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Wherefore [ARMADA]?
by Andy Schatz on 03/12/14 12:52:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


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I love RTS.  But I hate RTS. We’re making an RTS.  (it’s codenamed [ARMADA])

There is no more thrilling moment for me than outsmarting a friendly opponent with Reapers in the back of his base or a repelling a horde of enemies with perfectly placed Tesla Coils.

Maybe it’s just nostalgia speaking, but I want to play an RTS game that feels like a battle of wits, not a battle of clicks.  I want to compete at a high level, but I also want to be able to introduce the RTS genre to my friends at a party.  I want an RTS where the strategy is creative and complex and the micro is accessible and fun.

With Monaco, we took an old school genre (Stealth), we simplified the controls, and then we built an incredibly complex game that could be played at high and low skill levels alike.  I want to do the same with the RTS genre.

[ARMADA] is the simplicity of Monaco injected into a classic RTS.


What [ARMADA]?

[ARMADA] is a Real Time Strategy game.  You build a base, raise an army, and attack the enemy.  Simple, right?  Not so fast.

With apologies to those devs who have tried, no one has ever made an RTS that played well on a dual analog gamepad.  We’re gonna be the first to do it right.

The game design of [ARMADA] revolves around these two philosophies:

  • [MENTAL] Everything in the game should feel -- emotionally and intellectually -- like you are playing a traditional RTS like SC2.
  • [PHYSICAL] All mechanics must be equally fun on dual analog as they are on keyboard/mouse.



Army Control

Unit orders are the first game design casualty in our quest for a great gamepad-RTS.

In [ARMADA] the player controls a Champion who can build structures, lead forces into battle, scout, and fight for herself. Your troops are autonomous but governed by AI that is determined by the unit class.  Some troops will be defenders, hanging out near their spawn point.  Some troops harvest resources.  Some troops are attackers, seeking out the nearest enemy.  Most troops will also follow the Champion into battle, allowing you to have a large force of mixed units.

Rock Paper Scissors

RTS revolves around a version of Rock/Paper/Scissors.  The initial decision in traditional RTS games is Attack/Defense/Economy.  If you rush, someone who turtles wins.  If you turtle, the person who fast expands wins.  If you fast expand, you are vulnerable to attack.  In practice, RTS games are much more complicated than this, but the initial strategic directions can usually be boiled down to those three choices.

In broad terms, the player character in [ARMADA] is the primary attack force, their army is the primary defensive force, and economy management happens in traditional RTS ways.

Competition, Co-op, Replays, Editor, Modding

Yes, [ARMADA] is being built with competition and co-op in mind.  We’re only a month into development and we already have a strong networking system built for the basic features, a working replay system, a basic editor, and pretty much all of the game data is in human-readable (and editable) XML format.



When [ARMADA]?

I honestly don’t know if [ARMADA] will be another three year project  I don’t even know if it will be longer than a 6 month project.  Sound kind of familiar?  That’s how Monaco started out… as a 6 week XBLIG game.

But I do know that there is a game that I want to play that doesn't exist. Monaco’s success has given us the leeway to make whatever game we want to make next. I hope that our (amazing) community and new people will join us in following along with development. And if I know anything about the internet, you’ll steer us where we go wrong, give us inspiration, and join us in the [ARMADA] community.


-Andy Schatz @andyschatz



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Ozzie Smith
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In regards to the "battle of wits vs battle of clicks" comment, I've always felt that RTS games should inherently reward the faster player, that's why they take place in real-time. And in good RTS games it's a large part of what smudges the rock/paper/scissors mechanic: if a player is good enough in StarCraft they can fast expand AND defend an early attack. The better/faster you get at playing, more and more strategic options open up for you.

Any way I'll be very interested in seeing how the game shapes up, it's a very challenging task to make an RTS game work on a controller. Based on your description it sort of sounds like a 1-on-1 DOTA match mixed with Pikmin or something? Looking forward to it either way, Monaco is my favorite co-op game of all time. Good luck.

Andy Schatz
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Awesome, glad you like Monaco so much!

Fast, time pressured is definitely a core part of the game, but sadly the interface to typical RTS games is so complex that the actual physical interaction at that pace is IMO not a fun skill to learn. I also would prefer an RTS that had a bit more of a sin wave in speed and intensity, where you can have moments of quiet and stillness, anticipation, where you make tough decisions after taking one long deep breath.

James Margaris
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" Based on your description it sort of sounds like a 1-on-1 DOTA match mixed with Pikmin or something?"

It sounds exactly like Herzog Zwei to me.

Alexis Hallaert
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Hi Andy,

Hone this ! this is very interesting. I am a neophyte in competitive RTS tactics but anyway I like your breakdown of the typical rock-paper-scissors dynamics found in the genre, and your "design solution" to make it fit the gamepad... with the differentiated roles of player character and AI acolytes... it just sent me back to this playstation game I loved, L.A.P.D. Future Cop ! Usually I don't use references in design as they can be sometimes toxic, but... here it's too much !

Good luck, and looking forward to see the future of your project

Luke ParkesHaskell
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From the description, I'm certainly games like Future Cop LAPD or Herzog Zwei, and not an RTS in the typically accepted sense - this sounds like a MOBA.

Unless it's particularly different and I'm not seeing it, you're going to face some stiff competition and comparison to AirMech ( recently released free to play game that is similar).