Supreme Commander Preview

When there’s a time that a game nearly defines an entire genre of gaming, how could a suitable continuation follow in its footsteps? Chris Taylor and Gas Powered Games are hoping to answer question. In 1997, Taylor and his company Cavedog Entertainment — most work for Gas Powered Games now — released Total Annihilation to critical acclaim. Deemed one of the forerunners in the RTS genre, the game went on to survive the sands of time for over 9 years. Even today, active communities around the world still embrace the game with total conversions, updated visuals and modifications galore. Nearly 10 years later, Taylor and Co. is now finishing up their successor powerhouse called Supreme Commander. Aiming to push the limits like its forefather, Supreme Commander will unleash its own dose of innovation to the RTS genre.

A single player demo was released recently, which samples part of the Cybran’s single player campaign along with a skirmish map named "Finn’s Revenge." The three factions-at-war are the United Earth Federation (UEF), who favor toughness and military structure over it abilities and firepower; the Aeon Illuminate, who favor energy weaponry; and the Cybran Nation, who prefer to use their stealth abilities. There will be 18 total missions — 6 for each faction — and each faction’s campaign will be specifically setup to make sure new RTS fans won’t be immediately deterred away. Each campaign will start with the player controlling a totally new commander. In the demo, you start with some simple beginner mechanics, like building structures to gather resources and building an airfield to get some early planes in the air. As you advance through the demo, the map will open up, which allows you to further yourself into the game.

Like Total Annihilation, Supreme Commander will be leading the pack with some RTS innovations, which includes its massive zoom system, unit scaling and resources. The zoom system will range from the depths of space to the finite details of any unit on the screen as they trek across the landscape. If you want to zoom in, the game will zoom based on where your mouse pointer is instead of zooming in towards whatever is in the middle of the screen. Like zoom, unit scaling will be represented in a large degree in Supreme Commander. The game is built where the terrain won’t be a factor on how a unit will cross the landscape. Certain units may have extendable legs to cross a particular rocky path while smaller units will have to go around. Combined with the zoom system, larger units, when zoomed in, can easily fill your entire screen. Lastly, resources won’t be the main focus of the game, like other traditional RTS, but they’re still important. The two basic resources in the game are Energy and Mass. Energy is accumulated by building energy generators and Mass is accumulated by building extractors on mass deposits strewn around the map.

Supreme Commander will also try its hand in redefining its 3D units and terrain. When Total Annihilation was released in 1997, it achieved applause for using hardware-based 3D acceleration before the technology was widespread. The game also featured a robust physics engine, which calculated proper trajectories, momentum and collateral damage. Jump forward 10 years and Supreme Commander will pick up where its predecessor left off. The physics in Supreme Commander will be based on the unit’s momentum and trajectory, the visuals will push the technology boundary and buildings can be affected by collateral damage if they’re placed near each other.

Other handy tweaks include a robust and manageable interface, an in-depth AI system (multiple levels of hard difficulty, for example) and experimental units (which are the faction’s most powerful, yet difficult to build units). Supreme Commander is going to be an all-out war and it’s shaping up to be the RTS of 2007 (Command and what?). I’m predicting the game will reign supreme when it’s released on February 20th. In a little over a week, we’ll find out.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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