Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Birth of the First Real-Time Strategy Game

I happened to look at the trivia section for Dune II on Moby Games. I found the following entry:
This game is commonly called "the first real-time strategy game", but that designation is incorrect. Dune 2 borrowed many elements from a previous Westwood release, Battletech: The Crescent Hawk's Revenge. And thatgame borrowed elements from what is probably the first true game in the typical "RTS" genre, The Ancient Art of War.
This is all false. I was an artist and designer on Battletech: The Cresent Hawk's Revenge and its predecessor Battletech: The Cresent Hawk's Inception. I must, somewhat embarrassingly, admit that I never played The Ancient Art of War though I heard it was a very good game. I could also point out that some of Westwood's earliest projects were converting SSI's games to the Amiga and Atari ST. But the point that this guy doesn't seem to understand, and made funny by this comment of "typical RTS" was that those were all "turn-based" strategy (TBS) games. Dune II was the first "real-time" strategy (RTS) game. Maybe he just never knew what R.T.S stood for.

I don't have the text of my update and it is pending approval on Moby Games. When they approve or reject it I'll get an email where I'll have access to the text of it again. I'll post it here when they do.

I figured since I was at it I would also share some other information on the game's history.

French developer Cryo Interactive was developing a Dune game for Virgin Interactive, but it wasn't going anywhere. Not wanting to waste the Dune license, Virgin gave the game to Westwood, who they had just acquired. This is circa 1992 and when Westwood change from Westwood Associates to Westwood Studios. Virgin was planning on canceling the Cryo game, but instead one of their producers flew out to France and got things going again and did. Virgin soon found they had two Dune games, though they were quite different. Cryo’s Dune is more of an adventure game that basically followed the story of the first book/movie. Westwood’s Dune was the first Real-Time Strategy game. Cryo finished their game first and it was released first, hence this game being Dune II.

Westwood wanted to just call the game, Dune: The Battle for Arrakis, but Virgin’s American marketing department insisted on calling it “Dune II” and they didn’t like the sub-title, “Battle for Arrakis” because they thought it made the game sound too much like one of those slow and boring, turn-based, strategy games that were dying out at the time. It should also be noted that some of Westwood’s first products were porting SSI’s turn-based strategy games onto the Atari ST and Amiga. Virgin wanted to emphasize the building and development aspect of the Dune II, so it would appeal to people who liked games such as the then popular: Populous and Civilization, two of the three games that inspired the gameplay in Dune II by the way. The third game that inspired Dune II was the Sega Genesis game, Herzog Zwei.

Later when Virgin’s European office was given the game to market in their territories, without knowing anything of the previous argument, renamed it, “Dune: The Battle for Arrakis.”

1 comment:

Dave Rickey said...

I remember Crescent Hawk's Revenge as being turn-based with some RTS features (such as fire support), not truly RTS. Harpoon or Command HQ seem like better candidates for "First RTS".

I seem to recall that you could control the RTS features in CHR, so I may just be remembering playing it with most of them turned off (because in real-time enemy fire was way too intense).