This December marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the landmark Real-Time Strategy game Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty by Westwood Studios. Dune II was not the first RTS game to be developed but its release marked the beginning of RTS as a major genre in PC, and to a lesser degree console, gaming. It introduced the mechanics and style that would be utilized in RTS games for the next decade, only being superseded by Blizzard’s variation of the genre after the release of Command & Conquer: Generals in 2003.
Since Dune II’s release Westwood Studios developed several RTS titles, with accompanying sequels, before its closure by Electronic Arts in early 2003. These included the seminal Command & Conquer and its associate spinoff Command & Conquer: Red Alert, as well as a remake of Dune II titled Dune 2000 which featured enhanced graphics and improved gameplay taken from the development of Red Alert. All of these titles stayed true to their original RTS format and nourished a thriving RTS community.
Computer hardware and software has moved on since the heyday of Westwood’s production, and on average at quite an alarming rate, and it’s not uncommon for these older titles to no longer function properly on newer operating systems. Additionally Electronic Arts ceased the support for these titles since the closing down of the GameSpy servers, which provided multiplayer support for Westwood’s games, in 2014. Yet these titles held a strong sense of nostalgia among gamers and many fans considered them to be the best in their genre even twenty years later.
This brings us to the online modding community; the body of gamers and improvised developers that has kept numerous classics from the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s alive and active as technology progressed. Westwood’s titles in particular received strong support from cncnet.org and cnc-online.net, which continued to freely offer multiplayer server support to players of any Westwood RTS game (as well as the first person shooter C&C spinoff Renegade) developed since Command & Conquer’s release. In addition cncnet.org provides access to freeware downloads of the games it supports in addition to downloads of some of the most popular community mods for those titles.
It never ceases to amaze how eager gamers are to spread the enjoyment they received from these games to other members of the online community. Both cncnet.org and cnc-online.net offer their services free of charge and function completely by donation. Their downloads are high quality, expertly crafted, and have been remastered to ensure that these elderly titles continue to function on the latest operating systems. Multiplayer support is consistent and reliable with ranking systems and support for modding.
It was the gaming community that kept classics like Battlefield 1942 alive and they have done the same with Command & Conquer and its RTS contemporaries, even when the titles’ publishers and developers abandoned them or became defunct. Now it has delivered the most effective and enduring part of the RTS genre to the modern gamer. These venerable titles still show their age; they lack the dynamic 3-D graphics, advanced commands, and co-operative support of newer games, but they embody the best of the RTS genre and are more than capable of providing simple and continuous fun for casual and competitive gamers.