Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation a.k.a. TA is a futuristic RTS PC game , created by Chris Taylor and Cavedog Entertainment and released on September 30, 1997[1] by GT Interactive. It was the first RTS to feature 3D units and terrain, a significant achievement in the days before graphics card s with hardware based 3D acceleration became commonplace. Two expansion packs were released, The Core Contingency on April 30, 1998[2] and Battle Tactics on June 30, 1998.[3] The game won many awards, including Gamespot's Game of the Year Award for 1997. TA is considered to be one of the best RTS games of all time, and is still played actively today, more than 9 years after its release.

Recently, a remake of the game with a 3D graphics engine has been created named Spring. Total Annihilation creator Chris Taylor has also recently created the game Supreme Commander through Gas Powered Games. Supreme Commander has many similarities with Total Annihilation, and has been called its "spiritual successor".

Story

"Long ago the galaxy had known peace. Paradise was ruled by the hand of science, and the hand was that of the galactic governing body known as the Core.

"Paradoxically it was the ultimate victory, the victory over death itself, that brought about the downfall of their Paradise and started the war that would decimate a million worlds. The process, which was called "patterning," involved the electronic duplication of brain matrices and allowed the transfer of consciousness into durable machines. Effectively it meant immortality, and the Core decreed the process mandatory for all citizens in order to ensure their safety...

"There were many who were unwilling to toss aside their bodies so casually, many indeed who regarded patterning as an atrocity. They fled to the outer edges of the galaxy, where they banded together to form a resistance which became known as the Arm. War began, though it was never officially declared by either side. The Arm developed high-powered combat suits for its armies, while the Core transferred the minds of its soldiers directly into similarly deadly machines. The Core duplicated its finest warriors thousands of times over. The Arm countered using cloning. The war raged on for over four thousand years, consuming the resources of an entire galaxy and leaving it a scorched wasteland...

"Both sides lay in ruins. Their civilizations had long since vanished, their once vast military complexes were smashed. Their armies were reduced to a few scattered remnants, which continued to battle on ravaged worlds. Their hatred fueled by millenia of conflict, they would fight to the death. For each, the only acceptable outcome was the complete and utter annihilation of the other.

"Long ago the galaxy had known peace, and it would soon know peace again."

-- "Total Annihilation: Exclusive Strategy Guide"

Features

The game features three-dimensional rendering technology, true Newtonian physics and customizable units. Screen resolution as well as the limit of maximum units per player are customizable, depending only on the quality of computer hardware. Originally the default unit limit was 200, this was changed to 250 in Total Annihilation: The Core Contingency, and by modifying the totala.ini file in the game folder users can increase this limit up to 500. With a binary modification of the program file and sufficient hardware the unit limit can be increased to 5000 per team.

Interface

The interface is designed to minimize micromanagement by automating many of the routine tasks.

The player can queue unit actions by holding down the shift key. This allows, among other things, patrol routes to be automatically assigned to units as they emerge from factories, or construction bots to autonomously repair groups of buildings.

Players can also assign units to multiple groups.

Units

Although the game originally shipped with 150 discrete units, the expansion packs The Core Contingency and Battle Tactics allow players to choose from 230 units, and over 6,000 units are available after 3rd-party installations from Total Annihilation's many different fansites (although only 511 units can be installed at any one time due to engine limitations). The two factions were balanced by giving both sides similar, well-rounded selections of units which filled all possible roles. The Core Contingency expansion further diversified both sides' arsenals by providing both sides units which sported features units from the other side lacked, although some still say that there could have been more variation.

All aircraft are VTOL, so they can hover and land on uneven terrain. Also, none of the units has limited fuel or ammunition, except for large missile launchers.

After The Core Contingency, Cavedog released several units online free for download that further diversified the Arm and Core - the Flea scout KBot, the Necro KBot capable of resurrecting dead units, the FARK "Fast Assist and Repair KBot", the Immolator plasma tower, and the Hedgehog and Scarab mobile anti-nuke vehicles. These units, like any other units placed in the Total Annihilation game folders, will only be available in a multiplayer game if all the players possess the relevant file.

Utilities were also produced by the fan community with some support by the game's authors for creating freely-downloadable third-party units. Over six thousand such units have been produced, in some cases being packaged as total conversions for complete replacement of the original units. Fans have even created their own races to join the game's two original races. This is where our Total Annihilation Super Packs comes in.

AI and physics

The computer player artificial intelligence is fairly simplistic. The computer player, for instance, cannot detect what types of units are feasible for a given map and will produce as many land and sea units as can be fit into available space, which often results in humorous scenarios such as desert islands packed tight with tanks and infantry and small ponds full of battleships. Adjusting the difficulty will only increase the rate at which enemy units are built and the frequency of attack attempts, and has no effect on the computer's strategy, which is only to produce more units. The computer will only use the constructor units' reclamation ability (see Resources ) to supply itself with resources, and does not know how to clear paths. This can give players an advantage on maps strewn with reclaimable items, like houses, urban areas, trees or stones. It should be noted that individual unit pathfinding and combat AI is considered good with respect to contemporary titles.

The physics engine supports true trajectories, inertia, momentum, thrust, and collateral damage. The game's terrain is a two-dimensional rendering with a matrix of height values mapped over it. All objects in the game interact with it as though it were fully three dimensional; hills obstruct artillery fire and, if line of sight is set to "true", height enhances units' visual and firing ranges. If terrain is steep and jagged, units tilt and turn to meet the face of the ground. Bases can be built on steep terrain to protect them from artillery fire and create choke points. Artillery shells are affected by gravity, which is variable on different planets in the Total Annihilation universe. Some artillery units can hit targets 15 screens away and nuclear missiles can be dropped anywhere on the map.

Multiplayer

Total Annihilation allows total control and customisation of unit numbers within multiplayer games. Using the in-game interface, it is possible to stipulate the exact number of any given unit that a player may build.

This can be useful, for example, if a game wished to be played whereby the heavy use of fighter planes was to be avoided. Or perhaps, planes could be 'turned off' entirely, forcing a ground war instead.

Up to 10 players can play simultaneously in a multiplayer match. All of the original TA servers have disbanded or no longer host TA such as Boneyards and MPlayer, which were shut down in 2000.

TA players still meet at WarZone, a server set up by the Axis & Allies community, the Phoenix Worx Server, at Gamespy, and on Internet Relay Chat [IRC] at [irc://irc.gnug.org/ irc.gnug.org] on channels [irc://irc.gnug.org/tauniverse #tauniverse] and [irc://irc.gnug.org/gnug #gnug]. There are still active clans and ladders for TA at these sources. The TAUniverse IRC Help Page is available for help with joining IRC.

Help for setting up TA for internet play via TCP/IP can be found on TCBW's TA Page.

Extensibility

Data files containing game information can be placed within the game directory and their contents would be incorporated into the game. Units, weapons, AI tweaks, missions, races, and new map tilesets can be added, as well as a wide range of modifications and total conversions, like our Total Annihilation Super Pack.

Apart from official enhancements released by Cavedog for free including units and patches, there is large community support with thousands of third-party add-ons and utilities. An example is the Super Merlin Pack modification, which modified all of the existing units and added several additional ones, in the attempt to balance the game and create unique roles for each of the wide variety of units.

Soundtrack

The game has an original orchestral soundtrack composed by Jeremy Soule and performed by the 96-piece Northwest Sinfonia orchestra. The music changes according to the action on the battlefield. During a battle, loud music plays. During a lull in the action, a more tranquil track is played. The soundtrack is in CD-audio format and can be listened to with ordinary CD players. Ordinary music CDs can be inserted once the game is under way and played as game music. It is even possible to program CD tracks to the various battlefield situations (Battle, Building, Victory etc).

General strategy

Structures build relatively quickly in the game to compensate for nimble, heavily-armed aircraft and long-ranged artillery. Nuclear weapon s are relatively cheap, powerful and quick to build. Several warheads can be stockpiled for devastating bombardments. This can lead to large, sprawling bases to limit the damage of a nuclear attack, air-strike or artillery barrage.

Total Annihilation uses two resources to regulate production: energy and metal. Each of these resources is unlimited, but the rate at which a player accumulates or restores resources depends on the amount of resource-collecting structures/units. Unit production is otherwise only limited by micromanagement speed and the number of production units/factories. There is a limit on the maximum number of units that can be produced, but this can easily be raised to a higher amount through the editing of a game file (see above). This makes offensive strikes a necessity, as a purely defensive strategy will never curtail the enemy's capacity to produce more units (but note that playing against AI the units produced will be a random mix, hence as offensive units are destroyed the AI player is left with a weak mix of low offensive value static units).

This can often lead to very long, drawn out games that last anywhere from an hour to 4-5 hours and sometimes a stalemate develops which is very hard to break. The only other discerning factor from other RTS games is the existence of the Commander: the most powerful unit in the game. He is the fastest solo builder and has the most powerful weapon, the D-gun, a manually targeted one-shot-kill weapon. He is also armed with a moderately powerful autofire laser that may engage ground or air targets and a cloaking device. Additionally, the commander is one of the few amphibious units and may build both land and naval structures. If the commander is destroyed at an early stage the resource capacity of that player becomes severely limited. The game options may be set so that victory is achieved by killing the enemy commander.

Resource management

One of the defining aspects of Total Annihilation is that both resources, energy and metal, are in unlimited supply. Structures which generate these resources collect them on a per-second basis (at the default game speed). A buffer is used to allow for variations in the speed at which these resources are consumed. Excess resources are placed in this buffer until it is full, at which point further supply is wasted. Storage structures can be built to increase the maximum amount the buffer can hold of either resource. If the player's production is exceeded by his usage (mainly due to construction and/or heavy weapons fire), his construction is slowed to the ratio between income and expenditure. The Commander and other construction units (as opposed to buildings) continuously produce a small amount of energy and metal, so a player is never bereft unless all construction units have been destroyed.

Both resources are vital to all aspects of construction. In addition, energy is continuously required to maintain functionality in many structures, including metal production structures, and intermittently required to operate weaponry. Structures which generate energy can be built anywhere, however the most efficient metal generation structures can only be built on metal deposits. Secure control of these deposits vastly increases maximum production and provides greater efficiency than creating metal using energy. Certain maps, like those of the Core worlds are made entirely of metal. On these maps, metal extractors will always yield the highest amount of metal possible no matter where they are placed. Resource production structures vastly increase in effectiveness as the technological advancement of the player progresses. The most advanced energy and metal production structures are significantly more effective than the most basic, with a 50x and 10x increase in output respectively.

Energy production structures can be built anywhere providing there are no obstacles in the way and providing that it is in the correct type of area (i.e. water or land). Energy supply is only limited by the player's foresight to build more plants before production is slowed by energy shortages. Metal extraction structures can only be built on a metal deposit, however metal generation structures can be built anywhere (though they are very much less efficient than the extractors). It is hence possible to construct a base anywhere on the map, as no resource locations are absolutely necessary. The fastest method of gaining resources early in the game is by 'reclaiming' existing structures and objects such as vegetation and wreckages. These resources are, however, inherently finite and are infrequently used to gather resources later on in the game as the micromanagement of reclaiming them takes too much time.

Such a resource system allows for many strategies in production. The player can choose to only build items at a rate that matches production, so storage reserves are not touched. The player can also store enough resources prior to the construction of a unit so that they will still have a surplus after the unit is finished building. In either case, many construction units can help assist in building a unit or structure to complete it in the shortest time possible.

Criticism

Players found the pathfinder AI for naval units problematic - assembling a battle group of warships and giving them collective orders to move to new location often resulted in the ships colliding with and grinding against each other most of the way to their destination.

The AI for computer-controlled armies was found to be quite weak and easy to defeat even on the Hard difficulty setting. This led to the development of a variety of mods to make the AI more aggressive.

Another criticism sometimes voiced was that the game encouraged "spamming" or "rushing" large masses of a particular unit that was generally effective (such as the Flash tank) in order to win. This was perceived to cut down on the number of actually viable strategies in favour of simply massing one's units, although some argue that skilled players can defeat one-unit spammers easily, pointing to how Total Annihilation was unique for a Real Time Strategy game in its variety of cheap fixed defenses.

Fan support

Cavedog's Total Annihilation release was one of the first to truly embrace the fansite paradigm. Cavedog provided graphics and a full license to use trademark materials for the benefit of the game's community. The first known fansite can be found archived at Archive.org.

Platforms

See also

External links

Citations


Copyright Notice
The actual descriptive text portion of the article above (and its Contents menu) are licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License then in effect published by the Free Software Foundation. The text article uses material from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_Annihilation (retrieval date: 2007-05-27) and is provided "as-is" and without warranty. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify only the actual descriptive text portion of the article above (and its Contents Box) under the GNU Free Documentation License. A copy of the license is available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_the_GNU_Free_Documentation_License. Any advertisements (or active links not embedded in the actual article) and the layout or selection thereof are excluded from such license.

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