Yesterday, I listed five things I thought StarCraft 2 could learn from Supreme Commander 2. It was like leading an army of SupCom 2 fans against an outraged throng of competitive e-sports fans. Today, I'm going to betray my allies and side with the Blizz folks. What can SupCom 2 learn from StarCraft 2?
In Supreme Commander 2, there are three factions: The UEF, who are people with guns; The Cybran Nation, who are people who put their brains in machines; and the Illuminate, who are people who worship aliens. Yawn . Now take the horrible, wonderful, totally gross Zerg. They're like the Borg – they assimilate lifeforms. They don't do it by plugging you into a phone charger, though. They do it by giving you Athlete's Face . The day I discovered that you could use waypoints to spawn any number of Infested Terrans in a few instants, I also discovered what it sounds like when a thousand people throw up and fart at the same time. And what it's like to have to run to the bathroom in the middle of a league match. And the value of flushing twice.
StarCraft 2 has a lot of colour. Even their version of the people-with-guns, the Terrans, are pretty funny. They quip at you. They chatter. They seem obsessed with whatever it is they're doing – the original's Firebat was the prime example (Mr Firebat was retired from multiplayer for the sequel). All he would talk about was fire. "Need a light? Fire it up! Wanna turn up the heat?" Each of the races are vibrant and wonderful. Supreme Commander 2 needs to get some of that colour. Why can't the Cybrans make with the funny? They're brains in jars, that's easy! "I miss having toes. I love slipping into a lukewarm electrolyte solution of an evening. Does my cerebellum look big in this?"
Okay, StarCraft 2 player. You're Terran, here are some zerglings. How do you kill them? You stomp them with Hellions.
Right, SupCom 2 player. Some tanks. How do you kill them? Well, you could tech up to short ranged artillery, or you could, you know, get some gunships running. Build more tanks, back them up with missiles. How about assault bots? You could even shell them from the ocean.
I mentioned yesterday that we used to play this at lunch. We'd sit there while it was loading and say, "I fancy doing artillery today." When we first got stuck into StarCraft 2, we tried that too. "Oh, I quite like the sound of Banshees today." Doesn't work, does it? It's a bit like going into a game of rock paper scissors and just massing scissors. In Supreme Commander 2, you're never going to go into a fight and suddenly realise, "Oh no, they've built those !" and pull the hell out. You still need tactics, of course, but the best tactic is just to build a load of everything and then chuck them all in.
StarCraft 2 may not let you move and shoot at the same time, but at least it simulates reality in this way: it doesn't give you the room to try every tactic at once. Like in real life, if you put all your eggs in one basket, and then drop it, you're screwed.
StarCraft 2 has a whole host of ways to hide your units. Invisible airships that pound at your harvesters because you don't have any equipment that can detect them. Burrowing insect things that pop up behind your defenses and squirt acid in your face. Invisible snipers. Invisible space elf jedis. There's also a host of detection equipment - the Raven is a Terran flyer that can poop out turrets and reveal cloaked units. The Protoss Observer reveals cloak and is cloaked. As well as giving Rich the not-entirely-guilty pleasure of squelching the odd Zerg expansion with his invisible death planes, a strategy game with stealth and detectors also allows you the pleasure of revealing that, yes, you do have an Overseer and he can spot thoseDark Templars and he did just tell the Hydralisks where to aim.
Oh come on, it'd be great in SupCom 2. Stealth tanks that need special woogly towers to reveal them! Invisible spider robots, people! Maybe a cloaking shield that fudges radar? Imagine a cloaked boat on legs. Imagine the sneaky thrill you'd get by upgrading all your gunships to reveal cloaked units right when your opponent thinks he's got you.
You know what I miss from the original SupCom? And from the Total Annihilation? Command and Conquer: Generals, even? That moment when you've swooped in and bombed a bunch of power plants, that's what. StarCraft 2 has that. Punch through some supply depots with a few Banelings and you've not only paved the way for an upgraded zergling rush – you've also cut his max units down.
In SupCom 2, your unit cap is something like 500. Everything is built up front.
In the original SupCom, your economy was rolling. You didn't pay 100 mass to build a guy, you payed 2 mass every second for 50 seconds, or something like that. If you were building an army and someone took out your mass extractors, you were screwed - you couldn't cash your cheques. You should have defended those, fool! This is something StarCraft 2 represents correctly – you need to protect your supply lines. Even if those supply lines are betentacled floating elephant beetles.
Let's face it – nuclear weapons aren't really that funny or strategically interesting unless you bend the rules. In SupCom 2, the rules are: you can make nukes, and then fire them, and then win. If the guys don't build an anti-nuke defense, then... they should have.
In StarCraft 2, nukes are fun. They're a tactic. You build them at a Ghost Academy, and they're called down by a Ghost – a special ops guy with a sniper rifle, cloaking device, and cool goggle stuff on his face. The Ghost gets to the target you designate, crouches down, and a big red icon appears. The target player has about 20 seconds to find that Ghost and kick his ass before the thing lands. It deals about 500 damage to everything in the radius – so you'd need three to KO a command centre, but the SCVs are toast.
In SupCom 2, your reaction to a nuke strategy is to remember that you didn't make enough anti-nukes. They're stupid win buttons, and the best thing about SupCom 2's nukes is that they can be excluded from the game entirely.
The reverse article, 5 lessons StarCraft 2 could learn from SupCom 2, is here . Do let me know what you think in the comments below, and remember: caps are your friend.