When Supreme Commander shipped earlier this year, it helped bring an epic scale to the classic real-time strategy formula of building a base, then building an army, and then crushing a rival under your thumb. That's because Supreme Commander actually made the size of the battlefield important again. You can fight it out on battlefields that are thousands of square kilometers in size, and that gives you enough room to think like a general. As such, you can build scouts to patrol the map, transport armies to a remote location to prepare a surprise attack, conduct feints, and more.
The game, set in the distant future, lets you command one of three human factions. There's the United Earth Federation, which represents empire and order; the Cybran Nation, a cybernetic faction fighting for its freedom; and the Aeon Illuminate, an alien-inspired human faction that seeks galactic harmony through force. You can lead any faction to victory in Supreme Commander, but at the end of the game an alien race bursts upon the scene. That alien race is the subject of THQ and developer Gas Powered Games' stand-alone expansion, titled Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance. To get the very first details on Forged Alliance, we turned to lead designer Bradley Rebh. It is due to ship this winter.
GameSpot: Why did Gas Powered decide to make a new product to expand on Supreme Commander? Were there certain areas of the gameplay, design, or multiplayer that warranted some more exploration?
Bradley Rebh: The vision for Supreme Commander was always much too large to fit into a single game. Pretty much every aspect of the experience has been reviewed for changes, improvements, and new features. We're extremely proud of the original Supreme Commander, but the team has really challenged itself to take Forged Alliance to the next level.
GS: Give us a brief overview of the new content we can expect from the game.
BR: The quick overview of the game includes new units, a new playable faction, more maps, a new single-player campaign, a major user-interface revamp, artificial intelligence revisions, and much more. It's difficult to quantify the number of improvements we're including that don't fit into one of those categories. I think that's why we haven't labeled it an expansion pack and are making the product a stand-alone game. It's really big!
GS: Tell us about the single-player additions that will be made. Can we expect to see new campaigns that continue the story of the original Supreme Commander?
BR: The story picks up where Supreme Commander left off. Within hours of Black Sun's firing, and with the help of QAI, aliens rip a hole into our galaxy and begin their invasion. The aliens quickly eradicate the core UEF worlds and push humanity to the edges of colonized space. Meanwhile, a secretive cult within the Aeon Illuminate has been waiting patiently for the return of their prophets, the Seraphim. Among the chaos of the invasion, the Order of the Illuminate unseats the princess (who goes missing) and allies with the Seraphim invaders.
Former enemies, the UEF, the Cybran Nation, and those Aeon still loyal to the princess, must work together or face eradication. However, this new coalition doesn't mean past hatreds are forgotten.
There is one, six-operation campaign that can be experienced from the point of view of a UEF, Cybran, or Aeon loyalist commander. Depending on which faction you play as, you'll get different objectives at certain points in the operations. And some of the characters will react to you differently depending on your allegiance.
GS: Tell us about the new Seraphim faction.
BR: Seraphim commanders are bloodthirsty warrior-monks who have sacrificed their place in the afterlife to fight for their people. The advanced alien technology of the Seraphim is powerful, and because of this, it can get by with fewer numbers when fighting other forces. Players will see some similarities to the Aeon, but Seraphim units are less specialized in purpose. The art team has done a great job with these units. The unit shader we're using for the Seraphim units is breathtaking.
GS: What other gameplay features are planned for the new game?
BR: Wow. Where to start? The new UI we have planned is really incredible. We've got a really slick interface and factional skins to get you in the spirit of your favorite side. A new base template system just got implemented, and it lets you record the position of structures and then issue a single construction order to build copies of the template. There's so much packed into this product. There just isn't room to describe it all. It's really exciting!
GS: Supreme Commander remains a very technically impressive game that really makes use of high-end PC hardware, such as the real-time view of the entire battlefield and dual-monitor support. Could you tell us how the new game will stack up in terms of technical features? Will it push the technical envelope further, and if so, how?
BR: We're constantly exploring ways to push the engine technology even further. We have new fog of war and unit range rendering technology, more advanced unit shaders (that make the units look gorgeous!), a new refraction effect, a new sky dome system, expanded technology to allow more texture detail on our maps, improved aircraft flight dynamics, and many AI and unit-pathing improvements. Many of these improvements actually increase performance rather than raise our system requirements.
GS: What can you tell us about multiplayer? What specific observations did the team make about multiplayer in the original game that will be addressed and added to in the new game?
BR: Multiplayer has always been a strong focus in Supreme Commander's development. Though the single-player experience tends to reach more players, the multiplayer aspect provides longevity. For this reason, we've paid a lot of attention to the community's feedback on the forums and in GPGnet.
The new units were designed to provide more choices while also emphasizing the quirks and tendencies of each faction. The new maps really push the boundaries of the engine while also providing a fair and competitive play environment. Tuning and balancing direction has been put under the microscope, as well. In fact, tuning and balancing is starting to calm down, and the internal play-testing has started to heat up.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about the new game?
BR: The project is transitioning from active development to the final stages of production. The team has really stepped it up a notch, and it seems like something new and cool goes in every second. We're really happy with where we're at. It's really exciting and I can't wait until our beta kicks off to start seeing people's reactions. Tip of the spear...oh yes!
GS: Thank you, Bradley.