My productivity has just dropped to zero.
I cannot imagine what connection that might have with the copy of Supreme Commander the nice postman brought me.
I only dabbled with the widely-pirated beta version, so the retail version is pretty much new to me.
Except it isn’t, because everybody who tells you that Supreme Commander is Total Annihilation on steroids is exactly right. A TA player will feel very much at home.
It’s certainly taken me back to 1997, when I was playing Total Annihilation on my K6-200 (with crazy-fast Tseng ET6000 graphics card and useless-for-TA Monster 3D Voodoo Graphics accelerator) at 1024 by 768 and winding the game speed down as soon as battle proper commenced, to keep the frame rate out of slideshow territory.
Now here I am again, doing exactly the same thing ten years later on my 20-times-faster PC.
Admittedly, I am now playing with one monitor at 1600 by 1200 and the other one (which doesn’t seem to be as useful as you might think, but is so cool that I cannot countenance disabling it) at 1024 by 768.
And it’s all pretty and 3D accelerated.
And everything’s larger in scale, more like real military units in size-to-weapon-range terms. SupCom can also support bodaciously hyper-gigantic maps, though there’s not much point trying to play on one today unless you’ve got a PC that fell through a time warp from a thousand years in the future.
By and large, though, SupCom still feels awfully TA-ish.
All this same-old-same-old stuff does not mean that SupCom is not a fine game. It appears to be one, from what little I’ve seen so far, even if those timeless unit pathfinding problems are still there. And very noticeable to dorks like me who insist on making 200-unit armies on the early tutorial levels.
(Pathfinding problems are a big obstacle when you start playing with the nifty formation and coordinated attack features. I suppose the developers could have smoothed it over a bit by allowing re-formationing units to cheat and walk through each other, but I’m sure some munchkin would immediately figure out how to use that to make 40% of his units invulnerable at any given time.)
(Oh, and I can’t say I’m a huge fan of frickin’ SecuROM copy protection, either, but presumably that’ll be turned off a couple of patches down the track, as usual. And it only stopped the game from starting the first time I tried to run it. Fingers crossed.)
So SupCom is not just TA warmed over. It’s a cool modern RTS that does stuff that nobody else’s RTS games can do. It’s just that a lot of the stuff that it does was already done by TA, because TA was so very far ahead of its time.
Command queuing, smart unit selection hotkeys (yes, control-Z to select all units the same as the ones currently selected still works, though it doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the manual; does anybody know how to set map bookmarks?), the ability to issue commands to factories to affect the units they produce… all TA stuff, and all beefed up in SupCom.
(The perfect example being telling a factory to send its ground units over the hills and far away, then setting one or more air transports to assist the factory, which will cause the transports to ferry the units to their destination automagically. I don’t think transports-assisting-other-transports works right yet, though.)
And SupCom, like TA, is still a RTS game for people who hate micromanagement. I don’t think micro is bad; I’m just not into it. So Blizzard-y games with lots of unit abilities that you have to play like a piano if you want to do even slightly well leave me cold.
(Yes, I’m aware that high-level TA degenerated into an evil clickfest, as people discovered that vast crowds of missile trucks were unanswerable early on, while giant flocks of stealth fighters, carefully managed, were just as invincible later.)
The Gamereplays Supreme Commander section looks like the best site to soak up info on the game at the moment. Almost all of the replays they have online are for beta versions and fail amusingly…
…on the retail release, but that’ll change.
I’m pleased to see, as I peruse the replays-I-can’t-play list, the irrepressible Gnugs mixing it up in SupCom. Now we old-timers need only see a gigantic Swedish Yankspankers sign rotating over the SupCom battlefield to feel perfectly at home.
(Although SY might, of course, be a little busy.)
The Yankspankers were the people responsible for the TA Demo Recorder, which allowed games to be recorded and played back via a sort of benign man-in-the-middle attack. SupCom has its own record/playback system built in, of course.
If you don’t have a sufficiently bitchin’ computer to play SupCom, I strongly recommend you pick up a copy of TA - and the Core Contingency and Battle Tactics expansions as well, even if the hovercraft were all useless. Going back to TA today is not like going back to the original Command and Conquer; the 256 colour graphics look distinctly dated, but TA’s gameplay is still great.
(Kingdoms was kind of interesting, and prettier, but the original is better.)
Because TA doesn’t use 3D acceleration at all (zillions of tiny polygons were un-acceleratable by 3D cards of TA’s era), it’s also an excellent game for computers with crappy 3D adapters, including boring business boxes and your Aunt Mabel’s dreadful Dell.
Any current CPU will push TA along at warp speed at as high a resolution as you can fit on your monitor, and it’s a young enough game that you can play online using nice normal TCP/IP, rather than having to do some bizarre tunnelling trick with IPX/SPX or something.
If your PC is large and veiny enough for SupCom, though - the minimum requirements are not completely laughable, but more of everything is a very good idea - forget its little brother.
Get in on the ground floor of the connoisseur’s RTS for the next ten years.