How to be a Supreme Commander
I tried to put my initial problems aside, persisted, and finally got into a game. I quickly realised I wasn’t the all conquering General I’d hoped I’d be, primarily because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Within five minutes I’d manage to establish some kind of power generator, a mass generator and then my German opponent arrived with fifty tanks and a host of planes and unceremoniously bombed me into oblivion. Back to the drawing board.
A chat on GPGN IRC room pointed me in the direction of the FAQ which was linked on the homepage. Usually an FAQ refers to a concise summary of the main questions one might think of whilst playing the game – hence the name, Frequently Asked Questions. When I opened the PDF file to discover that this FAQ was 45 pages long my jaw dropped. The FAQ is a mammoth - and a cold-blooded, death dealing, General like me doesn’t have time for such copious amounts of bureaucratic paperwork.
Thankfully, I was able to find a series of videos which explain the basic commands and principles of the game (you can download them here
). After watching these I had a far better understanding of what it was I was supposed to do - in fact the basics of the game are relatively simple. Supreme Commander has two resources; energy and mass, which you must collect to provide the fuel to build an army. This is the foundation for everything in Supreme Commander and now that I knew how best to utilise it I felt I could tackle the game again.
So, logging in again, this time as part of a dynamic duo in 2 versus 2 action, I now quickly began harvesting the key resources. The character you start with (who is for all extents and purposes 'you' - if he dies then you lose), the Armoured Command Unit or ACU - a Transformer type character whom you can upgrade - must build energy and mass harvesters. Once you have got some resources together it’s time to start building some factories. Once you know what you're doing the process is fairly simplistic and quick and is made even easier by the way you can queue up your ACU to build in a certain order.
It feels like the developers want to make Supreme Commander more about the strategy and less about the management which, to be perfectly frank, is refreshing. For too long RTS games, especially multiplayer ones, have relied on making the difficulty actually lie inside your ability to recognise and establish the fastest patterns of construction. Those who worked out the fastest patterns almost always won the game, building up factories and then starting to churn out tanks for a rush win was and still is the standard for most online RTS match-ups. Supreme Commander tries to tread a different path, one in which you must think tactically to come out victorious.
So, in this particular game I set up my headquarters in an easily defendable base. I picked the centre of the crescent of a rock formation. After setting up my factories (one for air and one for land – no sea around here, so would have been a waste of time building ships) I set about constructing my wall and stationary gun emplacements. I’d decided that my best chance of victory would be through a war of attrition. It was only once I’d penned myself in, having built a huge mass of tanks and a land based vehicles that I had no means of getting them outside of the base to actually attack. Doh!
Fortunately, it was a problem with a fairly easy solution. Due to the size of the maps in Supreme Commander it is imperative to use flight transport for manoeuvring your troops. Actually driving from one side of a map to another would take an absolute age and so, as would be realistic in a futuristic war, you load up air transports with infantry units and fly them to wherever you want them to fight.
So, I had an army, my base was well defended, my engineers and ACU were off trying to grab the last remaining resources and everyone must have been feeling slightly tense about the inevitable war that was likely to break out at any moment. That’s something I definitely want to emphasise with this game – the sheer scale of everything will at first be daunting but as time goes on your come to realise that it is the grand scale of the game that makes it so exhilarating. Once you have got all the mass resources in your local area you will also have a fairly sizeable army. It’ll be about this time, when you’ll start to clash with the enemy as you hunt for resources, when the battle really hots up.