Well I am somewhat disheartened now since it seems absolutely no one read my last blog :( Ah well I shall preserve and try again! But I guess it's back to recycling since no-one liked the new way of things :( Ah well... here's the promised look-back....
Yup thats right! Total Annihilation! A great RTS (real time strategy incase you didn't know....) from Cavedog!
Well where to start, the story I guess.... The story is *alright* but it's really just window dressing for the game. Basically the Arm make clones of themselves to fight and the Core implant their brains or something... and to continue the war they are in dire need of resources and stuff so you fight over planets for well resources ;p
*phew* Well now that that's out of the way we can move onto the real stuff. The game was released by Cavedog in 1997, Chris Tylor was the name of the man in charge of it all. If it sounds familiar too you thats because he's also the man behind Supreme Commander. Yeah Supreme Commander is really Total Annihilation II. Why didn't they call it that? Well they couldn't :| The rights too Total A belong to a different company which Chris left because they were going nowhere so they were forced to change the name. Sadly Cavedog has closed its doors like so many other small game companies that just couldn't make it...
The actual game was extremely fun and had very good graphics for its time (it was full 3d OMG! ;p)
So that may not look exactly beautiful too you but it was damn good then, and it still looks pretty nice when you play it now. The graphics, the nice effects (woo loads of explosions) and the projected physics for every single shot fired made it a laggy game for when it first came out. I'm sure everyone who has played Supreme Commander has noticed this but when a unit fires it's not just an animation, the missile, bullet or whatever it is will hit anything that's in its path (be it rock, friendly unit, or a different enemy unit). Now this takes a lot of processing power (even today! Which is one of the reasons SupCom starts running poorly when there's huge amounts of units in battle. To offset this a unit cap of 500 was placed, now this isn't your normal unit cap that you see in RTS. Each unit only counts as 1, not 12 if its better or something you could have 500 units (buildings counted as a unit as well.) So it made some pretty large scale battles especially compared to everything else at the time. Nowadays though most people play with a cracked .exe so they can have up too 5,000 units at once (PCs being far better then they were in 1997!)
One of the things that you see in old school RTS is that they actually require strategy and tactics... Ever since release of Starcraft RTS have become more and more of building the same 1 or 2 units as quickly as possible and involve little to no actual strategy.... But thankfully Total A has it in spades!
There were 4 general types of units. First were the kbots, basically mechs/robots and they were fairly fast (depending on unit of course) had decent damage, were extremely maneuverable (could turn on a dime and all that), weren't slowed down by most terrains, and were generally restricted to land (again a few special units could go in the water). Tanks were generally slower and had trouble with terrain such as mounts,but they had much more HP and did more damage kbots, also restricted to land (cept for a special few) Then there was Air units (planes and a few hover units/choppers), they were generally extremely fast, extremely weak, were not restricted by any terrain (cept for landing), and had varying degrees of of firepower. The last type would be naval units (so ships!). Ships were extremely tough, had a decent turn of speed, horrible maneuverability, and extremely large firepower (and were of course restricted to water...)
So unlike more recent games that have come in the post Starcraft-Era building a bunch of battleships or a load of bombers did you no good! You would get slaughtered as a matter of fact. Most people either picked a certain type too build (such mostly air, mostly kbots and tanks, or mostly ships) but doing a little bit of everything was also fairly common (or focusing on just 2 out of the 4). Like I said you couldn't JUST have battleships because while they do have massive long ranged cannons and loads of HP they would be murdered by subs and aircraft. You also need some anti-aircraft ships (or planes, planes were the beast AA ;p) and some subs of your own and some subkiller ships. If you went all bombers you would get massacred by anyone with any AA planes due to their extreme weakness and slow (relative to planes at least) speed. You needed some other AA planes too (and probably some hovers since bombers could only hit so many things at a time ;p) and a lot of the time you needed to create a diversion for them as well.
But the real stuff didn't start before the expansion came. Sure the game was tactical and all but both sides had units that were pretty much their version of the same unit. But when the Core Contingency came out it radically changed the game. It came with a huge number of new units and each was unique for their own side (or the ones that were similiar had different ranges, power, and hp but there were few of those anyway). Core Contingency is a MUST if you are going to play the game now since it brought the game to new heights of strategy and tactics. Heres probably the best example I can give you. The Core got a huge experimental unit called the krogoth. It took massive amounts of resources and time to build but was loaded with weapons and huge amounts of HP (not to mention it regenerated its own HP overtime as well).
The arm though had nothing of the sort, instead they got a specialized "sniper" (it's range wasn't that long so its not really a sniper) that could cloak, moved at a decent speed, had an extremely high powered laser cannon, but had an extremely low amount of hp. If you could manage to distract it by feeding it tons of low level units to stop its progress and get some of those krogoth killers close too it (since its long range missiles were deadly) you had a chance at taking it down!
Itty Bitty Krogoth Knightmare
There was another expansion that came out before CC which was called Battle Tactics (I think) but it wasn't very good all it included was a bunch of new multiplayer maps (not that it mattered with the map editor anyway! but you get it in the commander pack so ;p)
Now onto the resources!
At the top of this horrible res picture you can see the resource bars labelled "Energy" and "Metal" and I'm sure you've figured that those are the 2 resources. Well your right! You that little silvery patch on the ground there close to the middile of the screen (a bit up and too the right?) well thats metal. You put a metal extracter on there and it got metal for you! You could also convert Energy into Metal but it took a horrendous amount of energy to do so (not good for the beginning of the game, but great later on in low-metal maps). Energy was gathered through a variety of power-plant like structures. The earliest two would be the solar power collectors and a windmil sort of thing. The solar power provided a constant rate of energy (unless they went into "defensive" mode and closed their shutters) but the windmill would produce energy at varying rates based on which way the wind was blowing (and if you put it ontop of a hill or mountain it produced more OMG!!) You also get a geothermal plant which you place ontop of thermal vents, but ultimately you want fusion power plants (cloaked or not).
But resources were handled differently in Total A then in most other RTS. Storing energy and metal had little to know point (though storing metal is useful very early on) because of the huge amounts of consumption rates. Instead you wanted to produce more energy and metal then you were using (or you could wait a really long time to build stuff ;p) since it just kept a constant rate (you see that + there, thats the rate, per second I think? and the - is how much you are using). Well I don't know how to finish this part so I'm just gonna move on....
I'm gonna go over building very quickly too ;p You start with your commander to build things and he can build a limited selection of Tier 1 buildings. (Oh btw your commander is very weak compared to later units, but has an extremely powerul gun, and also when he dies he acts as a nuke so don't let him blow up in your base ;p he can cloak thankfully though ;p) Each type had 2 building units (a construction plane, vehicle, kbot, and naval unit) a regular and advanced one (CC added in hover crafts as well, so there was a construction hovercraft as well as a seaplance hovercraft). You could build as many as you wanted (unit cap restrictions apply of course) and they were used to build higher tiers of technology. Thankfully you could use constructions units to help speed up the building process of other structures AND units so the higher tier stuff didn't take forever to build. I already went over resources so thats that....
Another really cool thing that Total A did (and hasn't since been copied sadly :( it was such a cool feature...) Well basically the lifeblood of any RTS is its multiplayer, and the multiplayer in an RTS is extremely fun but Cavedog turned to Boneyards to run their multiplayer Total A experience. And it was a very good choice, Boneyards outdid themselves. How you say? With a little something called starmaps. Basically they hosted a giant map of the galaxy and each side would ultimately try to take over the entire map by winning battles and such at the planets points and all that) Starmaps took about 1-2 months or so to completely take over (and they were very hotly contested) and when they were done of coruse restarted. This brought reall cool new level of being able to fight for your side to RTS that really wasn't there before (and isn't again now too :/). Sadly since Cavedog has closed down Boneyards no longer supports their online (I'm not even sure if they are still running either :|) and the only way to play now is through stuff like hamachi and gamespy arcade..... *sniff*
One final thing I'll go over that TA brought into the RTS genre was NUKES! Everyone loves nukes :D And I'm not talking about little nukes that you see in stuff like Starcraft, these were pretty fairsized and destroyed everything in their blast radius. Of course nukes took a long time to build, but you could build as many as you want so just leaving nukes by themselves would be extremely unbalanced. So there was of course anti-nukes which pretty much neutralized them unless you could somehow saturate their anti-nuke defences. But they were still very useful for taking out an oncoming assault wave or a last ditch effort to save you base (firing on urself :o)
Well that's all I have to say about Total Annihilation I guess... It was just a great game with a lot of cool features and was extremely well balanced so was tons of fun to play, especially online! So now I'm going to go over Total Annihilation: Spring!
TA: Spring is a community created "mod" for Total A. Actually it has its own engine so I don't know if you could call it a mod or not. But basically it let you play Total A in stunning full 3d and even added a feature where you could take contol of a unit of yours and shoot it out FPS style (lots of fun, but don't forget to manage the rest of your troops cause 1 guy isn't everything). Heres a couple screenshots, a trailer movie, and another regular movie to show it off (the trailer is on youtube, sorry couldn't find the dl link anymore, the other vid is here but there is no sound sorry)
Youtube Trailer for TA Spring.