Sunday, April 5, 2009

Relic: My Favorite Game Developer

Who's Relic? They're the best game developer working today, IMO.

You have to keep in mind, back in the old days I had only dabbled in a bit of C&C red alert and Starcraft as far as RTSs go. They weren't anything special, I was far more involved in FPSs. So then, being a Trekkie... I go and buy Star Trek Armada. Ultimately a fun game, one of the better Star Trek games ever made, but pretty much a disappointment if you expected it to be more then Starcraft with starships. Then Homeworld 2 came out (I missed the boat on HW1), and what a revelation. Completely 3D environment, with no basebuilding, intelligent fleet formations and fighters all swarming around on their own. It was simply incredible. All from a completely new studio, out of the blue.

And the environments they created... were completely breathtaking. Every Relic game has had that unique Relic art direction that utilizes quality concept art to bring the game to life. It's completely unrealistic, but space never looked more beautiful then in HW2. FreeSpace games come close, but staring at some of the backgrounds as your battle-weary ships sail past... it's majestic, breathtaking, elegant, operatic, awe inspiring... like looking at a brilliant sunset in autumn. The grandeur of the cosmos was perfectly captured.

I dunno... it was the first, and still stands as the greatest 3D space RTS ever, as few of those as there are. Sins of a Solar Empire adds more 4X elements, but I can't say it really comes close. Of course, someone did tell me they made Sins with only 9 people and 3 million dollars, which is impressive in itself.

Relic's just a great innovator of RTS games and has been pushing the envelop for years now. That's ultimately what makes them tops in my book. In Dawn of War, they gave us squads of infantry to control, syncronized kill animations, and reinforcements on the fly, retreat mechanics, morale mechanics, as well as terrain cover. Instead of just mining crystals or chopping wood, resources were gathered from strategic requisition points on the map.

With Company of Heroes, they took it even further with directional terrain cover, supply lines, location-based vehicle damage modeling, and machine gun suppression mechanics. In multiplayer, annihilation of the enemy base was replaced with victory point capture mode, which is kinda like Battlefield's tickets concept.

Dawn of War 2 introduced RPG gameplay elements to the single player and bravely took out basebuilding entirely. What we got was a small squad-based tactical game that made you care about your units and preserving them in combat. Plus, they added in the Tyranids, making it superior to DoW 1 by default. Yep, Relic's obviously the most innovative RTS developer out there and I can't wait to see what they've got in store for us next.

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