I used to love “Real Time Strategy” games, then one of them hit me so hard it I haven’t quite recovered from its demise. When I was quite young I was introduced to Populous 2 and the original Syndicate, both of which I played to completion. After the original Warcraft I started playing some of these games competitively online, from Red Alert to Age of Empires to Warcraft 3 to Rise of Nations and so on and so forth. I’ve been around the block a couple of times when it comes to traditional RTS games but all of a sudden, out of nowhere, one game showed up that broke everything else for me: Supreme Commander.
For those of you who haven’t played, Supreme Commander wasn’t about flashy visuals or wildly diverse unit types between factions, or even elaborate tech trees. It was the first RTS I’d personally put my hands on that went out of its way to provide players tools to simplify macro that went beyond simple hotkeys. In most RTS you’re constantly monitoring your resources and attempting to optimize your technology advancement or unit production by keeping those resources as low as possible all game. This often requires a player to memorize hotkeys and spend as much attention on his base at home and resource counter as he puts into his combat units. Supreme Commander said, “Nah, son. Why would you want to be staring at your base instead of these awesome battles?” and allowed you to queue up anything you could possibly want as far ahead of time as you want. Oh, you want this little engineer to go off and slowly build 75 point defenses? All right. Just tell him where to go. We’ll even put a timer next to every one of those point defenses to tell you, to the second, how long it’ll be before it’s finished. Oh, you want to make a factory, then upgrade it, then make a plane come out of it that flies in a specific loop around the map and then lands? Click a few times and then you never have to look at the factory again.
Now you might wonder how it’s possible for a game to allow you to queue up buildings without resources and I’ll tell you- It used income instead of on-hand. You have 10 mass coming in each second? Well you can build at a rate of 10 mass a second. Go nuts. Building too much? It’ll all slow down but nothing stops. The game handled all of this brilliantly and I played it into the damn ground. Planning out my infrastructure 20 minutes in advance and then spending my attention scouting and shuffling units where they needed to be made me feel like I was, in fact, a commander, organizing an offensive. I didn’t need 600 APM just to keep my resources bottomed out. The macro options weren’t the only draw to Supreme Commander, which also had the ability to zoom out seamlessly until the entire map was visible and had giant awesome experimental mechs that could fire across the smaller maps and a faction with awesome radar cloaking technology and so on and so forth. The macro options were just amazing and could have fit neatly into any other game half as ambitious, even though none of them tried it. It was glorious. Then, one day, Supreme Commander 2 came along, and tore the entire system out to replace it with your basic Starcraft style build-with-your-on-hand-resources system and I died inside as I watched the Supreme Commander community wither away.
A spiritual successor to Total Annihilation was kickstarted by some of the team from Supreme Commander called Planetary Annihilation. It was fine. I supported it, installed it, tried to get into it, and failed. I’ve tried a handful of games since then but nothing clicks with me anymore. I spent a few months following Starcraft 2 before I just couldn’t be bothered with the APM management I felt I needed to stay competitive against people who knew what they were doing. Nothing excites me anymore! I miss that game! I even bought another copy recently and reinstalled it but it’s been too long and it isn’t the same anymore, either. I know I need to move on… I need to find something new, find a new reason to be excited… One day, I am confident, a proper spiritual successor will arrive to rekindle the fire that did burn so very brightly in my heart. That day will be a good day. That is the game I am waiting for!