I’m a huge fan of StarCraft and Dawn of War: 40,000. Both franchises comprise the very best in RTS (Real-Time Strategy) games, and are nearly flawless in their design. A few things I would do to enhance those games, if given the opportunity:
EMERGENCY PURGING – In a scenario where your command base is under siege, and you are low on nearby infantry units/vehicles, you’d purge out unfinished units in the queue as a last-defense. What would happen is you’d have the entire queue pushed out of the armory in an incomplete state. This gives you some defensive firepower, but the troops or vehicles you purged are incomplete and not as diluted in firepower or defense. As a trade-off, your factory or armory would need time to recover from the purge.
INCIDENTAL TRAVEL – You select a group composed of ground troops and vehicles to reach a target destination, and what usually happens is the vehicles will get there first. What I would like to see are troops climb onto the sides of tanks and other vehicles that happen to be sharing the same destination. Not only could you keep your battalion better intact, but you’ll have increased firepower for ‘hitched’ vehicles, though the troops clinging aboard would have decreased accuracy. This should all be done automatically, as I’m not a fan of manually assigning troops to climb into a transport vehicle. Also, the tanks wouldn’t slow down and wait for hitchers – first come first serve.
BUILT-IN HUD – I’d like to see research progress and Unit build progress without actually having to select the building. I propose a smart HUD, where that information is built into the game buildings. For example, I’d design the armory to be made of 6 individual pistons that would be in a high position at the start of the build process, then sink as building progressed. Some color meters could also denote the progress. Sure your opponents could tell which buildings are more active in building units, but these are priority targets regardless.
SMART COVER – The thing about RTS games is the troops fight like the British Red Coats – they stand around and just fire weapons, not really being evasive in their position. If it were up to me, I’d have them take cover behind pillars, armored vehicles (operational or destroyed remnants of), and whatever other section of the environment they deem safe. This would not only make the fights more dramatic, but would give way to using specialized Units, like Snipers and Anti-Tank personnel.
ESCAPE POD – The command base could have a backup escape pod that could be fired to another section of the map (much like the Terran buildings being able to relocate in StarCraft), that would include a builder and a few troops to start a new command base. The drawback: it would take a long time to fuel and ready, and would stop any other capabilities of the command base in the interim. So if defeat looks like a possibility, this last resort could be an option – but plan ahead.
LOOT THEIR POWER – I’d build a specialized Unit that could drain the enemy’s reserves. It would be a very costly and defenseless Unit, so you’d have to secure the enemy base to utilize it. This way you can add to your reserves while depleting your enemy’s supply. More incentive to capture the enemy base! More worthwhile in 3+ player games.
CONVERT THE NON-BELIEVERS – If you could steal your enemy’s power…why not their troops? There is a few ways you could do this: a mode where you could capture enemy units, a means to utilize abandoned or dead units (zombies?), or by dispatching your builder units to assimilate enemy structures to add them into your fold. Instead of wiping out your enemy, you’d claim their carcass for your own means. Only worthwhile in 3+ player games.
RISKIER RESOURCE COLLECTION – If you want more resources in quantity, or a faster rate of harvesting, you should be allowed to gamble with a more dangerous means of collection. Once this method/ machine of collection is built, your resource collection rates increase. But if taken out by the enemy, it could result in severe damage to your base. Pretty much like opting to harvest nuclear power – worthwhile output, but very dangerous.
BUY TIME – Every Unit you build in an RTS game has a set cost attributed to it, as well as a set build time. Well if you want to get your Units a bit sooner (without purging, see above), I’d allow the option to spend more to hurry the Unit’s production speed. The trade-off being you got your Unit sooner, but burned through more resources to do it. A costly short-term measure.