RTS = Rock Paper Scissors

Why do the majority of RTS games always fall into Unit A counters Unit B which is countered by Unit C shit? The claim is that it creates balance, but that's a lie and everyone knows it. Is it laziness?

The best RTS games (such as the original Command and Conquer series) didn't rely on this philosphy and while not being perfectly balanced still worked far better. I swear every RTS with this hard counter shit is just ruined for me and no fun.

We now have 3 RTS threads in catalog.

Though in answer to your question, you've pretty much answered it. It's down to lazy game design or lack of imagination by the developers. Better RTS games don't rely on this at all.

Which game popularized this lazy design philosophy? It had to start somewhere. I mean I know Starcraft kinda did, but the first game was only borderline using RPS design while the shitty sequel went full-on RPS.

How would you design a balanced RTS unit roster without falling into some kind of rock-paper-scissors formula? A balanced unit will always have strengths and weaknesses. The goal is usually to provide a selection that promotes many kinds of viable, situation-based unit synergies.

Have you legitimately never played an RTS game made before 2005?

I'd probably say Age of Empires and Starcraft started it but what game can take credit for making it the standard? Hard to say, since even then they never took RPS to the extreme like later RTS games did.

Which games didn't do that? Total Annihilation perhaps?

Sins of the Soalr Empire was great tho

Sword of the Stars doesn't use RPS

Total annihilation did, but it had so many counters that you could mix and match units and never really run out of strategies.

You know what? I think probably Rise of Nations is when it became standard. Where you had a unit that was very effective against one type of unit and not that effective against others. Like Heavy Infantry counter Cavalry but Light Infantry counter Heavy Infantry and aren't really that great against much else etc. Also meant stupid shit like pikemen could destroy Tanks. Others games did it before but they had much wider variety to make up in this that you could find other uses for the unit outside it's specified counter.

Because creating natural balance is too hard.

RPS relies on units having magical bonuses against specific units, instead of better preformance being a product of the units weapons and operational design.

It leads to shit like space battleships without any PD, so you need corvettes to guard them and redicolously overspecialized shit like that.
It's usually that or units with special "powers" .

I agree that RPS design is stupid because the meta would push people just to throw deathballs at each other, but how else do you design it? Without hard counters to units, you are left with different balances of characteristics: Attack strength, health, speed, cost, range, and such. These units have very little that make them unique. At this point, it relies upon the creator's skill in creating unique abilities that allow for different playstyles. This leads to a sort of asymmetric balance that is very tricky to get right and can easily blow up in your face.

I think at this point you can figure out why the majority are so awful. Either they're not ambitious enough to step out of the RPS methodology or they try and fail.

I wasn't implying the game was bad just because I don't like the RPS unit structure.

True AoE and Starcraft have it, but not to a ridiculous degree.

To give you an actual reply instead of just my condescending oneā€¦ How does it make sense to have a unit magically take reduced damage from another unit just so faggots in MP can learn easy combos of units to throw at each other? If it were just a basis of stats that is completely different, but usually (like with Sins) it is just coded in.

The better way to do it is to have defense/offense handle it all and not have arbitrary limits imposed on which units to use for the sake of "balance."

I was going to say that Homeworld had this until I remembered it had manly ass projectile physics and a formation system which meant units could overcome their weaknesses with clever use of formations and tactics. Like Ion Cannon Frigates in sphere formation suddenly becoming excellent fighter and corvette killers due to shooting beams out like the Death Star had suddenly become a disco ball. Plus Scouts could rape Missile Destroyers due to the magnificence that was Scout Dancing.

Oh, so R-P-S specifically means damage modifiers now? In that case, yes, it's lazy/unskilled, though I'd rather a dev use that crutch to create a balanced RPS than fail to balance a natural unit roster.

my blame lays in starcraft 2, that's when everything went to shit for the genre on the whole

I'd probably say Starcraft II is when the genre just died, but the genre had gone to shit before then.

the idea is to use micromanagement to nullify those RPS scenarios.

with good enough micro, marines can counter banelings.

So you have to rely on having an opponent too shitty to use their hardcoded advantage very well?

It is short RTS matches that have really pushed the RPS to the extreme.. gotta aim for that 15 to 30 minute window or else combat will become too complex for the average player.

you have to git gud.

sure it did there was some good games, like tib wars KW

god I love long games, that's when the match really begins and we see actual skill instead of just rushes or snipes

No you don't seem to understand my point. When two good players meet in an RPS system they either rely on the RPS or they lose.

Your claim that you can counter X with Y if you have good enough micro relies on the other opponent wasting their advantage with X. Which brings us back to square one.

SCFA doesn't have it.

rts isn't as fun as tbs

No, in the marine/baneling example, there isn't actually a way for the zerg player to deal with effective marine control, no matter how good their baneling control is.

I'm not saying that RPS isn't ever the only factor that matters, I'm just saying that sometimes RPS can be subverted. Sometimes.

When designing units and trying to make them different for varied tactics, you can do it in 2 ways.

One is give them different characteristics that make them perform well or not in specific circunstances.
Give high damage but low defense to ranged units and you'll do well by keeping them out of arms reach. Cavalry would counter you here if they can outrun them, making for a soft counter based on the mechanics themselves.
Or different armor types that change what's good against what, like Warcraft.

The second is to simply give them a bonus to attack when attacking the right kind of unit.
Age of Mythology had this where Archers did noticeable more damage to Infantry than to other Archers and less to Cavalry.

Now, a lot of games do a mixture of both (Age of Mythology had different types of armor but as they were tied to each unit, this didn't change much) but they usually implement the second solution because the first is easily solved by spamming more units.

An example is Seven Kingdoms where you had Warmachines like Cannons that caused high damage but where very fragile and slow. Infantry could catch them and destroy a very high investment you made. However, if you made enough cannons, you could fire a single salvo at an infantry and murder him instantly, repeating this for every unit (as there was no reload time if you switched targets) and kill all their hard counters easily.

Keep in mind that, despite the lazy mechanic of bonus damage being present, mechanically the simple mechanic of using the game's rules to decide what's good against whom still work. Age of Mythology gave extra damage to Cavalry against Archers, but their increased speed to keep up with them still played an important role.
Without the extra damage, an Hades player could just make more archers to make up for their lack of speed and murder the horses anyway, but with that mechanic, even if you had twice the archers that your oponent has horses, you'd still love the fight.
The units you picked and the composition of your army became more important that way.

tl:dr it's for balancing reasons, it's easier and prevents unit spam more

Confirmed for having not playing Starcraft nor Brood War.

This is why you play RTT games like ss or mowas2+gsm where everything kills everything in one hit.

But that's not good at all. If it's that simple, you'll pick the unit that can fire the most rounds with the best accuracy. Basically you'll pick the unit that can hit the most bullets per second and massively spamming that unit is the best strategy.

Just like in real life.

It is not that simple indeed. Of course you need to have something in place to prevent spamming e.g. resources.

Does it matter? Whether ship A counters ship B because it deals 50% more damage to it or because it shoots low damage shots at a fast rate, negating it's percentage based armour: the end result is you're still taking ship A to counter ship B. I'd totally agree that mechanically the latter is more interesting, but at the end of the day most players are going to get told "build A if they're building B" and you end up with the same result.

I think to break away from that you'd need to use ship A the correct way for it to have an advantage of ship B. Make game-play more influential than that you clicked the right build button.