Articles & Editorials: EA Vs The Ghosts of Westwood

The thing about a multi-million dollar company taking over and incorporating a small games studio should go well. After all you gain the staff, the experience and even the cleaning lady. What you don’t want to do however is use all this power you wield, and then fire all their asses in the hope that you’ve gained enough experience yourself to survive in a “dog-eat-dog” RTS games market. But that’s what EA did to Westwood, and hell is it going to be an action they’ll live to regret! Or will it be?

As the superstitious mind says, if you murder somebody in a horrific way, their soul will stay here on an earthly plain. The murder of Westwood Studios to the C&C community has, in essence, been the most horrific thing ever to grace the RTS world. But ghosts such as this will haunt, they will get up to strange paranormal things. Or in this case (before anything else) they will found a company known as Petroglyph Studios, hire a few more well experienced guys, and then seek to haunt their murderers. These guys have unfinished business to attend to, and these guys have guns, lots of guns, and hell yes, they are very very big guns!

With EALA completing BfME, all seemed good. Sure the guys whos asses you kicked out and made redundant have formed a small games company that’ll take years to get off the ground, no worries after all, the odds are in their favour. They have the C&C franchise, they are developing a game which appeals to a huge Lord Of The Rings fanbase, and everything seems peachy. Yes, it does doesn’t it. But then EA have a laser sight on them, and it gets EALA to scream “Oh S**t!!!” several times, and at a rather underpants smearing pace!

Before they realise it, they lose more staff, and they go and join Petroglyph, no big deal, they can be replaced. Afterall EA staff are expendable. Then out of nowhere comes an announcement of a title, known only at the time as Empire at War. This has could be a big gun, possible in the region of a Colt .45 or a Desert Eagle .50 calibre! I know, think EALA, let’s do BfME2 to counteract this game and crush it! Afterall if we rub C&C in their face it won’t be profitable, we’ve got Tolkien book rights now bitches!

And right on cue, Petroglyph give developer interviews, and go to E3. EA Don’t seem too worried, it was all a premature discharge of so-called fear. Engine looks respectable, interesting models, a quite.. inno.. vative… oh crap, Land and Space battles, Darth Vader….; Nah, it’ll never pass, Think EA, afterall, they have the money and new found talent.. But let’s skip all the special stuff, and go towards the end of an in-game space movie. Petroglyph decide to get out a Bazooka, a pretty big bazooka in the form of a moon sized space station known as Death Star. It gets in place, charges up, and fires a planet destroying beam, sparks fly, and the planet explodes with a gratifying boom! Guarenteed to get all RTS game nuts excited, and to catch the eye of a huge Star Wars fan following.. EA don’t need a change of underwear now, they need a new wardrobe!!!

Okay, enough of that lets forward to early August 2005 shall we? EALA invite me to their studio to view and get hands on with BfME2. Now on the incoming flight, approximately 11 hours in, we pass Las Vegas. A few things go through my mind. Firstly, why can’t we just land here and see Empire at War. Secondly, since that’s not happening, why can I not just get a parachute, and go see Empire at War. But I would be owned, since my suitcase would still be on the plane, and I probably would kill a few people from opening the door…. but anyway, we we’re off to see BfME 2. Had it been a C&C we were going to see, the thought would never of entered my head. In hindsight, I wish I could of done it, because despite myself being a Lord of the Rings nut and enjoying BfME’s gameplay, BfME2 is a rather large add on disguised as a new game, with a few new features thrown in. Now take a look at what Empire at War has to offer…. and guess what? I’m a Star Wars nut too, Enough said.

Enough of that, lets shoot onto 2006. If you take a look at both websites for the games you’ll see that BfME2’s is rather bland, black, and offers very little in the way exposing what the game has to offer. But it does scream “We have released a Beta!” written all over it. Now I for one have played that online Beta, and to be honest, it’s like the website in the sense that it’s boring, and dull. It plays funnily enough exactly like BfME and Generals, and has nothing that grabs you.. Now lets compare that to Empire at War’s official site, that decides this time, to roll in with a tank armed with explosive armour piercing shells. It takes no prisoners, it’s bright, colourful, interactive, and every section presents you with chunks of media that just shout “Play me!”. Now although I do not have a Beta or a demo to compare against, I do have a link to give you, and is far better than a BfME2 Beta! Just click on this link here , and get stuck in.

Now to all those of you in the Empire at War community, you’ve seen the site loads of times, and you can tell the C&C community that have not experienced it, to get on over to the official site now! Those of you in the C&C community, well, what can I say. I’m not going to say abandon the C&C community, but to follow those who once took C&C as their biggest priority and provided us with no bullcrap about their other games. I’m talking total entertainment, which, unless you are in the BfME community, most of the C&C community are not getting from EA!!

Now in all defence to EA, they do have the C&C franchise. But at this time only choose to use it in the form of a compilation set of all the C&C titles called “The First Decade”. It’s not inspiring, and unless you have any specific reasons to go ahead and buy it, is not worth buying in the first place. I wouldn’t be typing this out afterall if a new C&C was on the horizon next month. Instead of this David vs Goliath article, you would have a “Clash of the Titans” article, because I do believe that C&C would have done alot better than some so called Lord of The Rings RTS. I’m not trying to be Anti-EA, I’m just trying to state the simple fact that EA are crapping themselves over competition that on paper, is likely to kick the ass of their precious BfME2.

My evidence is already quite clear, if you click you mouse over to IGN, a few of the staff write their top 10 games of 2006 . Empire at War is in those lists, yet BfME2 is no-where to be seen! If You go over to Gamespot and check the game profiles of both games, (at time of writing) Empire at War is the number 1 most Anticipated Game on the PC, and number 3 across all platforms. Where as BfME2 struggles to get any higher than 7th on the PC list, and number 30 on the all platforms list. Even if you take a look in a few magazines you’ll see that Empire at War is taking a more prominent place in their own lists, with BfME2 no-where to be seen. This latest news is a big blow to EA, who must be quaking in their boots right about now. But hey, that’s what ghosts do EA, they haunt you, and they’ll throw everything at you, and in sales the fight is been taken to the C&C community, who will be the judges of the victor in this war. But as you’ve probably guessed already, I’m sided to Petroglyph that always took it’s communities seriously and made them proud of what was being done during the Westwood Era. Now all you have with EA running the show is a fragile C&C community that hates being left in the dark, and hates EA. Nice going guys, it’ll take a while to repair that and build any sort of legacy.

The only way EA can really hit back at the sheer force of Petroglyph, is to use the Voodoo doll that is Command & Conquer. The guys at Petroglyph are aware of this Frankenstein, and know that if EA manage to make a C&C worthy of Westwood’s legacy, then EA may just feel that the tides will turn. But to EA it’s all about the money and the profit. Whereas with the ex-Westwoodians at Petroglyph, it’s the same as it was back then. It’s about the passion and the ability to please your community if they are crying out for something… So come on everybody!! Take a seat, this war is David Vs Goliath, and it’s only just beginning!

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