Interview: Gary Wagner/Supreme Commander

September 5, 2006

[floatleft]/images/interviews/supcom_2006-09/cover.jpg[/floatleft]While attending Showdown LAN this past weekend (25-27th Aug) in San Jose, California, I had an opportunity to interview Gary Wagner, lead producer of Supreme Commander by Gas Powered Games. SupCom (as they’ve nicknamed it) is considered by many to be the spiritual successor of Total Annihilation created by Chris Taylor (Creative Director and founder of Gas Powered Games) and widely regarded as one of the best RTS games of all time. SupCom promises to provide several previously unheard of innovations in the genre of Real-Time Strategy games.

[b]Wytefang:[/b] Can you tell us about your role on the Gas Powered Games (GPG) team and a little bit about what you do?

[b]Gary Wagner:[/b] I’m the Lead Producer at GPG and my main role is to oversee the project (SupCom) and ensure that Chris Taylor’s vision (for the game) is carried out. I coordinate work between the teams, Art, Engineering, etc…I’m basically a Jack-of-all-Trades. (laughs)

[b]W:[/b] What are three things that you believe will set SupCom apart from competing RTS games?

[i]Figure A. Zoomed Out Strategic-Level View[/i]

[b]GW:[/b] The main thing would be the Zoom feature will allows you to seemlessly pull back the in-game camera to provide the player with an overall strategic view of the entire battlefield or conversely zoom in to focus on a specific unit or groups of units. (See Figure A.) Also the scale of some of our units (such as the Spider-Walker or Battleships) is immense, covering more than a single monitor screen! Finally, we have a great variety of unit types from ground units to massive battleships or nimble aircraft, to the (awe-inspiring) Supreme Commander units themselves. As has already been announced previously, we will be offering dual-monitor support (Figure B.) and even if you only have a single monitor to work with, we allow you to split the game screen into two views so you can still enjoy the added benefit of watching your units up-close and from a higher-level strategic view (Figure C.). We’re also offering a customizable and moddable User Interface (UI). You can move the UI to the top, bottom, or sides of the screen, whatever you prefer.

[b]W:[/b] What has been a difficult or challenging part of the SupCom design process?

[b]GW:[/b] To successfully incorporate all of the innovations that we’ve come up with for SupCom, I’ve not seen another RTS team quite like this one in this regard.

[b]W:[/b] Could you explain the basic differences between the three different races in the game?

[b]GW:[/b] Well the [b][color=blue]UEF[/color][/b] will be the most recognizeable race in the game from both a unit and in-game mentality aspect. [i](Editor’s note: They’re basically the high-tech human faction in the game.)[/i] The [b][color=red]Cybran[/color][/b] are cybernetically-enhanced humanoids, (a splinter faction from the UEF)who utilize shields and energy-type weapons. Finally the [b][color=green]Aeon[/color][/b] represent the merger of deep-space human colonists with a now-extinct race called the Seraphim (wiped out by a militant wing of human space explorers) and are a highly-advanced culture that espouses the virtues of peace, love, and understanding throughout the universe but are more than capable of defending themselves when necessary. They also have hover technology.

[b]W:[/b] What type of online service are you planning to use for the multi-player portion of SupCom?

[b]GW:[/b] We’re not releasing this info just yet but we will have more info soon about this.

[b]W:[/b] Will SupCom provide RTS gamers with a variety of valid strategic options during gameplay or rely on a few ‘tried and true’ tactics such as turtling, rushing, etc…?

[b]GW:[/b] Absolutely, one of our main objectives is to allow for as many valid strategies to develop within the gameplay as possible. Our huge map sizes will open up a variety of possible strategies and the use of combined arms will also be very important. In theory the innovations that SupCom offers should help foster creative strategic thinking.

[b]W:[/b] On a similar note, how do you think SupCom’s focus on ‘true strategy’ will affect the stereotypical ‘hot-keying, economically adept’ RTS players?

[b]GW:[/b] It’ll be hard for them to go back to any other RTS after playing SupCom! Once gamers get the hang of SupCom, they’ll love it. We definitely think it’ll invigorate the RTS genre.

[b]W:[/b] Please tell us a bit more about the role and function of the massive Supreme Commander units?

[b]GW:[/b] Well your Supreme Commander uber unit (for whichever faction you choose) is your representation within the game world (i.e. you are considered to be inside that unit, running the battle for your faction). Everything else is a robot. The Supreme Commander unit allows you to construct all of your facitons units. You can upgrade your Supreme Commander to be a truly fearsome uber-unit. As a sidenote, one enjoyable multi-player game mode we may implement will be a ‘Kill the enemy Supreme Commander’ mode. [i](See Figure D.)[/i]

[i]Figure D. Cybran Supreme Commander Unit under attack[/i]

[b]W:[/b] In closing, can you tell us about a few games that have influenced you and what would be your last words to RTS fans?

[b]GW:[/b] Warcraft 2 was one of the first RTS games to really grab me and I liked the fantasy genre as well so I found it doubly enjoyable. Along similar lines I had worked on an action/adventure type of game for a previous developer that shared some aspects with the orginal Half-life before it was released and I thought that was a fun game (Editor’s note: I believe this game was not released, however.) I play and enjoy many games so it’s hard to pick just a few! To the RTS fans I’d like to say that you hear a lot of talk these days about Next-Gen consoles and games but Supreme Commander is truly a ‘Next-Gen’ game. Be sure to stop by our website for the game and sign-up for our newsletter. [url][/url] We’ll be starting up the beta test sometime in October so watch for it!

[b]W:[/b] Thanks for your time, Gary, we’re all eagerly awaiting SupCom. Check out a final screenshot below!

[i]Come for the nukes, stay for the pie![/i][/center]