An extraordinary coincidence

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...

Supreme Commander replay error

...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.

9 Responses to “An extraordinary coincidence”

  1. Moetop Says:

    I am surprised you don't mention the TA spring project basically open source TA.

    I also find the multi monitor support quite useful. Selecting units on the zoomed in view and clicking on the zoomed out view on the other screen to issue marching orders. This makes it so you don't loose your carefully positioned zoomed in view. It allows for a build screen and a tactical screen and the zooming and panning of each to not interfere.

  2. Wire_Geek Says:

    I just sent this to the fine folks that make Supreme Commander.


    I have a quick bit of background information, and an easy question regarding availability of the Supreme Commander game.

    I recently (~2 weeks ago) finalized the hardware buildout and initial installation on my new computer. I'm pushing a GeForce 8800gts, 2gb of DDR2, and a Core 2 Duo 6600 on an Asus p5e-SLI motherboard. I can run Half-Life 2 at my monitor's maximum display resolution (3360x1050!) with maximum prettiness, and still churn over 30fps on average.

    And I really want to throw Supreme Commander at it. Dan, of Dan's Data, at, highly reccomends your game. I was a Total Annihlation fan, and a huge Starcraft junkie, so....

    So I'm looking down the barrel of the game that could consume every erg of brainpower and spare time I have for several years. I'm looking at advanced online play, which would lead to me buying multiple copies to gift to cannonfodder. I'm looking at _multiple monitor support_, which gives me a rather advanced case of technolust.

    I'm looking at, to quote Dan, "_The_ RTS for the next ten years"

    And I can't install it.

    I made a deal with myself that when myself bought myself a new computer, myself would not cripple it with any malware, spyware, blortware, or whatever fancy term you care to apply to software that is intended to cause problems. Given the presence of SecuROM II software on your game disc, It is not eligible for installation onto my system.

    In conclusion, when will an instance of this game be available on physical media , either online or retail, that does not involve a CD protection system I find morally offensive?



  3. stewpot Says:

    Just checked out the SupCom home page, and I'm now wondering how three factions can be diametrically opposed.

  4. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Well, I suppose they could be on three perpendicular axes... :-)

  5. Moetop Says:

    Dear lord I useualy read things through., But I didnt click that link (The text was not enticing enough :) )

  6. Darkside Says:

    Ooooh be careful there Dan, I don't know how many people think in 3D ;-)

  7. stewpot Says:

    Dan, I suppose they could. But if they were orthogonal, they'd have no reason for conflict. :-)

  8. Rob L Says:

    Trouble with SupCom is that after playing Company of Heroes it's like stepping from The Longest Day to Starblazers. It's just all to shiney.

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