Supreme Commander Updated Q&A - Logistics, Waypoints, and Multiplayer

Lead designer Bradley Rebh discusses some of the new systems and features designed to help you command huge armies in this sprawling real-time strategy game.

Supreme Commander is a game that follows a philosophy that bigger is definitely better. This real-time strategy game from THQ and Gas Powered Games is set in a distant future where three factions war on battlefields up to 50 miles wide. With this much room, you can create multiple bases from which to produce armies, navies, and air forces to sweep your enemies from the map. You can check out the action for yourself by downloading the recently released demo. And if you want to learn about how you can use Supreme Commander's systems to your advantage, read on, because we caught up with lead designer Bradley Rebh to learn more about the game. Supreme Commander ships on February 20.

GameSpot: Though it's set in the distant future, Supreme Commander seems like it's more a game about modern warfare. It seems like you're trying to get the player to think more about maneuvering on the battlefield. As such, how critical are transports to the game? Why will you have to worry about such things in Supreme Commander?

In Supreme Commander, experimental units such as the Cybran monkeylord can turn the tide of battle.

Bradley Rebh: Logistics is a very important aspect of war. It doesn't matter if you have more firepower than your opponent. If your units aren't deployed properly, you're toast. Transports quickly and efficiently move your land units where they'll be the most effective. Map conditions play a very large factor in the usefulness of transports. Distance, water, and impassable terrain may force the use of transports to make a land invasion viable. Smaller maps make transports less critical since units can react quickly on their own. Even on small maps, though, transports can be used to drop forces where your opponent will least expect them.

GS: We've noticed that there are air transports, but there are no naval transports. Is there a particular reason for this? Were naval transports too slow or cumbersome?

BR: In the early stages of development, we explored the concept of land and naval transports. Ultimately, we weren't satisfied with how we'd have to build them, so other game features took priority. We hope to reevaluate this feature down the road.

GS: The ferry system makes airlifting armies fairly simple. Could you explain how it works in detail and what the keys are for a successful airlift?

BR: The ferry system is one of my favorite user-interface innovations. With a transport selected, click the ferry order button and target a spot on the map (the destination point). The transport will "drop" a beacon icon. Select a bunch of land units and right-click the beacon. The units will move to the beacon and the transport will automatically load the units and then drop them off at the destination point. The transport will continue to move back and forth until all the units have been delivered.

Here are some advanced uses for the ferry order: Once you've set up a ferry route, you can select other transports and assign them to the beacon to have them share the ferrying responsibilities. If you hold the Shift key while placing multiple ferry waypoints, the transport will follow the path of the waypoints during the drop-off and will return along this same path. This lets you avoid the antiaircraft defenses of your opponent. And the rally point of land factories can be set to use a ferry beacon. Units that are built from these factories will get to the front line much faster than if the unit simply drove to a distant rally point.

GS: A lot of thought seems to have gone into the waypoint system. For example, you can queue up a lot of different commands for an engineer unit to keep it busy for a while. What other things can you do with the waypoint system?

Shields can keep attackers at bay temporarily, but they can only take so much damage before falling.

BR: The waypoint system is extremely flexible. A favorite strategy around here is to set up interceptor fighter patrols early to protect against a bomber rush. As the game goes on and a base expands, there's no need to reissue the patrol for those units to cover more ground. Instead, you can simply click-drag the patrol path's waypoints to any shape or size that is desired. Also, waypoints are sometimes issued that are no longer wanted. With the Shift and Control keys held, you can right-click on a waypoint to delete them.

GS: How important is it to conduct coordinated attacks in the game? Could you give us an example of a successful coordinated strike? How easy is it to set one up?

BR: Coordinated attacks can be an extremely useful tool to ensure maximum force is applied to a target. This order is most effective when different groups of units will take different amounts of time to get to a target (either because of the speed of the units or the distances they have to cover). For instance, an order is issued to a group of tanks to attack an opponent's land factory. While holding the Shift key, the player can double right-click on the attack order of the tanks to coordinate this attack with a bombing run. The tanks and bombers will time their assault so they attack the target together, obliterating it.

GS: Could you discuss the importance of using combined arms in addition to coordinated attacks? There's no rock-scissors-paper-style balancing in the game, but there is a ruthless circle of life on the battlefield.

BR: We've said that there is no rock-paper-scissors in Supreme Commander, but that can be misinterpreted. We don't balance the game based on algorithms to determine a hit or miss, and damage isn't calculated through a comparison of damage type versus armor type like in most other real-time strategy games. Instead, we rely on a simulation to define the roles of a unit. For example, artillery tends to have slower-moving turrets and a high, slow trajectory to its shell. These attributes make it tough to hit a fast, mobile unit but have little impact on a nonmobile structure. On the other hand, bots typically wield fast-firing weaponry that can acquire targets quickly. This makes them better suited for hitting a moving target, but these weapons tend to do less damage than an artillery shell.

GS: Let's talk multiplayer. What multiplayer modes are there? How many players can you support? Were you able to keep the cooperative multiplayer mode with up to eight players that we discussed last year?

BR: Supreme Commander supports up to eight players. You can set different victory conditions and start options in the game lobby, and we're planning to release more down the road. I'm told by the engineering department that the engine can support more than 8 players if the maps and the game lobby were revised to accommodate those sizes. However, modern system specs won't be able to handle more than 8 players for a little while longer.

You know it's the future when naval destroyers can sprout legs and walk on land.

GS: In our experience, a single-player skirmish can easily last up to two hours. That length wouldn't easily translate to a multiplayer game. How much of an effect do the speed settings have in speeding up a multiplayer skirmish? Could you play a multiplayer game in under an hour?

BR: We've found that the size of a map is the biggest factor when timing a game. Our smallest maps (5km x 5km) are meant to last much less than an hour, while the largest maps (81km x 81km) can provide weekend-long epic slugfests!

GS: Good to know. Thanks Bradley.

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125 comments
comamber
comamber

"Our smallest maps (5km x 5km) are meant to last much less than an hour, while the largest maps (81km x 81km) can provide weekend-long epic slugfests!" lol i look foreward to slugfests!!!

LordCanada8
LordCanada8

This game is already out so no one should be reading this!

devilnevercry9
devilnevercry9

this game is like C&C series but with better graphic and game scenario. A clone of Company of heroe with C&C.

Fisheagle
Fisheagle

Looks like it is going to be a brilliant game. Can't wait for the full release here in SA

Fable_Lord
Fable_Lord

i just going to have this game but i also need a new VGA.. i only have an radeon 9800 pro :(

trigger6
trigger6

HOLY CRAP... they are NOT joking about the weekend long thing. I just tried an 81km x 81km map and it takes like 3 hours just to tech up to the higher levels. Without about 10 techbots helping build a tactical sub with nukes, it takes about an hour or longer to construct at the naval base. Awesome... this game is massive.

Omegaprime00
Omegaprime00

I agree with snipercomplete, if your facing an AI you can easily start seeing patterns in its gaming, there for you find there weakness quickly & therfore not much of a challenge. But if you played someone with the experince of dozens of RTS games and you find there weakness so help me god you best be prepared. 've been brougth up with the C&C series for my strength in games from what I can tell your just trying normal AI lvl try something like hard then if your not finding a good enough challenge, or try it when you can play against an experinced player, just my opinion.

snipercomplete
snipercomplete

well, if you only throw units at the enemy BOT....then ya you will win. but go up against a hardenned veteran of the rts genra. i have been playing them for about 15 years. then, lets see if thowing you units will work. your just fairly new to rts or an idiot who fails all the time and cant think of why.

listen_silent
listen_silent

I may be one of the only people here, but I don't care for the Supreme Commander Demo. I found myself bored and tediously building structures half the time. The game is all about mass and how many low-level units you can make. Plus, I don't really see much strategy when attacking. I'm simply throwing units at the enemy - and I win this way! Compared to Company of Heroes this game doesn't measure up... Imo of course.

flying_tiger
flying_tiger

Woah now, Adante79, let's not be racist.

andante79
andante79

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

TazSteele
TazSteele

I was a beta-tester for this game and while it is a kool idea, it will not hold a candle to the current and up-coming RTS titles like Company of Heroes and of course C&C 3.

Phoenix73nj
Phoenix73nj

FINALLY!!! An RTS better than Total Annhilation... took long enough! Jeesh... Chris Taylor PWNZ

StrikerV
StrikerV

I played the demo for this and all i can say is HOOKED!!!! I will buy the full version 100% and it will be a staple of my gaming collection for another 2+ years. This game will be like Starcraft is to the Koreans in terms of length of playtime (hell i still play the old one from time to time!) Thank you Chris Taylor!!!

Monkdog22
Monkdog22

Does anyone know if this game will support multiplayer game saves? Weekend long games won't be an option for most people and saved games would be fairly easy to pick back up if you know the person.

Glordit
Glordit

ALL HAIL SUP COM AS KING! ! ! BOW DOWN OR YOUR EYE'S WILL BURN FROM ITS FURRY! ;)

GuMMie_101
GuMMie_101

Im still waiting for my upgarde to play this game, you know a hole new pc! inc a gtx and C2D 6600, striker extreme Mb, 2gb memory! Im doing this so i can play this super game!!!!! o and also crysis!

ahmedtantash
ahmedtantash

One of the least mentioned but most amazing things about this game is that it supports dual monitors. I have been blown away by how well this works in the demo and what a huge impact it has on the game, especially with a larger map. Both monitors operate independently of each other, so you can select, move, build, etc. on one monitor while keeping an eye on a different spot of the map on the other monitor. I’ve only tried this on a pretty powerful setup (Core2 Duo 6600 and a GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB video card) but it was silky smooth with all the options maxed out. Using dual monitors will definitely give users an advantage, so there should be some indication to other players that someone else is using two monitors, but in my case it will hopefully make up for my lack of skill

dglitch
dglitch

this game looks cool i cant wait till it comes out. This game is going to be one of the best games to ever own

cave_manzilla
cave_manzilla

What does it take to run this game minimaly and meduim leavel and at the hightest lvl in graphics and speed?( sry about spelling)

a9486e
a9486e

4 days 2 go i cant wait

wsyzz
wsyzz

SC needs a really good tutorial... eg the queuing system is extremely powerful, but is not that easy to master... eg2 the camera angle thing...personally i prefer how HomeWorld did it (right mouse button instead of space key)

wsyzz
wsyzz

In particular it's not clear how you rotate the display (if it's possible I never did figure it out in the demo). ============================ pressing SPACE KEY while you move ur mouse I also spent a long time before finding out this...

timothyt
timothyt

Total Annihilation was one of my all-time favorite games and I’m SO glad there’s finally another game worthy of continuing where TA left off (I know it’s a different story line but it’s BASICALLY the same gameplay). One of the least mentioned but most amazing things about this game is that it supports dual monitors. I have been blown away by how well this works in the demo and what a huge impact it has on the game, especially with a larger map. Both monitors operate independently of each other, so you can select, move, build, etc. on one monitor while keeping an eye on a different spot of the map on the other monitor. I’ve only tried this on a pretty powerful setup (Core2 Duo 6600 and a GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB video card) but it was silky smooth with all the options maxed out. Using dual monitors will definitely give users an advantage, so there should be some indication to other players that someone else is using two monitors, but in my case it will hopefully make up for my lack of skill :) I will say that the camera control needs some work. I doubt that they'll do anything before it goes gold but they can always do something through a patch. In particular it's not clear how you rotate the display (if it's possible I never did figure it out in the demo). The auto-scroll is too fast, and the scroll when the cursor reaches the edge of the display doesn't work on multiple monitors (when the cursor reaches the edge where the monitors meet it just moves to the next monitor). All in all though this is the first PC game I've considered a must-have since World of Warcraft (mostly just playing the excellent 360 games these days).

fishheads111
fishheads111

i know i can't run it....i want to cry...

Eararaldor
Eararaldor

jef_jef Dose anybody think theres far too much focus on micro managment of your base that it takes alot of attention away from strategy deployment of your army? Not even an issue. Thanks to the shift key you can que buildings relativly quickly and focus the rest of your time on your units.

hanming1
hanming1

oh man i so want this just hope i can run it...

jef_jef
jef_jef

Dose anybody think theres far too much focus on micro managment of your base that it takes alot of attention away from strategy deployment of your army?

lightningamer
lightningamer

This is a great game. I'm in the beta (which is closing tommarro) and I have to say it's very fun to play. This game truely consumes you, I've played in games 10 minutes long, and others that were 2 - 3 hours long. I've gotta say that i love the nuke's in this game, although it takes a long time to build and eats up your reasources like there's no tommarro, nothing is better than seeing your enemy's city being vaporized by the mushroom cloud of radioactive death. But just because someone has nukes does not mean it's game over, you can build missle silos that will intersept and destroy the nukes seconds before they hit your base. Thats what I love about this game, there's so many different options to choose and do in battle that you'll never get tired of it. All i gotta say is this is a great game and it will no doubt be on my shelf come feburary 20th

Alpha_Omega69
Alpha_Omega69

Demo is so sexeh, I can't stop playing it lol, only a few more days left!

polo-man
polo-man

This game is great!!! The only down side is, it needs a fairly good computer to run on.

DrekNaZuhl
DrekNaZuhl

That's great,thanks red24 ,I din't play the demo and neither the beta...want to enjoy the game from the very start..to the very last drop :D ..so I'm waiting for the full release :) the waitnig is killing me but it'll be worth it :D and yea heard the fact about time and recource consuming nukes and the anti-tactical nuke defence system and l think that's the most brialiant idea someone had in a while....cuz some RTS geeks can do some sick stuff if a game doesn't have a balanced and bug-free economy to get a superweapon :D and I do hope the AI isn't as dumb as coconut...well in the reviews they say it's pritty smart....I do hope so because when you master a RTS and you want to train for a championship/multiplayer etc. or just so 4 fun,normaly you play 1 vs 8 AI because you want a chalange...but in the most RTS the AI get their buns kicked because they can't figure out how to flank ur defences or how to defend when you flank their... or to do smth different then just send wave after wave of units at you(thou thouse units don't even reach ur 2nd line of defence...) so ---Neil---15 said the AI is taugh...no offense Neil but it depends a lot on a players lvl..some play vs 4 and say that the AI is dumb as a coconut...some can't win agaist 2 AI opponents even if they cheat...so thouse that played the beta and the demo..how's the AI?

---Neil---15
---Neil---15

from what ive seen in the demo and in the beta. Arty IS what is is on a real battlefeild, it is GOD. skirmish vs 1 comp opponent, he had long guns smashing my defences and a floating battlegunship decimation my tanks and actually killed my monleylord before i could get up my anti air properly. the biggiest issue ive seen so far has been arty spamming, with no real defence besides an attack, arty rules over everything, sheilds fall after 20 tanks lob shessl onto it, and the 2nd barrage will destroy your economy like nothing. Rough game, ABSOLUTLY LOVE IT!. been too long since i fought a semi-smart RTS AI.

red24
red24

DrekNaZuhl - don't worry about being wiped out by some nuke. Nukes are pretty time and resource consuming, so do not fear that you will be destroyed so fast :-). On the top of that you have anti tactic-missile systems to counter nuke'em all tactic. The only gripe with the game is the fact that the factions are not that diverse as they could be. I hope that will be changes by the devs or modders.

UnderHell
UnderHell

great game, this is on my most wanted list.

Alcotamaysees
Alcotamaysees

Sounds like the system specs are going to be too high for me...

anarchicgoth
anarchicgoth

at least they are putting Next Gen ideas into RTS games Yeah!

8NP4iN
8NP4iN

wuoau i love the shift attack thing so bombers and tanks attack at the same time. and i love the waypoint thingy so you can avoid enemy fire :P i just ove this game... this waiting is killing me

Corbahn
Corbahn

Fuuuuuuuck Yeah!! SupCom For The Win!

Relex_Rahl
Relex_Rahl

man... too bad i suck at rts games :(

DrekNaZuhl
DrekNaZuhl

Now that's what I call a RTS game ! Man the revolutioning tactics..resource gathering...ability to salvage unit wrecks for cash or salvage anemy units...bring them online and send them back to the enemy saying "thanks for the gift..." :D this is so sweet :) ...but I do hope they don't mess up the anti-game ending superweapon protection system...I'm a turtler (sleeper tactics player) and I just hate to wach my buil up massive defences being nuked away or obliverated in any other way with an unstoppable long range superweapon...oh well,who cares :D ...if not ,I'll just have to adopt then :D this game will rock anyway ! This sweetie pie is on my buy list that's 100% sure :D