<< Portico: Did you ever wonder...?


Did you ever wonder...?

I recently finished an article for Computer Games Magazine for their Revisionist History column (now with PC games!). Part of it dealt with innovations, contributions, that sort of thing. Because, as an amateur historian, the origins of things really interest me. I'm not talking about the first RTS, or the first hex based wargame that was not derived from a board version. I mean the basic approaches to game design and game mechanics.

Computer games are full of little things that have become so common that we sometimes forget what the world was like before they were invented. Do people remember that in the first Civilization, for example, that there were no real differences between the races? Maybe the Babylonians would start with an extra settler every now and then, but the idea that factions should have distinct characteristics was not accepted as standard. Civ III gave each civ two characteristics, Civ IV will change the characteristics based on the leader.

What was the first strategy game that integrated a tactical battle mode with a grand strategic overlay? Centurion: Defender of Rome maybe?

Who was the genius who decided that left clicking would be for selecting and right clicking for moving? What about context sensitive right clicking? Drag select?

Which game had the first tech tree? Was Dune 2 the first game that had unique units, but not completely unique armies? Which game had the first unique armies? What about infinite resource points? Do they date before Cossacks?

Origin stories are inherently interesting to me. It is easy to trace the RTS legacy from Herzog Zwei to Rise of Nations or the 4x path from Empire through Rise and Rule of Ancient Empires to the more common real time games we have today. But it is often the little stuff in design that separates the good from the great. The influence of Rise of Nations on Empire Earth 2 is everywhere though the former is much better because EE2 missed the point of borders or automated resource collection.

I hope to explore some of these issues and questions, but would appreciate suggestions of more questions or even answers. If you feel up to it, some of you could even write a guest post on one of these questions.

(I'm always open to guest posts, by the way. Provided they are PG, intelligent and mostly about strategy and war games, I'd love to host other people's ramblings.)


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