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Real-time Strategy Games

Real-time strategy (RTS) games are a predecessor and in direct contrast to turn-based games. Both are subgenres of strategy games. While turn-based games emphasize methodical strategy and can have games that last so long, eventually one player will succumb to tiredness, RTS can end very quickly. One criticism of the RTS genre is the ability to rush opponents early when their defenses are small, often cementing the game's outcome. The most defining graphical aspects to RTS games are the top-down view, the ability to construct buildings, and the control of large armies. The genre was popularized by PC gaming (Microsoft DOS) that offered mouse and keyboard control that worked well to manage the many aspects of real-time strategy games.

Origins of Real-time Strategy Games

One game that helped pave the way for RTS games was titled Utopia (1981). It was an ancestor to RTS games in that it was more of a turn-based city building game that incorporated real-time elements like resource mining. Two players would each control an island and its inhabitants through multiple rounds. Players could interact and cause their opponent to suffer slow growth by attacking their boat.

Following the game Utopia, Simcity Classic (1989) and SimAnt (1991) helped expand the city building genre which built the user interface needed for more complex RTS games. Game developer Will Wright was pivotal in the creation of the city building games popularized by game development company Maxis. The goals of these simulation games were to build a city in the overhead perspective and grow the cities resources. Although they were single-player only, they lacked any distinctive turn-based elements, unlike Utopia.

Finally, two companies defined the real-time strategy game genre with the first RTS games. The first was from the Westwood game studio titled Dune II (1992). The same company went on to define many popular RTS games like Command & Conquer. The second company that fueled the RTS boom of the 1990s was Blizzard Entertainment with their release of Warcraft (1994). The sequel Warcraft 2, popularised the gameplay of fantasy RTS games and fueled the growth of the company later responsible for World of Warcraft. Also worth noting, Age of Empires (1997) popularized the technology tree of RTS games and Blizzard released StarCraft (1998) which became the defining game in the RTS genre.

Top browser-based real-time strategy games