Supreme Commander (video game)

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This article is about the video game. For the commander of a nation's military forces, see Commander-in-chief.
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
Platform(s) Windows, Xbox 360
Release date(s) Microsoft Windows
  • EU February 16, 2007 (2007-02-16)
  • NA February 20, 2007 (2007-02-20)
Xbox 360
June 23, 2008 (2008-06-23)
Genre(s) Real-time strategy
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Distribution DVD-DL, digital distribution

Supreme Commander (abbreviated SupCom) 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 a spiritual successor to Taylor's 1997 game Total Annihilation,[1] alongside the Spring remake. First announced in the August 2005 edition of PC Gamer magazine,[2] 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. A sequel, Supreme Commander 2, has also been released.

Supreme Commander is focused on using a giant bipedal mech called an Armored 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 well received by critics, with a Metacritic average of 86 out of 100.[3]

Gameplay[edit]

Supreme Commander, like its spiritual predecessor, begins with the player solely possessing a single, irreplaceable construction unit called the "Armored Command Unit," or ACU, the titular Supreme Commander. Normally the loss of this unit results in the loss of the game (Skirmish missions can be set for a variety of victory conditions). 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 summoned Support Commanders (sACU) are self-sufficient robots.

All units and structures belong to one of four technology tiers, or "Tech" levels, each tier being stronger and/or more efficient than the previous. Certain lower-tier structures can be upgraded into higher ones without having to rebuild them. The first tier is available at the start of the game and consists of small, relatively weak units and structures. The second tier expands the player's abilities greatly, especially in terms of stationary weapons and shielding, and introduces upgraded versions of tier one units. The third tier level has very powerful assault units designed to overcome the fortifications of the most entrenched player. The fourth tier is a limited range of "experimental" technology. These are usually massive units which take a lot of time and energy to produce, but provide a significant tactical advantage.

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 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. Despite the low number of campaign missions, each mission can potentially last hours. At the start of a mission, objectives are assigned for the player to complete. Once the player accomplishes them, the map is expanded, sometimes doubling or tripling in size, and new objectives are assigned. As the mission is commonly divided into three segments, the player will often have to overcome several enemy positions to achieve victory.

Resource management[edit]

Because humans have discovered replication technology, making advanced use of rapid prototyping and nanotechnology, only two types of resources are required to wage war: Energy and Mass.[4] Energy is obtained by constructing power generators on any solid surface, while Mass is obtained either by placing mass extractors on limited mass deposit spots or by building mass fabricators to convert energy into mass. Constructor units can gather energy by "reclaiming" it from organic debris such as trees and mass from rocks and wrecked units. 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. If the resource generation exceeds the player's capacity, the material is wasted.

An adjacency system allows certain structures to benefit from being built directly adjacent to others.[5][6] 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. The same applies to their mass-producing equivalents. Likewise, factories will consume less energy and mass when built adjacent to power generators and mass fabricators/extractors, respectively. However, by placing structures in close proximity, they become more vulnerable to collateral damage if an adjacent structure is destroyed.[5] Furthermore, most resource generation structures have a chance to cause chain reactions when destroyed, of which Tier III structures which produce large amounts of resources often have large detonations which can wipe out an entire force.

Warfare[edit]

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.[4] 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. Both units and maps use normal maps in order to allow for a large amount of detail. Scale is important in Supreme Commander. A player can field up to a thousand units (which includes buildings) at a time, enabling massive battles with hundreds of units on the field at once.

Units in Supreme Commander are built to scale as they would be in the real world. For example, battleships dwarf submarines.[6] Late into the game, the larger "experimental" units, such as the Cybran Monkeylord, an enormous spider-shaped assault unit, can actually crush other units.[6]

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.[7][8][9] Technologies emerging in modern warfare are frequently employed in Supreme Commander. For example, stealth technology and both tactical and strategic missile and missile defense systems can be used. An innovative feature is the ferry system used by air transports.[10] When a transport is set to ferry units to a specific destination, it creates a ferry point at its current location that the player can order any unit to trigger. The transport will then retrieve the unit, automatically shuttling them to the other end of the route. By setting a factory to move units to the ferry point, a player can produce units far behind the lines and have them automatically ferried to the front.[10] By holding the shift key the player can view all of the issued orders, 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.

Setting[edit]

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.[11] 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.

Factions[edit]

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.[12] Their society and military tactics more resemble present-day 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.[13] UEF units are blueish, and somewhat blocky in form, reflecting the UEF's primary drive to maintain peace and order throughout the galaxy, and bring all of humanity back under one government. Their tactics are primarily based around long range, heavy-hitting attacks, with speed and stealth often neglected in favor of artillery strikes and large, shielded forces.

The Cybran Nation (originally called the Recyclers)[14] is composed of Symbionts, humans who have been enhanced with implantable technology, having entered into a form of mutualism with a AI (in addition to various other augmentations). They fight for the liberation of their fellow Symbionts throughout the galaxy.[15] The Cybran Nation is led by the brilliant-yet-eccentric Dr. Brackman, patriarch and chief designer of the Cybrans' cybernetic technology.[16] Cybran units are red and tend to be sharply angular and jagged in form, reflecting the Cybran's past of being hunted and attacked, and evolving into a stealthy, hit-and-run style. A Cybran commander generally gets into an area quickly, and extracts themselves quicker. Their forces often prioritize speed, stealth, and special abilities over armor, which can make them deadly for use in traps.

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.[17] 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.[18] Aeon units are green, aesthetic and flowing in appearance, reflecting their belief in "The Way", bringing peace and tranquility throughout the galaxy. Their forces are highly specialized and often able to traverse any terrain, as most Aeon units use hover technology, allowing for powerful strikes when and where they are needed.

Plot[edit]

At the start of the single player campaign, the Infinite War between the three factions has raged for over a millennium. Every faction has its own problems; the UEF is stretched far too thin, the Cybrans are hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned, and the Aeon Commander in Chief (called the Avatar of War) is stirring unrest amongst the Illuminate.

The campaign focuses on the UEF's weapon of last resort, a planet killer named Black Sun. With it, they intend to destroy the homeworlds of the factions that oppose them. The Cybrans plan to use it to destroy the quantum gate network and free their enslaved brethren, while the Aeon seek to use it to broadcast a message of peace to all people. The player decides which faction to play as and what course it will take.

Victory in the UEF campaign results in Black Sun destroying the critical planets of both the Aeon and the Cybrans, leading the galaxy into a new era of human superiority and ending the war.[19] In the Cybran campaign, QAI, an enormously intelligent and powerful AI, uses it 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.[20] Finally, the Aeon campaign sees the Princess Rhianne (leader of the Aeon) 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.[21]

Upon finishing the game, each faction has a different teaser ending, hinting at a new enemy for the expansion. The Cybran ending shows QAI calling in unidentified enemies, to Dr. Brackman's horror, saying "They are coming." The Aeon ending simply depicts Princess Rhianne opening her eyes in shock and saying "...no!" Finally, the UEF ending shows a large rift opening near Earth, and many unidentified radar signatures appearing near the location of Black Sun on Earth. All three teasers are consistent with the arrival of the Seraphim from the sequel. Entertainingly, upon completion of the Cybran campaign, you receive a message from Elite Commander Dostya, stating she stashed a bottle of fine vodka in the rear compartment of your ACU, a further reference to her Russian-esque heritage.

Development[edit]

Official system requirements
Minimum Recommended
Windows
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 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.[4][6] 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,[4] and that the game would ship the development team's tools if possible. The latter goal was not achieved.[22]

Supreme Commander makes extensive use of two technologies relatively unused in video games prior to its release, namely multi core processing[23] and multi monitor displays.[23] When detecting a multi-core processor, the game assigns a specific task, such as AI calculations, to each core, splitting the load between them.[24] Supreme Commander is one of the first games to specifically support dual and quad core processors in the game.[25]

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.[25][26]

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.[27] On July 17, 2007, it was announced that Supreme Commander would be released on Steam.[28] Taylor has hinted at a seventh generation console release in "the near future",[29] calling the Xbox 360 "the platform of choice".[30]

The game shipped with version 3189.[31] 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.[31] 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.[32] Version 3223 included bug fixes only. It has been called a 'specific purpose patch' by Gas Powered Games.[33] Update 3251, was a highly anticipated update, mainly because of the plethora of changes relating to the balance between playable factions.[34] A cartographic view of the map was also introduced.[34] Hotfix 3254 solved a few issues discovered shortly after 3251 was released. It was introduced on June 7, 2007.[35] 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.[36] The final update to Supreme Commander was released on January 13, 2008. Patch 3280 added amBX support to the game.

Audio[edit]

Supreme Commander Official Soundtrack
Soundtrack album to Supreme Commander by Jeremy Soule
Released 2007
Genre Video game music
Length 102:10
Label DirectSong

The Supreme Commander Official Soundtrack is the musical score to Supreme Commander. It was composed by Jeremy Soule, who also composed the score for the game's spiritual predecessor, Total Annihilation.[37] The soundtrack was released in early 2007 and is available as a DRM-free digital album from DirectSong. Shortly after the release of Forged Alliance in November 2007, additional tracks from the expansion were added to the album and were made available free of charge to owners of the soundtrack's initial release.[38]

Soule used synthesisers, instead of a traditional orchestra to produce the soundtrack.[38][39] The score is featured in Supreme Commander as dynamic in-game music, changing with on-screen events.[40]

The soundtrack received positive reviews. SoundtrackNet's Brian McVickar gave the soundtrack 3.5 stars out of 5, commented that the score has "a healthy dose of action" and "an infectious energy and gusto". McVickar also noted that the synthesised instruments sound real.[39] Oliver Ittensohn from GSoundtracks gave the soundtrack 4.5 stars out of 5, stating that "It’s a very fine score and a great achievement.". Soule’s "thematic, rich and action-packed" orchestral writing, as well as the impressive level of detail in the synthesised music was praised. Ittensohn also remarked that the score and power of its themes "manages to match the game’s massive scale".[38] Charles Onyett from IGN also commented that the score is "top notch, really driving home the notion of an epic conflict.".[41]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 87% (PC)[53]
59% (X360)[54]
Metacritic 86% (PC)[3]
56% (X360)[52]
Review scores
Publication Score
ActionTrip 9.1/10 (PC)[42]
Computer and Video Games 9/10 (PC)[43]
Eurogamer 9/10 (PC)[44]
Game Informer 9/10 (PC)
5.5/10 (X360) [45]
GameSpot 8.7/10 (PC)[46]
GameSpy 4.5/5 (PC)[47]
3/5 (X360)[48]
IGN 9/10 (PC)[49]
4.5/10 (X360)[50]
Official Xbox Magazine 8.0/10
GameDaily 9/10 (PC) [51]

Pre-release[edit]

Supreme Commander was highly anticipated. Large gaming websites wrote many previews: GameSpot wrote eighteen,[55] IGN wrote eight,[56] and GameSpy five.[57] The Seton's Clutch map was frequently featured,[58][59] as early as September 2005.[60] This battle was between the UEF and the Cybran, showcasing a Monkeylord annihilating UEF tanks. At E3, 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.[58] Supreme Commander won several notable awards before it was released, all of them connected to E3,[61][62] including the GameCritics Best Strategy Game Award[63] and IGN's best upcoming PC game award.[64] Other awards were received from GameSpy, GameSpot, Games Radar, Voodoo Extreme and 1UP.[65]

Release[edit]

Dan Stapleton of PC Gamer 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%.

Alec Meer of Eurogamer praised the innovative new features such as the multi monitor support and the scale element. Meer remarked though, that Supreme Commander "feels like hard work", and that with the emphasis on epic scale, details are overlooked. Still, it garnered a rating of 9/10.[44]

IGN rated Supreme Commander with the rating of 9/10, with reviewer Charles Onyett giving the game the Editor's choice award.[49] 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.[66] 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.[67] 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.[68]

Overall, reviews of Supreme Commander were positive, with the game having a score of 86/100 on Metacritic.[3] 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.[69] 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.[70] At the Dutch website Gamer.nl, 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".[71]

Sequel and expansions[edit]

Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance[edit]

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. In addition, a new faction (the Seraphim) is available. It was released as a standalone game.[72]

Supreme Commander: Experimentals[edit]

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.[73]

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.[74] The project has since been abandoned.

Supreme Commander 2[edit]

Main article: Supreme Commander 2

Supreme Commander 2 is the title of the sequel announced in November 2008 and released in March 2010. It was developed in a partnership between Gas Powered Games and Square Enix.[75][76][77]

Forged Alliance Forever[edit]

Forged Alliance Forever (aka FAF) is a community created multiplayer lobby for Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance. It provides expanded mod and custom map support, with the core game itself undergoing changes to graphics, balance, and gameplay mechanics. FAF has an active community of players.[78][79][80][81][82]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

  • Bogenn, Tim (2007). Supreme Commander Official Strategy Guide. Brady Games. ISBN 0-7440-0895-6. 

External links[edit]