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Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation is a futuristic real-time strategy video game, created by Chris Taylor and Cavedog Entertainment. It was the first RTS to feature 3D units and terrain.

Table of contents
1 Story
2 Description
3 Platforms
4 External links


Long ago the galaxy was ruled by a wise and benevolent central body known as the Core, this organisation pushed scientific progress and planetary colonisation forward until the human race covered almost the entire galaxy. Ironically it was however the Core's final triumph against mortality that would prove to be its undoing, for when the Core mandated uploading all peoples brain patterns into machines there was a massive rebellion from the Arm, an organisation who demanded to keep their physical bodies, and a war like no other began.


Total Annihilation is distinguished from its contemporaries such as Starcraft by more than its three dimensional rendering technology and true Newtonian physics but by its rapid battles, high power weapons, staggering array of different units and rapid construction.

Strategic Comparison

Much of Total Annihilation's strategic uniqueness comes from the immense speed and power of the units. Unlike many other games such as Starcraft and Command and Conquer where powerful weapons are slow moving and fast weapons are limited in power in effect to create a balance, Total Annihilation's balance relies on the fact that bases can be rebuilt quickly. This is to compensate for the devastating power that the heavily armed and highly maneuverable strike aircraft and extremely long ranged artillery can apply towards the buildings. Nuclear weapons are also very affordable, powerful and quick to construct with multiple weapons being able to be stockpiled for devastating strikes, a dynamic rarely seen in most other games where only one missile may be built at once, limiting their impact. This leads to bases in Total Annihilation having a distinctive, mildly un-aesthetic spread-out pattern to limit the damage of a nuclear attack, an air-strike or an artillery barrage.

AI and physics

The artificial intelligence in Total Annihilation is often considered one of its weakest aspects, the individual units however are quite intelligent and will dodge attackers and compensate for movement when attacking a target. The physical environment they operate in is also very rich with true trajectories, inertia, momentum, thrust and explosive force interacting to create a very "real" environment with all damages based on the physical environment in contrast to many games that rely on random hit or miss formulas. This allows artillery to be simulated accurately with immense ranges, an element to warfare that hadn't been simulated effectively in RTSs until that time.


The number of unique units also makes it distinctive. Although the game originally only shipped with 150 discrete units, that number grew to exceed 230 when the expansion packs "The Core Contingency" and "Battle Tactics" were added. The game was often criticised for the fact that units lacked uniqueness, were similar in appearance and basically parallel for both sides, however there was reasonable difference between equivalent units, and similar units to justify the majority of their inclusions making "finding the right tool for the job" as one of the most important elements of the game.


Many games have resources that may be depleted, encouraging one to be frugal and forcing one to wait between construction of different units for ones funds to accumulate. This is however not the case with Total Annihilation. Total Annihilation has two resources, energy and metal. Both resources are harvested at a near-constant rate. Energy is accumulated with power plants, that may be built anywhere making energy supply only limited by the players foresight to build more plants before ones production is slowed by energy shortages. Metal must be only extracted from metal patches however making controlling the largest part of the terrain an important strategic consideration. Neither resource can be exhausted or even lessened by their exploitation meaning that battles do not slow down, even after hours. Resources are a buffered flow: if one collects resources at a faster rate than one uses them ones buffer fills up until it is at the maximum level in which case all further supply is wasted. If however ones production is exceeded by ones usage (mainly due to construction and heavy weapons firing) ones construction is slowed to the ratio between income and expenditure. However one's production never completely stops unless ones income is zero.


Total Annihilation was unique amongst most strategy games in that data files containing game information can be simply placed within the game directory and their contents would be incorporated into the game. New units, new weapons, new AI building strategies, new missions and maps may be loaded into the game. This lead to a huge community support with thousands of third party add-ons and utilities created by many hundreds of loyal users. This is on top of the many additional official enhancements released by Cavedog for free, and bundled with expansion packs. It was this capability of expansion and constant renewal that doubtlessly gave it its cult status.

Narrative Integration

However by far the main cause of criticism towards the game was the complete elimination of in-game storyline or cut-scenes. The short but fairly original opening storyline was utterly devoid of any characters except for the two commanders who are left wholly undescribed except for a tiny reference to the Core commander as a "shrewed tactician". Cavedog attempted to remedy this in Total Annihilation: Kingdoms with limited results.


Total Annihilation was by no means a perfect game, but much of it was far in advance of its competitors when it was released in 1997. It contained technologies and gameplay elements that had never been seen until then, and many that have not been emulated since. Regardless of one's opinion of Total Annihilation it cannot be accurately likened with any other game to date, which is why it is considered by many to be the finest RTS game of all.


External links