FEATURES: Roundtable Discussion #30 – December 2010

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After a long break the Roundtable finally makes it’s long awaited return. As usual we have rounded up the regular panellist as well as a couple of new names.

Question 1) We have all heard the rumored news about the next C&C being called C&C: Future Wars. What are your thoughts about these rumors? Do you feel there’s any truth to them?

Sonic: Well here’s the truth about that news and why it was posted on CNCNZ.com. Firstly it was a slow news period and I thought it would generate some interesting discussion. But yeah, there is no such thing as C&C: Future Wars. From what I understand it was proven to be nothing but some fool posting a whole lot of crap.

gben: My first reaction is to treat all news as false rumours, but as I think back at recent news from EALA… not many rumours turned out false. Maybe I should re-asses my opinion.

I mentioned at our forums that if the game is in development already, then it’s likely to be using the sage engine. While a game with the name “future” should indicate scifi of more than a decade in the future- it would probably be more likely another modern warfare game with near-future, experimental, technology. Anyway, that’s the word association that comes instantly to mind with that rumour.

My feelings about the news are mixed. It’s always heartening to hear news that my beloved franchise is alive, but it’s always a nervous wait to see what the “focus group” has determined is the next best thing.

I would prefer a big wait for confirmation of the next game, and more time spent on development. A game concept designed from the ground up, with “one vision, one purpose.”

I note how the positions have changed slightly. In the beginning was C&C and then Starcraft was created as an interpretation. I think our next C&C will be inspired by Starcraft. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. EALA have a few lessons they can learn from Blizzard’s ability to produce a complete package.

dbjs2009: If this information about the game was right, it’s not bad at all, however we haven’t seen anything yet so I’ll belive it when I see it of course.

RainXc: Maybe something like Westwood’s Earth & Beyond (2003) but it would be most likely along the lines of TIBERIUM. I think it’s real, either way I’d love to see an E&B in the C&C-theme.

Nmenth: I am still uncertain about that. When I first read it, I thought it sounded quite plausible. Later, I became more sceptical. The more I think about it, the less sure I am of either possibility. The problem being, after Tiberian Twilight and the “end of Kane”, I no longer know what to expect from EALA. At this point, I feel any direction is possible.

Banshee: They are rumours and just rumours. It doesn’t really matter if they are correct or not. We know that at least one new C&C is under production and it is not in advanced stages yet. A game can change a lot in one year during its development, and it can change even more or be discarded if it is not announced to the public. So, even if these rumours are correct, a lot of things will change in this project and the game that we may play in a couple of years might become completely different than what was said in this rumour, even if there is any truth in this rumour.

Chickendippers: I don’t think there’s any truth to this. I asked a contact at EALA and they said that no one would ever discuss a game even in early alpha or concept stage development without imposing an NDA. Myth. Busted.

[NE]Fobby[GEN]: I don’t really like acting prematurely on rumours, but I’ll do it for you, Sonic! When I saw the news item, it struck me as being either legitimate, or close to it. It doesn’t seem strange to me that EA would be going to universities looking for people to hire, especially after the amount of people laid off during C&C4’s development. It’s also not strange for them to be in alpha stages with a new game now – it’s been 9 months since C&C4, I expect them to announce a game sometime 2011. To me it sounds like a new “canon” under the C&C name (3 factions, none are gold like GDI or blue like Allies or green like GLA). Nonetheless, it is just a rumour, and it is possible that the source was less than honest.

Cypher: The quick answer to that is BS. Pure and simple. Sorry to rain on anyone’s parade for wanting an announcement or revelation, but this is made up.

HeXetic: I wouldn’t be surprised if a team was working on a new C&C game. C&C is an established EA franchise, and they already have an engine and editing tools, so it wouldn’t take much effort for a small crew to play around with new ideas. Whether the game ever makes it to full production is a different question; At least one C&C game has gone all the way to public announcement and rave previews before being cancelled (“Tiberium”), and we know that C&C3 spent a long time bouncing around in an embryonic stage.

As to the content of the rumours, I’m getting a little tired of the post-apocalyptic C&C games. The overflow of saturated blue and green crystals on top of a layer of brown muck is starting to remind me of the heyday of coloured lighting in late-90s FPS games, when people boasted how fast their Diamond Voodoo Banshee cards could draw the big blobs of yellow and purple in Quake 2 or Unreal. If I had an enormous budget and a free hand to make my own C&C game, I would like to explore the Brotherhood’s past. Maybe go back in time before the first C&C, to terrorist activities like the UN World Food building bombing mentioned in the C&C intro video, or to a time in-between the original C&C and Tiberian Sun, before the Earth went to crap and everything started hovering or having mecha legs. A simpler time, when men drove Hum-Vees, and lasers were potent but rare.

AnNo1935: I don’t believe in them. For me it looks too much like a shooter-game and I don’t think that fits EA’s current course. Well if it really is a shooter wouldn’t it make much more sense to create a Renegade 2? I’m not a fan of shooters, but I like the idea of a C&C-themed one. Still I think these pieces of information are about some canceled project of theirs and not about some new game setteled in the Generals Universe or somewhere else. Also these information from the official board should have been removed by now by EA. It’s not EA’s style, to inform single peole about stuff like this. They are rumors and nothing more.

How did the man say… “Time will tell…”

Question 2) At the current time we have no C&C community manager and EA are searching for one. What do you think are the best qualifications any potential candidate requires for this job?

Sonic: Well the person who takes over as the new C&C community manager deoesn’t have to be as involved as APOC was, but we know that APOC has left some big shoes to fill. But this person needs to be available to all the fan sites and the community as whole. Not just answer posts on the Official C&C Forums. Answer their e-mail, get around to the fan sites and basically keep things fresh in the community. They should have a strong background in C&C history and other leading RTS games. Be a gamer in general actually. C&C, the brand, needs a dedicated full time community, not a part timer. When I say that I mean no offence to EA Goodman and his team. But I’m happy that EA think the same way as I do and are at least searching for one.

gben: The new CM needs to come with a thick skin. A fair understanding of Lincoln’s quote would be good too:

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

It could never happen, but I think our CM needs to be separate mouthpiece from the “Marketing Machine”. I am over the hype…

dbjs2009: It’s true that when Apoc left, the official community became inactive. Now EA announced that they need a new community manager, I think we need someone with experience, he must give attention to people, staying up to speed on industry and technology trends and of course he must be a RTS player. But until the new guy comes we have to wait and see.

RainXc: Only Jimi Hendrix can play guitar like Jimi Hendrix. I think it’s the same with Aaron “Apoc” Kaufman. The new community manager will have some big shoes to fill.

Nmenth: Flexibility. Obviously things like a love for Command and Conquer, openness, and respect for the community are important, but the fact is, not everyone agrees with everything. EALA have their expectations, each of us have ours, and you can be assured, those expectations will never run parallel for long. The Community Manager will have to be able to face these challenges or they will ultimately be useless.

Banshee: There are so many qualities required in this kind of job that it is hard to choose one. A good community manage must know how to promote the products of the company, but that will not be enough. I believe that this person also needs to be pro-active, promote community work in a way that estimulate fans to generate content to make the franchise more fun. The candidate needs to use a proper grammar and sentence construction, spread ideas in a non-lame way and show that the company does care for its products, including the old one. We always knew that EA doesn’t care about their old games, but Aaron Kaufman did some excelent tricks to make us believe that they wanted to spend resources on it (but they didn’t had any), by sponsoring the XWIS servers, releasing Zero Hour patch 1.03 and providing prizes contests for the fans of the old games.

Chickendippers: They should be me, preferably! On a more serious note I think a good understanding of the C&C community is important, someone who understand what we really want and able to filter out some of the rubbish we sometimes suggest to leave only the golden nuggets) The online C&C community is a pretty unique and keeps going without the intervention of the developers, thanks mainly to the tools they provide us, so a long-term plan and less of a PR background would suit me to the ground. Obviously the role is much broader than emailing community leaders all day and I know from experience that Apoc did all sorts of crazy things…the ability to bend time and create more hours in the day would probably come in useful too!

[NE]Fobby[GEN]: Me! I want EA to hire me – no resumè is required, I’m just that awesome. But in all seriousness, EA needs a community manager that can dedicate himself fully to the C&C community; not someone spread over three series. Apoc is a great example of what the community needs – someone that can answer all the e-mails thrown at him, popularize mods, and so on. Do you know he helped my mod (Renegade X) get into the Make Something Unreal Contest AND receive a prize in the competition? Anyone willing to put that kind of unwritten dedication is a good community manager. The only thing more I’d ask for is someone who is a veteran in the community – someone who speaks our language and has been among us for a long time. Why don’t you step up to the plate, Sonic?

Cypher: Well, obviously there’s one trait that precedes all others – listening to me :). Seriously though, passion, devotion and a thick hide. Aaron certainly raised the bar on Community Management, so learning from his actions and achievements and trying to one up them is a good place to start.

HeXetic: Apoc was a great C&C community manager because he was energetic, enthusiastic, and honest. Those same traits are essential for any good community rep; I’m Aaron is doing a great job representing the THQ MMA games to the world.

I honestly don’t think it matters if the next rep is a “true” C&C fan to begin with, as long as they already are or very quickly become RTS gamers to a degree. Learning the history of C&C and the history of C&C fan relations can be done in an afternoon of watching youtube playthroughs and cinematic cutscenes, and reading fansite editorials; all the major “incidents” are well-documented, as well as many of the successes. I’m not even sure if knowing the history is entirely necessary — it would just serve to prevent some classic faux pas mistakes based on events in the past (e.g., promising mod tools & ladder kits).

AnNo1935: Hmm, that’s pretty hard. Everyone acts different with the people around them. Of course the new community manager should stay in contact with all the fansites out there, so everything can run smoothly and he should try to help us and fight for us so things are able to keep on progressing. The best example: APOC. It should be an APOC. A man who fights with a passion for what he likes. A person who know what stuff is about. We don’t need a arrogant person. Gambler for example. A nice Community Manager, but he did way to little for the community. Zero activity, he even has 2 communities to care about. You should only work for one community, this job needs dedication. Sure, APOC is no more but we simply need just another person like him.

Question 3) What do think has been the biggest or best C&C related moment this year?

Sonic: The release of C&C 4 was a big moment, sadly the game didn’t deliver. Other than that it it has to be some of the big C&C mods like The Forgotten and Renegade X releasing milestone versions of their repective mods to the public.

gben: You mean of course, I assume, other than our website’s 13the birthday???

I guess the best moment for me personally was watching the FMV trailer from “The Forgotten” mod showing live actors. That was an auspicious day indeed.

dbjs2009: To be honest I’ve never played or even tried to play C&C 4 until now, so when I heard that a new C&C game is released I felt happy for that altough I heard some people saying that it’s not a good game at all, but I won’t say that until I give it a try first. And when the next game is released that will be another big time for me.

RainXc: When the C&C Classics turned freeware.

Nmenth: While I was expecting it, I was still pleased when I heard that another Command and Conquer was in the making. It is very good to know that this series isn’t done yet, and hopefully has a long time left. The news that the team was going to be given more time on this next one was another bonus. We all know (or should know anyway) a rushed game is a poor game and Command and Conquer deserves better.

Banshee: This year was boring, let’s be honest. C&C4 wasn’t as fun as the previous C&C games and, since APOC has left EA, the community has been abandoned by EA. So, we’ve been dependent on the community to have fun. And, for me, as a webmaster of PPM, the best moment of the year was in PPM’s birthday and the amount of people competing to release mods, maps, whatever they could do to make a fun moment and, who knows, get some prizes (and I swear I’ll provide the results some time after the end of my masters term).

Chickendippers: Personally it was the CommandCom event in Cologne, meeting the developers and so many members of the community was just such a privilege and an absolute blast…plus those guys at EA Germany sure know how to throw a ladder season finale party (it continued long into the night after the BCPT cameras stopped rolling). Also any new release has to be the highlight of the C&C calendar…not very original I know, but after a year’s build-up it’s difficult not to get excited, even if in the end it didn’t have the longevity of previous titles.

[NE]Fobby[GEN]: That’s a very tough question, since nothing especially amazing really happened this year in the C&C community. Off the top of my head, I think the release of the C&C3 mod “The Forgotten” was a good moment in 2010, as it was one of the few big singleplayer mods to be released in the past few years, and they did a great job. This year we also got to hear about canceled C&C games from the past, which was interesting.

Cypher: Best moment? Learning that the C&C team at EALA are going incommunicado for two years to work quietly on a new game core instead of learning of a new game already.

HeXetic: The release of Starcraft 2. For those who live, eat, and breathe RTS games, SC2 has proven, once again, that it’s certainly possible to make an RTS game with many of the things that have been deficient or lacking in recent C&C games: An interesting (if somewhat derivative) storyline with FMV cutscenes and in-mission conversations, very little of which feels cheesy or overdone. A campaign consisting of relatively diverse and interesting mission types with significant replay value and a good spread of difficulty levels. Properly integrated achievements that make people *want* to play mission X on difficulty Y and try to beat it in Z seconds because they can see that their buddy did. An excellent mission editor for a strong, well-designed engine that produces good-looking maps and buckets of interesting custom maps online. Replays that work with excellent controls. Intuitive multiplayer hookup with in-game and out-of-game chat systems that make sense and have font sizes appropriate for PC monitors.

AnNo1935: Uhm.. , there hasn’t been that much this year. The only thing i could think off is CnCSaga Germanys Command & Conquer 5 Project. It represents what fans want. Beeing part of the creation. That’s what the project stands for. I’m not involved in it myself, but I see so many fans who take part in it. It’s the most important thing for them, to help the project to become something really great. The last months have been pretty shitty, I think I’m not the only one who thinks like that. I’m sorry that I’m not able to give you a better answer…

Question 4) We have heard your best, what do you think has been the worst moment this year?

Sonic: When I found out that our good friend, APOC, was stepping down as C&C Community Manager. APOC is not to blame though, it was his decision, and he made the best one for himself and his family. But it has left a very large hole in our community that’s for sure. Oh and the let down that was C&C 4. In the end its only a game but for the hype and calling it an epic conclusion to the saga it failed big time. It was a bit of slap in the face for the long time C&C fans and its probably left a sour taste in their mouths.

gben: C&C 4’s SP Campaign.

dbjs2009: The worst moment was when I heard that C&C 4 is the last chapter and C&C is no more, maybe it’s another rumor. So far I haven’t played the the whole franchise but I like it though.

RainXc: C&C4.

Nmenth: I have always tried keeping my discontent with Tiberian Twilight relatively quiet, but I must admit, I have never been more disappointed with any event in the history of Command and Conquer, ever since I tried out C&C95 so many years ago, than what Tiberian Twilight delivered. It is a shame, because I know the game had so many faults set against it, it had little chance to fulfil its potential and the fans’ desires.

Banshee: Aaron Kaufman leaving EA was definitely the worse moment. Actually, not just him… but when a great part of the team was laid off, and the last Battlecast Primetime episode was released without proper edition, we could see that EA would abandon the community once again.

Chickendippers: Definitely the development team getting laid off. After providing EALA with consistently selling titles, to reward them by forcing them to produce a game they didn’t want to (C&C4) and then hand them their notice is a travesty. Especially after having met and befriended them! If there is such an even in future it will be totally different people *sad face*

[NE]Fobby[GEN]: I know this sounds clichè and you’ve all heard it from me before, but I think the worst part of 2010 was Command & Conquer 4. C&C4 was the perfect example of corporate suits forcing a development team to work on off of a skunkswork project. This project, which later became the finale of the Tiberian series, couldn’t have been marketed without the C&C name. It was a desperate attempt at making RTS more relatable to casual gamers, by simplifying the game to the point where it is no longer recognizable as a C&C game. It’s like someone went “Resources? Who needs ’em! Crushing infantry? Oh please. Bases? Come on! Let’s make a virtual version of whack-a-mole and call it a game!” In the world of C&C4, you don’t need harvesters: because you’ve got The Force – the ability to make crystals hover over any vehicle you want. Tiberium infestation, which was a major theme in previous Tiberian games, is no longer an issue – in fact, you only see Tiberium when it’s brought down by one of those space elevator things. MCV’s have guns, and can make your entire arsenal without the need of power or resources. Oh yeah, and your arsenal can only consist of like 15 guys. Uh oh, 15 guys isn’t enough to fight a war – let’s give each guy a s***load of health. What about winning the conditions? Let’s make the two factions fight over outposts which have no logical or technical purpose; we’ll just invent a points system and call it a day. What about the story? Well you see, Kane was really just ET wanting to go home, not a Tiberium terraform agent, that’s crazy talk. When the Scrin vowed for revenge in C&C3, they didn’t really mean it. It also turns out that LEGION’s fusing with the tacitus wasn’t all that important. We also learned that the best way to protect someone from being killed is to make them look like the most wanted man on earth. As for the so-called epic conclusion, there’s nothing more epic than Kane disappearing through a portal that led to an unknown destination. Yup, this was definitely the worst part of 2010. C&C3 was better in every way, and I’m glad Starcraft 2 was a lot more successful than C&C4: hopefully that fact will demonstrate that there’s still a gigantic market for traditional RTS games.

Cypher: Worst moment. Well, losing Aaron as Community Manager was definitely the worst.

HeXetic: The disbanding of the core C&C team at EALA for disposing of yet more passionate (employed) C&C folks, and the release of Starcraft 2 for setting the RTS gaming bar so high. As Tiberian Sun compared unfavourably in many regards to the original Starcraft, released a year earlier despite being TS being hyped all the way back to the Warcraft II days, I worry that any future C&C RTS will compare unfavourably to Starcraft 2.

AnNo1935: APOC’s farewell. A man who fought for his fans and the community, a man you could contact about all your problems, in private and at work. A person you could trust in. With the absence of APOC the trust broke and the future of C&C seems a lot darker. I, and many others, miss him very much. Aarons absence was the worst thing this year, and it’s the worst thing happening since I started my own Command & Conquer community career. I wish for his return. Every day is community day…

Question 5) In your opinion what been the biggest and best C&C mod of 2010?

Sonic: Well this one is hard question to answer becasue I haven’t tried or followed many of them this year. So I can only with the ones played or seen the most of. The same mods I mentioned in question 3. The Forgotten is more than mod, its a pure quality unofficial expansion that added plenty of content, HD videos and more. Meanwhile Renegade X continues to impress with every new release and update. And things can only get better once the standalone version arrives. But I also want to give a special mention to the Twisted Insurrection mod for Tiberian Sun. This mod is largely produced by one guy, Aro. I was blown away by the amount of work gone into this mammoth sized mod. Well done Aro!

gben: A few Mods stick out to me this year.

Mid East Crisis 2 – a new game mechanic, polished visuals, and superb gameplay.

C&C3: The Forgotten – for it’s ambitious and difficult SP campaign complete with FMV actors.

Renegade-X – for it’s stunning visuals and impressive potential, let down only by lack of players in my timezone. Something no doubt that will be rectified when the free version is released soon.

But I guess by reference to sheer amount of gametime I spend on the thing, I still cede my vote (like a FIFA official) to the Renegade Mod, now indie project, Red Alert: A Path Beyond. The other mods have much potential, and could supersede this mod in the times to come, but BlueHell Productions have “runs on the board” as we say in Cricket.

I love how quick it is for me to get in game, and while I’m not very good at the game… I know it’s my lack of skill, not the fault of the game engine, or the programmers. APB retains a healthy distinction between it’s two factions and remains a highly competitive no matter which one you end up with.

Bring on Scripts 4 and Gamma… I can’t wait!

dbjs2009: Well, it’s hard to tell because there are many C&C mods in the community that is really cool and full of great achivements like the Forgotten, Twisted Insurrection, the vortex, Tiberian Apocalypse, Reinforcementz II Assistance and many more mods, and since not all of them is released I can’t say which one is the best now.

RainXc: Tiberian Genesis (Tiberian Sun – First Person Shooter for Crysis).

Nmenth:To me, there isn’t any other mod I am more interested in than Renegade X. The second in line on my level of interest isn’t even a remote threat to overtake them. In my opinion, Renegade was one of the best Command and Conquer games made, possibly the most fun first-person shooter I’ve ever played, and holds the unrivalled record for the C&C game I’ve spent the most time playing online. The only fault it ever had in my eyes was its limited graphics (ok, and the lack of a Nod campaign, but I’ve been over that for a long time now). Renegade X is bringing that game closer to perfection.

Banshee: There are several great mods that I wish I could have played, but I didn’t, so I’m not sure if I can give an accurate answer, but it seems that The Forgotten looks to be the most ambitious mod I’ve heard so far in this year. But, I haven’t played it, so I can’t give a proper answer.

Chickendippers: That’s a difficult one. For me it’s between C&C3: The Forgotten and Tiberian Sun Rising. Both have such high production values and a pang of nostalgia.

[NE]Fobby[GEN]: These days, we find that C&C has been put on the backburner for another hiatus. This isn’t the first time; anyone else remember the gap between Generals and C&C3? What kept the community afloat in that gap were communities like CNCNZ, and mods, and I’m confident we can do it again. I’m obviously THE most biased person in this interview, being a member of Renegade X and all, so of course, I love my mod (which will soon be an indie game) and I love my team 😀 But other mods, like the Forgotten, Renovatio, and the usual triple-W3D mods (APB, Reborn, Apocalypse Rising) are definitely among my favourites. 2010 has been a good year for all of these mods I’ve named, and I hope to see a new release for each in 2011.

Cypher: Can’t really say. But I do know that TS: Rising is going to be huge.

HeXetic: I honestly can’t answer this. I know of several mods that have been released this year, and even tried a few, but I never really got into any of them. It’s a shame there weren’t any mod tools for C&C 4; I’m sure someone would have loved to take the upgraded C&C engine and modded in old-style gameplay.

AnNo1935: My candidates would be “The Forgotten” and “Renegade X”. What I like about Renegade X is, even though modding is a hard business, the really astonishing result. Awesome. I like the role of the forgotten in “The Forgotten”. Most of the C&C games didn’t give them the attention they deserved. That’s why, for me, these mods are the best of 2010.

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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