WAR! Politics, bloodshed, heroism, betrayal, religion, luck, and pure cussed skill: there are very few topics that capture the human heart like war. So, of course, there are games about it.

Make sure to look at [[SoYouWantTo/WriteAStory So You Want To Write A Story]] for good general advice, and it might be a good idea to check out the other gaming genres on SoYouWantTo for other ideas as well. (Much of this is being reproduced and inspired by the [[SoYouWantTo/WriteAnRPG Write An RPG]] article.) Finally, check out the [[SoYouWantTo/WriteAWarStory So You Want To Write A War Story?]] article for ideas that are directly germane to this one.

!'''Necessary Tropes'''

Remember the RuleOfFun. There's a ''huge'' grab-bag of tropes concerning RealTimeStrategy: ConstructAdditionalPylons, ArbitraryHeadcountLimit, RidiculouslyFastConstruction, and others that are covered on the main RTS article. All of these are considered AcceptableBreaksFromReality, because they make the game ''fun'', and you have to be willing to pay the piper in that regard. You could craft the most intricate and convoluted story or battle system imaginable, but the gaming industry is littered with great ideas that never caught on because the ''game'' they were packaged in just wasn't any good. Sometimes those creators get a second chance. Sometimes they don't. (Remember ''also'' that a game's complexity can work against it; see basically any TurnBasedStrategy game ever for a reminder to KeepItSimpleStupid.)

How innovative are you planning to be? Some people want to break the rules and do things new. Others are just looking for something to tide them over to ''VideoGame/StarCraftII''. Remember also that innovative games are a bigger gamble: either you're going to kick Blizzard's ass or you're going to be an epic failure, but there's no safe, reliable in-between. That's reserved for {{Roguelike}}s, Franchise/{{Pokemon}} clones and other FollowTheLeader games.

You're at war, so some WarTropes will be appropriate. Likewise, some DeathTropes will probably find their way in.

!'''Choices, Choices - Gameplay'''

Here's where things start getting ''really'' complicated.

What sort of setting are you looking at? As long as there's people, there's war, so you can have stick-wielding cavemen, high-tech futures with robots and lasers, magic-based fantasy, or anything in between. (Heck, ''RiseOfLegends'' did all three, though with Da Vincian steampunk instead of cave thugs.) You could even go supernatural: zombie invasion? Vampire invasion? Werewolves? Mutants? {{Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot}}s? (''CalvinAndHobbes'' once had Tyrannosaurs flying F-14s. Calvin: "[[SoCoolItsAwesome This is so cool!]]" Hobbes: "[[CoolButStupid This is so stupid]].") Also, what's your battle plane? Are we talking ground-based armies here? How about interstellar fleets with full 3D maneuvering?—it's a known fact that the ''VideoGame/{{Homeworld}}'' fandom is looking for love. What about something in between? How about ''both''?

Would you like your gameplay to emphasize macro- or micromanagement? The former is best exemplified by ''TotalAnnihilation'' and ''VideoGame/SupremeCommander'', both of which are the brainchildren of the same guy (Chris Taylor), and both of which allow you to command thousands of units at once. The latter's adherents currently play ''VideoGame/{{Warcraft}} III'', in which an army of 50 units is considered quite large, and you have to be able to watch over all of them, activate their abilities and keep them healthy. (If this sounds difficult, it is, but ''War3'''s popularity suggests that people like it anyhow.)

What resources are in your game? YouRequireMoreVespeneGas gives the overview, but most titles in this genre go with basics: Gold, Lumber and Population. Others have tweaked the scale: resources you might not need, tons of resources, only one or two... This has an impact on gameplay, remember. For this troper's money, ''RiseOfNations'' proved that resource diversification makes things ''way'' easier, but maybe you don't ''want'' it easier. Maybe you want The Player to think long and hard about every build order issued. For that matter, what if you want The Player to be able to de-emphasize resourcing? How about building a race into your game that doesn't resource ''at all'', thus depriving opponents of a vital weak spot to hit?—though at the cost of some other weakness, of course. What if each faction in your game needed extra amounts of a certain Lumber-style resource? This would force each faction to stick to certain locations on the map, where said resource is prevalent, and thus have an effect on their playing style.

Any extras you want to throw in? Squads of infantry instead of individual soldiers? {{Support Power}}s? A tech tree? RPGElements and persistent troops that gain experience points? Hero units? Terrain bonuses? What if you were to splash in FourX traits, like ''SinsOfASolarEmpire'' has? What about some CollectibleCardGame flavor, like ''PoxNora''? Courts-martial if you screw up really badly? (The ''VideoGame/WingCommander'' flightsims had these as a NonStandardGameOver for screwing up [[ButThouMust plot-critical]] missions.) Something else entirely? The sky's the limit.

!!'''Competitive vs Casual Play'''
There's one more thing you need to think about, and this is a big one. Do you intend the multiplayer component (if any) of your RTS to be for competitive play or for casual play?

The answer to this question will fundamentally impact your design. It's not necessarily that the two needs conflict, though they do create friction against one another.

A competitive game needs to have a deep skill set. It needs to allow better players to win over less skilled ones at least 70% of the time. It needs to have strong time pressure, requiring the player to do more things than the player is capable of. Competitive games tend to make their players uncomfortable, pushing them to do more than they are currently able to do.

Casual games need to encourage the player to continue playing. It needs to reward the player's investment in playing the game. These can be tangible in-game rewards like money to buy units or whatever. Casual games need to encourage play by removing elements that are repetitive or thoughtless.

These two kinds of games are not mutually exclusive. However, repetitive/thoughtless play is a big part of why ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft|I}}'' attained such depth of skill. By essentially removing actions from the game (you have to do X every Y seconds or you lose), it forced players to have to do more in less time. That's not the only way to achieve that depth, but it is a way and a way that works. It just so happens to be a way that is counter-productive to casual play.

!!'''Races'''

Are you going for CosmeticallyDifferentSides, or would you like separate factions with CompetitiveBalance? The upside to having separate factions is that gameplay is ''way'' more interesting, since each side has different units, strategies and tactics—and "more interesting," if done properly, means [[RuleOfFun more fun]]. The ''down''side is that whole "Competitive '''Balance'''" thing; FactionCalculus is a lot of work. The poster-children for this trope are ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft|I}}'' and a non-RTS title, ''MagicTheGathering''. Blizzard patched ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft|I}}'' '''twenty-two times''' and it is ''still'' not balanced (though it's very close), and that's not even talking about ''VideoGame/StarCraftII''. ''Magic'' is far from balanced as well, though to be fair WizardsOfTheCoast have released over thirty {{Expansion Pack}}s for it and are constantly un-balancing it on purpose. The point is that separate, non-identical factions increases the likelihood of a GameBreaker unit or ability being discovered... And, if your RTS gets popular (like you want it to), your players are going to be scrutinizing the game with microscopes to ''find'' that Game Breaker so they can use it. Expect them to find the ones you tried to disguise. Expect them to find ones you didn't know were ''there''. Long story short: CompetitiveBalance means more fun, but also more work. Possibly a ''lot'' more work.

Alternatively, if all sides are essentially identical, you will likely have a more serious competitive problem. One of the reasons ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft|I}}'' works competitively is that each player, no matter what race, must have a plan to deal with each other race. And that plan will be ''different'' for each other race. So to be skilled, you must practice at least 3 other matchups. You must know what not only your units and mechanics do, you must know what your opponent's units and mechanics do. Not only must you know the MetaGame for your race, but you must know what the prevailing strategies are for your opponent. This increases the skill set required, thus again adding to skill depth.

In competitive ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft|I}}'', mirror-matchups (same race vs. same race) tend to be the least interesting matchups. Both players do the exact same build, use the exact same units, and the game is generally over in 10 minutes. Non-mirrors tend to allow greater diversity of tactics and styles. People tend to play mirror matches the same way, while other matchups allow players to exercise their creativity.

You should not go the CosmeticallyDifferentSides route if you're interested in competitive play. If you do however, you need to look at RTS mirror matches and see what kinds of design creates the most interesting matches. In competitive ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft|I}}'', the most interesting fights generally come from Terran vs. Terran (though these can devolve into Tank wars, where nobody moves and it takes an hour and a half of mind-numbing resourcing and building before something interesting happens). Study the Terran race and see what factors allow them to create interesting play. Apply these factors to your game.

!'''Choices, Choices - Story'''

First, do you want a story at all? The single-player campaign is a staple of most RTS games. But so was the single-player of an FPS for a time. Then ''Quake3Arena'' came out, without any real single-player at all. You could play multiplayer against bots, but that's about it. And it sold just fine.

People ''will'' buy a multiplayer-only RTS if the multiplayer is good. So don't feel that you ''must'' make a single-player campaign. Only do so if you really want to tell a story. Otherwise, just make some tutorials to teach people how to play the game, use the units, etc.

Most RTS titles involve The Player acting as a NonEntityGeneral, which is a sound choice for the genre: it keeps The Player involved, clear-headed, and in a good position to observe the {{Wangst}} and suffering being undertaken by any ''actual'' characters. However, there is absolutely nothing to say that The Player ''must'' be a {{AFGNCAAP}}; ''VideoGame/{{Sacrifice}}'' takes a 3rd-person over-the-shoulder view of your wizard. And there's something to be said for getting The Player involved with his character, and maybe even his men if possible. Of course, the line must be drawn somewhere, especially if you plan for the average player's force to consist of hundreds of units, each of which your game would have to name, randomize and personalize. But the point is, you don't have to skimp on the characters. And you shouldn't.

This editor is a little biased on the topic, but let me say it anyway: the vast majority of storytelling is about characters, and their relationship to each other. And nothing I have seen, in all the fiction I've read and all the games I've played, has ever convinced me otherwise. There are very few exceptions, mostly in the form of travelogue stories—tales like ''Literature/TheWonderfulWizardOfOz'' or ''Literature/GulliversTravels'' where the setting itself is practically a character in its own right. ...And yet even that seems to affirm my statement: the land of Oz, and Dorothy's relationship to it, is the most important character in the story. And, in terms of storytelling, RealTimeStrategy is no different. The good ones may have great gameplay, but the ''best'' ones also have great characters, characters we care about and whose fates we want to learn about. They may not be the ''main'' reason we play... but they're definitely up in the top three. And the games that don't have characters... Well, there's only two reasons to play them (RuleOfFun, and online competition with your friends). That'll get you some mileage, but not as much as it could have.

Your setting will have an effect on your plot and characters too. But it might not be as big as you think. All the best stories deal with universal and human themes—life, death; building, war; love, hate; hope, despair; betrayal, redemption, etc. You can set those themes against any milieu and they will still ring true. Try to fit it all together elegantly, and if your game's setting can influence its plot and characters, that's all well and good. But setting will probably have a greater effect on your gameplay than on your story. ''StarWars'' isn't famous because it had [[LaserBlade lightsabers]], it's famous because it ''transcended'' lightsabers.

Female protagonists are underused. Having said that, you're writing a war story. In RealLife, there are good, meaningful reasons for why most human cultures send men off to war instead of women: once a woman is pregnant, it isn't strictly necessary for the man to stick around anymore, or even be ''alive''. Plus, you want a big next generation, to compensate for the fact that some of the ''current'' generation is currently out getting swords shoved through their faces. Finally, imagine two tribes that send half their population off to fight a war; Tribe A sends all the men, Tribe B all the women. Both armies are wiped out with only a single survivor remaining: Tribe A now has one guy with 50 wives, while Tribe B has one woman with 50 husbands. In ten years, which tribe is likely to have more children? These are the tried-and-true historical reasons for why women don't fight wars, and you aren't going to be able to contravene them for your story.

But wars go badly. Cities are sacked. Women are raped. The line between combatant and civilian gets mighty blurry at times. If you wanted to get your woman-heroine into the war, this sort of last-ditch city defense would be a good place to do it: she has a legitimate reason for being on the front lines (she ''is'' the front lines!), and can thereafter join the military proper, having proved her competence as a commander. You also get to play your DoubleStandard cards, depending on your story's culture and time period. Alternately, just have her JeanneDArchetype it. Or, even more alternately, just ignore the double-standard thing entirely. A lot of fantasy games play the gender-equality-in-war card without any shame, so frequently that it probably belongs in AcceptableBreaksFromReality; and, in a present-day or future setting, you have the dual excuses of women's lib and population surplus ("We have enough babies, so we don't need yours"). There's also the possibility of removing pregnancy entirely from the equation via AppliedPhlebotinum. You can get around it.

ItsUpToYou is a huge part of, well, most VideoGames in general. However, it is ''not'' a huge part of most wars. Most soldiers only see their little part of it and don't have many chances to singlehandedly change the course of a war. In most campaigns, there are instead multiple commanders fighting on multiple fronts with multiple goals to achieve. Ever thought about playing up this part of it? The flight sim ''{{Starlancer}}'' did this by providing between-battle news reports, giving you the sense that you were just one cog in a much larger war machine. Frequently you'd hear news reports about a squadron long before you actually flew with them, which increased the sense of celebrity exposure: "Whoa, I'm flying with TheAce I just heard about on the radio!" It also helped ''avert'' the sense that you were a OneManArmy, since other characters were (reportedly, at least) having adventures unrelated to you.

For that matter, why not give players the chance to ''affect'' multiple fronts? In the first act of ''VideoGame/GearsOfWar 3'' you play two sides of a mission--the beleaguered defenders on one side, and TheCavalry on the other--hearing the same bits of dialogue from both sides of the conversation. ThirdPersonShooter ''VideoGame/{{WinBack}} 2'' took this another step by letting Character #1 accomplish things outside their actual mission objectives. Then when you played as Character #2, you'd receive receive bonuses at {{Event Flag}}s when "Character #1" "assists" you. There's absolutely no reason this kind of thing can't be built into a RTS framework.

You might want to consider the ''tone'' of your story. Blizzard titles especially seem to take place in a WorldHalfEmpty where RocksFallEverybodyDies on a frequent basis. This got especially bad in ''VideoGame/{{Warcraft}} III'', where characters would die only 15 minutes after their introduction and long before any pertinent characterization could be attempted. Instead of making the war seem tragic, this KillEmAll attitude just makes it seem like your enemy is faceless and meaningless; the attempt at humanizing the enemy completely backfires. That's not to say that characters shouldn't die in a war; leave too many heroes alive and you strain WillingSuspensionOfDisbelief (the series finale of the new ''[[Series/BattlestarGalacticaReimagined Battlestar Galactica]]'' suffers from this). In the end, war is a pretty bleak prospect... But just how much do you want to play that up?

!'''Pitfalls'''

Keep an eye on your GUI. A game is only as easy to play as it is to control. In RTS that's less of an issue (especially if it's a computer game), but it might be a good idea to review the StockControlSettings for the genre, as well as catalogue any improvements on these schemes. ''VideoGame/TheSims'', which is basically a RTS without war, gives you a visual queue of a character's not-yet-executed orders, which you can then modify on the fly. ''VideoGame/SupremeCommander'' lets you issue unit orders to a ''factory'', so that any units produced there will come out with that queue already assigned. ''War3'' gave you auto-casting on some spells; unfortunately, toggling ''auto-cast'' spells didn't come along until ''LeagueOfLegends'', which also gave you orange highlights to show when an enemy was targeting your OneManArmy, and—best of all—an auto-reconnect function, lag meter and framerate counter all built into the GUI. ''RiseOfNations'' is the king of of innovations: an entity's control palette is always bound, positionally, to the QWERT, ASDFG and ZXCVB buttons, meaning you can keep your hand there and always have full control over any unit or building you select. Pressing '''Tab''' lets you cycle through all available research. Pressing '''Home''' instantly finds ''all'' units, anywhere on the map, of the type(s) you currently have selected. All these make the game more fun—or, at least, make it easier to concentrate on ''playing'', since you don't have to fight a twiddly interface. So check out these UI innovations. You might want them.

If you have spare money, work on your Pathfinding AI. These often suck in RTS games—not necessarily because they're worse than in any other game, but because pathfinding standards in RTS are higher. If you have time to actually develop pathing routes the way some {{First Person Shooter}}s do—where you actually embed invisible guide rails into the map—maybe you should do so.

As mentioned, RTS titles come with a tremendous amount of baggage in terms of AcceptableBreaksFromReality. If you include any of them, some of your players will detest you. If you subvert any of them, some of your players will detest you. You can't win, so you need to decide—preferably ahead of time—just what sort of gameplay tone you want to create. Some players are administrators, others generals; some want to get mileage out of a small number of troops, while others want to bulldoze with a Mongol horde; some play to win, others to have fun. Know what demographic you're targeting, and tailor accordingly. (Trying to please everyone will probably not work, though you're welcome to try.)

This is more a personal gripe from this editor, but it's worth mentioning: try to keep your single-player campaign consonant with the multi-player experience. By which we mean: don't introduce (many) heroes, abilities or units that aren't available in multi. [[YouRequireMoreVespeneGas We Require More Demographics Research]], but my hunch is that many players expect the 1P campaign to basically be a glorified tutorial, and to come away from it knowing how units work in multi. So throwing in a lot of things that aren't ''in'' multi will just annoy them. As a case in point, check out the ''VideoGame/StarcraftII'' 1P campaigns--which were a ''lot'' of fun, but have almost nothing in common with how the game is actually played against other people. Roaches that {{Spawn Broodling}}s, roaming wolfpacks of Goliaths and Diamondbacks, teleporting Swarm Hosts, Thors and Ultralisks that respawn when killed... None of these are in multi, so anyone who grew to rely on them is screwed. And by the way, all these things are {{Game Breaker}}s, so the number of players who relied on them is, well, AllOfThem. This plays into a concept called "First Time User Experience," FTUE, which simply asks, "How can we make the process of Picking Up The Game For The First Time as un-confusing as possible?" A 1P campaign with lots of extra units--especially extra units that, as in ''SC2'', are not ''marked'' as being extra units--does not make for good FTUE.

On a storytelling level, do not succumb to laziness. You have a great deal of work on your plate already: units to design, maps to design, statistics to work out, playtesting to do, blablablah. Nobody will care if you just toss on an ExcusePlot; they're here for the ''gameplay'', right? No, not right. Your characters need to be interesting too. An intellectual challenge is an intellectual challenge: "Can I conquer this enemy base?" Fun, yes, in a {{Minesweeper}} kind of way, but without engaging the emotions. When the game involves characters, with interesting motivations, who feel a certain way about this mission and aren't hesitating to let you know it, who are engendering different types of sympathy for different reasons... Well, it's a completely different game, because emotions are involved. And since emotions are what you're playing to, as a storyteller and as a game designer, why would you skimp on this? Spend a lot of time on your characters. If you're not good at that, hire someone to do it for you. But do it. And if you find yourself asking, "But, what kind of story can I tell against the backdrop of a war," well, the answer is, everything. Seriously, what ''can't'' you tell against the backdrop of a war?

Finally, be prepared to work your ''ass'' off. The market is saturated with half-assed RTS clones right now, because everyone looks at the genre and thinks, "Oh, easy peasy, I'll just [[FollowTheLeader clone StarCraft]] and make a bunch of money." Sure, easy. That's why those clones are half-assed.Where video games are concerned, DoingItForTheArt is the ''only'' way to financial success. You don't do it to turn a quick buck; you do it to make a good game. And then hopefully you make a buck. But not always.

!'''Potential Subversions'''

Okay, again with the AcceptableBreaksFromReality. ''All'' of these are available for subversion. But, are you sure you want to? TropesAreNotBad, and (as mentioned) these tropes exist to make the game less tedious and more fun... and (as mentioned), [[RuleOfFun Fun Is Good]]. But still, possibilities exist.

RidiculouslyFastConstruction, for instance, and its cousin Ridiculously Fast Research That [[InstantExpert Propagates To Your Units]] With [[BuffySpeak Similarly-Ridiculous Fastitude]], are both ripe for aversion. How about a game in which you get to build structures, but they don't actually get finished until the beginning of the next battle? Likewise, you can send a team of scientists home to research your next topic, and they'll e-mail you the results at the beginning of the next battle. (Of course, if your general moves to a new base next mission, then, realistically, you should lose access to whatever new buildings you built this round. But you might be able to get around that.)

EasyLogistics are a tricky one. If you've played ''VideoGame/{{Homeworld}} 1'' or other titles in which you ''do'' have to refuel and rearm your units, you know it's freaking annoying and rightly ought to be removed. But what about maintenance? What about non-combat casualties?—wars have been won by both superior tactics and diarrhea. What about unit fatigue and/or morale, like in ''DawnOfWar''? What about communication?—even during these days of radio and cellphone communication, it's not easy to guarantee that your soldiers have their orders ''or'' that they're carrying them out properly (or at all), and an ambush kind of doesn't work if one flank is late to the party. For that matter, what about intercepting enemy communications? Battles, sometimes entire wars, have been won by waylaid intelligence. This is generally incorporated into between-mission cutscenes in an RTS, if it's included at all; but what about making it a part of ''gameplay''?

RealTimeStrategy contains two sub-genres. One is better described as "RealTimeTactics," in which the emphasis is on controlling small numbers of units and there is no base-building or administrative detailing. ''[[VideoGame/{{Myth}} Myth The Fallen Lords]]'' and ''DawnOfWar 2'' lean in this direction, with ''DefenseOfTheAncients'' and its MultiplayerOnlineBattleArena spinoffs taking it to its most logical extreme: you control just one hero, ''an'' hero, and nothing else. On the opposite end of the scale is (for lack of a better term) "RealTimeBaseBuilding," with lots of structure-placing and administrative choices, but little focus on actual military maneuvers. The most obvious examples here are TowerDefense games like ''VideoGame/PlantsVsZombies''; the ''Starcraft II'' mod "Nexus Wars" in which your entire job is deciding which soldiers to throw into battle; and the "dictator simulator" ''GratuitousSpaceBattles'', in which you design ships and determine fleet composition, but don't get to do anything except watch the fireworks once the battle is joined.

DeathIsCheap in a lot of RTS games, at least the ones with Hero units. In ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft|I}}'' you'd GameOver if a Hero unit died; but they were really strong and probably wouldn't be in much danger unless YouSuck. In ''War3'' you could just rez them, no problem. Instead, how about having Hero units that can die pretty much normally? Once you lose them, they just aren't there anymore—no impact on the plot, but you don't get their bonuses and talents to use in battle. ''Franchise/FireEmblem'' does this, more or less.

As to the plot itself... Well, the sky's the limit, really. But most RTS titles tend to have a designated BigBad, someone (be it a race, a culture or a person) who is just bent on bloody conquest and needs to be defeated. Why not get rid of that? Why not a war that's started by a misunderstanding, where alliances and peace treaties are possible—nay, desirable!—but keep getting sabotaged by ineptness, backstabbing henchmooks and other IdiotBall moments? (ThreeIsCompany, [[RecycledINSPACE AT WAR]]!!) Or, how about a war where you start off ''as'' the BigBad, launching an unprovoked blitzkrieg on people who haven't done anything to you? You could put The Player in a ''really'' uncomfortable position by getting him to sympathize and identify with people who are unquestionably bad. (Check out Ron Jones' movement [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Wave The Third Wave]] or [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment Stanley Milgram's obedience experiment]] for ideas on how you can encourage The Player to buy into authority.) You're writing a war story, so you're probably going to be on the cold end of the SlidingScaleOfIdealismVsCynicism, but you don't have to be. LighterAndSofter ''does'' exist, and rarely gets any attention from this genre. ...Primarily because wars are so steeped in bloodshed, of course. WarIsHell. But maybe you can make it happen. ItsUpToYou.

!'''Writers' Lounge'''
!!'''Suggested Themes and Aesops'''
Well, it's taking place DuringTheWar, and WarIsHell. It's really up to you where you go from there—as with most tropes, a lot of WarTropes depend more on how they're played than what they really are. TropesAreNotBad. (Or, to misquote what [[Creator/StephenKing the whore said to the bashful sailor]], "It ain't [what] you got, son; it's all in how you use it.")

!!'''Potential Motifs'''
Curiously, RTS titles rarely play up much symbolism... partially because nationalism doesn't emphasize imagery the way other forms of patriotism did. Your average American responds to the Stars and Stripes, not a bald eagle. But you don't have to follow that rule.

Enemy minions are people too. You should be able to hear the lamentations of their women... And then have some guy wind up in the loony bin muttering "he was only 16... he had a mama... and a little dog..." over and over.

!!'''Suggested Plots'''
Look, do we really need to go over this?

Obviously, there's a setting to consider: you'll need to set a technology level; but you'll also need to set a magic level. Remember, the two are not mutually exclusive: some games abound with AppliedPhlebotinum, and a few of them actually make sense, whereas others hew to the LowFantasy model or the deep end of MohsScaleOfSciFiHardness. Higher values on that scale mean more realistic gamelay... And, potentially, less fun. So, think hard.

!'''Departments'''
!!'''Set Designer''' / '''Location Scout'''
Just FYI, most battles take place out-of-doors, primarily because there are very few buildings that can hold two armies, and fewer still that would still be standing once the dust had settled. So, by and large, you'll be outdoors a lot. The exceptions are small-unit tactics maps (IE ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft|I}}'').

Use your imagination and make some cool-looking terrain. But remember the operative word there—''terrain''. Positioning, and taking advantage of the natural features of the earth, is a big deal in warfare. If you create a map with lots of choke points, high grounds, trees and forests for cover, and a mountain that should take a while to climb, but then forget to make those things meaningful in terms of combat mechanics, WillingSuspensionOfDisbelief goes out the window. Or maybe into a wall.

One thing that is best mentioned here is TheProblemWithLicensedGames. There are a ''ton'' of existing franchises out there which have never received good video-game adaptations. The reason for this is that rules change as you switch between media: what works on page, or on the silver screen, or on the tube, does ''not'' necessarily work with gamepad in hand. There will probably never be a licensed RTS for ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'', for instance, because its particular tone—impending apocalypse, WorldHalfEmpty, damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't destructive savior, politics and subterfuge, the gender gap—is hard to adapt into video games.

Furthremore, if you try to adapt another franchise, you're going to run into ''its'' rules, at least some of which will be contrary to good gameplay. If anyone ever tries to make a MMO based on ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'', for instance, they will run into the problem that nobody can play as an Airbender—there's only one left (it's [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin in the title]]), and because he's the main character he'll need to be an NPC. Boom: a situation where {{Canon}} is at odds with good gameplay... and we haven't even ''watched'' the show! All we've done is read its title! If you try to license an Intellectual Property, this kind of thing will happen ''a lot''. Either you can do a PragmaticAdaptation it in the name of good gameplay, or have a game that's accurate to the source material but, well, not fun.

(Incidentally, PragmaticAdaptation is the right choice; like it or not, you need to turn a profit, and in this case that means selling your soul. Don't ''want'' to sell your soul? Then [[AnAesop don't adapt someone else's Intellectual Property]]!)

!!'''Props Department'''
This one is more dependent on the era you choose for your game to be set in, and its technology level. Just take FrickinLaserBeams, for instance. They depend on their context: if your soldier is wielding the only ray gun in existence, he's important; but if he's only one of millions of clones, ''all'' of whom have [[StarWars BlasTech DC-15]]s, then forget it. Of course, then you can make your ray-gun-wielding hero soldier notable by having him stumble across [[LordOfTheRings a sword that glows blue in the presence of orcs]]. You've got your standard tech level, which all your generic units occupy. ''Then'' you have the tech level your ''characters'' occupy, which can be either less or more advanced, but should somehow be different.

!'''Costume Designer'''
!!'''Casting Director'''
Most RTS games use voice-acting and CGI, sometimes with MotionCapture and sometimes without, but ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquer'' uses full-motion video and actually-filmed actors. How you want to do it is up to you, but if you want The Player to take it seriously, you need to make sure your ''actors'' take it seriously. The way you do that is to write a good story. Actors are artists like anyone else: they respond, positively, to quality. There's a reason ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'' is considered to have some of the best voice-acting in video-game history, even though the job was non-unionized so half the actors had to take pseudonyms to hide their involvement. If you're telling a good story that your actors can believe in, they will do a good job, regardless of the circumstances. Story matters. (If you take only one thing away from this whole dang article, please let it be that.)

!'''Engineering Department'''
RTS games have fairly unique needs compared to other [[GameEngine engines]]. The functional difference between an FPS engine and an RPG engine are mainly in where the camera is. RTS games by contrast have specific needs:

* Pathfinding. RTS pathfinding needs to be ''leagues'' better than anything in any other kind of game.
* Numbers of units. For many RTS game types, particularly those emulating ''Franchise/{{StarCraft}}'', you need to handle more units than most engines find comfortable doing. And that's not just about drawing; even if the 300 Zerglings aren't all on screen, they all still need to move around, path to destinations, etc.

So most off-the-shelf game engines aren't going to cut it for you. Some can, but only if you restrict unit counts to smaller than VideoGame/{{Warcraft}} III levels. And there are few RTS-specific engines, and virtually none of any real quality.

In short, you're going to have to do quite a bit of grunt work on your own. Even open-source graphics engines like Ogre3D probably aren't appropriate, since their scenegraph-heavy design is going to create a lot of overhead in a large-scale RTS game.

Focus on your foundations first. AI, including pathfinding. Optimize this as much as possible. Get pathfinding to work at a particular level. And most important of all, do this before really designing units. Your game design and balancing ''needs'' to flow from the basic movement of units. Special movement features (instantly stops in a game where most units take a second to stop, or can move and shoot at the same time) is a balance factor, just like Hp, damage, or anything else. You need to balance the game based on the AI, and therefore you can't go too far in making the game's units until you have your AI mostly locked down.

!'''Extra Credit'''
!!'''The Greats'''
Oh boy. We could list hundreds of hours of addicting gameplay here and still not do a good job. Basically, though, any game you've seen mentioned in the rest of the article is worth playing, even if only for a little while so that you can learn what that game did differently than everyone else. (''SinsOfASolarEmpire'' and ''RiseOfNations'', for example, are games you can basically master in 10 hours. You'll probably play longer, because they're ''fun'', but in terms of just getting an understanding of their mechanics, what they do well and what they could improve, it won't take long.)
* ''Dune 2'' was the GenrePopularizer game, defining RTS as we know it today by combining base management, economy management, force creation and real-time gameplay. ''VideoGame/{{Warcraft}}'' and ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquer'' were the first to FollowTheLeader successfully and are still names to conjure with today.
* For games that branch back into the genre's roots as TurnBasedStrategy, check out ''VideoGame/AgeOfEmpires'' and ''RiseOfNations'', which is sometimes considered its SpiritualSuccessor.
* Finally, ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft|I}}'' is the runaway success of the genre, retaining much of its popularity despite being (as of this writing) ten years old, as well as being the national sport of South Korea. ''VideoGame/LeagueOfLegends'', also a (mutated) RTS, has recently taken the crown from ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' and become the biggest video game in history: users play more than 2 billion hours of it ''per month''. It's also free to play. They have a great business model that's worth investigating, but may be hard to adapt to a traditional RTS presentation (which, amongst other things, is typically a boxed release and doesn't provide much DLC).

!!'''The Epic Fails'''
And ''this'' category could be really big too. Of course, few of them have articles here on the site--primarily ''because'' they're epic fails. Ever heard of ''VideoGame/NexusTheJupiterIncident''? ''GenesisRising''? ''VideoGame/HaegemoniaLegionsOfIron''? ''VideoGame/ConquestFrontierWars''? What was wrong with them? Absolutely nothing! Sure, they weren't blockbuster hits, but they weren't ''bad'' either. The problem is, the standard for RTS is ''really high'' (damn you, ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft|I}}''), and as such even mediocre games just don't cut it. It's like trying to make a ''Zelda'' clone: either you go big or you go home.
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