Supremier Than Ever: SupCom 2 Previewified

By Alec Meer on January 6th, 2010 at 6:10 pm.


Not here, sorry. Over there. No, there – on Eurogamer. But it’s okay, it’s written by me, not some strange man you don’t know who probably builds chairs out of human bones and listens to U2 records or something. You can trust me! Mostly. Especially when I say things like:

The idea is that it’s no longer just a game of indistinguishable tanks having at each other from great distances, but one where robotic colossi trade stand amidst and over this ongoing teenier warfare. There are 27 Experimentals in all, and only a few have been shown so far – an enormous UFO, a machine that speed-builds armies then lobs them at a distant location one-by-one, like some kind of apocalyptic Pez dispenser, the Illuminate Space Temple teleportation device and, most excitingly, the Cybranasaurus Rex.

More here. Gas-Powered Games are being both bold and anti-bold with it – but not cowardly. They’re doing things to win the game a bigger audience, but so far as I can tell that’s genuinely making the game better as well. We shall see, obviously. Oh, and there’s a follow-up interview I conducted with head-man Chris Taylor going up next week too.

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28 Comments »

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  1. SoftNum says:

    Why did you link to page 2?

  2. Nyst says:

    There’s an error in your link; it links to the middle of the article.
    Nice read otherwise.

  3. Joras says:

    Link is the page 2. Page 1 not worth reading? :)

  4. Senethro says:

    Alec, are you sure you’re not The Chair Maker in denial and this will be revealed through a dual narrative which goes in two different chronological directions?

  5. T-B0N3 says:

    The patrol function for engineers was already there in supcom, or are you saying they are gonna start patrolling when given no orders? That would be annoying.

    Also the biggest change i heard of is the tech tree, which now works based on points that you divide between options. And these points are aquired trough combat. Which is a big change from the upgrade factory model of supcom. Can you give any more insight how this new system changes the game?

    • unique_identifier says:

      the patrol function for engineers was already there in total annihilation :)

    • Thants says:

      It’s really amazing how ahead of its time Total Annihilation was. Especially considering that it came out before Starcraft.

    • Glove says:

      Thants: Wow. I did not know that. That is highly astounding.

      *sigh* I miss TA so much…

  6. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    I thought I had a different reaction to the game than those two you suggest Mr. Meer, but I guess I must have been wrong.

    My main problem with the game was just how slow everything was. Having multiple factories with a handful of engineers on each one sped things up a little bit, but for the most part trying to build tier 2 units before reaching tier 3 would be a long, tedious affair, whilst building tier 3 units would be even slower. Trying to build the experimentals was even duller, where it would usually take about 15-20 minutes to build one, if I remember correctly, maybe longer. And the build time on the naval units was completely ridiculous too, meaning it was another RTS where I didn’t want to play on the water maps.

    The pain wouldn’t end when you eventually did build the units either, as getting them to the enemy would be a long process as well. The maps were so large that traversing them with the larger ground units would take a very long time, as long as you could reach your destination on foot. If you couldn’t, using dropships would take forever as well, as they only carried very limited number of units. I remember one level where I wanted to attack the enemy base on the other side of a mountain with about 100 units. I took me about 10 minutes to get them there.

    You also hit the nail on the head when you say “SupCom’s has always been a cold, all-metal world,” as everything about the original was so bland, from the maps to the units to the factions. It wasn’t the most thrilling world to play in.

    Having said all that, I did like the core idea of the game and I did play a fair amount of it. Controlling hundreds of units in a huge scale war, without all the Total War “tactics” getting in the way, was something quite unique and allowed for a fair amount of variety. The resource system was interesting, initially simple but with a lot of depth to it.

    So, I will be keeping an eye on this sequel. Hopefully, they can make the world more interesting, speed the game up a bit (or even, a lot) and make some of the resource system just a little more transparent.

    • T-B0N3 says:

      Actually the game isnt that slow if you get abit better. I usually get to pumping tech 3 units in about 15 minutes, and first action is already in the first 5 mins because the battle can really be won or lost with the tech 1 units and commander battling it out. Also in late game it is common to accelerate building bigger units by putting alot of engineers on it. Im not talking about 5 engi`s but really around 50 and higher. That way you can buy experimentals in about 5 minutes.
      Though the distance you have to cross is a valid argument, it can take alot of time to get from a to b. You can solve this ofcourse by setting all your waiponts at the front but it can still be frustrating waiting for that important experimental while fighting at the front.

    • JonFitt says:

      My problem with the game was rather fundamental in that I think it simulated the Infinite War rather too well.

      My campaign games consisted of endless streams of faceless units slowly overcoming the enemy through a superior resource->unit process than theirs (Go Go Management Consultancy!). Occasionally this required modifying the mix of units (more bombers, more anti-air), but that was it.
      The units were also so indistinguishable and the combat was robot/paper/scissors meaning that I played the entire game zoomed out to the max watching icons move towards each other and disappear.

      Perhaps it needed some micro. With terrain being pointless outside of mountains, there was no obvious micro to be done.

      Maybe multiplayer was brill, but I was never inclined to invest hours playing a game where I get slowly out resource processed than an opoonent.

    • ToadSmokingDuckMonkey says:

      “Perhaps it needed some micro. With terrain being pointless outside of mountains, there was no obvious micro to be done.”

      Oh, there was terrain micro. If you’re opponent was using some of the particularly tall units, you could position your point defense just the other side of a small rise- your PD building would fire over the small bump at the tall unit’s center of mass, but enemy units would target the center of mass of the building, and wind up just shooting the dirt. Sad times for Aeon T3 Siege Bots.

      UEF and Seraphim T2 PD fired in an arc, and there was endless fun to be had with this. Same goes for the T2 artillery buildings. Along the same lines, you could build walls in front of these a ways, and screw short units, and/or direct fire units. T3 artillery vehicles behind a low wall were particularly nice, even up close (just build walls out to their minimum range from where you have them positioned).

      Walls last quite a long time, and can do MUCH to extend the effectiveness of shield generators and vehicles versus a land army, preventing them from walking in through them and direct firing on the shield generator (if you layered your shields nicely, this made them all but impenetrable.

      Bombers, especially T3, do not consider intervening terrain when determining when to release their bomb, so walls around a building had the capability to absorb near misses in early Vanilla (later, when splash damage became applied instantly over an area, this wasn’t possible except against Aeon T3 and T1 bombers). Terrain still blocks however, and there are a few choice places where this can help a building be far more survivable against air assault than it should be. Walls are still effective against gunships for smaller buildings like Tactical missile launchers.

      Yes, I really did spend way too much time playing Supreme Commander. Since with lost our LAN venue to drag towers off to, my PC gaming buddies and I have turned back to Total Annihilation as it will easily run on a craptop for an evening at someone’s house. Now there is a game with terrain tactics…

      PS It should be noted that under the map view options ingame, you could enable a relief map feature (used by my friends with low end boxes to play the game decently, and used by others and myself to more nefarious purposes). How many other games have a realtime switchable feature like that?

  7. l1ddl3monkey says:

    I’m one of that vocal minority that was raised on TA, loves SupCom and wants more of it.

    I’d be quite happy if this opens the game up to a much wider audience as the elitism of the current clique that play it online can be a bit offputting at times.

  8. Alex F. says:

    I could see a Culture RTS working, oddly enough. That’s the sort of handwave-y technology you need to explain 5-minute base build times.

    • Azhrarn says:

      The trouble would be that technically GridFire is the best solution to any conflict in the Culture Universe.

      Pinpoint accurate targeted anti-matter bursts are much cheaper in a post-resource universe than most other things, and regardless of how much collateral damage you do, you have the technology to repair it anyway. Fighting wars as a result would only be done for fun or spectacle, which granted in the Culture universe means it’s bound to happen, but still… :)

    • Senethro says:

      So the solution is to do the same thing as the books. Focus on Special Circumstances and their dealings in less advanced civilizations where you won’t encounter the problem of both sides being able to make planets explode.

    • JonFitt says:

      The Culture would have to be not fully engaged. The tech tree would revolve around switching from peace to war, with the full war standing basically being unstoppable.

    • Senethro says:

      Would an RTS where you’re persistently engaged in guerilla, 5th column, false flag and assassination missions against two conventional base building sides in a war where you have to manipulate them towards a desired end goal be interesting?

    • JonFitt says:

      That seems cool, but more like an RPG.

      I like the idea of one side having powerful forces from the off and the other starting with minimal weapons and many non-combatants, but ultimately switching to unstoppable power. It would be similar to an assault style game where one side has to achieve its objectives quickly, and the other just has to survive long enough.
      It would be a turtle vs rush RTS.

  9. Just Sayin' says:

    Why would I play this instead of AI War?

    • subedii says:

      Because… it’s a completely different style of game and not really comparable to AI War? I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at here.

      I mean I could ask why you would want to play AI War instead of this, but that wouldn’t make too much sense either. It’s like asking why someone would want to play Team Fortress 2 instead of Unreal Tournament. Yes they’re both FPS’s, but that’s about where the relevant comparisons end.

  10. Karry says:

    Eh, another badly designed game from Taylor’s “genius” ?

  11. Thants says:

    I’m a big fan of Supreme Commander. It wasn’t perfect, but it really got all the things that made Total Annihilation so special. The more I hear, though, about the sequel the more it seems like they’ve missed the point of their own game.

    Simplified resource-gathering? It’s already pretty simple. There’s not much they could do to simplify it without removing any strategy altogether.

    Half the unit types? SupCom already has less units that TA did.

    More focus on storytelling? This is a big strategy game. It’s like making a story-based Civilization game. The plot did what it need to just fine. Which is just to give an excuse for you to go kill the enemy in a big open level.

    • subedii says:

      Being a fan of the first two games, I actually agree with the steps they’re taking here. From what they’ve said about the resourcing, it’s about streamlining the process without adding in unnecessary fiddly bits like there was before. With units, let’s be honest, there were a LOT of redundant units in TA, and even in SupCom, the whole multi tier system meant that T1 tanks became useless once T2 kicked in, and similar with T3. An upgrade system ensures that units stay valid throughout, and you don’t end up in the weird situation of throwing cannon fodder at the enemy to free up your unit limits (which would happen in both single and multiplayer). One thing that has me particularly hopeful is the fact that they hired a community modder on to do work on the AI (he had previously done AI mods for SupCom / FA). And he remains pretty adamant that the changes made to the resource system keep the core ideas whilst streamlining the gameplay and making it more fun. Knowing how hardcore the SupCom community is in general, that’s a relatively good sign.

      The one thing I have issues with is Chris Taylors stated focus on “story”. Not that I don’t think an RTS can have a good story, I just don’t think he knows how to tell one to be brutally honest. The story for Space Siege was supposed to be the deep and involving thing that kept you playing, but it ended up a joke. Unless they’ve got some real, dedicated writers on board this time around, I’m not sure how they’re going to make this something more interesting. Plus, in order to make the storyline something involving and not just talking at the player, ideally you’d want at least some player control over how things pan out, which is rare in RTS games.

      Also, it’s already obvious from the previous games and the trailer that it’s QAI wot done it. I’m calling it right now.

      Blizzard proved their storytelling credentials with their games and I expect Starcraft 2 is going to have a storyline that’ll keep me interested. With GPG, I’m more skeptical.

      In general Chris Taylor seems to have a lot of interesting ideas and he’s willing to pursue cool stuff, but he always struck me as being badly in need of someone to ground his ideas in the reality and necessity of actual gameplay. The whole “half-baked” superunit idea is a case in point. I can’t see that coming into play too often, and in general it doesn’t seem like that worthwhile an addition.

      Lest all this sound negative, I will say that I think the change in visual design was exactly the right idea. Units become much more appreciably different and easily distinguishable (important in an RTS), whilst not taking up more resources to render than the ones in the original game, which had loads of polygons but still ultimately looked far too similar to each other, especially at any distance.

      Supreme Commander was at its best when you had massive, map spanning conflicts taking place on multiple fronts, engaged in simultaneous land, sea and air battles. If they can successfully push that further in this game, then I’m all for it. I just hope they can do it.

  12. SwiftRanger says:

    Yeah, TA did more with the 3D terrain but SupCom wasn’t too bad in that regard as well. It’s the simulation aspect that’s the most important to me.

    As for SupCom 2, I think they’re taking the right steps (except for a few things) in general. Dying to play the beta if it ever comes. If you want to get up to speed with the latest info the game, then read this.