Game Developers Conference 2011: In The Trenches

The Future Of Strategy Games

One very interesting panel discussion was titled “Strategy Games: the Next Move.” Moderated by veteran game writer Tom Chick, it featured a stellar panel.

From left to right, Jon Schafer, Ian Fischer, Soren Johnson, Dustin Browder and Tom Chick

Two lead Civilization designers were on the panel, Jon Schafer (Civ 5) and Soren Johnson (Civ 4). Dustin Browder was the lead for Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty and Ian Fischer, who designed and managed the launch of Age of Empires Online and worked on the Age of Empires franchise at Microsoft Studios, is with Robot Entertainment,.

Strategy gaming is in both a golden age (with a vast array of small, medium, and AAA titles available to all types of players) and yet going through the same painful transitions as the rest of the industry. The traditional model--a monolithic game, shipped in a box (or delivered digitally), followed by expansions--is still doing well, as witnessed by Starcraft II. But experiments with DLC have had mixed results with Civilization V, trying to drag a reluctant user base into a business model more familiar to console games.

Meanwhile, free-to-play games like League of Legends are going gangbusters, making their money of the sale of in-game items and characters. Finally, social games on Facebook and other related sites are hugely popular. Soren Johnson is working on a Facebook game for Electronic Arts based on the Dragon Age universe, called Dragon Age Legends. Johnson fervently hopes that Legends will be the Facebook game for more hardcore gamers, yet still have the social elements that have made other Facebook titles so popular.

Even so, small games from indie developers are also doing well. Games like Solium Infernum, AI Wars, and Bronze have captured the imagination of many players, while being developed by small teams (or individuals in some cases). And yet they're excellent games in their own right.

In the end, strategy gaming has made something of a comeback from the time where it looked like all we’d ever see were the same old RTS clones. The future looks bright for strategy gaming, but it’s also likely that what comes out tomorrow may look quite different than what we’ve been playing all these years.

  • madjimms
    "Today, games are both highly integrated into the culture, yet apart from it. We clearly see conflicts between the growing gaming culture and those who consider gaming a waste of time, or in the case of some news networks, even dangerous."

    I know what "news" network hes talking about. *cough* fox *cough*
  • radiumburn
    Still don't understand how fox can be considered a news network when it seems that its main goal is to push out false information and fear
  • davewolfgang
    Wow you two - this is SUPPOSE to be about gaming. Leave your bias about cable channels because you don't agree with them or don't like one of their show hosts, for a political website, not Tom's.

  • I don't think biofeedback can help , I mean every person is different you can't measure a game like that, could be the greatest game for some people and the worst game ever for others ...
  • dennisburke
    FOX is playing the biggest game of all "Battle For Your Brain". Spending hours watching FOX is more dangerous to society than spending time playing games.

    Playing a stratagy game is no different than playing chess, other than being treated to a great visual watching a sunset art?

    I like playing fps games...maybe because it reminds me of playing 'Hide and Seek' or 'Cowboys and Indians' as a kid...the thrill of a chase, etc.

    Art will always be in the eye of the beholder and it cannot be defined.
  • So MSNBC and CNN aren't slanted one bit? Get out of your caves.
  • yose3
    we born playing games and we die playing games!
  • Khimera2000
    this is all cool, but to be honest whats really going to happen is once the new consols are released, everything spoken at these confrences about quality, new technolagy, and intergration will be lost (unless its intergrated into the consols).

    As it looks from my side these companies will be tooooo buisy trying to program for technolagy that they all but ignored since the release of currant generation consols.

    the games comming out will be full of leaks, bugs, and problems, then when they get ported to PC it will be made worse.

    There is nothing impresive happening in the game industry. they can talk all they want, but like De Vinci, if all you do is talk and draw pictures thats all they will ever be talk and fluff.

    once they use whats out there then ill start listening, till then I would be terrified to try anything these companies would pump out just by the chance of bugs destroying the experiance.
  • sudeshc
    In my opinion games are art it all starts with good concept/story and takes it to another level games are do inspired by culture but more or less global culture. we can or can not say they are waste of time or are dangerous as all of us know "too much of anything is not good" and there are always exceptions.