Crate's Grim Dawn Related RTS Project

I wouldn’t and would worry about RTS quite a bit. They are a tricky genre to pin down properly. But i feel like we have been gettin a steady stream of RTS trough the years that all fell flat on their face, since all of them seemed to focus a lot on the competitive multiplayer side quite a lot and left the more numerous casual scene barely any content when it came to map making and campaign.
But boy, as someone who followed a lot of RTS, its such a hard genre to do justice. One wrong thing can make the whole game feel off, be it timing, to unit pathing, to progression trough units, building placement. Its quite the challange you guys are going to tackle.


Who needs more rts games when we have Age of Empires 2?


Indeed! AoE 2 is the best. Or was, until Crate decided to jump into the genre. Btw @medierra, weren’t you a top AoE I player before TQ?


Yes, he was. From an Archon the Wizard stream of early access GD back in 2013 that Medierra took part in:

“I got into the game industry by accident. Back in the day I was playing Age of Empires competitively in college and wasting massive amounts of time and ended up becoming one of the top ranked players, then got an invitation from Ensemble Studios to do some work for them.”

The rest, as they say, is history. :smiley:


Even got mah name in the credits - I actually wasn’t aware of that until I just looked it up now


:smile: Trust you!

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Not sure what this stream of pvp focused RTS has been but I guess I missed it. I’m still playing SC2 and I feel like the only prior RTS really worth playing much were Age and Warcraft. I played a bit of the original Company of Heroes, which was fun but kind of clunky and of questionable balance but the sequel was awful imo. Dawn of War was fun but the squad based style isn’t my favorite. SC2 is the most recent of those and it was released 10 years ago.

Which RTS have flopped by being too pvp focused? The only really pvp focused RTS I can think of is Starcraft, which is also the most successful RTS. I don’t think it is necessarily successful due to the pvp as it also had a pretty involved campaign and my understanding is, similar to ARPG, only around 20% of the audience tends to play mp - it certainly doesn’t seem to have hurt it though. Age wasn’t really very pvp focused, although I think it is second to Starcraft in pvp popularity. I felt like the campaigns in Age 2 were horrible but I guess enough people like them.

I have some experience with RTS, as I did a bunch of the early design work on Empire Earth. Fun side-story - I was not happy with the direction the game went in though and got shitcanned midway through development due to disagreements with the owner, who decided I didn’t know how to game design.

RTS is sensitive to pacing, balance, feel of pathing and other gameplay elements, but I’d say less so than ARPGs, at least for sp, and we managed to do okay at that. I feel like the most challenging part of an RTS is design and balance for pvp, which I think we can manage but, again, it’s also not where I think the bulk of sales come from, and making a solid sp or coop experience seems more straightforward and is not too dissimilar to the demands of an ARPG.

Plus, as much as I love ARPGs, RTS was my first-love and the genre that I’ve probably played the most over the years and which launched my career into game dev.


Oh, so Medierra worked on Empire Earth? That’s cool! EE 1 and 2 were my childhood and EE 2 still has some community around it.

What was your vison of that game by the way? You got shitcanned and stuff so surely it had to be controversional! :scream:

I’d describe it more as a constantly struggle to do the sensible over the controversial.

Time for more “Crazy Stories From Game Dev”:

I was the first designer they hired and they initially tasked me with developing unit relationships and a balancing plan. They showed me a cost formula they’d developed where they planned to just balance every unit based on a gold cost generated by the formula. It was totally stupid. For one thing, the formula just had additive costs for points in speed, damage, range, etc. whereas, in reality, the value of a unit that is ranged and fast is… impossible to calculate vs. a slow melee unit, since you could potentially kite it until dead without taking any damage. At the very least, the value of range and speed is probably multiplicative. Really though, things just need to be balanced in the context of everything else going on in the game / via counter units, etc. I feel that balancing such a complex mix of units and economy relies on some number crunching but also a degree of intuition based experience in understanding how players will try to exploit those units. They debated this with me for a couple weeks, where I kept saying “if this is what you really want, you’re paying me - tell me and ill just do it the way you want”. But they wanted me to “believe in the plan” so we kept debating about it until finally Rick Goodman, the owner, said “we’ve come to realize you may be right about the cost formula, but if we don’t use it, it will invalidate the time we invested in creating it”… so basically, they still wanted to use it after acknowledging it was broken.

In another incident, Rick decided he didn’t want any sort of collection sites in the game (cuz reasons), just a town center and to build a second town center, you’d have to sacrifice 50 villagers. So basically all your villagers would be constantly pathing long distances across the map, back and forth through your town to harvest and drop off resources. No one would ever make a second town center because sacrificing 50 workers mid-game would be nuts - you’d have lost the game due to the huge economic drop before it ever had time to pay off.

Another huge debate, which is probably the one that ended my career at Stainless Steel, was over whether priests and prophets should be different units. Rick, for whatever reason, was adamant they should be one unit, that could convert enemy units and also cast calamities, based on the same power resource. I felt like that would be difficult to cost out and balance on one unit. We had a group discussion about it and, on that day, reps from our publisher happened to be present and decided to sit in on the design meeting. In the end, Rick put it up to a vote, I think assuming everyone would side with him but everyone, including all the publisher reps, voted to go with my proposal. Rick flipped out and told me he wanted it redesigned anyway and stormed off.

In the weeks following, I’d propose things and Rick would shoot them down, then he’d propose something almost identical a few days later. People started making jokes about it. I was fired a short time later and told, despite being a former top RTS player, that I did not even grasp the fundamentals of RTS game mechanics.

You’ll note, in all the examples above, the game shipped with the designs I proposed.

To give Rick some credit, he did apologize to me years later.

There were other things too though, like slow turning and acceleration on unit movement and other stuff I felt made the game just feel clunky. I never played the final game though as I was kind of soured on it from my experience and I’d moved on to Titan Quest by then.


Come to think of. An RTS PVP game like banished / frontier here coupled with MOBA mechanics would be cool. You play against other players. And when you get people armed and trained, send them to the other town. So there are roads that take time to travel to other towns. Like sending 10 soldiers without mounts could take 3 ingame days. If the other player sends forces through the same road, they meet and fight on the way to eachother’s town. Like you can choose to send them, say, through a dirt road, a mountain pass, or the forest.

So player A sends 5 cavalry men down the dirt road. 10 soldiers through the forest.
Player B sends 8 soldiers through the mountain pass, 4 archers 2 soldiers on the dirt road.
Player A’s city is now attacked by 8 soldiers (no opposing force met)
Player A and B’s cities are now attacked by the survivors of the units they sent.

This could work as a town building main game, with a very slow paced MOBA on the other spectrum. So that the pay-off of your long planned, long built city, is rewarded by spoils from raids sent.

People could build purely defensively, balanced or offensively. Like focusing hard on military and training but not on watchtowers and ditches as town defenses.

Sorry everyone I’m just thinking loud here. Town builders, MOBAs and RTS games are some of my favorites. There has to be a way to marry them together in harmony.

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That’s interesting… And kinda sad. EE could have been better.
Even if they just removed unit acceleration, I hate this stuff in any game (even GD :confused: ). In rts games specially it’s just too clunky to be present I think. It was the reason why I stopped playing Supreme Commander after the first mission. :man_facepalming:

Also it seems to be similar to your work on TQ huh? I remember you were saying that many mechanics were cut so even grandmas would understand it, no human enemies, no blood etc.

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Talk about doubling down on the sunk cost fallacy.

Oh yea, my bad. I said stream, it was more of a trickle. I was thinking more specifically about CoH2 Grey goo and DoW 3 for the pvp or rather multiplayer focus. Especially what i heard from friends who are more intimately involved with CoH there were some big disconnects especially with the “pro” scene.
And DoW 3 wanted to be everything a hero centric RTS, took ideas from mobas, but with heavy multiplayer focus, while still keeping the base building from DoW 1 with squishy units from DoW 2, and ended up alienating everyone.
Grey goo was fun, but just unfortunate, and it seemed to struggle with polish, and just felt off in many ways. Tho with the focus on multiplayer they did have a nice ui that took a lot of inspiration from SC.
And now it seems there is another new rts on the horizon called Immortal: Gates of Pyre also intends to target the HC Multiplayer market, which seems kind of like suicide to me. Since you will have to pry players away from SC, and compete directly with activision.

I did not know you worked on Empire Earth tho, who would have thought. Well at least you have proven them wrong on the game design part.

SC has surprisingly a lot of single player and co op content. Which probably keeps people around for some occasional multiplayer. And definitely aoe2 was far from multiplayer focuse, but funnily enough it was what kept the game alive till today.

And as a bit of a ramble, i did start a playtrough of cnc tib sun a few days ago, darn that game still holds up, and the live action videos are so cheesy. It was the game that made me fall in love with the genre. And i doubt i stepped into multiplayer rts untill brood war. So yea, as long as the games offered enough single player content and a decent map maker, they lasted a long time for me.


In concept it sounds very cool, in practice I think it would be very hard to make work because of the complexity of town-builder economy and the time it takes to develop a town. I mean, in an pvp RTS or Moba, you kind of want shorter avg times to play through a match - like under 45m ideally. You wouldn’t want a town builder where it only takes 45m to develop an end-game town.

If the game took place over days, the audience for pvp would be incredibly small as you’d probably only really be able to play with friends, where you could play a bit each night. Then imagine losing a 40 hours pvp town builder match lol…


Haha good memory. Yeah the grandma thing… way to hamstring the game to make it accessible to an audience that will never buy it.

I had to fight against things like turning speed / animations in TQ but we still ended up with some degree of it. That’s one of the first things I stripped out in GD. There is no acceleration in GD but it could sometimes feel like it if input / pathing calculations are happening a bit too slow on your machine. It’s amazing sometimes how people can feel almost imperceptible differences of a fraction of a second. But yeah, that’s something that is definitely more critical in an RTS and part of the reason we’re developing a new engine.

Another good one - On TQ I was also told the game couldn’t have side-quests because it made no sense to stop and do something less critical when the world itself was in peril. I mean, yeah, according to hard logic, that’s true - but its a game and people love side-quests. The funny thing is, I got around be saying “okay, forget side quests but what if, instead, we had something called “rumors” you could hear about from NPCs and then decide to do or not.”


Oh man, turn rates and acceleration. Honestly, not such a bad thing. But ooooh boy you need a darn good reason to slap them on a unit or anything in an rts. People will feel these things even if its such minor turn rate that you have to measure it in miliseconds.
For example where it makes sense, is in some mobas. Give strong ranged heroes a tiny ammount of turn rate, just so it prevents them from shoting, backing off shooting again and with this effectively kiting every single melee hero. In this case it makes sense, or on an increadibly powerfull endgame unit that is an army in itself. But if everything has to struggle with turn rates and acceleration, the game just feels completely off and to some people it even looks like input delay.
In essence, turn rates and acceleration on units is a tool, neither bad nor good, but should still be used sparingly.

Also as someone who played a lot of mobas, to the people who want to put moba mechanics into everything. You need to know why its in the moba in the first place. Just copying a mechanic that is connected to severall others and putting it into a different enviroment won’t work. Games like dota, league, hon, aos, etc. all struck a very fine balance, and at times even a small change in a patch would have catastrophic consequences. So you really need to think about mechanics in a multiplayer game before you implement them.

Yeah, I’m not totally against turn rates / acceleration, it just has a time and place, and needs to be finely turned.

It was really exaggerated in EE, when I was working on it. What really drove me nuts though is you’d click for a unit, like artillery, to move to a certain spot, but instead, it would over-shoot the mark as it took time to decelerate. Not being able to precisely control where units stop in an RTS - gtfo


Gulp, would make sense as I barely run GD. 20 fps gang!

Okay, TQ as a game would be doomed if we didn’t have “THE NECKLACE? OOOOOOOHHHH” quest, real talk. :rofl:


WHAAAT. Ok acceleration i get. But deceleration? That sounds just horrid. Sounds like all the units would feel like they would be skating on ice.

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Damn. Spot on with the time issue here. I can’t think of a way to fix that from the top of my head >.<

Though I still can’t shake the desire for a town builder + RTS + Moba. I had what I thought was an amazing idea for one as a boardgame once. But found out during playtesting the prototype, that it would have to be made digitally because the physical version would be too time consuming. Still have some of the artwork and cards: Cards

Can I send a video pitch of the idea to you Medierra or do you have games planned 20 years down the line?

Edit: Damn why did I give up on this… Updated card I’m gonna get back to working on it.