FEATURES: Roundtable Discussion #3 – December 2007

rountable_headerIt’s time for the third edition of the Roundtable Discussion here on CNCNZ.com. Listed below are the people participating on the panel for this month.

  • Sonic – CNCNZ.com Webmaster
  • Zee Hypnotist – CNCNZ.com Creative Content
  • Lion – Webmaster of CNC Den
  • Mastermind – Head Administrator of Revora
  • Koen – Creator of TibEd
  • Mighty BOB! – Senior Staff Member at CNC Source
  • Blbpaws – Senior Staff at CNC Generals World
  • JohnWE – Site Manager at CNC-Files

Question 1) Now that we have found out more details about the sub factions in Kane’s Wrath what are your thoughts. Is the sub faction concept the right thing to introduce into the Tiberium Universe?

Sonic: The addition of sub factions added more depth to Zero Hour so I feel they will do the same for Kane’s Wrath. The fact that the Steel Talons bring back some much need familiarity with the Titan and Wolverine is good news in my book. People forget sub factions are not a new thing to RTS games. They were done years ago in a similar fashion with Westwood’s Emperor: Battle for Dune and they worked well for that game. Kane’s Wrath sub factions follow the “Zero Hour system” and it worked well for that game so yes bring on the sub factions for the Tiberium Universe.

Zee Hypnotist: Personally, I think the Sub Faction idea is reasonable, the only thing I don’t like is the way they are being represented. The names themselves sound somewhat childish, especially for GDI, considering it is an government funded international military. I support the idea of subfactions themselves, as they seem to bring diversity into the game.

Lion: I like the idea of sub-factions. It’s a great way to introduce new units and structures, and of course to gain some new tactics and strategies for the game. Each faction in Kane’s Wrath will be getting two sub-factions, so looks like we’ll be getting lots of new toys to play with.

Mastermind: I think it’s the best approach to enabling more sides in the game. I don’t see any easy way to do a 4th faction (other than maybe the Forgotten), so subfactions allows for something very similar. It was something that was done quite well in Zero Hour, and I think that it can be brought into the Tiberium universe without any major issue.

Koen: It reminds me of the “Generals” factions in Zero Hour. There were so many small differences between those generals that, in the end, I couldn’t remember them at all. However, with only a limited number of special abilities per subfaction, it might work out this time. Also, it allows the storytellers to explain why certain units have fallen out of grace: if the subfaction (say the Steel Talons) have messed up big-time, then their funding might have been pulled.

Mighty BOB!: I do seem to recall that in the months leading up to Tiberium Wars’ release there were plenty of calls for sub factions or a similar system. Although those could have been from a vocal minority (case in point: that epically long Walls thread on the official EA forums). As much as I might yearn for C&C Incursion, the franchise is in EA’s hands now and it is their call whether I like it or not. The sub factions could end up working well; it’s a system that’s been proven in other games and in mods like Shockwave, we’ll see how it turns out.

Blbpaws: I’m actually not terribly impressed, to tell you the truth. We experimented with subfactions when we did the All Stars mod, and I think they’re a really neat and powerful thing, but I don’t think that only two subfactions per side offers the player enough choice. Using three or four subfactions per side offers the player more choice and more ways to develop their playing style. I think, given the amount of history they are covering, that they could have done three or four subfactions per side fairly easily and not broken from the story.

JohnWE: Historically, as in the past Tiberium games, there haven’t been different sides past GDI or Nod. Now we’ve got subfactions of GDI, Nod and Scrin. I think it’ll provide more gameplay variety. You could also look at the factions as different times of the military. Steel Talons is pre-C&C3, regular is C&C3, and then ZOCOM is post-C&C3. That seems to fit nicely, and I would bet the Scrin factions fit that way as well.

Nod’s don’t fit into a time line like that. Kane himself would probably say that Nod is too large to simply fit in a time line. The biggest thing that most long time C&C fans are going to be disappointed about is that the Black Hand is more of a aggressive infantry faction instead of stealth. I would remind all of you out there that in Renegade, where the Black Hand first came into existence, the Stealth Black Hand was only one of their special infantry, and they had plenty more aggressive top of the line infantry to kill you with.

I am looking forward to the subfactions!

Question 2) Staying with Kane’s Wrath. The announcements of Natasha Henstridge and Carl Lumbly to appear along side Joe Kucan. Are you happy with these actors?

Sonic: In all honesty I don’t care who plays what character as long as Joe Kucan is Kane and the other actors give great performances and not look so out of place as some of the actors in Tiberium Was did. Natasha Henstridge continues the run of “C&C babes” and joins the likes of Christine Steel (Umagon) and Monika Schnarre (Oxanna) from Tiberian Sun, Kari Wuhrer (Tanya) and Athena Massey (Lt. Eva Lee) in Red Alert 2 and of course Tricia Helfer (Kilian Qatar) in Tiberium Wars. I don’t know anything about Carl Lumbly, other than what it says on IMBD.com. The real question is do you prefer seeing well known actors in C&C games? Or perhaps its better to use lesser known actors. When Michael Ironside (General Granger) was talking to me Tiberium Wars all I could think of was Sam Fisher from Splinter Cell. Same goes for Billy Dee Williams (Redmond Boyle)….. Hello Lando Calrissian!

Zee Hypnotist: Well, I’m fine with whatever actors they throw in there, to be honest. Regardless, I doubt the acting will be the greatest, it was kind of corny in the last one, they just need to do something different with the effects, and change the point of view of how you’re watching it. I mean, you’re a GDI commander, and you’re basically watching the news for all your information. With Nod, you’re basically watching people talk to you from a single room. Sure, it was the same for C&C 1 and Red Alert 1, but, I mean, they didn’t hype that up with extreme green-screen technology, and they did fine.

Lion: I’m just thrilled that EA is using live actors for the cut scenes instead of computer generated characters. From an interview I’ve seen, Natasha and Carl seem to be enthusiastic about participating in the FVM scenes. I’m sure they’ll do fine with their roles.

Mastermind: Not being particularly attached to Tiberian Sun, I don’t mind not seeing any role reprisals. Based on the interviews on the latest Battlecast episode, Lumbly and Henstridge seem like solid choices. They seem enthusiastic about it, and Natasha being hot doesn’t hurt either.

Koen: Because I am from Europe, I do not know either Natasha Henstridge or Carl Lumbly. She looks hot; I hope she can act… Carl Lumbly looks like a good guy

Mighty BOB!: I think they’re okay, although Joe is the only one I will ever jump out of my seat for. πŸ˜› They do fit in with the other cast and the ‘atmosphere’ that was in Tiberium Wars well. Maybe I’m just hopelessly sentimental for “oldschool” games but I miss the days when games had actors no one ever heard of (such as from local theatres near a studio) or when members of the production team themselves would fill a character’s role. (Eric Gooch anyone? πŸ˜› )

Blbpaws: Yes, I think they’ll do fine. Lumbly, who plays Brother Marcion, should be interesting as he’s supposed to have a break from Kane at one point. To me, that’ll be a key scene to look at when judging the quality of Kane Wrath’s acting; can they pull off emotional confrontations convincingly or will it just feel like they are overacting and a distracting from the battle?

JohnWE: Frankly, I had never heard of the actors before, but that didn’t surprise me much. Their interviews are the only form of data I have to base my comments on. They seem to be ‘noobs’ at computer gaming, which also doesn’t surprise me. They’ll fit right in with some people I know πŸ˜› Luckily how good they are at computer games doesn’t determine how good actors they will be.

Now on to the poking-of-fun part of my answer. Why does Kane always get the blond chicks? Carl Lumbly is someone the likes of which we haven’t seen in C&C on the evil side at least, so that’ll provide some interesting new content. But Natasha seems to fit the role of Oxanna, Killian, Nadia and Seth. Will she die just like most the rest of them? She’s in a tussle with Kane at least or so she stated.

Question 3) So we have all seen the so called C&C footage from that artist’s CGI demo reel. Are we looking at the early stages of a possible C&C FPS?

Sonic: Like I said in a thread on the CNCNZ.com Forums. I think it was an early CGI concept that was probably created at the start of the design period for C&C 3. Artists that EA hire to do their concept/design work are all bound to an NDA, once these NDA’s expire they can release the work did. So I highly doubt it would be anything to with any future C&C related products for 2008 and beyond. Although in an interesting twist, I hear EA asked the the artist in question to remove the footage from his website.

Zee Hypnotist: I think there’s going to be a second RTS in the making, but the only thing that perplexes me is the fact that the video footage looks like it’s very far in development, and I doubt they’d be that far into development without really announcing anything.

Lion: Since that particular CGI was made over a year ago, I’d say it was originally for the C&C3 game and not for a C&C FPS. I doubt we’ll be seeing much evidence about a C&C FPS in the works until Kane’s Wrath is completed.

Mastermind: I don’t see it as a likely part of a C&C FPS. If it was a part of an unannounced game it would probably still be under NDA, and couldn’t be released. Otherwise, I believe agreements like that generally sunset after two years, meaning that it is a pretty old concept for something that was only recently unofficially confirmed (by GameSpot) to be in development.

Koen: The footage was removed before I could watch it. At the very least, this implies they have considered making another C&C FPS. I think it will get a Q4 2008 release – and the second expansion to C&C3 gets a Q2 2009 release πŸ˜‰

Mighty BOB!: It could be, and it looks like it could be fun and action packed, but I doubt that it is. It features the “early Predator tank” from that 2-sided The First Decade poster and that leads me to believe that it was just concept work of what the CGI cutscenes for Tiberium Wars could look have looked like when they were in early development. The so-called C&C-X FPS could be set in the Tiberium Wars timeline if it is in development, but to use a quote from our beloved C&C series (it’s overused but I’m using it anyways dangit πŸ˜› ) only “time will tell.”

Blbpaws: My gut reaction is that no, we are not. I think that was old footage that is not relevant to what EA is developing now. To say otherwise would imply that EA has had a C&C FPS in the pipeline for quite some time now–more than a year and a half if you work backward. I don’t think that’s the case, but I do think we’ll see a C&C FPS eventually, possibly based off the Crysis engine. We know with relative certainly that EA is at least very seriously considering it, and it is most definitely the next logical step.

JohnWE: I have seen the video and have no clue what it is going to be. Maybe it’ll be a C&C FPS, I have always liked Renegade. It appears that this is a 3d artist’s fun with explosions and other stuff, There seemed to be a Predator Tank and a Tiberian Sun Nod Harvester. It looked mostly like a fanciful concept trailer than ingame footage. I’d like a new C&C FPS, but I don’t know whether this is it or just some cool renders.

Question 4) How do you feel about BattleCast Primetime and Command & Conquer TV overall?

Sonic: Despite some technical problems with the actual streaming speeds (that have finally been sorted out) the Command & Conquer TV idea has been excellent. BattleCast Primetime is extremely well produced, I like the ESPN Sportscenter style they have going. Both Raj and David work well together hosting the show, Raj’s reaction to seeing the Foundry in BC EP4’s BattleCast 5 countdown was priceless! I would like to APOC’s Community Corner extended and give more time though. As for the other “filler” shows. Aftermath is ok, but needs some more work on its format, the changing of female hosts every month is strange. Command School serves no purpose as a separate stand alone show, I think it would be better off as a segment in each episode of BattleCast Primetime. But overall I think EA is on to a winner with BattleCast Primetime and Command & Conquer TV and I hope it continues for a long time.

Zee Hypnotist: Once again, I support the idea, it just doesn’t seem like they’ve made it very user-friendly. There’s like 3 or 4 different “official” sites we’re hearing of that seem to go online and offline, and the overall process of downloading and watching the show is very, very slow. Plus, unlike most movies I have on DVD that I enjoy watching in my computer, this doesn’t really seem like something I’ll wait hours just to see.

Lion: In my opinion it has turned into a great success. Our community leader APOC has been instrumental in seeing that new episodes are released in a timely manner, and are of good quality, interesting, and offers up new information for C&C fans that we would not hear or see elsewhere.

Mastermind: I really enjoy Battlecast Primetime. The episodes are fun to watch, and there’s usually some cool information. I can’t say I’m nearly as big a fan of Aftermath. There’s something about the fact that the entire cast of Primetime are devs from the RTS team that makes it much cooler. Plus, Raj Joshi always cracks me up, mostly from the fact that he’s trying so hard to be serious.

Koen: I think they are funny – especially Raj Joshi (that guy *talks* extremely easy, even more so in real life! I think David Silverman should let Raj do the opening of the show next time). Successful experiment EALA, keep it up!

Mighty BOB!: I think BC Primetime is a bit heavy on the cheese and corn sometimes but other than that I don’t really have any gripes with it. Needs more Kucan. πŸ™‚ At the moment it is a good place for information, but my real concern is longevity. I hope it isn’t a marketing tool that EA drops when Kane’s Wrath support ends and patches stop flowing.

Blbpaws: I like Command School. I think that it developers talking to fans about their games is a neat concept, and something that doesn’t happen enough. I just wished they would push the envelope on their strategies and commentary a bit more. Battlecast Primetime serves as a vehicle for marketing, and is overdone in some places. To see this, just break down some of the comments on the show, particularly when evaluating the Battlecast Five. A lot of sports commentary is hyperbole and without fact, and, in EA’s quest to make RTS a sport, they has inherited this flaw (and perhaps failed to inherit the better aspects of sports).

JohnWE: I feel that they are a definitely good way to transfer information from EA to the fans. I do like the fact that the videos aren’t repetitive of the info that we already know, they usually manage to bring some new exclusive info that we haven’t seen before. Last year while waiting for C&C3 to come out, there were plenty of interviews with Mike Verdu and Jim Vesella and other producers, but they seemed to all relate to the same information.

Also, it is nice that Apoc can spotlight what the community is doing over in his corner. It’s turned into a useful way for us to get information across to the more general public.

Battlecast Primetime has provided a new medium that I enjoy watching. While the jokes may get corny, I do appreciate the clean humor, exclusive interviews and isn’t it fun learning strategies from the top players?

Question 5) At the start of November, EA released version 4.0 of the Mod Software Development Kit for C&C 3. Are EA doing enough to support the modding community, do you think they should be doing more?

Sonic: Modding is not and never will be my strong point so I really can’t give an answer to this question. I don’t play mods for any games (I would have tried Halogen though, thanks for nothing Microsoft). Modding is just something I’ve never been interested in. But I do understand it importance in the C&C Community.

Zee Hypnotist: I guess there’s a fine line between releasing enough game information, and releasing too much game information, but, I really don’t know enough about modding (specifically in this game) to be able to really answer this question. The game is still reasonably new, so I really can’t say that modding should be easy as one two three. People are STILL learning about the game.

Lion: More is always better, but considering that gaming companies are under no obligation to provide any support to the modding community, they are doing a fantastic job. EA is fully aware that the modding community helps greatly to extend the shelf life of a game. Whatever they don’t provide, the modding community has been able to develop additional tools on their own.

Mastermind: I might be a bit biased (considering that I’ve invested a lot of work into the SDK personally), but I think that EA is doing a great job of supporting the mod community. The SDK has been updated frequently to support the patches released. Sure, there are a few usability issues, and it’s not as simple to mod C&C 3 as past games, but overall I think mod support has increased dramatically with C&C 3, and for the better. There are still some lingering issues, such as the civilian asset issue, but I think that overall there’s enough there to have the mod community sustain itself, and with a little effort improve the SDK.

Koen: Being the guy who prophesied there would not be a Mod SDK in March 2007, an apology is in place. I was wrong. Though I think the extra pressure resulting from that ‘prophecy’ might have helped in allocating extra resources to it… who knows. The Mod SDK itself is a great piece of work – almost everything can be changed. I am not missing anything at the moment. For beginners, it is a bit hard to get started – but that is what TibEd 2 is for. It takes some of the hassle away (copying XML files, adding them to Mod.XML), allowing you to focus on actually editing. Currently, the characteristic “TibEd GUI” is not yet in there for C&C3, I’m hoping to have it done before Christmas 2007 – so stay tuned πŸ™‚

Mighty BOB!: I’d be lying if I said EA is doing everything they could be doing. It’s great to see them releasing tools at all instead of leaving the community to make their own, but modding has become more complex with C&C3 than it ever was for Generals thanks to the new machinery running the engine. There are a few more tools the community could use (such as a Flash plugin for exporting to Tiberium Wars’ menu format to pick one off the top of my head). Also some of the useful bits of code from Zero Hour don’t work any more, and even some of C&C3’s code doesn’t work right (squad logic and garrisoning multiple squads is bad to say the least). It would be nice if the devs would take a crack at fixing some of the modding-related problems with the engine (bug-fixes and balancing take a higher priority of course). Perhaps Kane’s Wrath will fix some of these issues.

Blbpaws: Mod support is decent with the SDK, but not wonderful. The SAGE engine can be very limiting in some respects. As usual, it’s up to the modders to do some serious experimenting with and digging through the files to make their projects come to life. On the whole, though, I think C&C 3 offers enough potential for modders, and I look forward to modding it.

JohnWE: Having been working on my own game, I know it’s quite tough to document all the changes and ways to do things. It seems that EA has been doing a good job trying to get all this information collected and then dispersed to the fans. While it’s harder to mod C&C3, we are also seeing some higher quality mods crafted, which seem (like good mods always do) to provide some interesting gameplay in the future. Of course, it would be nice to support the community more, but I do think they’re off to a good start. Now we’ve got to hope that in Kane’s Wrath, they don’t make the XML files a completely different set of standards to learn.

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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