RTS Basics
RTS Basics: Economics


Creating a fully fledged economy is done in stages.

To begin with your first priority is to get it all going. The RTS economy starts off small: at the beginning of a game there's a modest amount of cash in the bank, you have have a small gang of workers, and more than likely you probably don't even have any armed guys yet. Your first priority is expanding your workforce and developing some basic resource gathering. Its absolutely vital that you can get your income up ASAP.

Once you've got that initial income coming in then you can start thinking about your first fighting units. In many games, you may spend the first minutes building nothing but workers and maybe some buildings that just expand your resource storage or your unit limit. At this stage you probably should be emptying your bank account as much as possible (meaning that you are constantly building to your absolute limit as best you can) but at the same time its important to realize you can NOT afford to stall at this stage. You'll find many RTS games seem to have the same initial starting procedure regardless of how weird or different the game's races' playing styles are. These are the opening moves that lead to your initial push into the map.

Your early game is probably going to be very wasteful: time is of the essence and securing the map is of primary importance at this stage. You're blowing a lot of cash on basic units that are quickly going to be rendered obsolete, but this initial force is going to allow you to survive long enough to develop better and more efficient units later on. Often this means running on empty just to get up as fast as you possibly can.

But you also have to decide when step up to the next level of your economy and get those bigger, better and more expensive units. Spending big on large buildings or research too early can prove to be dangerously draining and leave you with nothing to reinforce your weakening early force. You can easily shoot yourself in the foot by developing too soon as well as too late. But as usual, this comes down to experience. Your decision is informed by what your foe is up to and the type of terrain. If you're on a safe, secluded island then you can afford developing better units without fear of an early attack. But if you're on an open plain, then everyone is within reach of each other the moment the game starts. Ramping up to bigger units may not be a good strategy at all - it might be better to swarm the enemy with an early force to catch them unprepared - or defend against the possibility of them rushing you before you have a chance to build your first big unit.

Again, experience and good scouting will be your best guide. Rushes can be decisive, but they are risky, despite what some might tell you. If they screw up, you've blown your early reserve, lost all your mobile units and got some serious reinforcing to do from scratch...and the added burden of still developing your economy.

The trick to getting to the big units and the giant armies is to develop your economic output and production as soon as you can. However, its tricky spending the money to expand your economy when your constantly producing units. There never seems to be enough to go around. The way you manage the economics and how and when its spent on it is part of RTS strategy. You could spend most of your resources just on the economy - but find yourself in deep trouble when the enemy rocks up; but if you spend too much on defence, your economy may not grow as fast as your enemy's, and they might end up outnumbering and outspending you - or more likely, own the map by the time you timidly creep outside your base.

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Last reformatted Sat, Apr 30 2011 by Lindsay Fleay