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Home bullet Games bullet Turn Based Games

Turn Based Games by cyke Written on 28th September 2003

Currently the red-headed stepchild of gaming genres, turn based games are seemingly about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit these days. They appear to occupy the same holding pattern as RPGs once did. A few years back RPGS were dead in the water, yet now RPGS sell millions - and millions pay monthly to wield their skills in online arenas. If nothing else, it gives me hope that perhaps we'll see a return to form for turn based strategy, hopefully any day now.

Someone in power at a major gaming company needs to say "bugger me, there hasn't been a decent turn based game in ages, and frankly a graphical update of X-Com alone would sell a trillion copies. This'll be the easiest money we'll ever make. Ch-ching!!"

Lord, I hope so. Because, unless I'm missing something (frankly, always a possibility), turn based games have everything going in their favour right now. Lets look at the facts;

Fact 1. The market is underexploited. Seriously, do you want to make another C&C clone or a Tomb Raider clone to compete with the other clones or a turn based strategy game? Seriously, if someone doesn't make a move soon, I'm gonna lock a hundred monkeys in a room, chain them to computers, let them hit keys at random, and wait until one of them comes up with a new turn based game. I'm just that desperate.

Fact 2. Loyalty. TB gamers are fairly hardcore. You can't not be by the time you've battled the alien horde in X-Com. Or, another game like...Civilisation. With a huge research tree and thereby plenty of reward for time invested, TB gamers put in a lot of hours. Which equals brand loyalty, and brand recognition. X-Com alone has been alive for about a decade, had 6 games made, another 2 in development hell (death), and has been constantly popular on the budget re-release and compilation markets. Right now, X-Com is practically forgotten by gaming companies as an example of what you would ideally want a TB game to be. There may be no bigger "name" in the genre and the license is not currently being developed.

Fact 3. Cost. Surely it is cheaper to make a 2D game than a 3D game? Seriously, I'm guessing by not having to license the latest uber-engine and not having to hire highly skilled 3D world/level makers you're already financially ahead? AI and playtesting all are that's needed in this genre.

Click to enlarge
Civilisation, the money maker of TB games
Fact 4. Where turn based games excel, is they let you think. Sounds bloody obvious I know, but let me elaborate on that a little. In a real-time game like Command and Conquer, lets say you find a group of enemy units about to get within shooting distance of your base. You of course, react. You either send some units straight in to slow them down while you get a defence organised or some other tactic. The point is, you've got to make your move instantly.

With turn based games, you can sit poised to make your decision for an infinite time. You'll be weighing up the offensive and defensive capabilities of the units, thinking about movement rates, how best to use cover. You can wander off to the toilet and consider the finer points of attacks while ejecting your waste products, which is something you can't say for other genres.

Theres a lot more drama in your imagination than any game can get on your monitor. In a game like Terror From The Deep, you'll feel your neck hairs stand on end as you try to decide how to deal with the heavily armed and motivated Aliens surrounding your team. There will be times when the decision whether or not to use your action points to snap off a shot or flee behind cover will be crucial. Hell, there will be times you'll stall on decisions because the possible combinations and outcomes of your actions are huge. In the end, you'll do all you can, basically praying to the gods of odds.

Fact 5. In a heated firefight, it's easy to spend minutes each turn just looking at the shit everyones in and working out what to do how and in what order. I love it. Because frankly, I am the only thing thats going to get my guys out of there alive. My mens lives (and my time invested in them up untill that point) is in my hands. The control and gratification is unparalled in other genres. I'm salivating even as I type this, thinking of firing up a quick save game and going in on a terror mission in X-Com. It's me versus the computer and it's a challenge I relish. Unlike other genres where often you can find one tactic that gives you an advantage, here you'll need to keep an open mind. Situations may feel similar, but rarely will you get the same occurrances twice.

Click to enlarge
Ethereals stalk the airways
Fact 6. You can also be two or more places at once. The stopped action means you can elaborately detail your manoevers, making sure each unit is where you need it to be. You can't do this in real-time, as you're positioning one unit, the others are on their own reacting to whats around them. How much control are you really in with real-time games?

I'm a goon for TB games. I mean it, if a mysterious gent in a red suit with horns on his head asked me to meet him at sundown near a lonely crossroad, and upon going he bartered my soul to resurrect one gaming genre, this would be it.


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