Articles & Editorials: C&C – An Outlook to the Future

Once, a long time ago, I was active in the C&C community. Then along came real life and took away my net access, limiting me to a connection every 2nd weekend. Though, even away from the community, not actively posting on CNCNZ.com or on a forum anywhere I still made sure to check out at least CNCNZ.com to find out what was happening – what was new.

Even though I’ll admit to never playing any of the mods out there I am still an ardent C&C fan and I enjoy keeping track of different mods and updates to the growing world of fan based C&C. Maps, Mods, Skins, Art and more keep popping up, sometimes like mushrooms after a good rain. Ever since EA’s take over of Westwood and the release of C&C Generals (which, though I wont go in to that right now, is really not C&C but just another RTS) the future of C&C is not certain. Not certain at all.

The other day I was talking to someone about hope – about the silver lining in every dark cloud. Looking around now it is a little hard to find that silver lining especially with the community the way it is now (check out “C&C King’s article from the 9th of July for more info). I’ve always had faith in the fans of C&C to stick together through rough times the best example would probably be the community that weathered out the disappointment that was Tiberian Sun – after waiting for so long. Unfortunately, today, things seem to be coming apart at the seams.

C&C 101

The name Command & Conquer has become a brand name – a name that can be tagged on to an RTS and thus insure huge sales to part of a fan base of younger computer game players that won’t know the difference, or so it seems the marketing division of EA thinks. Actually… they may even be right. Though this can be a good thing (brand recognition, survival of the series etc.) it can also cause a total corruption of the game people have come to know so well.

To a real C&C fan just the mere mention of C&C is enough to launch into long-winded conversations about the game, the future or anything. C&C was a pioneer in the RTS genre – but after revolutionising the genre the game took a step back and let others refine the RTS scene. Games like StarCraft took off and (unfortunately) left C&C behind. I won’t go into whether or not I think these games were actually better and there is always the loyalty factor – but the fact is that StarCraft is still played around the world, with people earning money winning at tournaments – and where is C&C?

Don’t get me wrong. I Love C&C – I just don’t think that it is living up to its potential. That same potential that I felt and was exited by when I played Tiberian Dawn for the first time. Maybe the next C&C game will live up to that potential, though who knows if there will even be another game? When Westwood was around everyone knew that there would be another game, no matter how long it would take – but now? Who can say? And if it does come out – I am highly sceptical about how world rocking it will be – and whether or not it will be back to the original C&C or just another RTS game that has “Command & Conquer” stuck on it.

Gaming 101

So… What makes a game a winner? There is a lot of discussion around this subject – bear with me while I throw in my opinion. A game becomes a winner when you find the perfect balance between the story and the game play. The story has to be strong enough to be able to draw the player in – so that at some stage the player starts a new level and all he wants to do is finish it so that he can get to see what happens next. Game play though is just as important… if that same player starts the level which takes him hours of boring micro-management that bring him up to a hurried, messy and organised 30 second climax then no matter how engrossing the story line is the user is going to ditch the game and exit.

Generals, as much as the gameplay may have been somewhat fun (though I have other opinions it was all in all not to bad) the story fell short. The between level briefings were short and boring, the story line was sort of non-existent and anyway boring – open CNN and you’ll get a more interesting story line (even though the story was based on current events).

Gameplay also includes the different technological advances that are out there – one of the shortcomings of Tiberian Sun was the Voxel system which, though interesting (I always liked the different shades of colour in the night levels) can not compare to any of the 3D engines we have today (or had even back then).

Any of these previous points can be extended into an article of it’s own so I wont go into them any more than needed. Actually, anyone paying attention up till now will probably be asking himself where I am even headed – well, that’s the next stage.

The Future – A Proposition

Ok… so what have I said up to here? That C&C has a good name that won’t last, that is has a very talented fan base of mod makers, 3D renders, map makers etc. etc. And what doesn’t it have? It doesn’t have a proper future. Unlike Half-Life which lived on long after it’s use by date C&C is not the type of game that will live on just by different mods. Tech advances, gameplay types, original game availability and other factors will just not allow it.

Is there a solution? A hope? I think there is. I think that if all of the people in the community join forces we can say good-bye to modding older games that the newer and younger generation are going to have trouble getting their hands on and that are held back by old technologies or struggling engines and hello to a new era. An era where C&C goes back to its roots – to Nod vs. GDI, a world of engrossing stories and heavily scripted levels, that require strategy and cunning – that are not made up of “build base, build troops, flood enemy”.

Talent is abound, man power is no problem – the only thing that is missing is the driving force. Is it possible? Sure, it only needs to be started. Once it has been started the project will run along by itself. What is needed? Some good programmers, modders, modelers, map makers and story writers. And dedication – not the high level, hours every day type, but the long term type. The project can utilise existing Open Source projects to get started, it can be based on the Open Source model itself, encouraging external help and a world-wide user base.

What do you think? Am I describing something that can be done? Something that is possible? Or am I dreaming awake and the way things are going right now are ok? Send me feedback (to: oren@nachmore.com) – if I see that enough people are willing to push ahead with the idea and that it is plausible I’ll make sure to get the ball rolling. And if not then I will disappear back into the murky background where I came from and continue to mourn the slow demise of C&C as I once knew it.

I hope that this becomes the first article in a series, and not the last of a dream.

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