FEATURES: Command & Conquer 10th Anniversary – Interviews – Adam Isgreen

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Section A – Community
1) Firstly, what is your reaction to the strong community support for an event such as the C&C 10th Anniversary?

I think it’s great to see that the universe we all created is still a compelling one – that people want to have more adventures in that world and experience more of the conflict between the factions that we created.

2) Kind of related to question 1. Do you still follow the C&C community at Petroglyph, checking out what the sites are up to?

When I have time, however we’re busy with our own products now that I can’t get around them as much as I’d like.

3) What was your favourite aspect of working with the C&C community? Was it working with the fan site webmasters directly, arranging chat sessions, that sort of thing.

For me, it was always just reading the responses to new news, the crazy (and not so crazy) rumors that would spread, hearing the ideas that the community had, and feeling the excitement they generated over the games. It was always a rush!

4) Do you think the C&C community as you remember it ever had high and low points, if so what/when were they?

(No answer given)

Section B – C&C Games
1) For those who worked on the original C&C, how does it feel to know you had a hand in creating what most people would describe as the game that defined Real Time Strategy?

(No answer given)

2) Do you favour the original C&C storyline or the Red Alert universe?

I love them both, but I love where we went with the RA universe slightly more. They (were) always planned to be one continuous universe! Someday maybe I’ll have the gumption to explain how they tied back into each other. It was pretty cool, if I do say so myself. Yuri fit and everything!

3) Following on from question 2, do you hope that EA will continue either of the 2 storylines?

I hope that EA makes a C&C game.

4) From a personal point of view what C&C game do you think was the best one produced?

Red Alert 2/Yuri’s Revenge. I always loved the RA universe and RA2 took it to a wonderful level. The creativity in the three sides, the units, and how the game played and felt was just awesome.

5) If you could travel back in time what would you go back and change in any of the C&C games?

Remove all the first-person stuff from Tiberian sun. I always liked playing the “commander” rather than being a character.

6) In comparison to other previous C&C titles, Red Alert 2 took on a high speed arcade strategy within its single player campaigns rather than a 1:1 ratio Real Time Element, and there was no option to change the speed of the game… why was this?

RA2 was a faster paced game than the previous ones, but RA’s universe was always the speedy one compared to the Tiberian line. Honestly, I didn’t feel it was out of place.

7) To this day people still play Renegade online thanks to user created mods, maps etc…. Back in the Renegade development days, except for C&C Mode why were all of the other cool multiplayer game modes cut?

Because although cool, they were not nearly as fun as C&C mode. C&C mode just felt like the right way to go, and given the time we had to work on multiplayer, it felt better to focus all our efforts on the one key one we all felt was compelling and would be played the most.

8) Although the franchise is now in other hands, are you able to disclose any further details on scrapped Westwood projects related to C&C such as the potential titles – Renegade 2, C&C 3: Tiberian Twilight and Continuum?

Some brief stuff:

  • Renegade 2 was a Red-Alert 2 inspired version of Renegade that embraced the C&C multiplayer game mode as the core game play. You could build defenses on build pads, destroy and rebuild buildings, and directly or indirectly command units. The story was about a renegade Soviet commander who launches an assault on U.S. soil to restore pride to his family (He was a Romanov) after their defeat in RA2.
    • There was to be some humour in the missions – you had an Idaho mission that you could knock over a giant fake potato that was the town’s symbol and roll it down a hill at enemies.
    • “1941” inspired boardwalk scenario with giant Ferris wheel.
    • The giant ants were back in yet another secret mission.
    • There was an entire sub-game with spies stealing enemy tech and dogs detecting them.
    • Yes, you could play as a dog. The catch was you couldn’t communicate / type to your friends, but you could bark.
    • The first mission was to take place at the Marin Headlands with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Kirovs were bombing the city, while a giant squid took down an Allied Carrier in the bay right behind your base. Epic coolness!
  • C&C 3 went through many incarnations and changes over the years. Some of the intended C&C 3 units ended up in Yuri’s (yes, that’s how long ago we were planning stuff for it), and others survived into other games (Generals, ZH, etc.) while others never saw the light of day.
    • Can’t say any more. Ask EA.
  • Continuum was a MMORPG for people that didn’t like MMORPGs (i.e. stand there and swing).
    • “C&C meets Zelda meets Counterstrike” – that was the pitch line I always used. C&C universe, Zelda-like controls, Counterstrike style tactical combat.
    • Had instanced “crisis zones” in it (this was EQ1 era, remember), hubbed flight routes, scripted boss battles, and a lot of other ideas that have shown up in all the MMORPG since. I guess they were good ideas!
    • Set in the Tiberian future, with GDI, Nod, Mutants and CABAL. Scrin to be added later. We had Los Angeles half underwater, Area 51, Dino island, Newark airport a mutant city, etc.
    • Combat was much more fluid and movement-oriented than most MMORPGs. Range was important for weapons use, and there were layers of counters for the weapon types.
    • Creatures had many console-game-boss sensibilities, in that you could expose weaknesses on them and then hit those for extra damage.

9) C&C Generals was a major change from the traditional C&C formula, who came with the concept?

Generals was a product of the EA Pacific team. They wanted to take a new approach at the C&C RTS, and we encouraged that. You need to step back and re-evaluate everything from time to time, and that’s what they did.

10) Why was there a lack of a flowing storyline in C&C Generals like previous C&C games?

I think you mean “unlike previous C&C games”…

It was part of the re-evaluation of what really was C&C? Was it the emotions you had when playing the game? Was it multiplayer? Was it the fun, but somewhat-cheesy movies? Was it the cursors and control? The play styles and tactics? The universe? What could you nail down as quintessential C&C?

The EAP guys were simply trying to figure out how to make a cutting-edge modern RTS, and at the time, the overarching story & movies didn’t feel like they were essential to that new style of game, where action happened all over the globe from various sources, and everyone had to react instantly.

I think it was more a reaction to the modern-day ADD-driven media circus than anything else… or they just didn’t have enough time to work on it. Either could really be the case. =)

Section C – The Westwood Years
1) Who was the most important person or people at Westwood?

For me? If I had to pick one person, it would be Brett Sperry. He’d berate me like crazy when I was lazy with a design. KNEW when I wasn’t doing my best and pushed me to do better. Smacked some sense into my at-the-time arrogant know-it-all attitude (boy, did I have some of that…), and made me look at the bigger picture of game design – i.e. the consumer, not the creator.

Brett also kept me on my toes constantly because he doesn’t think like I do. I’d come up with a design or concept, feel that I had EVERY angle nailed and covered, and I’d walk into his office, and BAM! Within 20 seconds, he hits me with an angle that I just did not see or account for. I’d stand there, sigh, and just walk back to my office to figure it out.

Wasn’t always pleasant, and he could be brutally honest about stuff, but damn did I learn a thing or two.

Brett aside, there were so many wonderful people that I was friends with and worked with that it’s really unfair to single out just one, but career-wise, he’s the one that had the biggest impact on me.

2) Describe the feeling you first felt and the thoughts going through your mind when you found out that Westwood was going to be “consolidated”?

“I just hope we don’t have to move to Los Angeles.”

3) Is there anything you miss about Westwood Studios?

Miss? No. Appreciate? Yes. I learned so much about every aspect of game creation and met and worked with so many great and talented people that I feel lucky and even privileged that I worked at one of the most creative companies that was in existence.

4) Do you still keep in contact with many of the former Westwood team? If so who?

Well, I work with a lot of them still, but the majority of us are still in contact no matter where we ended up.

5) One movie that Westwood released to the C&C community was where ‘Havoc paid a visit’ upon hearing Renegade was going to slip. This was perhaps one of the best and most entertaining movies outside a C&C game we had ever seen. During the Westwood days were any other similar movies or side projects created?

We had a duo within the company that made some parody movies about certain people that worked at the Westwood. We’d get to see them at the anniversary parties. They were great!

There were always little side-projects and practical jokes in the works. =)

6) On the Subject of movies, the early C&C community were always wishing for a C&C Hollywood blockbuster to be created. What were Westwood’s thoughts on this, and would it of been a legitimate option if the budget and time was there to create one?

You should have read some of the scripts… wow. They weren’t good. I think the problem was that in the days that C&C was being looked at for film potential, the movie studios didn’t “get” the potential of games crossing into film – games weren’t generating the insane revenue that they do today (which makes the studios notice with more than a bit of envy) and so they weren’t really willing to throw the dollars around like they are today for a hot property (Halo, for example – although MS kinda forced that on the studios, eh?) that could generate a blockbuster for them.

That said, would C&C have made a good movie? I don’t really know. My gut says the transition would be difficult, since C&C gets the player involved as the hero. I think this was the same problem with Tiberian Sun’s approach – I was suddenly someone I didn’t want to necessarily be, so there was a disconnect. The challenge in a film version would have been to overcome that, yet maintain everything that made C&C compelling in the first place.

7) Part of the development process involves the developers playing the games themselves to test and iron out bugs in the game. During the internal multiplayer testing, who, out of all the Westwood staff, was the best Command & Conqueror?

For C&C, I would have to say it was Brett. RA was harder to call… we were all really, really good at it, and we all played differently. The whole company, even those not working on RA, would stay until all hours to play it. Brett and I had some amazing battles, but so did Ed and I, Mike Lightner, etc. Chris Rubyor was always a solid player as well. He even played France in a tournament, which we discovered soon after was actually weaker than intended due to a wrongly set bit. He still won most of the time.

Amusing MP asides:

  • Brett would insist you be on speakerphone with him to talk about balance and pacing while playing each other, but he’d always mute his speakerphone so you couldn’t hear him ordering his units around when he got ready to attack you.
  • #1 way to annoy Brett – blow up his radar structures. He HATED that.

Section D – Petroglyph
1) It has been evident in the past that Westwood was indeed a great company to work for, balancing humour and fun with the seriousness of having to work to meet deadlines. Has this changed in any way now that Petroglyph has formed, or is there still the age old atmosphere that you had at Westwood?

Petroglyph isn’t Westwood – it’s really its own thing. Although we all loved Westwood and the times we spent there, it’s gone for good, and we’ve all moved on. We take all the good ideas and attitudes we loved from WW and applied them to Petro. The result is similar in some ways, but different – a good kind of different.

2) Petroglyph has already shown itself as a major player in the RTS market with Empire at War, and other games companies have expressed this. What could we expect from Petroglyph in the next 3-10 years in terms of both a business approach, and in terms of games development?

Whatever the genre, whatever the platform, the games will be fun above all else!

3) Relating back to the C&C Games question of scrapped projects. Is there the potential in the future, for Petroglyph to revive any of the scrapped projects, even if they were to be under a different name?

That would be telling.

4) How do you feel about competing against possible C&C products, considering you helped build the franchise?

I personally welcome it. The better the competition, the more you’re pushed to create a game that is as good if not better.

5) How do the early days of the Empire at War/Petroglyph community compare to the days of the C&C/Westwood community?

(No answer given)

6) Real Time Strategy as we know it has always followed what is known in the gaming industry as the “Rock, Paper, Scissors” system. Do you ever see RTS games breaking away from this mould or is it a vital element of game play that is essential to any RTS?

Well, just like in real life, there’s always specialization. Most doctors devote their lives to their art, as do writers, carpenters, etc. War-games are similar in that you have highly specialized units for certain purposes, and ones that fill the gaps. I don’t see that changing at its core just because that’s what we as people are about ourselves.

7) Where do you see the RTS genre in another 10 years time? What direction do you see it heading, and what innovations could you see re-invent RTS as we know it?

The RTS genre really came about because of the mouse and the UI innovations that followed with it.. The mouse allowed the slow-paced tabletop war game to come to life and breathe from moment-to-moment. It provided the ease that was needed to orchestrate all the tasks you had to carry out in an RTS environment. The next great innovation to the genre will likely come from a new form of control. It’s all about how you control your forces. Although I don’t see any new control schemes on the horizon (we’ll see what Nintendo delivers with the Revolution), we’re constantly on the lookout….

8) Give us a quick a summary of your daily routine at Petroglyph.

(No answer given)

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