FEATURES: Roundtable Discussion #15 – December 2008

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The final Roundtable for 2008. This is edition number 15, and it has a sort of year in review theme with a look into the future. Listed below are the people participating on the panel for this month.

Question 1) 2008 has been a big year for Command & Conquer, the Community and of course EALA, what are some of your own personal highlights?

Sonic: From a personal view point the biggest highlight was visiting the home of Command & Conquer, EA Los Angeles, in June for the Red Alert 3 Community Summit. It was great to meet the developers and fellow community fan site guys. Put faces to names and soon on. It was whirl wind trip but still very exciting. On the C&C front we got the eventual release of Kane’s Wrath in March then Red Alert 3 in late October. The release of any new C&C has to be considered a highlight. The news of Frank Klepacki returning to C&C for the first time in a years was also something to remember. And if I may, I’d like to mention that the continued growth of CNCNZ.com in 2008 has been personal highlight for me. I’m very pleased with what we have done with the site this year, launching new features and continuing with existing ones like the Roundtables.

Lion: Hmmmm…. I stayed alive for another year, and I still have work despite the fact the US economy is in the gutter.

Chickendippers: My personal highlight has to be visiting EALA for the Red Alert 3 Community Summit as my timetable finally allowed me to attend! It was great to put faces to the nicknames and an honour to help shape the game.

Banshee: While I prefer unpatched Kane’s Wrath over Red Alert 3, I think that RA3 was the highlight of the year. The game itself is good, attracted a lot of fans but other things made it become a highlight as well, such as EA’s mad (and awesome) RA3’s marketing machine, the public beta testing and the odd DRM that comes with it. Community wise, we’ve seen the new rise of RADEN, which was almost being merged with CNCDEN a while ago. Also, the massive amount of random contests in the end of the year sponsored by EA. Modding wise, we had some new interesting mods like Tiberium Essence and Granatball. Some other highlights were a bit frustating, starting by the campaign for the Kane’s Wrath mod SDK that came definitely nowhere and became the biggest frustation of the year. Also, there were a lot of noise on some TW mods like Middle East Crisis 2 and Asylum. Talking about Asylum, what the hell happened to Mastermind?

Duke: Probably when I actually installed and played Red Alert 3 for the first time, all sorts of crazy thoughts shot through my head like: “Oh my goodness, they’ve actually done a pretty nice job of this”. I guess it’s like a mini-reward to all your hard work in and around the community when you actually play the game and…it’s good!

Mighty BOB!: Of course Red Alert 3 was announced and released but I’m sure the other Roundtable participants will touch on that. EA’s CEO admitted that its past acts of consolidating and closing acquired developers was a mistake that has hurt them in the long run. C&C Reborn released their first public version of the mod since 2003. (Although I have to say I am disappointed. It was infantry-only, there hasn’t been another release since, and A Path Beyond had v 0.9935 out in March of 2006.) Renegade coders united under the banner of Tiberian Technologies. The community made a futile attempt to get modding support integrated into Kane’s Wrath. Tiberium was canceled for not meeting quality expectations. Mods like Tiberian Dawn, Tiberium Wars Advanced, and Renegade X had several press releases. CNCNZ celebrated one year of Roundtables. Community sites started new features such as CnC Live. And although these last 2 are technically from 2007, the OMC4 and ModDB MOTY 2007 results were announced in ’08. C&C Generals: Shockwave made Editor’s Choice in the MOTY awards.

Hagren: Phew, there have been plenty, where to start? The anncouncement of Red Alert 3, Frank’s return as composer, following the developement from blog through screenshots to trailers, importing the Hungarian PC Magazine “PC Guru” to be the first to post RA3 info and see it being copied everywhere around the world, becoming a member of CnC-Files, watching the intro, getting the Premier Edition straight from LA thanks to Apoc, playing the beta, seeing progress in EA’s support…. it has been a good year, no doubt ๐Ÿ™‚

Blbpaws: Definitely going to visit LA for the first time and meeting the C&C team. Playing RA3 with them and other community members was great fun. I’ve always been a fan of learning about the developers of the games. I think at the point where we forget that it is people making the games and loving their work and view C&C as just something churned out from another corporation or produced by rote, it’s time we find something else to enjoy. For me, investigating the outsourcing of C&C was also a definite highlight, as I learned a lot more about the game development process.

Question 2) From a C&C and Community viewpoint what could have been done better in 2008?

Sonic: Nothing really comes to mind because I feel the year was a positive one all round. Although, in the latter part of the year I felt C&C TV, in particular Battlecast Primetime, took a step back. After the big live show in London subsequent installments haven’t been all that flash, with different parts of the show, like “The Five”, being posted at different times. And the Battlecast Primetime Minute doesn’t feel right at all. What it should really be is APOC’s Community Corner, only expanded.

Lion: The time leading up to the release of Red Alert 3. I think there was too much info put out on the game. When we finally got it, there weren’t much suprises to discover. In past games we were fed slowly, and left with some anticipation of what would be. Of course, fans complained when there was little info…so what are ya gonna do?

Chickendippers: Well there’s always room for improvement. The Red Alert 3 UI could have done with some more attention, it’s not the most intuitive thing to use. So could have the new C&C.com, although a vast improvement over the old site there are still a few niggles to be ironed out, some functionality is there but players just need to be shown how to use it (I’m talking specifically about clan management).

Banshee: I’d love if there was a mod SDK for Kane’s Wrath. It would be a perfect engine for a certain mod that I’ve been working for… errr.. more than 8 years, I guess. And I’m afraid that RA3 mod SDK might have a similar fate. I’ll be happy if I’m proven wrong. The community itself was great. We’ve seen a lot of mods, content, movies, contests, events and whatever kind of content being created or organized constantly everywhere. Also, there are new sites pooping out once in a while. If we could improve something in the community, it would be certainly to spotlight these sites as well and make them part of the party.

Duke: I think a lot of things should have been decided earlier and then made sure that information got to the right people without the Chinese whispers effect – especially to those on the inside. I’m talking about the little fiasco’s we had earlier on in the year with “Red Alert 3 isn’t a Command & Conquer” and with Tiberium’s un-C&C’ness. But after those messes were cleaned up most things seemed to be pretty tight. The Red Alert 3 Summit in June was a nice initiative for many of the Community Leaders but I think we’re still very much lacking the fansite support that we’re going to need as a community if we’re going to go further. Things like, (I may be wrong here but as far as I know:) no “unofficial *volunteer*” fansites were given any real exclusives at all to report. Especially in the early days of RA3’s announcement. I mean come on! The majority of our information then was coming from an article in a Hungarian magazine…who plays C&C in Hungary anyway? And why ignore our dedicated contingent of experienced Webmasters around the C&C Community that have been around doing the same thing since the first C&C game! So what if most of these sites can’t fork out the thousands required for a few exclusive screenshots and information, when did it become all about money? Sure it’s not an uncommon method for publishers when they announce a game but in this case the *only* content came from these magazines and later from the EA site. Where’s the fansite exclusives Mister Community Manager Sir? Maybe you could try to be a wee bit more supportive of the people that really do make your job a helluva lot easier.

Mighty BOB!: It would be nice if EALA’s “Live Team” had the resources to get their butts in gear and get out support.

Hagren: I would have liked to see more on the developement process, BCPT fell quite short numerous times in this regard. They absolutely should not have had included DRM in the game. They should have invested more time with the site, adding more media and profiles along the way, as well as more FAQs. There also should have been some creative contests. On the flip side, we got a new forum at last, and the blogs and polls gave us both insight and a possibility to voice our opinion. I also dug how oftentimes they took fan-input to heart. Right now though, it got too silent for my liking.

Blbpaws: Kane’s Wrath support was anemic and lacking; the game was outsourced, rushed, doomed from the beginning and poorly supported. It was an all-around bad effort. Games like that are a big part of the reason EA is struggling so badly. Mod support has also been lacking.

Question 3) EALA said they have two big C&C announcements coming in 2009. Gaze into your crystal ball and tell us what do you think these announcements will be?

Sonic: I’m picking the first announcement will be the expansion for Red Alert 3, rumored to be called “Uprising”. As for the second announcement, all signs point to a sequel to Generals. If done right this would be ok. But I would rather see something new, something innovative, Generals 2 would probably be a bit of a let down for me should it be announced. Fingers crossed a new C&C FPS is what they actually in the pipeline. Renegade 2 anyone?

Lion: Probably a new C&C RTS game (Generals 2 maybe?), and most likely a Red Alert 3 expansion. But I’m hoping for a new C&C FPS as well. With the cancellation of TIBERIUM, I dunno if that will happen.

Chickendippers: I found out something today that will lighten Apoc’s workload, but I don’t think that counts as one of the big announcements. I’d still very much like to see a second C&C FPS, although with the whole Tiberium debacle I’m not sure how practical that is. I’m sure there will be a Red Alert 3 expansion and possibly a new game later in the year.

Banshee: Red Alert 3 will have an expansion pack of some kind or a booster pack. The other announcement is Generals 2. Few years ago, to please some hardcore fans, APOC said that Generals wasn’t a C&C game. With the new site, they’ve tried to enphasize Generals as a C&C game and even APOC changed his words on it. So, I guess they wanna place the C&C brand on it again to sell it. For me, it is still a random RTS game with no real story… but it should have a fun multiplayer.

Duke: My Crystal Ball has been rather cloudy of late but I recently aquired one of the lost Palantir’s through e-bay so that will do. My uneducated, un-analysed guess is that we’re looking at a Generals sequel (Generals 2?) and a Red Alert 3 expansion pack. But there we go, not going out on too much of a limb. Fairly certain about the Generals take but we’ll see..anyone want to put money on it?

Mighty BOB!: Well we know there’s another C&C game announcement coming due to the mystery beta key in RA3. I suspect that it will be another foray into the Generals universe as the Tiberium and Red Alert universes have already been tapped recently. As for the second announcement, maybe the RA3 expansion? I suppose we’ve gotten complacent and expect that there will always be at least 1 expansion for every C&C game –and indeed there is with the exception of the FPS Renegade, and thus far RA3– so some people might not consider that a “big announcement” because “it’s gonna happen anyways.” If the other announcement isn’t a Red Alert 3 expansion, then I have no idea what it is. Maybe C&C in space.

Hagren: I sincerely hope it’s Generals 2, a game that builds heavily on its precedessor and adds more depth to the universe, both in story and gameplay. I also hope they take their time to release a title choke-full of strong features and strategic possibilities, in a state impeccable as possible. EA needs an answer to SC2 and DoW2, and it should be a massive, glorious success. Hopefully they’ll work as closely as needed with the pros to ensure it has all the interface and gameplay features the game needs to be a worthy contender. After that’s done, I’d really like to see a Renegade 2. Squad-based FPS are the best. It just needs soul, something Tiberium might have lacked. It also has to deliver on the needs of the community regarding such title. And if EA would not like to pursue such concept, then bring on CnC4. Regardless of what it’ll be in the end, we are in desperate need of a new engine, and just more depth and content overall- it has to reach dramatic heights of other great games, as well as real-world references such as in the earlier CnCs.

Blbpaws: ) The first is definitely an RA3 expansion or booster pack. The second is a C&C-themed FPS. It simply makes too much sense (and money) not to happen.

Question 4) Compared to 12 months ago, do you think the C&C Community has evolved this year?

Sonic: Depends where you look. But I still think a majority of fans who live on the Official C&C Forums and frequent most of the major fan sites simply don’t appreciate anything EALA produce at all. Its still a cesspool of whingers, moaners and trolls. This is the modern day C&C community, if you don’t like it why are you still in it? Thats the question many “fans”, and I use the word loosely, should be asking themselves.

Lion: It has evolved somewhat with the help of EA’s online community manager Aaron Kaufman (APOC). C&C TV has helped greatly, and the launch of a new official C&C website is another feather in the C&C cap. The C&C community as a whole is alive and kickin butt. There are no shortages of fan websites. The modding community seems to be holding it’s own. It would be nice to see more mods actually make it to completion however.

Chickendippers: I think the community has grown this year, certainly the EA PR machine has been working overtime with Red Alert 3 and the quick release of the Worldbuilder has helped keep some of the initial momentum going. I’d also like the to think that it’s matured slightly, thanks in part to some tough love from Apoc’s Army keeping the official forums in check and banning those cheaters!

Banshee: I’ve seen a lot of new random C&C sites, specially dedicated to Red Alert 3 showing up, but they seem to be isolated from the rest of the community. Also, I’ve noticed that a lot of old school sites dying, specially Savage War. Tiberium Web has been offline for ages. These two sites I miss a lot.

Duke: Not really. The general feel is the same, it’s just a little bit less creative due to the lack of Mod SDK for Kane’s Wrath and Red Alert 3.

Mighty BOB!: Hmm, not really. At least not substantially. You have to go back to 2006 if you want to see a substantial evolutionary difference. It doesn’t feel like much has changed significantly since Tiberium Wars hit shelves. Go back to when the community was surviving purely on modding news and then compare it to after TW was announced and later released for a change.

Hagren: ) If you’d have asked me in summer, I’d have said “Yes!”. Now, I’m not that sure. While I sense that RA3 was ultimately received much better than TW, I somehow noticed that less and less members are around all the community sites. I would not blame the quality of games however- CnC-fans just don’t seem to be as devoted and zealous as Blizzard fans, and this has both advantages and cons. We need some huge surprise to shake up the community, that’s for sure.

Blbpaws: RA3 has restored a bit of my faith in the C&C team’s ability to produce games, though it didn’t feel entirely like a C&C to me. I think it was overdone at points, but on the whole it was a step up from Kane’s Wrath and C&C 3. At the same time, if the goal is to create a gritty, immersive C&C with addictive gameplay, EALA still hasn’t done it. Mod support has also taken a step backwards. Barring a serious turnaround on that front, modding won’t be a question at next year’s year-in-review roundtable.

Question 5) Any final words to close out the C&C year that was 2008?

Sonic: Its been a big year for our beloved C&C franchise. And with what EALA delivered with Red Alert 3, I feel the future is very bright indeed. I would also like to pass along my own personal thanks to our community manager, APOC, this guys does a mountain of work and takes a lot of crap from all fronts. I look forward to working with APOC again in 2009.

Lion: We had a good year. Kane’s Wrath and Red Alert 3 kept the majority of fans happy. Some were disappointed with the cancellation of TIBERIUM, but are hoping for a C&C FPS game in the near future.

Chickendippers: 2008 was a pretty good C&C year, the guys have set themselves a tough job to beat it in 2009! Merry Christmas to everyone in the community!

Banshee: The “C&C year” expression says it all. It was an amazing year for Command & Conquer, we had everything. I think 2009 is also promising because of the new games. But I’m afraid that 2010 will slow things down. EALA is releasing too many Command & Conquer games at once… and fans will grow tired of it one day, unless the community prevails.

Duke: It may be the holiday season for you in the Southern Hemisphere but the weather’s beautiful. Give C&C a break till later on next year and get outside and enjoy the sun! But don’t wait too long…EA may have announced another seven C&C titles in your small absence!

Mighty BOB!: Keep an eye on Tiberian Dawn and Tiberian Sun Rising. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Also Happy Christmas and Merry New Year (Oh what a rebel I am).

Hagren: For what it’s worth, RA3 was a blast to play, shortcomings aside. I’m truly saddened at how ignored the title eventually got, but I’m still proud of being a member of this community and to meet enthusiastic fans as we log on everyday. I hope that perhaps one day, the community unites and stands as one instead of looking back into the past- EALA has to raise the bar however to motivate us taking those steps- but they’re on the right track.

Blbpaws: EA is at a crossroads and they know it. If the ship doesn’t get turned around in a hurry. rushing games less, more original thought and gameplay innovation, more employee connection to the projects, better management, C&C (and all of EA) will be in deep trouble. Circa 2003, I almost left C&C entirely because I thought the franchise was going off a cliff. I’m glad I’ve stayed because I’ve enjoyed being an active member of the community for the past five years and working on projects like C&C All Stars and C&C 3: The Forgotten, but if C&C doesn’t find its identity as something more than just another rushed game, I don’t think it–or I–will last five more.

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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