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Total Annihilation pages!

Total Annihilation (TA) was published by Cavedog Entertainment in 1997, and has two expansion packs: The Core Contingency (CC) and Battle Tactics (BT). Curious spieliologists coming to this game will want to get in via the Commander Pack, which bundles the original Total Annihilation (OTA) with both expansions. Serious TA netgamers should have at least the original game, the Core Contingency add-on and optionally, the third party TA Mutation switching utility to use some of those great custom mods out there. The engine's getting a little old now, its networking isn't as polished or full of features as many newer games, and inexplicably, no one's really followed through and produced anything quite like it since - except for it's original designer Chris Taylor, currently developing Supreme Commander, the "spiritual successor" to TA. This accounts for its continuing popularity now.

When it was first released, Total Annihilation raised real time strategy to the next level. It introduced genuine 3D terrain and textured, polygonal units made of separate moving parts. It weathered criticism for being dry and lacking the colour and personality of story driven titles like StarCraft; its units all looked the same, there wasn't much differentiation between its two opposing forces of robots and there were no personalities or heroes of any kind. This is all true. However, TA works best as a straight generic war game stripped to its fundamentals. Its quite abstract and very neutral. LEGO meets RTS. It needs a plot and deep characterization about as much as a game of Aussie Rules. If you really want to read the back story, try here. But Total Annihilation's impact on the genre has been profound: it managed to score first place in Gamespy's Top 10 Best RTS's of All Time in 2004.

There are two sides: Arm (rebellious heroes) and Core (incumbent villains). Arm units are generally lighter and faster, while Core's are heavier and more implacable. There are as many defensive units as there are offensive ones; almost as many different kinds of turret, silo and factory as there are types of mobile unit. It's eminently possible to build the (almost) impenetrable defence, which, when coupled with infinite resources, can allow a player to play completely defensively. Unfortunately, this can also deadlock games, with two sides unable to blast their way through the other ... unless they resort to nukes!

An army of Arm custom K-Bots runs smack bang into an army of (mostly) ordinary Core units in the UTASP mod. Swarming's a common tactic in Total Annihilation. Many TA custom mods usually add extensively to the game, but many try not to alienate the original units - rather they attempt to extend the strategy and variety of the game.
Cavedog maintained interest in the game by releasing a new custom unit every week after TA's initial release, which itself had about 150 units and structures to pick from. The Core Contingency expansion added 75 more. When the first third party units appeared, an arms race between Arm and Core fans broke out. A few years later, practically every niche you could possibly think of in the game's arsenal has been filled and there are custom unit packs, mods and total conversions all over the place. Even better, most of these custom mods are actually playable - if not a damn sight better than the original. These aren't just the odd graphic or sound hack here and there - TA's modular structure has let people build entire working races from scratch. Its one of the perks of a largely abstract robot wargame that doesn't depend on a story: you can mod it any way you like without compromising the game. Even the most colourful story can pall after a while (e.g. you can mod StarCraft any way you like - provided you don't mind the result still looking, sounding and feeling exactly like StarCraft) and the rigidities of history can make a custom mod in Age of Empires difficult to implement without it looking just plain silly. Also, with 2D games, there's the additional burden of trying to match the original's high caliber artwork - while in Total Annihilation even a boring old box with legs doesn't look too out of place.

One of the main reasons why Total Annihilation still has an active presence on the Web is due in no small part to the vigour of its gaming community and the extraordinary amount of custom maps, units, AI's and utilities that they've produced. Despite Cavedog's demise and the concentration of the fan base, what is left over seems to have become more focused and determined to persist than before. If you're going to get into TA, you should play the original game and its CC expansion just to learn it, and then browse through the maps and custom unit packs for the real thing.

Each unit is made of seperate moving pieces
The amount to pick up in TA is pretty basic - its only the huge list of units that's bewildering to begin with. When you get going it ROCKS. TA epitomises top notch game play combining tactics, strategy with full blown action. You build with the pieces that you want (or know) rather than relying on the full complement of available unit types for game balance. Its a macro management game concerned with the overall picture: units are largely expendable, produced en masse and deployed in large numbers. You don't rely on hero units until you get to the giant Krogoth (think of Godzilla) class monsters at the big end of the build tree. Units look after themselves a little better than StarCraft (although in crowded games they will logjam badly) and can ordered to follow involved patrol-and-forget command queues that can be automated to an incredible degree. There are no technologies, upgrades or special abilities to research: units simply become available when the factory that produces them is built.

Many hands make light work: Advanced constructor planes build a factory
SimCity types should have fun with the large number of factories and constructor bots you can use to build nd maintain your economy. Not to mention the huge number of different turrets you can build to defend them! The command system allows you to easily up the output of your factories by assigning constructors to guard them, or having patrolling constructors automatically repair or help finish structures under construction. Patrolling constructors will also automatically salvage wreckage for metal or trees for energy if supplies run short. All you need is the constant supply of energy and metal to feed it. Resources are infinite; but you are restrained by the rate by which you can extract them. Exceed your economy's intake and things quickly stall.

A Commander and his Vehicle Plant
TA also introduced to strategy gaming the concept of the Commander. The Commander represents you on the battlefield and, like the King in Age of Empire's Regicide (kill the King) game, the object is to kill the enemy Commander. He is the leader of your forces, constructing the first buildings and factories and wielding the most powerful weapon in the game, the Disintegrator Gun. He's the biggest, meanest (apart from the later generations of custom Godzilla bots), fastest, and the most agile of the K-Bots, the fastest builder of all the construction units, and amphibious. About the only thing he can't do is fly.

As for customisation, there truly are some mind boggling extensions to the game. For a start, there's the TA:Mutation switching utility that allows to you mix and match maps, custom mods, custom units, AI's and "mutators" all in the one game install. One of the TA's renowned mappers and tilesetters, C_A_P, put together a patch that animates all the (previously static) trees in the game. Networked games can be recorded with the TA Demo Recorder, an amazing program written by the Swedish Yank Spankers. Those Scandinavian scallywags also cobbled together an extraordinary 3D game engine that lets you play Total Annihilation within an immersive 3D environment called the TA Spring Project.

Total Annihilation: the Core Contingency OVERVIEW
Version & Install

3.1 This assumes you have the original game plus the Core Contingency add-on. You MUST install TA, then CC, and then apply the 3.1 patch. We've found installing CC over plain TA patched at 3.1 will drop it back to 3.0 and cause problems.

Not playing on an Intel processor? You may require a patch for it. Cavedog's Non-Intel patch can be found at TA Designers (look under Miscellaneous --> Patches) Want up to raise the 250 unit limit to 500? Download the total.ini file from Gamespot's TA downloads page

Installing TA with all the bits can be a bit of a trial: for most general problems consult Infogrames' TA support pages for PC or Mac. AFAIK, most of the custom mods apply (or at least assume) you're playing on a PC. However, since many custom add-ons are merely data files, they should be platform independent. The standard TA game data file (.ufo format) will work, but most downloads are in PC .zip archives. Good luck! Here's a few Mac related TA Links.


Yes! With Cavedog gone, try Gamespot's TA downloads page.


Infogrames (now Atari)'s FAQ & Support page, including Downloads: the last remaints of Total Annihilation's official presence on the Internet... :(

Cavedog's old FAQ (mirrored at FileUniverse)

Configuring a Router for playing TA online + other TA tweaks, by Switeck

TCBW's excellent Total Annihilation support pages

Everything you need is probably found at

Cheat Codes from TAUniverse

Online Gaming Resources page from TAUniverse

GameFAQ's downloadable TA:CC guide


Up to 10 players on IPX Internet or LAN TCP/IP, and direct TCP/IP games.

2 player Modem or Serial connection

This is an old DirectPlay game. Cavedog strongly recommended you download and install DirectPlay 6.1a.

Excessive unit limits can lead to strangled 56K modem connections, confused gameplay, and traffic snarled units. Broadband however...


Big and clunky for the most part; maps aren't disseminated by game server:
.ota & .tnt format maps go into the TA/maps folder which you may have to create
.ufo format maps go into the main TA game folder
.hpi format files are object library files for maps

Maps sometimes have a small .gif or .jpg preview file associated with them

NOTE: map library files (.hpi format) are required for some custom maps. Download the TAMEC2000.hpi file and its add-ons from TAMEC and save it to the main game directory.


Arm: Light, fast, technological superior good guys. Arm generally has more tricks up its sleeve, and is probably a little bit easier to play in the early game.

Core: Slow, clunky, heavily armed and better armoured bad guys. Core is slower, but more implacable. And they get the Krogoth.


Veritable horde of different types (150 types in original game, 75 added in the Core Contingency expansion, dozens added separately by Cavedog, and several thousand added by the fans)

Units can be issued endless movement and order queues, are reasonably self sufficient with elephantine memories, and you can hold down SHIFT to see your queued orders.

Unit Limit: 250 - download the totala.ini file to increase it to 500

There's even a 5000 unit patch by the Swedish Yank Spankers

Ground, Air, Naval (on and under water), Amphibious (Hovercraft, swimming K-Bots, submersible tanks), Ballistic, Tactical (nukes and other silo based weapons) plus many defensive structures

No Heroes - except your Commander, of course

The IQ of the unit's ability to navigate is determined by how many you select. TA seems to conserve CPU cycles by using different path finding algorithms based on the number of selected units being ordered about. (Either that, or it just takes longer to plot paths with more units) The higher the number of mobile units built in a game, the more stupidly bumbling they become for everybody.


Metal and Energy is required for both construction, repair and some weapon usage

Resources are infinite, but access to them is limited - exceed your usage and production slows dramatically; anything using energy will start to malfunction

Resources are extracted, produced or stored by dozens of specialized structure types

Trees and other plants can be reclaimed for extra energy, while rocks and the metal wreckage of dead units can be reclaimed for extra metal. Wreckage can actually become a very lucrative resource in large battles.


No research model

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Last reclaimed Tue, Apr 24 2007 by Lindsay Fleay.