FEATURES: Roundtable Discussion #26 – December 2009

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We finish off a year of Roundtables with a fan submitted question edition. The fans have given us the questions for this one. Our usual panel have taken the challenge of answering them.

Question 1) What are your expectations for the C&C4 storyline? Do you think EA will be able to tie up all the loose threads, and still make an awesome story? [recover]

Nmenth: My expectations are not what they used to be, I’m afraid. I hope they manage to still blow me away, but there is little of that hope left. Luckily, a good storyline can exist in any game, no matter what has happened concerning the rest of it. No, I do not think all loose ends will be tied up, nor do I think they plan to try to. It has been hinted at several times that this is not the end of tiberium, just Kane’s story arc. If they have any intention to continue the universe in any form, there will surely be details left out. Can it be awesome? I don’t know, Kane is the villain we all love, his ultimate destination could spin off in so many directions, it is quite difficult to predict just how awesome it could, or may not, be.

Gben: I just finished the fifth season of “Battlestar Galactica”, and I’m watching JJ. Abrams’ “Fringe” on TV at the moment. A thought occurred to me about some cryptic line from the “Fringe’s observer”, that it is really easy to create a mystery, but it’s really hard to come to a satisfying conclusion. I expect, that despite the best efforts the conclusion will not match the unrealistic expectations of me and other fans. I think life is open-ended and that it is a mistake to try and tie up all the loose ends. I think a great story needs some unknown outcomes to fuel speculation and keep the story alive. A good story should end pregnant with possibility.

In my opinion, a great story should be written backwards. Conclusion, body, introduction. Although copious notes were no doubt left behind, the change in creation/writers for the game has no doubt taken the conclusion in new directions. Perhaps these new directions have caused ‘cheats’ in the story to set up a revised conclusion. Something like the last season of BSG felt like they were making the story up as they went, with no clear idea of the final destination. It seemed there were a lot of cheats/revisions/retelling in the final stages of the BSG story that kinda messed up the satisfaction of its resolution.

I prefer my ‘mysteries’ to be more satisfying the second time through… when you discover all the clues along the way, carefully hidden in plain site by the author… that leads up to the ‘OMG’ conclusion at the end. In a perfect world the resolution of C&C4 should be grounded in C&C1, not KW or C&C3… and especially not created mysteries from C&C4.

One of the great lessons I learned from the Peter Jackson’s rendition of the LOTR tale is the dogmatic focus of the story of Frodo and the ring. There was a major story arc that had to be told, other events were ancillary, and to be included must contribute directly to Frodo’s journey with his ring. Something worse than a cheat, is an story inconsistency. C&C3 has more than one. I also have a personal dislike of KW’s return of GDI mech units from a storytelling perspective. The re-introduction of GDI mechs, for instance, was not grafted back into the storyline in a believable way.

The main story arc of the Tiberium Universe is the end-goal of Kane’s manipulation of this resource, I would expect to hear his goals explained, whether Kane’s plans are ultimately successful or not. The mechanics of the death, life and resurrection of Kane is one of the mysteries that I wish remain untold.

So based on unrealistic expectations and a tendency to allow inconsistency of characters and universe, I’m don’t expect to get that “awesome” story. I’m afraid they will take on too much, and yet us fans will feel they have left too much out for the grand finale.

(The technical components of the Teaser Trailer, so far, are the things that excite me the most. Dynamic locations, subtle lighting, flexible camera positions, ensemble of actors contributing to atmosphere… all factors that bode well for a believable and interesting story.)

Lion: I’m hoping EA can put a tail on most of the mysteries that still remain in the Tiberian Universe. There have been issues in the past with EA accurately following canon, etc. Regardless, I believe the C&C4 development team will do a good job on the story and single player missions. It remains to be seen if it will be elevated to title of being an ‘awesome’ story, and ultimately the C&C fans will decide on that. But at the very least the story can be put to rest.

Banshee: I wish they could do tie up all loose threads and make it more consistent. But as far as I know the EALA guys, I think they’ll tie few gaps and create a bunch of new ones, specially if the C&C book that was released a couple of years ago is used as reference. That book has some serious mess ups with the Tiberian Sun era. Actually, the book is just a tip of a huge iceberg. If in Tiberium Wars, we were surprised with the abrupt change of how Tiberium works in 17 years, Kane’s Wrath reduced this time for less than 4 years. Kane’s behavior changed a lot in the first decade. In the first games, Kane knew that who controlled the media, controlled the world, the future and the past. It seems he forgot it in the latest games and he won’t remember it in this next game for sure. Kane became more emotional and lost self-confidence when compared to the first games, specially in C&C3. That made Nod reduce their faith on him and made him less charismatic. And, in this game, Scrin’s participation will be very limited, if any. It wouldn’t be a problem if Kane wasn’t so desesperate to capture at least one Scrin tower and the tacitus in the latest games. I understand that the Tacitus will have other uses in this game, although the end of Kane’s Wrath seems to suggest that the Tacitus do have some sort of communications from Scrin.

Chickendippers: I’m expecting an awesome storyline and the cinematics are definitely going to be impressive if nothing else. I know thought has gone into tying up all the loose threads to satisfy all the cannon fanatics but whether that will actually translate into storytelling is difficult to say. I hope they don’t spent time explaining little geeky things in cinematics or with drawn out voice-overs at the expense of the actual flow and stroytelling. I did like the way the intel items were used in TW to this effect.

Ryan: I’m really, really hoping that EALA pull out something ridiculously awesome – but while that might be hoping for a bit much, I do think they’ll manage something pretty good. I think I read that there are only 7 missions per side, which is a bit underwhelming. They’ll be hard pressed to fit everything in. But despite all this, I remain cautiously optimistic about the storyline. I haven’t read anything plotwise that has disappointed me, and the initial cutscene reveal was actually quite good.

Mighty BOB!: I’m expecting something between a C+ and a B+ (leaning towards the B+, not the C+) in terms of story. I think that tying up the loose ends and being awesome are mutually exclusive things that do not depend on each other. They don’t have to all be tied up for it to be awesome, and vice versa. That being said, there’s no way they can tie everything up satisfactorily with the time and budget they have. At best I think they can tie up 60% of the loose ends from TD/TS/TW, and that’s not including a few of the loose ends that they intentionally want to leave unanswered for the mystery.

NODSOLDIERGIRL: I hope that EA can make this the best C&C Tiberium Universe game. I really want to see this game & its story line soar off the charts. I really believe in EA and the C&C Dev team to bring this home. Please don’t the fans down, we are counting on this game to be awesome!

Nathancnc: I am hoping that the story will be done well, and be very true to the original storyline. I did like what they did with C&C3, but was not very impressed with Kane’s Wrath. I expect that they will tie up everything with how tiberium relates to the scrin, and what it is exactly that the tacitus does. This is supposed to be the “big bang” ending of the Tiberium story, and I hope EA does a good job with it.

Question 2) What are your main concerns with what you have seen of C&C 4? [BioBen]

Nmenth: That the developers are unable to tell the difference between a good concept and a bad one anymore. The unit designs are a good example of this, how did some of these even get off the first rough draft much less all the way into the game? I think the entire radical gameplay overhaul is the prime example, but some people actually like the new formula, so I’ll leave that as just my personal opinion to be shared or discarded at will.

Gben: As a SP gamer I rate games this way:- 1) Story/Experience 2) mission design 3) MP/replayability.

Many of the current EALA SP missions are reasonable, but not that memorable. I prefer my MP in a LAN setting with face-to-face contact (so I don’t play MP much) so it’s down to the story to perk my interest. Based on my answers for story above, I have to say I’m pessimistic for my satisfaction

It’s sorta repetitive of me to post this, but I wish this was a spin-off game not the epic conclusion to the series. This series is really the reason I got into PC gaming. I want an interactive story, not a game with FMV’s.

I’m fortunate to have been able to play the beta. I’ve only played less than 20 games. I’ve lost as many as I’ve won… but both results were not by my action. I really applaud some of the concepts the EALA team has tried to come up with. Trying to create a viable team atmosphere in a RTS genre game is great goal. Unfortunately I regret their determination to totally replace the playing style that we’re used too.

I think the community would embrace this game more if this new crawler concept was an alternate MP mode or a spin-off IP… such as expedition force to a SCRIN controlled planet. You could explain the new gameplay by the alien planet… no atmosphere… no infantry unless in a space suit/zone trooper… a great excuse for experimental gameplay.

Lion: I suppose like many C&C fans have already expressed in forums throughout the C&C community, taking away the standard base building and resouce gathering is a hard pill to swallow. Yes, change is good when done in moderation, but C&C4 is a complete turnaround, and it being the last game in the series, I am concerned it may have been too big of a change. Afterall, it IS the game that is to end the Kane Tiberium story, and perhaps all the new changes to the game mechanics would have been better served in another RTS game (another C&C Universe). Having played in the C&C4 beta, and without going into too much detail (NDA) it is obviously not ‘classic C&C’, and to be totally honest, it really doesn’t have the feel of playing a Command & Conquer game. More like World in Conflict and a few other RTS or RTT games currently on the market. This is not to say the game isn’t somewhat fun as it stands now, but I’m concerned if the game has enough depth and strategy. Having said that, I still plan on buying the game and playing it, if only to experience the last in the series and see how the story ends.

Banshee: My main concern is single player or games where there are much more nodes to control than players. That and the cost of loosing a crawler, which seems to be too low. I still prefer the old economy system than limiting our armies to few units.

Chickendippers: My main concern at the moment is what shape the singleplayer campaigns will take. So far we’ve only ever been shown the “Transport Down” mission in various stages of development, and one of the main objectives is to capture the TCNs (like in multiplayer). I really want to know what sort of thing they’ve got in store for us.

Ryan: Absolutely the cartoony artstyle that can be seen ingame, without a doubt! I am pretty disappointed EALA decided against the moody, ominous theme of the now-cancelled “TIBERIUM”. The cartoonishness of units like Nod’s Venom and basically every infantry unit might end up undermining immersion. I can get over the gameplay changes, but I was looking forward to an epic conclusion that now might be tainted by a cheesy graphical style.

Mighty BOB!: Well, my main concern is does it live up to the history of the franchise, followed by does it live up to the standards of a quality sci-fi? (Mostly no on both accounts in my opinion.)

NODSOLDIERGIRL: ) There is no base building, it just doesn’t feel C&C-ish. I have an open mind and definitely willing to give this a shot, but without bases it just doesn’t feel right to me.

Nathancnc: I am a hardcore sidebar fan! I have been playing the C&C4 Beta for some time, and just can’t get over the bottom-bar. It seems to “starcraft-ish”. If your wondering, I did not like Generals because of it either. I am also concerened with how they are going to go about co-op paly. In Red Alert 3, if you played the missions without another person, it just seemed like a big chunck of the mission was gone, and your ally computer just sat around being a tartget for the opposing team. I hope they make themissions work if you would like to play alone.

Question 3) There is lots of speculation that the franchise is heading towards an MMO style of gameplay, are you happy with that? [Silverthorn]

Nmenth: If it is done right, it might work, but I think the likelihood of them getting it right is very low at best. Therefore, I’d advise against even trying. If they were to throw a monthly fee into the mix, that would be the ultimate death of C&C.

Gben: Happy? No.
Reasonable? Yes.
Is there merit in the concept? Yes.

An online, persistent battlefield that the MP compete over, so that we “may win the battle but not the war”… this is an excellent and long-overdue implementation.

The trick will be the fees. I don’t play any games that require a subscription. I have no intention to start unless the gameplay is compelling enough. Impress me EALA, I might take you up on your offer.

Lion: Leaning towards MMO does seem to be a trend in the gaming industry. I don’t play MMOs, so I really have no opinion of them.

Banshee: Of course it is heading to MMO. In C&C4, you have experience points and gain levels, allowing you to improve your army after playing the game a couple of times. That part is not bad. Actually, it is a good idea. I’ll only be worried if they removed the single player game from any future game. I still think that C&C franchise is more popular offline than online. Of course it is impossible to properly gather statistics that may prove it or not.

Chickendippers: I wouldn’t be happy with this. I don’t get much time to play C&C, so if I had to spend it doing boring levelling or resource collecting I won’t enjoy myself. The current style allows me to dip in and have a quick match and the easy to play-difficult to master style suits me down to the ground.

Ryan: I have an open mind towards the future of C&C. However, I think EALA need to try and make their future releases much easier to mod – I know nothing about modding, but even I used to enjoy tweaking TibSun’s INI rules. But the simple changes I made in TibSun require proper expertise to implement in Red Alert 3. My point is basically that EALA can move C&C in whatever direction they want, as long as they give the fans the tools to change it back if we aren’t happy with that new direction. It’s nice to see EALA’s new ideas, but it’s even nicer to have the ability to customise the game if it doesn’t turn out so well.

Mighty BOB!: Not really. I think the appropriate time for a C&C MMO came and went years ago.

NODSOLDIERGIRL: No not in the least….C&C to me has always been RTS with the exception of Renegade. I don’t really care for MMO games. Not really sure I could get used to the MMO-style gameplay. If this change does happen then I guess I would have to get used to MMO gameplay, but I really wouldn’t be happy with it. MMO is just not C&C, yes I get they are trying to change things up a bit, but they shouldn’t have done this with the Tiberium Universe. They should have left it as it was, and made a new game to put in new mechanics/gameplay.

Nathancnc: C&C MMO? I certanly hope not. Although I do enjoy the idea of a technology unlock-system for C&C4, I think that’s as far as it should go. Command & Conquer needs to stick to its RTS roots. If people want an MMO, they can go play WOW.

Question 4) If you could be in the same room as Jon Van Caneghem and the new C&C development team at EALA what would you tell them concerning the future of the franchise? [multiple]

Nmenth: Westwood found a gold mine, don’t dig for lead just because you aren’t a gold miner. Unfortunately with EA rearranging their staff, it’s hard to say what possible futures are going to be available, but if all is well in the end, I’d like to see C&C returning to its roots. I don’t mean Tiberian Dawn clones with new graphics, we get that in mods, but the maturity of the game along with the gameplay basics. Dark atmospheres, females not being teenager hormone magnets, FMVs that are actually relevant, tanks looking like tanks rather than toys, campaigns that don’t give you step-by-step directions, unit voices that sound like diciplined soldiers rather than annoying morons, flow that does not require a caffeine high coupled with ADHD…

Gben: Five P’s
Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

Lion: Hmmm…good question. Go back to the roots of Command & Conquer and rediscover what made C&C great to begin with. Then build upon that and put your heart and soul into whatever you do. If the game doesn’t sing to you, it won’t sing to the fans.

Banshee: What I could say is: make the story of the game consistent with the previous games. We don’t need a Tiberian Sun 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 or 2010. We want a story that makes sense, is consistent and, specially, fun. Let the fans decide who are the good and bad guys if there is any. Please, make animations of GDI provoking Nod and vice-versa like what we used to see in TD and TS. In terms of ballance, they could make buildings a bit more stronger, however, slower to build and add means to make base capture a more viable and pleasant operation. Make sure that the act of conquering areas of the map provides a proper bonus that compensates it. Finally, drop the population cap idea. Tiberium harvesting provides more strategy depth than that. Well, I guess they have entire different plans than I have.

Chickendippers: I’d say “Post-launch Support!”. The development team have worked so hard over the years to stretch their budget and man hours to ensure we get numerous patches, competitions and constant community updates. We have the most effective cheat reporting and penal system C&C has ever enjoyed and with the heavy online elements of C&C4 this is more important now than ever. It would be such a disapointment if all this work was undone thanks to penny pinchers in a board room.

Ryan: I think I would ask to have C&C split into two brands. On the one hand, have the casual branch of C&C – the rumored Facebook games, the iPhone apps, the cartoony Red Alert series etc to bring in revenue from the casual market. Simultaneously, have a second branch of EALA dedicated to a complete franchise reboot. I know reboots are becoming cliché, but I think it’s about time C&C had blank slate to start from scratch. Call it just “Command & Conquer”, release it in August 2015 (smack bang on the month of the 20th anniversary) and make it a gritty spiritual remake of the original Tiberian Dawn. No cartoony units, no cheesy unit dialogue. Hire creative directors from BioWare and Valve and make it a truly immersive and fascinating story. Avoid just straight out repeating the story of the original games so it can be fresh and familiar at the same time. I think if you promoted it as a hardcore, well-developed singleplayer RTS game with a Generals-style multiplayer component, you could really get the hardcore market onboard.

Mighty BOB!: Oh gee, I could write a series of essays on this one; I’ll try to condense. Don’t intentionally strive to be imitators. I don’t want a market flooded with any more knockoffs than it already has.

NODSOLDIERGIRL: ) I would tell them to listen to the fans, what we want is very important. If you get the community’s input then you will have a better game in the end. Don’t kill the franchise we want C&C to continue forever. Also as the fans we are putting C&C in your hands, you were chosen for a reason, now don’t let us down. Make C&C better than it has ever been, I know when I say C&C means the world to me that it really does. Introduce yourselves first let the community know who is behind our beloved franchise. Then make the community aware of their future plans for C&C & BCPT. Keep the community updated, I know they can’t tell us everything but the community should be kept up to date on what is happening behind the scenes somewhat.

Nathancnc: I would say that after C&C4 they should make a standalone “expansion” that has to do with the Scrin. I want ot see some space combat with the invading scrin forces! That story still needs to be explored, but I don’t want a single-player only game. If they are going to make it, put in multiplayer aswell.

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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