One of the biggest flaws in nearly every RTS and 4X game is that the vast majority of features are symmetrical. All-too-often, every playable race will have identical weaponry, defenses, and support equipment, with just a few pieces of unique “faction-only” systems. This is a major missed opportunity to lend depth, alternative-replay value and stickiness into the gameplay experience.
Let’s rewind all the way back to the original Command and Conquer. One of the things that made the very first C&C iteration great was the fact that GDI and Nod had completely different forces and functions—that it wasn’t a simple rock-paper-scissors-nuke match-up and the strategies and tactics which worked for one player faction would lead to failure if applied to the other.
This type of asymmetrical approach is an opportunity to lend tremendous depth, alternative replay value and “stickiness” to the GSB2 experience, a factor which most RTS and 4X types of games seem - unfortunately! - to miss in favor of uninteresting generic weapons, defenses and styles (excluding the Starcraft, and Sword of the Stars, franchises to a varying degree).
In contrast, games like Supreme Commander 2 or Sins of a Solar Empire feel very mono-dimensional in that almost every single faction-unit has a comparable unit in every other faction with identical functionality, with just a few differences in top-level units and in the visual flavor of the generic army or fleet. This cheapens the RTS/RT4x experience to a degree where once any one faction is mastered, the mechanics for the other factions are largely mastered as well.
In GSB1, each faction had a very few unique pieces of equipment, but the generic items dominated the stage. The range of variance between factions wasn’t significant, except for a small few of the later DLC expansions. With most of the generic gear being symmetrical and overly-balanced in nature, it was easy to determine the optimal solutions for most engagements for most factions with a quick cost-damage-defense analysis. This does not add much to the replayability to the game; instead, it detracts from that.
My suggestion is to take those existing variances and push them much further than in GSB1 — remove generic weapons from the game entirely, and to make sure that the weapons of each faction are truly distinctive from one another (i.e. a wider range of kinetic weapons for The Tribe faction and equipment to really push their tank-status, etc,.). If each faction in GSB2 were to have their own full array of weapons and defenses and support systems, unique onto themselves, each faction will take on a compelling new level of depth in ship design and fleet organization and the player will need to learn and master each faction to be successful. This type of asymmetry will raise the challenge factor and set GSB2 even further above other comparable game experiences. This would give the player a whole lot more content to discover and enjoy.
Arguably, the greatest testament to the success of a game is the amount of time players spend playing it. In an age where player experience becomes franchise success and where games are too-often simplified to be easy to produce or play, it would be great to see a product reach the market which raises the ante on asymmetrical game play instead. I’ve probably logged more time in GSB1 and GTB than most of my other games combined.
I haven’t looked forward to a new release in a long time, and I am very excited for the prospects of GSB2. Thank you for your hard work!