Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Gas Powered Games sequel to Total Annihilation
Published on August 14, 2006 By Draginol In Real-Time

I don't know about you guys, but I am looking forward to Supreme Commander.

For those of you not familiar with it, it's a RTS being made by Chris Taylor's Gas Powered Games.  CT made the game Total Annihilation back in the late 90s which IMO is by far the best RTS that has ever been produced.

Rather than relying on a rock-paper-scissors type system, Total Annihilation introduced two pretty innovative concepts -- 1) Damage handled by the physics engine and 2) Pay as you go spending.

By damage handled by the physics engine that means shots can simply miss. Units have speeds and manuevability.  So you will literally see shots miss the target.  Having this extra dimension removes the need for things like "Unit A does 2X damage against Unit B".  It also eliminates the classic "I'll just build 50 of the same unit.." because some units move and fire drastically slower (which means they can get picked off by other means).

By pay as you go, this is my favorite part as it dramatically reduces the click-fest and micro management in RTSs.  In most RTS games, you can't build something until you have enough resources.  In TA, the building orders were decoupled from resources.  They still required X energy and Y metal to build, but different constructor units build at a rate of X energy and Y metal (which also meant that you could build things faster if you threw more units onto the structure). 

As a result, players could plan out their construction strategy at their leisure without even paying attention to how much energy and metal (the two resources in the game) that were stockpiled. The key was rate of resources coming in, not how much you had on-hand.

It also helped that it had terrific unit AI and an incredibly rich and intuitive user interface. 

I loaded up TA today and played with my son and it's amazing how well the game has aged.  This is a game that was probably developed around 1997.  Think back to that time, its competitor was Warcraft 2 and later Starcraft.  It was a 3D engine (software since back then no 3D hardware could support the kind of resolution people wanted) that could play at any resolution. The maps can be huge, there are tons of units, and tons of modding support and map making. Even today, it continues to thrive because players can make their own units and supply them to the game.  Even the AI was moddable (the game's AI was HORRIBLE, even for the time but modders improved that to the point that it's an excellent non-cheating AI).

Which brings us back to Supreme Commander.  How good it will be remains to be seen.  Total Annihilation was a niche game where as with SC, Gas Powered Games is hoping to make a more mainstream title. That worries me a tad. The website shows very few units per side (Total Annihilation had dozens of units per side to choose from which provided a high variety of strategies).  But the videos of it look impressive and with a hardware 3D engine, the zoom in and out looks great (and like TA, it has gigantic maps rather than the tiny maps we see in most RTS's such as Age of Empires 3, Rise of Legends, etc.).

So that's the game I'm looking forward to the most.  What about you?


Comments
on Aug 14, 2006
To be honest, I'm not sure what games I'm really looking forward to. For the most part, my current gaming is on the Xbox 360. I don't see myself paying for the relatively expensive Sony Playstation 3, and back in the PC world I'm sort of left on the sidelines looking in as the current round of hardware upgrades to get to the latest gee whiz video card levels, processor level and such just seems to be not worth it for me right now (or into the forseeable future).

You have piqued my interested a bit in Supreme Commander, and I'll be interested to see/hear about it as it comes to market. Hopefully you'll write a few more articles about it (and some new Stardock games too!) along the way.
on Aug 14, 2006
Well at the moment I am inticipating the release of Sword of the Stars. A little further into the future are Supreme Commander and Spore. Even farther into the future is the hopefully spectacular, unheard of, unparalleled awesomeness of GalCiv3  . Other than that the PC gaming future is looking kinda bleak. Really the only original ideas in the last year have been GalCiv2 and SotS. Besides them the rest seem to be just clones of older albeit popular games. Oh I almost forgot hopefully in the not too distant future you guys will finaly meet a deep need for me and release Society.
on Aug 14, 2006
hmmmmm.... another person who uses many words.
on Aug 14, 2006
The next title I'm really looking forward to, in a few month's time(hopefully), is NeverWinter Nights 2.

I'm looking forward to a more party-based NWN is the main reason. The uncontrollable henchmen in that title felt quite limiting to me. You couldn't expect a computer-controlled wizard to memorize the same spells you would let alone cast them at the right times, and you couldn't expect a fighter to be in the right place at the right time to protect you if you played something fragile. Similiarly, fragile henchmen would get themselves killed with alarming frequency for stupid reasons. About the only role it filled adequately was picking locks and disarming traps, which gave you very little reason to make a PC that was a bard or rogue.

Hopefully, NWN2's story will be as good as the expansion stories in NWN. I thought Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark had enough of the fat cut out and were focused enough to be quite fun to play through.. of course a story in the vein of Baldur's Gate II, Chapter Two would be even better, and though they're using a similiar 'campaign map' system (yay no more running through empty zones!) it's just too much to hope for.
on Aug 14, 2006
The E3 video of SC looks brilliant. If C&C 3 is any good 2007 could be the year that revives RTS as a genre. wow, that's a lot of abbreviations.
on Aug 14, 2006
Supreme Commander, for sure. Looks amazing. The best thing about it is the promised Macro-centered gameplay instead of Micro-constantly-messing-with-stuff-faster-than-the-other-guy gameplay. I'm really looking forward to playing an RTS that allows me to strategize and plane my next offensive or major defensive without having to baby-sit all of my units and bases. And if Total-Annihilation is any indication, we're in for a real treat. HOWEVER, if Dungeon Siege 1+2+millions of cash-ins+stupid expansions are any indication, things look grim. Those games were horrible. Really bland and annoying H&S experience, IMO.

I'm looking forward to The Guild 2 - which is based on an amazing medieval business sim. The Guild 2 looks like it will improve on the wonderful gaming experience of the first.

And as an RPG hardcore gamer, I'm really looking forward to Gothic 3, as well, which shapes up just nicely as one of the best RPG games around, with real immersion and unique role playing gameplay.
on Aug 14, 2006
I'm personally looking forward to Spore, coming out in April/May 2007. Don't know if any of you have heard of it, but basically what you do is take a small microbe, and evolve it through several stages into a creature, then a tribe, then a city and eventually a space-faring civilization. One of the great features of it though is the amount of player created content and the fact that it is 'massively single player' - as in, when a player creates content, it gets uploaded to a server and shared into everyone elses games. And the creatures are very moddable - it's like molding a sculpture out of clay.
on Aug 14, 2006
i have Total Annihilation and i still play it sometimes, i look forward to play Supreme Commander. then i saw that it would come a game made after the ta model i was happy, but spore is a game i want to have to.
on Aug 14, 2006
Guys, guys, guys...Spore is not a game. It's an intuitive (hopefuly) program that helps creating games. It looks awesome, but trust me, it will get boring about a week after you'll start playing it, most likely even less for the most of you. It's really just The Sims on steroids. Do you still play The Sims? Then you'll play this, too. Are you like me and got bored from the game the minute you "maxed out" your sim's stats, career, love-life and family (and probably not even then)? That's exactly what will happen to you with Spore.
on Aug 14, 2006
Spore is one big editor. I think it's unfair to write it off as a game before you've even tried it though.

Games that let you excercise your creativity can give an awfully long periods of gameplay. Just look at what some people can come up with in the relatively unimpressive ship editor in GCII.
on Aug 14, 2006
I just picked up 'RIse of Legends'.
Anyone check that out before?
on Aug 15, 2006
Rise of Legends is good. I really like the Cuotl. Sadly it didnt hold my attention that long. Which isnt bad because something has to be really interesting to hold me for more that a month which ROL did. Its main fault was the goofy multiplayer glitches. I think they have released patches for those but i havent played it in almost three months. Hmmmmmm actuall I think Im gonna go play it right now, thanks for reminding me.
on Aug 15, 2006
I'm totally looking forward to Neverwinter Nights 2, because I love the fact that you can make your own modules with a really easy to use toolset. TA was great, it's one of my all time favorite games.
on Aug 16, 2006
Also looking forward to TA2 . . er . . I mean Supreme Commander. Interesting interview with Chris about the game can be found here: http://www.shacknews.com/extras/2006/080806_chris_taylor_1.x

He mentions several features, including dual monitor support. Put a full size minimap on the other screen
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