Supreme Commander

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Supreme Commander
Supreme Commander cover
Developer(s) Gas Powered Games
Hellbent Games (X360)
Publisher(s) THQ
Designer(s) Chris Taylor
Composer(s) Jeremy Soule
Engine Moho
Version 3280 (as of January 14, 2008)
Platform(s) Windows, Xbox 360[1]
Release date(s) Microsoft Windows

EU February 16, 2007
NA February 20, 2007
Xbox 360
June 23, 2008

Genre(s) Real-time strategy
Mode(s) Single player, Multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: E10+
PEGI: 12+
Media DVD-DL, Digital distribution
System requirements 1.8 GHz processor; 512 MB RAM; 128 MB video RAM; Internet connectionDetails
Input methods Gamepad, Keyboard and Mouse (PC)

Supreme Commander is a real-time strategy computer game designed by Chris Taylor and developed by his company, Gas Powered Games. The game is considered to be the spiritual successor to Taylor's 1997 game, Total Annihilation.[2] First announced in the August 2005 edition of PC Gamer magazine,[3] the game was released on February 16, 2007 in Europe and February 20, 2007 in North America. A standalone expansion, Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, was released on November 6 of the same year.

Supreme Commander is focused on using a giant bipedal mech called an Armoured Command Unit (or ACU) to build a base, then upgrading units to reach higher technology tiers, and conquering opponents. The player can command one of three nations: the Aeon Illuminate, the Cybran Nation, or the United Earth Federation. Supreme Commander was highly anticipated in pre-release previews, and was received well by critics, with a Metacritic average of 86 out of 100.[4]


[edit] Gameplay

A game of Supreme Commander normally begins with the player solely possessing a single irreplaceable 'Armoured Command Unit', or ACU, the titular 'Supreme Commander'. Normally the loss of this unit results in the loss of the game. These mech suits are designed to be transported through quantum gateways across the galaxy and contain all the materials and blueprints necessary to create a 37th century army from a planet's native resources in hours. All standard units except Commanders and later-summoned Support Commanders are entirely robotic in nature, and do not require a local pilot.

All units and structures belong to one of four technology tiers or 'Tech' levels. Upgrading structures and producing advanced engineers allows the player to produce higher quality units. The first tier is available at the start of the game and consists of small, relatively weak units and structures. The second tier expands a player's abilities greatly, especially in terms of stationary weapons and shielding, and introduces upgraded versions of tier one (t1) units. The third tier level has very powerful assault units designed to overcome the fortifications of the most entrenched player. The fourth, "experimental" technology tier includes massive constructions that take many resources and a lot of time to construct.

Supreme Commander features a varied skirmish AI. The typical Easy and Normal modes are present, but the Hard difficulty level has four possible variants. Horde AI will swarm the player with hordes of lower level units, Tech AI will upgrade its units as fast as possible and assault the player with advanced units, the Balanced AI attempts to find a balance between the two and the "Supreme AI" which decides which of the three hard strategies is best for the map. The single player campaign consists of eighteen missions, six for each faction. The player is an inexperienced Commander who plays a key role in their faction's campaign to bring the 'Infinite War' to an end. Though there are fewer campaign missions than most games, each mission can last hours due to the enemy base having formidable defenses and the player having to find a way either around or through them. When the player accomplishes objectives, the map is expanded, sometimes doubling or tripling in size, and new challenges are revealed.

[edit] Resource management

Because humans have discovered replication technology, only two types of resources are required to wage war: Energy and Mass.[5] They are primarily obtained by constructing power generators anywhere and mass extractors on limited mass deposit spots. Constructor units can gather energy by "reclaiming" it from organic debris and mass from rocks and wrecked units. It is also possible to generate mass from vast amounts of energy using mass fabricator structures. Each player has a certain amount of resource storage, which can be expanded by the construction of storage structures. This gives the player reserves in times of shortage or allows them to stockpile resources. In addition, if resources are not stored or spent, they are simply wasted.

An adjacency system allows certain structures to benefit from being built directly adjacent to others.[6][7] Energy-consuming structures will use less energy when built adjacent to power generators and power generators will produce more energy when built adjacent to power storage structures. Likewise, factories will consume less energy and mass when built adjacent to power generators and mass fabricators/extractors respectively. The downside to this arrangement is the increased vulnerability of the structures to collateral damage if a power generator or mass fabricator is destroyed.[6]

[edit] Warfare

Supreme Commander allows the player to zoom out far enough to view the entire map on screen.

Supreme Commander uses a "strategic zoom" system that allows the player to zoom out far enough to view the entire map on the screen, at which point it resembles the minimap, denoting individual units with icons.[5] Players can also zoom in close enough that the larger units such as battleships fill most of the screen. This system allows Supreme Commander to have vast units and maps. Scale is important in Supreme Commander. A player can field up to a thousand units at a time, enabling epic battles with thousands of units on the field at once.

A battleship dwarfs submarines,[7] much like a real-world situation would; an American Iowa class battleship is almost five times as long as a German type 212 submarine.[8][9] Both units and maps also use normal maps in order to allow for a large amount of detail. Late into the game, the larger "experimental" units, such as the Cybran Monkeylord, an enormous spider-shaped assault unit, can actually crush other units.[7]

Because of the wide range of planets colonized by humanity in the setting, the theatres of war range from desert to arctic, and all battlespaces are employed.[10][11][12] Technologies emerging in modern warfare are frequently employed in Supreme Commander. For example, stealth technology and both tactical and strategic missile defense systems can be used. An innovative feature is the ferry system.[13] In Supreme Commander, air transports can be ordered to use ferry routes. Other units can be ordered to move onto the ferry beacons, automatically shuttling them to the other end of the route. Combined with the ability to issue detailed orders from factories, a player can produce units far behind the lines and have them automatically ferried to the front.[13] By holding the shift key the player can view all orders he has issued, resembling a strategic map. Using this shift view, orders already issued can be moved around easily, which allows for a quick change of plans. Further, when a unit is ordered to attack a target, the player can issue an order to perform a coordinated attack to another unit. This order coordinates the arrival time of the units at the target automatically by adjusting the speed of the units involved.

[edit] Setting

The setting of Supreme Commander is a future where humanity is able to travel through the galaxy quickly using a quantum gateway, which is a portal opened from the fabric of space leading to a designated location potentially light-years away.[14] All of the colonies created by quantum-travelling humankind were governed by the Earth Empire, until the events that created the Cybran Nation and the Aeon Illuminate caused the empire to fall, and the Infinite War between these factions began.

[edit] Factions

The Supreme Commander universe features three fictional factions. Each is represented as possessing great zeal and differing ideas on the future of humanity as a whole.

  • The United Earth Federation (or UEF) is the faction representing the interests of a united, Earth-based government. The UEF developed from the ashes of the Earth Empire, and now seeks to reunite humanity and restore Earth's control over the galaxy.[15] Their society and military tactics resemble modern society more than the Cybrans or Aeon do. Their acceptance of a variant of slavery and ideology of forced unity lends a darker side to the faction.[16]
  • The Cybran Nation (originally called the Recyclers)[17] is composed of Symbionts, humans whose brains have been computerized and enhanced with implantable technology, the most important being the mutual AI (in addition to various other augmentations). They fight for the liberation of their fellow Cybran from the oppressive United Earth Federation.[18] The Cybran Nation is led by the brilliant-yet-eccentric Dr. Brackman, patriarch and chief designer of the Cybrans' cybernetic technology.[19]
  • The Aeon Illuminate draw their roots from the Golden Age of expansion of the old Earth Empire. The descendants of the first humans to encounter alien intelligent life, a peaceful, yet highly advanced, society known as the Seraphim, who first introduced colonists to their philosophy, known as "The Way". Due to escalating paranoia and xenophobia among the Old Earth Empire, conflict soon broke out, resulting in the Seraphim's apparent extinction. The colonists of the alien planet, claiming to be "disciples" of the Seraphim, soon founded a civilization supposedly based upon their teachings.[20] In a twist of irony, the Aeon Illuminate soon began a zealous assault on the galaxy, intending to "purge" all those who did not share in their beliefs.[21]

[edit] Plot

At the start of the single player campaign, the war between the three factions has raged for over a millennium. Every faction has its own problems. For example, the UEF is stretched far too thin, the Cybrans are hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, and the Aeon Commander in Chief (namely, the Avatar of War) is stirring unrest amongst the Illuminate. The campaign focuses on a weapon the UEF is building, a planet killer named Black Sun. Each side can modify it to their uses. The Cybrans plan to use it to destroy the quantum network, while the Aeon seek to use it to give a message of peace to all people, and as for the UEF, it can mean only one thing: the complete elimination of the other two. The player decides which faction to play as and what course it will take.

Playing through the UEF campaign will cause Black Sun to destroy the critical planets of both the Aeon and the Cybrans, leading the galaxy into a new era of human superiority and ending the thousand-year war.[22]

The Cybran campaign will cause QAI, an enormously intelligent and powerful AI, to spread the quantum virus and free all the symbionts under the control of the UEF. This virus itself disables every quantum gate in the galaxy, stopping superluminal travel for five years, thus allowing the Cybran Nation to flourish without being attacked by the others.[23]

Finishing the Aeon campaign causes the Princess (the leader of the Aeon) to become part of the quantum gate network. This allows the Princess to speak into the mind of every human, and urge all three sides to lay down arms. All three factions make peace with each other after this message.[24]

Upon finishing the game, each faction has a different teaser ending, hinting at a new enemy for the next title or expansion. The Cybran ending shows QAI calling in unidentified enemies, to Dr. Brackman's horror, and saying "They are coming". The teaser Aeon ending simply depicts princess Rhianne opening her eyes in shock and saying "!", while the UEF teaser ending shows a large rift opening near Earth, and many unidentified radar signatures appearing near the location of Black Sun on Earth - signs that the Seraphim are coming.

[edit] Development

Official system requirements
Minimum Recommended
Operating System Windows XP Service Pack 2 or Windows Vista
CPU 1.8 GHz Intel or equivalent AMD processor 3.0 GHz Intel or equivalent AMD processor or better
Memory 512 MB 1 GB or better
Hard Drive Space 8 GB 10 GB
Graphics Hardware 128 MB video RAM or greater, with DirectX 9 and Pixel Shader 2.0 support Nvidia 6800 or better; ATI X800 XL, ATI X1300 or better
Sound Hardware 100% DirectX 9.0c compliant card
Network 56.6 kbit/s modem Cable/DSL speed or better

Chris Taylor believed that most modern strategy games were actually real-time tactics games, simply because they operated on too small a scale.[7][5] His stated intention with Supreme Commander was to create a game that was strategy-focused by virtue of scale. Chris Taylor has stated that customisability was one of his goals for Supreme Commander,[5] and that the game would ship the development team's tools if possible. The latter goal was not achieved.[25]

Supreme Commander makes extensive use of two technologies relatively unused in video games prior to its release, namely multi core processing[26] and multi monitor displays.[26] When detecting a multi-core processor, the game assigns a specific task, such as AI calculations, to each core, splitting the load between them.[27] Supreme Commander is one of the first games to specifically support dual and quad core processors in the game.[28]

A screenshot of Supreme Commander game on a dual monitor display. The second display uses the cartographic view introduced in version 3251.

Supreme Commander is heavily reliant on raw processing power from the CPU and is less dependent on rendering power from the graphics card. When using a high-end graphics card the CPU is likely to become the main bottleneck.[28][29]

On February 6, 2007, a demo for Supreme Commander was released. It includes a tutorial, a portion of the single-player campaign, and a two-player skirmish map called "Finn's Revenge" in which the player can fight against an easy, medium, or hard Cybran AI. Of the three factions, only the Cybran Nation is playable in the demo.[30] On July 17, 2007, it was announced that Supreme Commander would be released on Steam.[31] Taylor has hinted at a seventh generation console release in "the near future",[32] calling the Xbox 360 "the platform of choice".[1]

The game shipped with version 3189.[33] The first update, or patch, to Supreme Commander was version 3217. Released shortly after the game launch, this update included game tweaks and balances, and a number of small bug fixes. Support for the Direct2Drive version of the game was introduced, as well as a minimalist version of the user interface.[33] Version 3220, released on March 5, 2007, notably removed the SecuROM disk checking from the game. This enables the player to run the game without the game DVD in the DVD drive. Polish, Russian, and Chinese localizations were excluded from this change.[34] Version 3223 included bug fixes only. It has been called a 'specific purpose patch' by Gas Powered Games.[35] Update 3251, was a highly anticipated update, mainly because of the plethora of changes relating to the balance between playable factions.[36] A cartographic view of the map was also introduced.[36] Hotfix 3254 solved a few issues discovered shortly after 3251 was released. It was introduced on June 7, 2007.[37] Two weeks after that patch, version 3255 fixed a peer desynchronisation bug, one that could be used to deceive the rating system (called an exploit in gaming jargon). On July 30, 2007, patch 3260 was released. It included 3 new units, and some bug fixes and tweaks. On October 8, 2007, patch 3269 was released, including one new unit for each faction, and gameplay tweaks.[38]

[edit] Audio

The Supreme Commander Official Soundtrack, featuring the music from Supreme Commander is only available as a downloadable only album on DirectSong. Shortly after the release of Forged Alliance in November 2007, additional tracks from the expansion appeared on the album. The score for Supreme Commander was composed by Jeremy Soule, who is most famous for his compositions for the Guild Wars series, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Jeremy Soule also composed the music for the game's spiritual predecessor, Total Annihilation.[39]

[edit] Reception

[edit] Pre-release

Supreme Commander featured on the cover of the August 2005 issue of PC Gamer, eighteen months before release.

Supreme Commander was highly anticipated. Large gaming websites wrote many previews: GameSpot wrote eighteen,[40] IGN wrote eight,[41] and GameSpy five.[42] The Seton's Clutch map was frequently featured,[43][44] as early as September 2005.[45] This battle was between the UEF and the Cybran, showcasing a Monkeylord annihilating UEF tanks. At , it was revealed that the Aeon had a base to the southeast of this map, which was used to launch strategic nuclear missiles on the UEF base.[43] Supreme Commander won several notable awards before it was released, all of them connected to E³,[46][47] including the GameCritics Best Strategy Game Award[48] and IGN's best upcoming PC game award.[49] Other awards were received from GameSpy, GameSpot, Games Radar, Voodoo Extreme and 1UP.[50]

[edit] Post-release

The first review of Supreme Commander was written by Dan Stapleton of PC Gamer. He praised the versatility of the strategic zoom, and expressed his loathing of the next game that wouldn't feature it. The dual-screen mode was highly regarded, the mission design was praised, and the emotional presence of the story was also recognized. However, a few points were docked due to the general lack of diverse unit types, and the game's system requirements. It received a PC Gamer Editor's Choice Award with a score of 91%.

One of the earliest online reviews after the game's release was written by Alec Meer on Eurogamer.[51] Innovative new features such as the multi monitor support are praised in that review, and the scale element makes a positive impression. Meer remarked though, that Supreme Commander "feels like hard work", and that with the emphasis on epic scale, details are overlooked. Still, a rating of 9/10 was awarded.

Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 87% (PC)[53]
59.9% (X360)[54]
Metacritic 86% (PC)[4]
56% (X360)[52]
Review scores
Publication Score
ActionTrip 9.1/10 (PC)[55]
Computer and Video Games 9/10 (PC)[56]
Eurogamer 9/10 (PC)[51]
Game Informer 9/10 (PC) 5.5/10 (Xbox 360) [57]
GameSpot 8.7/10 (PC)[58]
GameSpy 4.5/5 (PC)[59]
IGN 9/10 (PC)[60]
4.5/10 (X360)[61]
Official Xbox Magazine 8.0/10
GameDaily 9/10 (PC) [62]

IGN rated Supreme Commander with the rating of 9/10, with reviewer Charles Onyett giving the game the Editor's choice award.[60] Particularly the intuitive and helpful strategic zoom and base automation were praised, though the steep hardware requirements and naval pathfinding issues were found less appealing - while they would find their way to their designated target point, their routes were not always the most efficient. IGN UK, however, was less positive, while still awarding a rating of 8.9/10.[63] The issues addressed by its international counterpart were deemed more severe, and the reviewer was not impressed by the interface, finding the amount of control it gives over the game lacking.

Conversely, the review in the Australian version of GamePro voiced a negative opinion on the game, giving Supreme Commander a rating of five out of ten.[64] GamePro assessed Supreme Commander as an over-ambitious game, with performance (measured in frames per second), even on high end systems, as a major negative point. The reviewers observed that the game gradually slowed down while playing, and that this process accelerated when using the 'shift' key view. This review was subject to controversy, resulting in two rating compiling websites, Metacritic and Game Rankings, removing it from their websites.[65]

Overall, reviews of Supreme Commander were positive, with the game having a score of 86/100 on Metacritic.[4] In non-English language reviews the game was received positively as well. German reviewer Heiko Klinge gave Supreme Commander a score of 82 out of 100. Especially the size and scope of the game were appreciated, while the steep learning curve was a less positive point for the German reviewer.[66] In France, Jeux PC (lit. "PC Games") gave Supreme Commander a score of 17 out of 20. Although they found SupCom was a good game overall, the poor performance on low-end systems was criticized.[67] At the Dutch website, the two reviewers awarded the game with a score of 8 out of 10. Almost every aspect of the game was well received. However the steep learning curve and the large amount of effort required to play meant, according to the reviewers, that Supreme Commander is not a "game that everyone can play".[68]

[edit] Sequel and Expansions

[edit] Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance

On November 6, 2007, THQ released a Supreme Commander standalone expansion, Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance. It contains many engine improvements that allow it to run faster as well as improve the graphics. It features 110 new units and new game mechanics such as orbital installations and enhanced information warfare. In addition, a new faction (the Seraphim) is available. It was released as a standalone game.[69]

[edit] Supreme Commander: Experimentals

The possibility of a second expansion pack was expressed on November 20, 2007 in a Gas Powered Games official newsletter. Chris Taylor "hinted" at a second expansion for Supreme Commander.[70]

This expansion pack was later mentioned in an interview by Chris Taylor on January 11, 2008. Chris Taylor noted that Gas Powered Games had been "talking" about a second expansion, and that this expansion would be called Supreme Commander: Experimentals.[71]

[edit] Supreme Commander 2

Supreme Commander 2 is the tentative title of the sequel announced in November 2008. It will be developed in a partnership between Gas Powered Games and Square Enix.[72][73][74]

[edit] References

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  15. ^ Rorie (2007). p. 2
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  20. ^ Rorie (2007). p. 4
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  67. ^ "Test Supreme Commander. La guerre, toujours la guerre." (in French). Jeux PC. Retrieved on 2007-05-24. 
  68. ^ Coehoorn, Frans and Bouts, Guus (2007-02-18). "Supreme Commander: Van de eerste indrukken tot een Supreme deceptie?" (in Dutch). Retrieved on 2007-05-24. 
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  71. ^ Onyett, Charles (2008-01-11). "CES 2008: Chris Taylor Interview". IGN. Retrieved on 2008-01-13. 
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[edit] External links

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