GameSurge Mainpage Find out more about us GameSurge community pages GameSurge hosting information Game news from around the web. To the GameSurge Mainpage To the Computers Mainpage To the Home Console Mainpage To the Arcade Mainpage To the Strategies Mainpage To the Features Mainpage
To the Home page
News, and the latest updates.
Stories from the past...
Submit News
Got a item of interest? Here's the place to go.
Your opinion always counts on how we can make GameSurge even better.
Comments on our features, by you, the viewers.
To computer site map
Tweaks, reviews and a handy driver index highlight our newest section
Looking to buy one of the hottest games? We have it covered.
Get a advanced look at the games of tomorrow.
Find out more about the people behind your favorite game.
Need Help? We have a very large selection of walkthroughs now up.
A special section featuring the best in artwork and images.
To Features site map
The written word, by staff and viewers.
Game Guy
A bi-monthly column contributed by Mark H Walker, an independant writer in the Gaming community.
Pictures from around the web.
Our current hosting plans and features.
Site Information
Who we are, what we do, our policies and job positions.
To Strategy site map
Strategy Index Guide
The resource for the best articles for the best games. Now with support over 55 games
Strategy Menu
  • Arcade/Pinball
  • Dreamcast
  • Files
  • GameBoy
  • GameGear
  • Genesis
  • N64
  • PC
  • PlayStation
  • Strategy Indexes
  • To Console site map
    The Sony PlayStation, and beyond...
    Nintendo 64
    Currently Down.
    The Dreamcast resource, and more. Home of the DC Technical pages.

    To the Features MainpageTo the EditorialsTo the Gallery MainpageGameSurge information pagetO To the Arcade MainpageTo Pinball menuTo Arcade games Menu

    GameGuy: The ďTurn-by-TurnĒ Edition

    By Mark H. Walker

    Let's dispense with the usual snappy beginnings and get right to the point. After all, this is a serious issue. What we are discussing is no less than the demise of a genre. A genre whose early years helped to define computer gaming, but one that has lately fallen --with a couple of notable exceptions-- into financial doldrums. The genre in question is turn-based strategy, and to believe some pundits you would think that these games are on their last leg.

    I don't buy it.

    I know that there is room for improvement, switches to be thrown, concepts to be matured, and corners to be turned in order to clear a place for turn-based strategy in our gaming future, but that's nothing new. Five years ago RPGs were on the road to an early grave. Now both the Baldur's Gate and Diablo series have sold over a million copies, and Dungeon Siege hasnít lost any money either. But what will it take to throw turn-based strategy's switches? Two words: Innovation and immersion.

    In a sense, innovation is a no-brainer, but with turn-based strategy innovation takes on a multitude of faces. Face one is a new sell-through model.

    Turn-based strategy, and its cousin turn-based wargaming, do not (Civilization- and Heroes of Might and Magic type games excepted) appeal to a wide segment of the gaming population. For example, Talonsoft's critically acclaimed Rising Sun didnít even sell 100,000 units, yet Dungeon Siege seems destined to sell well over one half-million copies. Accordingly it's hard for turn-based strategy developers/publishers to buy shelf space in your mall's Babbages. But that's okay, I say that they should quit trying.

    The Internet is a store tailor-made for niche publishing. A wargame need not compete with The Operative: No One Lives Forever for a hot end cap position on the Internet; there is plenty of room for everyone. Yes, the sales will be lower, but so are the expenses. The 'net cuts out the middleman, reduces overhead and eliminates buybacks. In short, a developer makes much more per unit, so they can live with selling fewer units --a scenario tailor made to this genre's lower volume sales.

    The second face of innovation is topic. Turn-based strategy has long been the enclave of world domination games such as Civilization, Alpha Centauri, and Imperialism, fantasy games such as Etherlords, Disciples, and Heroes of Might and Magic, galactic conquest games such as Reach for the Stars and Space Empires IV, and wargames such as Panzer General, The Operational Art of War, and Combat Mission. Yes, there are exceptions; Armies of Armageddon, Age of Wonders, Odium, X-Com: UFO Defense, Incubation, and Missionforce: Cyberstorm come immediately to mind --although nearly all of those have a wargame heart beating under their science fiction or fantasy skin. Although each enclave has been enjoyable in its own time, to grow the genre, turn-based strategy needs to branch out.

    Incubation, X-Com, and their ilk, have done their share of branching, and at least in X-Com's case, been financially rewarded for going out on their gaming limb. On the other hand, I nearly cried when I discovered that Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord (my nomination for that dubious "Game of the Year" title), will visit World War II's Russian front in its sequel. Iíve since gotten over myself Ėin fact, Iím writing the Combat Mission 2 strategy guide.

    My point is that there will always be a given segment that will buy East Front wargames, Civilization games and galactic conquest games, but it's a diminishing segment. Folks tire of the same old wine in a graphically new bottle. Let's be different. How about a game on gang wars, evolution, or one depicting the famous science fiction armored mercenaries, Hammer's Slammer's saga? I don't know. Nevertheless, although I'm not sure what the next big turn-based strategy game will be, I'm sure it won't be a galactic conquest game with mind-numbing minutia, or a Civilization clone (unless Sid Meiers designs it and then all bets are off).

    Innovation's third face is the game engine itself. Many turn-based games are simple "I-move-then-you-move" affairs. The system works well, and it's one that I often enjoy. But to pull in new gamers, developers must design new, innovative takes on turn-based gaming. Combat Mission's turn-based simultaneous resolution is one of the best examples, as was Semper Fi's phased activation, and as I've said before, Squaresofts' Active Time Battle (ATB) system, is just begging for a strategy game adaptation.

    That brings us to the second word... immersion. People want to live inside their games. They want to be blinded when lasers flash and smell gunpowder when muskets fire. They want to brag to fellow gamers of their troop's heroic deeds and grimace when they die in battle. One of the best ways to immerse people is by making them care, and one of the best ways to do that is blending strategy with RPG. The original Panzer General gave us the first taste of that RPG/strategy formula and it went on to sell gobs of games.

    Sound and graphics --when employed properly-- are another immerser (sic). That doesn't mean slapping some 3D models on a hex grid, as Talonsoft did with The Operational Art of War, but rather using a computer's capabilities to create that "you are there" feeling. Again, Combat Mission's 3D graphics put you at ground zero, wondering when that Tiger tank will crest the ridge and lay its gun on your puny Wolverine tank destroyer. But Combat Mission isn't alone, long before its release, Incubation's 3D polygonal monsters were enough to give pause to all but the most jaded gamer.

    And that, in a sentence, is what turn-based strategy games need to do --give pause. They need to shake up what has come before in order to survive. Part of that shaking is adapting a new sales model, part is learning to innovate through topic and engine, and part is devising new ways to immerse gamers in their games. If developers/publishers can do that the genre will not only survive, but also thrive. Otherwise one of our pastime's oldest genre may bite the dust.

    © Mark H. Walker, LLC 2001

    Mark H. Walker is a veteran interactive entertainment journalist who has written over 40 books including his recently released Medal of Honor and Wizardry 8 strategy guides

    " "

    To Reviews Mainpage
    Zalman: ZM-DS4F Headphones

    An affordable, ultra-portable headphone set.

    To Previews Mainpage


    » Contact Us » Top » Homepage

    All HTML coding are original and © GameSurge.
    Original Graphics and layout are copyright © of P.D.Sanderson and shivaSite Designs.
    No part of this site may be reproduced without prior consent.
    Site best viewed with I.E./NS 4+.
    Resolution is 1024x768 + / 16 bit+ color recommended
    Designed by shivaSite