Meer vs Taylor on SupCom 2

By Jim Rossignol on January 13th, 2010 at 12:33 pm.


Mr Meer is out in the snowy wastes today, trying to find his homeland. So it falls to me to point out this excellent interview with Chris Taylor, following the recent Supreme Commander 2 preview.

Eurogamer Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s Alec Meer, Hero Journalist: Do you feel like conventional RTS has given up and is moving on – so many people just can’t do the multiplayer now?

Chris Taylor: We’re definitely focusing heavily on our story and our single-player game, we want to make a really rich experience for somebody who doesn’t want to go online and fight other people. Should we be moving away from base-building like in some other games? I actually think base-building is really fun, and an important part of the game. Innovation doesn’t mean we move away from that. Innovation means we do things like add strategic zoom, we have really cool Experimental units and half-baked systems and systems that really make the game more lively, but not at the expense of the core RTS experience that we’ve learned.

Read it all.

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36 Comments »

  1. l1ddl3monkey says:

    As someone who still plays LAN games of TA (and obviously SupCom and FA as well) with friends I’m really looking forward to this and this interview has made me quietly optimistic that this will be as much fun as it looks.

    I’m hoping this is refreshs the online game as the current SupCom community can be horribly elitist and a version of SupCom that doesn’t require you to be able to think in complex mathematical equations in order to be good at it (or just have a templated build order and unit spam for every level) is something I believe I would really enjoy.

  2. CMaster says:

    What I want is Supcom where you don’t have to babysit all your units, but there is no mention of them doing anything about that.

    Seriously, watching a group of T3 tanks pour fire into a small hillock while the enemy destroys them with impunity is just stupid.

  3. Heliocentric says:

    Base building will never die. Perimeter proved that too me.

    Even slamming down a few bunkers in CoH has a more profound effect on the sense of personality to the play than you find in the mere selection of actual combatants.

    A building is a statement which is definitive in a multiplayer game, that you are willing to fight over that scrap of dirt.

    Build it and they will come.

  4. Riesenmaulhai says:

    Chris Taylor: “See when people sequel games, they tend to give it a paint job, add a little of this, a little of that. But you get the same core experience. We, on the other hand, completely rewrote the rendering engine.”
    If I was a journalist, I would have left the room if I got that answer.

  5. Serenegoose says:

    I love the base building formula as much as I love RTS that focuses more on tactical battles (and correspondingly I love company of heroes that does a little of both) I just wish there was more focus in the RTS genre on coming up with interesting tactics and innovative plays, than either 1) in single player, the enemy starts out with premade base and huge army and cash reserves. I must turtle until you can build up enough to win, or in 2) the multiplayer, where the enemy wins simply because they can CLICK SO MUCH FASTER THAN ME, which and leads me to feel completely alienated from the experience.

  6. LionsPhil says:

    CMaster: Don’t forget microing submarines to prioritise exactly the right number of units to reduce enemy firepower as quickly as possible while avoiding overkill.

    SupCom did quite well at the mid-level management (seriously, even though transport routes aren’t first-class, and thus vanish when one particular transport gets blown up, they’re still a godsend), but they really need to get past the “individual control of every single tank” problem and have some kind of squad system like Dawn of War. Even if that means one of your squad members is a moron that spends the game getting caught on trees and shooting hills, at least it’ll be random, rather than the guy on the other end of the line being loaded with far too much caffine and obsession.

    I’m supposed to be the commander; I want to delegate these things, not drive and aim each last bloody tank.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Hmm. Those screenshots are noisy. That is not conducive to gameplay. I can see having to play this perpetually zoomed out just to get identifiable icons, rather than particle effect spam and indistinct, overcomplicated units. The Cybran shield (at least, I assume that’s what the hexagonal cluster thing is), in particular, may as well be a Red Alert gap generator for how well you can see through it.

      Ugh. Getting really, really bad TA:Kingdoms vibes from the talks of low-level story malarky.

      “I think the building adjacency bonus has gone…”
      Boo, that gave people a reason to cluster bases, and thus make bombers and artillery more useful.

      “…we dropped co-ordinated attack mode, that we don’t believe anybody used…”
      …because it never actually worked properly…

      “…we dropped a lot of our travel time estimates system which we don’t believe anyone paid attention to either.”
      …what, because you didn’t do any user testing, to find out? I used it, even though it had a tendency to tell hilarious lies sometimes. I find it hard to believe it was that heavily underused.

      “In the first mission you might get to build five, in the second you get 10, but we might fill in the first five for you.”
      …but not the five you’ve chosen, by the sounds of it, so it’s not really an RPG system at all.

      Also, @Riesenmaulhai: I agree.

  7. Vinraith says:

    “We’re definitely focusing heavily on our story and our single-player game, we want to make a really rich experience for somebody who doesn’t want to go online and fight other people.”

    Music to my ears. Hear that, RTS devs? SP is not a damn tutorial and solid AI is not optional.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      I agree — the increasing focus on multiplayer in RTS games has made me all but turn my back on what was once my favourite genre.

    • LionsPhil says:

      To some extent, though, singleplayer RTS campaigns seem to be turning into the same “jump through hoops to watch set-pieces in order” boredom as far too many lacklustre FPSen. Dawn of War: Winter Assault, in particular, was dreadful despite having a quite clearly not-skirmish-afterthought singleplayer.

      “The Imperials are stuck at a gate! Our Eldar forces shall have to save them!”
      No, sod off, heretical xeno scum. This is not a good gameplay dynamic, and losing all my groupings and preventing me from retreating my units from the now-indestructable gate and artillery range is just the final kick in the teeth.

      Not everything has to be tightly scripted.

    • Vinraith says:

      @LionsPhil

      Actually I would argue the best RTS single player content usually isn’t story-driven, because (as stated in the ME2 thread earlier) I think games are generally a pretty lousy story telling medium, and I think strategy games are particularly bad at it. However, it’s not a choice between “scripted missions with cinematics every other level” and “no meaningful single player,” and the best single player RTS content IMO is the stuff that gives your battles strategic context, rather than narrative context. The risk maps in Rise of Nations T&P, the metamap in Dark Crusade (pity what happened with Soulstorm), these are what I’m really after. If you can integrate a story into that without undermining meaningful strategic choice, that’s cool too.

      So I suppose what I’m saying is that it’s not that I’m excited about Sup Com 2 and their emphasis on narrative, I’m just pleased to see an RTS developer not dismissing the single player component of their game completely out of hand.

    • Thants says:

      Well, that’s what was great about SupCom’s single player (Forged Alliance in particular): it gave you a huge map and some general objectives (destroy the enemy base) and let you go about it however you wanted. With just enough story to give you an excuse to be doing it.
      That’s what this kind of game’s single player should be like. Just big interesting sandboxes to play around in.

    • bill says:

      I think the problem is that a good SP rts doesn’t make a good MP rts.

      Good MP RTS games have to be balanced and fair, which means the enemy AI has to simulate another player. Good SP rts games can forget all about that stuff, and simulate a real situation, or a fun situation.

      the AI war website explains it better than I can… but most RTS AI is actually RTS-player AI, rather than enemy soldiers AI.

      Some of the best RTS games ever were pretty unsuccessful because they didn’t do multiplayer, at least not well. sigh.

  8. Sonicgoo says:

    I noticed that too. Or at least asked a follow up question.

  9. Jimbo says:

    “Think of the difference between watching the History Channel where it’s all about Rommell and Patton, or instead watching Saving Private Ryan, where it’s all about taking the girl up the barn…”

    *snigger*

  10. kwyjibo says:

    You should have asked them about the switch from Impulse to Steam.

    Stardock has an explanation at http://forums.galciv2.com/373337/page/1/#2502154

    I’d like to hear it from the other side though. Demigod fuckup?

    • goodgimp says:

      Impulse can’t do what they need it to, currently. I wouldn’t imagine Demigod would have had anything to do with it, since this wasn’t slated to be an “Impulse” game even before Demigod released.

    • Heliocentric says:

      I get the hate for steam. But i don’t get the impulse flag waving. At least steam has crazy cheap deals, what does impulse have to justify itself? I have actually drm free games on gog and D2D(mainly indie on d2d), gamersgate has the drm at its best because they have your back when it comes to activations.

      I like the impulse patching but really? Not the heroes they wrote in their early manifestos.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Heliocentric

      I share your confusion, Impulse is less invasive and obnoxious than Steam but there are quite a few alternatives that are superior to both.

  11. TheApologist says:

    Genuine question – Why is steam bad? Works great for me. Buy game, download game, patch game, find friends easily to play with.

    The only issue seems to be getting drunk and buying games but I had that problem with amazon before steam

    • MD says:

      I wouldn’t necessarily say Steam is ‘bad’, but as one of those who uses other digital distributors when possible, I’ll try to answer. I think the main negative is the fact that it’s actually a pretty harsh form of DRM, requiring online authentication every time you want to run a game. I know there’s an offline mode, and it’s been long enough since I tried it that it quite possibly actually works properly now, but from what I’ve heard you still need to log on in online mode first, then switch to offline mode. So if you don’t actually have internet access for whatever reason, you’re SOL.

      People also seem to have problems with download speeds etc., though that’s never been a big issue for me. Personally I find all the community stuff pretty annoying, but again, that’s really not worth complaining about since I can just stay in Offline mode and ignore it. There’s also the niggling worry that Steam will unjustly invoke its ‘we can arbitrarily ban your account and take your games away’ clause, and I’ll have little or no recourse.

    • Vinraith says:

      MD’s pretty much covered it, though I’ll add that Bhazor’s recent experience with having his account suspended for no good reason has put me even further off Steam than I already was. Also, I’ve had several “high traffic” weekends when I was unable to download any games at all because the Steam servers were slammed. The offline problems are very much still present, as well, I couldn’t access any of my Steam games while at home over the holidays due to a lack of reliable internet access.

      Oh, and then there are the problems of Steam not having the right patch, and being incompatible with retail patches. Steam sometimes occludes the .exe and makes games impossible to mod, as well, usually with no warning for the customer. And then there are cases where the installation process simply doesn’t work properly. The amount of wrestling I had to do with the Steam client to get Silent Hunter 4 Gold working properly ultimately convinced me to go buy a retail copy rather than deal with it.

      At the end of the day, it’s a pernicious form of DRM and one can’t really count on being able to access any Steam-linked game properly (or at all) at a given moment. I make a point to never pay more than $5-$10 for anything on the service these days, as I never know when I’ll be unable to get to it, unable to make it work satisfactorily, or when it may (god forbid) disappear altogether in the future.

    • Hattered says:

      @TheApologist:
      First, let me second the posts of MD and Vin. Good reasons all. My own petty annoyance with playing games on Steam is the need for it to start up, connect, and do whatever before the game actually gets permission to start (just tested and it took about 25 seconds to get to the game’s splash screen). It’s nearly on par with needing to find and insert the disc before playing. It may be a minor thing, but I seem to avoid my Steam games since I began buying from other distributors.

    • MD says:

      Oh man, I forgot about the mod incompatibility issue. In certain cases, that devalues the Steam version of a game hugely.

      Edit: I’ll also second Hattered’s annoyance at the startup time. Obviously it’s not a particularly big deal, but it’s a genuine irritant for me too.

    • ToadSmokingDuckMonkey says:

      @MD: Yeah, Steam has issues. Offline has usually worked for me in the past 3 years. Most non-Valve titles that I have will run in their directory happily, whether steam is running or not- handy with GFWL software like Fallout 3 and GTA4 which get graphic corruption due to GFWL and Steam fighting for the DirectX overlay.

      Steam also interferes with punkbuster, as much as any resident tool that grabs the DirectX overlay does. Thus, I play GTA4/Fallout 3/Enemy Territory: Quake Wars/CoD4 much less than I otherwise would, because I like the community features of steam.

    • ManaTree says:

      AGAIN, I must add that this is also NOT the majority case. It can happen, but it’s definitely worked wonders on my end. Very few failings.

      Also, the only requirement for offline mode is remembering your password. No internet is technically needed; just for the first log in.

  12. MinisterofDOOM says:

    I’m VERY impressed with Taylor’s comments in that interview. I like the way he thinks and it is impossible to express how reassuring it is to know there’s a developer out there who understands that innovation is only good when it does good things. After hearing so many good things about Dawn of War 2 I downloaded the demo and gave it a go. I found it so amazingly bland and flat. It traded everything I love about the RTS for things I never would have thought anyone would want.
    They took the S out of RTS. It’s just a third-person shooter with an overhead perspective and you can switch which character you’re controlling. It’s the same mistake Blizzard made with WCIII. If I want to play an RPG I’ll play an RPG. And if I want to play an RTS I’ll boot up an RTS. What I absolutely DO NOT ever want is something that tries to be both. WCIII tried and failed. DoWII tried and failed. It doesn’t work. It cannot work. The mechanics that are good for one are bad for the other.

    The singleplayer focus also really pleases me. I’ve never been much of a multiplayer gamer, but particularly with the time investment necessary for a good solid multiplayer RTS match I’d rather just have a solid story campaign I can count on to hold up the purchase value of the game.

    I’m very much looking forward to SupCom2. With C&C4 looking worse with every bit of new info it’s very nice to know there’s something on the RTS front I can actually look forward to. I hope this game makes GPG filthy rich.

    Side note: It’s weird as hell seeing the Square Enix logo on a scifi strategy game box.

    • SwiftRanger says:

      You only tried the “worst” part of DoW II if you only played the demo. It was the best RTS of last year because of its multiplayer/skirmish gameplay and its free Last Stand co-op mode. You’re missing out on a lot of RTS goodness and that’s coming from someone who still thinks SupCom/FA are the best RTS games of recent years. DoW II is the polar oppositie of those games but its mechanics definitely stick and work as a whole, it’s just pure tactics and map control. CoH without the fat and the boring setting imo.

  13. ToadSmokingDuckMonkey says:

    I’ve probably spent at least 2000 hours playing multiplayer in the RTSes that this man has had a hand in. Total Annihilation, Total Annihilation: Kingdoms (yeah, he left in the middle), and Supcom/Forged Alliances. Probably more than 3000. These games define the RTS genre for me. I even played a little Demigod.

    The problems with Supcom 2:

    1. No mods or user maps. I don’t have anything polite to say about this.

    2. Ever dollar you just spent on worthless faff for a story to excuse giant fighting mechanical things is a dollar you could have spent getting those coordinated attacks working right again (they did in Beta of Supcom 1) or those time estimates (which worked rather well until the first major balance patch to vanilla supcom (2251?)).

    3. You never fixed the problems with Demigod that were not the fault of Stardock. Go online, try to play Torchbearer. He is useless due to some bug with the animation code (he is supposed to shoot while moving, but does not). This doesn’t engender trust, just like

    4. Demigod. Great idea, terrible as hell execution. You can’t tell me that ditching stardock is going to fix the fundamental problems you had outside of multiplayer. Like the core animation system issue, which stretches back all the way to Supcom. Gaspowered even hired a modder, online name of Sorian, to try to chase some of this down because he was expert at it. Chase down his blog.

    5. There was more promised more support for Supreme Commander than delivered. Gaspowered seems to blame THQ, why will Squeenix/Eidos/Godknowswhat be any different?

    6. The * Siege games were crap imho. Chris Taylor’s take on improving the Diablo formula. If Supreme Commander 2 is his take on improving the Supreme Commander/Total Annihilation formula (hundreds of units that use any special abilities they have with reasonable skill fighting each other), then there is a fundamental problem.

    Chris, I love the TA style games, don’t kill what I love, please. This “no resource collection” and “you get research points by fighting!” nonsense will lead to horrible micromanagement that newcomers will not be able to learn faster than they are turned off of the game. As it stands, I won’t buy it.

    You can get me to buy it thusly: Promise that Supreme Commander 2 will not be treated like a box of Q-Tips by your publisher. Kotick and his packaged goods mindset need to go. I won’t even ask for user mods or maps, if you just keep it regularly updated with your own content- no, I will not pay for DLC unless you have at least 40 multiplayer maps in the retail box. At least provide some faculty for upping the unit limit again, your games are about the pageantry of 200 tanks smashing 200 other tanks for being painted a different color, and no amount of scripting SP campaigns or “story” will change this.

    P.S. “your games are about the pageantry of 200 tanks smashing 200 other tanks for being painted a different color” includes Dungeon Siege and Space Siege. They both needed more of this to be awesome.

    • KngShango says:

      oh wow, you speak from my heart.

    • SwiftRanger says:

      Silly man, you don’t even know the exact unit limit (it’s not 120 as the EG interview implied, they were talking about different units in total there as each side has 40 or so unique units now) or the flow of the new game (which according to Sorian is even better than FA). You sound just as lunatic as the die-hard TA fans who didn’t like SupCom before release as well. I’ll wait till release and judge GPG’s capabilities then.

      And then I am not even mentioning the fact that there hasn’t been said a word about DLC yet, remember you’re talking about a company which gave away free units for SupCom and new Demigods for Demigod.

  14. w says:

    Steam is bad not just because it enforces annoying DRM, but also because it makes Europeans pay crazy prices for software. Steam was created with the promise of lowering prices of games because of the lack of middlemen, shops, boxes, etc. It has been a marketing gimmick all along, but only several years back it became painfully apparent after people got burned.

    I refuse to pay more for the exact same product just because my countrymen supposedly make “more money”. Globalization is not reserved just for companies, it’s for ordinary people too. But people are sheep and they won’t resist, and so we have games that sell for $35 and $60 depending on the region. It’s not a pair of shoes that costs more to make in Europe, people, it’s a digital download. Different rules apply. Resist!