I am looking to purchase a real time strategy game for online play on the cheap or that is older that people still play online. Any recommendations? I like fast gameplay like empires dawn of the modern world or starcraft not games where you have to advance in ages and crap before u can do anything. I also like gathering resources and building so prolly no ww2 or world at war for me (though never played any of those so u can give me head sup on em).
LOTRO bfme is pretty cool. It has its faults like any game but it kept me amused for much longer than some of the more recent RTS.
You can build some nice fortresses which are customisable to an extent and the battles are epic (not quite SupCom but theres a lot going on still).
Resource gathering isnt exactly complex, however you do get character progression for your Hero, with a sort of talent tree for special abilities.
You'll not find too many that are still played online, though I believe Netstorm still has a nice following at http://www.netstormhq.com - very old game, tons of fun once you get used to it, and the campaign has a difficulty curve like EVE's learning curve... that is to say very steep. Games do tend to go on for a while if you get a stalemate going on though.
If you're looking for something slightly newer, Warcraft III's a good bet, as are most of the Command & Conquer games. Dawn of War's awesome too, very awesome.
I know you said you don't want to advance ages and such, but Age of Empires II is extremely good, still one of my fav RTS games. Especially if play is limited to the Castle Age, Imperial Age is a little too overpowered so you can't really get a good defensive style of play going on since Trebuchets outrange most of your units and you have to keep a strike squad of treb-killers just inside your gates and even then if the trebs are defended then they might die leaving you vulnerable, and eventually dead.