What is an RTS Game?

edited August 2023 in Gaming

Since the early days of video gaming, real-time strategy (RTS) games have been among the most popular and well-known genres. They require players to think critically and strategically to complete objectives, making them a challenging but rewarding experience. Millions of fans around the world enjoy playing RTS games and keeping up to date with their favorite esports athletes. So, what are RTS games, and what makes them so much fun to play?  

What are RTS games? 

Real-time strategy games are a subgenre of strategy video games where the game world progresses in real-time. This means that all players can see and respond to events happening in the game at the same time, as opposed to taking turns like in traditional turn-based strategy games. These games often pit players against each other in competitive multiplayer matches, although some RTS games also feature cooperative gameplay. 

RTS games have been around for decades, with some of the earliest examples of the genre dating back to the 1980s. The popularity of RTS games has seen its peaks and valleys, but in recent years, the genre has seen something of a renaissance. 

How are RTS games different from other games? 

RTS games typically require gamers to strategically manage resources and units within a time limit, taking place in a live or multiplayer setting. RTS players are tasked with gathering and managing resources to build structures, all while creating armies to defeat their opponents. 

One of the defining features of RTS games is that they are viewed from a top-down perspective, giving players a bird's eye view of the battlefield. Another is their emphasis on quick decision-making and fast-paced gameplay. Unlike other types of games such as RPGs or adventure titles, gamers playing RTS games must often make multiple decisions which can greatly impact long-term outcomes and potential risks. This can make RTS games some of the most exciting and challenging genres to play, as gamers must rely on their instincts to make both split-second and long-term decisions simultaneously to succeed. 

Popular RTS games for esports 

Although there is a long list of titles to choose from, there are particular franchises that have paved the way for an entire generation of gamers who are passionate about esports and competitive gaming: 

  • StarCraft 
  • Age of Empires 
  • Company of Heroes 
  • Warcraft 
  • Command & Conquer 
  • Supreme Commander 
  • Dawn of War 
  • Halo Wars 

RTS games impact on esports 

The evolution of RTS games in esports has been driven by the growing popularity of competitive gaming as a spectator sport. In the early days of esports, RTS games were some of the most popular genres, with games like StarCraft II and Warcraft III leading the way. However, as esports grew in popularity, RTS games began to fall out of favor with audiences. Some reasons for this decline are: 

  • The growing popularity in other genres, such as first-person shooters (FPS) and Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). 
  • RTS games require a high level of skill and strategic thinking, which can be a challenge for casual esports fans. 
  • RTS games often take a long time to play, which can make them less exciting to watch than other faster-paced games. 

Despite the downturn, RTS games have had a big impact on the gaming community and esports. RTS games are still one of the most popular genres of games and are enjoyed by gamers all over the world. Top performers have earned millions of dollars in prize money, and Starcraft II tournaments alone have awarded over $35 million. 

How to play RTS games competitively? 

There are different ways to play RTS games competitively, but there are some key things that all competitive RTS players need to know.  

  • Understand the mechanics of the game. RTS games are usually very complex, with a lot of different mechanics at play. If you want to be competitive, you need to understand how all the game's mechanics work and how they interact with each other. 
  • Develop a good sense of strategic thinking. RTS games are all about making the right decisions at the right time. You need to be able to think ahead and plan your moves carefully if you want to be successful. 
  • Practice. Like with any skill, the more you practice, the better you'll become. Play against other people as often as you can, and try to learn from your mistakes. 
  • Stay calm and focused. RTS games can be very stressful, especially in the heat of competition. It's important to stay calm and focus on your game plan if you want to have any chance of winning. 
  • Have fun! Playing RTS games competitively can be a lot of fun, so make sure to enjoy yourself. 

Key terms and concepts for RTS games 

If you're new to the genre or just want to brush up on your RTS knowledge, here are some key terms and concepts you need to know. 

  • APM: Short for “actions per minute,” APM is a measure of a player's ability to execute commands in RTS games. Players with high APM can perform more actions in a shorter period, giving them an advantage over their opponents. It takes practice to improve your APM, but you can also invest in a keyboard or mouse that uses hotkeys and shortcuts to perform actions more quickly. 
  • Elements: In RTS games, there are several key elements that players must master to be successful. These include resource gathering, unit production, tech trees, and map control. 
  • Resource gathering: To build units and structures, players must first gather resources. There are typically two types of resources in RTS games: commodities and power. Players will need to balance their gathering of both types to be successful. 
  • Unit production: Once players have gathered the necessary resources, they can begin producing units. Units are the key to success in RTS games, as they are used to battle opponents and control territory. There are a variety of different units available in RTS games, each with its unique strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Tech trees: To produce more advanced units, players must advance through the tech tree in RTS games. This involves unlocking new units, improvements to existing units and structures, and unique abilities that can turn the tide of battle. 
  • Map control: Success in RTS games often comes down to who has the most strategically important territory on the map. Players must be constantly scouting and managing their territory to maintain an advantage. Techniques such as scouting, harassment, and base defense are all essential for maintaining map control. 

Give RTS games a try 

If you’re looking for an immersive gaming experience that will test your strategic thinking skills, then RTS games are worth trying out. RTS games have come a long way since their inception in the late 1980s, and the loyal following of RTS games is undeniable. Casual gamers and esports athletes alike have fallen in love with this genre, going all-in on their favorite title to play for fun or work! With so many different titles to choose from, there’s something for everyone. So, why not give them a try?

Patrick Yu is a Senior Project Manager at Level Interactive and has 8 years of experience writing business, legal, lifestyle, gaming, and technology articles. He is a significant contributor to Acer Corner and is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan.



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