Better fire controls?

March 22nd, 2010 11:03 pm by Cyde Weys

As I’ve continued playing SupCom2, I’ve come up with some ideas for how the game might be improved. My first idea is to implement better fire controls. I’m thinking of a selector switch with options for each of a unit’s different weapons systems. It would default to “All” (and that’s what you’d use 90% of the time), but every so often, a situation would arise where you’d need to choose separate weapons systems in turn and give them individual targets.

For instance, let’s look at the UEF ACU. He has his normal gun, anti-air artillery, tactical missiles, artillery, and torpedoes (though we won’t cover torpedoes for the sake of simplicity). There are many situations where you might want the tactical missiles to take out, say, a factory, while the ACU’s main gun and artillery engage nearby land units. The way things are right now, there’s only one attack command, and issuing it will cause your unit to move within range of its shortest-range weapon, even when that’s a very bad idea — say, your enemy has a huge clump of point defenses that you want to take out with missiles rather than walk into range of.

The same issue applies to experimentals that have weapons of differing ranges/purposes. The King Kriptor has a decent long-range missile attack, but you can’t use it without also giving the order to move into close range to attack with the hand cannons.

And don’t even get me started on the lack of the ability to direct where a factory’s tactical missiles are firing. You could have four factories firing missiles at four different targets and never breaking through shields, when all you want is for them to focus on one target and put in enough concentrated damage to overwhelm the shields.

Appreciating the little things

March 20th, 2010 10:06 am by Cyde Weys

A couple things escaped my notice when I first got SupCom2 and wrote up my initial impressions. In SupCom2, as in life, you learn to appreciate the little things, the things that SupCom2 quietly improved over its predecessor in ways that don’t leap out at first but that make measurable strides towards greater enjoyability.

I love how engineers have been upgraded with initiative chips. Like Chuck Norris, an “idle” engineer is never actually idle — he merely lies in wait. Whenever an enemy dies close by and leaves a reclaimable hulk, or a nearby friendly building receives damage, the engineer instantly swings into action, doing what he does best. Thus, engineers effectively have patrol functionality even while stationary. Now you don’t have to go to the added trouble of setting up a pointless patrol route; just send the engineer into the middle of a cluster of your buildings and he’s on the job. And this also leaves the engineer less vulnerable. Park him inside the small confines of a factory’s shield and he won’t ever step outside of it to risk personal danger as he fulfills his duties. Patrolling engineers, on the other hand, seem to have a kamikaze death wish.

I also really like the factory upgrades. At first I derided them for adding yet more pointless micromanagement, but in hindsight, that’s not true at all. They don’t add any more micromanagement than the construction of any other building (actually they add less, because you don’t need to worry about sending an engineer to the site to start the construction of upgrades). Combining anti-air, tactical missiles, shields, and radar into one building, all of which would otherwise be separate utility buildings, was a really smart move.

I like how the factory upgrades are cheaper than their stand-alone counter-parts. That gives a good incentive to build more factories, especially front-line factories. A factory built on the front lines in the early part of the game (before the research points accumulate for actual TML unlocks) is the only way to get tactical missiles within range of the enemy early on. And likewise, the factory shield is the only way to get access to early game shielding. Combine that with the anti-air upgrade on the factory itself and some point defense buildings within the shield radius and you have some pretty potent early-game forward base defense.

And despite the protestations of some people that SupCom2 has added a lot of micromanagement over its predecessor, it has removed some as well. I love how tactical missile launchers no longer need to have each missile built individually and launched manually (granted, in the previous game, you could have it build/launch automatically, but that was a huge waste of resources, since target selection was not very intelligent). Actually, I never built TMLs in SupCom1 because I didn’t enjoy all the extra micromanagement. I preferred artillery for that reason. But in SupCom2, I can build TMLs all I want and not have to worry about any added aggravation from micromanaging them.

Perhaps my favorite concession to greater enjoyability, strangely enough, is the removal of Support Commanders. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the power and rapid-buildability of Support Commanders, but they were such a huge hassle. Each one had to be upgraded individually, and getting a large number of them required the thoroughly annoying many-assisting of your Quantum Gateway with all of the SCUs you had already built up to that point (each one first upgraded with the resource upgrade, of course, so that they would only be using resources they themselves made). Don’t even get me started about how much fun having to manage an SCU farm sapped out of the game.

Now it’s your turn — what’d I miss?

ACU attacking – the current dominant strategy, and how to beat it

March 19th, 2010 5:00 pm by Cyde Weys

Both other players’ views on the GPGnet forums and my own experience indicate that ACU attacking is the current dominant strategy. I’m not referring to ACU rushing in 1v1 games, which is easily defeated with proper scouting and judicious usage of point defense hidden behind shielded factories. No, what I’m referring to is ACU attacking in games with 4 or more players. As far as my experience goes, it’s an incredibly effective tactic that is very difficult to counter.

Here’s how it always seems to go. Two players who are friends join a multiplayer game together and play on the same team. One of them will use the classic ACU rush strategy (lots of laboratories from the beginning with full-on ACU upgrading). The other player takes a more measured approach, building utility units (mobile AA, mobile shields, etc.), while still getting lots of the ACU upgrades, maybe just not quite so quickly. Once the main ACU rusher has his ACU decently upgraded, they both attack together.

This kind of attack is really hard to deal with. Two strong ACUs attacking in concert, especially with lots of the upgrades (the Cybran artillery upgrade especially is absolutely brutal to any land units you try to use against it) are incredibly hard to defeat. And keep in mind, since they are ACUs, they can also heal each other rapidly and build point defense or air defense as necessary. And if at any point they have a resource glut, they can build a land factory on the front lines and get their units into battle immediately attacking your base, while all your land units are being killed by their ACU.

The strength of this strategy comes from two main aspects. One, upgraded ACUs are the most powerful unit in the game, moreso than any experimental by far. And two, since the two players are working together, if you don’t show an equal amount of teamwork in response to the threat, you’re really screwed. Two ACUs attacking a base that is only defended by one ACU is almost a foregone conclusion; once the rush is detected, you need to immediately figure out which base is being attacked and get both of your ACUs there.

I can think of some possible counters that I haven’t had the chance to test out in full just yet. If you do end up in a situation where you’re being attacked by multiple ACUs (and you detect it soon enough so that you have a chance to respond; scouting is essential here), try some of these things. First, you absolutely need to coordinate with your teammate. The enemies are working together as a team, and if you aren’t doing likewise, you’re dead.
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SupCom2 v1.3 patch released

March 17th, 2010 8:15 pm by Cyde Weys

Patch v1.3 for SupCom2 has been released! It consists mostly of balance tweaks, but there are some bug fixes as well (including for the air factory veterancy issue). Here are the full patch notes:

Bug Fixes and Improvements:
• Private games have been replaced with Friends Only games. This means that you can mark a game as “Friends Only” and it will only be seen in your friends’ “Friends” tab.
• The game browser has two new filters: Show Passworded games, and Show All Regions (both off by default).
• Added “Test Ping” to the Skirmish menu, which will simulate in game traffic volume (based on number of players) for 5 seconds. This will help players find problematic network connections before getting into a game.
• Color coding on pings in skirmish lobby. When a ping is greater than 400 it will be yellow, and when greater than 500 it will be red.
• Games list in the games browser can now be sorted on each column.
• Cybran and Illuminate air factory veterancy fix: factories now calculate veterancy rate correctly.
• Fix to ACU not firing after activating its reclaim beam, while issuing a move order.
• ACUs can now be attacked while under water.
• Air units are no longer damaged if they fly over an activated Magnetron.

Balance and Tuning:
• UEF P-Shield shield Health increased by 25%.
• Universal Colossus can now also be unlocked by researching the Urchinow.
• Overcharge cooldown increased to 35 seconds. Was 25.
• Transport build costs increased by 50%. Reduced Health to 4000. Was 4500.
• Darkenoid primary beam weapon Damage increased by 50%.
• Cybran Air Radar, Cybran Air Vision, Illuminate Land Vision, UEF Air Vision, UEF Land Radar, UEF Naval Radar and UEF Naval Sonar research all reduced by 1 Research Point.
• Illuminate ACU Radar boost increased to +175%. Was +100%.
• UEF ACU Radar and Vision boosts increased to +150%. Was +100%.
• UEF Fighter & Bomber shield Health decreased to 175. Was 200.
• Gunship Speed reduced to 6. Was 8. Shield Health decreased to 150. Was 600. Build Time increased to 27. Was 24.
• UEF ACU Artillery research cost increased to 6. Was 4. Damage Radius reduced to 5. Was 6.
• Cybran mobile artillery Movement Speed reduced to 2.8. Was 3.2.
• Cybran Carrier build cost reduction of 33% added.
• All factions’ ACU AA upgrade Damage increased by 25%.
• Airnomo cost decreased 10%. Health increased to 13,000. Was 10,000. AA damage increased 50%. Direct Fire damage decreased 50%.
• Cybran Battleship AA Damage reduced by 40%.

Your comments in the discussion below, please!

I’ve started playing multiplayer matches

March 17th, 2010 4:33 pm by Cyde Weys

All right, so I’ve just started playing multiplayer SupCom2 matches. Here are some of my first impressions:

  • Bad teammates are not fun to play with. And by “bad” I don’t mean “not-tournament-quality”, I mean horrible. One of my teammates in a 2v2 hadn’t even built any military units ten minutes into the game, at which point I succumbed to a really-upgraded-ACU-rush (with TML upgrade and everything). And it’s not like he was going for economy, oh no; he wasn’t going for much of anything. Thankfully, Grokmoo got SupCom2 a couple days ago, so we’ll start playing multiplayer matches together soon.
  • Some people have unrealistic expectations of how a game is supposed to play out. I had one guy quit on me when I “rushed” him — which is to say, I did a normal build order and used the first of my tanks to harass his outlying metal extractors. If you want to play an empire building game, go join a No-Rush match. If you’re not in a No-Rush match, you don’t have any right to complain when the inevitable proper disposition of military forces occurs.
  • Being slaughtered by massed gunships sucks. Fixing the air factory veterancy bug will thankfully mitigate this issue somewhat. I’m still not very sure on what the proper response to a gunship strategy is. You can’t build your own gunships, because your opponent is already far ahead of you in numbers and yours will just get slaughtered. Rush the research on mobile AA and build lots of them? Go for lots of interceptors?
  • No one plays Illuminate online. I think I may have had one opponent who did, but he wasn’t any good.
  • Upgraded ACUs are really powerful. I’m not talking about the beginning of the game “drop everything and ACU rush”, I’m talking more about ten minutes in, when the ACU has its tactical missile launcher upgrade, the fire rate increase, and a couple levels in overall combat effectiveness (with the added health). That’s just nasty to try to deal with. I got steamrolled by a Cybran ACU in this manner and then I turned around and did the same thing to my opponent in the next match.
  • If you are going to use your ACU offensively, though, do bring some engineers with you. I didn’t and my commander almost died. It was a stupid risk on my part.

Paucity of research forces you to commit to a strategy early

March 16th, 2010 8:00 am by Cyde Weys

I’ve played enough multiplayer matches now to be able to comment on matters of multiplayer strategy, at least generally. It’s a whole different game than when playing against the AI, of course. The AI is — what’s the best way to describe this? — brain-dead, and you can get away with truckloads of mistakes that would never fly against an intelligent opponent. So playing multiplayer really is the best way to hone your strategy. Anything you do in game that isn’t actively helping you win (like getting a research that you don’t end up using, or building a defensive structure in a position where it never fires upon the enemy) is actually helping you lose, because a good opponent won’t be making those same mistakes.

So we come to research. The research tree in SupCom2 forces you to commit to a specific strategy early and completely. There’s no half-assing it. And it’s specifically the research, moreso than the choice of which buildings to construct, that’s the reason why.

It’s instructive here to compare the game against SupCom1. In both games the basic level factories are really cheap. In SupCom1, it was almost always a good idea to build both ground and air factories and use mixed forces. But in SupCom2, while the factories themselves are just as inexpensive, the research points to make the units produced by those factories are insanely expensive. Simply put, you don’t have any extra research points to throw around to improve both your ground units and your air units, at least not until the end-game. Until then, you have to make a choice — are you going to kill your enemy with massed tanks, or with massed gunships?

And of course I’m not just talking about the air/land division either. It’s also an issue of whether you’re trying to go for early economy (by getting the structure unlocks leading to mass converters), or going for a powerful offensive ACU — again, there are no research points to spare for anything else. And, if it’s a sea map, and you want a powerful navy, you don’t have the research points to spare on anything else. Unlock cruisers for use as anti-air; don’t waste your research points on making fighters better and then saunter into combat with weak ships.

Am I trying to say that you should exclusively focus your research points on one area at a time, to the exclusion of all others? No. There are some sensible deviations that may need to be made (like unlocking certain structures, or mobile anti-air, etc.). But by and large you should be spending the vast majority of most of the precious few research points you get in any one normal-length game towards the same goal.

So your basic strategy is: Before the game begins, consider which map you’re playing on, pick a good strategy, and devote yourself to it entirely. If you want massed gunships, go for air factories, get that gunship unlock, and then get the upgrades to your air units. If you’re going to rush with your ACU, spend some of your initial mass on a research building and get those ACU upgrades. Et cetera.

Indecision and inability to commit to your strategy, more than anything else, is what’s going to kill you.

What other SupCom2 fansites are there?

March 16th, 2010 12:34 am by Cyde Weys

I just cleaned this site’s blogroll and the results were not encouraging. Both SupCom Live and SupCom Universe are now gone (no sense in linking because I mean gone). SupCom HQ hasn’t updated since 2007. At least GameReplays is still around, and it has a very active Supreme Commander 2 section. Is that all that’s left? Meanwhile, my favorite fansite from Total Annihilation, TA Universe, is still going strong some thirteen years later (and holy crap, I just realized I’ve now lived slightly more than half of my life since TA was released).

So what the heck happened to all of the SupCom fansites? I hope we aren’t the only survivor! Please, point me to any other useful SupCom2 sites you know of, because I have a fever for keeping up with the latest SupCom2 news, and the only prescription is more cowbell fansites.

Supreme Commander 2 wiki is up and running

March 15th, 2010 11:45 pm by Cyde Weys

The Supreme Commander 2 wiki on Wikia (no affiliation with either SupComTalk or GPG) is up and running. It’s by no means fully fleshed out, but all of the basic stats for all of the units are there. And they have a nice image with all of the tech trees as well. So now you know where to get online information on all of the units, upgrades, etc., to better plan out your multiplayer strategies.

An overview of the current perceived game balance

March 15th, 2010 6:49 pm by Cyde Weys

A brief look at the GPGnet forums yields a wide variety of inevitable claims of ways in which Supreme Commander 2 is imbalanced. Here’s a look at these claims, and a brief analysis of each one. Of course, I’d like to hear your opinions as well in the comments below — especially if I missed anything.

  • Gunships are too powerful — Probably the number one complaint at the moment. Gunships completely outclass bombers; not only do they do more damage because they don’t have to loop around, but they can also attack other gunships (which bombers cannot do). It takes an equivalent mass in anti-air weapons to destroy gunships, which is a huge point in the gunships’ favor, because gunships are more mobile and useful for attack, not just defense.
  • Mass converters are too powerful — Yeah, that’s me saying that, and I’m pretty convinced it’s true. This applies mostly to the Cybran, who have really cheap access to mass conversion (only 12 RP needed), and don’t even need separate buildings to do it. The Cybran can reach an exponential economic ramp-up really quickly. The Illuminate have access to cheap mass conversion as well, but need to build separate buildings, and the UEF have that problem as well as needing 19 RP to reach mass conversion.
  • The Illuminate are underpowered — This is one that pretty much everyone is saying, and the truth of it is borne out by the relative paucity of Illuminate opponents in multiplayer. UEF and Cybran each have advantages in different areas, while the Illuminate don’t particularly excel in anything game-winning.
  • The Cybranosaurus Rex is useless — I can’t argue with this one. For its mass, it’s very ineffective. There are many other experimentals that are deficient as well, but the Cybranosaurus Rex is an especially tough pill to swallow, because the two other factions’ flagship experimentals, the UEF’s King Kriptor and the Illuminate’s Colossus, are all actually decent.
  • ACU rushing is very powerful — No kidding! I just attacked with a fully upgraded ACU in a skirmish game (I hadn’t yet gone that route before), and the Overcharge destruction was truly a sight to behold. But the early game ACU rush, when carried out by multiple teammates in a multiplayer game, is more mismatched still. The ACUs aren’t as powerful in the early game, but the opponents really do not have any defense to speak of, and teamed-up ACUs in an early assault are deadly. There’s also a slight variation involving Cybran ACUs upgraded with the tactical missile launcher.
  • Rock Heads are too powerful when fully upgraded (sorry, no specific link, but I’ve seen this in a lot of places) — Unit for unit, Rock Head Tanks are the most powerful land combatant in the game, beating anything on a mass-for-mass basis, including all experimentals.
  • UEF has the best artillery in the game by far — Not only do they get the medium-range artillery, which is very powerful and which no one else has, but they also get the Disruptor artillery, which is better than the non-experimental long-range artillery.

Now, before anyone starts a huge flame-war in the comments below over this, remember that the quality of multiplayer competition is still at a very low level, seeing as how new the game still is. It’s quite possible that a lot of these things are imbalanced at all; it may just be that we don’t know the effective counters yet. Who knows, a month from now we may look back on this post and laugh at how we thought X was overpowered when it turns out that Y was actually much better, we just weren’t using it correctly.

And yes, a lot of the points above may be nothing more than an artifact of how the three factions were designed to play differently than each other. If the overall balance did come out even despite the individual differences, that’d be one thing, but it currently looks like specific strategies (ACU rushing / gunships) and specific factions (UEF and Cybran) are dominant.

The air factory experience bug

March 15th, 2010 12:44 pm by Cyde Weys

A bug has come to light regarding experience earned by air factories for creating units. Keep in mind that each level a factory gains decreases build time and build cost by 10%. Factories max out at level five. The way it’s supposed to work is that each successive level requires more units built to reach. However, Cybran and Illuminate (but not UEF) have bugged air factories that only require four units be built for gaining all but the first level (source). So what ends up happening is that Cybran and Illuminate factories very rapidly end up building units that cost half as much at twice the speed. No wonder people complain about gunships.

The scary thing is that UEF still remains highly competitive despite the fact that it does not have the same kind of access to really cheap, rapid-building air units. When GPG fixes this bug, they might have to address some balance issues simultaneously, otherwise they’ll only be making UEF even better.

And on a somewhat related note, does anyone else think it’s weird that the one of the benefits of experienced factories is lower construction costs? That doesn’t exactly make sense to me, because as the game progresses, mass gets a lot more abundant, and by the end, it is effectively free thanks to mass converters. I would think a proper benefit would be making the units not cheaper but stronger (perhaps through automatic veterancy, the same way barracks work in the Civilization series).

And that’s not even addressing the issue of the experimental factories, especially the Noah Cannon, which creates units at one-seventh the usual cost. Supreme Commander 2 thus has a geometric ramp-up in army sizes as each match progresses. In the beginning of the game, units are expensive and resources few; in the end-game, units are cheap and resources plentiful. Something seems off. Supreme Commander avoided this issue through its tech levels, so that as the game went on you spent vastly more per unit, but each unit was a lot more powerful.