A Recipe for Success
This was something that I wanted to suggest for a long time now, but I thought it would only be proper of me to suggest it, if it was of paramount importance. And yes, I do think it is.
There are two games that I think were huge hits and most of you will have heard of them (which adds to the evidence of their success):
- Warcraft 3 and expansion (only the RTS games we're talking about)
- Battle for Middle-Earth series
One operated on a smaller scale; armies were smaller. But the merit in Warcraft was the strong storyline which revolved around a few people that were commandable heroes outside of the cutscenes. What this allows the player to do is feel the emotions and the highs and lows of the hero/anti-hero they are commanding. This is because if a story revolves around armies, then it is difficult to feel the emotions just leading armies to the slaughter. This is something that Battle for Middle-Earth as a game has not been able to achieve. In the books and movies it did, but not in the game, but we'll come back later to Battle for Middle-Earth.
In Warcraft 3, let's take the example of Arthas, whose betrayal and murder of his father, the king (after retrieving the sword Frostmourne) came to me as an huge shock, no less. He even sacrificed his friend Muradin Bronzebeard for Frostmourne, whom I had grown to like over just one or two missions. And then- on top of all that- Arthas defected to the Undead, the Undead!! Of all the evil factions, he stooped that low. Frostmourne had empowered him so much. My willpower to play as Arthas was suddenly zilch. It was such a big shock, I still think back about it now. I remember my cousin stopped playing the game for many weeks when he came to that part. The way it was all built up how Arthas went all the way to Northrend (the equivalent of the Arctic) just to find a way to stop the Undead- and then this. Back then I was 17, older than many here are today and I've had my fair share of violent, gorey and horror movies. But the sequence of events, how Arthas was pitched to be the saviour, the hero of Humans in Lordaeron and how that tinge of arrogance in him which was hidden beneath his desire for the Good and welfare of his people, how that arrogance manifested (expressed) itself.
The second example I'd like to use is that of the evil Arthas (in the Frozen Throne), an evil person whom the player is lead to control. Now this is the other side of the coin where one begins to grow into the outfit they're given, of Evil. In the beginning of that Undead mission, I was squinting because I didn't like the new Arthas, and I did so for the next few missions. But then, after may be 3 or 4, it was like the player wants to unleash destruction, destroying any Good barrier or obstacle and take over and rule the world muhahahahaaa-style!
The other thing is, not every mission should be building bases and armies, some can be like the first one; like the one in your script. Even if most were about building a base/encampment and armies, a few should be more focused on a few characters.
One last thing in this regard, is the totally different feel that one has as soon as they play a different faction. Even the HUD (heads up display) changed with each faction. The first time I played as Night Elves, I hated it. Absolutely hated it. They were just soo different. All purple with blue clothes. But after that first mission I grew to like them just as I did with the other factions. They were unique with their weird voices and they were unique in that they were mysterious and other-worldly.
The second part is, the Battle for Middle-Earth. This is about big armies and epic battles. This was the first RTS game I played with such vast armies, and I loved it. But after the campaign, the 'skirmish' option began to dry up slowly. It's just that a lot of the maps were barren and sometimes colourless (colorless). So different colours imo is key. But the epic feel of it was the factor that made me love it (as well as my liking of LOTR generally).
So the idea is to make battles epic, but the storyline can move in on particular characters and what they choose to do with their epic armies. At times, heroes may have to move alone through forests, underworlds, wildernesses/mountains/whatevers, so this is another factor key to a good, nay the best kind of game.
I'll add anything else if I've forgotten. I know it's a lot, but errr whatever :P