Rebuild 3: Real-time vs Turn-based

must have
Chaos Overlords must have stuck in my subconscious – it looks like Rebuild!
Time for some 90’s game nostalgia!

I LOVE strategy games. My affair must have started with Civ I for the Amiga. I played endless times, obsessed with trying to conquer the world as England with only the one starting city. Then there was X-Com, and Master of Orion, and games like Capture the Flag and Chaos Overloads.

One of my all time favs was Master of Magic, a compelling mix of civilization building and turn-based combat with a magic system that was as much fun to exploit as it was to play properly. There have been some attempts, but I’m still waiting for a true spiritual successor.

I’ve always been in the turn-based camp: thoughtful instead of twitchy, chilling out instead of stressing out. I still play on harder difficulties and get my ass handed to me by the AI, but it’s cool – it’s all about learning systems and finding new strategies. Winning’s just part of the fun. So when I wrote Rebuild 1, naturally it was turn-based and had a “Nightmare” difficulty that even I couldn’t beat.

But what about real-time?

My favorite Starcraft unit, the Zerg Queen, causing trouble.
My favorite unit, the Zerg Queen, causing trouble for some marines.
I think of real-time strategy games as those tending towards intense multiplayer action. I always felt exhausted after a game of Starcraft with friends… fun but oh so stressful. And I’ve never been brave enough to try LoL or DotA, I’m so sure they’ll make me feel old and clumsy. So I didn’t consider real-time for the Rebuild series at first.

The games that drew me back around to real-time were ones like Sim City, Tropico, and Dwarf Fortress: single-player games that tick away in real-time but let you hit a pause button at will. They seem to have more life, some little spark of randomness that makes it feel like I’m interacting with more than a set of rules. For sim games this is especially important, and the Rebuild games are as much sim as strategy.

So for Rebuild 3 I bit the bullet and added a real-time mode. It was both easier and harder than I’d expected: I got the system working in a couple days, but am still finding bugs in it today. It brought up new performance and interface issues too. Some I rocked (letting you switch between real-time and turn-based) and some I flubbed (it’s hard to tell if the STOP button is a command, or the current state).

But it’s been worth it! In fact I like real-time mode so much I was tempted to make it the only mode for Rebuild 3. But I kept turn-based in because it’s much easier to test with, and I knew some fans of Rebuild 1 & 2 would never forgive the change.

These days when I play a game of Rebuild 3, I start out on max speed and try to keep up with survivors coming and going for as long as possible. I take the speed down a notch or two as the game gets busier and my tolerance for mistakes goes down. By the end of a city, danger or no danger, I’ve got one thumb on the space bar at all times nobody spends a moment longer relaxing in the fort than they have to.

I’m pretty happy that the game works with such different styles. Hopefully everybody else will find their favorite mode and speed too!


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