Articles & Editorials: Is Westwood Going Down?

  • Date: 03/07/2000 | Author: Viper

Before you read this, please note that I in no way claim to have the answers to the questions I post here, and that this article is in no way meant to be offensive to Westwood Studios or anyone else. I admire Westwood for what they’ve done and what they’re planning to do, I’m just asking a few questions that have bugged me lately

I just got thinking about an interview I read a couple of weeks ago, conducted by Planet CnC with programmer Neal Kettler of Westwood. In it, he was asked the following:

“What is the coolest thing about working at Westwood?”

Now, the reply is what caught my attention:

When you join a project, you know it’s going to ship, you know your job will be around (as long as you do a good job :-), you know the game will be good & you know it will sell. The industry’s in a bit of a rough spot now and the stability factor is soooo nice. Plus there’s all the great people…

Well, now I ask: has this attitude made WW too sure of their position in the market? Could it be they don’t try as hard as before, or maybe, when they get tired of coding the same game for a long period of time, that they just release it to get it done, since, and I quote, “you know it’s going to ship, you know your job will be around […] and you know it [the game] will sell”? I’m not saying that WW has been making bad games lately, but they haven’t been GREAT or very innovative either. Think Tiberian Sun. Now, most people agree that it was good, but few people would add it to their top 5, or even top 10, list. And there’s Nox, which I must admit I’ve never tried, but from what I’ve read and heard, it’s a Diablo clone, just not as good as it. When you think back to Dune 2, Tiberian Dawn, and, to some degree, Red alert, those were awesome games. They were innovative and packed with features never before seen (Dune 2 invented the whole genre, after all). Now, when everyone is moving on to 3d RTS games, WW stick with the old 2D graphics. True, TS did add elevations to the maps, but not as accomplished as, for example, Total Annihilation did. It has to be said, I’m not very fond of the new 3D games, they just get confusing and hard to master, which shouldn’t be the case. Games should above all be fun from the minute you boot it up. But even though I don’t like the likes of Homeworld and Earth 2150, I loved Total Annihilation. The graphics were awesome, heck they still are, and it featured true line of sight and height advantages. The reason I stopped playing it was the poor campaigns, but that’s another story. My point is that TS, even with its 15 levels of elevation, and a couple of interactive areas in its maps, was still C&C all over again. The storyline was great, the missions were not bad, but the technology was outdated by years. Now, I know WW has the manpower to take advantage of the newest additions to gaming technology, but for some reason, they didn’t… why? Try re-reading Neal Kettler’s answer

Another thing is WW’s interaction with their fans, or rather the lack of it. Seeing as I’m also involved in the online Civilization community, I see how developers of the next two Civ games, Civilization 3 and Call to Power 2 ask the public almost on a daily basis about what they would like in the game. They suggest features on the unofficial forums of Civ sites (especially ACS) and ask gamers, the people that buy the games they develop what they think of this feature, and how it could be done to suit their wishes best. Now, I realize this is special, and that very few developers work this way. But still, to me it seems that all WW does is to give previews of the up-and-coming games out to big gaming sites like Gamespot and the likes, and then answer the occasional questions from fan sites. Features that are announced and described for months before the game is released, suddenly get cut, with no other reason given than the usual “it interrupted play balance” comment. I heard lots of staff on TS sites and posters of the community forums get outraged about this, and I can promise you that for each outraged member of the community, there were many, many more that were never heard…

So, I ask: Will Red Alert 2 live up to expectations? Or will it be:

  • A hurried release, a bit unfinished?
  • Postponed and altered until it’s either outdated or unrecognisable?
  • Just like the original Red Alert, good, but not great?

I can say this much: If RA2 lives up to what it now seems to be, I will delete this article, and eat my words. If it turns out like TS did, I’ll post a new one. Keep your eyes peeled to people…

Please e-mail me with any comments about the subject, or use our forums to post them in for everyone to see.

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