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Insights from the gaming industry

Tactis vs Strategy in Games

Real-time strategy games have been criticized for an overabundance of tactical considerations when compared to the amount of strategic gameplay found in such games. According to Chris Taylor, lead designer of Supreme Commander, he said, " was my realizing that although we call this genre 'Real-Time Strategy,' it should have been called 'Real-Time Tactics' with a dash of strategy thrown in." (Taylor then posits his own game as having surpassed this mold by including additional elements of broader strategic scope.)

In general terms, military strategy refers to the use of a broad arsenal of weapons including diplomatic, informational, military, and economic resources, whereas military tactics is more concerned with short-term goals such as winning an individual battle. In the context of strategy video games, however, the difference is often reduced to the more limited criteria of either a presence or absence of base building and unit production.

In an article for Gamasutra, Nathan Toronto criticizes real-time strategy games for too often having only one valid means of victory — attrition — comparing them unfavorably to real-time tactics games. Players' awareness that the only way for them to win or lose is militarily makes them unlikely to respond to gestures of diplomacy. The result is that the winner of a real-time strategy game is too often the best tactician rather than the best strategist. Troy Goodfellow counters this by saying that the problem is not that real-time strategy games are lacking in strategy (he says attrition is a form of strategy), rather it is that they too often have the same strategy: produce faster than you consume. He also states that building and managing armies is the conventional definition of real-time strategy, and that it is unfair to make comparisons with other genres.

In an article for GameSpy, Mark Walker criticizes real-time strategy games for their lack of combat tactics, suggesting real-time tactics games as a more suitable substitute. He also says that developers need to begin looking outside the genre for new ideas in order for strategy games to continue to be successful in the future.