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In strategy computer games, of both the turn-based and real-time varieties, a build order is a linear pattern of production, research, and resource management aimed at achieving a specific and specialized goal. They are analogous to chess openings, in that a player will have a specific order of play in mind, however the amount the build order, the strategy around which the build order is built or even which build order is then used varies on the skill, ability and other factors such as how aggressive or defensive each player is.
Often, the name of a build order usually reflects two key aspects therein:
- The desired goal of the entire build order.
- The key management decisions involved in the build order.
Evidence of this can be found in the following examples:
- Six-Pool Rush (StarCraft) - Six-Pool being the management decision, rush implying production of zerglings quickly.
- Rule Of Ten (Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War) - Ten being the desired production goal of infantry units.
- Oranos 4:30 (Age of Mythology: The Titans) - 4:30 being the desired time to reach tech level 2.
- 4ES (Company of Heroes) - 4ES standing for 4 Engineers and a Sniper (a unique American opening); Fast Armored Car (the objective being to get an Armored Car before the opponent has reach the same tech level - Wehrmacht); Riflestall (the objective being to use the power and flexibility of Riflemen squads to hold off the opponent before pulling out higher-tech units - American); Piospam (the objective being to produce large numbers of Pioneers and nothing else - until higher tier - Wehrmacht).
Strategy computer games typically offer a player many choices in which structures to build, units to train, and which technologies to research. Each technology that a player researches will open up more options, but may or may not, depending on the computer game the player is playing, close off the paths to other options. A tech tree is the representation of all possible paths of research a player can take. Analysis of the tech tree leads to specific paths that a player can take to optimally advance specific strategic or tactical goals. These optimized paths are build orders.
For example, a player who plans to launch an attack by air may only build the structures necessary to construct air units and may research only the technologies which enhance the capabilities of air units. The order in which to build those structures and research those technologies is known as a build order.
Build orders often involve significant timing issues. This applies to both turn-based and real-time strategy games. In turn-based games, specific buildings and technologies will take a specific number of turns to complete. A build order may involve waiting until specific turns to begin building the next building or researching the next technology. In real-time strategy games, timing may be even more crucial. To execute an optimal rush, a player will not only have to know exactly what to build or research but also when to do so. If the build order is altered in any way, the units or structures may not be produced as quickly. The delay may mean the difference between a game win and a game loss.
Experienced players of strategy games will memorize build orders, as it gives them a significant advantage over players who are not familiar with build orders.
Build orders involve all forms of resource management, including unit production and control. The loss of a unit or the over-production of another may delay or change the course of a build order. Complex build orders that involve a combination of key units may fail completely due to improper unit control, despite correct development of buildings and technology research.
- For Master of Orion II (especially research): "Master of Orion II Strategy Guide". 2005.
- For Civilization IV (research only): "Sid Meier's Civilization IV Game Guide (19/21): Research".