Then another ground breaking game: Dune II, The building of a dynasty.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tppjzT-su0Q http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKclZnrWglU
(one of three endings of the game)
This is the original Westwood's game that levelled the ground for real time strategy games in a same way as Wolfenstein 3D started shoot-em-ups. It was followed in 1995 by Command & Conquer (freeware nowadays). Dune is actually a sci-fi novel written by Frank Herbert (pretty good one), one was partially copied by George Lucas in Star Wars. In short the novel happens in a desert planet called Arrakis (or Dune), and it is the home of the heavily mutagenic substance called Spice that space navigators consume while navigating through stars. This substance is required by massive amounts in the space empire, and the only source is Dune. The harvesting is trusted to some large faction (called houses) by time. The book is about the destruction of house of Atreides by the deceit perpetrated by house of Harkonnen when the harvesting permissions were given to them. In the end, after much warring and battling house of Atreides is rebuilt and starts a new emperor dynasty.
Unfortunately, Dune II only borrows the surface layer of the novel and has very little to do with the original novels by itself. However, the game was pretty good by that time so this thing is overlooked. Today, the graphics are again 320x240ish and units look like toys you used to play with in a sandbox but back then were very sufficient. There is surprisingly large amount of speech in the game, even to the point it informed the player about every single unit being destroyed "Sardaukar destroyed" etc. Some times this caused the sound buffer overflow when multiple units were destroyed in short sequence, some of them screaming, some of the exploding and game happily playing victory tune of each unit blown up. Besides, "Construction complete" can still be found from modern Westwood games!
In the technology tree there was a general progression towards more powerful units, more powerful unit being almost always a better choice than the weaker. Infantry were pretty much useless in the game, it pretty much has no purpose. Airforces consisted of attack aircraft and carryalls, carryalls being more useful for repair and increasing the resource gathering speed. Each of the houses had their own special tank unit, Harkonnen heavy Devastator has self-destruct capability with massive damage to surroundings, Atreides being the most humane eliminate their enemies by the blasts of the Sonic Tank and Ordos clan has the bastardly Deviator that could take control of any enemy unit. All of the houses have ultimate superweapons also, Atreides having the disappointing Fremen infantry unit (which in book could dominate about anything on ground), Ordos having the invisible saboteur (massively useful) and Harkonnen the inaccurate but massively destructive Death Hand missile (Save and Reload anyone!).
It is more clear that the nowadays user interfaces with RTS type games have been improved. Back then with Dune II it was necessary to instruct every single unit at a time, there wasn't group movement. Also, attack, move and retreat instructions were issued from a list, this being a quite slow method. Add in the "Affirmative" -acknowledgement by all units when touched, it turned out to be quite annoying. Especially when that giant sandworm came up to eat your expensive newly constructed Siege Tanks.
The enemy AI is relatively poor, it mostly sends units as a non-concentrated stream towards your base through the shortest route, this leading to human player fortifying some areas and neglecting the rest of the base. Missions themselves are just repeats of each others, construct a base and wipe off the resistance, the variation comes from different technologies available. Music reacts to changes, sometimes being catchy and sometimes not especially notable.
All structures in the game had to be constructed on a rock bed, and prefereably on concrete slabs, otherwise they tended to break apart when exposed to hard conditions on the planet surface. The powerplants were the most annoying, as the structures were quite weak and tended to wear off in ten minute interval. Repairing of the structures was though easy, just clicking the repair button. But this tended to get irritating after 10 missions of the same. Other than that, the structures are pretty much standard nowadays: light infantry, heavy infantry, light vehicles, heavy vehicles and airborne unit factories plus the additional black space market building. Refineries and silos for financing, windtraps for power, outposts for radar and palaces for superweapons. There were two different types of defensive turrets also, difference being mostly in the range.
That's about it for this time, waiting for your favorites!