If you’re the creative type then the idea of designing your own games can seem appealing. For a moment or two, anyway, until you began to think about exactly how many technical challenges you’d need to overcome in order to make this dream a reality.
You don’t have to handle everything on your own, though. Spring is a capable, versatile and open source 3D RTS engine which can take care of many of the low-level gaming tasks, leaving you to get on with the more important design decisions.
The system supports just about everything you’d expect from a modern game. It can handle up to 5,000 units for the most massive battles, for instance. You’ll play on huge maps, with deformable terrain and dynamic, reflective water. A quality physics engine ensures everything behaves just as you’d expect, and games can be played against the computer, over a LAN or even online.
Of course, even with help from Spring there’s still a vast amount of work to do in building a game. Just designing all the graphics you need will take considerable skill, and perhaps a lot of time.
But if you’d like to get started more gently then you can always download and experiment with some of the games that have already been created by others.
Or, even if you’ve no interest in game design, you can simply use Spring to help you find and play some fun free RTS games. And with games based around economy building or simple action, Star Wars-themed combat or large scale World War 2 tank battles, there’s more than enough variety to keep you entertained.
If there’s a complication here it comes in deciding exactly what to download. Spring itself is just an engine, no use without a game and map; but some games can be added separately, while others include the engine as well, so are entirely stand-alone.
If you’re interested in free RTS gaming, then, the best place to start is probably at the Spring site. This lists some of the most popular games, and if you follow the links to any which appeal then you’ll find out more about the components you need to download.