Glossary of RTS Terms

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God Game God games are similar to real time strategy games, except you play the part of a minor deity lording it over over a tribe of devout believers instead of a commander running a military campaign. The genre was established by the Populous series (and further refined in Black & White). Rather than managing an economy based on harvested resources, you instead have a population of devout followers whose collective outpourings of worship are translated into "Mana". Mana is a reservoir of energy used to perform miracles for your right thinking followers or drop catastrophe upon the misguided Heathens who follow your enemies. The more devoted followers, the more Mana you collect and the more your Godly powers increase to elevate your worshippers and smite their enemies. Tornados, Tidal waves, volcanoes, earthquakes, plagues, rain of fire, bottomless swamps, you name it - God games get pretty spectacular when they get going. Back
Greed game In StarCraft, a race to see who can produce the most resources the fastest. A first past the post scenario that's entirely economically driven. Almost. Of course, a few surreptitious attacks never go astray... Back

Pronounced: gooey. GUI stands for Graphical User Interface, which simply means any bit of software on your computer that offers you a menu of functions in graphical format. On the PC these days that means 99.999% of everything you run. Pull down menus, buttons, sliders, pretty borders, custom skins, basically anything you see on Windows are all components of GUI's. All the graphics in a game is basically part of a GUI. A classic example of a non-graphical UI is ghastly old MSDOS, which can only show text and can only be used by typing in command. Another would be the BIOS screen you see when your PC first boots up.

Its not a really an RTS term, nor even a game related one; its a generic computing term. For a game, the GUI is, literally, everything. When you strip away all pretensions, any game you're playing is nothing but a glorified menu. How it actually "feels" when playing can make or break even the biggest titles. Some of the best GUI's are those you actually forget you're using, allowing you to suspend disbelief, while others revel in their artificiality, like platform games, 4X strategy games or other turn based strategy games.Back

Hard Counter

A hard counter is a unit that will utterly obliterate a specific type of target without much chance of that target being able to defend or retaliate against it. Usually they are part of a Paper-Scissor-Rock paradigm, where A wipes out B, but can hardly touch C. B can wipe out C, but can barely touch A, and so on. Hard counters are extremely efficient at destroying their designated quarry, be it a specific unit or a type of unit defined by an arbitrary Armour Class. For example, a Main Battle Tank's main gun may do 100% damage against an Armoured Car (or any unit wearing "Light" Armour), but that same gun will only do 20% against another Main Battle Tank (or any unit wearing "Heavy" armour). The tank becomes a hard counter to Armoured Cars or any lighter vehicles in the game, destroying them in one or two shots; while other vehicles might need half a dozen - if they can touch them at all. This is distinct from a soft counter.

Hard counters can also be a result of different theatres, where, for example, an aerial torpedo bomber might be able to sink a submerged submarine with absolute impunity, or a battleship can bombard cavalry at a long distance.Back

Harvester Seems to be used on the chat lines as a general term to describe solitary worker units that specialize in resource gathering only. Originally refers to Command & Conquer's Harvester vehicle. A game that uses Harvesters is one that needs very little of these units to get an economy going. They tend to be expensive, slow and very tough. A Harvester will extract a big load of resources from the map, return to your base, offload the haul and disappear again to the field, automatically seeking the nearest resource site to your base unless directed elsewhere by your good self. This is distinct from the wimpy Worker, who tend to appear in large numbers and work in gangs around a resource site. Workers and Harvesters are essentially the same type of unit, (except Workers tend to build and repair buildings as well) only with wildly different stats. Back
Health Health invariably refers to a unit's current state of being/injury/repair, measured in Health Points. Sometimes these are referred to as Hit Points. See Stats.Back
Health Bar

Health bars give you a instant appraisal on the status of a unit. You can instantly assess the health of your entire force at a glance, even in the middle of a busy battle. Usually, they appear as a colour coded bar graph floating above or below a unit, showing that unit's current state of health. The bar shortens as the unit sustains more damage and/or changes colour to flag the severity of damage. The usual convention is green = full health, yellow = moderate damage, red = very damaged.

Some units may be blessed with a second (or even a third) bar that might show some other significant value, such as energy, ammo or fuel. Other health bars will be colour coded differently to the health bar to differentiate them.

Health bars can sometimes only appear when a unit is selected (depending on which game you play) so they are also a way of show which units you currently control. If the unit is part of a numbered selection they will sport a small floating numeral nearby. Back


A specialized unit that has (usually) beefier stats and occasionally different graphics to a regular unit. A hero unit does not represent a type of unit, but a single, distinctive character. You can only have one of them at any time. Heroes are usually much stronger with more health points. They frequently bequeath bonuses and have a number of abilities or rechargeable spells unique to them.

Usually they're seen exclusively in scripted single player scenarios: Starcraft and Age of Empires have quite a number that don't appear in regular multiplayer games. They're basically little more than an objective to kill by the enemy, but their roles can be determined entirely by how the scenario has been put together in the game's map editor. By contrast Dawn of War and WarCraft III made Heroes an integral part of regular game play. While you only got one of them at a time, they still played like a regular (if not supercharged) unit and could be replaced at a barracks (or specialised structure).

In some games, you may have an Assassination game mode where killing the main Hero of your opponent wins you the game. For example, killing the King in Age of Empires' Regicide game or the enemy Commander in Total Annihilation.

A variation of the Hero is the God unit. Back

House Depending on what game you're playing, a House might be a Farm, Storage Bay, Pylon, a Residence or even a mobile unit like the Zerg Overlord in Starcraft. Its a building that represents the amount of housing or warehoused supplies that your force are capable of supporting. There doesn't seem to be any universal term for it. Whatever it's supposed to represent, the House is often an inert building that does nothing except increase the Unit Limit for your economy. For example, an Age of Empire's House allows you to build an additional 5 units, so to be able to build 50, you need at least ten Houses somewhere in your base. Back
HUD Acronym: Heads Up Display. Any diagrams, cross hairs and text graphics plastered all over your virtual windscreen. Think of a fighter pilot with his cross hairs and weapon controls superimposed over his canopy. Its often used in vehicle simulations or 3D camera views, where the graphics are giving you a "head's up" on what's happening so you don't look down at your dash board at the wrong moment and accidentally fly into a mountain. As a general rule of thumb, the more silly nonsense, over designed cross hairs, special effects and flashing thing's on a HUD, the "cooler" its meant to be. And indeed, most of 'elm are there just to look good as much as provide you with invaluable reference cues to compensate for the fact you actually aren't in an honest-to-god world where your physical senses would be doing all this for you. The term in gaming includes any superimposed graphics on a computer generated backdrop. Some games even offer special settings to change them. Back
Line of Fire (LoF) Refers to an imaginary line drawn between your unit's firearm and the object of its attentions. Line of Fire is used by the computer to determine whether the shot it fired at the enemy was in fact stopped by an obstacle (or someone else!). Lines of Fire are worth thinking of if you're taking advantage of choke points or defensive positions and really apply to games that make use of 3D environments and maps. Effectively, an LoF is exactly the same as a Line of Sight, except it describes the trajectory and range of a bullet. Some LoF's are curved artillery trajectories. LoF has been occasionally seen being referred to as a Gun Line. Back
  Line of Sight (LoS) Refers to an imaginary line drawn between your unit's POV and the object of its attentions. Line of Sight is used by the computer to determine whether a unit can see something that's possibly hidden behind an obstacle (and therefore displayed to the player). You may see items and buildings appear and disappear on your display as they are eclipsed by obstacles taken from your units' POV's. Similar to Line of Fire, except LoS is applied universally on all types of maps and terrain, to determine whether units are hidden by higher terrain, obstacles and the like. You can see it in action when you first explore a map. Back
Magic User See Spellcaster. Back
Mana The primary resource used in a "God Game". See God Game.Back
Massing An economic game strategy, often named in Blizzard game circles. Any player who is building up a large force of units for an attack at the start of a game is said to be massing. Massing players focus on building up a large armed force as early as they can, sacrificing economics and technical upgrades to do so. As a result, Massing players are pooling big forces of cheap and basic units for an early rush or series of raids. Unlike Booming (sometimes known as Powering), where a player forgoes a lot of basic units to concentrate on building up their bases and technologies first, massing players can have some amazing early striking power on the map, but sacrifice their long term advantage in the game's arms and economic race. If their opponent can repel their early attack they are usually in trouble: suffering not just the loss of their troops, but also a huge loss in economic development.Back
Melee A standard punch up on a map, analogous to the classic first person Deathmatch. A non scripted single player game between you and several computer opponents (sometimes called Skirmish)  although its readily multi playable. Allied teams are optional. Exact terminology seems to be determined by which game you play. Back
Melee Unit A mobile unit, (usually infantry) that fights hand to hand, without ranged weapons. Opposite to a ranged unit, which can perforate enemies from a safe distance. Examples are Warcraft Grunts, Starcraft Zerglings and Ultralisks, Age of Empires swordsman, and Bruce Lee. Back
Metal Map The Total Annihilation equivalent to the StarCraft Money Map. A TA metal map removes the usual metal restrictions to make every piece of ground an extractable metal source. Excellent for fast and furious TA multiplayer: economy is relegated to the back seat in favour of a massive battle binge with expensive units. Back

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Last modified Sat, Apr 30 2011 by Lindsay Fleay