<< Portico: 2006 in the strategy arena - a wishlist

1/18/2006

2006 in the strategy arena - a wishlist

2005 was a good year, and I have hopes for the upcoming year, as well. Corvus's "Round Table" has asked for people to submit their wishes for the new year, and for their expected consequences. So here are my hopes for the strategy genre in 2006.

My first hope is that there will be a big, new strategy game released with no franchise attached. 2005 was full of huge franchise titles and sequels. Age of this, empire that, civ again...each with something to offer. Strategy games need a breakout hit - especially on the PC - unless we gamers want to play variations on the same titles for the next twenty years. This is expensive, of course, because of the immense risk involved in launching any game. The last new pseudo-strategy game that became a breakout, must-have game was The Sims, and that was many years ago. It transcended gaming, of course, and became a pop culture phenomenon. I have no such hopes for any game released this year. But if strategy gaming could deliver the next Civ or the next AoE or the next Starcraft, then I will remain confident in the power of my favorite genre to move minds and units. (BTW, I could call out Firaxis here for just pillaging the past and not using all the immense brainpower they have to do something surprising and amazing, but I have too much discretion to do such a thing.)

Second, I hope that the MMO-Strategy world gets its Ultima Online - a game that moves the multiplayer strategy world beyond PBEM clients or ladder games and gives us wargamers and desktop gods a persistent world to make in our image. Civilization promised me the chance to build an empire that stood the test of time, but didn't quite deliver the eternal glory it promised me. SimCountry is a detail heavy version of what a MMO-S game could look like if they could just work out some of the glitches. And maybe have bigger explosions.

Third, Rise of Legends better be good. Big Huge Games took a bit of a risk in moving away from the historical grounding of Rise of Nations to a completely new world. And I am astonished by the look and ambition of the game; it's probably easier to balance 12 similar nations than it is to balance 3 distinct cultures. Though Reynolds might not know it, a triumphant Rise of Legends
could open the door to a lot of new and crazy worlds.

Fourth, I hope that indie strategy developers get a publishing alternative to Shrapnel and Matrix Games. I have nothing against either publisher. Both have treated my inquiries with great respect and both have put out their share of good and not so good games. But I sometimes wonder about their PR or marketing strategy since I almost never hear about many of their games unless I visit their sites or I mention them in a forum. Salvo!, for instance, sort of popped out of nowhere and then I was asked to review it. Sure, I would have been better off not playing it at all, but that's not quite the point. Though I have doubts about what exactly Manifesto Games will bring to the table, I hope that Greg Costikyan and Johnny Wilson can provide an option for indie developers that gives some of these games more mainstream exposure. And it might push the big two to promote some of their best products (like Starshatter or Land of Legends) with more energy.

Finally, I hope that the wargame/strategy columns in both PCGamer (Steve Klett) and Computer Gaming World (Bruce Geryk) become popular and influential movers in the greater interest of strategy/war gaming. To be honest, I know little about Klett. I've liked what I've read so far, so no major complaints. My deep respect for Geryk is obvious - I check his blog daily - and I'm sorry that his CGW column is so small. But if you look at magazine covers, the twelve months are overwhelmingly dominated by MMOs and shooters. Only Civ IV and Age of Empires III really seem to get the covers, or the multiple previews. Strong advocates within the magazine structure could mean more and better coverage. Which could mean more and better games. (Like anyone listens to press...) So if you read either of those magazines, write in to support their columns and their coverage.


5 Comments:

Anonymous Ken Wootton said...

You first wish will be granted. It's called Spore.

1/19/2006 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Troy Goodfellow said...

You are more confident than I am that we will see Spore this year. I'm still betting on early 2007.

Definitely the one to watch though.

1/19/2006 11:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what about supreme commander?
i know it's not really new, but it will introduce some new things to rts, just like TA did in the past

1/19/2006 07:36:00 PM  
Anonymous steve said...

Supreme Commander is also a 2007 game.

I should probably point out that our first three covers for 2006 are Heroes V, Star Wars Empire at War, and Rise of Legends.

Last year, we did Civ IV, Rome: Barbarian Invasion, Battle for Middle-Earth II, Age of Empires III, Stronghold 2, and Freedom Force.

1/20/2006 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Troy Goodfellow said...

I knew I would be called on that cover thing...that's what I get for glancing at the PCGamer covers poster on my wall and whatever was in my living room and not bothering to do additional research by opening my file box.

But CGM is always a special case. It has, I think, tended to be more strategy friendly, which is natural considering its roots. It's not like Stronghold 2 is an obvious choice for an attention grabbing cover - neither is Barbarian Invasion, I think, despite my love of the game.

1/20/2006 12:05:00 PM  

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