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Interview: Chris Taylor on Supreme Commander 2, part two

And the engine scales well on the Xbox 360? You're showing the PC version here at E3.

Well, yeah. I mean the engine is a separate -- it shares a lot of the same components as the Xbox 360, but the Xbox 360 has one target hardware and it makes it much easier because we get to optimize it for that target hardware and it doesn't change. PC development has been a lot of work. Since I got into the business 21 years ago, the different hardware platforms of the PC has sucked up an inordinate amount of development time, with all the different options and things like that. It's a tremendous amount of work. But that all goes away on the Xbox 360. I don't see any issues there at all.

"If we do our jobs right, we'll be the console RTS that turns the corner."

So you're working with Square Enix, and you mentioned story earlier. Is the story line in this game going to be a linear progression or is it more dynamic. What is the focus?

A couple of things. We do the mission briefing in engine. We don't do it in the screen before. And, we tell one story. It's one linear story, three campaigns that are all tied together. So, it's three operational blocks that you walk through. At the very end of it all, the story is told within one timeline.

How has the Path Finding AI been improved in Supreme Commander 2?

In an A-Star system you move a couple of units, the computer's fast and there is no program. You move that to 500 units, into 1000 -- high numbers -- everyone of those has to have a separate path find operation and then as they are traveling, if any of them run into a unit or problem they have to re-path. So, it's re-pathing all the time. It just flattens the CPU. With a flow field, if I click from one spot to the other -- even if I have 500 units selected -- I create one path. One flow field is created. And then if a unit loses its way, it can re-find its path without re-pathing in a flow field system.

So, you've reduced -- in some cases -- the complex computational requirements by several orders of magnitude. Which is the level of performance you need to have a noticeable impact on gameplay. Especially in that late game when you're launching hundreds of units at each other and you want snappy response. Because, that's the best part of the game. When all that stuff is shooting and blowing up. You want to enjoy that the most.

I always hate asking this question, especially when a game is far from release, but it has become expected. You mentioned in the demo that your team is about nine months into development, but have you already started to plan what happens when the game hits stores? How are you planning to support the community and will those plans include both platforms?

Those won't be hard questions to answer when those final decisions have been made, like the multiplayer provider partner -- whether it's Games for Windows Live, whether it's Steam or whoever it might be. We're getting close to the final, well not so much the final decision but we're getting close to announcing it. Probably at the next big event, we'll announce those partnerships and more.

So, those partnerships are in place but you aren't prepared to announce them?

We're getting pretty close. We've pretty much made a decision, we just have to announce it. It's a publisher-side type of thing, to announce who those are.

"I think that -- if you had to lay money down -- you'd see another RTS title from us."

What happens next for the team at Gas Powered Games?

We'll be working on Supreme Commander 2 until next year. I think that -- if you had to lay money down -- you'd see another RTS title from us. Either an expansion pack for Supreme Commander 2 or something else in this universe or ... who knows. Another RTS game. But we like RTS, there's a lot of potential in RTS. You know some ask, "Are RTS games dead? Has it peaked? Is it over for RTS?" After what we've shown you today, I hope you maybe see a glimpse that there is a new chapter in RTS's. We can start doing stuff that is just wild with these technology advances. The future is bright and RTS gaming is where you'll see us for a long time to come.

And what about the future of RTS gaming on consoles? Obviously, Supreme Commander is no stranger to the Xbox 360 and there have been quite a few RTS games released on console, recently.

Yeah. I think there is a big future for RTS on console. It's a different kind of player and we have to be sensitive to that. We can't try to homogenize the experiences, but there's a lot of consistency. I think every iteration we get closer -- whoever it might be, whether it's Ensemble Studios, EA or us -- we get closer and closer and closer to making it work. You know, I use the analogy of "from GoldenEye to Halo 3." Every first-person shooter that came out moved it along and there was a point when it was like, "These are still lousy" then to "This is good!" And we'll hit that point somewhere along the line. If we do our jobs right, we'll be the console RTS that turns the corner.

Thanks for the time, Chris.

Thank you.

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