FEATURES: Roundtable Discussion #18 – March 2009

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This is edition number 18 of the CNCNZ.com Roundtable. It kind of follows on from last month with some more Uprising questions. Listed below are the people participating on the panel for this month.

Question 1) So here we are after the release of Uprising. Your thoughts on the expansion overall?

Sonic: Uprising is just plain good old fashion fun. The new units are great, yeah they are powerful but that’s what makes them fun to use. The Giga-Fortress is my favourite. The campaigns offer more of the same from Red Alert 3. But you get something very different when you play the Yuriko campaign. Although short it just a great change of pace. Commanders Challenge is probably the real prize but I personally find it very frustrating, I’ll beat that part of the game one day I guess. But overall Uprising is really well though out. A job well done by the team at EALA.

Luk3us: I think I like the Commanders Challenge the most. Sure the quality of the missions varies greatly, but overall it’s a neat feature. The campaigns were terribly short, they would have been better off doing things similar to KW in my opinion. As for the Yurkio campaign, can’t say I liked that at all, I lost interest about halfway through. Some of the maps they included with Uprising are rather nice and I wouldn’t mind seeing them integrated into RA3’s multiplayer.

Lion: I personally am enjoying playing the expansion. I judge games on it’s fun factor, and Uprising gets high marks for that. The campaigns were well put together, my fav being the Yuriko campaign and it’s RTS/RPG style of play. Plus the fact you get to blow up lots of buildings! The Commander’s Challenge is something new the dev team came up with, and it lives up to it’s name. It is very challenging to say the least. My butt has been handed to me multiple times. Once you figure out the pattern of the AI, you can counter their moves, but the battles can get very intense to say the least. I’ve managed to get through about a third of the challenges so far, so there’s lots of gameplay ahead for me. I’ve also played several skirmish games, and although the new units are not balanced very well, it doesn’t really matter since there is no online multiplayer. I might also mention that the new music for Uprising is some of the best I’ve heard in a C&C game.

Chickendippers: I’m impressed with the way it’s turned out. It’s certainly not a flimsy little collection of new maps that the name ‘booster pack’ conjures up in my mind. The missions I’ve played so far are pretty interesting too, certainly a break from the “build up a base and destroy everything” formula that we’ve seen recently. The Yuriko campaign is great fun and level of graphical detail is quite astounding! However the movies do seem to have reverted back to the briefer talking directly to you and not a whole lot of interaction between characters which is something I feel makes the experience more immersive.

Banshee: The new campaigns are fun. Most of the Future Tech units are clearly umballanced, but, as far as I could play it, I’m enjoying it. I’m somewhat glad that it doesn’t have online play (although I think that it was simply disabled in the interface and somebody can enable it in a later time) is good in this specific case, because of the terrible ballance issues of the new units. Who would play soviets in these conditions? But I’m really wondering if they will port some of these units to the original Red Alert 3 as I’ve heard. And the storyline of these new campaigns are much better than the story of the campaigns from the original game.

Chronojam: I actually haven’t gotten RA3 nor Uprising yet, but one concern I had was the usefulness of newer units and how they’d fit in. Something that often happens with an RTS is that some units end up being not particularly useful, or underused in general. Of course you don’t want too few unit options. RA3, when I played the beta, did not seem to have much of these issues… especially given how the gameplay typically flows and the “teching up” process. I was a bit concerned about a pile of new units that would make older ones entirely obsolete or wouldn’t be used much, and even asked about the design process for introducing a new unit rather than adjusting current units during the live Q&A a while back. From what I’ve seen and heard, everything turned out okay. The premise if the expansion and the amount of content being brought to the table are both great of course.

TheGunrun: It was worth the $20 I spent on it. Uprising was an amazing experience the first day I got it, playing through the campaigns, trying out the new Yuriko dungeon crawler missions, and enjoying the FMVs. But as I played through these missions I could not stop thinking to myself, “Man this would be hella bomb kick ass if I could get (insert friend who has Uprising here) to play this mission with me.” I really wished there was a way to play this game with a pal and enjoy the first experience of playing a mission together, to (spoilers) play the final Soviet mission, find out it was a huge allusion to the Large Hadron Collider at unison and start ZOMGing throughout the mission with each other. (/spoilers) Overall Uprising is a fun game but could have been so much fun if it had some kind of multiplayer.

Blbpaws: I can’t speak to Uprising for me (see below), so I’ll step back and look more broadly. I think, though no one there will admit it, it didn’t go well for EA. If you believe that reviews capture the truth–to some extent I do–Uprising got clobbered. I can’t find one mainstream review ranking it above 8 (and only IGN gives it an 8–the rest are much lower). The MetaCritic average is 63/100. I’m not going to try to debate the merits of the review sites; I’ll just quote EA’s CEO, John Riccitiello, who said “our core game titles are accurately measured and summarized by these assessments [specifically metacritic scores], and that is a very big deal.”

I do think it’s possible that EA has appealed to a silent mass of people who appreciate the single-player aspects of the gameplay, and who might not share the sentiments of reviewers online. But then, if the goal is to find people who aren’t necessarily plugged into the online community, why release it only as a digital download to the online community? Speaking as an observer, not as a player, I can’t say I’m impressed. EA has the sales figures. If I’m wrong, they can show us.

Question 2) Would you like to see more of this type of expansion or booster pack done for future C&C games?

Sonic: If this is the way they want to go then I’m all for it. Add ons and game content are available on the Xbox Live Marketplace and Playstation Store all the time, so why should PC gaming be any different.

Luk3us: Sure, I think it’s a nice game for the SP junkies, which is the majority of C&C fans. I think it is also a smart move by EA to do this, instead of releasing a fully blown expansion which effective splits the online community. This way the SP fans get what they want, EA gets money, and the online community doesn’t suffer. So its win, win and win. Plus when EA releases a future patch with perhaps some of the maps and maybe units from Uprising for free, that will be an even bigger plus.

Lion: Yes I would. Uprising was a great idea. I’d like to see more single player mission packs released. I don’t have the time to devote to online gameplay, so single-player appeals to me.

Chickendippers: As a single-player and story-lover myself, Uprising is right up my street. I think that as long as the team come up with something equally as impressive for multiplayer – beyond just new maps – then I think this booster pack could be the way forward that keeps everyone happy.

Banshee: People enjoy new campaigns. Challenge mode is also an interesting idea. The price is lower than the original game, but lack of ability to mod the new features is quite bad. If they ported these new features to the original game and allowed modders to make use of them with the upcoming Mod SDK, I’d have no complaints.

Chronojam: More C&C is generally a good thing, and we often see good improvements along with them aside from silly things like post-Kane’s-Wrath where war factories no longer give ground control. It does of course mean, top-level, more money flowing towards the projects. What I don’t want to see is flimsy, overpriced product that was required to bring features that were intended in the first place but were arbitrarily cut. Side-stories or alternate-play campaigns are great as I’ve said many times, and might give me an incentive to try things out that I might not have bothered with in the initial campaigns for example… like picking your weak side and then trying a General’s/Commander’s challenge out with them to see how you fare. Much replay value there, and you don’t want a game you love to “run out” of stuff. If an “expansion pack” includes things like the RISK-like global domination play, it also further validates the product; compare this to Sims style expansions, some of which have been rather weak (especially compared to community-released content).

TheGunrun: Um… possibly. My main gripes about Uprising were the absence of it on Steam, any co-op, and that the SDK was pushed back. (If we find out later that the SDK does include Uprising features such as it’s units then disregard the SDK gripe) If a future booster pack was created that would alleviate these issues I would totally be for it. BTW am I the only one who thinks a Co-Op Challenge mode would be badass?

Blbpaws: No, I’m not a fan of it. Call me traditional (you’d be one of the first to do so, I think), but there’s something to be said for engaging players with a complete, unique package. Uprising doesn’t do that; outside of the Hollywood cast and the videos (which no community mod team has attempted to date), there’s not a lot here that couldn’t have been done by the community–for free. EA’s power lies in their capacity for a grand, centralized vision. Uprising reflects that power poorly.

Question 3) A download the size of Uprising was probably a new experience for a lot of people. Personally how did you find the method of digitally downloading your copy?

Sonic: Its the first time I’ve download a game like this. I was never concerned about digitally downloading at all. It took me about 2 and half hours to download the game. Start the download and walk away, that’s what I did. Everything was problem free. Digital distribution is the way of the future so people had better start adapting.

Luk3us: I had a fair bit of trouble trying to get into the EA store site, it was extremely frustrating. But once I actually got around to downloading the game everything was smooth. I got a reasonably consistent download speed the entire time too. So I would give 5 stars to the EA network guys, and 1 star for EA customer support.

Lion: For me it was kinda slow. I understand it was due to the download server being over-loaded with all the people trying to get the game. I prefer a hard copy of the game personally. Uprising was my first at purchasing a digital download of any game.

Chickendippers: I’ve downloaded both Kane’s Wrath and Red Alert 3 from the EA Store before without any problems, so I was confident about Uprising. With my speedy and unlimited connection it didn’t pose a problem (plus it was quicker than going to the store or waiting for the postman). But for those on the cheaper broadband packages here in the UK 5.5GB represents a substantial proportion of their download limit! My main concern is re-downloadability particularly with the EA Store, I’ve written an article on how to backup the game to a DVD, but I’m still left with a hand-written disk rather than one sporting a nice official printed logo.

Banshee: I know a lot of people had problems to download it, specially from the US, and that’s horrible. Fortunately for me, I didn’t had any problems and my phone line did not abandon me as I expected. I just don’t know when I’ll have the same luck again. Another problem with this system is the lack of manual and information on official channels about the system requirements. I wasn’t sure if I’d have free disk space to install it. I only saw the system requirements after installing the game. And they were an awful copy and paste from the Red Alert 3 one. Although it may not look absurd from an external point of view, since it is an expansion, if you look carefully, you’ll see that a digital downloadable game that runs straight from the hard disk does not need an 8x dvd drive, as it was said in the readme. The readme also missed the amount of disk space required, the video card, among few other items.

Chronojam: I can’t particularly speak to Uprising itself (as I said, I don’t have it) but I’m no stranger to digital product distribution these days. Half Life, Half Life 2, Bioshock, Portal, TF2, Left 4 Dead, EVE, these and more all downloaded. Uprising was pretty huge of course. Which brings me to the only things that stuck out to me on release: Uprising’s specifications listed a hard drive free space requirement that did not match up with the space you need, and listed a DVD drive as a requirement (it was quite the curiosity). Like many others out there I’ve got a collection of game boxes including C&C and like something to have on the shelf, but digital distribution is pretty sweet, especially if your download services give you the option to then back up your installation to CD/DVD media.

TheGunrun: It would be nice if Uprising was on steam ๐Ÿ˜›

Blbpaws: I haven’t, and the digital download is a big reason why. I’m hesitant to pay for something I can only download for a year, and I feel like I shouldn’t have to pay for something and then start making my own backups on DVD.

Question 4) The Red Alert 3 Mod SDK is going to be released soon. What do you expect from the modding community once these tools are made available?

Sonic: I expect to see the usual round up of new mods being announced, maybe even some currents mods for C&C 3 making the switch to RA3. But that could also be a bad thing, it means more development time and more waiting for these mods to reach a release candidate.

Luk3us: Not sure really, don’t follow the mod scene all that much. No doubt there will be a total conversion mod back to the original RA though, or RA2. ๐Ÿ˜›

Lion: I expect the modding community will start making progress with the current mods in development. The mod SDK is what is holding them up right now. Also, the mod SDK will allow map makers to create game missions.

Chickendippers: Modding 3D games is always going to be more difficult than the classic C&C games. I think we’ll see a few elite teams of modders producing a high-quality mod each and maybe the odd balance mod from individuals.

Banshee: I wish I knew when this ‘soon’ was. They are saying ‘soon’ for at least 2 months or more. Anyway, I do not expect anything different from what is seen in the Command & Conquer 3 modding community. The tools should be similar. It should require people to compile and do small steps to progress without crashing on the ‘what the hell did I do wrong this time for this thing refuse to compile my mod?’ question, since these tools never go very specific on the position of the error. Red Alert 3 will survive with quick ballance and expansion mods, few total conversions that will be released on 2 or more years, and scripted to hell mod maps.

Chronojam: Gold, pure gold; that’s what the community has always been able to accomplish. Sadly though, things have gotten trickier with the newer formats since the old days where all you needed were, say, paint shop and notepad plus a command line utility to turn your bitmaps into sprite sheets. Unfortunately this has the effect of scaring people off. Perhaps if some super friendly editing utilities were released with modification of those utilities allowed, we’d see more original projects. No doubt about it though, we’ve already come a long way since Andrew Griffin ran into a bit of controversy over making an editor for the original C&C. It’s great that we have folks like Jonathan Wilson and kos4u2c giving us things we maybe should’ve had upfront and have the developers actually showing support, but more first-party support is what is needed here.

The official tools have not been that great: resource hogs, obvious broken bits, random crashes, things taking so long to come out in this state. Working on APB I want to murder LevelEdit for destroying hours of work and I cringe at W3D Viewer for just not knowing enough to save properly, and I know Worldbuilder users have had frustrating issues of their own plus waiting on the RTS SDKs that furthermore sadly end up MIA for the expansion releases.

TheGunrun: Well RA3: Retarded of course; featuring full blown co-op campaigns, custom music, new units, amazing battles, and a customized taunt board featuring the works of “It’s Over 9000” and “You’re the Best Around” from Karate Kid, just to name a few… All I’m saying is that I’ve been waiting for the SDK and I have big plans for the next Retarded Mod. MARK MY WORDS…

Blbpaws: At C&C Labs, we’re working on a very exciting project called The Red Alert that aims to bring back some of the best moments in the franchise history in full 3D. I think especially those community members who join after RA2, Generals, or even later will appreciate the chance to play one of the classic C&Cs in a modern graphical interface. For the veterans who already know the Red Alert gameplay, I’m willing to bet you remember it fondly, and I hope our efforts rekindle some of that nostalgia. As for other mod teams, I haven’t seen anyone who has really put out much for RA3 yet or who shows much potential to finish (if you want a quick heuristic for measuring how much progress mods are making, count the number of textured models they are displaying), but I can’t claim to know the RA3 modding community that well. I do think that releasing the Mod SDK this late is simply repeating the mistakes of C&C 3 and Kane Wrath, where the SDK was so late that the modding community was largely dead. At some point, EA will do that one too many times, and that will be the end of large-scale C&C modding. I hope this isn’t that time.

Question 5) With Uprising, RA3 for PS3 and Mac now released. What do you think the next big thing for Command & Conquer will be?

Sonic: I find this question very hard to answer. I have no idea what the next C&C could be, I can’t pick the direction EALA are heading in right now. I do know that the next C&C needs to be a game that breaths new life into RTS, it has offer something new and unique and not rehash the same C&C 3/RA3 formula again. Is it to soon for C&C 4?

Luk3us: Generals 2, you know its coming sooner or later. That aside I suppose they could do another expansion for RA3, but I suppose that will be based on how well Uprising goes.

Lion: Well, perhaps a C&C RPG style game. I really wish they would make another First Person Shooter to take the place of the aging C&C: Renegade.

Chickendippers: C&C is really a platform pimp :p I really don’t know what the next thing will be, but I do hope the dev team get a chance to relax a bit and spend some time giving the current games some love and coming up with some cool new ideas for the future.

Banshee: They said they would announce two games in this year. One could be Red Alert 3 for PlayStation 3. The second will be announced in this month. The paper that comes in the RA3 Premier Edition says ‘be sure to register by april 30th to guarantee your spot in the beta program’. So, we’ll know it before april 30th

Chronojam: The Next Big Thingโ„ข is a toughie to predict this time. We’ve heard some rumblings about Generals 2 (and the small drama surrounding the expiration of its domain name), Tiberium’s sudden launch onto the scene and cancellation (then all the great unfinished content coming out recently), rumors for years of an MMO of some sort, EA having lost so much in throwing its support to the PS3 while ignoring the Wii so long (which of course turned into a sales superstar). Tough to guess if it’ll even be an RTS for sure, isn’t it?

I can transfer my hope for a C&C DS game to the DSi perhaps, but it’s not likely. If there is an MMO of course, or even some kind of new persistent Worldwide Global Domination thing, it will definitely be a big thing if they play their cards right and offer the right kind of support. Given that they just did an expansion with a singleplayer focus, whatever it is next, it’ll probably have a strong online component.

TheGunrun: Well, I have been hoping that C&C would venture into other media, such that of musicals! “Children of the Brotherhood” – A new Broadway musical that tells the story of eastern European Village Children who witness their parents slaughtered by the GDI and now seek vengeance through the word of Kane! But if for some odd reason that this does not come to reality, then I would bet money on it being Generals.. “I build for China!”

Blbpaws: I think we’ll see a multiplayer-oriented booster pack. I’m pretty certain one was being discussed; whether or not Uprising’s reception will alter those discussions significantly, I don’t know. I suspect EA will be inclined to continue with it, since the costs of digital distribution are quite low. I don’t think we’ll see a C&C other than that in 2009. I suspect we’ll see an announcement later in the year, I won’t pretend to know, but I’ll put my money on a non-RTS C&C. I don’t think the team is ready for C&C 4 yet, and I think Generals doesn’t have a history worth returning to.

Question 6) Any comments about seeing the GDI Kodiak’s very brief appearance in the Battlestar: Galactica finale?

Sonic: I’m not a Battlestar: Galactica fan at all but it was kind of cool see the old Kodiak in there. The old hidden “easter egg” trick has been done many times over the years. Its not an uncommon thing for different shows and movies to include stuff like this.Especially in Sci-Fi (or is that SyFy). Its only the hardcore nerds that spot these things though.

Luk3us: It was so brief I didn’t even notice it. I’m more p*****d that they didn’t tie up the Starbuck & Leoben storyline!

Lion: It was unexpected of course. It did look the part though…fitted right in with the show.

Chickendippers: I don’t watch it myself, but I’ve seen it screen caps posted around, it’s a nice touch ๐Ÿ™‚

Banshee: I’ve seen the pictures, but I didn’t watch the episode. It’s just an easter egg, as far as I could understand. Somebody from that series loves Tiberian Sun.

Chronojam: It brings a tear to the eye, to see it flying once more. Let’s not argue about scale or canon or anything lame like that, and just enjoy it for the awesome cameo that it was!

TheGunrun: I just began watching Battlestar Galactica about a month ago, and after seeing the screen shots and the IMDBs of certain graphical artists, it was really frakking cool. Man, it would have been nice if the Kodiak in the C&C realm had an FTL drive ๐Ÿ˜€

Blbpaws: I suppose it’s a nice Easter Egg, but I don’t watch the show, so I can’t say it was a big deal for me.

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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