Why is RTS so heartless?

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Soviet Heavy:
Nono, its "You killed them all Castor, ALL OF THEM, because of your incompetence!"

Playing another Imperial Guard campaign tonight so I'll confim it then. Have played it many times but still don't know it word for word.

Story driven RTS? Halo Wars.

I know some people may not see it as a true RTS because it was Halo or it was on Xbox, but I felt attached to the main character, supporting characters and the fair few Spartans you get, they even tell you their names! I cared immensely if they lived or died, I protected them at the expense of other nameless units.

As for the not caring about sending waves of pixels to head butt more pixels it's because... well you know what I'm going to say.

MercurySteam:

Soviet Heavy:
Nono, its "You killed them all Castor, ALL OF THEM, because of your incompetence!"

Playing another Imperial Guard campaign tonight so I'll confim it then. Have played it many times but still don't know it word for word.

Nah, it's right here.

Also sums up how RTS can play at empathy.

hey..

I care VERY MUCH for my blue short wearing comarades in age of empires..thankyouverymuch

I just make it clear that i they do not work then they get to be arrow fodder

"rogan?"
"I wont have any complaints...get back to work!"

I always wondered why the troops wouldn't eventually refuse to walk directly into enemy cannon fire just so your artillery could shell the entire place. I was not the most careful of general's for Age of Empire 3. Those poor redcoats I had such rediclous casualty rates, I was always expecting them to revolt or something.

OP because no studio wants to risk making such a game because if they get any of it wrong their already small audience will turn to nothing.

I guess because for a traditional RTS, it wouldn't have that big an effect on game play. Unless it's tactics based with persistent squads, gives you a special Hero unit, or has some type of Morale system, it doesn't Matter.I think a game with killable hero units would be interesting. Maybe just actual morale based on how badly you are losing.

The game Endwar comes close. It's focused on tactics, the only real strategy being what upgrades you purchase. These apply to all the units, so no customizing individual squads sadly.
Each squad or vehicle unit is persistent, and losing one requires your enemy to target a second time after it's been defeated (down to one vehicle out of 4, or one squad out of 3) basically killing it twice. It sucks to have that happen, since you'll need to train up a fresh unit that is significantly underpowered when compared to your enemies.
R.U.S.E is a slight example. Your units route when badly damaged and will completely heal on their own when out of combat. So you're encouraged to save them if they take too much heat. Though, the Russians usually spam elite infantry any way.

Hero in a half shell:
Actually, now that I think about it, in Command and Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars, the soldiers were groups of men, and their health was measured by how many of them there were.
You got a 10 guys for the basic infantry squad, and less as they got more elite. The GDI snipers operated in pairs, and had really plucky lines... until one of them got killed. Then the quotes of the remaining one became really panicky. I usually went to quite a bit of trouble to get the single snipers back to base.

And when you had a fully promoted unit you always took good care of it, although that was more to do with it's better combat abilities than characterisation.

That. I actually feel a little bad when the lone spotter dies. I seriously once put a whole advance hold just so I could clear the way for the poor bastard. The voice acting in that and Kane's Wrath (the expansion) is great.

It's war, people die. A good commander can minimize losses and a terrible commander can get all his troops killed.

TsunamiWombat:
Dawn of War 2. Squad based, losing a squad is srs bsnss.

This. BTW, i don't like DoW 2 (even though i have it and played it, and the sequels). Also, what kind of incompentent general plans focusing on minimizing casualities?

Actually, I always tried to individualize and name my "pawns" in games like that. Not necessarily RTS (because it's so hard to tell most of them apart!) but in most games I try and care for the ones tha are supposed to be sent off and killed...

...I mean, they have imaginary wives and children too! their imaginary lives matter!

There are lots of RTS games that go by what you desire.

I think Company of Heroes is pretty "be smart or else", but there are also pseudo-RTS games like Commandos.

Above all else I suggest you play the original Ground Control. Fantastic game, beautiful graphics, and no reinforcements.

There are a few, someone already said Dark Omen, Bungie's Myth series (men got better the longer you managed to keep them alive and you could name them... You have no idea how much time I devoted over christmas trying to keep Tyrion the dwarf alive.)

I also got this with Homeworlds, not the individual ships but the Motherhship as a whole... the story does a really good job of motivating you to keep that thing alive.

It's heartless because it's large scale.
Units WILL die, the only question is where and when.

If you want to get attached to each individual soldier, then you need to look into squad based RPGs, where you will only have 3-6 units to take care of.
If you want character driven RTSs, then it would only be one or two "story important" units, and the rest mooks.But then, you only care about those, and the mooks are basically tools to get the job done.
Besides, every RTS out there makes you care about your troops a bit. Losing units for no good reason is the RTS's player bane. When you do lose troops, it's because you calculated the loses/reward, or because you were outplayed, not because you thought it would be funny to send untrained villager militia into a battle against a stronger, bigger, better army.

Combat Mission. Turn based as opposed to real time, but depending on the mission it's platoon all the way up to brigade sized formation based. No resource gathering or production, you start with the troops you have on the field plus a predetermined amount of reinforcements (sometimes).

An oldie, but still a classic and a must play for WWII fans. It's also bloody hard and the AI isn't bad either.

I actually give an extensive back-story to every unit I create. They all have names, families, virtues and vices. I have notebooks devoted to drawings of the tiny gravestones of those who have perished at my command. I can't bring myself to start a new game of Red Alert 2, I can hear their voices swirling in my head whenever I think about it... /bitingsatire

Now to be serious for a second, in many RTS games (like C&C, StarCraft, the ones where you establish a base and all that jazz) the goal is usually to build an army to go and kill stuff. Fleshing out so many characters to the point you care about them would be a nightmare, and also a pointless waste of resources since they most likely won't last more than a few minutes, when you will replace them with a shiny new unit from your base.

There are other approaches that some take, though. The one that springs to mind immediately is Dawn of War II. You have a finite number of troops unless you go out of your way to secure the things that can teleport in more. There is some effort made at characterising the leader of every squad. It isn't particularly good, but I do remember taking pretty good care of my scout unit because I kind of liked their leader, though his name escapes me.

The main problem for what you want is pretty simple - it's not what most of the people playing RTS care about (I include myself in that). When I fire up StarCraft, it's not for the story, it's to try and outwit, outmaneuver, and outgun my opposition, be they AI or otherwise. Trying to make me care about my units would just get in the way of my enjoyment of the game.

TsunamiWombat:
Dawn of War 2. Squad based, losing a squad is srs bsnss.

Blarg! Ninja'd

Hes right though. Dawn of War 2 comes down to, "who can keep their units alive the longest", not "who can kill most".

A Spehss Maurheen Tactical Squad costs 450 to produce. And thats actually quite a bit of Requisition, considering the Ork infantry units cue in around 270.

Every squad matters, because while you can lose models out of the squad, you can pay to have it reinforced, meaning if you dont save the squad, your 450 in the hole, compared to the 75 it costs for reinforcements.

Not to mention over time every squad levels up, meaning the longer you keep your units alive, the more powerful they become. Losing even 1 high level squad can be a game changer for almost any army.

xD its like every unit is a Tank or Colossus in starcraft. You have to keep them alive if you dont want to lose because you have 0 Requisition at all times.

Raiyan 1.0:
War. War never changes.

Or does it?

OP: Unfortunately because its a game that you're trying to win, and morality only hinders that. If you were care about every little troop you would never be able to win in a world where everyone is against you and everyone is allowed to use extremist tactics. To put this in a more modern perspective:

Lets assume America entered the middle east solely with the purpose of killing Al Qeada. If allowed to use whatever means necessary to win, the fight would have lasted for less than a month, most of which would have been recon and than an all auto attack, which probably would have resulted in air units doing multiple bombing runs, followed by a full on assault by the infantry, or god forbid nuclear weapons. The way they are fighting now is a lot more safe and requires less risk (even though I've seen people argue its still not in the best interest of the soldiers).

In summation, because that is the quickest way to win. It is almost impossible to win a fight against an enemy that is allowed to use whatever means necessary to win if you are bogged down by morality, and both sides are equally armed. The only way I could see morality ever playing a role would be to drastically offset the teams (like 5:1, morals vs not) and give the morals the ability to produce and train faster at the cost that each unit is worth a lot more. That and you'd probably have to throw politics in there somewhere.

Miles Maldonado:

So, your thoughts? Why is RTS so cold and heartless, and why has nobody saw fit to try and change it?

Because according to the hybrid of FPS and RTS made by Peter Molineux (when he was sane) called Dungeon Keeper, it is cold and heartless because "Evil Feels Good"

If you want things like morale and named troops then you want tactics games like xcom or the old close combat titles. Close Combat 2: A Bridge Too Far was all about balancing achieving objectives aggressively with keeping your force at full strength with limited time and reinforcements.

Total war has morale and fatigue but the people still have more of the feeling of being clones in a crowd who were made in a factory.

And if we want to talk real talk then if you want a strategy game about caring about the welfare of the troops then we should be talking about a logistics management game. Making sure the soldiers are well fed, healthy and have the right kit is historically more important. So you would want a version of Starcraft 2 where your Protoss death ball loses half it's strength to sickness and desertion before a fight because the men were tired, hungry and didn't have any antibiotics.

Hawk eye1466:
I always wondered why the troops wouldn't eventually refuse to walk directly into enemy cannon fire.

There is a good historical context here, there weren't many soldiers refusing to charge a machine gun position in world war 1 even though the casualty rates were above 90%, as there weren't many Japanese pilots refusing to smash a plane through an enemy target. It is the same with any well disciplined/indoctrinated force.

OT, because it would suck (in my opinion) RTSs are my favorite genre of game and I would really hate having to have individual stories of the units shoe horned in. I recruit/build them and then send them in the best way I can, be it sacrificial or not. An RTS to me is as a good game of chess is, only more complex. I don't care which pieces need to be sacrificed to meet my objective.

cookyy2k:
There is a good historical context here, there weren't many soldiers refusing to charge a machine gun position in world war 1 even though the casualty rates were above 90%, as there weren't many Japanese pilots refusing to smash a plane through an enemy target. It is the same with any well disciplined/indoctrinated force.

Soldiers were also shot for cowardice in world war 1. It would go on their record and be a source of public shame to their families.

You can cry for the dead after you have made sure that you have some survivors left over to cry for the dead. If you lose and you are all dead it doesn't matter since you are all dead.

Gotta look at the big picture.

Once I secure our future I will make a big speech, commission a huge statue for the fallen and we as a civilization shall cry for them.

Raiyan 1.0:
War. War never changes.

Best use of that quote I've ever seen.

On Topic: Sacrifice has you caring deeply about your hero units (which don't come back when they die)- unless you work for Charnel and get the raise dead spell. Of course, my play style involves using my army as a kind of meat grinder, where they win by virtue of continually coming back from the dead, so I might not be the best judge of 'heartless'.

Have you played warhammer shadow of the horned rat? I cared greatly about my troops, mostly because they wer not easily replaceable. You quite often couldn't afford to replace your lost troops so had an ever dwindling band of increasingly veteran troops. Still have never managed to beat that game. Good times.
But generally its a matter of maths, did I lose more than my opponent? The troops have little personality if any and are almost always easily replaced, stupid pixels. Sometimes it is even enjoyable to lose troops when they have particularly bad pathfinding.

couple of Rtses where that isn't much of a problem:
League of legends;
I've gone so far as to sacrifice myself to save my team mates in that and it is always very frustrating when you die, it feels like it's easily as much about defense and building yourself up as it is about just ruining your enemies shit.
Civilization;
Not sure if this qualifies as an rts per say but killing stuff hardly feels like the big hook in this game so much as it is, well, building a civilization
Age of wonders...
Actually this is only a Rts while in combat and is otherwise a turn based strategy game, but due to the depth of customization you have with your units you really end up forming a bit of a bond with them.
One of the Lord of the rings games of which I forget:
There was a character customization option and I would feel really sad if he died, but I really focused on that one particular unit so he was my strongest, I ended up performing hit and run the majority of that game because of it.

Hmmm... Looking at those titles I'd say the main problem is the lack personification for units in most RTSes, in Starcraft I ended up building something like 200 generic troops that looked and acted exactly the same, and if one died, he would soon be replaced, I had no real reason to worry about losing them. Warhammer tried to remedy this problem by letting you customize your armies colors and banner and the such, but seeing as how A. The entire universe of warhammer is based on senseless killing and B. now all your units were equally customized, it still fell a farcry short.

Try playing part of the Total War franchise.

You know, the games that actually are strategy games?

You'll look after your units alright. They become promoted, are given better equipment, and become monsters on the battlefield. Not to mention you do get named units in the way of generals and royalty, which you also need to look after.

If you lose one of these prestigious units, well...say goodbye to your advantage.

However, half of the reason why they don't put a face on your characters in an RTS game is because in a real world scenario, you can't think about the common troop. Yes, you can do your best to keep them alive, but in the end, casualties happen. Don't throw them recklessly into combat, that's just stupid...and sadly, makes up the majority of RTS games in the form of Starcraft and Warcraft.

Mostly I would say because that's how war works. You must defeat your enemy. And, just as in real life, men will die. Every leader knows this when he sends soldiers to war.

However, in every RTS you do not want to incur heavy casualties; if you lose every man in a battle, you're likely going to get defeated.

ThatLankyBastard:
Actually, I always tried to individualize and name my "pawns" in games like that. Not necessarily RTS (because it's so hard to tell most of them apart!) but in most games I try and care for the ones tha are supposed to be sent off and killed...

...I mean, they have imaginary wives and children too! their imaginary lives matter!

I give back stories to my troops too! One time playing Rome total war I had this small army of about 600. They weren't elite troops or even higher tier. Just regular spear and archer guys I think I had a few swords men. Just run of the mill cannon fodder. I sent them in to die and they decimated the army and earned a heroic victory(it was like 600 vs 2000). I just did an auto battle. I kept sending them in attacking ever hostile army in around my settlements. They got up high level too didn't even have a general. They didn't need a general. They were sent to die a heroes death, but their love for their children and land made them come home with a heroes victory.

So most people only really get attached to their units in a RTS of if they proven to be awesome or are expensive.

As for a more Character driven RTS, ehh I don't see it happing. In less you go for the squad based ones.

Miles Maldonado:

So, your thoughts? Why is RTS so cold and heartless, and why has nobody saw fit to try and change it?

Why would they change it when so many people like it?

The flat out truth; Life is cheap. Most know it but few will admit it. Commanders have to accept it, if they have a large pool of human resources that they can resupply easily they will spend a few squads gladly to take an enemy position.

War is cold and heartless, if you sniffle over every death on your side you will lose because the other smarter commander will be willing to sell his troops lives to destroy your moral and side.

In some games I have been known to sacrifice a dozen low cost units to take out a single more expensive enemy unit that counters my own expensive toys before moving them in, is it cold and heartless? Sure, is it the smart move? you bet your ass it is.

The number of Warhammer 40k quotes here makes me very happy.

OT: Pretty much what everyone else said. You cant get too attached or you wont be able to effectively command your army.

Not sure if this counts as an RTS, but the Commandos games (specifically, Behind Enemy Lines, Beyond the Call of Duty, and Commandos 2, I imagine Commandos 3 does this too). You are encouraged to strategically keep your men alive (you may have between 1 and 4 on a level), because if one dies, you can't complete the level and progress.

Miles Maldonado:
See title.

Simply put, I'm just a bit frustrated about how RTS games as a whole seem to be "Go kill stuff, who cares about friendly casualties?" It's focused as a genre on just doing lots of damage, and never on what your men think and feel. Why is that? Why is there not a decent, character-driven RTS game where you are encouraged to look after your troops, but countless games where you are pretty much encouraged to not give a rat's behind about them?

Really the only game that comes close to character-driven RTS is a title called "Codename Panzers", and even then whatever importance you give your troops depends on you, there is no inherent importance on keeping them alive, which bugs me severely.

So, your thoughts? Why is RTS so cold and heartless, and why has nobody saw fit to try and change it?

Because you can't win wars if you are worrying about every individual soldier, you can't win wars if you are not willing to put your soldiers in the line of fire for the greater good, they know what they signed up for.

Simple: when all the units are basic and easily-killed riflemen, you just won't care that an entire platoon got wiped out if your main force can still take the objective. If your economy is good enough, you can keep throwing men at the target until it dies, heavy losses don't matter. The only real way to make losses matter is by limiting your total amount of reinforcements, or by having veteran units that could appear if your soldiers survive their battles.

Otherwise, the main way I've seen RTS games successfully involve me with units is just by naming them. For example, the Spartans in Halo Wars. They all have names and you can usually tell them apart, so when one dies it matters not just because they're powerful units but because they are individualized.

Actually, any way of individualizing units gets me involved. Even in games without veteran units, I often remember and try to protect a unit that distinguishes itself, really just for the hell of it.

I offer this in the same spirit of the main topic:

I once played a D+D campaign where we all clerics.
For ages we played quests of healing the sick and performing minor spells to help farms grow better crops.
Eventually we moved on to "releasing" undead from their curse, we treated the cleric ability like releasing their souls rather then destroying them. We moved on to banishing demons nd unpossessing the king of a demons soul.
Not once in a 6 month campaign did we ever spill a drop of blood.

So why arent there more RPGs like this available ?

even so far as kiddies platformers you are encouraged to attack things to get them out of your way ( spyro, crash, and mario make good examples )

FelixG:

Miles Maldonado:

So, your thoughts? Why is RTS so cold and heartless, and why has nobody saw fit to try and change it?

Why would they change it when so many people like it?

The flat out truth; Life is cheap. Most know it but few will admit it. Commanders have to accept it, if they have a large pool of human resources that they can resupply easily they will spend a few squads gladly to take an enemy position.

War is cold and heartless, if you sniffle over every death on your side you will lose because the other smarter commander will be willing to sell his troops lives to destroy your moral and side.

In some games I have been known to sacrifice a dozen low cost units to take out a single more expensive enemy unit that counters my own expensive toys before moving them in, is it cold and heartless? Sure, is it the smart move? you bet your ass it is.

I will always sacrifice a Tank Column or a platoon of machine gunners to take out the enemy AA guns or SAM sites to maintain my air dominance

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