Supreme Commander Universe Chris Taylor Q&A

Supreme Commander Universe []
Chris Taylor Q&A

SupComUmiverse: Let’;s set the tone early, blondes, redheads, or brunettes?
Chris Taylor: Come on, who’s kidding who - I love ‘em all!

SupComU: Is it late enough to give us an estimate on system requirements?
CT: We’re close, but I bet we’ll be able to say with a high degree of accuracy by E3.

SupComU: Will units make walking and/or idle noises? In TA, even when a Krogoth was stomping toward you, all you’;d hear were the backpack missiles and BLoD firing off, but you wouldn’;t actually hear the thundering footsteps it would’;ve been making. So in SupCom would the Monkeylord, for example, make thundering footsteps as it walks across the terrain? And would the screen tremble in step with it?
CT: The technology available to us in the sound effects department has radically improved since 10 years ago, so we now have the choice to make each footfall make a sound, or have the entire unit produce a single, looping sound. We just pick the solution that feels appropriate. The Supreme Commander units all produce sounds on each footfall.

SupComU: Is radar range affected by the terrain, assuming the game uses something like radar?
CT: We were going to do that, but right now we think that it takes away some fun factor, so we don’t bounce or absorb radar into the terrain.

SupComU: Will the player be able to capture the other sides’; weapons and use those against them?
CT: If you mean units, there is a good chance that some very special units will have the ability to capture, but I don’t want to make promises here yet.

SupComU: Will Supreme Commander include a built-in demo recorder or similar feature?
CT: Every game can be saved and replayed. In fact, we use that feature today to find really hard-to-find bugs… it’s one of the most powerful development tools we have.

SupComU: Is the terrain deformable and to what extent?
CT: The terrain is completely deformable, but I don’t like to use that tech for weapons; instead it’s just used for some flattening that occurs when you build structures.

SupComU: How many players will SupCom support? Can we look forward to massive team battles of 8vs8 or 10vs10 or even more?
CT: Naturally the game has been architected to support an arbitrary number, but we’ll set it closer to the industry standard of 8 in all likelihood.

SupComU: Your previous RTS survived and lives on still largely on the strength of its modability, and our other websites have catered to that over the years, so we’;re particularly interested in the modding aspect of Supreme Commander. What tools do you hope to release with the game? For example, unit and map editors.
CT: I don’t have the final list of additional editors and utilities at hand, but I will say that I believe this will be one of the most mod-able RTS games ever made. I’ll work very hard to stand behind that statement.

SupComU: Most RTS games these days have “hard-coded” and “scripted” AI behavior. The latter can be modded by those looking to improve, for example, the AI of an RTS, which as we all know, often falls behind as new tactics are designed and put into the field. How will the AI work in SupCom? Will it follow this traditional approach? Will it feature any kind of learning? How modable will it be, and will its features be documented for the modding community?
CT: We have quite a few tricks up our sleeves on the AI side of things, but don’t want to say too much quite yet, but I can say that we’ll expose all of this to script so that new AI behaviors and personalities can be developed.

SupComU: The community has been trying to get an idea of just how flexible the Lua implementation will be for modding the game. Would it be possible to have, say, “squads” of units like in Dawn of War, even if the game itself doesn’;t use them? What is the proportion of features that are hard coded, as opposed to the features that are read from data files?
CT: The Lua implementation is extremely flexible, and I think every modder who gets into it will be pleasantly surprised. In the rare case that something isn’t exposed to the AI scripting system, we’ll likely prioritize a list of requests for future updates and try and support new ideas that way.

SupComU: What kind of animation format will be used? Will it be coded using Lua or something similar to the COB system in Total Annihilation, or will it use skeletal animations? What model format is preferred? Will there be extensive 2D sprite support, other than the icons seen at the strategic zoom level?
CT: I would love to answer every one of these in detail, but it’s a little ahead of what I can talk about right now. The system is a lot more modern, in almost every way, not the home-brewed stuff we cooked up back in the day.

SupComU: Are we likely to get a peek at anything like map formats, unit rule set files, custom Lua libraries, or anything of the sort before the game is released?
CT: I think it’s safe to say we’ll release the game first, and then release the tools.

SupComU: Did you know we already host a mod group for SupCom before the game is even out?
CT: I am continually surprised at how much excitement and support there is, and everyone here very much appreciates it. Without all the fan support, it wouldn’t quite be the same for us.

SupComU: You’;ve said in previous interviews that you had some cool new multiplayer features never before seen in an RTS to unveil in early 2006. Well, it’;s early 2006 now, so what have you got for us!?
CT: I think the “definition” of early 2006 is at least Feb!!!

SupComU: You also mentioned previously that you were going to release details on Supreme Commander’;s unique “personality archetype” system for the AI. It sounds cool, but what does it actually mean as far as gameplay is concerned?
CT: I have a feeling you guys have already figured it out!! It basically centers around building a “gameplay style” into the opponents. Take your friends for example - they all play differently, I would suspect. One might rush, the other might turtle up, and the other might go all air. We don’t want the AI to be generic, but clearly demonstrate a bias towards one style or the other. That captures the gist of what we are going for.

SupComU: Would you care to elaborate a little on the pathfinding system GPG has developed for Supreme Commander? What distinguishes it from previous RTS games?
CT: Our core goal for the pathfinder is to be fast and accurate. Because our maps can be huge, really huge, we needed a system that could handle it. There are a few more secrets to unveil here, but we don’t want to open the kimono too wide just yet.

SupComU: A little off topic here, but have you and GPG in general paid much attention to what the TA modding community has got up to over the years? Do you have a covert trawl through forums and smile at whatever breakthrough people are still managing with an eight-year old game?
CT: We smile all the time at what people are able to accomplish. The thing that saddens me the most is that I can’t spend time making posts in the forums telling everyone how impressed I am with the creativity and ingenuity I see.

SupComU: Have you had a look at the Spring project at all? If so, what do you think of it? The SY team has implemented innovations into their interface never seen in an RTS before either.
CT: I think that project is extraordinary, and we talked about it a lot over the years. That team is going to have a lot of fun modding SUPCOM.

SupComU: Do you ever worry that others might end up beating you to a few things in terms of innovation or gameplay?
CT: We are doing a lot of things in SUPCOM that are very original and unique, and I suppose some of these ideas will be done by others, but that’s the business we are in. It’s going to happen in both directions, and that’s the healthy attitude you need to keep in this industry.

SupComU: Boxers or briefs?
CT: Briefs, but not those tighty-whities - we’re talking about big beefy “man” briefs!!
SupComU: Thanks for your time Chris.
Along with all of that juicy information, Chris has graciously supplied us with two exclusive, never-before-seen screenshots of the game! Without further ado, here they are: