Owen Sound Sun Times (On)
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Two weeks ago I ran through what makes a role-playing game. This week I’ll start with another popular type of game, especially for PC gamers.
Strategy games are video game extensions of board games like “Risk.” They involve large-scale control of bases and units, military or otherwise.
Strategy games traditionally focus on gathering resources which are then used to build parts of your base and all your units until you can launch an attack to crush your opposition. There are three main types of strategy games:
Turn-based strategy: Turn-based strategy games most closely resemble Risk-style board games. Each player’s actions are divided into turns and the time taken to build units is measured in turns, not actual game time. These games also generally take place on a grid, so movement is restricted. Each unit has a set number of grid units it can move each turn, much like a board game. A player’s turn consists of moving their units, selecting units to construct and initiating combat, diplomacy, etc. The slow nature of taking turns allows these kinds of strategy games to have very deep gameplay. The “Civilization” series, for example, allows players to determine what types of jobs their cities offer which, in turn, makes the city better at researching new technologies, farming to produce more food, etc.
Strategy games, in general, tend to focus on combat but turn-based strategy games often offer other ways to win. Sometimes diplomacy is an option or peaceful domination by means of political influence.
Examples: “Civilization” series, “Advance Wars”, “Fire Emblem”.
Real-time strategy: By far the most popular type of strategy game, RTS have become a staple of PC gaming. RTS games feature similar gameplay mechanics to their turn-based counterparts, but time is real in RTS games. Buildings and units are built over a period of time, rather than by turns, and units have no limitations on movement, just differing movement speeds.
RTS games generally have a player build a base, then take over an enemy’s base, though in the past few years they have evolved to feature much more varied missions.
They require one to think and make decisions quickly and are much faster paced than turn-based strategy games.
Some newer RTS games lean more toward action and feature less base-building and resource management. The “Dawn of War” series has a resource that is collected by taking over enemy fortifications.
Examples: “Warcraft” series, “Command and Conquer” series, “Dawn of War” series, “Company of Heroes,” “World in Conflict”.
Tactical strategy: Tactical strategy games are generally real-time, but feature no bases or resource gathering at all. They give you control over a small team of characters, like an RPG, but play like an RTS.
They differ from other RTS games in that the characters become much more important. They aren’t nameless drones that can be replaced, they are the only characters you have.
“Fire Emblem” is a popular turn-based tactical strategy and is famous for having characters die in the game permanently with no option to revive them.
Examples: “Jagged Alliance,” “Fire Emblem,” “X-com: UFO Defense”.
Sports games aim to recreate games of football, hockey, baseball, etc., as single player or multiplayer video games. They involve systems allowing players to switch control between virtual team members to get the most fun out of the given sport. Many sports franchises are released each year with updated rosters. Be wary though. Sometimes sports franchises get stale, doing little to differentiate one year’s game from the previous year’s game.
Examples: Madden series, NHL series, NBA series, “Winning Eleven” (soccer).
Racing games are separated from sports games because they have evolved into their own genre consisting mostly of racing simulator and arcade racing games:
Simulation: Racing simulators like “Gran Turismo” and “Forza” aim to recreate the experience of driving, then give the player very expensive cars in which to drive very fast. There are many F1 and NASCAR simulations as well as racing games that feature modifiable consumer cars. The cars generally handle like their real life counterparts, so a lot of care is needed to drive them well. Racing simulations often have steep learning curves for beginners but many gamers love them. Racing simulations tend to have in depth customization options for the cars and each individual car controls uniquely.
Examples: “Forza Motorsport,” “Gran Turismo,” “Race Driver,” “Colin Mc- Crae”.
Arcade: Arcade racing games remove most of the realism from racing and focus on speed and quick fun. Many arcade racers feature larger than life characters and unrealistic vehicles and vehicle physics. These kinds of games are easier to get into than simulations, but the best of them are deep enough that they require time to master the mechanics.
Examples: “Mario Kart” series, “Burnout” series, “Diddy Kong Racing”.
Many racing games feature elements of both simulation and arcade racing games, so it’s a good idea to do some research into that particular genre if you are only interested in one or the other.
Puzzle games are an increasingly popular genre. They are generally simple concept like stacking blocks or popping bubbles, but with clever design twists that make them addictive and compelling. The most well-known example is “Tetris”, where you strategically stack different shaped blocks that fall and increasing speed. Puzzle games are often simple for anyone to pick up and are a lot of fun. They can be great introductions for burgeoning gamers.
Examples: “Tetris,” “Bust-a-move,” “Puyo-pop”.
There you have it — my takes on game genres for the uninitiated, now go forth and play!
WHAT I’M PLAYING
I got “Spore” from the EA Online store and installed it the moment it was released. So far I love it. Some of the gameplay can be a bit repetitive and is not in itself revolutionary, but the social aspects of it and the creation tools are very much revolutionary. I’ll be reviewing it in full in two weeks.
Calen Henry is a graduate of Japanese studies and multimedia at McMaster University. He grew up in Owen Sound, has been a gamer since childhood. He is currently on an internship in Geneva, Switzerland.
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