Recently, I had the chance to speak with Chris Taylor about the upcoming Supreme Commander 2, which is poised to take real-time strategy gaming to a new level. I want to thank Chris for taking the time to answer my questions and for Barandon, at Mav PR, for arranging the interview.
Questions from Gareth Von Kallenbach
Skewed and Reviewed
1. What is the background and setting for the game?
The game takes place thousands of years in the future. The old Earth Empire that has ruled for so long became split into three factions, fought the Infinite War and then joined forces to fight the Seraphim. But this peace didn’t last, the Coalition leader is assassinated, and hostilities are renewed. You take turns playing one of three Commanders, each one, old friends, and how this friendship impacts the decisions they make while fighting on the battlefield.
2. In games of this type, A.I. is often critical for the success of a game. How has the A.I. for the game been setup and what features will it include?
Each game we do, we advance our AI, the way it works, etc. This time we’ve introduced Neural nets, which adds a little extra spice to the game. What we provide is a wide array of AI: Easy, Normal, Hard and an extra hard AI we call Cheating AI. If you beat Easy, you an work your way up to Cheating AI, but then, you can take on multiple opponents, so there’s no limit to how far you can test your l33t skilz.
3. What are some of the units featured?
Oh boy, that’s a gigantic question. We have more than 25 Experimental Units in the game, and they cover a wide array of specialties. We have the Proto Brain Complex, the Space Temple, and the Cybranasaurus Rex, to name a few. Each Experimental unit is very unique and has a very special use.
However, the player’s own ACU is decked out this time around, with upgrades available like the jump jets (teleport if you are Illuminate), anti-air weapons, torpedoes, overcharge gun, and artillery.
4. The scope of the game sounds amazing. What are some of the biggest obstacles you see in creating the game for a console and what are your biggest goals for the game?
Easily the biggest challenge we faced on the console was making the UI really intuitive to use, and making sure we gave the player a fully functional, large scale RTS experience. I am very happy to say we’ve done it, and the game plays beautifully. For Supreme Commander 2 we want to really widen the audience, allowing more people than ever to jump in and enjoy the full glory of RTS gameplay.
5. Are there mega weapons and if so, how do you balance giving players the destructive power they want, yet maintaining a balance in the game?
This is key to the tuning and balancing part of game design. If you want the player to have nukes (which we do), then you have to make sure you balance that by providing a defense (in our case, you build anti-nukes). You also have to tune the units to make sure the cost is in line with the power. If you want to build nukes, you will have to first research them, then you build an expensive structure, and then you build the nuke itself.
6. How is resource gathering handled for the game?
The player must locate special Mass locations or sites that are scattered around the map. The player will also need Energy to combine with Mass to form units. Energy can be produced with special Energy production facilities.
7. What forms of multiplayer will be featured?
Multiplayer can be played in many configurations. You can play against a friend, 1v1, or you and a friend could play two others, 2v2. You can play against AI opponents cooperatively, or in pretty much any configuration you like. On the PC you can have up to 8 players, and on the 360, up to 4. We also support observer mode so that you can study someone while they play. And you can save out the replay file and watch it again to learn new strategies.
8. Do you have a favorite unit and strategy when playing, and if so, what is it?
I love all the factions for all their unique qualities, but for the sake of an example, let’s talk about a strategy I have been enjoying lately with the UEF. Just when my opponent has built up a lot of shields to protect against all my incoming artillery, I switch to the Noah Unit Cannon, and I bombard them with actual units. This strategy usually includes building four at once, and the visuals of these units flying across the map is nothing short of fantastic. you’ve never seen anything like that before. And I always remember to build some nuke defense!!
9. What sort of missions and campaigns will players face?
We include a big SP campaign, which can be broken down into three separate parts, each part tells a chapter of the story. Each chapter has six “operations”. As the player works through the overall campaign and story, new units are revealed and the player has a chance to try them out. By the end of the SP game, most players will have chosen a favorite that they will likely master in Skirmish and MP games.
10. What sort of musical score will the game have?
Our in-house composer, Howard Mostrom, has done a fantastic job creating a nice mix for each faction. To quote Howard, “the Cybran are more Avant-garde and the Illuminate are classical, almost renaissance, with some choir in the background. The UEF are more traditional military with orchestral elements and driven by percussion”.