RTS Basics
RTS Basics: Losing Heart?


The best laid plans...

Well, Concentrate might have put you off! Lots to do; things to remember, its almost like hard work than having fun... Its important to realise that a major element of strategy gaming involves not getting flustered or losing heart. Things go wrong all the time. All those elegant plans and contingencies seem to evaporate the moment the first shots are exchanged. Everything collapses into a frantic, disorganised, uncoordinated mess. DON'T PANIC. Relax. You're probably just tired--which probably means your foe is too (unless they're gloating in a most unsportsmanlike way, in which case they richly deserve a blunt object to the head). After several hours of non-stop, brain-mulching action, even a small raid by the enemy can look like a full blown catastrophe of Biblical proportions to you. This is normal.

Losing it, I've noticed, comes in two major forms. The first is fatigue driven: the enemy has a lucky strike, blows up a particularly expensive unit or maybe they just attack from more than one direction, and you pretty much fold up thinking the game's over and its all too much. Which it is now because you've turned it into self-fulfilling prophecy. The other is the result of indecision, the Now What? problem. This occurs in situations where you stop dead in your tracks and just don't know what to do next. You draw a blank. The sheer amount of stuff to keep tabs on when you're playing is enough to give most people pause, and most good players will still forget stuff mid game one way or another.

I guess there's a third fluster type, and that's finding yourself evenly matched and deadlocked in a long term duel, and realising there are many long hours ahead of you before you can make any headway.

I've often found to my surprise, after the game is over, that most of the time I could have wriggled out of potentially debilitating situations or taken advantage of some shortfall in my opponent. Unless you're in some clearly lopsided battle, and your opponent's effectively out producing you with better units, there's probably a solution to your predicament.  The trick is to try and stay on the move both on the map and in your mind at all times. Keeping and holding the initiative, basically. (However, that can be a pretty tall order if you're disadvantaged in any way, so don't feel too put out if your first games are bit all over the place.) If you've stopped moving - either because you've decided to sit tight and fortify where you are on the map or the enemy has you hemmed in - you're ultimately in trouble.

Staying put is only going to exacerbate your disadvantage: you're giving the rest of the map and resources to the enemy. They will know where you are; but to you, they will be everywhere, and have the advantage of mobility and many ways to surround and overpower your, regardless of defences. Start moving again (or at least plan a push) otherwise your foe will will be dictating what you do in the field on their terms and in greater numbers. At the very least, if you don't know what to do next, SCOUT THE  MAP! Finding out what your opponent is up to should give you something to work with.


Occupational hazards

In any RTS game your base and economy will be invariably compromised or something will go wrong, unless you get lucky, surprise the opposition or just find yourself playing an inferior player. Ongoing damage, surprise attacks and losing all of your mobile forces is a routine occupational hazard! Never-ending repairs, rebuilds and reinforcing is the norm, not a sign that the enemy is destroying you because you're useless. Even if 90% of your territory has been cleared by the enemy you can sometimes recover because they may have spent 100% trying to get to you; you can never quite tell whether that supposedly monstrous force is your foe's last great gasp before all his resources dry up. In any case, it frequently takes more than one or two attacks to achieve a result. Thus, constantly producing reinforcements is critical to success. Being active and mobile on the map will never give your foe pause for rest. If you've got into the habit of looking after your economy and constantly churning out units, you'll bounce back in no time. You might still lose, but it won't be a frustrating rout, and your foes will always be wary when you're on the map.


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Last modified Sat, Apr 2011 by Lindsay Fleay