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My beef in this context as with virtually all the other “realistic” rts games is the inflexibility. Snipers are a great example. In real life the reason you can’t make an army of snipers is not because some things are immune to snipers at the tactical level but because making them is expensive and takes a long time.

From an organizational strategic perspective you get more bang for your buck just throwing rifles at a mob and then throwing that mob at a problem. (Infantry.)

In RTS terms this sucks because how it manifests tactically are units which appear magically immune to bullets.

In “Company of Heroes” Sniper versus motorcycles/jeeps are an excellent example. I’ll routinely see a jeep park, aim it’s machine gun at a building full of snipers and actually win (handily) because the game has hard coded jeeps and bikes to be virtually immune to sniper fire. (Paper vs rock.) Which is silly because in real life a sniper would decapitate the driver regardless of what “kind” of solider they are.

The problem is that real war isn’t economically balanced or remotely fair. In real war you don’t have to manage an economy or “grow” new troops because that’s the outside culture’s job. As a commander you are more or less handed resources and given an objective.

So in RTS games the PRS and ECON101 phenomenon are really when you get down to it just tricks to keep the game from boiling down to who can build snipers fastest, which would in turn boil down to input speed. (Korean RTS camps?)

The only way to really make that feel like anything other than a contrivance is to change the context such that arbitrary rules don’t seem completely stupid. And in RTS terms the best way to do that is the whole “magic tech” thing you can do in future or fantasy based rts games. (Warhammer/Supreme Commander)

In those contexts the “jeep” would be immune to the “snipers” because the “snipers” have anti-flesh zap rifles and the “jeeps” have “anti-zap” armor/shields or some such, so you arrive at the same PRS effect but it doesn’t feel completely stupid when you’re on the wrong end of it. You simply realize you’re paying the price of over specializing.

Also to make the game “fair” they create a situation where there is no simple winning strategy. The actual winning stratgey if it’s not boiled down to a case of “turtle vs rush” is a complex and fairly rigid build order, which is yet another RTS genre problem.

Basically this is why I don’t really play games generally much anymore beyond games that allow for meta, like diablo, which is not so much that I’m playing the game, as it is being useful to other humans in a fictional context. Second life is a setting purpose built for this I suspect, but because its purpose-built for meta, in a sense it stops being meta because everyone knows why everyone’s there and as a result the whole feel and “game” actually changes, creating a new meta-meta-game. (Make real money, or whatever other real life objectives were already there for the player.)

Bottomline: To correct the sniper/PRS problem, I’d have to hack the game or write a mod but in so doing I’d devalue my winning, and arrive at a different kind of fail/boredom point. Meaning make it so snipers can virtually kill anything just like irl, but get as bored with that as I got with emperor battle for dune once you can start making Fremen. Each had two types, anti vehicle and anti personnel.

_”Strange game… The only winning move is not to play.”_ ~WOPR/Joshua, Wargames

Updated: April 22, 2013 — 1:43 am


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  1. Well, it’s a *game* and games should be fun to play. Take a look at Battlefield for example; it might not be very realistic but it sure is a fun and fast paced game. If you have a problem with it being unrealistic, just play ArmA. Of course, ArmA tends to be rather slow paced and “fun” isn’t a priority. I think the problem is simple (and rather obvious) – you can’t have everything. At least not at once.

    1. Yeah, it’s true of anything really. Opportunity cost is always present.

      ArmA is a good example from what I can see of videos of dayZ. People will metagame always.

      It would be fascinating to make a truly realistic game in any context. I’ve thought about it a lot. The only way to do it would be to put the ability to manipulate game mechanics in as a game mechanic. I think this trend is the future of gaming. E.g. Starforge.

      Imagine trying to make a lucid dream simulator.

      A close approximation would be to make something like red faction guerrilla but put the more or less standard compliment of fps cheats in the gui.

      Bioshock would be a good candidate for a base interface also since many of the weapons are presented as first person powers.

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