|Ryan Dancey CEO, Goblinworks|
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There's no functional difference between an "RTS engine" and an "over the shoulder" engine. They effectively use the same technology and the same art pipeline.
You save some money because you can make less detailed models, but you gain a lot of costs because you have to spend a lot of time trying to make small graphics look cool, and distinct enough to be understood by the player. The only place where this really applies (both savings and cost) is in character models. The models for structures, vegetation, etc. remain about the same level of cost & complexity regardless.
No money is saved on the environment because you have to make a huge world in either scenario.
A substantial cost is added in UI and visual effects (VFX). In an RTS environment you don't get the simple feedback loop of seeing your character act and being able to respond. Instead the game needs a lot of visual indications and audio indications that the user's input has been received and is being processed. Plus in the RTS world you need to be able to group and issue group commands, set waypoints, etc. all of which requires a lot of extremely complex programming, to say nothing of the level of graphic design required.
And then in the end you are taking the risk that the so-far nonexistent RTS "MMO" market is big enough to support a game that has to iterate from an MVP to some final state nobody has ever seen before, vs. the proven "over-the-shoulder" MMO market that is 2 million people in size (or larger) and where the evolutionary roadmap from MVP to something more sophisticated is intuitively understood by most of the players - they already know what the final destination looks like and they don't have to try and imagine it.
Summary: You don't save any money, you don't use less complex tools, you don't need less talented people, and you take a huge risk that nobody understands what you're trying to do and that the market you're addressing doesn't exist.