Daily Archives: October 16, 2014

Planetary Annihilation Goes Round and Round

The biggest mistake the devil ever made was agreeing to play God, one on one, on an eight player Total Annihilation map.

-Commander Söze

Origins

In the beginning there was Total Annihilation.

This was not the first RTS game I played, but it was the first of what I consider the three great games of the RTS genre.

The other two are StarCraft and Age of Empires II – The Age of Kings.

There have been other good… even very good… titles in the genre.  But for me, these are the crown jewels that defined the genre.

StarCraft showed that very different factions could be brought together to form an almost zen-like rock/paper/scissors balance that required serious unit management skills to excel at.

Age of Kings brought that sort of balance to medieval armies, advancing at a slower pace.  It reflected the real world aspect of cavalry vs. infantry vs. ranged, with siege engines in tow, forcing players to adopt a combined arms strategy to survive and win.

But before those two there was Total Annihilation, which brought chaos and mass slaughter.

TA wasn’t balance.  The ARM ruled the early game with the Flash tank and the Peewee rush.  Cavedog eventually had to give the CORE a unit whose only purpose was to kill Flash tanks and Peewee kbots.

It had a pretty bad, or at least not a very creative, single player campaign.  Resources were simplistic, just power and metal.  The UI was somewhat primitive compared to its contemporaries.

It was a resource hog that needed a couple of generations of CPU upgrades before it would run smoothly.  The music was literally in the standard CD format, you could pop the game disk into your boom box and listed to the sound track.

And yet it was wonderful, a synthesis of a number of ideas put together in just such a way as to make a great game.  Probably one of the greatest things the game did was make terrain matter in new and interesting way.  Maps were 3D and heights could give you range in shooting or something to hide behind when fire was incoming.  And then there was the whole modability aspect of the game.

Probably the greatest testament to TA is the fact that, while Cavedog Entertainment has been dead and gone for nearly a decade and a half, Total Annihilation still has a pretty strong and dedicated community still supporting it.  You can still buy a copy over at GoG.com, and it runs great on today’s machines.

Total Annihilation

The Atari logo is a recent addition

Its main problem is that it was designed when multiplayer meant friends on a LAN, so being able to play over the internet requires effort.  You need some network know-how or something like Game Ranger to help you out.  So the idea of bringing the game into the 21st century is a compelling one.

More after the cut because of wordiness.

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