Real-time strategy was one of the last genres to pick up 3D and run with it. For the longest time, sprites remained the favourite way of animating armies and it wasn't until Cavedog Entertainment's Total Annihilation beat down the door of the House of Gaming Don’ts that RTS finally embraced graphics in more than two dimensions. Not only was TA a technological success but a commercial one as well and to this day it remains extremely popular. Mods, numbering in the thousands, are available to change and add units and the game is considered by many to be the best RTS every made. We had a chat to the man behind this awesome title, Chris Taylor, to find out what makes him so great and on his TA sequel, Supreme Commander.
Name: Chrisopher Taylor
Occupation: Creative Director
From the Gas Powered Games website Chris Taylor began his career in the video games business at Distinctive Software in Canada. His first title, Hardball II was a sequel to the popular Hardball, and won the SPA (Software Publishers Association) award for best sports game of the year. Next, Chris created 4D Boxing, which won many accolades for its innovation as a 3D title. Chris later served as designer and project lead for the original Triple Play Baseball at Electronic Arts.
Chris went on to create the highly acclaimed RTS, Total Annihilation, at Cavedog Entertainment. After completing the expansion pack, The Core Contingency, he decided to start his own company. Chris founded Gas Powered Games in May of 1998 in Kirkland, WA. GPG released its first title, Dungeon Siege for the PC in April of 2002. Chris and Gas Powered Games have established themselves as an innovator in both technology and gameplay, and are now working on the next round of games to be released in the near future.
Atomic: TA pioneered downloadable units, polygonal RTS units, command queuing, very large maps, refined online play and more. Is there scope left now for so many revolutionary features in one new game?
Chris Taylor: Absolutely, without a doubt, and right out of the gate our 'strategic view' [in Supreme Commander] will change the way players interact with an RTS game. We also have quite a few advancements in the UI, and in what I call the 'command and control' system. And then there is the scale of the units… our engine fully supports units that are much larger than anything seen today… and when I say much larger, I mean huge!
Atomic: Why did you choose to go the vector rendering route over sprites for TA?
CT: This was the only way to create smooth and fluid motion for the units. If we had to generate sprites, there would be no way to fit them all into memory.
Atomic: Is RTS gaming a dying genre that has stagnated past the point of no return?
CT: I don’t believe so. In fact, I hope that Supreme Commander is the game to really remind players that we are just at the beginning in terms of the life of this genre, and in no way have exhausted the possibilities.
Atomic: Why did TA: Kingdoms fail?
CT: I don’t like to criticise other people’s work. I think it’s bad Karma, but if you pushed me on the question, I would say that the team who worked on it was trying something new. When you take chances you have to accept the risks, and they were willing to do that. It’s more than you can say for a lot of games that are highly derivative and stay safely within normal bounds.