FEATURES: Command & Conquer 10th Anniversary – Interviews – Ted Morris

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Note: Ted answered each section of questions with one big answer instead of a bunch of smaller answers for each question.

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

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?

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.

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

The C&C Community was one of my favourite things about working at Westwood. As the community manager, and later the Online Director for Westwood, I spent a majority of my time working with Chris Rubyor and others to enhance and support the community wherever possible. One of the ways we did this was through our community-oriented websites. Where most other game companies were launching what were essentially “game advertisements”, we worked hard to create massive websites with boards, links back to the fan sites, new content/maps, and a variety of other “free” stuff. This wasn’t cheap, but the commitment by Westwood to support its fans was very much in the minds of our senior staff, and they gave us the resources to get it done. Eventually, the other game companies caught up with what we were doing and started dedicating staff to supporting their online fans, but I like to think we got the ball rolling in a number of ways.

In addition to all the free stuff we were giving out to fansites, (we even flew them down a variety of times), funding came through to offer over $5,000 in prizes every month to Westwood Online players. That was both a high and a low point for us. While initially excited by the prospect of giving even more back to our fans, this sparked an influx of cheating that became rampant across our most popular games and ruined it for others in a number of ways. Some of those (admitted) cheaters went on to spend all their free time trying to undermine our online service and ruin the experience for as many others as they could. No amount of volunteer monitors or Westwood Chat updates could fix the underlying IRC technology that allowed them to subvert our system, so we eventually had to keep clamping down the free service until it was a shadow of what we had originally envisioned. What a disappointment. I can think of a few other very identical situation that happened with Battle.Net in which some of the same issues existed. But we were breaking new ground, and I think a lot of gamers/developers learned from the experience and benefited in one way or another from our mistakes.

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?

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

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

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

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

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?

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?

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?

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

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

Working on the C&C games was great. At the time, I wasn’t directly involved in the production of the original C&C, but I remember playing the game until 2am several nights a week, offering up various suggestions/ideas (like everyone does) and actually seeing some of them make it into the game. More importantly, I was the direct link between fans and the development team, and much of the follow-up feedback from the community made it back into the game in the form of patches or improvements through the mission disks. When you walk down the halls after midnight and you see dozens of people playing the game because they WANT to, because they are so excited about the game that you can’t even make them go home at a decent hour – then you know you have a hit on your hands. And because it was ground-breaking, I consider the original C&C game to be the best of the series. It was just a really well-balanced game with a fun storyline that made you really want to advance and see what happened next.

I don’t know what EA will plan to do with the C&C line. It feels like it’s pretty much dead at this point, and they have refocused their efforts on franchises like Harry Potter and LOTR. (I realize there was an email talking about a new C&C game coming out, but nothing has seemed to materialize yet). It would be interesting to see what they want to do, but I didn’t find Generals to hold my interest as much as the earlier C&C games used to.

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

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”?

3) Is there anything you miss about Westwood Studios?

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

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?

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?

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?

I miss Westwood Studios a lot. Actually, I miss the people at Westwood Studios more than the company itself. We were a family, and we had a shared history that we all felt deeply connected with. When I heard about the consolidation, I wasn’t as worried about my job as I was about what would happen to the people I had become great friends with. The thought of moving to EA in California didn’t appeal to me at the time either.

In the end, I get to work with a good number of them all over again, and we’re having a great time working on Star Wars: Empire at War. There are a few people I’d like to get back to Vegas, but they had to move on and they’re happy where they are at, so for the most part everyone did pretty well and for that I’m happy.

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?

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?

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?

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

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

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?

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?

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

In a lot of ways Petroglyph is like Westwood was, but it’s like the Westwood from the days of Lands of Lore, Eye of the Beholder, Monopoly, and Command & Conquer. The team is small, focused, and determined. Everyone knows everyone else, and there’s very little management – just a select group of really talented people trying to get a game done and get it to a high level of quality in an amazingly short amount of time. Keep in mind that we had to start from nothing and build just about everything from scratch.

As the Development Director for the project, I keep track of what everyone should be doing in order for us to make our deadlines. I clear up any miscommunication, and try to have us driving forward as efficiently as possible. Because I was the 2nd or 3rd employee, I had a hand in getting the company infrastructure built. So, I also do some IT work on the side, purchasing servers, getting new computers built, doing backups, and generally troubleshooting technical problems. I am extremely busy, but then everyone here is. For the next project, the company will be bigger and I won’t need to wear two hats.

As for what we’re working on, you never know what’s around the corner. We have some fun stuff in the works we’ll be excited to share with everyone as soon as we can, but our main focus is making EAW the best game that it can be.

Section E – Closing Comments
If you would like, Do you have any final thoughts about 10 years of Command & Conquer and is their anything you would like to pass along to the community that have followed you all these years?

The C&C community was an essential part of the iterative process of making great games. I want to thank all of you for your input, comments, and suggestions. The fact that I was the primary contact with the fans for so many years helped make my time at Westwood the most enjoyable I’ve spent at any job. And, I want to give a special thank you out there to the webmasters that helped it all happen. My team created quite a few websites for Westwood, and I realize how much work it is to keep it all running smoothly and constantly updated. You’ve really done an amazing job. My hat is off to all of you that keep it alive today. -VirtualTed

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