Updated 12/2002

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What is the ÜberHack (UH)?

The ÜberHack is a copy of Cavedog's REV31.GP3 patch data file that has been extensively modified and rebuilt by BSR with the help of the TAEC crew and the UberHack Forum regulars. Since its beginning, the UH has had several goals. Among them,

  1. Fix all known bugs in existing units, including typos, script errors, missing textures, and other problems (like EMG lag).
  2. Make multiplayer TA more tactically diverse and versatile by introducing new shortcut keys, new units, and tweaks to existing units.
  3. Every unit should be useful, but no unit should make another obsolete or unnecessary. Balance and side distinctiveness should be maintained.
  4. TA with UH must be as least as stable as regular TA.

The "ÜberHack" is a massive, sweeping, all-encompassing TA mod, certainly the biggest and most ambitious project we've ever undertaken. Some will love it, because it strengthens Arm and Core weak areas, smooths out some imbalances, and in general means you can choose your side based on which one is your favorite, not whether you're playing a rush map or not. Others will hate it, because it strengthens Arm and Core weak areas and smooths out some imbalances ... but also because many Cavedog units have been tweaked.

It's true. The impact of the changes hasn't been so severe for us (speaking of the development and testing crew), but to someone who hasn't been "in" during the ÜberHack development, I imagine it could be kinda overwhelming. Core can win on a rush map? Arm has a stronger late game? Zeuses are useful? Hawks and Slashers are almost useless against ground-based units? Avengers are worth building? Stumpies and Raiders are worthwhile? The Warrior fires a laser?!

Look at it this way ...

It's like having a new game to play with, instead of fighting the same battles. The ÜberHack is about having more options with Arm than building as many Flashes as you can and overrunning your enemy. It's about being able to defend against a Flash rush, and to counter with an Instigator raid. The ÜberHack is about having more strategic options than ever before, and no useless units.

This mod has given TA new life for those of us who've tested it during development. It's become the new standard for our multiplayer games, and created a vast world of new strats and options that we still haven't fully explored, yet. In our test games, the array of offensive and defensive strats is so vast and versatile, we're still discovering new combinations.

How does the UH work?

Running TA requires two things: the game EXE (which contains the oft-referred-to "game engine"), and the TA data files. The data files include almost everything you see in the game ... the maps, trees, rocks, units, animations, and so on. Each patch that Cavedog released for TA included a new data file. TA reads these files in a certain order, and the data in some has priority over the others. In other words, if a newer patch file contained a different version of the Arm Flash, those statistics would be used instead of the older ones.

The last major patch that Cavedog released was accompanied by a file named REV31.GP3. As with the others, unit models, statistics, and animations in REV31.GP3 are used instead of older ones. UH works by replacing Cavedog's REV31.GP3 with a copy in which various bugs have been fixed and many of the Cavedog units have been tweaked (or, in a few cases, changed fairly dramatically). Modifying this file also allows more radical alterations, like factories whose exits face one of four directions, and the Extended Menus mod with twelve-button build pages.

The UH setup also includes the "Switcher" program. This tiny, one-dialog program lets you switch between regular TA and TA+UH quickly and easily. The Switcher also tells you your current IP address, as well as providing buttons for Hosting or Joining a TA game.

Does UH require Core Contingency?

Yes, you must own Total Annihilation: The Core Contingency for the UH to work. Although the UH mod is based on a modified copy of the TA Patch 3.1 data file, practically every file that was already included in the CCDATA.CCX file has been removed. This means that the UH data file is smaller than the original 3.1 data file, and it also means that the UH version of REV31.GP3, unlike the original, is not complete without the Core Contingency data file.

The Cavedog version of REV31.GP3 is so large because they intentionally designed it so that you could apply Patch 3.1 even if you didn't own Core Contingency. The UH, by contrast, was designed to work on a machine with both TA:CC and the 3.1 patch already installed. If you don't own CC, you should! It's probably the single best expansion ever released for a game, and was well worth the original price, much more so now ... several months later and many dollars cheaper. If you've never installed Patch 3.1, you should go to cavedog.com and do so ... patch 3.1 includes the Battle Tactics units, pathfinding improvements, and more.

And, a bit of pseudo-legalese to satisfy the rogue litigators out there ... everything of and pertaining to Total Annihilation, including the Arm and Core logos, the "Core Contingency" title, the units therein, and so on is solely owned by GT Interactive and protected by their copyrights. The UH mod was developed independently using third-party tools; it is intended as a complimentary modification to TA and TA:Core Contingency, and nothing within it should be interpreted as a challenge of any sort to Cavedog's legal ownership of these intellectual properties.

Finally, I feel obligated to mention that Cavedog does not (and has never) endorse third-party mods of any sort. This mod and all of its components were developed by myself and the TAEC crew, outside the auspices of Cavedog and without their approval. For Cavedog to embrace a third-party mod created under such circumstances would be legally problematic at best, and IMHO we should content ourselves with the fact that while they don't endorse our efforts, they don't discourage us either as long as we stay within reasonable limits.

What's the current version of UH?

Version 4.0 is the current mod.

What new Shortcut Keys does UH add?

This table lists all of the CTRL+(letter) shortcut keys in TA, both the original ones and the ones added by UH. For shortcuts added by UH, the table also indicates what version they first appeared in. The in-game Help (accessed from the F2 menu) also lists these keys for reference.

CTRL+ASelect All units
CTRL+BSelect all construction (Builder) units
CTRL+CSelect Commander
CTRL+DSelf-Destruct selected unit(s)
UH 1.0CTRL+ESelect all gunships
CTRL+FSelect all Factories
UH 1.0CTRL+GSelect all mobile Ground units with weapons
UH 1.0CTRL+HSelect all Hovercraft with weapons
CTRL+ITab menu
UH 1.1CTRL+JSelect all metal-making and cloakable structures
UH 1.0CTRL+KSelect all Kbots with weapons
UH 3.0CTRL+LSelect all LRPC, silo, and anti-missile units
CTRL+MSelect all Mines
UH 1.0CTRL+NSelect all Naval units with weapons
UH 1.0CTRL+OSelect all fighter planes
CTRL+PSelect all Planes with weapons
UH 1.0CTRL+QSelect all bombers
CTRL+RSelect all Radar/sonar/jammer units
CTRL+SSelect all units on Screen
UH 3.0CTRL+TSelect all Transports
UH 1.0CTRL+USelect all Underwater units with weapons
UH 3.0CTRL+VSelect all Vehicles with weapons
UH 3.0CTRL+WSelect all units with anti-air Weapons
UH 1.0CTRL+XSelect all defensive units
UH 1.0CTRL+YSelect all torpedo bombers
CTRL+ZSelect all units of the currently-selected type(s)

What bug fixes and tweaks does UH include?

Note that this list is only current through 3.0. I'll try to update it for 4.0 as time permits.

A simple question with a long answer. At this point in the project, the vast majority of Cavedog's original units have recieved at least one tweak ... most small, a few large. Because there's just far too many things to list all at once, I've broken them down by category. Click here to see the complete list on a separate page.

3.0Adv. ConstructionIncreased speed
2.0CommanderTweaked laser, extended build menu
2.0ConstructionIncreased build distance
1.1Decoy CommLooks identical on F1, can capture, added "Fake D-Gun" and limited build menu
EraserJamming field temporarily deactivates if damaged
2.0FidoCan fire gauss or ballistic (Special)
3.0FleaFaster turret, added climbing, switched weapon to Jeffy laser
HammerIncreased range and activation speed, fixed script bugs
3.0InfiltratorAdded jamming, smaller cloak radius, short-range radar, regeneration, sabotage mine
2.0InvaderShort Self-D countdown, faster movement
2.0JethroAA missile is now air-only, faster missile/better tracking
MaverickIncreased delay for putting away guns
2.0OrionAdded range, climbing, stealth, and silent/invisible sniper weapon
2.0PelicanFixed waterline bug; stronger laser, faster movement, air-only AA missile
2.0PeeweeFaster turret, +50 armor
3.0SpiderFormerly a vehicle, now smaller and faster; reduced stun duration
3.0WarriorChanged weapon to light laser, 50% EMG/Red laser resistance
ZeusImproved speed, aiming, tolerance, armor, and weapon draw speed
ZipperChanged weapon to EMG burst, increased speed and aiming

What new units does UH add?

The best place to see descriptions and pictures of these is over at BSR's TA Toybox, but here's a quick summary of the additional third-party units included with UH 4.0:

Advanced Air Repair PadRepairs up to four aircraft simultaneously
AnemoneShoreline depthcharge launcher
BadgerA medium tank with laser-reflective armor
CenturionStationary starburst missile battery
Decoy FusionA low-cost replica of the real thing
DevastatorA massive, multi-barrel gatling gauss cannon
DragonflyAn advanced transport that can paralyze and kidnap enemies
Dragon's ClawPop-up short-range lightning gun disguised as DT
Dragon's EyeTiny sentry cameras for extending your LOS
EMP MineSurprises and paralyzes an invading Core army
Floating Radar TowerFor radar coverage on naval maps
Floating Targeting FacilityA floating version of the regular targeting facility
Floating Hovercraft PlantA variant of the Hovercraft Plant, built on water
GremlinArm's new fast-moving Stealth Tank
HarvesterConverts geothermal energy to metal more efficiently
LemmingSmall, 4WD bombs for clearing trees
Metal GeneratorA self-contained, cloakable metal production facility
Pit BullPop-up gauss cannon
SabreA fast, manueverable seaplane gunship
Sharks's EyeTiny sentry cameras for extending your LOS underwater
TickA sneaky Kbot that can paralyze and capture the enemy
TridentNaval bob-up medium-range plasma battery
TsunamiPowerful seaplane bomber
Underwater Moho Metal MakerProduces metal from energy safely underwater
Underwater Moho MineExtracts three times as much metal from underwater deposits
Underwater Nuclear MineA sunken variant for destroying subs and ships
VeilRadar jammer tower

Advanced Air Repair PadRepairs up to four aircraft simultaneously
BehemothGeothermal-powered tribarrel plasma battery
CutlassA heavy, powerful seaplane gunship
Dragon's EyeTiny sentry cameras for extending your LOS
ExploiterAn armed, EMG-resistant metal extractor
Floating Radar TowerFor radar coverage on naval maps
Floating Targeting FacilityA floating version of the regular targeting facility
Floating Hovercraft PlantA variant of the Hovercraft Plant, built on water
JellyfishShoreline depthcharge launcher
KrakenNaval bob-up medium-range plasma battery
MaelstromSeaplane strategic bomber
MantaA tiny spy sub that can de-activate the Fibber
Metal GeneratorA self-contained, cloakable metal production facility
Moho ExploiterAn armored weapons platform disguised as a Moho Mine
NautilusSinister capture sub
Neutron MineDestroys Arm mobile units
ScorpionMinelayer Kbot
Sharks's EyeTiny sentry cameras for extending your LOS underwater
ShroudRadar jammer tower
SkuttleA cloakable Crawling Bomb
Underwater Moho Metal MakerProduces metal from energy safely underwater
Underwater Moho MineExtracts three times as much metal from underwater deposits
Underwater Nuclear MineA sunken variant for destroying subs and ships
WidowmakerPop-up long range plasma cannon

Which extra weapon IDs does UH use?

Since the beginning of the UH project, we've tried to keep the amount of extra weapon IDs used as small as possible ... creating a new weapon only when no existing Cavedog weapon could quite fulfill the required role. This table is provided as a public service to any other third-party developers who might be curious about UH compatibility:

ID 220Widowmaker salvo-fire plasma cannon
ID 229Dragonfly paralyzer
ID 232Podger/Spoiler anti-mine rocket
ID 233Gremlin gauss gun
ID 234Fido ballistic cannon
ID 235Neutron Mine
ID 237Non-firing missile used by mobile AA units
ID 238Decoy Commander fake D-Gun
ID 239AI Jammer "weapon" (BAI+UH)
ID 242EMP Mine
ID 243Moho Exploiter rocket battery
ID 244Manta anti-jammer torpedo
ID 247Anemone/Jellyfish coaxial depthcharge
ID 248Devastator gauss gun
ID 249Lemming explosion
ID 251Hacker paralyzer
ID 252Behemoth plasma cannon
ID 253AI nuclear missile (BAI)
ID 254Pit Bull gauss cannon
ID 255Centurion starburst rocket

Where can I find other UH players?

The first place to look is the UBERHACK chat room of the Phoenix Worx gaming client. You can also go to the UberHack forum at TA Universe, which is where most of the discussion about UH takes place.

How do you decide what changes should be made?

Changes are discussed in the UberHack Forum at TA Universe and play-tested by the forum regulars for gameplay value, balance, and stability. These mods are not the work of one professional geek, obsessively modeling and scripting for untold hours on his computer at home. The TAEC crew were also kind enough to lend their time, contributions, and enthusiasm to downloading the endless updates and playtesting them against each other and against the AIs.

Thanks to the original TAECers (most of whom have departed for other games): Ahnteis, Nightfire, WhiteWulf, LORD-Orion, Flynn, IronWall, Lord Admiral, Guener, Blaze Fire, Fleetfoot, Gecko, ActiveX Man, Ignatz and everyone else I'm sure to have forgotten. Special thanks to WhiteWulf, whose graphic talents produced the UH splash screen featuring the Behemoth.

More thanks to everyone who's shown up in the forums contributed your suggestions, comments, and criticisms to the discussion (as well as finding problems that I missed)! You guys are the ones we created this mod for, after all.

More gratitude to Kristi and Dean, my sister and former co-worker, who lent their time to testing UH in its earliest, most poorly-balanced stages. (because I copied the files to their machines when they were away from their desks ... ;^)

Endless thanks to my long-suffering girlfriend/kindred soul JoAnne for putting up with me through the years that I've worked obsessively on this mod, for occasionally pulling me away from it, and for letting me put my L5 game on such a long hiatus so I could finish the UH.

Bonus thanks to the UH Forum and TA Universe regulars (past and present) who contributed suggestions, feedback, bug reports, and their support ... Drakken, Gray, Choff, TechnoTone, Totbuae, Avalanche, CamTarn, Shadow2097, Warsmith, Xeno, Commander, CORE, Recon, Dark Rain, Crispy, twocat, J_Tanner, Switeck, HANSOLO21, [Delerium], David, Spunkmonkey, Gondi, NJ_THUG, UberFan, Icarus, qDaddy, bijanki, Quitch, Zeppelin, JoeB, Marco, Viperion, EMG Man, Pawz, NightShade, Halo, Eclipser, and everyone else whose forgiveness I ask for forgetting to list them. Kudos to MadRat for the idea of making the Decoy Commander deception even more convincing by adding limited Build Menus to them. Special thanks to Wolfshund for spending several evenings with us testing out the UH and for contributing his experience and insights to the mod.

Thanks and kudos to Immerman for his Transport Fix that made the UH transports possible, for his help in fixing another transport bug caused by a script compiler problem, and for his continuing work on third-party TA utilities ... including (but not limited to) 3DO Builder+ and his latest creation, the TA:Mutation program.

Many thanks as well to HANSOLO21 of the Star Wars TA project for the info on using GUI files to section and/or completely reconfigure the TA menus. His input was the one thing that made the multi-directional factories in UH 3.0 practical instead of just possible; we had all but discarded the idea until SOLO volunteered that tip.

Additional thanks to Xeno, for the idea of the Big Buttons for nukes and anti-nukes, to NJ_THUG for contributing his graphics talents to rendering the excellent-looking pics, and to the A.com forum crew for refusing to let the subject drop until I finally realized what a cool-looking improvement it was for the silo units.

The build pics for the new units that UH adds were created by Silencer of TA-Power, who also produced the UH-specific version of the Spider Pack included with version 4.0.

Finally, continued gratitude to the now-defunct Cavedog for producing a great game that's held my attention and enthusiasm longer than any other ... to the Forum regulars whose support makes it so much fun to produce new AIs, mods, and toyz ... to Joe D, who started it all ... to Kinboat, for his endless hours spent producing utilities like the original 3DO Builder, GAF Builder, and Annihilator ... to DCS for releasing the Cobbler script compiler and the Uncobbler ... and finally to TADD for doing a great job of making unit-design tools available to everyone.

Is UH compatible with TAUIP? What about TA Bugfix?

Is UH compatible with TAUIP? No. These two add-ons should both be considered worthy, but separate. UH seeks to modify the original Cavedog units to make every one of them worth building, while TAUIP adds several all-new units instead. In general, the "purist" form of UH (TAEC.UFO units only) has been tested at great length for completeness and balance; any or all other third-party units may or may not be compatible both technically and philosophically.

That doesn't mean that no other 3P units are compatible with UH, though, or that the selection of units in UH is absolutely complete. At least two TAEC forum regulars have assembled collections of other third-party units that are designed and adapted for UH compatibility. I recommend visiting the public Forum at TAEC if you're curious about their work.

TA Bugfix is another animal entirely. TA Bugfix and UH should always be considered separate mods, because they're intended for different audiences. Bugfix is designed for those who want the various stat and animation bugs in TA fixed, but aren't interested in the extensive rebalancing or unit tweaks that UH includes. Because there was a great deal of idea-sharing in the TAEC forum, UH and Bugfix include most of the same fixes.

What are you going to work on next?

The ÜberHack is my TA Magnum Opus. It's the single biggest and most far-reaching TA mod that I've produced or could have conceived, including a few dozen of my own original units. By my count, we've modified almost every one of the original Cavedog units, and in the majority of those cases those modifications include recompiling scripts, altering the original models, rearranging GUIs, changing build/F1 pics, and/or rebuilding complex GAFs in addition to the stat and weapon tweaking.

It's been a huge effort spanning over four years, and not just in the development. The amount of time it's taken to test all of these mods, and to measure how they affect the overall game in terms of balance, "side feel," and other intangible aspects is staggering. In many cases, we've changed something only to realize later that "Cavedog was right." In some instances, we've had to think hard about roles for units, and modified things to fill gaps in the original games. There were a lot of "useless" units in the original TA, after all ... the mobile artilleries, Penetrator, Zeus, Warrior, Stumpy, and others come to mind. Coming up with purposes for these that don't overlap or obsolete other units is very tricky.

Heh ... some will accuse us of heresy just for modifying the original Cavedog units. Some Arm fans will dislike the new Instigators. Others, however, will realize that now they can play an effective raiding game with Core ... or that Arm's new repertoire makes it more possible to stand up to Core in the late game ... or that the new Zipper is a tremendously effective raider, so that Arm still has the edge in that area.

Anyway, the ÜberHack will probably be my last Big Project for TA. I've got one more original unit idea in mind that I'd like to build, but for the most part this is it. Once again, I need to rest for a while. It's my hope that many TAers will find that the UH makes their multiplayer games more versatile and interesting than ever before, by giving each side new options and strats.

What's next? Maybe a Cthulhu mythos for Age of Mythology, if I get really ambitious.

BSR (December 2002)