Don't switch to realtime (for ever) Keith!

Real time has the advantage that the player has to decide how much time they can afford to spend on making decisions, adding more depth. However, they are in danger of becoming partial execution contests rather than strategy games. Meanwhile, turn based games eliminate issues of execution, but in losing the time constraints also enable the player to over-calculate their moves.

I feel like there's a much subtler argument in favour of turn-based games. Turns seem to have the potential to make "time" a more tightly managed resource than in real-time games... OK, it's true that real-time games also impose time constraints. But those seem to me qualitatively different sorts of time constraints. Perhaps it's just because in a turn-based game, the player has the ability to more closely measure what their time constraints are, opening up higher-risk strategies and better informing the context even for lower-risk strategies. In real time, without the ability to closely measure the degree of the time constraints involved with different options, the player tends more to be pushed down the lower-risk path, since the higher-risk option may - as far as they know - be in fact intolerably risky.

An example of the former: a player of chess notices a sequence of moves which could checkmate the opponent's king, but, if this sequence were to be interrupted, would potentially leave their most valuable pieces exposed and could let the opponent's king survive. They can choose between this and another option they see to expand their control of the board, which has plenty of room for diversions in the middle of the plan. They have the information they need to call upon their learned experience to make a decision.

An example of the latter: a player of some RTS sees an opportunity to lure a significant part of the opponent's forces into a trap, however, their troops would have to move at top speed to make it work. If any of their units were held back much, the plan would fail. Or they could go for a frontal assault... but by just how much could their troops be delayed by in order for the plan to still work? Without the time to calculate this key piece of information, the player is reluctant to take the risk.

This is just off the top of my head and is obviously full of holes. Anyone seeing a sound argument there somewhere? Meanwhile, I'd love to hear Keith's realisations concerning long arcs which put his preference onto real time.

EDIT: Oops he was talking about economics more than theory there. Oh well


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There's a huge range between "real time" and "button mashy". Under no circumstances would I ever make a game that is button mashy. Any real time game I would make would be extremely low on execution, probably just a little higher than turn based.

Meanwhile, I'd love to hear Keith's realisations concerning long arcs which put his preference onto real time.
So, stuff like output randomness and execution, stuff that noises up/distorts the end-game feedback and breaks the causal chain of events for the game - these are of extreme importance in a small-arc tactical game like Auro. This is because in Auro, the tactical interactions are really all there are, so if those are random, the whole game is just random really.

If you think about a game that has small arcs and long arcs - my new game Escape the Omnochronom is an attempt at this, but I guess you could say something like Civilization counts here too - if there's randomness or execution at the tactical level, it's not as damaging, because there are still the long arcs which aren't directly affected by the randomness (at least, when the randomness/execution is strictly controlled and not super wild).

I'll still make turn based card games. :)
Just thinking around the differences of RT/TB a bit more and I wondered if it would qualify as a RT game if it was basically TB, but the player got more points (or whatever) for playing their moves more quickly. Not a penalty for exceeding some turn timer, but bonuses for quick play like Tetris. It could be those Auro/100 Rogues players who kept playing quickly just naturally assumed quick moves would be higher-scoring.

But anyway I know there's been tons of chat about the pros and cons of RT and TB on the forum in the past so I don't know if it's worth revisiting. But then, maybe it is? People's views do change - despite posting this thread I know I'm more open to realtime ideas than I have been, and it sounds like Keith also is. Plus the general gaming landscape and several more years of new games and new technology probably do cast new light on things. No time like the present to take a fresh look from a different angle.
As someone who's been involved in nothing but turn-based tactics games too, sometimes I get wistful thinking about how realtime games have more room to afford the player causal, tactile twitch experiences, as well as have more room for player skill growth along those dimensions. In many cases there isn't need to abstract away statistics (RPG-style) like accuracy, when "accuracy" itself is simply a descriptor of how the human player interfaces with the game. Being accurate is something you do, not are.

We've seen classic turn-based RPG design leak into genres like FPS and RTS in the past decade or so. Maybe it's time to leak some design principles back the other way? There was an interesting Gamecube-era title called Gladius, which used a timed hit meter to modify damage output from a unit:
. It's fairly simple and honestly probably a bit too easy, but I think it's a good example.
I think of RTS games as resource management games where 'focus' or 'attention' is the major resource. The winner will generally be the player that can force their opponent to abandon strategy in favour of spot-fire fighting tactics. Looking at it that way, you can start to categorize your 'units' or whatever according to how much of your precious focus they require to be effective, and where your focus is best spent overall.
Yes RTS games are a very testing form of mental contest. As you say the players' speed of thought and skill in focusing it efficiently is half the challenge.

I think my main point with realtime vs turn based is how they deliver their value. My preference for turnbased is personal and not really about either being intrinsically better. I don't know whether we all agree in this community any more about it but there used to be a general consensus that the value of strategy games was in the process of *learning* about their systems, and particularly the need for probing and experimentation, because the operation of a system is not obvious just from reading its rules. If this is actually where the value lies, I think it's true that realtime and turnbased games must necessarily deliver it in a slightly different way.

In turnbased games (or more generally those with no RL time constraints on the player), you start a match and play it, and your experimentation and hypothesis-generation can happen *as you play*, because you have the time to do it. Yes you can study ahead of time, but there is no actual need. With a realtime game (one with RL time constraints) you can't really indulge in deep thought *as you play*, so it's necessarily something done outside of actual play time. Form hypotheses offline, test them in-game. All well and good.

I think one way the two approaches differ is in accessibility. Getting better at a realtime game involves mostly thinking about it outside of actually playing it. Certainly for people whose hobby is gaming it's no big deal to do that - they see nothing unusual about discussing games outside of play time. And actually in some ways spliting the theory and action phases makes the whole thing more accessible: Discussing new hypotheses and the current meta provides a huge part of the value of the game, and is open to people who might not even partipate in the play phase at all! And play time can be fast and furious, and attractive to both players and spectators with less interest in the geeky talky part.

Which all sounds great. But for many people - think Candy Crush players, Fortnite players, even Windows Solitaire players, they start a game app and at that point go into game headspace, and when they close the app it's back to real life. Thinking about games outside of playing games is alien to this kind of player. So when it comes to strategy, turnbased (or at least non-time-constrained) play mechanics are a better fit for them IMO in this respect. And also of course there are all the things well covered in the past about the matchplay part of realtime games imposing on RL activities of the player in a way that turnbased ones don't. E.g. you can play an Auro match over the course of a day if you want. Realtime game match play by contrast is a full-on activity.
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