Total Annihilation (abbr. TA) is a critically-acclaimed real-time strategy game created by Cavedog Entertainment and released on 30 September 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.
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, routine tasks.
The victory conditions of a multiplayer game generally involve the elimination of all enemy units, but the aim of single player campaign missions can be more specialized.
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 effectiveness of which may be hindered by fog of war, necessitating the use of radar units.
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 and knowledge of the opponent's strategies. 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.
Units that achieve 5 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 subsequent 5 kills.
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 called the Core (a contraction of "Consciousness Repository"). The Core's technological and economic triumphs have allowed humanity to colonise most of the Milky Way. However, peace is broken by a technological breakthrough which allows the consciousness of a human being to be transferred into a machine, thereby granting theoretical eternal life in a process called "patterning." Following a mandate imposed on humanity requiring everyone to undergo patterning, the Arm was formed, a rebel band formed out of colonies from the edges of the galaxy, whose members refused to leave their natural bodies - and their humanity - 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 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, while lava planets deny the player any form of naval combat whatsoever. Some have occasional weather conditions, such as lightly injurious 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 natural Empyrrean or the Core's artificial Core Prime.
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, due to the Swedish Yankspankers.
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.
It was recently named to Gamespot's The Greatest Games of All Time list of 50 games. 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.