‘Tooth and Tail’ Is a Cute Strategy Game at War with Its Own Genre


#1

There's a fine line between streamlining a complicated game genre and gutting it.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/zm3vze/tooth-and-tail-is-a-cute-strategy-game-at-war-with-its-own-genre

Reading 'Redwall' and Discovering a Treat for the Senses
#2

As someone who isn’t a huge RTS fan, this game sounds really interesting and I’ll definitely think about looking into it. Taking out the strategic component, while clearly a loss to someone experienced in the genre like Dias is, might well make it more enticing to a newcomer like myself, who doesn’t know their elbow from their oboe when it comes to different economic strategies in RTS games (the Zerg go fast, right?).


#3

I haven’t had the chance to play the game yet, but I have a lot of respect for Pocketwatch Games. With Monaco, they did a pretty fantastic job paring the genre tropes of stealth down into a fast and simple game. It took inspiration from countless ‘heist’ media from gaming, cinema, and maybe even a little lit (IDK, could be overreaching with that one).

While Dias seems absolutely on point with his takes, I agree with @robowitch that perhaps the added accessibility could make a huge difference for drawing in people looking for an experience outside of the usual RTS genre stuff.

I can’t help but be reminded of Divekick. It pulled back from a TON of the mechanical identifiers of fighting games, focusing instead on just few key concepts. I wonder, did people have similar feelings regarding Divekick around it’s release?


#4

Yes absolutely. In the more hardcore fighting game communities, I saw a lot of cynicism about Divekick as some meme-y gimmick rather than anything resembling a serious fighter. Which isn’t entirely wrong, a lot of that is explicitly the goal of the game, but there was a degree of gatekeeping there that insinuated it was representing a simplification of the genre.

In this case the goal of T&T actually is a simplification of the genre rather than being a send-up of it the way Divekick is for fighters.

Hearing that they’ve effectively removed micro-management has me interested, I struggle severely when a game requires me to keep more than a couple of plates spinning at once.


#5

Taking out the strategic component, while clearly a loss to someone experienced in the genre like Dias is, might well make it more enticing to a newcomer

I’m a fan of the genre and the lack of micromanagement is exactly why I’m looking forward to Tooth and Tail. I used to play a bunch of RTS games but only the single player since I was never good enough to compete online. What made these kinds of games fun, for me, was controlling huge armies. Getting bogged down with telling specific units exactly where to stand took away from that. I want to select 20 troops and send them off to do their thing, not tell Bob to stand here, John stands to the left of Bob, scooch Stacy over exactly 2 feet because it’s slightly more efficient.

The last RTS I really got into was Starcraft one. After its massive, global success the entire genre, and similar genres like MOBAs, shifted focus almost entirely to split second micro. I get the desire for this extremely technical high level play, but it always seemed to be a little tunnel vision-ed, like it was missing the forest for the trees.

Basically what I’m saying is Pikmin is the best RTS game fight me.


#6

As someone who’s been involved with the alpha community for over a year for Tooth and Tail, I have to disagree with the claims that Tooth and Tail sacrifices strategy and macro because the very basis of Tooth and Tail is more about addressing the mechanical barriers of traditional RTS’s.

The developers built the game to play on a controller, so with that, they took the different aspects of the RTS to make it playable on controller. Micro is less intense to perform as it has been reduced to a simple call group/call all type, similar to how Pikmin controls.

The Macro game comes down to understanding which processes are automated. Units will recruit automatically, so you can be real danger of supply blocking if you’re not on top of making sure you have appropriate resources. Furthermore, because farms have a limited life, you are required to quickly expand to make sure you do not die due to starvation. Thus, you have to be aware of how much time has passed since you built a farm or a building.

For strategy, the units are super-specialized into specific roles. So rather than your army composition determining what strategy you decide to stick to, you instead have a flexible amount of decisions you can make in the game. A lot of gameplay thus relies on you scouting out your opponent and adjusting your plans as need be.

I’ve seen a lot of RTS fans in the alpha come to like this game a lot because it doesn’t actually sacrifice what makes RTS so amazing. Instead, it changes up how it’s played so that it’s more accessible to people who probably felt intimidated by games like StarCraft or Red Alert. I think TotalBiscuit said it best when he remarked that Tooth and Tail being a simplified game doesn’t make it less than an RTS. Many tropes of RTS still exist in Tooth and Tail, just in a different form so that more people are able to get to that level.


#7

Do you feel that this is an RTS game that takes time for it to become clear where macro/micro/strategy have been moved to (compared to a Starcraft)? That’s the sense I’m getting out of this post, but I just wanted to tease that out a little more, if you wouldn’t mind talking about it as someone with experience with it from the alpha period.


#8

ok! i wrote up my thoughts on this game after giving it some of my time:

short version is that it is a super bite sized RTS that 100% feels like an RTS rather than some stripped down tactics version of it. there’s a real need to understand your economy and manage time, but it gives you a lot of tools to adapt quickly and is easily to teach and have casual matches in.

my favorite way to play it was to do several matches with a single person, as it gave me time to adapt and find out counter strategies to my opponent’s tendencies. as someone who’s found the genre very time consuming and intimidating this felt like a fresh and dynamic take on it.


#9

Sorry that it’s been a while to reply to this. Been a bit busy

I think with any new game that has different spins on the genre conventions, it’ll take time to see where the usual tropes and such are. But from the last few weeks of watching SC2 personalities play the game and pick it up fast, including TotalBiscuit, Artosis, and Nathanias, it pretty much shows that the hallmarks of RTS gameplay is still intact.

Of course, the speed in which you understand the RTS mechanics at play is gonna depend on your own personal ability, but over time of playing it, it’s been heartening to see people get why I myself got into the game a year ago.


#10

So as a huge fighting game fan I’ve had my experiences with trying to convince people to get into a tough genre, especially involving multiplayer. I always liked StarCraft but never fully understood how to play I think. The art style and theme is what really got me to get Tooth and Tail, but I was interested in finally learning an RTS.

So after playing about an hour of the story I said, what the heck lemme dive into this ranked ladder. I got obliterated a few times. I guess now I know what it feels like to try to start playing fighting games for the first time… :sweat_smile:

The thing is I kinda expected the game to teach me some basics beyond the controls, like you should probably build in this order, and maybe other little nuances that someone who hasn’t played RTSs for 20 years wouldn’t know. I’m enjoying it either way though.


#11

I think with multiplayer-based games, it can be a little tricky to teach people outright what to do.

At least with games like Tooth and Tail, it’s able to help knock down the mechanical barrier of learning the genre and allow the player to instead get into understanding what to do correctly. A tutorial that teaches proper timings, however, is a little tough. Programming AI to do things can help create a bad habit since it can’t exactly create the player experience. Maybe the next step is to create something akin to Guilty Gear/Skullgirls/Killer Instinct tutorial and practice modes, which I’ve heard are pretty darn good tutorials.

I do find that Tooth and Tail does give you the tools to learn. There’s always a post-match screen showing you the value graphs, and instant access to replays so you can review what your opponent was doing.

It pretty much was what Artosis did after the first few matches of ranked ladder, where he would examine what his opponent was doing and then just do that and see what he can do from there. Granted, he is a seasoned RTS player with years of experience, but he still was able to learn the nuances of TnT after reviewing a few of his matches.

And, I think that’s definitely a factor in teaching somebody how to play in that they should have a way to review what went wrong and what to do improve. And if they don’t understand, there’s a community willing to look at the replays to point some things out. And because the control methods are much easier to perform, communicating strategies becomes a lot more informative.