FEATURES: Roundtable Discussion #33 – August 2012 (Command & Conquer – Free to Play Special Edition)

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Can you believe this is the first Roundtable we have done in 2012, its been a slow year in terms of big news topic for us to discuss but we are back with this Command & Conquer – Free to Play Special Edition. We have gone with our staff only panel for this one.

  • Sonic – CNCNZ.com Webmaster
  • Zee Hypnotist – CNCNZ.com Forums Admin
  • Doctor Destiny – CNCNZ.com Forums Admin
  • Luk3us – CNCNZ.com Forums Mod
  • Nmenth – CNCNZ.com Forums Mod
  • gben – CNCNZ.com Forums Mod
  • Plokite_Wolf – CNCNZ.com News Team
  • dbjs2009 – CNCNZ.com News Team
  • Alex06 – CNCNZ.com News Team

Question 1) After a massive news drought the bomb finally dropped last week with the news from EA that Generals 2 is going “Free to Play” and is now simply called Command & Conquer. What do you like about this news?

Sonic: Happy to see the official news drought finally end but I’m not entirely sold on this new Free to Play Command & Conquer idea, well at least not just yet. But prepared to accept the change. I was really looking forward to seeing the originally announced Generals 2 though. I guess my only concern right now is not really knowing that much about it. Basically I’ll wait until we get more details before making any final judgement calls on this new game. Unlike many other people around the community I don’t EA for what have done to what they are doing. When break it down they are giving you free product, so that’s something to take as a positive. I can only wonder why the made this change though. Was it the data and feedback they got about how Tiberium Alliances has been received? Perhaps they were struggling to make Generals 2 a quality single player game and scrapped it? We can only speculate.

Zee Hypnotist: Honestly, I don’t like how generic the name is. Even if they were going to go in the direction of random factions, they honestly still could have called it “Generals 2” or a variant, since the original Generals was just that: a compilation of random generals fighting each other. I also don’t like how they released this news. They did it in a real pushy, rushed fashion, because Gamescom was announced, people were upset that no news came out, and then it was just sort of pushed out in a way that upset everyone involved.

Doctor Destiny: I particular enjoy the fact that game will be open for anyone to try. There’s no barrier for entry, short of PC hardware. This gives Command & Conquer to be a more appropriately competitive game while maintaining the other branches of the series, which is still very important. If done well, this means the start of a new beginning for the franchise as a whole!

Luk3us: It seemed an eternity had passed since that teaser trailer last year, but I’ll take any news over no news. I wasn’t entirely happy when I heard that Generals 2 was now a F2P. My experience with those types of games is limited and the few I know, aren’t that great. I’m still on the fence about this whole F2P thing, I have my doubts that EA will make it work well. Pay to win comes to mind, but we’ll see what happens I guess. I do like the fact we are getting a graphics update this time around, using the Frostbite engine.

Nmenth: I like very little about this. I think this is a terrible move for the game. Even going under the assumption that EA can actually pull off a relatively successful f2p system compared to other f2p games out there, I am highly opposed to profits through microtransactions and object to it anyway. About the only thing I could say I do like about the news is the fact that the suspension is over, at least we know what we are looking at now rather than be left in the dark.

gben: Not only a massive news drought, I’ve also just returned online after a two week hiatus due to technical problems getting online. Quite a surprise. “Free to Play” or “F2P” is a great way to attract an audience or perhaps even draw back some old fans. I hear some chatter that this model is a first and they are trying it out with C&C. I suppose that’s a back-handed compliment because they believe in the strength of the IP to pull this off.

Plokite_Wolf: Well, I do favour the fact that if I play the game and dislike it after playing, I can just uninstall it and go on with my life, as I won’t have to pay for it.

dbjs2009: It’s been some nice news and being free isn’t an issue, perhaps it’s a way for EA to do business but I’m always positive and I won’t look at it this way, I’m just hopeing that it’ll bring some fun and excitement to all C&C players.

Alex06: It doesn’t cost to play the base game. This means I can now play it with friends who otherwise wouldn’t have the money to buy a full game. If the developers do this right, they can make a great quality game despite it being “Free to Play”. I think EA has realized it cannot sustain the development of a game in the long term like Blizzard can by depending on their budget and the profits they can make. This business model just doesn’t work for EA. They don’t have the resources, reputation and don’t generate the same amount of hype that Blizzard does. As a result, I believe, they switched to the F2P model so they can give us the game they’ve been meaning to make. In any case, the DLC and online features that were announced for Generals 2 are still present, which means we haven’t lost anything yet; Even the campaign might come, but at a later date.

Question 2) The Generals universe will be the first to be offered in this new C&C platform. EA have said they could explore the Tiberium and Red Alert universes as well. Is this a wise move?

Sonic: This all depends on if they decide to offer single player content with the Generals universe in this new C&C free to play platform, because that what I think about when they say exploring the other C&C universes. Personally I think they should leave the Tiberium and Red Alert universes alone and move forward with new ideas. With that said I think it would be cool to add new factions like GDI and Nod, the Soviets and Allies, even the Empire of the Rising Sun from Red Alert 3. It would make for some interesting multiplayer match ups.

Zee Hypnotist: I think this could be very interesting, but upsetting at the same time. It’s hard to see how they could combine the three universes smoothly, but if there’s simply elements of all three universes side by side, it should be neat. Though, I’m sure that after fighting people online for a while, a lot of gamers will probably cave in and say “I want to have a fight between GLA and GDI!” or something like that. That doesn’t seem like such a problem, in my mind.

Doctor Destiny: Since the Generals universe is more of a spin off, it has chances to expand into new directions that the other “sagas” don’t have the same liberty of doing. Since the Tiberium and Red Alert stories are mostly narrative driven, a free to play model makes little sense. That being said, I would not be averse to seeing familiar factions throw down against the new armies from Generals 2.

Luk3us: Hard to say, whilst Generals 2 ‘releasing’ without a single player won’t be a terrible loss to the franchise, I’d hate to think they’d do the same to Red Alert and Tiberium. Games for which the storyline is its most positive feature. I just hope they put more effort in to the single player side of things for the next two games and not just tack it on like they did with that “other” game, that shall not be named nor spoken of.

Nmenth: I think it is unwise to even start with the Generals universe in the first place, much less look that far into the future with something that could completely bomb.

gben: It took a while to understand, but apparently they are offering the platform or engine for free with a couple of vanilla factions and universes. Sounds like we’ll pay for DLC like other factions and other universes. I guess this is kinda similar to the OpenRA methodology where the original “Red Alert” and the original “Command and Conquer” are available as mods. There’s a whole lot of speculation here but I guess it won’t be Red Alert Units verses Generals units verses Command & Conquer units like some sort of “All Stars” game. It’s interesting to see the MP focus of this approach coming from a Bioware label, when we all expected a strong SP component. It seems like “Generals” would always be the most appropriate choice for a MP-centric game, it’s also the most overdue of the IP’s to get a sequel. So yes it’s a wise choice… but I think in terms of “between a rock and a hard place” or “lesser of two evils”.

Plokite_Wolf:No. Tiberium and Red Alert universes should be left as they are right now. Unless they feel they can make elements of those two universes like Tiberium crystals/ore mines and construction yards and create special maps to settle them in, they should just focus on Generals.

dbjs2009: I’ve played both universes and I have to say that my favourite have always been Red Alert, having both could be a good idea and it could not, it all depends on how it’s all presented, patience is the key we just have to wait, time will tell and reveal what is hidden.

Alex06: I don’t see why it isn’t. Seeing as how there are three universes and releasing a game every year, two or three can start making things difficult for fans, now we can simply have all C&C games in one giant client/service. It’s also a great way for EA to sell new universes/games within the C&C service, such as Red Alert 4 and Tiberium 5, and so on. Of course, some fans would like to have Generals factions play against factions from other universes, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for the main reason that the economy, interface and build systems between each of these universes are different. How could one play within the Tiberium Universe, but as, say, China from Generals? It doesn’t quite work and requires more work from the developers to balance and integrate said faction into the Tiberium Universe. This time could be taken to balance each universe and factions accordingly to their own universe and realizing new, interesting content instead. So long as BioWare-Victory follows that line of reasoning, it will remain a wise move.

Question 3) What do you think this means for the series as a whole?

Sonic: At this stage I can only take it for what it is. It’s a fresh start for the future of the franchise.

Zee Hypnotist: Hell, what has a new game ever meant for the series? As long as I can remember, after the immediate release of a new game, everyone says “This isn’t a true C&C, this is destroying the series!” Then everyone gets over it when they find the next game to play. This is an RTS game, like every other in the C&C series. People probably won’t see it being a “true” Command & Conquer for some time, but eventually, even I’ll come around.

Doctor Destiny: At this juncture, it’s hard to say what exactly it means. There’s no objective bar for measuring success for the series as a whole since “Generals 2” isn’t even available yet. So, right now, I’m unable to make an accurate assessment; however, if all goes well, there is a probability that this will revitalize the series after that last embarrassing outing we refer to as “Tiberian Twilight.”

Luk3us: C&C is a big franchise and I think this move can only be positive, even if EA completely and utterly fail in this little adventure and destroy the C&C brand. They can always just reboot it. Its that awesome, or at least it is in my opinion.

Nmenth: That they are prepared to put the entire franchise into the ante to feed their gambling addiction. I don’t think they care anymore if the series dies, it is just their lab rat now that may or may not make them money, but will still have served their nefarious purposes either way in the end.

gben: Cue C3PO…. “We’re all doomed!”. However I do think there are two sides to the question here – the gaming experience and the economic experience. The tank spam trailer reminds me of the End of Nations trailers I’ve seen, but the new C&C trailer didn’t excite me. I think the frostbite engine proves we will be offered a great gaming engine but as a SP-focussed player with no SP campaign I’m not really sure how much I will enjoy the game itself. I guess I’m still hopeful for a fun and enjoyable experience. I’ve only tested a few F2P games and only for a few hours, so I don’t have much experience here. I’ve been playing a lot of free browser and mobile phone games lately though… those have been grindy in nature (Tiny Towers anyone?) but I don’t mind the 5mins here and there while on the move. I’m wondering what the strategy will be for C&C?

I dislike the strategy of tease the players into buying cool stuff, and I would much rather just buy the lot in a retail package. I especially despise the notion that you get an unfair advantage if you part with cash. However this is probably the only IP in the world where I’m not AUTOMATICALLY opposed to paying for DLC. I will resist – but I will give them an opportunity to convince me. All things being equal, paying for a campaign or to unlock a universe is something I would consider. Buying the unit of the week is not where I’m at – for the moment. I can’t imagine me buying skins (like a funny hat) but maybe unlocking a faction would have some appeal…. maybe.

The producers have made this decision for financial reasons – they think as a software label/publishing house whatever – they think they can be more successful with this economic model. I hate when economic thinking trumps creative/artistic thinking. It harks back to the design issues of C&C4. Bottom line. I think this is a poor choice for a core IP.

I’m old school – I got into this game because of the SP experience. MP was only fun because the SP experience was so rich and strong. I feel this decision moves the franchise away from it’s strengths.

Plokite_Wolf: This means that EA has followed the fans’ feedback from what they’ve seen in Tiberium Alliances instead of older games. C&C will indubitably continue through this path until a new studio arrives to take over. I honestly think the series is going into a deeper hole than it did two years ago.

dbjs2009: For the time being, I just think it’s a new addition to the franchise.

Alex06: Well, as I have mentioned on the second question, it means that, first of all, we don’t have to buy and install a new game each time; We can simply download the new content if we want to have it. Second of all, it means that there will be constant support from EA, seeing as how it is a Free to Play online game. The developers and the publisher will have no choice but to support the game so that the players keep playing and that those who leave, do come back. New content can always be released. From campaigns, to co-op missions, to map packs, to new units and new factions – All of these are new reasons for players to come back and play the game. Even the hardcore fans who only play single player can come back or at least try the game, seeing as how it is free. Yes, many are disappointed, but many more will actually play this game, I’m sure, since it is free. I personally do not believe the series is dead. In fact, I believe EA and BioWare-Victory want to make sure that this universe survives through the next few generations of gaming, thus why this bold, yet risky move was made.

Question 4) Do you think that this is a game you could see yourself trying?

Sonic: As a C&C fan yes of course I’ll try it. Will I be able to run it though. The new Frostbite 2 engine is probably going to have some high system requirements and I don’t think my current setup will be any good.

Zee Hypnotist: Sure, I could see myself trying it, for two reasons. It’s Frostbite 2, and it’s Free too. Heh, that was cheesy. But yeah, I’m sure I’ll give it a chance.

Doctor Destiny: Absolutely. At the end of the day, it’s still Command & Conquer and, as such, it deserves a fair chance. If the game bombs, I’m not out anything but my time.

Luk3us: Sure, its free, so of course, everyone loves free stuff. That doesn’t mean they get a free pass if its a **** game though.

Nmenth: It’s free, so of course I’ll try it. Whether I’ll pay for anything or still be playing it six months after release is much less clear.

gben: Most definitely. Free is Free. How long will I play… will I pay to play… well that’s another question(s).

Plokite_Wolf: Unless I can get a computer that can run it in a sooner time, no. Otherwise, yes – I want to try out every C&C game.

dbjs2009: Of course, I can see myself trying any C&C game, although I haven’t played C&C4 yet but I must give this a try, it seems exciting, in fact it might be a huge addition to the franchise.

Alex06: Definitely. Why not? It’s free and it’s Generals. If it’s anywhere near as balanced as the original and there is no long period of grinding required to unlock anything in the base game, it’s a game I could definitely get used to playing.

Question 5) Are there any particular gameplay types you think could be added besides the original gameplay that came with Generals? (Eg: King of the Hill, Capture the Flag variants, etc)

Sonic: No real comment make here, I’m not really a big multiplayer gamer so I don’t care what multiplayer game play types they decide to go with.

Zee Hypnotist: Ya know, I think they should have a mode called “Free 2 Fight.” It basically entails everything being free. I’m talking total unit spam fest here. A wall should be put up for ten minutes to make sure everyone has their units, and then bam, wall goes down, and both sides have upwards of 100 tanks, buggies, bikes, you name it headed towards each other through a single or two paths, so they have to obliterate each other. I could see that bringing around a long game if people can pump out their units fast enough to defend their base and attack the other.

Luk3us: They can add as many game types as they like, as long as the traditional ‘deathmatch’ and ‘team deatmatch’ come as standard. They can charge for everything else in my opinion.

Doctor Destiny: What would be better than that is a fully featured map editor that allows for robust custom scripting, much like the map editors for the StarCraft and WarCraft series. Let the fans make their own game modes.

Nmenth: Variety is a good thing. I know I wouldn’t pay for new gameplay styles like those, but if they included them in the standard game, they’d be making a smart move by enhancing the replay-ability.

gben: Drop in and out MP across a world domination map is about the only MP mode I can think about. But SP is the only “mode” I care about. Campaigns and Skirmish for SP.

Plokite_Wolf: Classic RTS game modes should be the primary focus right now. Once that has been polished to a supernatural level, then we can discuss new modes.

dbjs2009: Yes, I actually support the idea of having more gameplay modes, it makes the playing rage wider, otherwise it’ll be boring for some of us.

Alex06: New game modes will be added, I’m sure. Anything from King of the Hill to Capture the Flag and Control Point gameplay can be released. It’s another way for the developers to keep the community playing and make them return to this game. Any new content, whether free or paid, will help this new game, so I don’t see why it couldn’t happen; In fact, I’m 100% certain it will. Any game types we can imagine from other games will appear eventually as free or paid DLC.

Question 6) What is more important to you, a well balanced game with a small number of factions or a large number of factions that allow for varied play-styles but maybe leaves rooms for imbalances?

Sonic: Logic tells me a well balanced game sounds far more enjoyable. It is possible to create a multiplayer RTS game with varied factions and play styles while keeping it all balanced for maximum enjoyment.

Zee Hypnotist: I think that a large number of factions is fine, but I also think that until this balance issue is fixed that they tend to have, they should make multiplayer matches hide what faction the player has picked. After a little while, people know which factions are balanced above another, and will choose factions accordingly. Rock Paper Scissors is basically what I’m thinking here. You don’t know what the other person is going to play, and something always beats another. With that in mind, that is only if they can’t figure out the balance.

Doctor Destiny: A properly balanced game with a minute number of factions is the ideal. For some, that may grow stale after a while so new factions may not necessarily be such a bad thing.

Luk3us: A balanced game first and fore most. The problem with having a large number of units that aren’t balanced well is that you’re only going to be using the most OP units at any time anyway, which means all those other units will be ignored.

Nmenth: As I said above, variety is good, but there is also a point where it must take a lower priority. One of those areas is balancing. An unbalanced game is not fun in the long run.

gben: Functionality over form wins every single time.

Plokite_Wolf: A well balanced game with a small number of factions. This has proven to be the critical feature of most RTS games. There aren’t many games that have a large number of balanced factions, unfortunately, as it obviously takes much more time and beta testing – something I believe C&C developers don’t feel like doing.

dbjs2009: Balance is very important and we’re always looking for fun and quality because that what makes the game a perfection, yet the more the better if the company cares for the players they should always take care of any imbalances.

Alex06: Definitely a well-balanced game with a small number of factions. 3 is the standard model we’ve known for ages in an RTS, so that is fine by me. Of course, 4 factions is acceptable, but 5 is the limit for me, otherwise it gets far too repetitive to be fun anymore. I doubt any more factions could make it into Generals 2 other than USA, EU, GLA, China and Russia. With those, you have pretty much every major military power in the world and any other such power can do very little to match up against those 5. Too many factions, and one is bound to be overpowered, making the game imbalanced. Zero Hour and Kane’s Wrath had such problems with their roster of 9 factions – It dilutes the originality and gameplay of each faction too much. You end up, for example, with a steam rolling faction (GDI) that is more aimed towards finesse and guerrilla fighting (Nod), such as ZOCOM and a finesse faction (Nod) that is more aimed towards steam rolling (GDI), such as the Black Hand. These 2 factions are too similar to each other and dilute the originality and ruin the faction identity that was there in the first place. And then you have ridiculous factions that accentuate on the strengths of their original faction, such as Steel Talons in KW or the Airforce General in Zero Hour, thus making the use of the original faction absolutely pointless, since these factions are overpowered and much more easy to play and win with.

Question 7) Would you watch games that were streamed live if EA decides to try to make this competitive?

Sonic: Back in the C&C 3 and Kane’s Wrath days EA really tried to push the whole “RTS as a Sport” theme, it worked to some degree I guess but it didn’t interest me at all. When every new episode of the official and original Battlecast Primetime came out I always skipped past the “Battlecast” match ups, I still do it with community based Battlecast Primetime episodes as well. It just to boring, and these were only highlights. I can’t sit down and watch total strangers play a game. Regardless if it were streamed live or not. Games are meant to played, not watched.

Zee Hypnotist: You know, that’s really a hit and miss thing. They really, really did a good job of setting that replay thing for C&C 3. I mean, being able to load a small file that plays through an entire multiplay match is pretty neat. Live streaming though, being able to hop into any match you want, that would also be pretty neat, but I could see how that could paramount to cheating if someone jumps into a live match while on Skype with someone who is actually playing. So I don’t really think that will work. Yeah, there’s an honor system, but some gamers choose not to follow it. People get caught up in wanting to win, and some will do anything to win.

Doctor Destiny: I’ll put it simply: no.

Luk3us: Nah, the whole “e-sports” thing doesn’t really interest me.

Nmenth: No. I have virtually no interest in this kind of thing.

gben: Probably not. I would have to be invested in the people playing – which seems unlikely at this stage.

Plokite_Wolf: Yes. I’d like to see how things would work out that way, since I won’t be able to run the game itself.

dbjs2009: Personally I don’t watch games live very often, so I don’t think I’m going to be watching this.

Alex06: Of course. I like the cinematic, explosive and fast nature of Generals and I love watching official StarCraft II eSport matches from time to time. It’s very pulse-pounding, sure, but with a game such as Generals 1, which is even more cinematic and explosive to watch, it’s incredibly more fun to watch matches, so if Generals 2 follows that formula, it will be amazing to watch professional matches. So that’s definitely a “yes”.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by each individual in the Roundtable Discussion are their own, and do not reflect the official view of CNCNZ.com, unless otherwise stated.

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