Have You Played… Supreme Commander 2?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Supreme Commander 2 is derided by fans of the series for the ways in which it differed from the original Supreme Commander, but I would never have got into the original massive-scale real-time strategy game if it wasn’t for this smaller, more accessible sequel.

SC2 throws out two key things from the original: one, the complicated economic model which allowed you to build larger units than you could currently afford; and two, the massive size of the maps. It also introduces a tech tree which gives you a faster route towards the series’ mammoth experimental units.

The result is a game in which carrying out your chosen strategy is much easier than the original. In Supreme Commander 1, you might decide you’re going to aim to build one of the experimental units, an enormous flying saucer. If you’re inexperienced, you might irrecoverably crash your economy in the process. If you’re experienced, you might simply find the game is over long before you manage it.

In Supreme Commander 2 meanwhile, you can reliably decide “I’m going to get the building that’s basically just a big cannon which fires tanks at the enemy” and then do it. Where a skirmish match of Supreme Commander might take 90 minutes or more, Supreme Commander 2 games are reliably over in 45. That moves it into lunchbreak territory. It’s a game that maintains many of the thrills and bombast of the original even if it loses a little of the tactical nous in the process.

Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance is still my favourite entry in the series (and my favourite real-time strategy game ever), but Supreme Commander 2 is a fine companion.

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23 Comments

  1. mr.kock says:

    I still have not understood how SupCom2 economy was improvement.
    It still have the +- ticker of resources, but you have to fill up a meter to satisfy requirement X to build bot Y.

    Maybe it’s just a tutorial thing, but I think most people readily figure out how to not keep the economy in red, and later when to keep the economy in red.

    When you figured out the latter, metal waste should be only 1 during a whole game ;)

    • charlesg says:

      I think the +/- thing you refer to is called a “liquid economy”. It was added to Supcom 2 after release, because people complained it was missing since it’s one of the key things that make Supcom (and its grandaddy Total Annihilation) what it is.

      • mr.kock says:

        Ah good point.
        Didn’t find a title for it! So they did… I didn’t remember that part, just that I refused the game Chris. T. talked about how much better a ‘normal’ RTS economy would be… =)

  2. Ejia says:

    Yes, and I rather liked it, actually. The three factions’ units actually seemed different from each other instead of just model swaps. I also liked the slightly kookier tone, like the Cybran reseaech building being a giant flying laser-shooting brain.
    But as the Aeon are the only one with shields in it and they also have the long-range unit capturing superweapon I always started as them anyway.

  3. LennyLeonardUK says:

    Whilst I definitely prefer the original (SupCom was actually the very first PC game I bought alongside Rome: Total War, Elder Scrolls Oblivion and Half Life 2. What a great day that was), I actually really enjoyed the multiplayer aspect of SupCom 2 a lot more. Now a lot of that probably came from my inexperience of the RTS genre at the time, but I absolutely loved playing this game against other human beings.

    I never got around to playing Forged Alliance funnily enough. I do own it though so maybe it’s due a play through??. But the original SupCom was absolutely mammoth and single handedly made me fall in love with the RTS, thus making it possibly the most important game in my life time.

  4. Vedharta says:

    SupCom as ‘TA++’ didn’t do it for me, the various TA-Spring remakes though…i’ve lost count of the hours i played those :-D

    • mr.kock says:

      There’s one thing I find very lacking in SupCom + Fa, and it’s in the ‘if it’s bigger, it’s better’ way of thinking.

      My most best skirmishes I’ve had in TA was when I used zippers to blast a hole in a defense line and the bring in heavy-hitters.

      Man, those where the days.

    • WdMeaun says:

      I absolutely loved Total Annihilation, Supreme Commander (1!)..

      But this one.. was my first and only attempt to get my money back.
      It wasn’t so much Supreme Commander 2, but more Supreme Commander – the pocket edition.
      I have heard they did do a lot of patches, but it had saddened me so much that I never ever wanted to touch it again. (I was a really really big fan of TotalA)

      In the earlier days you almost had an entire planet to traverse and to shoot your baddies.. SupCom2.. the largest map might’ve been 1/10th of the smaller SupCom1 maps.

      Luckily I got wise by the time they started Planetary Annihilation. After hearing the main developer saying things as ‘you dont need a map for a strategy game’… I made the right decision never to buy that one.

      -edit : does anyone know the developer I’m talking about? I’m building up a blacklist of developers (Notch, Garry already occupy that list)
      Right I was.. Planetary Annihilation is Supreme Commander – the pocket edition++.. marketing their greatest features, which were especially the gameplay elements I liked the least. (that silly weaponizing moon for one).
      Also doesn’t help that the graphics were simply ugly for a game, which focussed a lot on graphics (yet again).

      SupCom2.. marked the death of a great, unique, strategy game. Maybe they wanted to go arcady for consoles.

  5. charlesg says:

    Supcom 2 still has that wonderful mechanic where you can zoom out as far as you want, to the point where you can see the entire map. And all the tiny icons made it so you can still tell things apart.

    I wish more RTS games did that zoom thing, it makes the game more about actual strategy than how fast you are at operating the game’s interface (Actions Per Minute).

    Also: support for multiple monitors

    • mr.kock says:

      Ah yes, the multi monitor and also split screen function was amazing.

      Come to think about it. My recent 28″ + 19″ setup should make a neat supcom FA setup!

    • Haxton Fale says:

      Both strategic view and multi-monitor support were inherited from SupCom, especially as they work virtually identically in both.

      I haven’t had much opportunity to explore it properly, but the secondary screen feels a lot less useful than I first thought, though that might take some getting used to – I use keyboard to move around the map, and that only works on the main view – worse still, secondary viewport provides no sound cues and basically relies on me zooming in and out to shift the camera.

      However, as a more-or-less fixed viewport into one particular area you want to keep an eye on, sounds pretty nice. I should once play a proper game with my two screens.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Jekadu says:

    I don’t care what the hardcore fans say, SupCom 2 was fantastic. I had so much fun with the campaign mode.

  7. Xocrates says:

    Played it, was unimpressed.

    It’s not a bad game, like at all, but it really has nothing particularly remarkable or interesting going for it.

    It lost what made the first game interesting (and that’s as someone who’s not a huge fan of the first game playstyle) and failed to replace it with anything else truly worthwhile. So it’s an bad sequel, and a forgettable title on its own.

  8. Eschwen says:

    As someone who worked on TA, SupCom, and SupCom2, it’s always been fascinating to try and connect the different community reactions to each game back to the goals we had for each.

    For example, in SupCom2 one of our primary goals for the technology was to significantly optimize the simulation so that we could eliminate the time dilation that would occur (and still does even on modern computers!) in long games of TA/SupCom. However, fixing this issue had a detrimental effect on the time that players had to think about their strategy as the game grew more complex over its duration. I think this contributed a lot to people feeling like SupCom2 didn’t have the depth of SupCom.

    If I ever get the chance to build another patch for SupCom2, I’d like to add user-defined time dilation curves to the multiplayer lobby. This way people can play with the constant time of the original game, or choose to play with the gradually slowing time curve of TA/SupCom. Heck, maybe even something like double speed for the first 5 minutes of the game to speed up base construction and then slow it down for the strategic meat.

    Anyway, it was fun to read this thread this morning, so thanks!

    • charlesg says:

      That’s interesting, not something I really noticed. Is it an intentional mechanic or just a (welcome) side-effect of the computer struggling under the load of the amount of things going on in the game?

      • Eschwen says:

        Definitely not intentional! Most players would notice this effect by playing a 3 hour real-time game and realizing that the in-game clock would only show 2 hours having passed. This was because the game simulation always ran at 10hz, so if an update took longer than 100ms to compute then the interpolation layer would just gradually slow down the speed of the game to compensate. Since the engine is deterministic and requires synchronous simulation on all players, any multiplayer game of SupCom would run at the lowest speed computer among all participants.

        In most large MP games of SupCom you will usually be in a state of dilation by 20-25m of real time, even faster if one of the players has a crappy machine. Most of this is just due to the fact that nearly all game logic runs in Lua and everyone simulates everyone’s elses units, so it eventually just becomes too much work to do in 100ms.

        For SupCom2 we moved a lot of performance critical code into C++ and replaced the Lua GC with an incremental GC to prevent spiking, among many other optimizations. The result is a simulation that virtually never goes over 100ms, and a constant time game experience with no dilation.

        • charlesg says:

          That’s really interesting, thanks for posting!

          Simulating every projectile fired causes quite a bit of load, but you get cool and curious stuff happening like interceptor planes being taken out by bombers because they got in the path of the bombs.

          • mr.kock says:

            I wish more games did projectile simulation properly.
            Having a bomber shot down by a big artillery turret by just random chance is very satisfying!

        • dashausdiefrau says:

          I remember on my old PC when I was playing it the first few times. The room was dark and I always checked the time on the screen only. It was a 3 hour game according to the clock, but in reality I spent like 5 hours in front of the computer. I was so immersed, I totally lost my sense of time. We need Forged Alliance II!!!

    • Konservenknilch says:

      Fascinating comment, but I’m not quite sure what you mean with the time dilation? Speaking only about single-player, time was adjustable anyway. Or do you mean that it slowed down in the end-game?

      • Eschwen says:

        See my reply above for more detail, but yes the slow down was typically in the end game. It wasn’t nearly as much of an issue in single player because you could run at the full speed of your own computer instead of having to synchronize with others. It could still happen in big games with lots of AI though.

    • Premium User Badge

      The Almighty Moo says:

      Thanks for posting this, really interesting. These are some of my favourite games and it’s really nice to get details like this.
      Cap doffed to you.

  9. Konservenknilch says:

    Yeah, it was fine. The economy model (pay first, then build) sucked, but the unit cannon was awesome. SC: FA was so superior though, it just seemed kinda pointless.

    It would be interesting to hear from console players though, as they seemed to have put quite some work into a controller-friendly interface, which is unusual for RTSes.

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