Saturnalian: The First Planetary Annihilation Footage

By Jim Rossignol on April 22nd, 2013 at 2:00 pm.


It perhaps goes without saying that I was fairly excited about Planetary Annihilation at the point at which the Kickstarter appeared, but than that excitement was cubed by an interview I did with Jon Mavor. It was with some trepidation, then, that I watched the first in-game footage reveal, presented by Mavor and Steve Thompson. You can see it too, below.

Seeing the planet from a higher perspective at 5:15 is pretty cool, no? It’s even more impressive at 7:25, where they pull out to talk about the rendering of the entire planet. There’s not much more in this twenty-minute video than building, and a look at the world, but it makes me excited to see combat and, well, planets getting annihilated.

You can totally pre-order PA, if you missed the Kickstarter.

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68 Comments »

  1. vivlo says:

    No planet annihilated yet ? Aww :/

  2. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    This feels on a basic level more like Total Annihilation than Supreme Commander does, which could be interesting. I agree that I prefer the basic components of combat to be fairly constant, so that fights are more about tactics than what upgrades each unit has. Still, will see how it turns out.

    • Tacroy says:

      Personally I always liked Total Annihilation better than Sup Com, I’m not sure why.

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        Gap Gen says:

        I did prefer Total Annihilation to Supreme Commander at the time I played them both, although its interface is a little outdated. I mentioned somewhere else that the fixed zoom of TA actually worked in its favour, because there was an absolute reference between big robots and small robots. There are a bunch of interesting design decisions that differ between them, and for my money Supreme Commander 2 is a fairly solid game in its own right, once they fixed the inability to queue up buildings or units you couldn’t afford, causing a huge roadblock in your decision-making (no idea how that passed testing). Also, Supreme Commander’s story, writing and voice acting are horrible messes compared to the powerful simplicity of TA’s setting, but whatever.

      • Grey Poupon says:

        In TA every unit could attack air units, they mostly just didn’t hit them, apart from gunships. In SupCom they couldn’t IIRC. Might seem like a minor thing but it bugged me out a lot. It added a lot of atmosphere.

        I never liked SupCom much until the addon, that seemed to fix a lot of things. Still, even then it was just about spamming 1 or 2 different superunits or commanders. In my hands Total Annihilation was a lot more dynamic. And the music. The soundtrack is still one of if not the best ever made for any game.

        • Bhazor says:

          I assume it was a design decision to make it clearer that this unit was antiair and this unit wasn’t. Certainly if everyone was firing it would be hard to pick out and move the AA units to get a better shot.

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            Gap Gen says:

            Also even in Sup Com 2 the unit AI is pretty dumb, and doesn’t prioritise targets that well (e.g. an air force focusing on power plants rather than the AA guns popping them out of the sky). So perhaps a simpler way of doing smart targetting is just to stop units trying to target things they probably won’t hit entirely.

        • LionsPhil says:

          It was cute right up until one scout plane flying overhead made your artillery battery fire right into your power plants.

          That said, it was also awesome watching said veteran artilley battery nail a rapier or brawler when the timing lined up to hit it during the pauses in its swing.

  3. Lev Astov says:

    Yeah, I’ve gotta say I was really impressed by this livestream on Friday. I didn’t expect quite this much to be done already and it even looks exactly as good as I’d pictured. Just look at that commander when the zoom in at 12:10! Yeah, I’m excited.

  4. RobinOttens says:

    That’s no planet! That’s maybe a few kilometers across at most. I demand maps to be multiple thousands of square kilometers!!

    srslythough. I didn’t back this, but it’s looking really cool so far. Some of that tech is very impressive, especially the rewind, the procedural ‘planets’ and zooming in and out. And the polish of that art is pretty good for pre-alpha footage.

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      Gap Gen says:

      If you zoom in you can just about make out a little boy with blond hair talking to an aviator.

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      darkChozo says:

      I like to imagine that the world is normal-sized, but everything on it is just unreasonably giant. Each tank is a miniature city unto itself, manned by a crew of millions.

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        BubuIIC says:

        That’s… a pretty cool way to imagine this! :-)

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        Luringen says:

        Would work if it hadn’t been for the trees.

        • hotmaildidntwork says:

          The effects of the mutagen bombs dropped during WWXIII were as varied as they were unsettling.

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        Gap Gen says:

        Was it Supreme Commander that had a video of the commander unit, which started in something resembling a Saturn V rocket hangar? Then again, the trees always give it scale (as Luringen says), unless you have planets with huge trees.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Actually, another point – how are they doing the trajectories for artillery? In the first game Big Berthas fired pretty much in straight lines until their shells splatted noisily against whatever they hit. Is this going to have shells arcing across the planet?

      It’d be interesting to see what happens when, say, an attacker is orbiting a planet and the defenders have a strong ground presence but have lost control of the space around it. A sort of weird radial-geometry siege. Unsure if I’ll be able to get my head round that one.

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        darkChozo says:

        I’d imagine they’d have artillery use paraboilic-ish arcs with limited shortest-distance range, as one might expect. Maybe if they’re fancy, they’d modify range based on planetary mass or something like that. Go the SC2 route and include shields and such, add in some anti-orbital weaponry, and you’re pretty much good.

        (I should note, my interest in this game is mostly academic, I’m very eh on RTSs, and my TA + successors experience is mostly limited to some fucking around in SC2)

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          Gap Gen says:

          So I’m unsure on shields. In TA my tactic was to build hundreds of cheap wind plants that would spam the enemy’s radar and hide my factories. Either that, or just have maps big enough that you could recreate the Western Front. I played one game where nothing could cross no-mans-land without being ripped apart by artillery, including Krogoths. It was glorious. I eventually won by sneaking cloaked batteries closer and closer to the enemy, but it took all day.

    • dsi1 says:

      That’s 1/4th the size of their current max (no real hard limits), at their current scale it’s 650 meters in diameter.

  5. noobule says:

    I’m fairly skeptical about whether a player can realistically keep track of Total Annhilation’s gameplay across multiple planets and asteroids, and I was already pretty iffy on keeping your sense of direction together on a spherical borderless surface. I get the feeling the game is going to be 90% production and moving things between planets, with combat being pretty much entirely ‘group select, attack move’ and setting attack move waypoints out of factories, hoping that you can either out produce or at least bomb your way to victory on each planet.

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      Gap Gen says:

      In many ways that was also true of Total Annihilation, though – it’s about economy of scale, churning out more tanks than your opponent, wrecking their ability to produce metal or energy. But sure, it’s possible that this could turn into a shinier version of Eufloria, where much of your time is spent setting waypoints and deciding which planet to spam, rather than going down to a planet’s surface and directing the fight there. I’d love something where a bunch of friends could take on different levels, so one person is directing the whole war while other players have control of different armies and are taking orders from central command on where to push next, or having one player controlling the economy and feeding the players fighting on the front line. I have no idea if PA is this kind of game, though.

    • Koozer says:

      God I hope so. Building and managing has always been my favourite part of RTSs; all that yucky combat business keeps getting in the way.

    • Dreforian says:

      It’s really not that difficult to keep your orientation on a globe instead of a plane. I imagine PA as a spiritual successor to TA ~and~ Populus: The Beginning. If there’s planetary annihilation there better be some planetary deformation at the least! Pop3 didn’t have the best UI ever but it did handle scalable global conflicts. Art kinda reminds me of Submarine Titans (obscure strategy game reference quota met!)

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        FriendlyFire says:

        Submarine Titans? Naaah. This is a lot more colorful.

      • hotmaildidntwork says:

        Now *there’s* a game I never expected to see mentioned at any time or location, for the remainder of perpetuity. That thing is still #2 on my “Most awesome superweapon effects” list.

        I can see what you mean though. I guess they both have a sort of “smoothed” look?

        • Dreforian says:

          It was mainly the buildings actually, but yeah, Sub Titans had all of it’s edges smoothed off for the most part. It was also colorful in some ways (bits of the environment, the alien faction’s neon everything) but the undersea mood lighting did dampen it somewhat. My main disappointment was that it had shoddy scenario scripting so I could often end up breaking the game logic if I played in an unexpected way.
          Also, Black Octopi’s laser bomb > all

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Is that a bad thing? Most “real-time strategy” games are actually about tactics. It’d be nice to see one for a change that really is about strategy, and you leave the piddly tactical details to the grunts on the ground.

  6. Liudeius says:

    This has actually lessened my expectations.
    Basically it’s going to be a bland, standard RTS with no new features, just the ability for massive scale.

    And that massive scale is why I supported the Kickstarter, but looking at this, it seems all that massive scale will lead to is grinding a huge number of single map battles in a row.
    I was expecting space-battle, and interplanetary economy, (Basically, 4x with ground units in addition to space) but I suppose they did call it RTS, so that’s my fault for expecting something new and innovative rather than a grind fest.

    • Turin Turambar says:

      I really really don’t know how you could have that impression. it’s going to be TA/Supcom in several planets at the same time. There will be some space units, in addition to land / sea / air, I suppose, and I imagine there will be an high tier building to move asteroids and crash them in planets, but 99% of the game is going to be typical RTS. In fact the game is geared towards RTS nostalgia.

      • Liudeius says:

        Other than that their rendition trailer showed space to space combat? (An asteroid being thrown into a planet.)

        Or that it seems kind of obvious that warring nations aren’t going to call a cease fire just because you’re not near any planets (Naval battles still happen away from land).

        By my understanding, the space units will be orbital, and since they’ve said “no space combat,” I don’t really know what their point is. A flat percentage of shipped troops die? Defense against moons with rocket thrusters?
        I’m still hopeful for Deathstars, I don’t see the point of a planet that functions as a space fortress without being able to use it to travel and fight in space (though I suppose it’s likely they will just count it as an orbital defense or something).

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      FriendlyFire says:

      This is why they kept repeating that they usually never show things this early because a bunch of people can’t comprehend THIS IS PRE-ALPHA FOOTAGE. IT’S NOT EVEN CLOSE TO FEATURE COMPLETE.

      Ah, feeling better now.

      • Liudeius says:

        Your response makes absolutely no sense. I did not say “this looks bad” I said “their intention with this game is not what I thought it would be.”

        Their intention is to make ANOTHER RTS with the only major element being multiple planets. Since they’ve said transporting units between planets will be very limited and they will not have space combat, this means it will basically just be multiple single map games.
        Just ANOTHER RTS with nothing special about it.

        I thought they would have space combat, making it more fluid rather than just world by world.

        • Robbert says:

          It’s just another TA clone. But I’m very much okay with that because the last one came out in 2007.

    • Tssha says:

      Yeah, they’ve out-and-out said that they aren’t making Homeworld 3, so I’m sorry you didn’t get what you expected. Still, I feel you should’ve figured out by now this is a ground focused game. While there will be orbital fighting, it’s not about fleets in space (FLEETS…IN…SPAAAAACE!!) but about robots killing robots across multiple planetary bodies.

      …The Muppets rule.

      • Liudeius says:

        Yeah, I figured that out a while ago, but this really sunk it in when everything just looks like Supreme Commander 2.

        I don’t recall them emphasizing a lack of space combat in the Kickstarter, and “Homeworld 3″ means nothing to me because I don’t know what it is. (Considering it’s always in the context of “Oh no, this game won’t be good, it’s not Homeworld 3,” I’m thinking of checking it out.)

    • KDR_11k says:

      To me grindy combat and vast, shapeless empires are pretty much common to 4X games (which is why they need to have stuff like diplomacy and espionage). I don’t think you’ll ever see anything else once you involve multi-planet bases. Well, except for AI War but that requires a ton of quirkiness to avoid the grind style.

      • Liudeius says:

        I see your point, but what I mean is that they’ve said their goal is a 1000 planet galaxy. If all you can do is ship a small number of troops between worlds (they’ve said that transport will be limited), then once a planet is fortified, it will be hard to break. This means once you win a planet, it will probably stay yours. If that’s the case, I can’t imagine this will be more than land, fortify, fight (if someone else landed before you’ve fully colonized) and repeat that 10-100 times over, likely using similar techniques again and again and again.

        If it had space combat (including large transport), the ability to break planet’s defenses would be greater, so it would basically become 4x/RTS hybrid, where what you capture provides resources to support your armies.

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    BubuIIC says:

    I’m quite impressed by what they’ve done so far. From a programming standpoint there is some fascinating stuff in there and additionally the art looks already pretty good. Let’s hope they can follow through with the rest of the game, there are quite a few challenges left I guess. The game’s scope is really huge, especially with all those kickstarter stretch goals. But it looks like they might just be able to pull this off. Looking forward to this!

  8. oxykottin says:

    I think a feature this game needs is a team setting. Where the commander is the only one who builds and the other part of the team can only control allotted units, unburdened by the economics. Making the game both strategic and management.

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      Gap Gen says:

      One option would be to have some kind of specialisation a-la Sup Com 2, where you can specialise in having a commander with offensive capabilities, defensive capabilities or production capabilities. I like having the commander as your avatar on the field, and feel like it focuses the experience. So every player should at least have a Commander unit, whether they’re helping expand the economy or commanding an army.

      But yes, I totally agree that splitting roles between friends is a great thing to do. I remember playing Sup Com with some friends, and it was great having someone specialise towards having an air force, so if your armour column was in trouble you could call in CAS to chase away the enemy.

      • Tssha says:

        I think that’s a bit outside their design spec though. They aren’t going to be applying upgrades or different specializations to the various units, so I expect that won’t be a part of the final game.

        Still, if someone made a mod like that, I’m sure a lot of people would play it. It’s certainly within the game’s capabilities to be modded in such a fashion. With luck, I’m sure someone could mod that into the game and you’d get exactly what you wanted/missed!

        So, I wish you the best of luck! *thumbs up*

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          Gap Gen says:

          Sure – I suppose at the very least you can specialise roles with identical commanders, so someone works on building an air force while someone works on building an economy and then bootstraps the others.

  9. oxykottin says:

    Your specialization idea is great also, however.. The game gets overwhelming trying to build and control your troops.

    I think the fights would be way more intense if you could have a couple players on the team purely focused on tactics.. The beginning would be a little boring but there is plenty of scouting to do.

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      Gap Gen says:

      I keep going on about this, but Scourge of War: Gettysburg deals with parcelling out roles extremely well. I’ve had immensely fun games where I controlled no units directly, but instead ran round the battlefield barking orders at the humans who were commanding the units themselves, trying to figure out which fronts were likely to collapse and telling people who were already overstretched to support the person next to them who was in even deeper trouble. I am surprised that few games attempt this, although it does require people to commit a certain amount rather than just doing their own thing, which you might well get on your average public server.

      • oxykottin says:

        @Gap Gen have you seen the upcoming mmofps Heroes & Generals?

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          Gap Gen says:

          Yeah, I should totally give that a go. Looks like an interesting concept.

    • Strangerator says:

      This game, with its multiple planets, would be an ideal candidate for multiple commanders. I like the idea of designating roles or even being designated a role. I actually enjoy the troop maneuvering more than I do the base building and management.

  10. fish99 says:

    What they’ve shown there looks like SupCom 2 on a spherical map, but obviously they’re planning to have fights across multiple planets, so hopefully that will add depth and strategy to the game. The thing SupCom 2 was missing (apart from the obvious stuff like big maps and unit variety) was a complex economy. SupCom/FA had multiple tiers of everything – mass extractors, mass fabricators, engineers, units, power stations, production facilities, plus with adjacency and the mass fabricators/power stations grids, you could have nearly limitless resources. You could also control where your income was going via assisting, to hugely accelerate production of a particular unit(s)/building.

    SupCom/FA just gave you a lot more to think about during the game, and choices to make all the time, whereas in SupCom 2 there was little to get your brain into.

    Obviously though this isn’t by GPG, and they haven’t shown enough yet to make any judgements.

    • KDR_11k says:

      I think that’s because SC2 tried to be faster and avoid the mass fab spam of SC1. The research system suggests the same.

      • fish99 says:

        With Forged Alliance they already heavily nerfed mass fabs and sped the game up a great deal. Forged Alliance was near perfect, all they had to do to make a great SupCom 2 was bring FA into their new 3D engine with the improved group AI. Instead the whole economy and production side of the game was gutted, surely with a view to selling copies on the 360. They didn’t even get the sales (or review scores) to justify it.

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        Gap Gen says:

        That said once you have enough power plants and around 10 mass converters in SC2 you’re basically good to go for whatever. Admittedly I’ve only played against AI, so I don’t know how it works against humans – since the AI cheats so badly with resources you basically have to steal all the mass you can get to compensate.

  11. MachineCode says:

    The Kickstarter vid didn’t grab me and my first impression after this game-play video is that Ill probably be giving this one a miss; Cartoonish art style and apparently smaller scale than Supcom are not what I’m after. I love Supcom to death (the first one and the expansion, even though I suck horribly at them) though I never got to play TA back in the day. PA just doesn’t seem to be pushing my buttons so far, in terms of what I would like to see personally in a spiritual sequel. That’s a pity but this is just my subjective tastes and preferences at play so still I wish the Dev’s all the luck and success with this game.

    • Xocrates says:

      “and apparently smaller scale than Supcom”

      Wut?

      That’s a bellow average planet in size, and a single match will take place between multiple ones. If there’s one thing this will certainly have over Supcom, is scale.

      • MachineCode says:

        He gives some rough (and some precise) numbers that give us some idea of scale: As was pretty clear just from casual observation the “planets” are no where near the size of actual planets, in fact they are not even very large for a real life asteroid. A figure for the radius of the planet in the video is given at 650m, putting its surface area at about 5.3 km². He says that planet is about one quarter of the maximum planet size in the game. That puts the largest planets radius at about 2600m with a surface area of around 85 km². The smallest maps in Supcom were 25 km² and the most frequently played (arguably) 100/400 km² (with a maximum map size of a whopping 6561 km².

        So I suppose it is possible we may get gameplay spaces equal in playable area to say Seton’s from supcom (a very, very popular 400 km² map) translating into about 4.7 maximum size PA planets. Like I said though I have my own subjective ideas as to what I would like to see in a supcom spiritual sequel and what I have seen so far of PA doesn’t seem to be following my own tastes (there is more to it than sheer map size don’t worry). Time will tell though and I remain very open to the idea of having my mind changed by future gameplay videos.

        • KDR_11k says:

          Meters and such are useless without knowing unit sizes and ranges. E.g. what’s a massive map in Company of Heroes would be small in Battletech and laughable in SimCity.

          • MachineCode says:

            Yes I do agree with you on that to a certain extent, however a gameplay video that is not at least suggestive of final gameplay is a pointless exercise.

            Really though thinking about it a little more perhaps the issue for me is that Planetary Annihilation seems to be (as the name might suggest) more of a spiritual successor to Total Annihilation (which I haven’t played) rather than to Supcom (which I still play and love)

          • Xocrates says:

            @MachineCode: First of, key word Planet. The game itself will take place over several Planets. They also said the planet they showed was good for about a 2 to 4 players, the current plan is for the game to support 40 player matches, which is far beyond what Supcom does.

            And like KDR pointed out, the size is meaningless if you don’t know how big the units are. The map they showed seems about as big as Finn’s revenge in comparison to the units (which was 100 km2).

            Finally:
            “however a gameplay video that it not at least suggestive of final gameplay is a pointless exercise.”

            The ONLY reason you’re seeing this is because the game was funded through kickstarter and Uber chose to keep most of the on-going work public. They constantly emphasize that this is very early work in progress, and the only think making it noteworthy is that it it the first “real” gameplay video for the game.

            In any other kickstarter this would be backers only. In any non-kickstarted project you wouldn’t even know the game existed by this point.

            This is neither a trailer or a demo, this is an insight into the development of the game.

          • MachineCode says:

            @Xocrates

            As to your first point; that’s interesting, 40 player matches? that piques my curiosity at least. Although I do feel we have gone a bit unnecessarily far in our discussion on map sizes at this stage (I know I know, I started it :P) But I feel (generally speaking) that comments are not really the appropriate forum for a full and exhaustive breakdown of ones thoughts, so I was attempting to avoid that with previous posts by posting about something easier to condense down to appropriate size.

            As to your second point regarding the games development status yes I understand all that I was simply vocalizing my personal first impressions given the information I have so far. I hope I did not come across as attacking the developers as that was not my intent. As I said before I wish them the very best in their endeavors even if this particular game happens not to be to my taste.

          • Xocrates says:

            @MachineCode: Regarding the second point: You called the video a “pointless exercise”, which at the very least implied you didn’t quite get what the point actually was.

            (also, I’ve looked it up and I can’t be sure if they mean 40 simultaneous players or 40 players on the same metagame spread over multiple matches. Either way, they’re doing some very interesting things with the multiplayer side of thing)

        • fish99 says:

          Looking at that planet in the video, and how big the units and trees are versus the planet, it looks to be somewhere between a 10*10 and 20*20 map in SupCom IMO. At the end of the day what matters is how much space there is versus the size of the units, not what arbitrary scale they’ve assigned the units, I mean sure, an 81*81 map in SupCom was huge, but it didn’t feel like 6561 km², more like 25 km². I suspect the commander was supposed to be hundreds of metres tall and their scale is taken from that, whereas in PA they’ve taken their scale from the tanks or trees (and the commander is say 20m tall).

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    Lim-Dul says:

    I have to say that I’m really impressed by what I’m seeing and this looks much more like the real successor to Total Annihilation (one of my favorite games of all time) than Supreme Commander. Love the clean art style! It’s really cool to see that many devs have overcome the “uncanny valley” push towards realistic graphics and are now going for a much more stylized but no less beautiful look.

    When it comes to controlling the action across multiple planets and such – I’m not too concerned. If the guys will design the building/order system to be similar to Total Annihilation, then there will be A LOT of automation going on with order queuing. The player will have to focus on strategic decisions like what types of units to build, which locations to send them to etc. rather than micro a lot.

    It’s funny how Total Annihilation was never a very “clicky” game despite having battles with hundreds of units on each side.

    • Parge says:

      Not sure if everyone picked up on this, but you can ‘fix’ your camera on different viewpoints – like picture in picture mode on TVs or a bank of CCTVs, so you can still watch over one base whilst interacting with others.

  13. Greggh says:

    OMG the screenshot screams (it’s art, at least) Outpost 2 – Divided Destiny!

    i would so play another game in that series…