The original Supreme Commander took the huge, ambitious vision of Total Annihilation and combined it with state-of-the-art technology that let the game render enormous battlefields contested by huge armies in real time. The sequel, which ships tomorrow, attempts to improve on everything in the original game while operating on a streamlined engine that lets the game run well on the Xbox 360 and even on scaled-down PCs. Gas Powered Games' creative director Chris Taylor explains.
GS: Now that development on Supreme Commander 2 is complete, how do you feel the game turned out?
CT: I'm very happy with the game, as we set out to accomplish a huge and diverse set of goals, and we hit most all of them out of the park.
GS: Given that Supreme Commander was always about strategic thinking and smart decision making over tactics and micromanagement, how do you feel the sequel further pushes strategy over tactics?
CT: Well, we've balanced this quite a bit more, meaning that we actually wanted to draw the player into those moment-to-moment decisions. But at the other extreme, we don't want the game to be a clickfest, and I think we've struck a nice balance here. And with the introduction of the [research] tree, we've further increased the strategic potential of the game but have done it in a way that still invites new players and keeps the veteran real-time strategy players engaged.
GS: Supreme Commander 2 has a lot of impressive new tech. What new additions do you feel make the most impact on the game?
CT: The new rendering engine will be the first thing to hit you, as the visuals are absolutely stunning. Some of the things we've been able to do with the new global illumination model and point clouds are really mind blowing…especially when you realize that this will run on a huge range of video cards. Next is the pathfinding technology that we call flow fields. This makes moving huge armies a breeze and keeps players immersed in the game.
GS: We understand that the PC version of the game was developed with the intent of supporting a highly scaled-down computer. What did the final minimum spec end up being? How was such a low spec accomplished?
CT: Well, the game uses less memory and is generally more efficient; we think people will be able to play on a broad range of systems. And those who have the latest and greatest new hardware can crank the game visuals right up to the max and have an eye-popping, dual-monitor experience with all the bells and whistles.
GS: Give us your thoughts on the console version of the game. Because Gas Powered Games was able to develop the Xbox 360 version in-house this time around, how has the console version ended up? Aside from the smaller multiplayer matches, what differences did there end up being between the two versions?
CT: Not too much at all. In fact, once you settle in with the controller, it becomes very natural to play. When I lose a match, it's not because of the controller; it's because of my strategic choices, and that's really saying something! I think there are a lot of skeptics out there, and they are right to feel that way, but once players learn the controls, I think we're going to see a revolution of RTS gaming on the console. We're breaking out!
GS: The original game was supplemented by an expansion pack. Now that the sequel is on a console that is known for post-release support with downloadable content, what does the future hold for Supreme Commander 2 post-launch?
CT: I can't provide an official answer yet, but I can say that we'll make an announcement as soon as we can. And we are definitely getting the message: PC and 360 gamers love more content!!
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about Supreme Commander 2?
CT: Well, there are a couple of things I'd like to say. Most importantly, we hope the fans know that we appreciate all the support we've received throughout development. Without you all, it wouldn't be worth it. So a big shout-out to those wonderful supporters of Sup Com, Gas Powered Games, and Square Enix! Also, we just released the demo on Steam and feel it's a great way for those not familiar with Sup Com 2 to see how intuitive the controls are and general gameplay works. It's obviously not a reflection of the map sizes and overall epic-ness of the full game, but hopefully you'll enjoy the introduction!
GS: Thanks, Chris.