Revisiting Supreme Commander

By on August 3, 2015 9:33:58 AM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Frogboy

Join Date 03/2001
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Of the games made in the past decade, Supreme Commander is probably the most similar to what we’re doing with Ashes of the Singularity.  Its creator, Chris Taylor and I have been friends for years (I picked up his backyard chicken hobby and he picked up my beekeeping hobby).   Chris also made my favorite game of all time, Total Annihilation.

A few years ago, Stardock worked with Gas Powered Games to make Demigod. Demigod started out as Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance and evolved into the final game. If you haven’t played Demigod, I recommend it. It is excellent.  Demigod never took off like we hoped.  Timing wasn’t on its side.  It was the first stand-alone commercial MOBA.  It was also the last non-free to play MOBA (it was $39.99 when released) and League of Legends quickly overtook it.

Setting up Supreme Commander

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Game setup

When the player sets up a game of Supreme Commander, you get to pick amongst various types of AIs.   AI is something we’re very passionate about here.  As I type this from Stardock East, we have the AI developers of Civilization III, IV, V and GalCiv I/II here.    From a replayability stand point. giving players lots setup options makes the single player part of the game more compelling.

Elegant main game UI

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Like a 4X, Supreme Commander gives you and readout of how the other players are doing

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Very clear, pretty paths.

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Strategic Zoom

 

There are a lot of very good features in the Supreme Commander UI that I think should be standard in RTSs:

  1. It displays a power rating for each player.  We do this in our other games as well but RTS almost never do this.  The reason this is important is because a lot of interesting game options can be created around it.  In Ashes of the Singularity, we will have maps available that are bigger than anything that’s been made before (thanks 64bit).    We want to avoid scenarios where the player has t o spend an hour mopping up if they don’t want to.
  2. Intuitive clear paths for the player to take along with an ETA on how long it will take to get there.
  3. Some method of gaining situational awareness of the entire war (in SupCom that was done through strategic zoom)

Please post in the comments section the UI elements of Supreme Commander you think are key.

 

Gameplay

Gameplay is unique to each game.  Supreme Commander, like Total Annihilation, has a lot of gameplay elements we really love which include:

  • Infinite resources (your resources never run out)
  • Wrecks (destroyed units stick around and can be recovered for some of their resources)
  • Lots of units
  • Construction units can aid in the construction of other things
  • You pay for things as you are building them

This is just scratching the surface but these 5 things help define what is essentially a sub-genre of RTSs.

 

Strategic Zoom

There’s been a lot of debate on the forums on strategic zoom.  This is because we are trying to avoid the kind of strategic zoom in Supreme Commander. Specifically, we don’t want to zoom out to a sea of icons where players end up playing most of the game from there. 

Why the resistance?

Because in the long-term we expect (as the hardware gets better) to have maps far beyond even where ships in 1.0.  We want to use 1.0 as the time to come up with another way to zoom out and get an abstracted view of the battle field.  Turning individual units into icons won’t work because we’ll be dealing with thousands, possibly tens of thousands of units. 

We will have a zoom out mode (or secondary monitor support) for a war room where the entire war can be abstracted.  But

 

image

Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance

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Ashes of the Singularity: Pre-Beta

 

How to make it a war, not a battle?

One of our biggest struggles is that we don’t want the game to be purely about  cranking out tons of units and throwing them at each other.  Unit composition, resource access, positioning should all be crucial factors.

What do you think?

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August 27, 2015 6:05:29 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Quoting tatsujb,


Quoting eviator,







No. That's why I said "I think" and "I don't see". L2read



bottom line the current gameplay isn't final ergo not representative ergo can't base your judgments off of that. templates can olny ever be practical. why not have this convenient UI tool you can hide it somewhere in the engine if it's not all that used.

 

this begs the question : what it the dev's standpoint on adjacency?

We don't plan on any adjacency bonuses with the Post-Human race.

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August 27, 2015 9:20:25 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Quoting Frogboy,
We don't plan on any adjacency bonuses with the Post-Human race.

so can we have templates in the engine?

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August 27, 2015 10:02:23 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Frogboy, with that comment and a bit of play on the alpha version, you have won my full support The game as a whole looks pretty damn good/interesting, but the zoom was going to kill it for me. You just set my fears to rest!

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August 28, 2015 8:48:06 AM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Quoting BRNKoINSANITY,

The limited zoom really needs to go.... When I can only fit 5% of the map in the camera, it is not a good thing! It feels like starcraft

Exactly.  Back in the days of C&C (going WAY back now) that was just fine.  Supreme Commander changed all that with its strategic zoom.  Now there's no going back.  I don't want another Starcraft.  Once you've played SC you're spoiled.. everything less than that just pales by comparison.

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August 28, 2015 8:51:23 AM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Quoting Frogboy,

We are working on an abstract map view mode (full map zoom out).

Awesome!  Best news of the day.  Now I really can't wait!

This game is going to set a new standard.  I remember when SC came out it was one of the main benchmarks used in new video card reviews.   I believe Ashes will be one of the main games used in DX12 benchmarking.

 

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August 28, 2015 6:13:38 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Quoting tatsujb,


Quoting Frogboy,
We don't plan on any adjacency bonuses with the Post-Human race.




so can we have templates in the engine?

Not in 1.0.  Maybe eventually.  Scope scope scope.

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August 28, 2015 6:16:25 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Quoting BRNKoINSANITY,

Frogboy, with that comment and a bit of play on the alpha version, you have won my full support The game as a whole looks pretty damn good/interesting, but the zoom was going to kill it for me. You just set my fears to rest!

Thanks.

Yea, for us it was when we started playing on the really big maps.  

I should start an entire thread on how the engine has changed the design (along with your feedback) some.  But broadly speaking, we've had to distance ourselves from the Starcraft style because it just doesn't work.  Even active unit abilities stopped making a lot of sense.  If I have 5 different ongoing major battles on a world, I don't really have time to be microing.  

Sometimes, you just gotta kill your darlings and focus on what the game's core strength is which is: It's a macro game. It's about conquering a planet with vast armies.  You're not sweating squads battling it out in some little corner.

That means you need a way to get a situation report of the entire world.

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August 28, 2015 8:16:10 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Even more good news! Thanks for listening to current/future players (customers if we are honest)!

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August 28, 2015 8:42:32 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Quoting Frogboy,

 But broadly speaking, we've had to distance ourselves from the Starcraft style because it just doesn't work.

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August 30, 2015 3:19:51 AM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

strategic zoom!!! hurrah!! now lets get crossfire/sli working

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August 30, 2015 5:12:37 AM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Yes a we need full map zoom out true.

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August 30, 2015 5:33:30 AM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Frogboy, i have a few ideas about how to make it a war and not simply battles.

We may should have to concept of battalions. This would be a large group of units / meta units flagged as being a battalion with and objective we would assign to it. For example : Capture and hold a specific position on the map. That would mean we would have the option of letting this battalion managed by AI. In addition this battalion could request by itself for re-inforcements. We as commander, would be responsible for producing these re-enforcements. Ask for re-enforcements would come from all the battalions we have created and assigned an objective.

We could of course give orders to these battalions so that we can ask them to retreat or to move to another objective.

Battalions behaviour would depend on our ability to quickly provide asks for re-enforcements.

Using the stategic zoom we could have indicators of which opponent is currently having advantage. And possibly indicators showing if providing not requested re-enforcement would help us to win a battle.

We would also have alerts showing where the situation is critical.

Thus the strategic zoom we not be unit focused, but global war focused.

It all depends of course on the amount of micro / macro you want to introduce in the game.

Giving the ability to the player to micro a battalion which is supposed to be self managed would be nice.

 

Regarding batallions re-enforcements, i can imagine the ui, where all batallions would be listed, for each time of unit/meta unit we would have the current number of alive units, the average health, and a superiority factor showing if we're likely to win or lose. From each factory we could decide to which batallion we want to send the units.

A simple right click on a factory would display the battalions and we would flag the ones we want to send units to. 

 

 

 

 

 

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August 30, 2015 8:34:33 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Quoting Frogboy,

I should start an entire thread on how the engine has changed the design (along with your feedback) some.  But broadly speaking, we've had to distance ourselves from the Starcraft style because it just doesn't work.  Even active unit abilities stopped making a lot of sense.  If I have 5 different ongoing major battles on a world, I don't really have time to be microing.  

Man that's refreshing to hear from a game developer.  So many will force their vision of a game down the throats of gamers.  They don't realize until it's released that it didn't work.  Of course, it's too late at that point.

Can't wait to buy this. 

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August 30, 2015 8:56:28 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Quoting jetsnguns,

Frogboy, i have a few ideas about how to make it a war and not simply battles.

We may should have to concept of battalions. This would be a large group of units / meta units flagged as being a battalion with and objective we would assign to it. For example : Capture and hold a specific position on the map. That would mean we would have the option of letting this battalion managed by AI. In addition this battalion could request by itself for re-inforcements. We as commander, would be responsible for producing these re-enforcements. Ask for re-enforcements would come from all the battalions we have created and assigned an objective.

I get where you're going with this but I don't like it for the simple reason that you're giving up too much decision making.  They player needs to actively manage each battle.  With a battalion managed by AI, even partially, the game starts playing itself.  The most I want in terms of auto-decision making is for a unit to attack another in range, engineers aiding units on their patrol route and so on. 

 

 

While we're at it, here are a couple of ways we could improve on unit behavior.  I'm going to assume that the mentioned units work more or less the way they do in FA.  These thoughts all fall into the category of giving units a more "human" judgement (yes, technically we can call that AI)

Engineers:  If patrolling, they will often aid in the upgrade/build of a structure.  They need to stop if their aid is draining resources to a critical point.  In FA they'll keep aiding the upgrade of an extractor even if their aid is taking resources well into the negative.

Unit retreat:  Units need to have better judgement as to when retreat and repair (thinking air units here).  So, if a gunship is under attack by 2 fighters and is taking slow damage but another 10 fighters are inbound (an air unit would be able to see it, it has its own radar with access to the base's radar) it would turn and run for repairs knowing that before it gets back to the base it'll likely be 3/4 dead.

Air units:  Have the option for the unit to strictly follow its patrol route.  Way too often air units will chase enemies that cross their path half way across the map, usually leading to their destruction as they pass over an enemy base and get taken out by AA.  In a war, units need to follow orders, not take off and disappear.  Yes, engage enemies approaching the base but don't chase them too far as they retreat.

 

New functionality:

Spying.  I don't remember which one of the C&C games introduced it, but the idea of a stealth unit would be awesome.  I still remember the Stealth Tank.  Next to no armor and limited firepower but if you could get one into an enemy's base early on it would be a great advantage.  Of course, it is discoverable by troops, so it's not completely immune to destruction.

 

Enough for now.  All this is making me want to play FA.  I also just upgraded to a 3440 x 1440 ultra widescreen and it just gives a whole new perspective to FA.  7 years old and it works perfectly with a resolution that didn't even exist back then.  Now THAT'S a good engine!

 

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August 31, 2015 2:27:33 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Quoting eviator,


Quoting jetsnguns,

Frogboy, i have a few ideas about how to make it a war and not simply battles.

We may should have to concept of battalions. This would be a large group of units / meta units flagged as being a battalion with and objective we would assign to it. For example : Capture and hold a specific position on the map. That would mean we would have the option of letting this battalion managed by AI. In addition this battalion could request by itself for re-inforcements. We as commander, would be responsible for producing these re-enforcements. Ask for re-enforcements would come from all the battalions we have created and assigned an objective.



I get where you're going with this but I don't like it for the simple reason that you're giving up too much decision making.  They player needs to actively manage each battle.  With a battalion managed by AI, even partially, the game starts playing itself.  The most I want in terms of auto-decision making is for a unit to attack another in range, engineers aiding units on their patrol route and so on. 

 

 

While we're at it, here are a couple of ways we could improve on unit behavior.  I'm going to assume that the mentioned units work more or less the way they do in FA.  These thoughts all fall into the category of giving units a more "human" judgement (yes, technically we can call that AI)

Engineers:  If patrolling, they will often aid in the upgrade/build of a structure.  They need to stop if their aid is draining resources to a critical point.  In FA they'll keep aiding the upgrade of an extractor even if their aid is taking resources well into the negative.

Unit retreat:  Units need to have better judgement as to when retreat and repair (thinking air units here).  So, if a gunship is under attack by 2 fighters and is taking slow damage but another 10 fighters are inbound (an air unit would be able to see it, it has its own radar with access to the base's radar) it would turn and run for repairs knowing that before it gets back to the base it'll likely be 3/4 dead.

Air units:  Have the option for the unit to strictly follow its patrol route.  Way too often air units will chase enemies that cross their path half way across the map, usually leading to their destruction as they pass over an enemy base and get taken out by AA.  In a war, units need to follow orders, not take off and disappear.  Yes, engage enemies approaching the base but don't chase them too far as they retreat.

 

New functionality:

Spying.  I don't remember which one of the C&C games introduced it, but the idea of a stealth unit would be awesome.  I still remember the Stealth Tank.  Next to no armor and limited firepower but if you could get one into an enemy's base early on it would be a great advantage.  Of course, it is discoverable by troops, so it's not completely immune to destruction.

 

Enough for now.  All this is making me want to play FA.  I also just upgraded to a 3440 x 1440 ultra widescreen and it just gives a whole new perspective to FA.  7 years old and it works perfectly with a resolution that didn't even exist back then.  Now THAT'S a good engine!

 

I get you when you say you do not want AI to take control of an entire battalion. But it's all about defining to which extent the developpers want the game to be a war. In a war there are multiple front lines. One can manage efficiently all front lines at the same time, it all depends on the game speed and player skills. 

When it comes to units behaviour, you can't reduce the behaviour to a single unit. In a war, a few units may act independently while most of them will act as a group. So that's why i was considering the possibility of having battalions more or less managed by AI, with objective assignements, which would not prevent the player from taking control of the battalion.

I remember a game call TOTAL AIR WAR from old DID (Digital Image Design) studio in which you were conducting the war, but at any time you could jump into a F22 raptor if you wanted to take part in a single Air battle. I liked the concept because i was like a general and at the same time i could become a pilot.

Let's forget about the idea of battalions. We could instead have the ability to mark different objectives (areas) on the map. Then by right clicking on any factory we could decide to spread the units production to very specific maked areas. In addition we could have lots of intel providing information about each battle progress, telling us which place needs additional units, which place should be abandonned because we are likely to be defeated.

 

My base idea is all about being able to control the war and at the same time being able to control each or all battles. AI taking control of micro management is to me just an option.

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August 31, 2015 3:06:56 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

both of you have interesting arguments. I'm not quite sure where I sit on this yet.

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August 31, 2015 3:59:57 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Regarding AI taking control of a battalion, i think about this because to me it does not really make sense to have idle units on a battlefield simply because i did not have time to provide orders. All units should have an order, a goal, assigned at any time, whatever it is.

If it's about a battle, then micro management makes sense.

If it's about war, then micro management is not enough. If you're the general, or the commander, whatever you like to name it, then you're not going to act for any unit on the battlefield.

Of course one could argue that simple orders like : retreat, attack, protect, resist as much as you can until death might be enough. But such simple orders seems to me to much simple for a battle. We're talking about battles, not skirmishes.

So, in a battle, units are likely to change their behaviour depending on how the battle is going on.

Should all the units engaged in the battle wait for the general to assign a new micro order ?

As far as i'm concerned, I'm not expecting AI to be perfect, but i'm expecting AI to help me, just because i may have to manage multiple battles at the same time.

A possible workaround in order to balance this could be having AI efficiency decreasing over time if the commander does not assist at all. Which would enforce the commander to monitor and act in each battle.

 

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September 8, 2015 9:36:04 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

  What I'd REALLY like to see is an option for virgin planets (as in planets with no life on them at all) - and especially in the tutorial.  (Hopefully, Ashes won't be ALWAYS about battles - though they DO have a place, of course.)

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December 3, 2015 9:23:08 AM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Late Reply; This is what I would take from SC[2]/FA[F]/PA; and what I would extend it with:

General

  • ETA, everywhere for everything.
  • Proper flow economy (always allow ordering buildings and units, even while stalling)
  • More sophisticated "features" for zoom, like auto-grouping with handles (SC2)

Unit Queue Management

  • Moving order locations (building placements and attack/move targets)
  • Removing single orders from queue

Factory Queue Management

  • Factory assisting (SC) (albeit, better mechanisms are possible)
  • Reordering of build orders (FAF)
  • Separate non-repeated, prependable "priority queue" (PA)!

 

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December 3, 2015 2:09:43 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Quoting quadrium,

 

    • Separate non-repeated, prependable "priority queue" (PA)!

 


 

 

What do you mean by this? I've been playing PA since Beta and I haven't heard of any feature/command that is described thus.

 

EDIT: Do you mean the CTRL-build function to insert units in front of all others in the build queue, but only build them once if on repeat build?

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December 3, 2015 2:12:01 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

FrogBoy:

 

One of the things that I absolutely LOVE about Planetary Annihilation is the Area Command function.  I play FaF alot these days and it really annoys me that I can't do the one-two clicks that I can pull in PA to reclaim/build/destroy/patrol swathes of terrain.  Is this at all possible in the engine?  

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December 3, 2015 4:16:03 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Seeing this thread and the OP for the first time. I HAVE to say that I simply ADORED Demigod! I was late in buying it and missed it's peak. The player base simply dried up. But it's SUCH a fun game and one of my all-time favorites. I wish someone would create a quality sequel (HINTHINTHINT).

 

I've you've never played it, Steam sells it for $2 now and again (or less) and it's so worth even playing the solo mode!

 

Back to your thread... 

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December 3, 2015 5:34:34 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Quoting Mered4,

FrogBoy:

 

One of the things that I absolutely LOVE about Planetary Annihilation is the Area Command function.  I play FaF alot these days and it really annoys me that I can't do the one-two clicks that I can pull in PA to reclaim/build/destroy/patrol swathes of terrain.  Is this at all possible in the engine?  

Can you walk me through what the Area command is?

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December 3, 2015 5:54:54 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Quoting Mered4,

Quoting quadrium,


 



      • Separate non-repeated, prependable "priority queue" (PA)!



 


 



 

What do you mean by this? I've been playing PA since Beta and I haven't heard of any feature/command that is described thus.

EDIT: Do you mean the CTRL-build function to insert units in front of all others in the build queue, but only build them once if on repeat build?

Yes, exactly. Does it have an "official" name, the feature?

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December 3, 2015 6:00:42 PM from Ashes of the Singularity Forums Ashes of the Singularity Forums

Quoting Frogboy,

Quoting Mered4,

FrogBoy:

 

One of the things that I absolutely LOVE about Planetary Annihilation is the Area Command function.  I play FaF alot these days and it really annoys me that I can't do the one-two clicks that I can pull in PA to reclaim/build/destroy/patrol swathes of terrain.  Is this at all possible in the engine?  



Can you walk me through what the Area command is?

Hey, I've mentioned this not too long ago in the "First Feedback" thread; your final reply still on hold!

Area commands are issued when the right mouse button is dragged instead of just clicked. The drag source is the center of a circle, the drag target the periphery (defining the size of the circle). Depending on the chosen command, the behaviour differs. For example:

  • Patrol: Patrol a circular area (or an entire planet) randomly, not according to fixed lines
  • Attack: Mop up everything in the circle (or the entire planet)
  • Build Metal Extractor: Place metal extractors on all spots in the circle (or the entire planet)
  • etc...

HTH

PS: You really need to have a look at PA some day!

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