Years ago, when I was but a 10-year old still learning how to do my multiplications and divisions in primary school, I played the legendary RTS game that was Red Alert 2 and its expansion, Yuri’s Revenge.
(just kidding. I was learning how to use Graham’s Number in a mathematical proof. I’m Asian after all. What did you think?)
I liked playing the game on Normal mode. It made me feel good, because I felt like I was a pretty decent player: not too soft that I have to play on Easy, and not too lifeless that I can’t find a challenge unless I play on Hard. It was like the Goldilocks’ in-between point anyway: Just Right.
Now the thing about computer AIs back in the early 2000s, if you remember, is that they were not very bright. And as far as strategy in Red Alert 2 was concerned, there wasn’t a problem that couldn’t be solved with more tanks. The Grizzly Battle Tank for the Allied faction and the Rhino Tank for the Soviet faction were my staple units: I’ll just build about 200 of them and quite literally run the enemy’s base over.
Again: AIs were not very bright, and there was nothing they could do but watch in imaginary, digital horror as a sea of battle tanks rolled up the hill to mow their bases to the ground. They could fight, yes; but in the words of every chessmaster supervillain ever written, they were only prolonging the inevitable.
Yesterday evening, in a fit of nostalgia for the RTS games we knew so well, I went to a nearby cyber cafe with 2 friends to have a friend bout on Command & Conquer 3.
You can imagine just how well my tank rush tactics worked against human players.
In short: I was pummeled to death/defeat in the 2 games that we played together. A combination of rusty skills, slow reflexes, a distracted mind, and a total ignorance of strategy made the work pretty easy, methinks. Thankfully, in the 3rd round, we decided to go cooperative and fight 3 AIs instead, and I even got to lead my own skirmish against an AI player’s resource-gathering outpost while my friends wiped out the three main bases.
(I call it the Duct Tape approach to RTS: if it isn’t working, you’re not using enough)
It was like scratching an itch that I didn’t know was there. You know the sort – it feels amazingly good and relieving, but the only way to make the itch go away completely is to scratch until the skin breaks and pain replaces the itch. Writing this, I have half a mind to get me one of them old games and just plow through the campaign for the hell of it. Maybe this time, I’ll actually employ some sort of intelligent design in my strategy.
But hah, what do I know about intelligent design anyway? I’m a hack even when it comes to strategy games. So eh, I probably won’t.
Not until the itch comes back.
(just kidding about Graham’s Number earlier on. What are we, insane?)