How to build the perfect RTS

Recently I invited readers to take part in a little survey so that all of us together could discover what makes RTS games great. Amazingly, 15,219 of you responded and now I have collated those answers into something special that we should all be proud of. Will the RTS genre ever be the same again? Will games ever be the same again? I think not.


Command Age: War Conquer

Combining the top four results of the survey, the name of the greatest RTS game ever devised is Command Age: War Conquer. I added a colon because all PC games have to have a colon. This is intriguing. What is this Command Age? It sounds like a place where vast armies might clash.

The form also let everyone suggest their own names, and when combined that create some classy alternatives. I like Dragon-Mech: Fallen of the Planned Brigade, and one suggestion which was simply: Hero, King, Commander. Thank you also to readers who offered Hedgehog, Buttplug and Thank you for the Shoes General!

The setting of CA:WC is...

According to the top few results from 15,062 responses the game is set in a steampunk post-apocalyptic future setting. The Command Age is starting to take shape. In a terrible future the world has been mostly destroyed and the warlords that are left cobble rad steampunk armies together out of the detritus of their ruined homeland. In this age, it's war conquer or be war conquered. But who will war conquer hardest and emerge victorious?

There were some good custom suggestions to this question. A lot of people wanted an RTS that moved through all time periods in human history. There's the strangely ominous pre "Great Flood" setting, for example. And Inside a Costco warehouse is a good swerve.

The units are...

Who is doing all this War Conquering in the Command Age?  Apparently it's historically accurate warriors and mechs why not! Now there are two ways this can go. We can assume that the units are as realistic as they can possibly be given the constraints of the post-apocalyptic scenario we have woven here, in which case it is just a bunch of grubby humans with lead pipes riding in battle walkers bashed together out of old bits of Toyota. They could even fight in the ruins of a Costco warehouse. It's our game, nobody can stop us.

Or we could, and I would argue should, get literal with this and say that actual ancient Greek and Roman warriors have fallen through time and must use their ingenuity to wage war in a post apocalyptic scenario they can't understand. The mechs they build have evolved from forms of warfare they know. The Romans tortoise formation becomes a boxy vehicle made from bins they've found, and the Greeks cobble together Trojan horses out of barbed wire and old fencing. Then they war conquer each other in the ruins of a Costco warehouse.

The resources are...

The winners by a close margin here are mineral lines and materials mined from the husks of your enemies. Heaven forbid we would try to do war without the proper minerals, so it's good those tasty glittering seams will be in our game. I have a feeling most of the resources you'll earn will be lifted from the corpses of your enemies however. That's the kind of place the Command Age is. If you manage to bring down one of those horrifying metal Trojan Horse mega-units it would be remiss not to strip it for scrap so you can spam Testudo tanks and win the day.

The graphics should be...

Look, we're not fucking around here. If ancient Greeks and Romans are going to fight in the smouldering remains of our civilisation I want to see every damn bead of sweat. I don't want abstract pixel art renderings of Roman centurions wielding tire irons, it's gotta feel realistic.

In a fairly distant second place you also chose awesome but somehow mournful like the final song of a dying star. It's not that close to the first choice, but I'm happy for glimmers of sorrow to come through occasionally, in after battle sequences in which your warriors strip the battlefield for scrap. There is also an uncomfortably long cutscene in which a crying Roman commander fashions a new cape from a ragged bit of tent he finds in the ruin of a Costco warehouse. It's unskippable and happens after every battle.

CA:WC has singleplayer, base building, and epic scale

Command Age: War Conquer will have a kick-ass singleplayer campaign and strong comp stomp player vs. AI skirmish options. There will be multiplayer too, but the rule of cool comes before perfect unit balance.

The survey also asked whether respondents would prefer a series of missions connected by cutscenes or a territory map that lets you choose from multiple mission options. The latter won by a landslide, taking 65 percent of the vote. Only five percent said they would be happy for the game to be a dedicated multiplayer RTS.

Command Age: War Conquer will absolutely have base building. Of 15,048 responses a massive 92.4 percent voted for the game to include bases.

With 55.9 percent of the vote this game will let you build as many units as I can build until my PC melts. In second place 19.1 percent of you wanted a unit cap of 100, however. Some playtesting required there. Also we might be liable for melting people's PCs, so we might want to factor that in.

But how long should a battle last? The winner, just, with 22.5 percent of the vote, wanted a typical battle to last 30 minutes. In second place, with 21.5 percent of the vote, a battle would last as long as the conflict being simulated would realistically last, possibly forever. It's so close I propose a hardcore mode that you can play if you want to really live that post apocalyptic ancient Greeks vs. ancient Roman grudge match.

And finally...

For fun, the survey asked you which existing RTS series comes closest to perfection. Command & Conquer reigns supreme.

Thanks to everyone who took part in the survey, and look out for Command Age: War Conquer, coming to a Kickstarter campaign near you.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.