Games Geek / Technical Linux Game Development

Letter to Gas Powered Games

I just received the latest copy of PC Gamer and saw Supreme Commander listed on the cover. I was a big fan of Total Annihilation, and I couldn’t wait to read about SC.

These days I run Debian Gnu/Linux as my main operating system and I would prefer to not have to boot up Windows just to play a game. If the game is only available for Windows, I’d be less inclined to play it. Are there plans to release a Linux-based port of the game? If not, will the game be designed and written in a highly portable manner so that such a port could be written by others without too much effort?

Thank you for your time,

I just submitted the above message to Gas Powered Games, founded by Chris Taylor. Taylor was the creator of Total Annihilation, which is still my favorite real time strategy game. Today I found the latest PC Gamer magazine waiting for me when I got home. On the cover was Supreme Commander, which is his newest RTS. Atari owns the rights to TA, but SC is considered the “spiritual successor”. A big thank you to THQ for publishing it when others are insanely turning it down.

A lot of people say that the RTS genre has stagnated, but Chris Taylor apparently has the goal of actually adding strategy to the mix. Apparently you can play from multiple levels: tactical, which is what you find in most RTS games, and strategic, where you can get a high-level X’s and O’s look at the war. Besides the actual war and battles, the units will also match the epic scale. You can have normal units running amongst the legs of the massive units, and according to the preview, the battleship won’t fit completely on the normal screen. Nuclear explosions usually don’t look all that impressive in most games. Even in Empire Earth, which had the most impressive explosion (the screen went blindingly white), the blast radius only affected a small area. Original War had a really impressive weapon that actually left an area contaminated for a little while after the explosion, but it still wasn’t very massively destructive. But in SC, apparently nuclear weapons will live up to their name.

Part of the fun of Total Annihilation was just the excitement of blowing up so many things. It was far from mindless, but there was a lot of action going on. You could have multiple fronts in a massive battle with a large number of opponents. Plus, it was highly expandable, and people are still making mods and units for it.

Supreme Commanders is looking to make a big splash in the RTS genre when it hopefully gets released next year. It might finally be a real time strategy game that employs actual strategy so that the naysayers of the genre can be happy.

And having a Gnu/Linux port would be really nice. It would be unfortunate if it was restricted to only Windows and Mac OS X.

2 replies on “Letter to Gas Powered Games”

Heh – Total Annihilation is one of my all-time favorites, too. I think it falls just a tiny bit behind Age of Kings, but that’s something that COULD have been remedied with a solid sequel that fixed some of the more annoying issues.

The key things for me with TA were:
#1 – The SCADS of units, particularly with the free downloads and the Core Contingency expansion. It seemed that whenever someone discovered a “cheap” exploit, they’d release a new unit that provided a reasonably effective counter.

#2 – Going along with #1 – the amazing variety of tactics you could use. There were just so many different “points of weakness” you could try to exploit. You could brute-force their military. You could attack either their energy or metal infrastructure. You could attack their constructors. You could attack the enemy commander (crippling even if that wasn’t a win condition). You could attack their intelligence (primarily the radar systems, through stealth or knocking out the systems). You could do weird things, like the “Commander Valkarie Snatch” or transport crawling mines by aircraft to create poor-man’s nukes earlier in the game. There was just an incredible depth in that complexity.

#3 – The MOTION in the game – the 3D models rocked, dove, swept around in an illusion of movement that really added to the feeling of being given a birds-eye-view of a real war.

#4 – The music. The music is one of my all-time favorite game soundtracks, which I still listen to just for fun. It was wonderfully epic-sounding.

You know, I keep hearing great things about the Core Contingency, but I unfortunately could never find it in stores. I may have to buckle down and try to find a copy on eBay.

I also really loved the music. Since the game just played the music off the CD, I simply recorded the music to tape so I could listen to it in my car. I still listen to it whenever I find myself with a long highway and “enemies” surrounding me…although thinking about it, I suppose that would be a bit dangerous. B-)

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