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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

History of Real Time Strategy (RTS)

1983 – 1992: the beginning

In the UK, the genre's beginning can be traced to Stonkers by John Gibson, published in 1983 by Imagine Software for the ZX Spectrum, and Nether Earth published on ZX Spectrum in 1987. In North America, the first game retrospectively classified as real-time strategy by most sources[1] is The Ancient Art of War (1984), designed by Evryware's Dave and Barry Murry, followed by the sequel The Ancient Art of War at Sea in 1987. Some writers list Intellivision's Utopia by Don Daglow (1982) as the first real-time strategy game.[2]
None of these titles would today be recognized as real-time strategy games. However, Herzog Zwei for the Sega Genesis in 1989 and Battle Master for the Amiga and Atari ST in 1990 are perhaps the earliest examples of relatively full-featured real-time strategy games.[3][4] Real-time strategy became recognized as a genre with the release of Dune II from Westwood Studios in 1992. Dune II also was the first to create a format for real-time strategy games that is still used today, such as using the mouse to move units, and gathering resouces.[citation needed]

1992 – 1998:
defining the popular perception of real-time strategy games

Dune II (1992) - The game that defined the real-time strategy genre
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, and the games released between 1992 and 1998 by Blizzard Entertainment and Westwood Studios have, in particular, contributed to this. Westwood's Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty (1992) introduced in one sweep all the core concepts of modern real-time strategy games,[5] and as such acted as the first significant prototype for the "modern" real-time strategy game with the features described in the definition above.
While Westwood Studios laid the foundation and provided the prototype for real-time strategy games with Dune II, Blizzard Entertainment, between 1994 and 1998, can be argued to be responsible for establishing the form and content of the genre as understood today. The company's famous Warcraft series, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (1994) and its sequel Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness (1995), refined the concepts introduced in Dune II. Westwood's Command & Conquer (1995) and Command & Conquer: Red Alert (1996), and Blizzard's StarCraft (1998), which were extremely popular, as well as the innovative, and Total Annihilation and Dark Reign, cemented the genre and provided a de facto standard against which new real-time strategy games are still measured.[citation needed]

1998 - present
Refinement of gameplay and ongoing transition to 3D graphics

Battle scene from Sierra's Homeworld (1999).
The real-time strategy genre has been relatively stable since 1995 and additions to the genre's concept in newer games tend to be introducing more units, larger maps, 3D terrain and similar, rather than innovations to the game concept with new games generally focus on refining aspects of successful predecessors.[citation needed] As the paragon example of gameplay refinement, Cavedog Entertainment's acclaimed Total Annihilation from 1997 distilled the core mechanics of Command & Conquer, and introduced the first 3D units in real-time strategy games. In 1997, Microsoft tried to combine elements of Civilization with the real-time strategy concept in Age of Empires by introducing ages of technologies, a combination refined further by Stainless Steel Studios' Empire Earth in 2001. GSC Gameworld's Cossacks: European Wars series took the genre in a different direction, bringing population caps into the tens of thousands.
Populous: The Beginning (1998) and Homeworld (1999) were the first completely 3D real-time strategy titles. Warcraft III (2002) is probably the most successful early 3D RTS. It is only in approximately 2002 that 3D real-time strategy became the standard, with both Warcraft III and Ensemble Studio's Age of Mythology being built on a full 3D game engine.
Relatively few genres have emerged from or in competition with real-time strategy games, although Real-time tactics, a superficially similar genre, emerged around 1995 and in 1998 Activision attempted to combine the real-time strategy and first-person shooter genres in Battlezone and Rage Games Limited attempted this also, with the Hostile Waters (2002) games.