Announcement - Valve
Play all Total War Titles FOR FREE now until 1pm pacific on Sunday!

Also save 33% to 75% off until Monday at 10am Pacific!

Announcement - Valve
Save 75% on Total War Titles as part of this week's Weekend Deal*!

Plus, play Total War: Rome II for FREE until Sunday at 1pm Pacific.

If you already have Steam installed, click here to install or play. If you don't have Steam, you can download it here.

*Offer ends Monday at 10AM Pacific Time. No discount on Total War: Rome II.
Announcement - Valve
Save 50 to 75%* on Total War Titles and master history during the Total War Week!

Steam Trading Cards Now Available for Medieval, Empire, Napoleon, and Rome.

Plus, pre-purchase Total War: Rome II and receive the laurel wreath in Team Fortress 2. Wearing the laurel wreath unlocks a special "Romebot" invasion in Mann vs Machine mode.

*No discount on pre-purchase titles. Offer ends August 26th at 10am pacific.
PC Gamer
is rts genre dying?

Last week, Ironclad Games’ director and co-owner Blair Fraser called the RTS genre “a dying market.” The genre convention of base building is “done,” Fraser says, and while a handful of games like Company of Heroes “may be profitable,” it’s his belief that RTSes are “very niche.”

Hearing these comments from a strategy studio we respect sparked our own discussion: what’s the state of real-time strategy? In this Face Off debate, T.J. and Evan talk about the health of the genre, and debate whether its popularity has waned to never return, or if it’s actually seeing a resurgence.

Jump over to the next page for more opinions from the PC Gamer community, and make your own arguments in the comments. Debate team captains: construct additional arguments.

Evan: Let’s be clear: this isn’t something that I or we are rooting for. We love RTSes. Command & Conquer was one of my formative games. But the decline of real-time strategy as a popular experience is indisputable. RTS has shrank from the smorgasbord of experiences it offered in the ‘90s and early ‘00s—the era of Warcraft, Age of Empires, Ground Control, Homeworld, and Total Annihilation. I don’t think there’s any hope for a comeback.

TJ: Oh ye of little faith. Well, I’m sure you expected I’d play the eSports card. So... bam! There it is, on the table. All of the most popular eSports are either traditional RTSes, or spins on traditional RTSes. Competitive strategy gaming is drawing millions of viewers in hundreds of countries. How can you say a genre that’s driving that kind of revolution is dying? It looks vibrant and energetic from where I’m sitting.

Evan: The eSports “revolution” you’re describing can be attributed to the increased access to fast, high-quality internet video. eSports is in a better state than it was in the age of DSL and dial-up, sure, but StarCraft is the only conventional RTS with any success as an eSport.

TJ: So far. We’re only two and a half years in. That’s like saying sports were dead back when all they had was Throw the Rock Through the Hoop.

Evan: I’m glad to see eSports doing as well as it is. But really, this is about what we play and pay for, not about what we spectate. It’s about how few games are being made in a genre we used to count as a pillar of PC gaming. Most RTS studios are either closing or scrambling to change their core competency. Relic released a shooter in 2011. Petroglyph laid off 19 people in December and saw its game, End of Nations, brought in-house by its publisher. Sins of a Dark Age, which was initially pitched as an RTS-meets-MOBA, just ditched a “Commander Mode” RTS component that seemed promising. And Gas Powered Games, after declaring that it’d stop adding new content to Age of Empires Online, and after laying off most of its employees, is clinging to a Kickstarter campaign that seems doomed.

I don’t want to see any of these studios shuttered. We need independent, creative groups like Gas Powered in the industry. But this is simply not a healthy genre. Real-time strategy doesn’t have enough fans to support it.

TJ: I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I would be really, genuinely surprised if there were actually fewer total people playing RTS than in the days of WarCraft III. Gaming, and even PC gaming specifically, have only gained traction since then. Huge traction. I think the fans are definitely there. If anything is dying, it’s the idea that RTSes should be given the same treatment, as shooters or action games, whose audiences have grown faster.

If anything, not enough devs have caught on to how you make and market an RTS in the modern market. You don’t spend Call of Duty money on an these things. And that’s hardly a stubborn enough problem that it would leave us without “any hope for a comeback.”

Evan: Not enough devs have “caught on” because it’s such a challenge for an RTS to make the money of a modern budget back. Again, look at Age of Empires Online. Its parent games were beloved and immensely popular. It reinvented itself as a free game. Gas Powered abandoned it just eight months after release. Very few people are playing it.

Should base-building be retired as a game mechanic? Will Kickstarter allow more studios to market RTS games directly to the people that want them?

TJ: I pin the failure of AOEO on a weak launch. There just wasn’t enough content—and only two factions? Really? If it had launched as the fleshed-out experience it became, I think it would have had a lot more success. Once the gaming masses have decided your game is lackluster, there’s not a lot you can do to bring them back.

Evan: I don’t know... if a free Age of Empires can’t make it, what chance do lesser-knowns like End of Nations have of surviving? I expect a similar fate for the next Command & Conquer, which will also be free to play. Face it: all the recent experiments with RTS have failed.

TJ: So did all the experimentations with human flight for hundreds of years. And they’ve only failed if your definition is pretty narrow.

Evan: This isn’t science—it’s business, and consumers continue to leave the genre. I think a lot of those people are flocking to a genre that was originally a spin-off of Warcraft III. Dota 2 and League of Legends are more popular and successful than StarCraft because designers realized that most people are intimidated by base building and managing a whole army.

TJ: Most people don’t play PC games (in the core audience sense) in the first place. What I’m saying is that RTS is a niche, but it’s no smaller of a niche, in terms of number of players, than it was in the glory days when it represented a higher percentage, because there just weren’t as many gamers. And if you want to talk about consumers expressing themselves, look no further than the 2.2-million-dollar Planetary Annihilation Kickstarter. That’s about as RTS as RTS gets, and it shows that there’s still plenty of vitality in the space beyond the traditional model of publishers bent on spending more than they can make back on these types of games.

Evan: Planetary Annihilation looks terrific! Like any rational human, I’m looking forward to weaponizing asteroids. But Planetary’s “success” is still just 44,000 people. Compare that to another recent spiritual successor made by another small studio—MechWarrior Online, which made 5 million dollars through its pre-order program. Mech games aren’t exactly mainstream—publishers have been afraid to back them for a decade.

Calling RTS a niche is accurate, I guess. But compared to the “glory days,” as you’ve labeled them, I think the genre as it exists now is a clump of lifeboats that’ve escaped from the capsized Titanic.

TJ: You’re comparing apples to robots here. Pre-orders and Kickstarter aren’t necessarily the same thing. I’m not arguing that RTS is as lucrative a genre as, say, shooters or action games. But there are plenty of people on those lifeboats to start a thriving island society. Which is arguably what PC gaming is: a series of thriving, passionate communities.

Evan: Perhaps that island society of yours can gather enough resources to build a second base, tech up, then construct air units. I hope they won’t have to resort to cannibalism.

For more opinions on PC gaming, follow Evan, T.J., and PC Gamer on Twitter. On the next page: more opinions from the community.

Here’s what folks on Twitter wrote back when we asked the following:

@pcgamer no way its dead. It's the best genre by far and the crowning area of pc dominance.— Hilander (@Canisrah) February 4, 2013

@pcgamer We may never see another Age of Empires, but we have Planetary Annihilation, CoH, DoW, SC, and MOBAs. Gimme Homeworld 3!— Josh B (@Branstetter87) February 4, 2013

@pcgamer not dead, but shrinking. By listening too intently to the hardcore crowd, fun simplicity has become overwhelming complexity.— Ryan Aleson (@TacticalGenius) February 5, 2013

@pcgamer RTS genre is alive more than in past, just look at Planetary Annihilation – one of the most funded games on Kickstarter!— Adam Wayland (@AdamWayland86) February 6, 2013

@pcgamer It is a genre in decline in terms of IPs and also game scale. Dying not necessarily but more like small and established.— Alexander Lai(@Lex_Lai) February 4, 2013

@pcgamer It's dying because of the repetitive formulas that every new game has. It's like the state of MMOs, no MMORPG can compete with WoW.— Jesús Jiménez-Lara (@MrVariaZ) February 4, 2013

@pcgamer RTS is not a dying market. It is, was and always will be a niche market. Some people them but most people hate them— Chris Thieblot (@christhieblot) February 5, 2013

@pcgamer Single player games are dying, RTSes are dying, adventure games are dying... nobody tell Valve, Uber, or Telltale!— Jacob Dieffenbach (@dieffenbachj) February 4, 2013

@pcgamer Traditional RTS games translate poorly to consoles, and few devs making PC exclusives outside major franchises.— Eric Watson (@RogueWatson) February 5, 2013

@pcgamer I love my rts games. There the first games I ever played and I don't plan on stopping any time soon.— Scott Ratter (@napatakking) February 5, 2013
PC Gamer
Total War Rome 2 shocked Roman

Total War: Rome 2 soldiers are made up of between 6000 and 7000 polygons lead designer, James Russell, explained recently at the Eurogamer Expo. Artillery projectiles in Rome 2 are made up of more polygons then a Rome 1 soldier has. If you put enough polygons into these characters and layer on enough AI subroutines than there's always a danger that one of your chaps can become sentient and kick his way out of the matrix. Luckily for humanity this soldier is having his existential crisis in front of a team of rampaging war elephants, one of the top five worst situations in which to have an existential crisis. See his predicament in more detail in the screenshots below.

Announcement - Valve
In celebration of the new Steam Workshop for Total War: Shogun 2, save 25% off the entire Total War Franchise and even bigger saving on select Total War titles each day, now through October 1st at 10am Pacific Time.

Today only, save 75% off Napoleon: Total War and Empire: Total War. Owners of these two titles will also receive the Stovepipe Shako for the Sniper and Foppish Physician for the Medic in Team Fortress 2 and the Imperial Tricorne in Spiral Knights.

Check out the Total War Master Collection for even bigger savings and a collection of Total War inspired items to use in Team Fortress 2 and Spiral Knights!

Total War: Shogun 2 Workshop
A thousand battles, a thousand victories, but are they yours?
Create, discover and download historical battle scenarios, multiplayer maps and the most popular and accomplished mods. Or try out Total War TEd editor to create and upload your own.

The "best Total War yet" just got better. Today The Creative Assembly has launched the Total War™: SHOGUN 2 Assembly Kit; a suite of tools that enables ground-up modification of the entire Total War™: SHOGUN 2 product family. This release also includes an update to TEd (the existing Battle Map Editor), which enables Steam Workshop integration and the ability to create scripted single-player historical battles. A sample historical battle, custom-built by The Creative Assembly, is available now on Steam to give new modders a convenient starting point.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for more great deals and special offers.

PC Gamer
Total War Shogun 2 Saints and Heroes musket men

Accounts of this week's Creative Assembly mod summit have been hitting Total War community forums, with word of Steam Workshop support for Total War: Shogun 2 and plans for an upgraded set of CA-developed mod tools that will let modders tweak campaign and model files.

The creator of The Great War mod, "Mitch," posted a detailed account of the meeting, in which some of the most prolific Total War modders in the world got to meet top CA talent like Shogun 2 lead designer Jamie Ferguson. According to Mitch, the presentation revealed that "there will be Steam Workshop intergration" for Shogun 2. "People will be able to create and upload their own historical battles and have others download them."

There's also mention of new model conversion software and a "campaign reprocessor" that will let tweakers "edit the most desired areas of modding, the campaign and the models."

You can read the full account of the day at the TWCenter forums. The Creative Assembly kickstarted their program to support modders earlier this year with the release of the free Shogun 2 map editor.
PC Gamer
Rome 2

Ouch! I've never seen someone get crushed with the head of a massive statue before, but this is WAR. The new Rome 2 trailer shows the first in-engine footage of the siege of Carthage. Legions of troops pour onto the beaches, wash into the streets and break against the grey, craggy fury of an elephant charge. It's a short teaser for a longer fly-through video of the siege that The Creative Assembly are keeping locked safely away in their trailer Trireme, but it offers a heady glimpse of the updated engine. Don't let me keep you. The video is right here ready to go.

PC Gamer
Darthmod Shogun 2

Nick "Darth Vader" Thomadis has announced that there won't be any more follow ups to the popular Darthmod series of mods for Total War after receiving no invite to The Creative Assembly's upcoming modders' summit. "There will be some support for older games, if needed, as all my mods are complete now but there will be not a new DarthMod for new Total War games and of course not for the upcoming RTW2," said Thomadis on Facebook.

"Do not worry about the future of the current DarthMods. They will stay and will be probably somewhat more improved. Maybe now I will have more time to play them."

The Empire, Napoleon and Shogun 2 versions of Darthmod offer some of the most comprehensive player-made updates to Total War games in recent years. They've gained a reputation for being ruthless, difficult and beautiful. Dozens of collaborators have updated each edition with layers of audio, visual and AI updates, making Darthmod a go-to choice for players looking for extra challenge from Total War. Thomadis mentions that Darthmod for Shogun 2 has amassed quarter of a million downloads since its release in March.

If you fancy trying Darthmod out, Moddb has the latest versions of the Darthmod updates for Shogun 2, Empire: Total War and Napoleon.
PC Gamer
Total War Battles Shogun

If you don't have an iOS device, you may not have heard of The Creative Assembly's mobile take on Total War. How on Earth do you fit the scale and spectacle of a Total War campaign onto a smartphone? Well, you can't, so Total War Battles tries to offer an entirely different take. It merges building and combat onto battlefields overlaid by grids of hexes. You can channel your troops down lanes drawn across the map and harvest resources with structures placed nearby. It's designed to be quick and easy to jump into, two qualities that Total War titles have traditionally lacked.

Sega's blurb boasts a ten hour campaign with bonus challenge missions. The visuals have been spruced up for the big screen and the PC version will come with bonus concept art showing off TWB's loud, colourful style.

Total War Battles is available now on Steam for $7.99 / £4.99 / EUR 9.99. Find out more on the Total War Battles site, and get a feel for how it plays in this here trailer:


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