Command and Conquer Economy

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

In most civilisation- and city-building games, nothing ever gets built unless the player specifically orders it. While it is simpler to depict the resource management in this way, it is very unrealistic to, for example, have to build "state" stables and "state" smithies in order to recruit knights in a medieval-themed game, or have to specifically order a resource extraction operation rather than have an autonomous agent do it in response to increased demand.

Of course, this grossly unrealistic Command Economy mechanism in games like Command & Conquer is often one of the Acceptable Breaks From Reality; many players would find it less fun to put down some infrastructure, set certain policies and watch the results rather than tinkering with everything themselves. Also, it is obviously more difficult to create an AI that could simulate the dynamics of city or civilisation development in a reasonable manner. Some games, like the later Total War and Civilization games, partially avert this by allowing you to let the AI manage cities autonomously.

It also prevents poor AI from sapping all your resources into pointless crap.

This is why You Require More Vespene Gas. Compare Easy Communication, where it's your units who require an unrealistic amount of instruction from the player.

Examples of Command and Conquer Economy include:

Video Game Examples

Four X

  • In the Civilization games, no city will build any improvements or units or develop their own surroundings unless the player or the player-appointed AI specifically orders it. This is particularly notable in the later iterations of the series, and the related game Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, where the player can declare their nation to be operating under free market economics. Presumably justified by the idea that there's a lot of economic activity separate from the government projects that are presented to the player. Also, in Alpha Centauri, one can set a base to operate under a Governor, and define things a governor can and can not do, allowing the AI to run each base according to the priorities you set and you to intervene when necessary.
    • In the first game, every time a city built a new city improvement, it would be displayed in the city. Later sequels dropped that, but you could still go to the "city view" option, which shows that the city is building houses and roads without any player interaction. Also, the whole "corruption" game mechanic could be viewed as the cities spending their resources on things that you haven't asked for.
    • Also, each turn your city will "drop off" several of everything: gold, production, food, etc. This could very well reflect everyday doings in the city: because people are working the farms you get food, because they're trading you get money from taxes.
    • From Civilization III onwards, you can automate workers to build improvements around cities by themselves.
      • Other late entries include AI Governors who will manage construction in cities for you, allowing you to focus on national issues.
  • The first Master of Orion averts this by virtue of simplicity: The city-equivalent is a planet, which is represented by a handful of numbers such as the total amount of factories, and managing one consists entirely of allocating its output with six sliders. The player feels like he's encouraging industrialization instead of placing individual installations. Notifications when significant limits are reached and the option to set all planets to implement newly discovered advances mean that most planets can be left to plod along on their own. The upshot is that the player still has to decide on everything, but "everything" is abstract and painless enough to make sense.
    • Master of Orion II moves to a Civilization-esque model and plays this trope straight.
    • Master of Orion III is largely based on an attempt to revolutionize this trope: the sorts of direct orders you can give are heavily limited, and the management of your empire is very much management. You do not get to actually do much at all, aside from give generalized orders and hope the AI carrying them out doesn't manage to foul up the details as they trickle down. Not at all coincidentally, this entry in the series was bad enough to prove why this trope is indeed one of the Acceptable Breaks From Reality.
  • Sword of the Stars works this way. The player is responsible for designing every single ship type and ordering the construction of every new ship, while all the infrastructure is built automatically. Given that most of the species in Sword of the Stars have authoritarian governments where the head of state holds (theoretically) absolute power, it's mostly justified.
    • Actually, there are free aspects. Like the fact that industry and population develops on their own on the planets (you just set priorities). Seeing how making a relatively small starship takes the whole industrial production of a single planet for at least a year, it quite makes sense to be controlled by the government.
    • This is noticeably averted in the sequel, where colonies will build mining stations, design and construct prototypes and build defensive fleets when their economy is robust enough to permit it. Played straight with research and through pretty much the whole rest of the game. And because the game is in a state of semi-permanent beta, the effect doesn't always work as intended.
  • Everything in the Space Empires series has to be expressly ordered by the player. Planets are useless if you don't set up the various facilities for them to generate income and build ships.
  • Star Ruler both uses and averts this. While you need to manually order the construction of ships, you can set Governors to automatically build structures on the planets you colonise.

Real Time Strategy

  • As the title says, Command & Conquer. Granted, these are invariably military buildings, and you're typically the first military presence to enter the area.
  • Also created by Westwood Studios (who made Command and Conquer), Dune II was the Trope Maker. Spice was gathered for cash, and justifiable in that local mining operations close to the battlefield, while contributing nothing to defense (indeed, increasing your need for defense) would be more expedient than shipping the raw materials and manpower to the front.
  • All you need to make your army in Act of War is just money, which can be obtained from oil derricks, banks or prisoners of war.
  • In the Total War games, feudal warriors like knights or samurai must have player-built buildings representing armouries, weaponmakers and stud farms present in order to be recruited. It would of course be more realistic to have them equip themselves from the income of their estates, train offscreen and show up when obliged to fight.
    • Medieval II balances between the two. A big castle with no stables can still build knights, but only a few of them. France, the most heavy-cavalry-oriented faction in the game, even has a specific knight type, "Noble Knights", who are identical to another type except that they're available from a castle instead of a stable and cost more in upkeep.
      • At the same time it is also good for simplifying things. If MTWII was that historically accurate then theoretically any of said estates or group of estates could rebel against the central government (the player) if the king ever did something they didn't like. By having the player handle all of it the game cuts out a lot of what would have taken more computing power and time to resolve.
      • You never got excommunicated in that game, did you? You'll have half your army turn on you and rebels rampaging across your country.
      • That's before the crusades, during which armies start recruiting mercenaries off your territory. Treacherous bastards.
    • Indeed the nobles are stingy bastards.
    • Some of the games wouldn't even let you control many aspects of the cities unless you put a general there.
    • Several mods, such as Real Recruitment and Byg's Grim Reality for Medieval 2, try to avert this trope and Ridiculously-Fast Construction by instead giving you a virtually fixed number of units. These can only be sent out of their home province through great exertion, unless led by legendary-quality generals. This is arguably very realistic, but it does make waging the eponymous Total War nigh-on fake difficult.
  • Exception: The game Victoria: An Empire Under The Sun from Paradox had a complicated world market that meant that one did not necessarily have to make all of the various goods (such as paper, canned food, telephones, etc.) you might need yourself. The expansion, Revolutions, allowed you to create Capitalists, who, upon having enough extra cash, could build factories and railroads for you. Depending on your government, you might even be prevented from building factories or railroads yourself.
  • Majesty averts this trope - no heroes get hired or marketplaces built without your royal order, but most of the infrastructure of your city - houses, sewers, graveyards, and places of ill repute - is outside your control.
    • Which is pretty cool, but makes it very hard to build your sim city when some house or sewer pops up in a horrible place and totally ruins your plans.
  • Averted in Patrician 3: while town councils will not build additional houses and facilities, your AI competitors will.
  • Used in Rise of Legends, but somewhat handwaved as a matter of desperation, not careful and brilliant planning. The heroes aren't making a slow-and-steady push to grind their enemies down, they're running (and often flying) like mad to important sites to outmaneuver their enemies there, and have to build up anything they need from what's available instead of dragging a gargantuan army plus supply lines after them. Each mission map is technically a whole province with multiple cities, so they're also trying to establish a command economy that works just enough to keep them supplied and leaves the province sufficient once they're gone. Men thus come from the cities you build up, and mechanical (or magical) units are built in factories (or conjured on the spot) to save from having to transport an army of slow, heavy equipment all over.
  • Warcraft games have the player assigning peasants to their tasks and building farms and lumber mills as well as more military kinds of facility.
    • Naturally, StarCraft games being from the same company, have the same economy model. Just substitute gold with minerals, lumber with vespene gas, and food with supply or psy (for humans and the alien races, respectively)
  • Partially averted in the Settlers series. The player decides what buildings should be built where, and what enemy building should be attacked but from that point on your peasants/soldiers just take care of it. Additionally, once you've built something like a woodcutter, sawmill, farm, etc, it will cheerfully continue to run itself as long as your economy can provide it the necessary resources.
  • Total Annihilation and its successor Supreme Commander have this as a central part of the setting as well as a core gameplay mechanic. Thanks to nanotech, a single construction unit can build an exponentially-growing base and army limited only by local resources.
    • Supreme Commander features a slight aversion in that if you order a support commander to assist a bunch of buildings, he will automatically rebuild any that are destroyed. But you do have to tell him which buildings to protect first.
  • In Age of Empires II: the Conquerors construction and research has to be ordered , however villagers will automatically gather nearby resources if they have constructed a drop off point that corresponds to it, and military units will automatically attack nearby enemies (often getting themselves killed in the process).
  • Played straight in Achron. Partly justified by the buildings being purely military installations, as tends to be the case in most real-time strategy games.
  • Partially subverted in Company of Heroes, where the player's capacity for resource gathering expanded automatically when new territory was captured. Played straight, however, with the player having to micromanage other aspects of infrastructure, including upgrades to individual units.
  • In Outpost 2, you get to build structures and vehicles, something the citizens of the base will not do on their own. You also get to build structure kits, satellites, launch vehicles, and interstellar starship parts, all of which have to do with the story.


  • Dwarf Fortress uses this, but it makes sense because the leader of the fortress would most likely be pissed if his dwarves were tunneling like crazy without his permission. And considering what said dwarves might find...
    • Highlighted by this Three Panel Soul.
    • The third-party utility Dwarf Foreman was created to avert this trope for manufacturing, automatically dispatching work orders to create more of an item should your stocks fall below a certain amount.

Simulation Game

  • The Sims in The Sims. Without player guidance, they cannot buy furniture, get jobs, get married, etc. (Some non-player Sims will get jobs or marriages on their own in The Sims 3, but they'll still only have the furniture that came with their house, and the Sims in the active family still won't.) They can still do basic actions such as cook, sleep, use the toilet, and so on if free will is turned on, but in the first two games (and even the third to a lesser extent) they tend to be rather stupid about it. Turn free will off and they'll just stand in place until they starve if not explicitly told to do otherwise.
  • Averted in the SimCity games: While you are responsible for plopping all the infrastructure and public service buildings, homes, shops and industry will appear on its own in the appropriate zones after you designate them. And although having cities building and running their own power plants is not entirely unrealistic (power production in many countries is run directly by the State, but usually not by city/municipal governments), it's still rather unrealistic that every single city must produce its own power, when power plants in the real world are usually scattered around the countryside.
    • SimCity 4 does avert the last one: you can place your power buildings in one single town, and send power through the entire region via neighbor deals. But you're still the one who pays for it. Apparently people in SimCity don't get electric bills.
    • SimCity 3000 does it to some degree: you can buy your services from your neighbors, but doing so is crushingly expensive, and thus building your own infrastructure is encouraged.
    • SimCity Societies reverts to this trope straight by requiring the player to even build the houses. The player just picks what style they want the city to be in and starts plopping things down accordingly.
      • Granted you still need knowledge society energy if you want the nicer structures to benefit your power production.
  • City Life. You must manually plop every single house, work place, service and utility building. And by "services", Monte Cristo means malls, supermarkets, hospitals, schools, parks, police and fire stations, community centers, and even leisure businesses. (Sounds awfully like Societies, but the social class system makes it better than it sounds).
  • In the City Building Series, the citizens show even less initiative than in most games. Not only do you have to build everything for them except housing (which you merely designate plots for), they do not even go to the market themselves to buy food and goods; a peddler has to walk past. Owing to the vagaries of the walker system, you risk losing a lot of workers to an entire street being deserted due to a priestess failing to walk down it sufficiently often.
    • Made worse by the fact that the first few games didn't feature road blocks, which meants that priestesses were often providing spiritual care to your farms instead of your workers.
    • And alluded to in the Spiritual Successor Children of the Nile, where the citizens have to go buy their goods... and can occasionally be heard speaking of a golden age when a market lady brought pottery and linen right to your doorstep.
  • The Cultures series takes this to absurd lengths. Your citizens will not build anything, begin gathering materials, get a place to live, get a job, bring resources to and from stockpiles, buy anything, marry, or even have children without you telling them what to do. You can even order them to eat and sleep (admittedly realistic for troops, but?).
  • Provides an amusing contradiction in Tropico, which features a Capitalist faction that complains if the eponymous island's economy is not profitable or diverse enough, but don't seem to mind that the player, as President, controls the wage rate, hiring policy and pricing of every business on the island, as well as the building of every structure larger than a shack. Some justification may be possible by assuming that wages and prices are actually abstractions of the effects of taxes on the businesses in question - but doesn't begin to answer the question of building placement or hiring policy. Of course, some capitalists are more capitalist than others.
    • Averted with basic houses; if you don't provide affordable housing to your citizens they will build their own sacks. Beyond that the game is a planned economy where everything is built, owned and operated by the state.
    • Later sequels and expansions -from Tropico 3 onwards- gradually introduce some form of private enterprises such as privatization and foreign deals and business that pay the wages to their workers and a fee to the treasure to operate (they don't pay for raw materials though) but the profits are marginal compared to the ones you'd get by exporting yourself the goods. Though even then, you still have the option to demolish them.
  • This was a huge annoyance to many players of Black and White, where the pisswig villagers can't even do so much as build a single hut without divine intervention. Though the frustration may have had more to do with the game's awkward controls...
    • Black and White 2 made things slightly easier (emphasis on the slightly). Villagers will do whatever is required at the time without direction, such as gathering food or building a building, but they tend to vacillate between the available options frequently. The player has the option of "divinely guiding" a character by assigning them a task, as which point they will do nothing else for the rest of their lives.
  • In Transport Tycoon, the towns will automatically develop over time, without your assistance. This includes the building of roads, but you can assist in doing so if you want to coerce the development of a town in a specific way. You can accelerate, but not control, the growth of town buildings by dealing in Passengers there.
  • In Cyber Nations, nothing gets built without player say-so. Justified in that in Real Life, maintaining armies and infrastructure are the purview of the government, but you'd think that technological research could be handled by private labs...
  • In the Caesar games, citizens will build their own houses (in areas you designate), but you have to place everything else in your city: Markets, farms, granaries, workshops, etc. They'll run themselves as long as they have labour and raw materials, though.
  • Spore eventually has the player managing an entire interstellar empire. There are no structures the player doesn't build, there is no trade the player doesn't initiate, the only war the player doesn't wage is brought by rival computer-controlled empires, and the player has to physically travel to any place where something needs to be done.
  • The third Railroad Tycoon averts this, not only there are other rivals companies building their own transport networks but the game itself implements an alternative method; unpicked goods and materials are gradually moved from their production sites to the places where they are needed, following a supply and demand logic and price curves. Depending on the relative locations it can be inefficient or actually capable to feed the industries on it's own, as the cargo moves very slowly inland and even more in mountain terrain but faster via rivers and other bodies of water.

Turn Based Strategy

  • The Koei line of Romance of the Three Kingdoms video games (as in, the ones named for the series, not Dynasty Warriors), you are a warlord that has to manage an ever-growing series of cities; fortunately, you can create districts and delegate your officers to do most of the micro-managing.
  • While not requiring the player to build the necessary buildings, the Advance Wars series requires the player to capture buildings on the map in order to build an economy and produce units. Never really explained why the armies couldn't bring everyone, although justified and handwaved in the latest DS game, Days of Ruin in that the world has been decimated and humanity almost wiped out, while the units produced by automated factories are useful only in a close proximity to their factory of origin, presumably that particular map.
    • In Dual Strike, one particular CO has the ability to build units out of cities for half the cost. How this is done is even more inexplicable than the "build from factory" functionality.
  • Imperialism requires the player to approve every import, every commodity offered for export, the headcount in every factory and even the numbers of workers who get trained as experts or specialists. In Real Life, even the Soviet Union didn't centralize all of these decisions, and in any case the game is set in the Nineteenth Century, the high point of the free market in most countries.
  • Averted to some degree in the Amiga game Global Effect: While you had to micromanage most things like power and sewage and such, the game would build residential areas on its own as demand increased. Sadly, this was actually detrimental, as not only did it take energy (the standard resource you use for everything) from your own supply (thereby keeping you from completing more essential constructions), but it built them completely at random next to anything else you've built. So if you built a long sewage pipe leading waste far away from your planned residential zone, to keep people from getting sick? Surprise, now you have people living right in the middle of the sewage-plant area, or halfway along the pipe in the middle of nowhere. And they want you to provide power and water and roads. Presumably you could change this in the options menu, but due to a genius in the game's design, accessing the options cost more energy.

Non-Video Game Examples


  • Erfworld, being based on turn-based strategy games, uses this extensively. Everything in the world is geared towards war; although there are mines and farms, they are only supplemental to the much greater funds received from fighting.

Real Life

  • Italy before XI century had a feudal economy without the concept of market: the lord built farms and workshops with his own resources, assigned serfs to work the land and do artisan jobs, and got almost all the profit to spend in further building or military campaigning.
  • Command economies, such as in North Korea, essentially prevent any economic development or enterprise outwith state control.