Polish costs money. Blizzard has huge budgets and masses of developers to throw at their projects. When they make a release, they can do so in confidence, because they know that the bought-and-paid-for gaming press will lavish anything they make with praise and it'll sell a bajillion copies.
Let's even assume Blizzard games are successful with press now because they're made by famous Blizzard. How do you think they've arrived at their current position ?
2) By polishing less than perfect games until they're at least enjoyable
1) By not releasing broken games. Here's the list of games Blizzard worked on, but cancelled so as to not damage their reputation:
- Games People Play
- Shattered Nations
- Pax Imperia
- Warcraft Adventures
Blizzard felt these games were not good enough to be released. They would cause brand damage. It's unfortunate Stardock thinks otherwise. But they will pay the price.
RTS(And FPS) are one-trick ponies. They're pretty much fully exploited because they're very simplistic and because by nature, there's little room for innovation. The speed at which they play inherently prevents complex systems from being introduced.
Being interested in the genre, I can give you a list of highly innovative FPS games, even modern ones. Thief (stealth as the main mechanic), System Shock 1 and 2 (rpg elements), Half Life 1 (unprecedensed focus on story), Portal (a game you claim impossible - a puzzle), Team Fortress 2 (the unreleased one, not the cartoon one. The one whose many features like medic revives ended up in later games like Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory), Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (character progression in multiplayer, xp as a way to promote team behaviour), Natural Selection and C&C Renegade (Mix of RTS and FPS, you build, defend and destroy bases), Starsiege: Tribes (vector-based movement, prediction, unique movement), Mirror's Edge (movement). For what it's worth, Borderlands and Counterstrike did something new too. And there just was a Zero-G shooter too.
In case of FPS, it's publishers' fault. They go for the lowest common denominator. There's plenty of innovation to be had in FPS games, just look at mods. Modern game development is dominated by Hollywood-style obsession with presentation and good graphics at the cost of everything else. You can't compete with biggest players in this field unless you have heaps of money.
I have a quote for you:
For example, Red Alert 3 could be relatively hardcore in that if you rolled out with a huge army and it was the /wrong/ huge army you could get crushed. We went for lower lethality this time. Even if you roll out with the wrong army here you can still feel like you are having an impact on the battlefield. It just lets a few more people in.
I honestly don't think it needs it needs further comment, but I like to drive the point home.
As for RTS, strategy games are perceived as something that doesn't sell. They're perceived as something too niche. Besides, they're technically very challenging. A* doesn't cut it in an RTS game, you need something better. A* doesn't account for often predictable movement of other actors. It's full of unsolved scientific problems. Because of the difficulty indie developers have problems entering the field. Total Annihilation proved you can do many innovation, as did Relic with Company of Heroes and Warhammer 1. You just don't see it from Activision, EA, and nowadays - Blizzard. Imagine if you applied the level of interface improvements and automation TA had to other aspects of interface. RTS is faster, but that's what improved interface is for. If I could use a couple of orders to coordinate two separate attacks instead of making sure my army gets through a bridge properly, it would be a completely different world.
Old games were often better because they tended to be made by small groups of people. This is inherently more innovative, and there would be more actual gamers among them. Also, computers back then were used mostly by geeks, so games had to appeal to geeks too. They had to be interesting.