamming orders costs you nothing
That RTS games should change is a matter of opinion, but do you think imposing a cost on order would actually change anything? If not, why?