Total Annihilation is a real-time strategy video game created by Cavedog Entertainment and released on September 30, 1997 by GT Interactive for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS. It was the first RTS game to feature 3D units and terrain. Two expansion packs were released, The Core Contingency on April 30, 1998 and Battle Tactics on June 30, 1998. Lead designer Chris Taylor went on, through Gas Powered Games, to create Supreme Commander; popularly considered the "spiritual successor" of Total Annihilation. A remake of the game with a completely 3D graphics engine (lacking any fixed camera angle), named Spring, has also been independently produced.
Total Annihilation is set in the far future in the midst of a galactic war, with battles taking place on the surface of planets and moons. The efforts of the player are centred around constructing a defensive base and an offensive force, and conquering opponents. The player also is concerned with gathering resources, reconnaissance and stealth, and evaluation of units and terrain. Battles take place against AI in a story-driven campaign, or against other players in a skirmish mode.
GameplayNormally, the player begins with the unique Commander unit, a mech with the ability to create structures to form a base and, by extension, a military force comprising a range of mobile units. The Commander, while a powerful combat unit, is vital to the player due to its ability to quickly construct units– thus, loss of a Commander is a critical event in any game. Construction is governed by the possession of the game's two unlimited resources, Metal and Energy, and can be undertaken by factories or mobile construction units. Every unit belongs to a level of technology (tech level); the higher the level, the more advanced the unit and the more resources and thus time required to construct it. A feature of the game is the ability to easily "queue" the many commands for a unit or group of units, with types of commands including patrolling a route, constructing a defensive group of structures and assaulting the enemy. Once given its commands, the unit will go about them automatically thus minimizing the need for the player's attention to small, repetitive tasks. The victory conditions of a multi-player game generally involve the elimination of all enemy units, but the aim of single player campaign missions can be more specialized.
The player can command a variety of units from fighter and bomber aircraft, to tanks and mechs, to ships and submarines. Given their robotic nature, units are self-contained with no limiting factors such as fatigue, fuel or morale. Units can vary in size, speed and the ability to give and take damage, generally depending on their tech level. One praised feature of the game's units are their hierarchical proportionality— that is, an advanced unit being equal in combat terms to many weaker units, but taking a proportionately longer time to build. Each unit has strengths and weaknesses, optimal styles of use, and corresponding units against which it is vulnerable or well-suited. Effective play is usually characterized by consideration of these attributes, as well as efficient resource management, strong defences, and knowledge of the opponent's strategies. The game's interface consists of construction and command buttons (depending on the unit selected), unit status information, resource information on the production of Energy and Metal, and a minimap which gives an overview of the game's battlespace— the visibility of which may be hindered by fog of war, necessitating the use of radar or scout units. There are a few highly-advanced units which are invaluable combat-wise, such as nuclear missile launchers which have unlimited range and very high damage. There are two story-related factions which, while aesthetically different, have a similar set of units.
AI and physics
The game features a physics engine which governs projectiles, explosions and wreckage. The terrain is strictly 2D but contains height values which allow it to act as a 3D surface. Hills obstruct artillery fire, and, depending on the "line-of-sight" setting, height enhances units' visual and firing ranges. If terrain is steep and jagged, units tilt and turn to meet the face of the ground. Structures can be built on steep terrain to protect them from artillery fire and to create choke points. Artillery shells are affected by gravity, which is actually variable on different planets- particularly on lower-gravity moons. Units that achieve five kills without death receive "veteran" status which increases health and damage, as well as giving the unit the ability to lead moving targets. This effect grows with every five subsequent kills.
Total Annihilation can be played online on the following servers:
Phoenix Project (upon release, Phoenix Worx) Phoenix Worx simulates planetary war between ARM and CORE with its Inter Galactic War or IGW. The PW has a ranking system that gives players ranks when they battle for ARM or for CORE in the IGW. Players can also choose to play Friendly games with no ranking involved.
The WarZone ( The WarZone) The WarZone attracts most TA players at the moment. Sometimes there are tournaments among the top TA players.
Some players also choose to play by IP or LAN and set up games in the IRC community. Some of those with connection problems choose to play on Hamachi.
TCP/IP based multi-player TA might require the opening of router ports 2300-2400 TCP UDP and 47624 TCP.
The game's start-up credits give a summary of the game's narrative:
What began as a conflict over the transfer of consciousness from flesh to machines escalated into a war which has decimated a million worlds. The Core and the Arm have all but exhausted the resources of a galaxy in their struggle for domination. Both sides now crippled beyond repair, the remnants of their armies continue to battle on ravaged planets, their hatred fueled by over four thousand years of total war. This is a fight to the death. For each side, the only acceptable outcome is the complete elimination of the other.
In the far future the galaxy is ruled by a benevolent central body of humans and artificial intelligences called the Core (a contraction of "Consciousness Repository"). The Core's technological and economic triumphs have allowed humanity to colonize most of the Milky Way and enjoy peace and prosperity. However, the balance is broken by a technological breakthrough which allows the consciousness of a human being to be reliably transferred into a machine, thereby granting theoretically indefinite life in a process called "patterning". Following a mandate imposed on humanity by the Core requiring everyone to undergo patterning as a public health measure, a rebel band is formed out of colonies from the edges of the galaxy (hence named the Arm), whose members refused to leave their natural bodies to join the Core's machines. A war lasting four thousand years followed, with the Arm mass-producing clones as pilots for its vehicles and the Core duplicating consciousness-embedded microchips to pilot its own machines.
The game's two campaigns focus on their respective sides' leaders, the Commanders. The story of either the Core or the Arm starts with an effort to defend the protagonist's homeworld and initiate a turning point in the overall war. The player then fights a series of battles on a number of planets and moons, as transported to through Galactic Gates, a fictional form of faster-than-light travel. As the player progresses, more units become available for construction, either through the course of background story or upon completion of a mission centered around the unit in question. Mission objectives include protecting a vital structure or area, eliminating all enemy units, or capturing a pivotal enemy unit. The worlds upon which the player wages warfare force the player to adapt to different strategies; for example, deployment on a world whose surface is entirely composed of archipelagos necessitates the construction of an effective navy. Some have occasional weather conditions, such as meteor storms. Both campaigns include 25 missions, the final mission ending the war with a final strike on the enemy's homeworld — either the Arm's bucolic Empyrrean or the Core's artificial Jupiter Brain world of Core Prime.
The game was highly praised by critics and players, and won numerous awards, including GameSpot's Game of the Year Award for 1997. TA is considered to be one of the best RTS games of all time and is still played actively today, over 10 years after its release. It won Gamespy's Top Ten Real-Time Strategy Games of All Time  in 2004, leaving Starcraft in second place. It was also recently named to GameSpot's 50-game The Greatest Games of All Time list . The editors stated "It's not as famous as Warcraft or Command & Conquer, but Total Annihilation is arguably better than any other real-time strategy game to date."
Total Annihilation has won numerous awards, the list of which follows:
- The number one Real-Time Strategy Game of all time (top 10 list), Gamespy 2004
- Best Game of All Time, PC Games 1998
- Gamer's Choice Award, Best Real-Time Strategy Game, PC Gamer
- 1998 Blister Award Winner, "Best Strategy Game of 1997", Electric Playground
- 1997 Game of the Year, GameSpot
- Best Strategy Game of 1997, GameSpot
- Best Multiplayer Game 1997, GameSpot
- Best Music 1997 GameSpot
- Included in Gamespot's "Greatest Games of All Time" Feature
- 1997 Game of the Year, GameSpot Reader's Choice Awards
- 1997 Best Strategy Game, GameSpot Reader's Choice Awards
- 1997 Best War Game, Happy Puppy's Golden Fire Hydrant Award
- 1997 Best Strategy Game, PC Guru Magazine, Hungary
- Best RTS Game, GAME.EXE Magazine, Russia 1998
- Best Game of the Year 1997, PC Soulces, France
- Silver Trophy Award, PC Magazine Loisirs, France
- Top Game Award for Five Consecutive Months, PC Jeux France
- Best RTS Game 1997, Reader's Choice Award, PC Gamer Online
- Best Real-Time Strategy Game 1997, The Adrenaline Vault
- Best Strategy Game 1997, Reader's Award, Games Domain
- 1997 Game of the Year, CompuNews
- 1997 Best Sound/Music, GamePen
- Best Strategy Game of 1997, Gamezilla.com
- Game of the Year, Game Review Central
- Best Real-Time Strategy Game of 1997, Ultra Game Players Magazine
- CG Choice Award, Computer Gaming World, 1998
- Best of the Best A+ Award, PC Games 1998
- Family PC Tested-Recommended, Family PC 1998
- Stamp of Approval, Computer Games Strategy Plus
- Editor's Choice Award 1997, Online Gaming Review
- Special Achievement in Music 1997, Online Gaming Review
- Best Game of the Year 1997, Honorable Mention, Online Gaming Review
- Best Game of 1997, Reader's Knockout Poll Award, Games Domain Review
- Best PC Game of 1997, Video Games Palace
- Gaming Product of the Year 1997, MeccaWorld
- Best Strategy Game of 1997, Gamesmania
- Gold Player Top-Rated 5 Star Award, PC Games Germany
- Gold Award, PC Action Germany
- Top Rated 5 Star Award 1997, PC Gaming World UK
- Platin Award, PC Power
- Innovation in Gaming Award 1997, PC Review
- Editor's Choice Award, Game Worlds Network
- Editor's Choice Award, Gaming Age
- Editor's Choice Award 1997, All About Games
- Awesome! Award 1997, Game Briefs
- Killer Game Award 1997, The Cheater's Guild
- OGR Preferred Award, Online Gaming Review
- X-Picks Dazzler for 1997, Gamecenter
- Hot! 4 Star Award, GAMERZedge
- Hands-On Award, PC GamePro
- Editor's Pick Award 1997, GameSpot
- Buy Now! Award, San Francisco Guardian Plug & Play
- Star Player Award, Games Machine
- GamePower's 4-Lightning Bolt Award 1997
- GamePen's Best of E3 Award 1997
- Top 12 Games of Autumn, PC Games Europe
- Hot Property Award 1997, MeccaWorld
Total Annihilation: Core Contingency Expansion Pack
Cavedog released The Core Contingency or CC a year after TA. It features 25 new missions as well as 75 new units. It continues the story after the ending of the Arm campaign.
Total Annihilation: Battle Tactics Expansion Pack
A month after CC, Total Annihilation: Battle Tactics was released, which includes 4 new units, 100 additional missions as well an experimental approach to TA gameplay, with less emphasis on base construction.
3.1 is the latest patch for Total Annihilation and it's expansions. It gives most of the units included in CC and all the downloadable units of that time.
Post 3.1 Cavedog Units
After the release of 3.1 patch, Cavedog released a further six units for download. These are:
ARM F.A.R.K. or Fast Assist Repair Kbot. An ARM level 2 advanced kbot that has high nanolathe speed. It is also fast and agile and produces 0.5 metal but lacks a build menu.
CORE Necro is a resurrection kbot that can bring wrecks of metal back to life, whether they belonged to the enemy or not.
ARM Flea scout kbot is an agile scout that can climb almost anywhere.
CORE Immolator was supposed to be the CORE response for the ARM Electric Machine Gun or EMG.
ARM Scarab is a mobile level 2 anti nuke robot produced in the Adv. Vehicle Plant.
CORE Hedgehog is the CORE equivalent of Scarab.
TA originally shipped with 150 discrete units but after these two expansion packs and downloadable patches, 230 units became available.
Community 3rd Party
6,000 units are available after 3rd-party installations from Total Annihilation's many different fansites (although only 512 units can be installed on any one copy due to engine limitations). Utilities have also been produced by the fan community, with varying support by the game's authors, for creating freely downloadable third-party units. Fans have even created their own races to join or replace the game's two original factions.
The default unit limit was originally 200, which was changed to 250 in Total Annihilation: The Core Contingency—by modifying the totala.ini file in the game folder, users can increase this limit up to 500. With a binary modification of the program file and sufficient hardware, the unit limit can be increased to 5000 per team.
Data files containing game information can be placed within the game directory, whose contents would then be incorporated into the game. Units, weapons, AI tweaks, missions, races, and new map tilesets can be added, as well as a wide range of modifications and total conversions.
Apart from official enhancements released by Cavedog for free, including units and patches, there is large community support with thousands of third-party add-ons and utilities. A prime example is the Uberhack modification, which modifies all of the existing units and adds several additional ones, in the attempt to balance the game and create unique roles for each of the wide variety of units.
TA Demo Recorder
Made by the community, most online players use TA Demo Recorder or TADR with their TA install. The latest version by Yankspankers is TADR99B2. It is used with the tadr184.108.40.2065 upgrade. This tool allows the player to save a replay of a game and to play it back later. It also includes the TAHook tool which allows the player to que factories 100 units at a time, to que buildings in lines and to easily build Dragon's Teeth around buildings. It also contains many lag fixes. Taking of disconnected players' units, choosing Commander start locations, autopausing at start of game and many other features. The most important feature it gives is allied LOS or Line of Sight. Previously in TA allies were only able to see radar, if it was shared with the +shareradar command. With 'TADR' allies can now share LOS to their allies with .sharelos command. The 220.127.116.115 version also gives 1500 unit limit to multiplayer and skirmish games, where the original TA limit was 250.
The game has an original orchestral soundtrack composed by Jeremy Soule and performed by the 96-piece Northwest Sinfonia orchestra. The music changes according to events: during a battle, louder and more frantic music plays. During post-war damage repair or idle construction, a more ambient and mysterious track is played. The soundtrack is in CD-audio format and can be listened to with ordinary CD players. An ordinary music CD can be inserted once the game is under way and can replace the original game music with its own tracks. It is even possible to program such custom CD tracks to the various battlefield situations (conflict, construction, defeat, etc.) like the default set.
- [data track]
- "Brutal Battle"
- "Fire and Ice"
- "The March Unto Death"
- "Ambush in the Passage"
- "Forest Green"
- "Death and Decay"
- "Licking Wounds"
- "Futile Attempt"
- "On Throughout the Night"
- "Charred Dreams"
- "Where Am I"
- "Blood of the Machines"
- Total Annihilation: The Core Contingency
- Total Annihilation: Battle Tactics
- Total Annihilation: Kingdoms
- ↑ Cite error: Invalid
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- ↑ GameSpot Core Contingency page
- ↑ GameSpot Battle Tactics page
- ↑ Supreme Commander Q&A at gamespot.com (2005)
- ↑ The Spring Project
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Top Ten Real-Time Strategy Games of All Time at gamespy.com
- ↑ http://www.indopedia.org/Total_Annihilation.html
- ↑ Total Annihilation Reviews at metacritic.com
- ↑ Top Ten Real-Time Strategy Games of All Time at gamespy.com (2004)
- ↑ History of Real-time Strategy Games: 1989-1998 - the Second Generation at gamespot.com (2000)
- ↑ RTSC Total Annihilation Page at rakrent.com (2006)
- A mirror of Cavedog Entertainment's official Total Annihilation website.
- 'Total Annihilation' at MobyGames
- Total Annihilation wiki guide at StrategyWiki
- TA Universe, a major community website for the game.
- Total Annihilation: Twilight TA:Twilight, a multiplayer-balanced mod, is still being actively developed with the latest version, v1.8, released in January 2010.
- Total Annihilation at the Open Directory Project