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Brandon Casteel's Blog   Expert Blogs


“If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not taking risks, and that means you’re not going anywhere. The key is to make mistakes faster than the competition, so you have more chances to learn and win.” – John W Holt Jr.

My personal blog, where I ramble about RTS design + mechanics: My CV is at

HI! My name is Brandon Casteel, though I often go by "wayward" in online spaces. I am a lifelong student of narrative and mechanical design and am now content to say that for all practical purposes I am a practicing game system designer. I hope to one day break into the industry full time 

I consider myself one of the most passionate people on the topic of RTS gaming on the planet, and try to have a holistic view of the design of strategy games, from art to lore to mechanics and game systems. Strategy games are beautiful, organized systems, playgrounds for exercising the mind. It’s a shame that so many people pass them by. I am here to advocate for and strive for the evolution of the endlessly interesting competitive strategy game genre.

I am also here to challenge my ideas on games design by presenting them to professionals, and evolving my understanding of RTS and games design based upon the feedback I receive.

I am 35 years old and have worked as a graphic designer, web designer, and a server farm administrator, but have loved strategy games since I first played WarCraft: Orcs and Humans as a kid. I have always wanted to make games, but for much of my adult life have given up on that dream as impractical; I now find myself in the position to pursue that dream in a real way and am running towards it full steam ahead. 

I wrote for before that site closed, and am now the proprietor of where I write about the design of RTS games, as well as more 'fluffy' pieces such as news and game overviews. I've also written for PCGamer and

I have consulted on a number of game projects including NeuroSlicers, Aven Colony, Battle Battalions, Avalon Lords: Dawn Rises, Fealty, and several unannounced games. I have also consulted with PhD candidates regarding strategy game design, and am working on several mods for StarCraft 2, Grey Goo and Company of Heroes 2. I am currently a designer for 2 RTS-adjacent titles with Slipgate Ironworks, and am Design Lead for one of them. Excited to share more about these projects when I can...


Expert Blogs

Posted by Brandon Casteel on Thu, 07 Oct 2021 11:48:00 EDT in Design
Inspired by contrasting the game designs of Command and Conquer games against Age of Empires 4, this article explores the space of "speed bumps" which help to control the pace at which players progress through gameplay.

Posted by Brandon Casteel on Sun, 01 Aug 2021 03:16:00 EDT in Design
The conversation around 'soft counters' and 'hard counters' in RTS games often focuses on best case scenarios for soft counters and worst case scenarios for hard counters. This article is an attempt to address the topic in a more open and fair framing.

Posted by Brandon Casteel on Mon, 21 Jun 2021 03:47:00 EDT in Design
The 'early game' - or, the first few minutes of play in a real-time strategy game match, is a first impression that players experience over and over again, whether they're playing competitively or solo. It makes sense to try to do it right.

Posted by Brandon Casteel on Thu, 25 Feb 2021 01:11:00 EST in Design
I see sub-factions as a very useful tool to allow players to identify with a specific play style. They're a way to provide players an opportunity to personalize their play experience and to create expandable content for a game.

Posted by Brandon Casteel on Fri, 15 Jan 2021 11:16:00 EST in Design
Support powers are a controversial topic in the RTS space. Their greatest strengths come hand-in-hand with their greatest weaknesses. This piece addresses the types of support power and how to improve these abilities in RTS games.

Posted by Brandon Casteel on Fri, 02 Oct 2020 02:22:00 EDT in Design
Tightly defined game experiences can produce larger sets of options for players than less tightly defined ones. Having too much freedom in a game can limit the effectiveness and number of viable player choices, particularly in strategy games.

Brandon Casteel's Comments

Comment In: [Blog - 08/01/2021 - 03:16]

There are games where this ...

There are games where this can work but to me that 's an issue with how many units shoot up instead of a core feature of hard counter systems. If you have more units that shoot up dedicated AA units are always a risk, design wise, in my opinion then ...

Comment In: [Blog - 07/09/2020 - 10:47]

I 've had very similar ...

I 've had very similar thoughts along the same lines. Thanks for reading

Comment In: [Blog - 02/18/2019 - 02:03]

There 's definitely a subset ...

There 's definitely a subset of RTS games that feel this way, but games like StarCraft and Company of Heroes and Dawn of War give you a lot more control over the outcome of the combat aspects of the game. Even Age of Empires and Supreme Commander give you more ...

Comment In: [Blog - 03/06/2017 - 11:26]

I 've had similar ideas, ...

I 've had similar ideas, and I like some things about it. I don 't think it 's, fundamentally and by itself, a solution though. Here 's why: starting in the middle is an improvement, but still once things start to tip some buildings destroyed etc then you 're right ...

Comment In: [News - 09/13/2016 - 09:26]

This is crazy to me. ...

This is crazy to me. I remember very vividly his illustrations in the Warcraft 2 manual. He and Samwise Didier are, basically, what got me interested in gaming in the first place. Their artwork sparked my imagination, got me interested in producing artwork of my own, and that 's led ...

Comment In: [Blog - 01/04/2016 - 01:31]

I am replaying the C ...

I am replaying the C C series right now and... maybe this is true in the first generation of games, but in RA/C C2/Dune 2000 etc, units die QUICK. C C definitely includes skill based elements, and as Brad says in his article tends to provide a wealth of options ...