FEATURES: Roundtable Discussion #35 – December 2012 (C&C Community Summit Edition)

rountable_header

In early December 2012 a whole bunch of community leaders from various C&C fan sites and projects were invited to the Victory Games studio in Los Angeles for the C&C Community Summit to check out the new Command & Conquer. We rounded up as many people as we could who attended to get their views on this special event.

Question 1) What did you expect by attending the C&C Community Summit?

EA_CIRE: It is weird as I never got an invite for the summit – but I somehow made it to the summit even without one. But let me answer this question with my goals I’ve set for myself for this event instead. The biggest one was to get as much feedback for the studio as possible. We are working on this title for a while now including some major reorganisations and shifts as most of you know. Every shift also resulted in a change for the game itself. While I have a pretty good sense for the wishes and needs of the community, we reached a point where we wanted to verify that feeling, turning it into hard feedback that can be prioritized. Therefore I’ve invited a small group of 14 community veterans to the studio for two days, hoping to get a lot of valuable feedback, consolidating the overall direction and evaluating potential issues that were already discussed internally.

The smaller goal was to set a signal for the community that this title is still in active development – I know that there are not that many details out there regarding the new game. But this summit was meant to be the start of a slowly moving initiative, releasing more and more information over time.

Sonic: Having previously attended the Red Alert 3 Community Summit in June 2008 I had a basic idea of what to expect in this one. My actual expectations in terms of the game itself were somewhat unknown to be honest. I guess I was looking to be educated about this new direction for the C&C franchise and I feel I was given just that. I’ve come away from the experience feeling very confident about the future for C&C.

Zee Hypnotist: Honestly, I wasn’t really sure. I just wanted to see where the game was at, and throw in my two cents. I thought it would be a test and some discussion, and hanging out with people from around the community. I’m honestly surprised at how there was a lot of discussion, and a lot of productive time spent, compared to past summits that I have been to.

Cypher: This is my third summit, including CommandCom, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting too much hands on time and too much interaction with the team.

My first summit was for C&C3, in 2006. And while the experience was very… googly eyed, we didn’t get to play the game nor give out too much feedback. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great experience, meeting the team, learning about some of their concepts. But ultimately, it didn’t do much for the game itself. Except for maybe the team taking back their “TD happened in 2019” factoid, which came with the announcement of C&C3.

The second was CommandCom – again, too late to change anything.

And though the expectations here weren’t too high, I have to say that they’ve been exceeded by several orders of magnitude.

Stephanovich: I knew that we would get our hands on the game far earlier than has been the case with any other summit before and therefore hoped it would be a lot more productive instead of basically just marketing for the game. Obviously 2 days isn’t a lot of time to test things out, but the first impression is always crucial and it will be even more important this time around so we still had an important role to play.

AGMLauncher: I have been to a few community summits in the past, including some week-long testing sessions. Since this event was only two days, I knew there wouldn’t be much time to extensively test the game and as such I only expected to get a short glimpse of its current state. EA had indicated that this event was far earlier in the game’s development cycle than they normally let people play, so I had hoped that would mean a chance that our suggestions and feedback would actually mean something. I was also looking forward to an EA breakfast burrito.

Methuselah: Expectations? I really did not know what to expect. Hope for? Mostly what we got. A return to a true RTS in the spirit of the original and reassurances that they understood the impact pay to win would have……and I think we got all of that and more.

Freezy: Actually I went there with no real expectations at all. If you set yourself expectations that are too high you will get disappointed. So I went there with an open mind to let the Devs show me what they got for us, so that I am able to give feedback that is as objective as possible. Oh ok I expected the game to play like a C&C game of course.

Osbes: We were invited by CIRE to get an insight on the current state of the game and subsequently give them feedback. Such an invitation is also meant to put one in a positive mood. Besides this, I expected lots of discussions with other participants.

Tchutch: The day before, I had a meeting with the staff of cncsaga.com on teamspeak and many members began to lose hope. So I was hoping for good news, a good game, a reason to continue the adventure of 16 years.

Question 2) How far did you have to travel to get to Los Angeles and did you have any problems getting there?

EA_CIRE: I remember my travels to LA from Germany and it was a journey every single time. Some of our guys had even crazier journeys to master this year. Thanks again guys for making the trip out πŸ™‚

Sonic: Auckland, New Zealand to Los Angeles is a solid 12 hour flight. So you kind of have plenty of time to think about things on your way there. When I left Auckland it was Sunday 9th December. When I landed in LA it was still Sunday 9th December. This trip was totally worth it though, even sitting in economy class. But I wouldn’t want to make these trips to often. After 12 hours on a plane you feel really out of sorts once you land. And the good news, you get to do the same thing again a few days later to get home. For the flight home, I left LA on Wednesday night and landed back in Auckland on Friday morning, yes I skipped a day!

Zee Hypnotist: Ha! I was at the airport longer than I was in the plane. My flight was 50 minutes. Hell, my cab rides could have been longer than my flights. I live in San Mateo, which is a measly 5 hours driving distance from EALA, so having a flight was quite nice. EA could have saved money by coaching me, for all I know. Thankfully, they didn’t.

Cypher: I traveled from Israel, in two legs. First Tel Aviv to Newark Liberty and then Newark Liberty to LAX. That’s 5686 miles/9151 kilometers for the first leg, and another 2452 miles/3946 kilometers for the second. Total of 8138/13097. For the flights from TLV to LAX – I left TLV at 11:50 AM on Sunday and was supposed to arrive at around 9PM on Sunday at LAX. Unfortunately, due to security (come on people, I fly out of the most secure Airport in the world!), I missed my scheduled flight from EWR to LAX and had to take a later one. So a 4 hour delay. The flight back was the same deal, except for missing the connection at EWR. Same distance. Less flight time… you know, Earth rotation and all (and great tail winds!).

Also, on the flight back got bumped from a really crappy seat in the tail to the first row in Economy – no one sitting in front of you. Pretty good flight, and short with the tail winds. Left LAX at 12:45PM Wednesday, arrived at TLV at 3:40PM Thursday.

Check it out: http://www.airmilescalculator.com/distance3/lax-to-ewr-tlv/

Stephanovich: I’m from Denmark so it was quite a long journey. An hour and 45 minutes by train to the airport, then 1Β½ hours from Copenhagen to Heathrow where I only just made the flight to LA (was putting on my belt after security when the last call for boarding to my flight was called – hurray for 40 minutes layover…) and then another 11 hours from Heathrow to LAX…with crying babies on board. Very tired when I got there, but also very excited.

AGMLauncher: My flight was a relatively quick and painless 6 hours from the east coast of the US.

Methuselah: I had a very easy trip. Three hours, give or take, from Dallas and I was there.

Freezy: I traveled from Berlin to London and from London to LA, travel time ~15hrs. I was lucky and did not meet any problems πŸ™‚

Osbes: I traveled nearly 9500km by plane from Hannover, Germany via Heathrow, UK. The immigration officer was clearly confused about the unusual purpose of my trip for him.

Tchutch: The journey took 19 hours of my arrival at the airport to the hotel. The biggest challenge was at Dallas : 1 hour to go through customs and catch the next plane. Without my express pass… I would have stayed in Dallas.

Question 3) Personally, what was the highlight or highlights of the entire C&C Community Summit?

EA_CIRE: My personal highlight is actually totally unrelated to the game itself: The chance to see many old friends again – Being part of the community for many years, I knew most of the guys for a while now. And for many this is the only chance to see each other in real life every once in a while. It was just great talking to everyone, hanging out and grab a drink.

Sonic: The entire trip is a highlight. But for me it was interacting and talking with the developers on a personal level. They were all very accessible and very keen to find out about where you were from, your thoughts about the new C&C they were making and your thoughts about the franchise’s past and future. Chatting with some of them on a 1 on 1 basis was great, getting to know them and basicially quizzing them on all things C&C. Plus you get some inside info on stuff that will remain top secret for now. It was also good to meet other guys from other C&C fan sites, putting names to faces. And catching up with a past C&C Community Manager.

Zee Hypnotist: Knowing that the game was headed in a good direction. Just knowing there is a future, knowing that something good may very well come out of the event, that was a good feeling. A game is a game, no more, no less. But this game really gave me a good feeling coming out of the testing room.

Cypher: As I mentioned re: expectations, really the highlights were the exceeding of those expectations, and how. At the end of each of the two days we sat down for a lengthy feedback session – that’s on top of the designers and producers circling around us, like vultures (in a good way), during the entire day before.

All the presentations had plenty of interaction between us and the devs. All questions were answered, even if a few of the answers were “We don’t know yet”. All the hands on time, we help lively discussions on this mechanic, and that issue, and even some of the bugs we noticed – it was a very early pre-Beta build still. They each walked around with a notebook and put things down.

And when we got to the Feedback session, which both times took longer than scheduled, we worked on a spreadsheet, displayed on the 2 giant 90 inch monitors in the room – adding What Went Right, What Went Wrong, Suggestions and even Bugs to the list. I was personally very impressed with how Bryan Farina, the senior producer, always had more questions to ask us on every feedback we gave him – delving deeper and investigating further into the critic, comment or suggestion we gave him.

Also, kicked Sonic’s butt in the tournament.

Stephanovich: Meeting some of the people again that I met at CommandCOM and new ones, including the new dev team. I knew the game was alpha/pre-alpha and obviously looked forward to trying it out, but talking with the other guys and the developers to hear their thoughts on things and discussing important matters with them was the best thing. The game was fun though and easily recognizable. You knew what you were doing from the start so it felt like playing a Generals game which was awesome.

AGMLauncher: Playing Generals 2 (I know it’s not technically Generals 2, but it’s a sequel to the original). I’ve been waiting for this game for a long, long time. Even though the game is far from complete, it still gave me a sense that I was indeed playing a sequel to Generals. It felt familiar in some way.

Methuselah: I think the highlight for me was the consistent feedback from the dev team regardless of their role or responsibility. From JVC on down the message was the same “Deliver the very best core game we can and then we’ll figure the rest out” which includes monetization. That was expressed by everyone over and over again and I can’t tell you how reassuring it was.

Freezy: There were two highlights for me. First getting together with so many different and cool people (including all summit participants and also the Devs), it was really fun with all you guys :D. Second the studio tour, seeing all those cool props, the secret info on the walls (:D) and looking over the shoulder of working Devs.

Osbes: The talks and discussions with the team were very specific and serious. It left behind a credible impression that our feedback actually affects the development. Something I was missing during meetings for previous games. It is pleasing that the game is not in the same disastrous state as C&C4 when we saw it first.

Tchutch: The most important thing was to be able to play the game. When playing a game, even in alpha, we know if this game is going in the right direction.

Question 4) Of all the presentations given, which one was the most interesting to you, and why?

EA_CIRE: I’ve talked to JVC about showing the Tiberium Bible at the event. JVC presented it at the end of the second day and it was just great to see everyone invited gather around a small table with the Tiberium Bible on it, going through it page by page. Everybody was so excited to see the mysterious book for the first time. And seeing all that passion for the franchise, even after the last few troubled years, was a good feeling.

Sonic: I felt every presentation was just as important as the last one. They were all designed to teach us about what this new team is trying build here. But I will single out Jeremy Townsend’s balance presentation. It was very interesting to hear his views on balancing the new C&C but most importantly he listened to everyone else’s ideas as well.

Zee Hypnotist: I feel like every presentation that was given had a lot of interesting points and aspects. It was hard to favor one over another, because it seemed like every team had a very crucial aspect they were working on. Can’t have a perfectly balanced game without proper art, can’t have an artistic masterpiece without playability. It was all good stuff.

Cypher: As I’m a complex systems guy, I would have thought the Balance Presentation would be the most interesting to me. But… the time difference was such that that was the time my kids went to sleep, so I had to go out of the room to talk to them and my wife. So missed the bulk of that one.

But generally speaking, all the presentations were open for long and honest feedback, and that’s what I loved about them. So we got to talk and exchange ideas in each and every area – design, balance, goals, even request Scottish VO packs for download, like in Worms πŸ˜€

Stephanovich: The balance presentation by Jeremy Townsend. We all know balance is a crucial thing in an RTS and it will be really important that the game is fairly balanced once the game is released, which we haven’t really had for quite a long time. It (along with post release support) is what will get players to the game and keep them (assuming the game is good, but balance is a part of that). He seemed to understand that balance isn’t all about numbers, that a players control of units can have a big impact on how everything plays out. When he started talking about his tools I got a bit worried because it seemed like he was going down the numbers route, but talking with him during his presentation thankfully removed my fear. Don’t get my wrong, I like that he has tools at his disposal like this as it will help get a sense of balance early on, but it isn’t something he should rely on later on IMO. He also mentioned that there would be data collection, so they should have a good idea of what is overpowered and what isn’t once the game is out along with player feedback.

AGMLauncher: Jeremy Townsend’s balance presentation was the most interesting for me, and the most scary. Jeremy seems to get two important concepts: that balance without variety is boring, and that there is a distinction between raw mathematical / numeric balance, and “real world” player balance. I thought it was great that Generals 2 is being developed with a number of tools that give all unit interactions and build orders some foundational balance in raw math. I like that there are data collection tools that will tell EA information about matches (for example, if EU happens to be crushing GLA on certain maps in under a certain amount of time, they will have data to see which units are being built, what build orders are being employed etc). This will help guide them to the root cause of various balance issues. What’s scary / concerning, however, is that EA might become too dependent on their mathematical balance. Something which looks balanced on paper and via simulation, might be totally wrong once skilled players start manipulating and stretching the cost-effectiveness of various units. The unknown question is whether EA will opt to handicap player control in favor of mathematical balance or not. EA has never really been this serious about balance, and I fear that because of that, they will attempt to over-quantify what is as much an art form as a science.

Methuselah: Jeremy Townsend’s balance presentation was very cool. The tools they are using to ensure balance were pretty amazing and very insightful. My confidence is high that they can deliver a logically balanced game but the key part of that will be once it hits the hands of the player base. The Command & Conquer community is a lot of things (I won’t mention most of them because I’m in a good mood :p) but one thing they are for sure is amazingly creative.

If there is a way to take advantage of something that appears numerically balanced they will find it. The beauty of the live service unlike days gone by is that the metrics available to the dev team and the ongoing nature of the new platform mean that sort of thing will get fixed which is very exciting.

Freezy: I would say balance AND gameplay presentation, because that is what matters to me the most. The game has to play nicely and smoothly and it has to be fun. So it was interesting to hear their design plan, and that was also the part where I was giving the most feedback.

Osbes: The first two presentations were rather general in nature. Between the remaining, more detailed talks, the balance presentation from Jeremy Townsend got most of my attention. Besides the general understanding of balance as a variation in gameplay, his main point to improve the current process is to balance encounters between groups of unit types instead of simply one unit type against another. Additionally they use a build order optimizer to determine the number of units within these encounters. It is important to note, that this mathematical model will only result in a starting point, after which numerous games between humans are needed to obtain a reasonably balance, before fine-tuning can even be considered.

Tchutch: The most important presentation was about balancing. If you want the game works in multiplayer, the game must be balanced. Part of the funding was also very important : no unit or power sold.

Question 5) Finally, is there anything you would like to add based on your personal experience at the C&C Community Summit?

EA_CIRE: Seeing all the feedback and reactions of everyone who was invited, I feel more confident now that we have a good chance to make this a good game. The overall perception of everyone attending the summit changed a lot from being very sceptic initially to a level of excitement about the opportunity we have here. We won’t achieve that goal over night with the first version and will need as much constructive feedback as possible. Once we’re going into beta and the great feedback keeps coming in as we go, we’re able to make the game better over time. When I compare other live service oriented titles where they are now and how they started, I am really looking forward to get Command & Conquer out the door so that you guys can start playing it and give us great feedback.

Sonic: I’ll keep it short. These trips are extremely important to us as fan sites and I hope they continue to have them in the future. It provides a real connection between us and the team in LA. And this C&C Community Summit was another memorable experiece for me on a personal level. Many thanks to EA_CIRE, the Victory Games team and of course EA, for arranging it all and getting us over there. Pizookies for the win!

Zee Hypnotist: Hell, I just hope they can fit in all the suggestions we gave them. Make a good game into a great game. Who knows what we’ll see when there’s another summit or beta, if that ever happens.

Cypher: Yes, I would….

Oh, you mean now? Why didn’t you ask then?

Anyway, I would like for the entire C&C Community to join me in Thanking EA and Mike Verdu for cancelling Tiberium.

Cause if you thought That Game Which Will Remain Unnamed was an abrupt send off for the Tiberian story – at least it followed the events that took place before. After seeing and being able to read around the Tiberium Bible (which you can see in the Trailer and photos), I am so very glad that Tiberium did not see the light of day. Why? Cause I wouldn’t have had the money to fly down to LA just to kick some asses.

Oh, I’m sure that as a game it might have been a good and interesting game. Had they were able to finish it (and not due to cancellation).
But as a C&C or a Tiberian universe game, it would have been completely false. Unrelated, made up stuff that didn’t belong anywhere.
This – the Development of Tiberium and it’s Bible – was the cause of the factual errors in C&C3 which later Sam Bass worked hard to fix with Kane’s Wrath.
So, again, Thank You EA and Mike Verdu for cancelling Tiberium.
Now, give me that Bible so I can fix it!

Stephanovich: I liked that they have stayed true to what Generals was. It isn’t perfect by far, but the game is still early on in development and they have a lot of work ahead of them, but the game was fun to play already which is a good sign. We certainly had a lot of fun with it and the small tournament we had showed it. We had fun playing our games and it was exciting for rest to see us play as there were exciting moments in every game. The developers are bright people that know what they are talking about and know what they want and have to do. The game is in good hands.

AGMLauncher: The original Generals was such a fun game to play because the units were fun, diverse, and rewarding to control. You could pull off some pretty awesome Kung Fu in that game, and there are three important reasons for that. For starters, builder units added some interesting depth and variety right off the bat, without subjecting players to a defense whack-a-mole base crawling fest. Secondly, the economy was gated scaled fairly low, meaning small armies of units which could be controlled precisely, rather than massive blobs that could not be controlled precisely. Thirdly, the units themselves responded well to low APM, creative tactical application. Generals 2 so far has two out of the three of those criteria: builder units, and a gated economy that is scaled appropriately. Unfortunately, it’s too early in this new game’s development cycle to assess whether its units offer the same kind of reward that the original Generals units offered. Further, a lot of the magic of the original Generals can be chalked up to serendipity, so we just have to keep our fingers crossed for Generals 2.

Methuselah: I had a great time, I was honored to be asked to attend and I’m really, really looking forward to the full release. See you online Commanders!

Freezy: It was a great experience and I want to thank everyone who made it possible. I think we all did a great job in giving valuable feedback to the Devs, making the final product hopefully much more awesome.

Osbes: It was a nice experience and I meet a lot of great people. Hopefully, a lot of our feedback makes it into the game!

Tchutch: The summit has allowed to recharge the batteries, meet friends : I am happy and confident in the future of the franchise.

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.

Roundtable Discussion Index

eXTReMe Tracker