RTS and VR

Could merging the 2 bring new life to the RTS genre?

So by now are aware of the leaps forward in VR technology and other peripherals that can go with it. One thing that has interested me with this current and future tech is how it can be used to redefine various experiences either in the gaming world or within the real world (especially how that tech can be used in DJn, check here for an article I wrote a while ago on this)

But in this quick article I’m going to talk about the use of this technology within a specific game genre, Real Time Strategy (RTS) and games like Command and Conquer or WarCraft.

The C&C series had a long history but failed to evolve its UI and user experience over the years.

Now the RTS genre was once a massive boom but has now since really struggled to come back into popularity. Click here for a great article on this at geek.com, it is a really good view on the genre and its downfall.

One thing I really agree with in this article is that the RTS genre hasn’t evolved from its roots and that it lies in a niche market away from most casual gamers. The other point I would add is that RTS games don’t traditionally translate well to console and take a lot of planning to make them work (Halo Wars being the exception, finally finding the right control balance to bridge the gap) So how could current tech help make a resurgence in the RTS genre or to at least breathe some new life into it?

Halo Wars proved that RTS games could work on console.

The main achilles heel for RTS  games has always been the control interface. If you think about it, you realise that you are controlling many things at once and only have limited control surfaces to do that with. Whilst in war and real life scenarios you would normally have individual control of each unit and can plan complex maneuvers and attack formations. However in game, these kinds of actions are heavily restricted because of the limited amount of control that a mouse and keyboard can afford you. However, imagine the integration of gesture controls to move and control your units, A VR headset that allows you to look around a virtual room with additional consoles and command areas like you were in a real life Command and Control Center (just like having a holographic console at your fingertips, something we are seeing more of esp in movies these days, ala Iron Man)

While holographic interfaces are still in the realms of TV, advances in technology are bringing this closer to reality

Having these things could dramatically increase the ability to micro manage at a more detailed level than ever before while also having a better overall view of the battlefield. Depending on the goal this could be made very simple or go totally overboard in complexity but the idea is that it is now possible to put someone virtually there in command like it would be in real life. The technology is already steam rolling ahead and while it is still in the early stages it does give a glimpse of things to come.

The Microsoft Holo Lens coupled with Minecraft is a mere taste of the potential ideas we can create with VR and AR technology

Like previous RTS games this would be a hard sell to the casual gamer but the application of this goes beyond just the RTS genre, from being their virtually to command large armies or being on the bridge of a star ship or to smaller scale where things are currently happening (Minecraft and the Holo Lens for example), the scope is massive and is set to change the way we fundamentally play and experience games and I am hoping that once the technology becomes more stable and mainstream, gaming companies will look at new ways to immerse gamers within these new realities and will lead to a RTS type game being reborn in this new reality.

Marcus Powell has been living and working in South Korea since 2010. Aside from writing for small publications, he is also a popular club DJ, English Teacher, gamer, sports and esports fan and anime enthusiast.

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