"If I start the game and in the first 60 seconds I build a tank, I want that tank to be able to deliver the killing blow to my opponent 35 minutes to 90 minutes later."
That's Chris Taylor's goal for Supreme Commander 2. It's completely counter to the philosophy of both the beloved Total Annihilation and the mighty Supreme Commander. Both strategy games revolved around a stark stratification of combat power: Tech 1 bots were tiny gnats next to the state of the art killing machines you'd be churning out half an hour into a match.
But Chris and his team are fresh from their success with Demigod, the small-scale strategy/RPG hybrid where hero units level up and buy equipment on the battlefield. It's a safe bet we'll see Supreme Commander's Veterancy system expanded, in which units become tougher as they score more kills, but that's not all. Their objective, Chris says, is to ensure that "every one of them has the ability to sustain themselves throughout the entire game, so we need each of them to be much more complex and have many facets."
Elsewhere, though, Supreme Commander is getting simpler. In the first game it was as challenging to set up a functioning economy as it was to win a given skirmish. Now, Gas Powered Games have decided to "take economy management off the table... You'll be able to play this like any other RTS," Chris says, worryingly.
It wasn't always fun to deal with a crashing mass infrastructure in SupCom, but that challenge was half the game. Even Chris sounds upset about it: "The nerd in me died a little bit," he confesses, "but said, 'That's OK Chris, because more people are going to have fun with the combat aspect of the game, and not get bogged down in the economic management.'" It was an expressive nerd. Bizarrely, Gas Powered Games have chosen to partner with Final Fantasy creators Square Enix for the sequel.
Chris says this is part of their push to give Supreme Commander more character. "We're going away from iconographic units to a living, breathing RTS game... Square Enix has this unbelievable resumé for creating stories and characters, and they're experts at this."
Hard details are currently too scant to get a clear idea of where Chris and his team are going with this, but it's already clear that SupCom 2 is going to be a very different game.
It'll still have hundreds of units on screen, though, and as a final deal-sweetener, Chris promises "spectacular visual change" that'll run well on a £500 PC.