Are we already looking at the best RTS of 2007? We grill Chris Taylor on his latest strategy project

1 CommentsFor RTS fanatics, February 2007 can’t come soon enough. Already marked with a jumbo red felt-tip pen on our calendar, it’s the month that’ll witness - all being well - the release of Gas Powered Games’ real-time-strategy epic Supreme Commander. Total Annihilation creator Chris Taylor is at the helm, as you’re well aware, and the game delivers massive battles on huge maps and boasts some of the largest and craziest units we’ve ever clapped eyes on. Suffice to say that we can’t wait to get our dirty hands all over the final product, so it was a pleasure to sit down with Chris Taylor during a press jaunt to Paris a couple of moons back and grill him about the project.

What’s been your design philosophy for the single-player game? How much attention have you given it in comparison to multiplayer?

Chris Taylor: Well, for starters I wanted the story to mean something. I wanted it to tie into the fictional universe in a much more meaningful way. I think we’ve accomplished that. The other thing we wanted to do was keep the three factions separate so that when you said ‘I’m going to go and play the Aeon’ you didn’t find yourself playing the Cybran and suddenly playing the UEF. You play all the way through to the end as the faction of your choice.

The next thing we wanted to do was streamline the experience. Have you ever played an RTS game where you got to build your base, you won the objective, play it you build your base again, you beat your objective, you have to build your base again, you play the objective… So by the fourth or fifth time you’re going ‘Come on, these bases are identical!’. More than that, the designers start taking that away from you, they start giving you bases. You ever play that, where you’re playing with a gigantic base already and you’re like, ‘That’s not how I’d put my base together!’ You feel like you’re playing somebody else’s game.

We don’t do that. What we do, is we start with a big map in single-player, but we only show you this much - so you start playing it and then when you achieve a mission objective [makes funny beeping sound] we make the map bigger - it’s always a rectangle, that’s the only rule - and we can stretch that. When you start you feel like you’re in a small map but as you beat each mission… By the end of the sixth, seventh, eighth mission, you’ve been playing for, it could be four or five hours, and then you’ve finished what we call the objective.

Campaigns are made up of operations. Each campaign is broken down into a series of operations, each operation takes place on its own map, and each operation is broken down into a series of missions. What was traditionally a one-mission experience… One mission is now an operation which is a series of missions, which is much more complex but also much more fulfilling. Because you build a base once and you just continue to add on and add on and grow your base throughout that whole operation. I think it addresses the tedium of the single-player experience really well.

Does the single-player campaign branch at all, because it looks like, especially with the Aeon, from the beginning it starts with a big dichotomy and it looks like it could go one way or the other…?

Chris Taylor: No. The reason why ultimately that the branching storyline stuff falls down is because it’s so expensive to make content, that if you have someone play your game and they don’t get to see all your content, you just void your resources.

If you were to do a tour guide for Supreme Commander, what would be the top five things you’d want people to see - from your insider point of view, the stuff that you love?

Chris Taylor: The first thing is full theatre of war zone, being able to zoom in and out in what we call strategic zone. The next thing is the incredible level of control players have over their base when they go to build a series of structures. You can just click and drag, so you can build a wall section really easily, you can move stuff around after the fact. If I, say, put energy here, here and here I can actually hold down shift and move those structures in real-time before they’re built.

I can build a factory, click on the factor and queue up orders before the factory’s even built. I love that. I wish you could queue up orders on a factory that’s not even been started yet, which would be really cool. We’ll get there, we’ll get that in a future update. I would then show off the size of the maps, I’d show off the number of units that you can have and then of course the experimental units are a big part of it.

What about particle effects? An favourites?

Chris Taylor: Erm, you know what, the nuke. I would definitely show off the nuke. The nuke is pretty spectacular. I love showing off the gigantic… Anything that’s big. I like the shields, I like the look of the shields, I like the function of the shields. I love the ferry system, which is just unprecedented I believe and very flexible.

The game has so much. The AI is amazing, we have something called the archetypal AI where you can say ‘I’m going to play on a map and I’m going to play, let’s say three AI opponents and I want this opponent’ - you can choose the type of personality behind these AI. Tech AI is an AI that doesn’t attack you, it just kind of goes straight up to you and hits you with something big. There’s turtle AIs that says, ‘Hey you want to come take me down, you come to me. I’m going to have a really great defensive system’. There’s a viral AI that spans out across the map.

How finished is the control scheme at the moment, because I noticed that there are some things which are a bit odd still - like it’s hard to click and centre on the mini-map?

Chris Taylor: You can’t on the mini-map. In fact, that’s going into the build as we speak. That was the feedback we got from the beta. The guys thought that people wouldn’t use the mini-map to control the main view. I argued that they would and I said ‘Let the beta decide’ and the beta has come back and everyone’s unanimous - they want to use the mini-map to control the main view in a traditional sense. You’ll see the most number of changes in the UI of anything else and tuning and balancing - those two things. And bug fixing. And there’s optimisations. It goes on and on. But the thing you’ll notice the most, visible changes, is going to be with the UI.

Supreme Commander is, obviously, coming out on PC. As an independent developer, is it in your interest to make a single-format game as opposed to making a multi-format game, with the rising costs of development?

Chris Taylor: It’s in everybody’s interest to build technologies and content that they can advertise over a lot of platforms. If you build content for the PC, you still want to find a way to leverage it on a console if you can or on a handheld, a PSP or a DS. You really always want to lower your costs, it doesn’t matter really matter. Everything is about making the most cost-effective, building the most cost-effective software. You can’t get around that.

I wish you could queue up orders on a factory that’s not even been started yet, which would be really cool. We’ll get there, we’ll get that in a future update

不错,但不知道这个future update会在什么时候出来