Simplicity is another key
What characterized the old RTS titles such as C&C series was the simplicity of the gameplay. If we check all the modern RTS games, we notice that multitasking plays a bigger and bigger role everyday, and that could be considered as the current rising problem in the latest strategy games. They tend to become so complicated that just learning how to play the game starts taking hours ( Achron ) or units become so dull that normal strategies require a huge armies in order to succeed ( SupCom ).
We notice that recently a lot of old games have fully succesfully risen back from their graves with a new title and new enhancements. Starcraft II, Mortal Kombat 9, Diablo III, TorchLight, and many other games - instead of trying new random crazy experiments that have great chances of failing, decided to go back to old days and take the old gameplay back to the future. You might think that old gameplay flows were unpolished and bad, you may be right in some cases but generally all those old games were made simple enough so that people could easily understand the concept and get into them without a problem. I’m not talking about making games mainstream, mainstreaming is making a game easy to all audience, what we want is for people to be able easily adapt to our game and the best way to do that would be creating a gameplay that’s simple and yet can become really complicated and challenging. Once again, Chess would be the perfect example for this.
The first time I played a C&C game was a random skirmish, I hadn’t even started the campaign mode. The game started with one MCV and the only thing you could do is deploy it, then after deploy the only next thing was building a Powerplant, then Refinery, Barracks, Units, and slowly like that I understood the whole flow of the game. The gameplay was some sort of step-by-step tutorial itself, the flow was so easy that even a kid could grasp it.
The problem now is that when a game becomes too simple, it looses it’s aspect of strategy. We have to find the right balance between the complexity of the gameflow and simplicity of the gameplay, so that people can easily adapt and still have many possible strategies at their disposal.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Supreme Commander series ( except SupCom2 ), but every time I play I feel that almost every single unit in that game is worse than a simple chess pawn.