Revisiting Supreme Commander

Published on Monday, August 3, 2015 By Brad Wardell In Ashes Dev Journals

Of the games made in the past decade, Supreme Commander is probably the most similar to what we’re doing with Ashes of the Singularity.  Its creator, Chris Taylor and I have been friends for years (I picked up his backyard chicken hobby and he picked up my beekeeping hobby).   Chris also made my favorite game of all time, Total Annihilation.

A few years ago, Stardock worked with Gas Powered Games to make Demigod. Demigod started out as Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance and evolved into the final game. If you haven’t played Demigod, I recommend it. It is excellent.  Demigod never took off like we hoped.  Timing wasn’t on its side.  It was the first stand-alone commercial MOBA.  It was also the last non-free to play MOBA (it was $39.99 when released) and League of Legends quickly overtook it.

Setting up Supreme Commander


Game setup

When the player sets up a game of Supreme Commander, you get to pick amongst various types of AIs.   AI is something we’re very passionate about here.  As I type this from Stardock East, we have the AI developers of Civilization III, IV, V and GalCiv I/II here.    From a replayability stand point. giving players lots setup options makes the single player part of the game more compelling.

Elegant main game UI


Like a 4X, Supreme Commander gives you and readout of how the other players are doing


Very clear, pretty paths.


Strategic Zoom


There are a lot of very good features in the Supreme Commander UI that I think should be standard in RTSs:

  1. It displays a power rating for each player.  We do this in our other games as well but RTS almost never do this.  The reason this is important is because a lot of interesting game options can be created around it.  In Ashes of the Singularity, we will have maps available that are bigger than anything that’s been made before (thanks 64bit).    We want to avoid scenarios where the player has t o spend an hour mopping up if they don’t want to.
  2. Intuitive clear paths for the player to take along with an ETA on how long it will take to get there.
  3. Some method of gaining situational awareness of the entire war (in SupCom that was done through strategic zoom)

Please post in the comments section the UI elements of Supreme Commander you think are key.



Gameplay is unique to each game.  Supreme Commander, like Total Annihilation, has a lot of gameplay elements we really love which include:

  • Infinite resources (your resources never run out)
  • Wrecks (destroyed units stick around and can be recovered for some of their resources)
  • Lots of units
  • Construction units can aid in the construction of other things
  • You pay for things as you are building them

This is just scratching the surface but these 5 things help define what is essentially a sub-genre of RTSs.


Strategic Zoom

There’s been a lot of debate on the forums on strategic zoom.  This is because we are trying to avoid the kind of strategic zoom in Supreme Commander. Specifically, we don’t want to zoom out to a sea of icons where players end up playing most of the game from there. 

Why the resistance?

Because in the long-term we expect (as the hardware gets better) to have maps far beyond even where ships in 1.0.  We want to use 1.0 as the time to come up with another way to zoom out and get an abstracted view of the battle field.  Turning individual units into icons won’t work because we’ll be dealing with thousands, possibly tens of thousands of units. 

We will have a zoom out mode (or secondary monitor support) for a war room where the entire war can be abstracted.  But



Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance


Ashes of the Singularity: Pre-Beta


How to make it a war, not a battle?

One of our biggest struggles is that we don’t want the game to be purely about  cranking out tons of units and throwing them at each other.  Unit composition, resource access, positioning should all be crucial factors.

What do you think?