Tag Archives: RTS

Video games are unproductive?

27 Jul

I’ve heard some people complain that video games are unproductive, a waste of time, rot your brain, etc… Usually these people never really played video games so they don’t understand the allure. To them the term “video games” probably evokes images of a child making Mario hop around a fantasy land doing abstract things that don’t really make sense. From that reference frame, yeah, watching somebody sit in front of a screen for hours doing something you imagine only children do would seem useless and unproductive.

A person like this might say “go read a book, because at least then you learn something.” Well, not all books are non-fiction. Would this person have the same objection to reading a fiction novel, be it romance, mystery, horror, etc? What about watching a movie? Even sports could be considered unproductive is this strain of “logic” is followed. The problem is, the person never really defines what “productive” is.

When asked they might say something like “cut the grass, or building furniture, or painting the fence”, or any number of errands or chores that need to be done. In effect, being productive is anything that achieves an end. In the case of the above listed activities, they are productive in the sense that they take care of things that need to get done. But what if those things are already done? What if the end goal you’re trying to achieve is relaxation, entertainment, enjoyment, or exploration? Well, in that case movies, books, and video games are very productive.

Another problem our hypothetical nay sayer has is that they don’t really understand what video games do. They look at video games in the most superficial sense; they only see colors and mindless motions. What they fail to realize is that the majority of video games are mentally engaging, more so than books or movies. Other types of media are passively consumed, video games on the other hand, require active participation. Often players encounter puzzles or challenges they must think their way through. It’s like the nay sayer’s morning crossword puzzle, but on steroids.

Take the Tomb Raider games for instance:

While on the surface these games might look like just a hot woman jumping around and shooting things, they are actual about puzzle solving. In each level the player must figure out what sequence of actions to complete in order to finish the level. It might require jumping, climbing, pull lever, and fending off an attacker. A player does all this to advance the next bit of story.

Take another genre game, the Real Time Strategy game:

While on the surface it might just look like mindless battles, Real Time Strategy games are all about mastering resource management. Players have to figure out how to gather and spend resources efficiently while trying to attack and fend off other players.

Even shooter games have a mental side to them. While they may just seem like games about shooting things, take Valve’s Half-life series for instance:

A large part of Valve’s Half life series is puzzle solving.  Players have to manipulate objects in order to proceed. In this picture the puzzle is a see-saw. The player has to move heavy blocks to one side of the plank in order to get up on the ledge.  But even some more action based shooters are not completely without mental challenge:

While these games are primarily about quick reactions and steady fingers, it is important to know what equipment is good against what and what weapons to use for various situations.

Our hypothetical naysayer might also feel that video games are very anti-social, that they lock people up in a room alone for hours on end. This might have been true in days before the internet, but it is no longer so. While there are plenty of games out there that are single player only, there is an ever growing list of games that are multi-player. Gaming is now a very social experience. Rock band is the classic example:

Get a bunch of friends together and rock out. The internet has turned games that might physically be played alone and made them social experiences. Any game with an online multiplayer option lets players connect from all over the world and play together. While I was playing Age of Empires 3, I would often get online, meet people, and play with them. We would do this often and some of us even became friends outside of the game, despite never meeting each other in real life. It was amazing; through the game I was able to interact with people from thousands of miles away, people who lived in different countries, spoke different languages, and yet we came together to relax and have some fun. But that’s not something our naysayer considers.

But perhaps the biggest allure to video games is the escape. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in another world for a while; but unlike a book or a movie, or anything else you passively consume, video games allow you to take an active role in that other world, shaping it, living in it. They let you engage with that world in a way nothing else can. (except for perhaps for roleplaying games) They also give you the satisfaction of instant results. You see immediately if what you’re doing works or does not. You get the feeling of importance, or making a difference, of being somebody special. Yeah it’s an illusion, but at the end of the day it’s a great escape from life as usual.

Atheist game quirks

4 Jun

This is kinda silly, but my atheism affects my gaming habits. How so? Well when I’m playing a game such at Total War, Age of Empires, or Civilization I will try and make my empire as atheistic as possible. In the Total War games I delete all the churches and instead build schools and universities. If I can’t dismiss or assassinate my own religious leaders, I send them off to the very corner of the map. In the Civilization games I refuse to adopt any religion when it is invented, and try my best to avoid researching religious techs. As for Age of Empires, I build the church grudgingly to get the technologies, and then delete it the moment I’m done. (When I played I usually played online and there are other non-religious techs available at the church, so I needed them to play my best against other people) Again, this is all really silly and I know that it’s just a mechanic of the game, but I like to imagine that somewhere, in an alternate universe, my little nation exists. It’s for this same stupid reason I hate to delete units. 😦 I can just imagine the NPCs kissing their families and children goodbye before being executed, all at my command to make room for another 20 heavy infantry. (If I absolutely have to kill off villagers in AoE I delete the male villagers. Beautiful women being killed is a major pet peeve of mine) I know they’re just 1s and 0s, but I care….

Weapon effectiveness

16 Aug

So today I was playing around with Empire Earth II. I was having a great time and then a swarm of enemy pikemen surrounded one of my tanks and killed it. I was like “Hey…wait a second….” Let me see, how I can best put this? Oh, I know!

tank pwns

I know how the game calculates damage. X unit has Y hitpoints and does Z damage. If enough of unit A gangs up on unit B, then eventually the damage done by unit A is going to deplete unit B’s hitpoints. Simple. Unfortunately, in this case that scenario is totally impossible. A bunch of guys with pikes could never destroy an active tank. Maybe if it was left in a field and they had a few weekends to take the nuts and bolts off, but not if it was manned, moving, and shooting.

Now this is a computer game, and so it’s rather trivial, but it would be nice to make it as realistic as possible. Unfortunately, that would require a lot more code to be written about what the computer should or shouldn’t do when 2 units fight. Production times and costs are already so enormous, this issue will definitely be on the back burner for a long long time.

This is an area where I think table top gaming has an edge over computer gaming. D&D and its many spin offs have AC “armor class”. AC determines if, when attacked, a player takes any damage. The better your armor, the better your AC, and thus the less likely you are to take damage. Now the system is not perfect for every possible weapon/armor combination, but it really helps in trying to make the game more realistic.

How you play the game

7 Jul

I grew up playing the RTS series Age of Empires. In the last installment, Age of Empires III I was a “no rush” player. The game had the option to set a “treaty time” before the match. During this time players could not build outside of a certain radius, nor could units attack.

I, and a lot of other people, really enjoyed this style of play. It allowed us to build up and utilize all of the features that came with the game, not to mention really fun massive battles. However,  “No Rush” players as they were called came under attack from “rush” players. Rush players saw “no rush” games as a bastardization of their game, rules for wimps and noobs. They enjoyed the frantic pace of trying to get as many units up as quick as you could to destroy the other guy as fast as you could. By nature these games were fast, short, and only utilized a fraction of the available features of the game.

Rush players often complained that no rush games lacked strategy, that they “were done building up” within 7-8 minutes, and didn’t like the idea of waiting around 30 minutes to play. Oddly enough, when rush players put their money where their mouth was, they often got their ass handed to them by seasoned no rush players. There was strategy involved, just not what rush players were used to.

In single player games, my friends often give me a hard time for using cheats. Now before you make a judgement, hear me out. I play two types of games with every game I play. I play it honestly, and then I cheat. Usually I have two different saves. I don’t see anything wrong with this, but my friends do.

First off, it’s my game, I can play it however I like. (Keep in mind I don’t cheat in multiplayer) Secondly, what is the purpose of a game? To have FUN. Remember fun? Sometimes I have fun playing a game straight, sometimes I have fun playing with cheats and steam rolling my opponents. Sometimes I have fun playing with a different rule set (no rush games).

I don’t see why people feel they need to tell me I’m playing the game wrong if I’m having fun. Why must I play it your way if that way is not fun to me? It defeats the very purpose of playing! Live and let live, play and let play.


13 Jun

The other night I was talking to Trollsmyth and the subject of wargamers came up. He mentioned how he loved the setting of Warhammer 40k, but he just could not deal with the “I attack, then you attack” rules, “especially with aerial bombardments….”

I had a bad experience the first time I tried wargaming with a couple of people, and I’ve never gone back. I was in a room with 7 other players, (all vastly more experienced than I), sitting around a huge table that had miniature scenery set up. It took half an hour for my turn to come. I just sat there watching them argue the rules and moving their pieces, bored out of my mind. When my turn finally did come, I didn’t say “fire” (by accident) and so my line of troops was over run, and I was pretty much out of the game. Wasted 3 hours for a 5 minute mistake. Yeah, no thanks. Besides, I just saw the miniatures as another expensive hobby I couldn’t afford.


But you see, I guess I was predisposed not to like miniature wargaming. I grew up playing Real Time Strategy games like Age of Empires and Starcraft. Most of the guys I was playing with that one time were in their 40s+. Not surprising since they probably started playing in wargaming’s golden years, the 70’s.

I couldn’t help but think the entire time I was playing “why bother with this? I can hop on my computer and play Total War, and start playing instantly, and get instant results.”

Yes, to me the Total War series is far superior to wargaming miniatures. The computer handles all the rules so there is no flipping through books for half an hour, and most importantly everything is in real time. A battle is much more exciting when everything is happening now. Quick! Calvary are trying to outflank you and take out your archers! Pikemen, divert! Double time!

Medieval Total War

Everything is much more thrilling when you feel the pressure to act quickly and make split decisions. Not to mention the fact that the games are MUCH cheaper. You don’t have to buy a million different unit miniatures and paint them. Nor do you have to worry about building terrain. The games offer you much more variety for a cheaper price.

Plus, the computer games are much more immersive. The miniatures are always stuck in one position, always doing just one thing. When they die you take them off the table. The scenery doesn’t change at all. But looks at WH40k on the computer:


Dead bodies, firefights, blood on the ground, craters from explosions, destroyed buildings. The troops are alive and move. They scream and fall when they die. I mean hell, you don’t have shit like this with table top gaming: