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What are Real-time Strategy (RTS) Games? A complete Guide

What are Real-time Strategy (RTS) Games? A complete Guide

Invogames

Game Development

|

September 21, 2023

|

4 min read

 

Real-time strategy games have taken the gaming industry by storm. These games require players to engage with others with innovative strategies in order to overcome challenges and achieve game objectives. RTS games genuinely stand out from the rest, allowing players to take any move strategically, think strategically, and act with lightning-fast precision! 

 

But what exactly are RTS games? And what makes them so thrilling and captivating? In this blog, we'll explore the core mechanics of real-time games and the unique gameplay elements that make them so good.

What are RTS Games?

 

RTS games, or real-time strategy games, are a thrilling genre of video games where players take on the role of a commander or strategist in a virtual battlefield. Unlike turn-based games, where players have turns to make moves, RTS games unfold in real-time, meaning that the action keeps moving forward without pausing. 

 

In RTS gaming, players strategize their moves against opponents to outsmart their enemies. RTS games offer a thrilling experience where strategic thinking and rapid decision-making intertwine, pushing players to their limits in a quest for dominance on the virtual battlefield. 

 

One of the best parts about real-time strategy games is playing with others in multiplayer mode. You can compete directly against your friends or players from around the world. Going up against real people instead of computer-controlled opponents adds more challenge and makes the game even more thrilling. It leads to exciting and unforgettable moments you'll remember for a long time.

 

Real-Time Strategy vs. Turn-Based Strategy Games

Real-Time Strategy vs. Turn-Based Strategy Games

 

In RTS games, everything happens in real-time. This means the game keeps going, even if you don't do anything. It's like being in a super fast battle where you have to think quickly and make decisions on the spot. In real-time strategy games, you do different things, such as managing resources or commanding troops, all while keeping an eye on what's happening in the game.

TBS games have a different approach. As the name indicates, turn-based games are played in turns. These games allow every player to take their time in strategizing and implementing their moves. In this game, players keep an eye on the opponent, plan their actions, and wait for the opponent to make their move.

The confusion between real-time and turn-based strategy games is real and confuses players worldwide. But this confusion is understandable as both genres involve strategic thinking and meticulous planning. However, there’s no denying the fact that the gameplay mechanics are the primary source of confusion between the two. 

Just a heads up:

 

If the gameplay happens in real-time, with no turns or pauses, it is an RTS game. If the gameplay is turn-based, allowing you and your opponents to take turns making moves, it is a TBS game. 

 

Core Mechanics That Drive The RTS Gameplay


The core mechanics form the backbone of any gameplay experience. And when it comes to RTS game mechanics, several mechanics lay the foundation for intense strategic battles and critical strategic decisions that ultimately determine victory or defeat and provide an immersive experience to the players. 

 

  • Resource management

  • Unit Production

  • Strategic-decision making

  • Combat and tactics

 

Resource management

 

Resource management in these games involves acquiring, allocating, and utilizing resources effectively to support your military operations and overall strategy. Resources include minerals, energy, gold, or other in-game currencies, depending on the game. 

 

Resource management also involves adapting to changing circumstances. It adds an additional layer of strategic depth to the game and allows players to adjust their plans accordingly.

Unit production


In real-time strategy games, unit production is a crucial part of the gameplay. It means that players can create various units, each with unique abilities and strengths. Depending on the game, these units can be anything like soldiers, tanks, flying ships, or even fantastical creatures. It's essential to carefully manage unit production because creating the right units at the right time increases your chances of achieving victory on the battlefield.

Strategic Decision-Making


Strategic decision-making lies at the heart of real-strategy games. It means that players have to think carefully about the situation, be flexible to adjust their plans and make critical decisions to outsmart their opponents. 

 

Timing is everything, as players need to know when to launch offensives, defend their bases, or explore new territories. Making wise decisions in battle can completely change the outcome and bring victory. 

 

Combat and Tactics

 

In real-time games, a big part of the gameplay involves fighting battles and using tactical strategies. Players must give their units commands, place them in smart positions, and coordinate attacks or defenses. It's essential to use the unique abilities of each unit, take advantage of the terrain, and understand unit counters that are crucial for achieving success in combat. Carrying out these effectively helps players make the most out of their units in battle.

 

A Look Into Some Famous RTS Franchises


RTS games are one of the most-played game genres in the gaming community. Here are some of the famous real-time strategy games:

Warcraft

 

Warcraft

 

The Warcraft developed by Blizzard Entertainment has a huge impact on the real-time strategy genre. This game made the RTS genre popular among the wider audience and introduced fantasy worlds in a thrilling way. 

 

Features

 

  • Immersive fantasy setting and rich storytelling.

  • Iconic characters and races.

  • Introduction of hero units, adding a unique twist to gameplay.

 

StarCraft


StarCraft


StarCraft, also developed by Blizzard Entertainment, had a big impact on competitive gaming and eSports. It became incredibly popular worldwide, especially in South Korea, and played a role in making eSports mainstream.

Features 

 

  • Perfect balance between three distinct factions: Terrans, Zerg, and Protoss.

  • Deep strategic gameplay and emphasis on micromanagement.

  • Compelling sci-fi narrative and memorable characters.

 

Command & Conquer 


Command & Conquer


Command & Conquer created by Westwood Studios and later owned by Electronic Arts brought fast-paced gameplay and different factions to the forefront. Command & Conquer influenced other RTS games by emphasizing diverse factions and distinct gameplay mechanics.

Features

 

  • Varied factions with unique playstyles.

  • Emphasis on resource management and base building.

  • Attractive campaigns and memorable FMV cutscenes.

 

Age of Empire


Age of Empire


Age of Empires offer players a deep and immersive experience across different historical eras. Age of Empires' influence can be seen in the ongoing popularity of historical RTS games and the focus on creating detailed game worlds.

 

Features

 

  • Building and managing civilizations throughout history.

  • A combination of resource management, exploration, and military strategy.

  • Rich historical accuracy and attention to detail.

 

Total War


Total War


The Total War series is a massive game combining turn-based strategy with exciting real-time battles. The game became famous for introducing grand strategy games where players could experience ruling an empire and the detailed aspects of battles.

 

Features

 

  • Squad-based gameplay, controlling individual soldiers and vehicles.

  • Destructible environments and dynamic line-of-sight mechanics.

  • Strategic cover systems and realistic battle tactics.

 

The Impact Of RTS Games Beyond Gaming


The influence of real-time gaming extends far beyond gaming itself. In the realm of education, educators have found RTS games as valuable tools for fostering critical thinking, problem-solving, and strategic planning skills among the learners. RTS games provide an interactive and engaging platform for learning to students which allows them to integrate their knowledge in practical and dynamic scenarios.

Moreover, RTS gaming has left a lasting impact on popular culture, with references and inspirations found in different movies, TV shows, literature, and music. The intense battles, immersive narratives, and strategic depth of RTS games have captivated the attention of the audiences globally and contributed to the broader cultural landscape.

The strategic depth and intense gameplay of RTS games have also played a pivotal role in shaping the competitive gaming landscape. These games have become a cornerstone of eSports and captivated millions of players, dedicated teams, and passionate following worldwide. The rise of RTS eSports has taken the genre to new heights and solidified its position within competitive gaming. 

Closing Remarks


It's obvious that RTS games have intrigued hardcore players worldwide with their dynamic gameplay, immersive worlds, and strategic depth. They have created unforgettable gaming moments, fostered communities, and left a lasting impact on the gaming industry and beyond.

Looking ahead, the impact of real-time games in the future is going to be even more significant. As technology continues to advance, we are more likely to indulge into more immersive and visually stunning RTS experiences. The rise of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies bring players closer to the action and allow them to instruct armies in a whole new dimension. 

 

Real-time strategy games have taken the gaming industry by storm. These games require players to engage with others with innovative strategies in order to overcome challenges and achieve game objectives. RTS games genuinely stand out from the rest, allowing players to take any move strategically, think strategically, and act with lightning-fast precision! 

 

But what exactly are RTS games? And what makes them so thrilling and captivating? In this blog, we'll explore the core mechanics of real-time games and the unique gameplay elements that make them so good.

What are RTS Games?

 

RTS games, or real-time strategy games, are a thrilling genre of video games where players take on the role of a commander or strategist in a virtual battlefield. Unlike turn-based games, where players have turns to make moves, RTS games unfold in real-time, meaning that the action keeps moving forward without pausing. 

 

In RTS gaming, players strategize their moves against opponents to outsmart their enemies. RTS games offer a thrilling experience where strategic thinking and rapid decision-making intertwine, pushing players to their limits in a quest for dominance on the virtual battlefield. 

 

One of the best parts about real-time strategy games is playing with others in multiplayer mode. You can compete directly against your friends or players from around the world. Going up against real people instead of computer-controlled opponents adds more challenge and makes the game even more thrilling. It leads to exciting and unforgettable moments you'll remember for a long time.

 

Real-Time Strategy vs. Turn-Based Strategy Games

Real-Time Strategy vs. Turn-Based Strategy Games

 

In RTS games, everything happens in real-time. This means the game keeps going, even if you don't do anything. It's like being in a super fast battle where you have to think quickly and make decisions on the spot. In real-time strategy games, you do different things, such as managing resources or commanding troops, all while keeping an eye on what's happening in the game.

TBS games have a different approach. As the name indicates, turn-based games are played in turns. These games allow every player to take their time in strategizing and implementing their moves. In this game, players keep an eye on the opponent, plan their actions, and wait for the opponent to make their move.

The confusion between real-time and turn-based strategy games is real and confuses players worldwide. But this confusion is understandable as both genres involve strategic thinking and meticulous planning. However, there’s no denying the fact that the gameplay mechanics are the primary source of confusion between the two. 

Just a heads up:

 

If the gameplay happens in real-time, with no turns or pauses, it is an RTS game. If the gameplay is turn-based, allowing you and your opponents to take turns making moves, it is a TBS game. 

 

Core Mechanics That Drive The RTS Gameplay


The core mechanics form the backbone of any gameplay experience. And when it comes to RTS game mechanics, several mechanics lay the foundation for intense strategic battles and critical strategic decisions that ultimately determine victory or defeat and provide an immersive experience to the players. 

 

  • Resource management

  • Unit Production

  • Strategic-decision making

  • Combat and tactics

 

Resource management

 

Resource management in these games involves acquiring, allocating, and utilizing resources effectively to support your military operations and overall strategy. Resources include minerals, energy, gold, or other in-game currencies, depending on the game. 

 

Resource management also involves adapting to changing circumstances. It adds an additional layer of strategic depth to the game and allows players to adjust their plans accordingly.

Unit production


In real-time strategy games, unit production is a crucial part of the gameplay. It means that players can create various units, each with unique abilities and strengths. Depending on the game, these units can be anything like soldiers, tanks, flying ships, or even fantastical creatures. It's essential to carefully manage unit production because creating the right units at the right time increases your chances of achieving victory on the battlefield.

Strategic Decision-Making


Strategic decision-making lies at the heart of real-strategy games. It means that players have to think carefully about the situation, be flexible to adjust their plans and make critical decisions to outsmart their opponents. 

 

Timing is everything, as players need to know when to launch offensives, defend their bases, or explore new territories. Making wise decisions in battle can completely change the outcome and bring victory. 

 

Combat and Tactics

 

In real-time games, a big part of the gameplay involves fighting battles and using tactical strategies. Players must give their units commands, place them in smart positions, and coordinate attacks or defenses. It's essential to use the unique abilities of each unit, take advantage of the terrain, and understand unit counters that are crucial for achieving success in combat. Carrying out these effectively helps players make the most out of their units in battle.

 

A Look Into Some Famous RTS Franchises


RTS games are one of the most-played game genres in the gaming community. Here are some of the famous real-time strategy games:

Warcraft

 

Warcraft

 

The Warcraft developed by Blizzard Entertainment has a huge impact on the real-time strategy genre. This game made the RTS genre popular among the wider audience and introduced fantasy worlds in a thrilling way. 

 

Features

 

  • Immersive fantasy setting and rich storytelling.

  • Iconic characters and races.

  • Introduction of hero units, adding a unique twist to gameplay.

 

StarCraft


StarCraft


StarCraft, also developed by Blizzard Entertainment, had a big impact on competitive gaming and eSports. It became incredibly popular worldwide, especially in South Korea, and played a role in making eSports mainstream.

Features 

 

  • Perfect balance between three distinct factions: Terrans, Zerg, and Protoss.

  • Deep strategic gameplay and emphasis on micromanagement.

  • Compelling sci-fi narrative and memorable characters.

 

Command & Conquer 


Command & Conquer


Command & Conquer created by Westwood Studios and later owned by Electronic Arts brought fast-paced gameplay and different factions to the forefront. Command & Conquer influenced other RTS games by emphasizing diverse factions and distinct gameplay mechanics.

Features

 

  • Varied factions with unique playstyles.

  • Emphasis on resource management and base building.

  • Attractive campaigns and memorable FMV cutscenes.

 

Age of Empire


Age of Empire


Age of Empires offer players a deep and immersive experience across different historical eras. Age of Empires' influence can be seen in the ongoing popularity of historical RTS games and the focus on creating detailed game worlds.

 

Features

 

  • Building and managing civilizations throughout history.

  • A combination of resource management, exploration, and military strategy.

  • Rich historical accuracy and attention to detail.

 

Total War


Total War


The Total War series is a massive game combining turn-based strategy with exciting real-time battles. The game became famous for introducing grand strategy games where players could experience ruling an empire and the detailed aspects of battles.

 

Features

 

  • Squad-based gameplay, controlling individual soldiers and vehicles.

  • Destructible environments and dynamic line-of-sight mechanics.

  • Strategic cover systems and realistic battle tactics.

 

The Impact Of RTS Games Beyond Gaming


The influence of real-time gaming extends far beyond gaming itself. In the realm of education, educators have found RTS games as valuable tools for fostering critical thinking, problem-solving, and strategic planning skills among the learners. RTS games provide an interactive and engaging platform for learning to students which allows them to integrate their knowledge in practical and dynamic scenarios.

Moreover, RTS gaming has left a lasting impact on popular culture, with references and inspirations found in different movies, TV shows, literature, and music. The intense battles, immersive narratives, and strategic depth of RTS games have captivated the attention of the audiences globally and contributed to the broader cultural landscape.

The strategic depth and intense gameplay of RTS games have also played a pivotal role in shaping the competitive gaming landscape. These games have become a cornerstone of eSports and captivated millions of players, dedicated teams, and passionate following worldwide. The rise of RTS eSports has taken the genre to new heights and solidified its position within competitive gaming. 

Closing Remarks


It's obvious that RTS games have intrigued hardcore players worldwide with their dynamic gameplay, immersive worlds, and strategic depth. They have created unforgettable gaming moments, fostered communities, and left a lasting impact on the gaming industry and beyond.

Looking ahead, the impact of real-time games in the future is going to be even more significant. As technology continues to advance, we are more likely to indulge into more immersive and visually stunning RTS experiences. The rise of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies bring players closer to the action and allow them to instruct armies in a whole new dimension. 

frequently asked questions

To improve your skills in real-time strategy games, you need to focus on regular practice to become familiar with the game mechanics and strategies. Closely analyze replays of your matches and skilled players to learn different tactics and decision-making processes. Reflect on your mistakes and areas for improvement, such as resource management and unit control. Stay updated on patches and balance changes to adapt your strategies accordingly. 

To increase your chances of winning in RTS games, you can opt for these strategies: 

  • First, focus on resource management to efficiently gather and utilize resources for base building, unit production, and upgrades.
  • Secondly, prioritize scouting and gather intelligence on your opponents to counter their strategies. 
  • Thirdly, maintain a balanced army composition and adapt it based on your opponent's units and tactics. Additionally, engage in effective map control by securing key locations and denying your opponent access to vital resources. 

 

No, real-time strategy games are not dead. They continue to have a dedicated fan base and new RTS titles are still being developed and released.

Real-Time Strategy is a genre of video games where players control and command units and resources in real-time, making strategic decisions on the fly to outmaneuver and defeat their opponents. These games typically involve base building, resource management, and tactical combat.

Writer InvoGames

Written By:

Hareem Khalid
Senior Writer

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