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Total Annihilation


[ UnitUniverse Help ]
written by Gnome, updated Feb 28th 2006

  1. general TA information
  2. installing the game
  3. multiplayer
  4. game limitations
  5. load order
  6. installing stand-alone units
  7. installing mods/conversions
  8. installing races
  9. solving crash problems
 general TA
Total Annihilation was released in 1997, and in that time there have been two expansions and many patches for the game. These, coupled with the daunting amount of units and mods available for the game, can easily overwhelm any user, whether he's been playing TA for a week or a decade. We'll try to keep this help page easy to understand, so if you need further answers to your problems, please search or make a post on our forum rather than a unit comment page so your problem may be quickly solved.
 installing the
First, you should always make a clean installation of your game as a fresh basis for installing mods. Install the game in the following order (an explanation of each item follows):

  1. Total Annihilation (OTA)
  2. Total Annihilation: The Core Contingency (CC)
  3. Optional: Total Annihilation: Battle Tactics (BT)
  4. Browse to the folder you installed TA into (default is C:\Cavedog\Totala). Delete any folders that are in that location, if they exist.
  5. 3.1c Patch
  6. Six extra Cavedog units
  7. Optional: Your choice of a patch to increase the unit limit:
    • 500 units from Cavedog (stable)
    • Community-made 1500 or 5000 units
    Stability is not guaranteed past 500 units
  8. Optional: The TA Demo Recorder
  9. Optional: Mods or Conversions of your choice

File explanations:

  1. Total Annihilation is the first version of the game, which usually comes on two CDs: a multiplayer disc and a campaign disc. It's the core game, and required to play any version.
  2. The Core Contingency was the first official expansion pack for the game. It requires Total Annihilation to be installed, and patches up to version 3.0. This expansion is required for almost every addon unit or modification to work, and is not free. Check this thread on TAU for places to buy it.
  3. Battle Tactics was the second official expansion, and also requires TA to be installed. It contains 100 missions and a handful of multiplayer maps. It also is not free, but is not required to play modifications.
  4. Deleting Folders is necessary because they will sometimes confuse the 3.1c patch.
  5. 3.1c Patch is required for every player of the game, regardless of which expansions or mods you want to install or use. It is free.
  6. Six Extra Cavedog units were official bonus units made by Cavedog after the 3.1c patch. They are official units, so they must be installed. However, some modifications require you to uninstall them prior to playing; please read every mods documentation prior to playing it for specific details.
  7. Unit Limit Patches increase the in-game unit cap which limits how many units each player can have. This limit can be viewed at any time in game by pressing the space bar. The 500 unit patch is a simple ini (text) file; to install this patch, you merely need to place it in the TA installation folder, which is C:\Cavedog\Totala by default. The other patches for 1500 and 5000 units are program hacks. They do not cause damage to your computer, but they may make the game unstable. These patches are not supported, and if you experience problems with them, you should re-install the game and only use the 500 unit patch.
  8. TA Demo Recorder allows you to record and re-watch multiplayer games. It also adds some useful features to the game. Please refer to its documentation should you choose to install it.
 ^ top 
There are still a few locations to play TA online. However, most people do not use modifications online. There are a few people who play large modifications, such as Star Wars TA or Absolute Annihilation, but in general people use only Cavedog units. They choose to play with Original TA, The Core Contingency, the 3.1c patch, and the six extra units released after 3.1 (see above for details on installing these items). Also, the multiplayer community tends to play with few rules: 1000 starting energy and metal for all players, true line of sight, mapping turned on, no cheats, no metal maps, and no build times (build times are a time limit which means no player can attack before that time has expired). Bearing that in mind, here is where you can find multiplayer games:
  • PhoenixWorx
    A community made portal with the "Galactic War" metagame. PW is considered to be the most newbie friendly environment.
  • Gamespy Arcade
    Gamespy's portal for TA. Very few people play here.
  • TAUniverse IRC
    Generally friendly and helpful people, however it can be difficult to find a game at times. Try the #gnug and #tauniverse chat rooms.
  • WarZone
    A client made to replace MSN Zone, since Zone technically no longer supports TA. It was made by players of another game Zone dropped, but it works for TA.
WARNING: Be aware that TA can be quite difficult to use online. If you have a firewall, such as ZoneAlarm or even the Windows XP firewall, you need to tell it to allow Total Annihilation to access the internet. If you have a router, which shares your internet connection with multiple computers, you must forward some ports to play TA online:
2300-2400 (TCP/UDP inbound/outbound),
28800-29000 (same setting) and
47624 (TCP inbound/outbound)
If you need assistance forwarding these ports, please refer to PortForward.com. If you cannot forward these ports, it is unlikely that you will be able to play TA online.

Note: only one AI player (artificial intelligence, or computer player) is allowed per human player in a multiplayer game. There is no way to go around this limit.
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Before you may install modifications, there are three key limitations every player must know about:

  • The Total Annihilation engine only supports 511 unique units to be installed at one time. This limit is NOT the same as the in-game unit limit, which is 250 by default, or 500, 1500, or 5000 with the patches mentioned above. Once you install the game, the CC expansion, and the 3.1 patch, around 270 of these slots are used by Cavedog, leaving you to choose between around 230 units to install at one time. Going over this limit will crash the game.
  • Similarly, the TA engine has a limit of 256 unique weapons. As with units, a significant number of these IDs are used by official units. Most 3rd party units will not conflict with these Cavedog weapons, but they will often conflict with other 3rd party units. Overlapping weapons will generally not cause crashes, but it often causes odd behavior such as units firing missiles when they should fire lasers.
  • The third frequently encountered problem is overlapping build menu locations. As with weapons, 3rd party units often do not conflict with Cavedog units, but they do conflict with each other. This does not cause crashes, but it might make you miss out on some new units you downloaded.

Luckily, there are three tools to help resolve these issues:

  • TA Conflict Crusher will display how many units you have installed, how many weapons you have installed, which units conflict with each other, and which units overlap in the build menus. It can fix weapon and build menu conflicts quickly and easily. However, it will not allow you to surpass the 511 unique unit limit or 256 unique weapon limit.
  • TA Mutation will do much the same job as Conflict Crusher, however, its modifications are not permanent. Instead, it makes the changes after you choose which units to use. It provides an easy interface to quickly switch units, maps, and TA:M compatible modifications on and off. The downside is that TA:Mutation repacks all of your original TA data into one archive during the installation process so it is able to perform these tasks.
  • TA Commander works nearly the same as TA Mutation, except it does not require repacking your original TA data into one archive.

"What's this I hear about a patch to increase the 511 and 256 limits?"

The Swedish Yankspankers, developers of the Demo Recorder among other things, once derived a "patch" which increased the limit of installed units and weapons to numbers which even the entire UnitUniverse database cannot match. However, this patch had several problems:

  • It did not work in multiplayer at all.
  • It caused massive stability problems (meaning the game would crash frequently, sometimes even before it started).
  • It did not work for 9 out of 10 people.

Reportedly, four versions of the patch were made. The case is generally that of all or nothing though, if one version doesn't work for you, none are likely to. Due of its lack of stability and thus lack of popularity, it is obscure and hard to find. It is not recommended to look for it, since it does not work for the vast majority of people.
 ^ top 
 load order 
TA uses a home-made archive format called "HAPI." This format uses several different extensions: .hpi .ufo .ccx .gp3 All of these files are created exactly the same, they only have different extensions. However, the extensions make a difference when loading the game, because TA reads them in a specific order:

  1. Un=packed folders inside the TA folder
  2. .gp3 files
  3. .ccx files
  4. .ufo files
  5. .hpi files

This means that if you have the same file in a .hpi file and a .ccx file, the .ccx version will be used instead of the .hpi version. If the files have the same extension there is no clear definition of which content will be used.

WARNING: TA will usually run into errors if you have more than 10 or so files named with the .hpi extension. This problem does not occur with any other extension.

Note: there is only one .gp3 file that will used by TA, "rev31.gp3". It is installed by the 3.1c patch and replaced by some mods.

Note: some modifications choose to hack the game so it reads a different extension, such as Star Wars TA which uses .swx files. These mods still use the same archive format, but again, have just named the files with a different extension.
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 installing stand-
  alone units 
Stand-alone units, which make up a significant portion of our database, come in several varieties. Some are simply one file; others have several files in them and can be confusing. All units on UU are initially stored in a .zip archive. A .zip archive can be extracted natively in Windows XP, or by using a utility such as WinZip or WinRAR on any version of Windows. Whichever method you choose to use, please read its documentation if you are not sure how to perform the unzipping process.

Most units simply consist of one file. Commonly, this is a file with an extension of .ufo. To install these units, simply place the .ufo file in the same folder as Totala.exe, which is located in C:\Cavedog\Totala by default. IMPORTANT: if you install multiple units, they often have conflicts with other units. Please read the section on game limitations to resolve these conflicts.

Some units come with files that are named with an extension of .tdf. TDF files are one of the data files used by TA. These files are generally instructed to be placed in the "gamedata" folder inside of your TA folder, or may already be in a folder in the zip file. If you do not have this folder, create it. If you wish to use multiple units which have these TDF files, here is how you resolve this conflict:

Open both versions of the file in Notepad or a similar program. Inside you will see many blocks of text, called entries, that generally look like this:


To fix any problems, simply copy any entries from the new file, which do not exist in the old file, over to the old file. So if the [MyUnitYay] entry exists in the file that came with the new unit you just downloaded, but not the old one you have already, you simply copy it over and save the resulting file.

Follow exactly the same process as MOVEDATA.TDF above. However, if you wish, you do not have to do this. SOUND.TDF only tells the game which sounds to play when you click on a unit in game. If the entry does not exist, the unit is simply silent when you click on it.

Simply use the largest file. If your old file is 18 KB and the new one is 10 KB, for example, use the old one. If the newly downloaded one is larger, then use it instead.
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 installing mods/
Modifications are large packs which significantly change gameplay, while Total Conversions change the entire setting of the game. They are both generally easier to install than single units. Due to their stand-alone nature, the creators have usually taken much care into eliminating all bugs and conflicts before releasing the mod. There are three main ways Modifications and Total Conversions are installed:
  • With a custom .exe file
    These mods have a hacked Totala.exe file which usually displays a specialized icon for the mod. Often, these mods will use different data files than TA. For example, Star Wars TA uses .swx and .gp4 files instead of .ufo and .gp3 files. Star Wars TA reads these files instead of the original ones, so that it does not cause any problems or conflicts with normal TA, which cannot read SWTA's data. To uninstall this type of mod, delete all of its associated files.
  • As a replacement patch file
    These mods have a custom rev31.gp3 file which contains all of the mod's data. To install these mods, you simply replace the existing rev31.gp3 file with the mod's version and run the normal Totala.exe file to play. It is advised that you back up (make a copy of) the original rev31.gp3 file in a different folder before you replace it, in case you ever want to uninstall the mod.
  • Some unit files and TDF files
    These mods usually have one or more .ufo files, as well as a file called sidedata.tdf. This TDF file goes inside the gamedata folder in your TA folder. If you do not have that folder, you must create it. To uninstall this kind of mod, just delete all of its files.

Always remember to read the modification's readme file or other documentation for exact installation process help. You generally cannot use multiple modifications at one time, but Some mods are designed so that they do not cause problems for others that are installed.
 ^ top 
 installing races 
Races are additional factions which you can use with (or against!) the Arm and Core in battle. They generally follow the same process as the first type of modification mentioned above. Races always come with their own .exe file because in order to use more than just the Arm and Core, the .exe file must be hacked to allow it. Always use a race's .exe file instead of Totala.exe itself if you want to use a new race.
 ^ top 
 solving crash
The bane of any third party enthusiast is the buggy unit. There's often no way to tell if a unit is buggy or not before downloading it (unless someone reports back using our comment function!). If you have installed many units, the best strategy for rooting out the bad one is to uninstall half of them, and play the game. If it still crashes, remove another half of the remaining units, and play. Continue this process until you have narrowed down any and all offending units.

Following is a list of common crash problems and how to solve them.

Crashes during load (before the game starts)
  • Textures
    Find the offending unit and delete it.
  • Terrain
    This is actually likely a map issue. Try loading a different map.
  • Units
    One of the units you installed is missing a semi-colon in one of its text definition files. TA requires those semi-colons to be there. If you do not know what that means, you should delete the offending unit.
  • Animations
    Usually crashes occur here when you have installed a unit with a faulty animated sprite of some sort. Again, the best way to rid yourself of the problem is to delete it.
  • Textures
    Find the offending unit and delete it.
  • 3D Data - One of the units you installed has a bad model. It could even be caused by a bad weapon model. Generally, this occurs if a model does not have a groundplate. If you do not know what that means, you need to find out which unit is causing the crash and delete it.
  • Explosions
    Find the offending unit and delete it.
Sometimes, those messages will actually have a popup box that tells you which file caused the error. If that file is "tronboom.gaf" you need to install the 3.1c patch, and make sure you do not have more than 10 .hpi files in your TA directory (see the limitations section to know why). The other common cause of this message box is when you are missing a feature (such as a certain type of tree on a map) or when a unit is trying to use a 3D model which does not exist in your game. The most common solution to solve these issues is to install The Core Contingency expansion. However, this will not cure all problems.

If the message tells you about a file with ".fbi" or ".tdf" in its name, that means it has a problem in its data files. If you can tell which unit it is by the filename, then delete the unit. If you can't tell, use the "half" strategy described above to locate it. If you cannot read the text box message, press the PrtScn button on your keyboard (which is near F12) and then open MSPaint and Paste (Edit->Paste). You should then be able to read it.

Crashes mid-game (during the course of the game)
This type of crash is almost exclusively caused by a faulty script. Usually you can tell easily which unit is the problem in this case: the game will crash the moment it is built, or when it is operating, or the moment it dies. Unless you know how to script, it is best to just delete units that crash you this way.

If you experience these problems when using a full modification, you should notify its creators. Remember, you cannot use multiple modifications at one time, but you can copy your clean, unmodified TA folder as many times as you like to install different mods.

If the creator of the unit can still be contacted, you should tell them about the error. However, most unitmakers are no longer reachable, so there's little you can do if a unit crashes the game except remove it.
 ^ top 

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