Atomic: Is it possible to make a game that is strong in both single-player and multiplayer, as well as being flexible and open for modding?
CT: I sure hope so, because that’s exactly what we plan to deliver [with Supreme Commander].
Atomic: As a developer creating an original game, but that also supports modding, is the pressure on to create an original game that the community can never beat?
CT: Hmmm, I don’t think that pressure exists at all. I would love it for the community to take our game and make something even better.
Atomic: Why do most RTS games limit the player’s field of view so ridiculously? We’re lucky if we can see a building and a half and 1-2 vehicles on screen.
CT: That’s a function of performance. If you design and develop a game to have a really dense map full of lots of complex geometry, then you have to pull the camera in tighter so that the game will be playable, framerate wise. If you pull back too far, the game might be cool, but the framerate drops to unacceptable levels. Frankly, this is why our engine and technology is something we are so excited about, because we have addressed this from day one and built an engine to play at any distance.
Atomic: Something that we liked in Total Annihilation was being able to spectate a match. Up till then, it was only the norm to spectate FPS games. Will you be able to spectate SC games and can you see this taking off as a new spectator sport?
CT: We have some really cool surprises we are working on in this area, but I promised I wouldn’t talk too much about the cool multiplayer stuff just yet.
Atomic: Can an RPG be successfully melded with an FPS or even and RTS as a single game, without too much compromise?
CT: Today I think it’s fair to say that anything is possible. Lately I have been playing a lot of games and have seen some great hybrid designs. It really depends on the skill of the designer. Check out Resident Evil 4, it’s a fantastic example of the cross-pollination of two different game genres.
Atomic: What aspect of RTS games tax a PC the most and why?
CT: It’s almost always the rendering pipe. Supreme Commander not only taxes the computer GPU, but also the CPU because of the sophisticated path-finding and AI systems.
Atomic: If you had unlimited resources, and PCs were infinitely powerful, what features would you want in an RTS that have not been seen so far?
CT: I would burn up a lot of that power with a very comprehensive simulation of the world. We are already doing a lot of that simulation with Supreme Commander, but there is no limit to how far you can go.
Atomic: What technical challenges did you face developing TA for the systems of the era?
CT: It was definitely making an RTS that was 3D when most computers just weren’t built for that. If you recall, most RTS games were still in 2D at the time. The rasteriser was all in software, and though it was highly optimized in assembly, it was still a huge bottleneck for what we were able to achieve. After the rendering system, the next big bottleneck was the path-finding system.
Atomic: Back in the day, it was very much 'TA vs C&C' for fanboys. Did you consciously set out to challenge C&C at the time?
CT: I just wanted to make a great game that took every lesson I could learn from C&C and make something more sophisticated, especially when it came to the physical simulation. I wanted to see those gun barrels elevate to the exact angle, and watch those projectiles emerge at precisely the right location. C&C was one of my favorite games, so I always held it up as the gold standard of RTS games.
Atomic: C&C went on to be one of gaming’s most successful franchises, with many sequels and expansions. TA stopped in its tracks. It is one of the great lost opportunities in gaming history. Why did it happen?
CT: I suppose the real reason will never be completely understood, but sometimes these things happen because there are a lot of things in flux. I was an employee [at Cavedog], and when I left, I left all such things behind me.
Atomic: Do you have any fun anecdotes about the development of SC you could share?
CT: Fun? Like the time I fell through the ceiling tiles when developing Dungeon Siege, for example? Ummm, nothing really crazy yet, but hey, there’s still time!