FEATURES: Roundtable Discussion #22 – July 2009 (Command & Conquer 4 Special Edition)

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Edition number 22 of the CNCNZ.com Roundtable is here to wrap up the month of July, and we are focusing on Command & Conquer 4 for this one.

Question 1) So Command & Conquer 4 is next big game in the franchise. Have EA made the right decision making this game now or should they have made something else like Generals 2?

Sonic: From a personal point of view I’m glad they went with C&C 4 and not another Generals game. In all honesty, there is nothing from the first Generals or Zero Hour that can be built upon to justify a sequel.

Luk3us: It seems a bit too soon for them to be releasing a C&C game in my opinion, I mean RA3 only came out last year! But if I had a choice between Generals 2 and C&C4, I think I’d go with C&C4. I mean KANE!

Lion: I expected like many in the C&C community that Generals 2 would be next in line to be developed. But it’s all good for C&C4, and even better since they’re ending the Tiberium saga. You can’t drag the story out forever. It’s been nearly 15 years, and I’m looking forward to see how this finally ends. So yes, EA made the right decision in making C&C4. Now let’s hope they do the game justice.

Banshee: The game will be released in 2010, which is pratically 3 years after C&C3, so it seems to be a good timing, in my opinion. And I don’t think they should continue with the Generals series. Perharps, they could start a new storyline after C&C4, which would be a better idea, considering how ridiculous Generals’s story was.

Chickendippers: Well it’ll be sad to see the last of Kane, making Generals 2 now would have prolonged that. But there’s nothing wrong with the timing and there’s not a lot we can do about it anyway!

Ryan: Well, the Tiberian universe is my favourite, so I’m always happy to return to the world of Nod and GDI. However, Tiberium Wars and Kane’s Wrath are still fresh in my mind – it feels like only yesterday that I was first watching the videos of C&C3 being played at Leipzig! – so I definitely wouldn’t have been upset if EALA had chosen to make Generals 2 before C&C4. In fact, I’m hoping that once the inevitable C&C4 expansion is done and dusted, they return to the Generals franchise. As “non-C&Cish” as it was, I really loved playing it. Heck, I still do.

Blbpaws: I think it’s the right decision. Generals 2 wouldn’t have added much to the series. C&C 4 is a logical, and needed, conclusion. Hopefully, it’s a fitting end to a wonderful series.

JohnWE: I’m going to throw a shout out to my community over at CnC-Files. They love the Generals game for reasons I can’t explain. And they’d love to see another version of that game come out. Personally though, I think EA made the right decision in releasing C&C4; it’s one of their more iconic franchises, so it’ll probably sell better. And of course, there will be Kane in it; they’ve got to finish that series before he gets old and dies in real life. You can’t kill the messiah, but he can die. ๐Ÿ˜›

Mighty BOB!: Although I had thought that all signs pointed to the next game being Generals 2 and was a little surprised that it was not, I don’t think it matters either way which they do first. Unless… the order determines the gameplay. If, for example, they discover it turns out that most people actually hate the new gamplay and then revert to “standard” C&C gameplay in the next game, then I would have preferred that Generals 2 (or whatever game) would have been the experimental game first. Not the last game of the Kane story arc.

Question 2) What are your thoughts on the radical changes to the standard game play. Like the new Crawler “all in one” production system?

Sonic: I really like the changes we are seeing for C&C 4. The old ways are becoming very tiresome and something needed to change in order to push the frachise forward. The first impression is that the new ideas are borrowed from other RTS game but who really cares. Lets not forget that many of C&C’s original concepts have been replicated in other games many times over the years.

Luk3us: WTFBBQ! I don’t think the word radical truly does justice to what has been changed in this iteration of C&C. I’m not sure if it is for better or worse yet, far too early to tell. Lots of new and “innovate” things to play around with though. I just hope it all works out.

Lion: The Crawler is definetely a radical change, that’s for sure. Kinda takes the fun out of building though, which many fans enjoy including myself. But I’ll keep an open mind, and as long as the fun factor stays intact, such as cool units to play around with, I can live with it I suppose.

Banshee: The idea of the crawler is interesting by adding RPG elements to the gameplay and the base should become quite mobile with that move. Depending on the way it is implemented, it should decrease micro management and shift focus from base building to the battle, which is an important feature from the Command & Conquer series as a whole. And finally, if the objective of the game is to destroy the enemy crawler, then it will receive the strategical value that construction yards had in the first game, which is something that I really miss in the 3D C&C games.

Chickendippers: I am one of those players who likes building up a nice base, so in that respect I’ll be affected, I’m intrigued to find out exactly how it works in practice, from the description so far I’m not quite sure. From what I’ve heard of the new gameplay style, its great fun to play so can’t wait to get my hands on it!

Ryan: I’ve played a lot of C&C over the past 5-7 years, and with two traditional-style C&C games under EALA’s belt, I’m ready to try something new. The only thing I’m not too keen on is the population cap, and I also hope that the Defense Class has full and proper basebuilding, which Jeremy Feasel seems to have suggested, because it would be a shame to lose the iconic Hand of Nod and Temple of Nod structures. Overall though, C&C4 has me really excited. I love basically everything they are doing with it.

Blbpaws: I’m going to wait and see, but it doesn’t look great to me. Basebuilding has always been a key part of C&C, and it’s role looks needlessly diminished here. I dont’ see any benefits to the Crawler.

JohnWE: I’m going to refrain on passing judgement on this because I don’t fully understand how it will work. I’ve heard rumors that you can build a base, and it’s just like an MCV with weapons that can respawn. I’ve also heard rumors that you’ll upgrade it instead of placing power plants and other structures on the terrain. I’m interested to see what EALA’s thought up for this one. I know that I was critical of the Infantry squad mechanic in C&C3, but that turned out much better than I thought, so I’ll wait here.

Mighty BOB!: I am very displeased. It seems that the only thing tying C&C4 to past Tiberian C&C games (in terms of gameplay) is that you build units and order them around. I was expecting a “progressive transition,” an enhancing evolution, not a complete foundational revolution. Make additions to the gameplay and refine them, not restart and rewrite them. As an example, RA3 has three different base building mechanics. These are additions to the existing gameplay elements of previous C&C games and in my opinion they enrich the player experience by adding diversity and asymmetry. I can’t really go into more details without writing an essay, but you can see more explanations in my comments on most of the C&C4 news stories here on CNCNZ.

Question 3) How do you feel about the fact that C&C 4 needs to be connected to the Internet at all times?

Sonic: I can’t think of a time when neither my main computer or laptop are not connected to internet so this doesn’t bother me one bit. However I do this as somewhat of an issue for other people and I feel its something that EALA will have to address at some stage.

Luk3us: I know this has been a controversial issue for many but I’m not terribly fussed.

Lion: I have cable, so I’m connected all the time anyhow. But I do see this as a problem for some, plus those who would like to play their game on a laptop with no internet access available are out of luck. Personally, my opinion is that those who play only single player campaigns and skirmish should not have to connect to the internet in order to play. There should be some kind of option to play offline.

Banshee: They say that they want it to update your profile or whatever, but for someone who plays single player and campaigns, I’m sure this person wouldn’t care about updating profile at all. Of course it is useful for those who enjoy playing C&C games online often. But this requirement of being online all the time to play the game is just an excuse for yet another intrusive DRM system that will certainly reduce the sales of the game.

Chickendippers: I’m not bothered because I am always connected to the internet anyway. However my connection was recently down for two days and games were very important in alleviating my internet-withdrawal symptoms :p If that meant that I wouldn’t be able to play the singleplayer then I would definitely have to take issue with it..but there must surely be provisions for that. Overall it’s better than the 5 activations system in my opinion and no worse than the always-online system of MMORPGS.

Ryan: I get the feeling the “always-online” thing will be a method of tracking people who try to abuse the system and unlock stuff faster than they should. But for when your internet connection goes down, I think they should include an “offline mode” that disables the ability to earn experience points and level-up. That way you can still play the game, but you can’t abuse it. An offline mode would save them a lot of difficult public relations battles, too.

Blbpaws: I’m absolutely against it. It needlessly limits the player. EA should do better. What are the benefits of this decision?

JohnWE: It will probably lose some market share with people who only use it to play over LAN with eachother. But in this year, I don’t know how big that actually is. More importantly, it’ll lose some market share with pirates, and that’s what I think is fueling the largest part of EA’s decision. Sure, it’ll be cool to have persistant xp and upgrades mirrored over all the game modes, but I don’t think that’s the main reason they’re having you stay online at all time. And the claim about having no DRM? It has DRM… you have to go online to play it.

Mighty BOB!: I don’t like it. Period. I can understand perfectly well why they did it (anti-piracy measure in the same league as DRM, they want online stat tracking for profiles like rankings, also makes it at least somewhat harder to cheat the stats), but I’m a campaigner/skirmisher. I occasionally (very rarely) play a compstomp online, but that’s it. In my case, it’s like forcing me to be online for a single-player game which would be ridiculous. I can only pray for myself or others who don’t go online that there will be an offline mode.

Question 4) It has been confirmed that the Scrin will be in C&C 4, but not as a playable faction, and it sounds like their part of story will be minor. After all the build up waiting for them to arrive in Tiberium Wars, does this bother you?

Sonic: Part of me what to know more about the Scrin but I’m not sad about their role being minor for C&C 4. After all there is always the inevitable expansion page to tell their story. The arrival of the Scrin in Tiberium Wars was somewhat lacklustre so lets hope they make this so called all powerful alien race more epic in the expansion.

Luk3us: As long as they resolve what happened at the end of KW in regards to the Scrin I’ll be happy. I thought that KW ending was a horrible cliff hanger, almost as bad as the ending in TW! So they better resolve it, or release an expansion later on.

Lion: Doesn’t bother me one bit. Scrin are too sci-fi for me. I like the fact just GDI & Nod will be the only two factions in C&C4. I understand The Forgotten will also make an appearance in the campaign missions. I’m sure that will make some of the Tiberian Sun fans happy.

Banshee: I think it is a bit early to judge the story by rumours, although I really hope Scrin gets a more active participation in the story, even if we do not play it, after all its importance in C&C3. So far, what I really know is that Kane will talk personally with the GDI leader to get some kind of deal and that sounds really weird, but so far, acceptable. I just hope that the story of C&C4 continues the one from C&C3 (even if TW screwed up the concept of tiberium).

Chickendippers: I won’t shed any tears to be honest, Scrin are my least favourite faction I think all their units/structures are pretty indistinguishable; all purple and blobby. It sounds like the story concentrates on an interesting relationship between Nod and GDI so the Scrin aren’t really involved. Although with the world being even more ‘overrun’ by Tiberium I do hope we’ll see more flora and fauna.

Ryan: I was really disappointed by the Scrin in C&C3. I’d always thought that the Scrin were the creators of Tiberium, who sent it to Earth because their planet was dying or they saw us as a threat, but it turns out the Scrin are basically an intergalactic mining corporation with an addiction to Tiberium, which is kinda weird. I think the 2004 Primal artwork left me expecting a very different vision of the Scrin. They didn’t even play hugely differently to GDI or Nod! So no, I’m not sad to see them go, but I’m definitely interested to see how a two-faction RTS can hold up in today’s market. The Scrin are blatantly gonna return in C&C4’s expansion, anyway. ๐Ÿ˜›

Blbpaws: Yes, I think they should have a more major part. After all, they–and Kane–are the keys to the story. Without them, it seems like we haven’t come that far.

JohnWE: If these rumors are true, I’ll be rather sad. I liked the Scrin and their play style was different from any other faction in a C&C game. My biggest concern is how they’ll explain the lack of the return of the Scrin. It seemed like they were setting up for a return of Scrin through the tower in C&C3 and Kane’s Wrath, so to see it not happen will be disappointing.

Mighty BOB!: Yes after the build up that was given to them, this bothers me. I’m expecting a full invasion. I don’t care if they are playable in the campaign, but I would expect them to be so in skirmish and multiplayer. But the point is, they shouldn’t be a footnote in the Tiberium story that sort of “just happened and then was swept under the rug.” I understand that there is a possibility of them getting more attention in an expansion, so if not in the main game, then I would hope there. I also understand that the shooter Tiberium would probably have elaborated on the massive invasion (since it was set a little more than a decade after Tiberium Wars) so we’re missing a piece of the story now that it has been canceled. Hopefully the storyline and/or plot points can be salvaged from Tiberium so we get the whole story arc.

Question 5) We found out that James Hannigan, Timothy Wynn and Jason Graves (Dead Space) will be contributing to the C&C 4 soundtrack collectively. Are you happy with these guys and do you think Frank Klepacki will be involved at all?

Sonic: Fingeres crossed Frank can do at least 1 track for the new game but based on what the other guys did for Red Alert 3 I’m confident they can deliver a great soundtrack.

Luk3us: As long as the music is similar in style to what they did with RA3 I’ll be happy. Unlike what they did with C&C3 which wasn’t that great imo.

Lion: All three are a class act and already have proved they have the right stuff to do the music for C&C4. As far as Frank being involved, it would be nice if he could do something for the game, even if it’s just one song since C&C4 is the last in the Tiberium saga.

Banshee: I prefer to see the results before providing any answers for this question. I didn’t like C&C3 and Kane’s Wrath’s music at all. Red Alert 3 only had Hell March 3 and one or two musics that were worth listening (and these one or two were not from Frank, sorry Frank). The menu musics for both RA3 and Uprising were excelent. The emotional based jukebox in game made the music become too much repetitive. So, I really hope they improve that as well.

Chickendippers: EA got Frank involved in RA3 to remix some of his most famous tracks, Kane’s Wrath already contained a few remixes of his Tiberium works. The composers themselves don’t really concern me, I’m sure they’ll all do a good job and make spooky atmospheric music.

Ryan: James and Tim did pretty well with RA3, but it’s to say how they will do in a grim setting. But overall, I’m pretty confident they’ll pull out another good soundtrack, especially with the help of Graves. I just hope EALA get Klepacki onboard too. They are going with faction themed music, so I’d love to see some of the faction themes he developed in Renegade make a return for the final game. And, of course, Act on Instinct and Industrial should return, as the signature themes of the Tiberian universe.

Blbpaws: I didn’t like the RA3 music too much, but I’ll reserve judgment until I hear it.

JohnWE: I’m sure they will do a fine job, but I always will prefer Frank Klepacki’s scores to C&C games. Tiberian Sun was a more ambient tracked game than C&C, and it seems C&C3 and C&C4 will follow in their footsteps. I can see the reasoning for making the dynamic music like that is so that it will feel more like a movie and fit together well, but I loved building a huge force and using it to wipe out the enemy base with some nice Frank K. rock tracks. Look at Universe at War, you can do heavy tracks and still keep the music dynamic. They should take a cue from that.

Mighty BOB!: We’ll see. I really hope these guys can pull it off. The Tiberium Wars soundtrack was entirely uninspiring. The only truly good track was the menu theme. Luckily the RA3 soundtrack was a marked improvement. I really can’t speculate if Frank will be involved, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Jarrid Mendelson would also be a nice addition.

Question 6) One of most discussed subjects is the User Interface. So should it be the C&C traditional side bar or, as we have seen in the scanned screen shots, stick with the UI across the bottom?

Sonic: Bottom, top, left or right, what is important is that it is functional and easy to use, not its location. I’m actually hoping that the UI has some level of customization. As in the ability to drag and drop it where you want it. So if your a sidebar traditionalist, by all means stick it there.

Luk3us: I’m not terribly fussed about the UI. I’ll work with both. Though it would be neat if EA allowed you to move the task bar around the screen to your liking.

Lion: In the whole scheme of things, and despite the fact I’m old skool C&C, it really isn’t a big issue with me. But I do prefer the right side bar as I use a widescreen monitor. Having the UI bar on the bottom wouldn’t stop me from buying the game though.

Banshee: As I explained in a recent Roundtable Discussion, the sidebar is better because it would use less space of the screen, leaving more space for the battlefield. Bear in mind that the screens from any computer and laptop are wide (width > height). The sidebar, as seen in C&C3 and RA3, is already very confortable for the user. Unfortunately, if they’ve showed screenshots of a bottom bar, they’ll certainly launch the game with a bottom bar. I hope they change their minds about it.

Chickendippers: I think the sidebar as used in C&C3 worked pretty well so I don’t see the need for the change in position – I didn’t feel the bottom bar made any difference to Generals. But as we’ve seen so little of the interface to date, they might have come up with something cool that necessitates a bottom bar. It’s not that big a deal, so I’m open to it.

Ryan: I really don’t see what advantages the bottom bar has over the sidebar. If EALA can justify it, sure, I’ll go along with it. But right now, I still prefer the sidebar, so I think they at least should give users a choice. I’ll enjoy C&C4 either way.

Blbpaws: My preference is for the side, but again we have to wait and see. I’m not ready to make judgments yet.

JohnWE: Sidebar. End of story. I know that other RTS games like using a bottom bar, but from a ease of use point of view, it’s a lot easier to move your mouse left and right than down to the bottom of the screen. Sidebar is one thing that is classic to C&C and should be kept in.

Mighty BOB!: My vote goes for the side bar. However this is not a “mission-critical” part of the game for me. I would be quite irked if they went with the bottom bar and I would subtract some points from its score, but this alone wouldn’t keep me from buying it, but there are several other elements that, to me, are mission-critical and will immediately affect my purchase deciscion (and I think several of these critical elements have been gotten wrong by C&C4’s designers).

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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