FAQ Updated: October, 2008
Edited (sections removed): July, 2009

For more details, check the readme that comes with your download of TA:ESC.

Installation | Introduction | Q&A | Gameplay Changes





INSTALLATION

To install TA:ESC please follow these simple instructions:

To start, ensure that you have a clean install of TA, including the Core Contingency expansion pack (ccdata.ccx) and the official Cavedog 3.1 patch (Rev31.gp3). The Battle Tactics expansion pack (btdata.ccx) is not required, but is fully compatible if available. If you are not sure what a clean install of TA should look like, please refer to the ‘Clean TA’ section a little further below. When you’re ready, you’ll just need to follow these easy steps:

- Step 1: If you have downloaded TA:ESC, you’re already well on your way. Now, move your existing copy of Rev31.gp3 to a backup folder of your choosing. All official Cavedog downloadable units (i.e. Necro, Fark, etc.) and 3rd party units or modifications must be removed or moved to your backup folder as these are not compatible with TA:ESC (these units are also included in TA:ESC already). If a previous version of TA:ESC is installed, you must also move or delete these file(s) as well (ie. TA:ESC 1.0, etc.). You do not need to remove any 3rd party or TA:ESC map and animation data, but some maps may contain weapon IDs that may conflict with TA:ESC (see below).

- Step 2: (Optional) Install TA Demo Recorder (TADR) 99b2 or greater. This program is highly recommended for enhanced multiplayer gaming and allows you to watch previously played multiplayer games - even in 3D! Version 99b2 is included with TA:ESC for optional install and it is automatically upgraded to version 1.02 when you install the files in Step 3

- Step 3: Next, extract the contents of the TA:ESC zip file into your TOTALA folder. These files include a new Rev31.gp3 file, Dplayx.dll, Dplayx.map, revised Totala.ini file, and the Readme file. Occasionally, bonus files may be included as well. Typically, these files are optional and are not necessary to play TA:ESC, but offer enhanced features and/or units (typically for beta testing). If the version of TA:ESC you are currently installing does not include bonus unit files, be sure to remove or backup any bonus unit files that are already in your TOTALA folder as these are probably not compatible with the current version

- Step 4: Now start TA to confirm the TA:ESC introduction screen is displayed and matches the current version of TA:ESC (the version you downloaded). If the TA:ESC splash screen does not show up and you instead see the standard TA intro screen, then you did not properly follow the steps above. Please refer to the troubleshooting section below.

- Step 5: IMPORTANT! - You must set your default game resolution to 1024x768 or higher. You can make this change in the Options section under Single-Player mode or in the Multi-Player Battle Room. Running TA:ESC at any resolution less than 1024x786 (i.e. 800x600 or 640x480) will result in a game crash as soon as your Commander is selected in game. The increased resolution is required in order to support the extended build menus detailed in the New Features section below.

- Step 6: If you made it here you’re probably good to go, but you should also take few minutes to learn about the features of TA:ESC detailed in this Readme file. Also, if you follow the development of this modification closely, you’ll want to review specific add, moves, changes detailed in the Changelog file (subsequent versions). Lastly, you may want to join in with the TA:ESC online community and discuss your opinions, suggestions, likes, dislikes, etc. All are welcome and the more the merrier. You can find us here.


Clean TA Install

Please note that a clean install of TA is defined as the original game install, followed by the official expansion pack(s), and then the Cavedog 3.1 patch. Each must be installed in the proper order and prior to any 3rd party units, tools, or other accessories (including TA:ESC). The correct install order is as followed:

1.) Total Annihilation (required!)
2.) Core Contingency (required!)
3.) Battle Tactics (optional)
4.) 3.1 Patch (required!)
5.) TA Demo Recorder 99b2 or greater (optional)
6.) TA:ESC Rev31.gp3 (overwrites previous - required!)
7.) Dplayx.dll and Dplayx.map (overwrites previous if installed − required!)
8.) Totala.ini (revised 1000 units per side − required!)
9.) TA:ESC add-on unit packs, if any (optional, but required in multiplayer on all PCs if used)

If you have any difficulties with getting TA:ESC to work properly with your TA setup, you may want to reinstall TA (in a new/empty folder) in the order above. In almost every case, this will solve any installation difficulties.


Core Contingency

Unfortunately, not everyone with Total Annihilation has the excellent Core Contingency (CC) expansion pack that was also released by Cavedog. If you do not have CC, it is highly recommended that you secure a copy from either eBay or any other online auction or game trader site. Not only will you get a series of all new missions, you’ll also ensure that your Total Annihilation install is fully compatible with TA:ESC. For various legal reasons, despite TA’s relative age, the CC files cannot be added to TA:ESC in full. There are other, more nefarious means of obtaining CC files online, but full compatibility with TA:ESC cannot be guaranteed with these files and you may run into difficulties with game stability.




INTRODUCTION

TA:ESC, (Total Annihilation: Escalation) is a complete modification (mod) of the original Total Annihilation (OTA) game released originally in 1997. As a modification, TA:ESC introduces a considerable amount of changes to OTA. Some may question the need to modify a classic game like Total Annihilation, but our goals in this regard are far reaching and can be summed up as follows:

- Ensure the relative usefulness of every unit via unit rebalancing and additional new units where necessary. A particularly significant issue with OTA for many players was that only a handful of units proved useful in competitive, multi-player scenarios, creating in essence a narrower spectrum of strategy and a very high degree of reflexes required to compete. Rather than cater to a limited audience of elite level gamers, TA:ESC seeks to broaden the gaming experience to more players who want to get the most out of TA’s strategic elements as well as game play.

- Implement greater strategic game play elements into TA. Units and features that previously were next to impossible or simply too complex to run in TA can now be made available thanks to advances in computing power over the last 10 years. Massive war machines, teleportation, shields, upgrades, and a host of other innovations are now viable in TA and this has in turn opened up traditionally smaller games into grand strategy conflicts, adding entirely new possibilities for the TA gaming experience.

- Modernize the TA experience with enhanced models, FX, GUIs, maps, and animations. As innovative as OTA was when it was released, it looks a bit dated compared with recent RTS titles. In TA:ESC, virtually every aspect of the original game has been updated to ‘current’ standards while striving to preserve the look and feel of an official Cavedog expansion.

In short, TA:ESC can be described as an effort to combine new creative elements and game play concepts, and fuse them into a seamless package that improves upon the Original Total Annihilation (OTA) experience.

TA:ESC is built on the foundations of two very successful TA based mods − Talon and TAWP. As a fusion of these two recent undertakings, TA:ESC offers the ‘best of both worlds’ as TAWP and Talon have proven among the more successful and innovative mods over the last few years. Both Talon and TAWP also owe their success to many other efforts that came before and during their development. The Uberhack (UH) and Devolution mods, along with the works of intrepid developers such as Zwzsg, Sinclaire, Archdragon, Storm, Zodius, and many others also make up the TA:ESC’s mosaic of influence. Therefore, as an amalgamation of many efforts drawn together, TA:ESC is what we hope to be the ‘ultimate’ TA community based mod, featuring just about everything you could ask for and much more.

If you are unfamiliar with TAWP, Talon or TA mods in general, there is no need to worry. Everything that you need to know to get started with TA:ESC is provided here. There are literally hundreds of new changes from the original game, many of which are outlined in more detail in the unit description sections below as well as the more detailed Changelog file. There are also a few surprises that you’ll have to find yourself as you progress through the game.




Q&A

The following is intended to answer some of your likely questions and concerns with TA:ESC. Not every aspect of the mod is covered, however, and for those questions that still require answering, you are encouraged to keep playing. In many instances during game play you may find your questions being answered indirectly as there is (at least in theory) a particular logic to the way the game has been restructured. In any event, I will be happy to address any issues online at the TA Universe forums (tauniverse.com).


GETTING STARTED

The game starts up, but as soon as I select my commander, the game crashes!
Your resolution is likely set below 1024x768. A resolution of 1024x768 or higher is required to play TA:ESC as it utilizes an extended menu format. Please note that wide-screen formats will work just as well so long as the second number in the resolution set is at least 768 (e.g. 1280x768 or higher).

The game crashes before the load screen even completes!
This is likely a problem with additional 3rd party units. TA:ESC is a fully self contained mod and is not compatible with other 3rd party units or mods. You’ll want to be sure that any non-TA:ESC units or mods are moved to another folder to ensure that TA:ESC loads correctly. If the problem persists, you may also have an issue with the map you selected missing features. This is sometimes the case with 3rd party maps which require additional features packs (e.g. TAMEC2004.hpi, etc.). Although TA:ESC is compatible with most reviewed TAMEC maps and TAMEC2004.hpi, you’ll need to be sure that the map you are playing does not use special units, weapons, or features not part of the TAMEC feature set.

The game still crashes!
At this point a clean reinstallation of TA is recommended (after backing up any 3rd party data you may still want). Please refer to the Installation section above for details on reinstalling TA.

Despite everything the game still doesn’t work! There must be a bug!
Unlikely, as the mod has been tested extensively on a host of systems without any problems reported. However, if you are certain that your TA install is setup correctly and there are still problems, please stop by the forums at tauniverse.com and I will try and assist with your issue.




GAME PLAY / UNIT CHANGES

What specific changes are included in TA:ESC? I want a list of everything that has changed!
As stated earlier, not every change is detailed in this document, especially those that do not deviate significantly from OTA. Most of the major game changes are covered here however. You may find that part of the challenge (and fun) with TA:ESC is discovering many of the tweaks and cosmetic changes, not to mention Easter eggs, that are not mentioned here. Documented changes from this version as well as previous builds are always recorded in a change log format included with this download.

My Flash raids are ineffective - I usually win games in the first five minutes!
Defenses such as the Immolator and Exploiter provide an effective response to Flash swarms. Improved AKs, Instigators and Raiders even have the ability to conduct raids of their own. Arm also has a number of mobile and defensive improvements, including improved Stumpies, Warriors, and the new Claw lightning defense.

My rocket towers, and AA vehicles / Kbots won’t fire at ground units!
Following the same change that was originally introduced in UH, this is easily the most controversial change found in TA:ESC as well. In many respects, most of the anti-air units in OTA proved their worth more as ground attack units than as AA, rendering many other ground attack units borderline obsolete. While it can be argued that AA units where not just intended to fire only at AA units, reducing the effectiveness of a dual purpose alternative proved an unsatisfactory experience in early UH versions and is avoided here. Considering the relative improvement to other defenses, however, along with the necessity of skillfully applying combined defenses as opposed to just laying down vast quantities of ‘MT’ forests, you may find this change more challenging, and therefore more worthwhile. Rather than arguing the change though, give it shot. After all, there are a vast number of tactical alternatives to be explored than just the infamous dozen or so units you may already be used to.

My advanced fighters won’t fire at ground units any more!
Inverse to UH (where basic fighters cannot fire at ground units), Stealth fighters now serve as Escorts-Interceptors and are therefore assigned to an air superiority only role. This change, as controversial as it might seem, actually makes the air units they support (Gunships and Bombers) even better. Furthermore, the scourge of the dreaded ‘Hawk Swarm’ and the logic defying ‘Super Hawk Stack’ are altogether eliminated.

I cannot locate the unit I am looking to build − it seems to be missing from the build menu.
A number of units have been relocated to new build queues depending on the unit changes described earlier. Units that are substantially more powerful in TA:ESC have likely been moved to the Advanced or Experimental build tiers (Level 2 and Level 3 respectively) or in some cases, moved to the basic (Level 1) build tier to reflect improved balancing.

Why the new Advanced Bombers? There was nothing wrong with the OTA ones!
In short, a number of things were wrong with the OTA advanced bombers. To start, they were essentially near duplicates of their basic counterparts (with merely the addition of more bombs and a defensive laser). The longer answer begins with the issue of unintended line bombing (which is more manageable balance-wise with the Level 1 bombers) and lagging lasers. Line bombing, when used as intended, involves dropping a portion of your payload on one target, and then skillfully dropping the rest on another target - all in one pass. Unintended use of line bombing involves a method of dropping continuous, repeating payloads of bombs (again requiring patience and skill). The latter mechanism is extremely powerful and when used in conjunction with a large of number of bombers can devastate a large base or army. As our intention is to create a balanced and fair simulation where strategy prevails (and not an arcade game where secret mouse/key manipulations must be mastered), we’ve simplified bombers to function as expected within the confines of their role.

&# Where did the original Vulcan, Buzzsaw, and Cloakable Fusions go?
As cited above many units have been designated to different tech levels and therefore to different construction units or factories. These specific units have each been moved to the new Level 3 build tier.

What is the point of moving these units to Level 3?
You’ll find that these units have been significantly enhanced with strategic game play possibilities. Buzzsaws and Vulcans for example, can end a game in a matter of minutes, and an Experimental Fusion can easily provide the needed energy to power an entire base. Each of these units represents the pinnacle of the technology tree − they are not needed to win a game and are excessively expensive, but each could change your fortunes when you need it most.

The Teleporters don’t seem to be working properly in multi-player games.
Make sure that all players have the exact same versions of TA:ESC and that everyone has the same totala.ini file (or at least the same max unit count in the totala.ini file). Teleporters are very sensitive units and they are scripted specifically to each version of TA:ESC. Adding unsupported units to TA:ESC may or may not cause problems with these units, but it is best to remove any non-TA:ESC units as well.

Certain units refuse to fire!
Check your totala folder and remove any non-TA:ESC units or mods as these will likely cause weapon ID conflicts.

Krogoth is too powerful − nothing can stop it!
Vastly improved Shooters along with the dreaded Raptor are excellent ‘counters’ to the Krogoth. Although no longer capable of being stunned by Spiders, unescorted Krogoths make relatively easy targets against large detachments of Mavericks, Bulldogs and Penetrators as well. One of the most effective strategies against a Krogoth, however, is to prevent it from being built in the first place. Consider taking out the Krogoth Gantry with a bomber wing or gunship assault as another alternative.

Krogoth is too weak − other unit improvements render it worthless!
The Krogoth has been vastly improved, sporting even more armor, base penetrating gauss cannons, and the ability to cross most bodies of water. It must be used with caution though given the relative improvements (and additions) of other units. Providing escorts, both planes and ground units (or even subs when needed) will greatly improve Krogoth’s effectiveness. A combination of mobile radar / jamming and a targeting device do even further wonders.

The Vulcan and Buzzsaw both have too much range!
They have also been moved to Level 3, cost more to build, and do less damage than their OTA cousins. RFLRPCs are intended to be strategic weapons, which by their cost should have strategic implications in battle. One of the best defenses as with other powerful units is to prevent them from being built in the first place. Remember also that it takes far less Bombers (in terms of costs) to dispatch an offending RFLRPC. If your enemy builds such a weapon, consider what you have been building in equal measure.


NEW UNITS

Arm does not need Krogoth counter(s)!
Perhaps, but well balanced and different counters are fun, especially if they fit in nicely with Arm’s other units. The original Raptor by TADD was by far the best of the early Krogoth counters. The TA:ESC version, a heavily modified creation originally from Mayhem and Xubor, is an excellent spiritual successor. The powerful Empyrean and Armageddon offer even more compelling counter options, but none are themselves a true counter to Krogoth’s unique and powerful capabilities.

My Omni Sensor Tower will not switch options!
In order for either unit to work properly, you must deselect and currently enabled options before activating (selecting) a new one. When deselecting an option, make sure there is no number associated with the option on the build menu.

The B.F.G. and Armageddon are insane − I can’t defend against it!
As with the RFLRPCs, these new uber-cannons are strategic weapons. The B.F.G. and Armageddon, however, are far more powerful being able to hit targets twice as far away or further. Given their enormous costs, they are game enders in every respect and must be prevented from being built by your enemy at all cost. As effectively the most powerful weapons in game, these units are designed to break hardened defenses − aggressive attacks by any means are always the best option in dealing with this threat.