Real-time strategy (RTS) is a subgenre of strategy video games that do not progress incrementally in turns, but allow all players to play simultaneously, in "real time". By contrast, in turn-based strategy (TBS) games, players take turns to play. The term "real-time strategy" was coined by Brett Sperry to market Dune II in the early 1990s.
In a real-time strategy game, each participant positions structures and maneuvers multiple units under their indirect control to secure areas of the map and/or destroy their opponents' assets. In a typical RTS game, it is possible to create additional units and structures, generally limited by a requirement to expend accumulated resources. These resources are in turn garnered by controlling special points on the map and/or possessing certain types of units and structures devoted to this purpose. More specifically, the typical game in the RTS genre features resource-gathering, base-building, in-game technological development, and indirect control of units.
The tasks a player must perform to win an RTS game can be very demanding, and complex user interfaces have evolved for them. Some features have been borrowed from desktop environments; for example, the technique of "clicking and dragging" to create a box that selects all units under a given area. Though some video game genres share conceptual and gameplay similarities with the RTS template, recognized genres are generally not subsumed as RTS games. For instance, city-building games, construction and management simulations, and games of real-time tactics are generally not considered real-time strategy per se. This would only apply to anything considered a god game, where the player assumes a god-like role of creation.
The genre recognized today as "real-time strategy" emerged from an extended period of evolution and refinement. Games sometimes perceived as ancestors of the real-time strategy genre were never marketed or designed as such. As a result, designating "early real-time strategy" titles is problematic because such games are being held up to modern standards. The genre initially evolved separately in the United Kingdom, Japan, and North America, afterward gradually merging into a unified worldwide tradition.
Tim Barry in May 1981 described in InfoWorld a multiplayer, real-time strategy space game that ran ("and probably still is") on an IBM System/370 Model 168 at a large San Francisco Bay area company. He stated that it had "far better support than many of the application programs used in the business", with a published manual and regular schedule. Comparing its complexity to Dallas, Barry recalled that "when the game was restored at 5 P.M., a lot of regular work stopped".
Ars Technica traces the genre's roots back to Utopia (1981), citing it as the "birth of a genre", with a "real-time element" that was "virtually unheard of", thus making it "arguably the earliest ancestor of the real-time strategy genre". According to Ars Technica, Utopia was a turn-based strategy game with hybrid elements that ran "in real-time but events happened on a regular turn-based cycle." According to Brett Weiss, Utopia is often cited as "the first real-time strategy game." According to Matt Barton and Bill Loguidice, Utopia "helped set the template" for the genre, but has "more in common with SimCity than it does with Dune II and later RTS games." Allgame listed War of Nerves as the oldest "2D Real-Time Strategy". Barton also cites Cytron Masters (1982), saying it was "one of the first (if not the first) real-time strategy games [sic]." On the other hand, Scott Sharkey of 1UP argues that, while Cytron Masters "attempted real time strategy", it was "much more tactical than strategic" due to "the inability to construct units or manage resources". BYTE in December 1982 published as an Apple II type-in program Cosmic Conquest. The winner of the magazine's annual Game Contest, the author described it as a "single-player game of real-time action and strategic decision making". The magazine described it as "a real-time space strategy game". The game has elements of resource management and wargaming.
In the United Kingdom, the earliest real-time strategy games are Stonkers by John Gibson, published in 1983 by Imagine Software for the ZX Spectrum, and Nether Earth for ZX Spectrum in 1987. In North America, the oldest game retrospectively classified as real-time strategy by several sources is The Ancient Art of War (1984), designed by Dave and Barry Murry of Evryware, followed by The Ancient Art of War at Sea in 1987.
In Japan, the earliest is Bokosuka Wars (1983), an early strategy RPG (or "simulation RPG"); the game revolves around the player leading an army across a battlefield against enemy forces in real-time while recruiting/spawning soldiers along the way, for which it is considered by Ray Barnholt of 1UP.com to be an early prototype real-time strategy game. Another early title with real-time strategy elements is Sega's Gain Ground (1988), a strategy-action game that involved directing a set of troops across various enemy-filled levels. TechnoSoft's Herzog (1988) is regarded as a precursor to the real-time strategy genre, being the predecessor to Herzog Zwei and somewhat similar in nature, though primitive in comparison.
IGN cites Herzog Zwei, released for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis home console in 1989 as "arguably the first RTS game ever", and it is often cited as "the first real-time strategy game" according to Ars Technica. It combines traditional strategy gameplay with fully real-time, fast-paced, arcade-style action gameplay, featuring a split-screen two-player mode where both players are in action simultaneously and there are no pauses while decisions are taken, forcing players to think quickly while on the move. In Herzog Zwei, though the player only controls one unit, the manner of control foreshadowed the point-and-click mechanic of later games. Scott Sharkey of 1UP argues that it introduced much of the genre conventions, including unit construction and resource management, with the control and destruction of bases being an important aspect of the game, as were the economic/production aspects of those bases. Herzog Zwei is credited by 1UP as a landmark that defined the genre and as "the progenitor of all modern real-time strategy games." Chuck Sperry cited Herzog Zwei as an influence on Dune II.
Although real-time strategy games have an extensive history, some titles have served to define the popular perception of the genre and expectations of real-time strategy titles more than others, in particular the games released between 1992 and 1998 by Westwood Studios and Blizzard Entertainment.
The success of Dune II encouraged several games which became influential in their own right. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (1994) achieved great prominence upon its release, owing in part to its use of a fantasy setting and also to its depiction of a wide variety of buildings (such as farms) which approximated a full fictitious society, not just a military force. Command & Conquer (1995), as well as Command and Conquer: Red Alert (1996), became the most popular early RTS games. These two games contended with Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness after its release in late 1995.
Total Annihilation, released by Cavedog Entertainment in 1997, introduced 3D units and terrain and focused on huge battles that emphasized macromanagement over micromanagement. It featured a streamlined interface that would influence many RTS games in later years. Age of Empires, released by Ensemble Studios in 1997 tried to put a game in a slower pace, combining elements of Civilization with the real-time strategy concept by introducing ages of technologies. In 1998, Blizzard released the game StarCraft, which became an international phenomenon and is still played in large professional leagues to this day. Collectively, all of these games defined the genre, providing the de facto benchmark against which new real-time strategy games are measured.
The real-time strategy genre has been relatively stable since 1995. Additions to the genre's concept in newer games tend to emphasize more of the basic RTS elements (higher unit caps, more unit types, larger maps, etc.). Rather than innovations to the game concept, new games generally focus on refining aspects of successful predecessors. Cavedog's Total Annihilation from 1997 introduced the first 3D units and terrain in real-time strategy games. The Age of Empires focus on historical setting and age advancement was refined further by its sequel, Age of Empires II: Age of Kings, and by Stainless Steel Studios' Empire Earth in 2001. GSC Game World's Cossacks series brought population caps into the tens of thousands.
Dungeon Keeper (1997), Populous: The Beginning (1998), Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds (1998), Warzone 2100 (1999), Machines (1999), Homeworld (1999), and Dark Reign 2 (2000) were among the first completely 3D real-time strategy titles. Homeworld featured a 3D environment in space, therefore allowing movement in every direction, a feature which its semi-sequel, Homeworld Cataclysm (2000) continued to build upon adding features such as waypoints. Homeworld 2, released in 2003, streamlined movement in the 360 3D environment. Furthermore, Machines, which was also released in 1999 and featured a nearly 100% 3D environment, attempted to combine the RTS genre with a first-person shooter (FPS) genre although it was not a particularly successful title. These games were followed by a short period of interest in experimental strategy games such as Allegiance (2000). Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds was notable for being one of the few completely non-linear RTS games ever. 041b061a72