MMORTS

Sins of a Solar Empire

Sins of a Solar Empire. Meaningless title. Brilliant game.

I’ve been playing a bit of Sins of a Solar Empire again and boy oh boy, is it a damn fine game. It’s your usual real-time strategy sci-fi affair in the same vein as Star Wars: Empire at War and Homefront and if you’ve never played it before then I’d highly recommend that you give it a shot (and find yourself saying “damn, what a fine game” in the process). Although MMORPGs are my favourite gaming genre, RTS’ are up near the top of my list too and recently I’ve been pondering what would happen if they both were to combine and produce some sort of crazy mutated MMORTS offspring.

Although I’m sure a few indie MMORTS’ exist I’ve never seen a mainstream one before, maybe because they’re not the easiest of things to design and development or maybe just because no one’s ever bothered to try. I suppose in many ways EVE Online is the closest thing to a Triple-A RTS MMO we have and I reckon that by looking it to for inspiration, along with traditional RTS’, it would be possible to design a really exciting (and long lived) MMORTS.

My idea for a space MMORTS would follow the classical premise of colonising planets, mining minerals and resources, constructing ships and buildings, leveling your fleet through combat, trading and manufacturing (now with real players) and researching new technologies either through buying them directly, mission rewards or perhaps time á la skills in EVE Online. The big stumbling block for going MMO though would be how to deal with what happens when a player goes offline – do their buildings and colonies still exist? Would they still harvest resources? Would they be attackable by enemies?

Perhaps a solution to the issue would be to use instancing on the majority of planets and allow multiple colonies and installations on each yet, and here’s the key, only produce resources and be attackable when the player is actually online. This way players can actively defend their areas from NPCs (and potentially other gamers) and can’t sit offline for three weeks to accrue lots of cash. If research was time based the same thing could apply too so that it only progresses when a player is actually online (the threat of random NPC pirate attacks enough to ward off going AFK for long stretches at a time).

I love EVE’s sandbox model and I think it’s a principle that would go down well in a space MMORTS. Different planets could provide different materials and bonuses and suitability for facilities which would mean the safer ‘inner rim’ planets would be perfect for newbies but in order to acquire better resources or build more advanced facilities for more advanced ships, the player would have to venture further out and colonise more dangerous sectors. Guilds could operate in a similar fashion to EVE’s corporations and maybe their facilities wouldn’t be instanced and always exist, giving an incentive for guild vs guild warfare over domination of areas of space.

Combat would be a big focus of the game and it would be a lot more intricate than in something like EVE. Each player would be controlling their own fleet(s) of several dozens of ships of their choosing, combing into gigantic armadas with other players and, just like in any good RTS, we’d have to micro-manage the combat and decide on how to best use and co-ordinate ships and their abilities in complex attack strategies.There would also be your usual mix of races with their own bonuses, ship designs and technologies to spice things up.

A strong player driven economy would be fantastic to have as well although it looks like it would be a challenge to integrate that into the RTS gameplay as, essentially, everyone harvests their own resources and creates their own ships and buildings. I don’t how feasible it all is but something to consider anyway.

So there you may my pretty primative ideas for a MMORTS. What do you think? Would it work? And, more importantly, would you play it?

-Gordon

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26 Comments

  1. Mike says:

    Check out End of Nations.

  2. Xeross says:

    I myself have been searching far and wide for a peristent MMORTS so far all I’ve found is a lot of pay2play or bad games.

    I’ve played a few MMORTSs for a while, I tried Ballerium which seemed to offer what I wanted but to no avail.

    Haven & Hearth being an RPG has the right idea for a fantasy MMORTS, a huge world were people can build bases even when offline, make more advanced goods only available on certain places and create player trade.

    Now a sci-fi game would be a bit trickier, but workable through the same mechanics, with some tweaking.

    So yeah I’m really looking forward to that one MMORTS that will blow me away.

    • Gordon says:

      I would (obviously) love to see a MMORTS but I understand it may never happen. Publishers are timid enough about trying new things in traditional MMOs let alone giving a completely new genre a punt!

  3. Wolfshead says:

    I have a feeling that the new “next gen” MMO that Blizzard is working on will be a MMORTS. I think it will be sci-fi based too.

  4. Dblade says:

    I don’t think it would be good. RTS are just too arcane and unforgiving to make the basis of a MMO. AN RTS version of EVE would be impossible to play for most people.

  5. scrusi says:

    I love the general idea and definitely would play the game if it was done right. That said I believe that getting it right will be a tough thing to do. Battles in Starcraft 2 for example get worse the more players are involved. 4v4 is already really bad in that respect. I have a hard time imagining a truly massively multiplayer version being any good.

    • Gordon says:

      It would certainly require a lot more innovative thinking and approaches to design to get it to work but I reckon it would be possible. Of course there’s no way to really know until someone makes one :)

    • Dril says:

      Out of interest what do you mean by “bad” in 4v4? I’m a regular Wc3 player (still!) and some of the maps on there are 6v6, hell even 12man FFA (this is custom made ones, not the vanilla) and they work really well imo.

  6. Longasc says:

    I cannot help, but what I like about Sins of a Solar Empire (played till Entrenchment, never tried the Diplomacy expansion) does not work well in online mode and doubt it would be fun in a MMO RTS mode.

    They would have to invent a mechanic to determine a winner or in the end there will be 1-2 huge empires and all others crushed, your empire and you dead and all that. -> and I think this is prime problem. The world would end with a winner being declared. A bit like this Tale in the Desert thing. Basically I have no idea how to transport a 4 vs 4 into a MMO setting of 100s vs other 100s with tons of alliances or two set factions or whatever

    Why not just play a classic RTS if you want to control the economy and all fleets and whatever – and play EVE if you want to be a little cog in a bigger picture. Which somehow works better for a MMO, can’t help.

    • Gordon says:

      I suppose I can’t really answer your point directly Longasc because, to be honest, I have absolutely no idea if a MMORTS would be any good or not :) Obviously trying to come up with a method that keeps the game “endless” would be the key and a tricky thing to achieve. All could I say is that if people still play EVE and never stop, why couldn’t it be the same for a MMORTS?

  7. Tesh says:

    I’ll just second Longasc (especially the notion of declaring a winner and moving on), and suggest investigating this little app:

    http://outer-empires.com/

  8. Jomu says:

    i was hoping sins of the solar empire would be more like Master of Orion (turn based).. but it wasn’t.. i’m not good at rts ;)

  9. Vimes says:

    Guess you never googled MMORTS then…… try it seriously.

    *sigh*

  10. MrMike96 says:

    MMOG-RTS that I play since 2004, is found at http://www.mankind.net
    its a C & C style game on ground and like flying Starcraft in space.
    Check it out… the site is little dull but there you see the graphx n stuff

    Its pay2play, but since its unlimited units and 24/7 its cool that way.

    The community is ok, imho.

    Only drawback is the initial development phase until the higher tech’s,
    it will take a while. (~3 months) Check the development tree.

    Still the game is great. (the only one of that kind I know out there)

    …. for those that want something ‘long lasting’ and with huge strategy demand.

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