Tuesday, October 7, 2008


(So I had just finished getting ready for bed, and laid down to go to sleep last night... and very suddenly remembered that I hadn't blogged. Oops.)

The game Total Annihilation turned 11 last month. Considering how much time I've wasted playing this game, I figured I ought to say something.

TA isn't a game one generally hears that much about. You're much more likely to have heard of something like Warcraft or Starcraft. But, despite the game's vast age (11 years?!-how many of today's computers could run something that old?-I've never checked myself), lots of people still play it. (Yours truly included, although I only play it in small spurts over a couple of days lately, with months in between. It's just too time-intensive.)

Why do people still play it? Well, the sense of power that one gets playing any RTS (real time strategy game) is quite a draw, and I have to admit that it's the main reason I play it. (Incidentally, I really stink at the game, and have never played it against another human being. I have to cheat a lot of the time when playing against the AI, and the AI is notoriously retarded.) But the game's other appeal gave it a huge edge over its competition from the same time period-it feels kind of real.

This is because TA was one of the first games ever to incorporate anything resembling physics into itself. Different worlds have different amounts of gravity, which does affect gameplay; units in the air move in ways truly distinct from those on the ground; a unit on a hill has an advantage over a unit at the bottom of the hill; hills and other terrain have an enormous effect on gameplay; there are trees and rocks and wreckage from battles and the like which occur all over the battlefield, and all of them can affect gameplay in several ways, both as resources and as obstacles; and there are numerous other features of the game that made it truly revolutionary. (It edged out Starcraft for number one RTS in a recent ranking of the ten best RTS games, and is generally considered to still be one of the most important games in the genre.)

But what is truly staggering is that the game encouraged creativity among those who play it. According to Wikipedia, there are some 6000 third-party (independently) created downloadable units which could be added to the game, and that doesn't really include the various modified variants (mods) of the game that have been created, or the numerous maps, or... you get the picture. What is more, this creativity caused numerous people to want to spruce the game up to match the newer, more graphically impressive games... and so somebody did. What's really shocking about this is that Spring is completely reverse-compatible with anything made for the original.

Every time I think about that, I shudder. The idea of having a nuclear missile launcher in a game where there's deformable terrain is, well, a thought that fills me with a certain amount of glee, to be frank.

The game changes from something like this, by the way...

...to this.

I'm still considering Spring, which is free, by the way, which I haven't downloaded because 1) it'd be something I'd have to run on a newer computer, where I wouldn't be able to concentrate as well (my TA computer is in my bedroom), and 2) I waste way too much time playing games as it is.

-Signing off.

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