Roundtable Discussion #29 – July 2010


We haven’t done a Roundtable since April so here is short 4 question one to cover a few interesting topics that cropped up recently. Here’s the panel.

Question 1) We are now officially stuck in the zone “between C&C games”. What can we do as a community to keep things interesting until we get news of the next C&C game?

Sonic: The same thing we did in the years between C&C Generals and Tiberium Wars. Fall back on all the great modding teams out there. If it wasn’t for them many fansites would be dead in the water.

Gben: To be honest, I’ve ennjoyed the break between C&C games. I’m a bit overloaded from the constant barrage of hype from the current holders of the RTS Holy Grail – C&C. It’s good to sit back and reflect on C&C as a universe now, rather than focus my attention on the latest iteration. I would suggest the community can keep things interesting until the next game… already I’m seeing a lot of interviews and articles being published and there seems an infinite number of mods being produced right now. I’d also like to see some competitions occur on a regular basis…. fanart, fanvids, fanfiction etc. Lastly although I don’t really play multiplayer… I would like to see some semi-regular tournaments happen hosted by the various fansites… more for casual fun and bragging rights rather than by professionals for cash.

Banshee: If the developpers are not releasing content, somebody else has to do it, in order to keep things interesting. This somebody else are obviously us: the fans. So, what keeps the community interesting at this moment is user created content like mods, indie games, site updates and even events like contests. So, what’s what we are supposed to do. Keep the news flowing with fan content. I’m aware I’m not contributing much to the scene right now, because of my real life, but fortunately, there are many people in PPM and outside it generating interesting stuff.

Chickendippers: We are very much in the lul, it’s come about even faster with the lack of updates from EA; BCPT, ladder seasons and regular new content on the official site keeps public interest going. However this hasn’t happened at all, and as a webmaster I am seeing this impact quantified by the lack of map submissions. For C&C3 and RA3 I received a good number of user-created content, but this just hasn’t happened on the same scale for C&C4. The developers have lost interest and so has the community.

At this time it falls to the modding community, who are sometimes marginalised, to keep the community going with new updates. The timing is rather convenient as mods for the previous two titles are beginning to reach maturity and the stage where they have some interesting media to showcase….Although if they would reply to my requests for interview that would be much appreciated 😉

Zéphyr: Hmm. Good question. For a community, the first thing to do is “listen and ask your community”. If they want a C&C3 Tournament, organize it! In those days where we are in the wilderness, we must think the better thing for our community. For my part, on CnCSaga, they want a lot of “C&C-files” like the description of the entire military uniform in RA Franchise makes recently by Vodka, a Russian guy in my staff who lives in the North of France.

AnNo1935: The most important thing is to show the fans, that you musn’t lose your interest. Surely there were hard times, but there is way more than the game itself. Thre are various mods, that show what is possible to achive with those games. Just as an example I want to mention ?The Forgotten?. An important thing is to stay a community and do creative games from time to time. Small turnaments and Events in cooperation with other sites are a nice distraction. Basically, there are limitless ideas. To find the right thing, on the other hand, is really hard to find, because it has to be interesting for everyone. A few ideas that came to my mind are some interviews, Acrionwees and raffels and various events like this Roundtable. But its hard to find a thing we all like…

Nathancnc: As a community all we have is the fan made material to keep us going in between games. I personally love some of the mods that are being developed; Renegade X, C&C Reloaded, A Path Beyond, and Tiberian Sun Rising to name a few. Support the C&C community any way you can, every little bit counts!

Question 2) What If you could sit in a room with Jon Van Caneghem and the new C&C/RTS development team at EALA what would you say to them to help bring back the C&C franchise and improve it for the future?

Sonic: Take the franchise back to it’s roots, simpilify the gameplay, bring back the classic C&C system that ever C&C fans wants. In other words no more Crawlers. And to keep things more interesting, create a new universe. A new universe would then make it easier for the new team at EALA to get away from living up to the “Westwood legacy” of making a Tiberium or Red Alert C&C game. Keep the traditional C&C formula but set it in a new universe.

Gben: As a Single player – my suggestion would be to focus on the that component. Let the Multiplayer grow organically out of the universe not copied/borrowed/cloned from other games successful game mechanics. My MP games need to have personality, and personality is created in the SP experience.

Banshee: Please, focus on the storyline and make it consistent in future games. That’s the first thing that I would say. Of course, I have other ideas in mind as well. Starting a new universe now wouldn’t be bad, but they could use the Red Alert scene to trigger this universe. With a time machine and some imagination, you can trigger anything… even Generals…. but the story must be told in an interesting way, not being so biased like USA being the good guys and GLA the bad ones with a cause that nobody understands (and doesn’t make any sense either). If they stick to the RTS genre, they should really consider using the elements that worked in previous games, such as base building, resource collectors, sidebar, full motion movies, tech buildings, etc.

I’d suggest to be careful with the role of buildings in the game. If you make them as vital as in Generals and newer games, where you could wipe entire armies by simply cleaning the buildings, you must make sure that are not that easy to be built and that they can be more resistent than a simple use or combination of special powers. Something that I like in the first games is the fact that buildings were really treated as jewel and killing a war factory could force you to stop constructing to really suffer the consequences of being without a war factory for a while. You received a reward for destroying a war factory, which is something that didn’t happened in the same intensity in Generals and newer games, because the construction of multiples buildings was easily accessible.

Another thing that needs to be considered is the importance of a territory. The older games made the conquer of new territories a harder mission and more rewarding than newer ones. Restricting the ability to place the building in new locations to very specific and expensive units increases the value of a territory. I like the approach of Red Alert 3 that demands expansion in order to keep the resources flowing and, consequently, surviving the enemies. But expanding in that game is too cheap and easy. Of course that defending the expansion isn’t easy at all.

I have a couple of complaints such as lack of radar being shut down in recent games, map being revealed, symmetrical maps and restriction of one harvester per resource. A radar-only building is not necessary, but it could be included in a strategic building such as airfields or tech centers instead of being in the construction yard. Making enemies blind adds depth to the game, specially in multiplayer. Also, radar at high tech buildings may lightly discourage rushes, although good rushers can do it blindly. The action of revealing maps when the game starts gives away the position of the resources, as well as the potential choke points where your enemies will have to pass to attack you, reducing the surprise factor of the game. Symmetrical maps dismotivates scouting as well, which only becomes useful for knowing what your enemy has built and no longer to look for new resources. You don’t fight against the environment anymore, just against the enemy.

And the sidebar… I’ve wrote about that at an old Roundtable, but I’ll repeat: the width from our screens is higher than their height. So, a bottom bar takes more space from our views, which is a why a sidebar is better.

Finall, the game doesn’t need to be very complex, but it shouldn’t be as simple as they did with C&C4. It was a terrible mistake that I hope that they will not repeat. While I defended old-school C&C gameplay in most of my points, I believe that there is a lot of space for innovations and that the genre can still be explored. Innovations can be done if environment becomes a bigger player in the battle. Again, that would slow down the action of the game a bit, which, for me, it would be good. People need time to breath and if we make the game too much focused on base building and unit spam, it becomes too much mechanic, which is not good. Tactics is much more fun than hitting the keyboard and mouse like a freak just to build units before your enemy.

Chickendippers: I say this every-time; post-launch support. It’s important from the outset to define exactly what support the development team wants and can realistically provide. The development team always has ambitious post-launch plans; for Generals it was the Ladder Kits, for Red Alert 3 it was the new website with in-game messaging abilities, XML exports to display stats on your website, ladder groups and more. None of these have ever come to fruition for whatever reasons (budget, time constraints, medalling from management etc). So it’s important to aim for something that is realistically achievable.

Zéphyr: What would I say ? “Could you hire me ?” 😀
No more seriously, the main problem for C&C, is they don’t respect the red line of C&C. Cinematics, real actors, a base, a MCV, etc… I know, it’s difficult to respect that because it’s a break to an future innovation.

AnNo1935: Well that’s a very hard question. I’d try to talk to them and make them clear what the brand Command and Conquer really means to our fans. I’d tell them that they mustn’t stop the support for any game because this hurts many fans. Additionally I’d tell them, that basebuilding is a core element of Command and Conquer and that you could make it more attractive by adding some features. I’m not against the Crawlersystem in any way, but I think you could merge this with basebuilding. Things like gathering recources, building units, tactical Usage of them, these are all things player should be aware of. They should also get rid of their engine, it’s obsolete and needs to be changes. A little hint: Developing time should take more than just 9 months!

Another problem is, that the Dev. Team is completely new, so I think they know about the problems as good as an older team would. Important would be to tell them about basebuilding, recouce gathering etc. and explain them a few new things like better grafics or enhancements of the fractions. Ah before I forget, release the patch 1.03 for Kanes Wrath!

Nathancnc: Build on the classics! There have been many developers making new games that are in he style (both gameplay and graphics) as older titles form years back (A good example is the new megaman game) They should develop a new C&C game, but make it look and play like either Tiberian Sun or Red Alert 2….. just a new storyline and all.

Question 3) How far away do you think we are from here the next C&C game being officially announced?

Sonic: With out giving to much away, because I’ve been privy to some inside info, I can say to you all now that we do have a long wait ahead of us before we find out what is next for the franchise. I don’t know the exact the time frame but my best guess would be some form of an official announcement in early 2011. I guess its safe for me to confirm that the development team is getting what they want, and that is more development time on the actual game. No more of this 9 months to finish and ship it rubbish.

Gben: I hope it is a while.
Announce in 2011 at the earliest, but prefer waiting until 2012 for a release.
Remember the five P’s… proper preparation prevents poor performance!

Banshee: If they do not announce anything in the next 3 months, then an announcement will take time to happen. They usually announce an expansion in 2 to 6 months after the release of a game and, surprisingly, their last game (C&C4) was released less than 5 months ago, (although I’m feeling like its been ages since I haven’t played that game), so they still have time to announce an expansion to C&C4. If that doesn’t happen, then they’ll take much more time. There is no more a ‘Tiberium’ failed project pushing the studio to do yearly cash cow campaigns to keep the finances alive.

Chickendippers: ) I don’t think we’ll hear anything until next year at the earliest, hopefully they’re developing a new engine *fingers crossed*. And when we do hear something, I hope it’s early enough in the development cycle that we can have an influence. EA Management imposed such a tight schedule on C&C4 that the community summit and beta testing really served little more than balance and stress testing.

Zéphyr: For a better C&C game, I think 2 or 3 years. Yes I know, it’s really long, but after the CnC4’s slap… it’s difficult to get back on track. We must work step by step.

AnNo1935: My expectations range from 6 months, to 2 years. I can imagine that there will be another CnC anounced within 6 months, ignoring all claims of the community. In contrast to that I could imagine that the dev team needs some time to start working as a team. If EA hears the claims of the community, and starts working like we want them to they should have something to present within two years. In the end it’s up to EA… If they just want money, we’ll soon have an anouncement. If they want to go for quality (I know that many people thing EA doesnt even know this word!), they’ll take their time before we’ll hear anything. Lets see what they’ll present at the Gamescom 2011, but time will bring.

Nathancnc: I hate to say it, but I think we will be without C&C for more than a year. The team has been disbanded, and C&C4 as turned out to be only slightly better than a failure (there is like 20 people online). I hope how ever that C&C will make a huge return with a new game, even if it starts a new “universe”.

Question 4) So we have a new Community Manager steering the ship and a new team running the Official C&C Forums. What do you think of the “new guys”?

Sonic: We don’t know all that much about the guy just yet. So I won’t say EA Goodman is doing a bad job on the C&C front, what does he have to promote? With no new game his hands are tied. As for the rest of his new community team, again I don’t know them yet. Although we have has some much appriecated interaction and input from Silvanoshi on our forums recently. Everyone is assuming that EA Goodman is the new APOC, that may the case in job title only. At this stage its clear to me that EA Goodman’s approach is totally different to APOC’s. People are very quick to forget how much APOC did for our community. Given time I’m confindent that EA Goodman and his team will work out just fine.

I’ve mentioned this on our forums before but I say it again here. There is more to the community that just the official C&C forums, these new guys have to get around and touch base with the fan sites, respond to e-mails/messages. Basically they have to be our friends. Because when the new game does come around they will be our only way to communicate with the development team.

Gben: I don’t hang out at the official forums, so I haven’t really met them. I’ve heard of them only through the annoucements I’ve read. They’ve only just ventured out to our forums in the last few days. I hope they can make visiting fan sites a regular part of their work schedule. Having a team working several titles at the same time feels like we’re not important, I admit, but in between games we just can’t justify a full-time community manager. As much as I would prefer it.

I would rather than spend any spare cash for the support team to continue making patches for the games!

Banshee: Honestly, I do not know them. I rarely post in the official forums and most of their posts that I could read so far a spam or resembles one. But I give them credit for trying to promote community mods in a couple of news in the official site, although I’m disappointed that they still don’t know Project Perfect Mod either. So, I don’t know them and they don’t know me. That’s a tie.

Chickendippers: They’ve very nice and all – being 1 hour behind instead of 8 hours ahead makes it much more convenient to have casual conversations. However at the end of the day they are already managing several communities and are on a different continent from the C&C development team, so their involvement is minimal and as a result a lot of the new team restrict themselves to moderating the forums. I’ve been trying to secure an interview for a while, but so far with little success.

Zéphyr: It looks nice but he doesn’t contact the entire community (like Apoc when he left EA) to introduce himself. On, they made an interview and I noticed a lot of “EA” replies, that we are usually given. I hope the new team at EALA will understand the Community Leaders because we have a lot of advice to give EA, in order to make future C&C games more enjoyable by the community.

AnNo1935: I can’t say anything about Goodman, i didn’t have that much contact with him, but I think he’ll do a great job. We will see him in actions when they announce another Command & Conquer. I can only say that everyone does a god job, as far as I can judge. Most are from the EACT and so I had often the pleasure to talk to them. Still, I think they need more experience in the whole team so that they dont ruin anything. We’ll see how they manage to do that in the next few months, years etc. At the moment the situation is not that hard to manage. Its unfortunate that APOC left us, and he was a really good man. Goodman has some big footsteps to stumble in.

Nathancnc: To be honest I don’t know. The new Community Manager Goodman has not been very active at all. Here is rarely on the forums, and I haven’t seen him do anything significant since he got here. Now granted, there isn’t much to do in this downtime, but he could at least make himself more known.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by each individual in the Roundtable Discussion are their own, and do not reflect the official view of, unless otherwise stated.

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