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StarCraft successor Stormgate is an RTS game everyone can enjoy

Stormgate, the upcoming RTS game from Warcraft 3 and StarCraft 2 veterans, aims to invite players of all experience and skill levels to enjoy it together.

Stormgate is an RTS game everyone can enjoy - A man with a beard and side-swept hair.

Stormgate is a game that wants you to have a good time, whatever your experience level may be. Developer Frost Giant Studios, which includes minds behind some of the best RTS games including StarCraft 2 and Warcraft 3, is intent on building a game that everyone can enjoy. Whether you’re a long-time strategy veteran, or completely new to the genre, Stormgate wants you to know that you’re welcome, and PCGamesN spoke to assistant game director Brett Crawford about how it’s achieving that goal.

I had the chance to get some hands-on time with Stormgate’s closed beta recently, and it immediately felt comfortable in my hands. It’s most directly reminiscent of StarCraft 2 at first, but when I mention that my skills in that game were never anything to write home about, I’m told that Frost Giant wants to steer the conversation away from the usual RTS chatter of, “I think they’re fun, but I’m not very good at them.”

“With StarCraft 2, the majority of players never touched the ranked ladder,” Crawford points out, “Our campaign is being designed so that it can be played cooperatively, and we’re looking for opportunities to ease players into the fun of RTS by eliminating some of the pressure of playing head-to-head online competition by presenting co-op vs. AI as the desired initial play experience.”

Stormgate Human Resistance - A blue Vulcan, a bipedal mech with a large gatling gun.

One feature that the team is excited about is its ‘social on-boarding,’ where a more experienced player can bring on a first-time friend, and the game will give more basic instructions to the newcomer while the veteran can get to work playing the scenario normally, even though you’re in the same mission together. “This is possible thanks to specific AI scripting in co-op,” Crawford explains.

The team says it doesn’t expect every Stormgate player to want to get into competitive multiplayer, but wants to provide educational tools to help those that are interested in taking those next steps. “We’re inspired by Chess.com in this area,” Crawford says, “they do a great job of providing coaching, mini-games, tutorials, and other guidance so that the learning experience can often be even more fun than playing the basic game.” As someone who’s definitely a bit better at Chess now thanks to precisely those tools, I’m already excited at the prospect of something similar to hone my RTS skills.

There’s lots of tools in-game to help with that learning. The more complex hotkey systems of games like StarCraft have been adapted into a ‘global macro’ system that lets you handle all your building and unit construction across your entire base with a simplified menu that just matches hotkeys by their position on the keyboard.

Stormgate gameplay - Human Resistance and Infernal Host forces clash on a sandy, rocky, arid map.


“Our goal is to make it so players can play at a relatively high level with much fewer necessary inputs and with fewer total actions required to play effectively,” Crawford says. He stresses that they’re not for everyone, however. “We plan to make these quick macros optional. We believe newer players will lean on them heavily, while veterans will try them out and decide for themselves whether they make the game more fun!”

I really like the system; it took a few minutes to adapt to, but it makes handling your unit building so much more straightforward than in most RTS games, where you have to go building by building to queue up each set of units. I ask whether anything similar is in the works for using your units’ skills in battle. “It’s a good idea,” Crawford replies, “We have been working on a system we call ‘Merged Command Cards,’ but we are still experimenting with it.”

That intent on lowering the ‘skill floor’ and letting more players in won’t come at the expense of high-level play, however. I ask whether we can expect some fancier ‘micro’ tech that the best players can use to their advantage, and Crawford reassures me that “we believe a lowered skill floor does not in any way prevent us from providing incredible opportunities for skill expression.”

Stormgate Infernal Host - The Brute, a two-headed creature with grinning faces.

“Many of us are huge fans of esports and we fantasize about giving some of the best RTS players in the world the tools to make incredible plays,” he remarks. “We’re already discovering ways that our game can be played that we did not anticipate during our initial design process, and we absolutely know that pro players will continue to surprise us with their creativity in the future.”

So how does this play into the balance across different game modes, I ask? As part of those discussions with pro players and leading RTS community members, Crawford says “their advice was to be intentionally inconsistent.“ As an example, he says, “the majority preferred a 1v1 game that did not feature Heroes,” but that “We also heard from the same people that Heroes were great for co-op and campaign.”

As such, the current thinking is to apply different rules for each of the different ways to play Stormgate – co-op campaign, co-op versus AI, 1v1 competitive, and the 3v3 mode. “We want our game to feel balanced and fair, of course, but in certain situations it’s okay to feel overpowered – like in co-op when facing an AI opponent. We want to give players ways to customize their Heroes to become very powerful, even synergizing with other players’ Heroes. That way, the only loser in that situation is the hapless AI.”

Stormgate gameplay - two Human Resistance forces in red and blue clash across the gap between two forests.

There’s currently no set release date for Stormgate, but you can add it to your Steam wishlist to keep track of its progress, or sign up for a chance to participate in future beta tests via the game’s website.

For now, you’ll find plenty to love at all levels of play among the best strategy games. If you’re after intergalactic adventures of a different sort, the best space games come in all shapes and sizes.