As you probably know by now, real-time strategy games are popular on PCs. Ever since Command & Conquer and Warcraft II were released, people haven't been able to get enough of games that let you churn out armies of little guys who march toward your opponents and pound on their little guys. This sort of game has inspired developers to create all kinds of fanciful futuristic and fantasy settings, but there haven't been too many games based directly on real-world technology or real-world conflicts. That is, other than Rival Interactive's 2001 strategy game Real War, which was adapted from a strategy exercise originally developed for the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Unfortunately, the original Real War, which was based loosely on US counterterrorist operations, was scheduled for release right around September 11, 2001 (it was subsequently delayed). Bad timing, certainly, but when the game was finally released, it was criticized more for some of its gameplay features, since the game was intended to be a more-realistic simulation of modern-day military tactics than most conventional build-and-rush games. For instance, the game didn't have much in the way of stationary defenses, since stationary turrets aren't as commonly used in warfare as they used to be--a realistic concession, but one that didn't make for good game balance, especially when you're up against advanced strike fighter jets and bomber units. So Rival Interactive is doing its best to make sure that its upcoming stand-alone Real War expansion, Rogue States, will be a fun and balanced strategy game first, and a realistic military game second.
To that end, Rival is building on what it created with Real War--a game in which players build military bases and hire squads of land, sea, and air units (based on real-world military outfits and vehicles) by expending the resources they receive from their supply lines. At the end of Real War, the Independent Liberation Army (ILA), a fictitious enemy of the state, was defeated by US forces. But the ILA still holds small areas of contention in different parts of the world. It's up to the player to hunt down the ILA's rogue states across the globe and finish the job. Players will do so over the course of a comprehensive 14-mission single-player campaign, but they'll also be able to play instant-action games in about 30 separate skirmish maps, both in single-player against computer opponents or in multiplayer.
What's more, Real War: Rogue States will include a host of new multiplayer options, including the ability to include computer-controlled opponents in multiplayer games and the ability to set a number of variables, like whether or not supply lines should be limited and whether the AI opponents' behavior should be set to normal, aggressive, or defensive. You'll also be able to determine which sorts of units and what kinds of terrain you want to appear in the map. Rogue States will have four multiplayer modes, including a standard deathmatch mode; a tactical mode in which players will have lots of units but no buildings, and they'll focus mainly on fighting battles; a control area mode that will resemble the capture-the-flag modes in first-person shooters; and a local supply mode in which players can't lay down regular supply lines, but must capture supply stations instead.
One of the most interesting new additions to Rogue States' multiplayer game will be its new "component commander" feature, which will let players share units in cooperative games. Instead of typing in the chat window, "Can you send over some units--I need help," you can simply select your ally's units and issue them the order. Your buddy will then get a quick confirmation window that will let him or her quickly approve or deny the request. Additionally, you can choose to play as either a land-sea commander or an aerial commander, and you and your teammates can choose complementary forces. You can also mix and match units from the ILA, which tends to have better infantry units, and from the US forces, which tend to have better air units, in multiplayer games.
In both the single-player and multiplayer game, you can expect to avail yourself of Rogue States' improved interface and unit AI. Rogue States' units will have better pathfinding and will have patterns that can be set so players won't have to worry about babysitting the one infantry unit that has the bright idea of wandering off. Rogue States will have eight new units on each side, and several of these, like the new ILA proximity-triggered stationary turret, will demonstrate the game's improved AI. And thanks to Rogue States' better interface, which will let you click on and open up your current air, sea, and land units using tabs at the bottom of the screen, you'll be able to select any of the units under your control without having to hunt them down on the map. Better still, you'll be able to queue up orders in advance, so you'll be able to give a battalion of tanks orders to patrol an area and then move them out to it and let them carry out their orders. The idea will be to let players issue orders to all their units without having to move the camera away from whatever fight or base building they may be supervising at the time.
Rogue States will also look significantly better than Real War, since the artists at Rival Interactive have increased the polygon count on each of the game's individual units by about 50-60 percent. In addition, you can expect Rogue States to look much more dynamic than the original game--buildings will be fully animated, and they'll actually display visual feedback. For example, supply stations will have animated conveyor belts that will move more quickly when players have more supply--so you'll be able to tell at a glance where you stand. Rival is also making sure to add a few extra touches to the game to ensure that it doesn't seem as static as the original--for instance, you'll not only be able to order fighter jets to engage in dogfights, but you'll also be able to order them to perform acrobatic maneuvers, like barrel rolls.
Ultimately, Real War: Rogue States will build on the original game, and Rival Interactive is making sure to take all the user feedback it's received on the original game to heart. We'll find out how Rogue States ends up when the game is released this October.