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Strategy Gaming: Part I -- A Primer
Strategy Gaming: You've Come a Long Way, Baby
By - Mark H. Walker

Strategy is a mainstay of computer gaming. From Civilization to Empire Earth, gamers have long plopped down their bucks for a chance to better Napoleon, mine Tiberium, or ride with Joan of Arc. This week we are going to take a look at strategy gaming with prolific strategy guide author and long time strategy game buff, Mark H. Walker. Mark will look at the history of both real-time and turn based strategy, compare the two, and provide some insight as to what our strategy future holds. We start with part one of the history of real-time strategy.

Real-Time Strategy: A Primer

Much like the Eveready Bunny, real-time strategy just keeps on going. Established in the early 90s, the genre has exploded in the past twelve years, becoming one of the most popular gaming mediums on the computer. There's no questioning the genre's current popularity, but to better understand it let's take a step back in time.

Perhaps the first widely distributed real-time strategy game was Command HQ. Released in 1990 to critical acclaim and solid sales, this Dani Bunten (M.U.L.E., Heart of Africa) designed game was a real-time contest centered on global conquest. Gamers controlled division-like formations of armor, infantry, and naval task forces as they attempted to smash their opponent and control the globe. The game was lite on the resource management -- you needed to only control enough oil to power your armies -- but an absorbing strategy game nonetheless. Sales were strong enough to warrant a sequel. Titled Global Conquest, it picked of where the original left off and added networked multiplayer gaming.

Next batter in the real-time lineup was Star Legions. The game -- and I'm not making this up -- is still on my computer and one heck of a good time. Mark Baldwin, creator of the Empire and Perfect General franchises, designed the title, and hit upon a rare blend of strategy and real-time thrill that few games have duplicated. Players gamed the part of a Krellan commander who was intent on conquering the galaxy. Each planet had to be conquered by dropping shock troops to fight off hordes of natives and construct spaceports for the heavier follow-on forces. Great stress, great fun.

Real Real-Time Strategy

Dune II
Nevertheless despite the fun factor of both Command HQ and Star Legions, neither impacted the genre as Dune II did. "I feel that Dune II was the mother of the 'modern' RTS genre," says Rob Pardo, Warcraft III's producer. "Most RTS games today can find many of their design roots in this game."

Released in 1992, Dune II mated disparate elements of gaming into a real-time ball of adrenalized strategy. Action gamers loved it, strategy gamers loved it, and the press loved it. Although Dune II wasn't the first real-time strategy game on the market, it was the first to incorporate the exciting gather, build, and conquer formula that would make the genre great. Furthermore infusing the game with the men and machines of one of science fictions' most famous universes didn't hurt.

Next: Close, but no cigar...

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