How to win at RTS games

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Real Time Strategy (RTS) games typically have have a couple of different resources that you collect in some way, and you use those to build a bunch of buildings that let you make units to that let you go over the other side of the map and crush the other person.

Anyone used to DOTAs, FPSs, other games will pretty quickly pick up that different units have different useful abilities and that if you practice with them and use your units together, you’ll do better at fights, and beat other people’s army.  You’ll practice and beat some people who haven’t done as much practice as you.

And then you’ll start getting absolutely crushed by people who just built a big shed-load of stuff and told it all to go kill you.  Because until you’re in the top 10-15% of players of a particular game, you’ll get much better returns putting your effort into getting really efficient at creating your buildings and army and ending up with an army twice as big, than you will in squeezing a little extra damage out of each attack.   In RTS terms we talk about Macro (getting your economy going and building stuff – the big strategic stuff) and Micro (getting the most out of your individual units). And until you’re very, very good and can manage to do both very well, Macro >> Micro.

So what’s all this rambly stuff about computer games doing in a blog about testing and management?

Well the reason for the Macro vs Micro question at all is because there’s a hidden secret resource in all RTS games – the same hidden resource mechanic for any project that you’re managing – your time and focus.   And that same choice to focus on Micro vs Macro (and the same relative benefits) apply to projects too.

If you train yourself to put all your time and effort into adding a little bit of extra benefit to helping the people on your team do their jobs better, then you’re focusing on improving Micro.  (That’s not that you’re Micro-managing – but you’re focussing on individual tactical details.)  Your team will do better, and they and you will see it and feel better, because you’re delivering more.  Hurrah.

But you could be doing vastly better if you’re putting your time an energy into the Macro, letting everyone get on with their jobs – even when you could spend your time and effort coaching them a little bit extra – and instead focusing on making everything surrounding those jobs smooth and efficient.

In reality, we want to do both Micro and Macro, but if you’re not providing both, then Macro is probably a more important place to spend your time.



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