FEATURES: Roundtable Discussion #36 – March 2015

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After a 2 year absence, the Roundtable Discussion finally returns. In this new edition we talk about the current state of the franchise, has the interest level in the franchise and/or the community changed, the most interesting things happening in the community right now, and lastly, what does EA need to do to bring Command & Conquer back and when.

CNCNZ.com Staff:

  • Sonic, Nmenth, Doctor Destiny, Plokite_Wolf, gben, dbjs2009, DVD Player

Invited Guests

Question #1: With no official word from EA on the future, how do you feel about the current state of the franchise?

Sonic: I still feel confident and upbeat about the future. If I didn’t, I would have ended my time being in charge of CNCNZ.com a long time ago. It’s clouded future for sure, but all we can do is sit and wait to see what EA has planned. The current state of the franchise at this time is based around the legacy of the past games. And its that legacy that is fuelling the community and keeping it alive.

Nmenth: It’s not good. With a cancellation and a poorly-received game as its latest contributions, the franchise is already hurting, but dead silence is only making it harder for fans to maintain hope that the series is even still alive.

Doctor Destiny: At the present time, I do not feel very confident about the future of the Command & Conquer franchise. The outlook seems very bleak since the last game got canceled in 2013 and we’ve not heard hide nor tail about the franchise from EA in the time since. I’d like to be more optimistic, but I feel it’s time that we all admit to ourselves that Command & Conquer, and even the RTS genre in general, is not the juggernaut it once was. However, I do believe that C&C can be the saviour of the genre if it gets some needed attention from EA.

Plokite_Wolf: The future of the franchise is, frankly, one big enigma. I believe everyone is hoping for a new title deep inside, but there isn’t much chance we’ll see one in the foreseeable future, at least with EA’s current development policies. The series has always given the impression of never fully realized potential, and despite recent catastrophic failures, C&C has all the possibility in the world to return to its former glory. But, since C&C’s core is different from EA’s cash-cow standards nowadays, only time will tell if we’ll ever get a new C&C title, let alone if it’ll be good. But hey, even this total silence is better than seeing yet another disappointment.

gben: Well when we talk about franchise – we’re talking about licensing a product or service for other people to sell for a piece of the pie. The Owner gets some cash, and the licensing company gets some. Since technically there are no ongoing projects that are making money for EA other than, ironically, the ‘free-to-play’ browser game “Tiberium Alliances”. The franchise is clinically dead.

dbjs2009: With nothing to rely on from EA, I’d say that the franchise is in a comma, sadly we don’t know if it’ll recover just yet, there’s still hope however and all we can do is wait and see what the future holds for this great franchise.

DVD Player: Since the cancellation of “Command and Conquer” and the shutting down of Victory Studios, I personally have given up hope on the franchise. To me, feels like the series title could replace the F2P game’s title in what was cancelled and none would be the wiser.

Tore: I feel that the current state of the franchise is a little sad. One of the most loved games series in the world lies dormant with little to no support or acknowledgement from the owner. Not to mention its latest game being mediocre. EA might have put the franchise on hold or hopefully they are working on something big.

One Winged Angel: After watching that two hour development video for C&C that was floating around on YouTube a while back, I felt kind of disappointed that EA shut the project down. From the developer’s point of view it sounded as if the game was shut down after a dispute between the developers and executives over how the game was going to be monetized, which was kind of understandable considering that a pay to win RTS would be kind of defeat the purpose of a finely balance experience. I hope that EA do something with the franchise in the next few years, because it has the potential to become a juggernaut again if done correctly. I think that C&C4 and the cancellation of C&C F2P have shaken a lot of people’s confidence in the franchise, so it’ll take EA some time to re-think their strategy on how to fix C&C’s tainted reputation and re-establish the belief that they can once again make great C&C games.

ToxicShock: The franchise is doing fine right now. There’s plenty of life in the existing games, with a loyal fan base and continuing development by community modders and mappers, particularly in the later games. That modding and mapping work is being done for the benefit of competitive and multiplayer gamers as well as for the modding community. New players are still turning to play the later games for the first time and while that is happening, there is life. Of course, C&C:Online has ensured that the games that were formerly dependant on GameSpy can have a future and that is an incredibly positive thing. I say all that, completely putting to one side Tiberium Alliances, but that too has a strong fan base.

Sybert: As far as proper releases go it seems pretty dismal. The fan communities are still going strong in many cases, so that’s great to see, but I have very little hope for an official product any time soon. I’m not convinced we’ll ever see a proper C&C game again.

Question #2: Since the October 2013 cancellation of last C&C game, has your interest level in the franchise and/or the community changed?

Sonic: The dreadful cancellation didn’t change my interest level one bit. Truth be told, before they cancelled Command & Conquer in October 2013 I wasn’t really liking what I was seeing in terms of the development. Going back to December 2012, when a group of us tested the early alpha build at the studio in LA, we gave them heaps of feedback and stuff. But we never really saw any of this get added or changed in the game by the time they gave access to the private alpha around March/April 2013. Yes many of us were playing it then. So the termination of the game never changed my view or interest level at all. It was kick in the you know what, but its not the end.

Nmenth: Not really, I already had pretty low expectations before they shut down the project, so when their announcement came, it was merely a bump in the road. I am still interested in the series, but I have so little faith in EA that whatever they do doesn’t have much influence over it any more.

Doctor Destiny: Since C&C 2013, aka Generals 2, got cancelled, my interest has, unfortunately, begun to wane from the series. I still play the games, old to new, and I still work on my modification projects. But if a new title were to be announced that didn’t feel just a short-sighted cash grab, my interest would come right back. While I don’t feel great about the future, C&C is still one of the franchises I will never actually stop playing.

Plokite_Wolf: My personal interest for the franchise has only grown since then. I’ve always loved C&C, and I feel the franchise and the community deserve better. I’ve established my presence on several sites to help hinder further community shrinking, so I’m trying to do my part and invite everyone willing to do similarly. Truth be told, I’m happy we’re losing those who only stood for betas of the next upcoming games and were interested in nothing else, but I’m also saddened we’re losing everybody else at the same time. We’ve lost some mainstays of the community and we aren’t getting much new blood to compensate.

gben: However when asked to describe my feelings about the state of affairs it’s a little different. I think C&C remains full of potential, and remains simply an under-utilised intellectual property. No one disputes it’s legacy and place in history. A new instalment in the C&C universe gets an automatic leg-up in terms of simple name-recognition… it’s just a question of whether a new instalment can be worthy of it’s name-sake.

I prefer to think of C&C in a coma rather than dead and buried. I see C&C as being hooked up to the machines, with artificial life-support keeping us alive for the day we cure the incurable. Even the Oct 2013 cancellation hasn’t killed my spirit off.

I just take a deep breath, chill, and relax during these quiet times. Look to the long term. Besides I’ve so much invested here, I don’t want to waste it and start over again at some ‘candy-crash-fan-site’ 😉

dbjs2009: I can’t deny the fact that it was quite a disappointment, especially after all the talks, videos, images and all the efforts put into it. True, I hardly tried the beta myself and I’m not sure if it was as I hoped it would be, however and with all that being said, I still like the franchise and although my interest had slightly deterred after this, I’m still waiting for what we might be getting in the future, with a positive attitude.

DVD Player: I was actually really excited for the new CnC. I was in the Alpha and I actually really liked what I saw. I wasn’t a big fan of the F2P model, but everything looked great and ran more-or-less fantastic (for an alpha), so I had high hopes that this was a step in the right direction. So, of course, with that cancelled my hype also went down the drain. Pretty much BY DEFAULT my interest has waned (there isn’t as much for me to be hyped about as that), but I’m still pretty into the series.

Tore: Not at all. I am content with dabbling in the series early days. I think I have played more of the original C&C and RA than any other games I have played. Lately due to university and other things I have not been able to participate in the community as much as I’d want to.

One Winged Angel: I was hoping that EA would let me in to test the Beta before it got canned, but unfortunately I never got a chance to try it out. My interest level in the franchise hasn’t really changed too much; I still regularly play C&C games and mods as well as flaunt my C&C apparel around the office at work. In pretty much all of my social circles I’m regarded as the C&C fanatic, so I guess you could say that I’m still pretty interested and anxious to see what’s next. I’ve got CNCNZ.com on my browser’s speed dial, at home and at work, so that I can keep up with the latest from the community and I’m also keeping up with Cartoon & Conquer, which is a great series!

With all things considered, C&C still has my heart for the most part and probably will do for the foreseeable future.

ToxicShock: Not in the slightest. I had a number of concerns about the last C&C game (although I was excited about it) and felt, along with the threatened closure of GameSpy multiplayer services at the time, that it had the potential to damage the franchise’s multiplayer community. I envisaged the game drawing the player base away from the other games for long enough that nobody would care or try to do anything when GameSpy closed. If that had happened, C&C would be nothing but a fond memory for me now. Things didn’t pan out like that, which was a huge relief.

Sybert: Yes. It’s no secret that I was interested in the continued development of that particular game and that I was looking forward to eventually switching to produce content for it. Due to the cancellation I became more invested in community projects, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since there are lots of cool and interesting community projects. My overall interest in the franchise still remains or I would have moved on after the cancellation.

Question #3: What do you think are the most interesting things happening in the community right now?

Sonic: I can only comment on what I’ve experienced and that is Renegade X. Its the best thing in terms if a playable C&C game out their. That’s just my opinion because its what I’ve played and seen the most. But some recognition must go to C&C: Online for rescuing online play for the likes of Tiberium Wars, Red Alert 3 and the venerable C&C Generals. The same can be said for CnCNet and keeping the classic C&C games going. I’m truly amazed by the efforts of both C&C: Online and CnCNet. Well done guys!

Oh yeah I changed CNCNZ.com, gave it some new colours and generally and overall better look for 2015, that what interesting to me on personal level 🙂

Nmenth: To be honest, the fact that the community is still alive at all is the most interesting thing. It shows that C&C fans are a dedicated bunch who won’t give up on their series even when all they’re given from official sources is disappointments. Despite the famine, mods and other community projects are still strong.

Doctor Destiny: In all honesty, I haven’t paid much attention to the community as of late. I generally keep to the classic side of the franchise since those are the games I modify most often. I feel like the recent release of Twisted Insurrection and the work done on Ares have been most relevant to my interests in the community.

Plokite_Wolf: Tournaments are still being held, mods are still being made, community support is still going, but I feel it’s all significantly losing steam. CnCNet and C&C:Online have gained a respectable following, but they don’t seem to be enough to return C&C multiplayer to its former glory. Patching of older games seems to have slowed down from my perspective. Active mods are fewer in numbers than ever. I do not understand what the problem is. Between 2003 and 2006, we were also in a period when the future of the franchise was uncertain, but back then, the community’s activity was at its peak.

Taken the community’s current size, I suggest that all currently active fansites of all languages work on stronger mutual connection. We seem to be too scattered and people often do not know where to find answers to specific questions. Recently, someone from GameReplays asked where to get the classic titles. Someone from CnC-Comm didn’t know EALA’s titles actually have multiplayer support (albeit fan-run) after GameSpy’s shutdown. Community’s creations should be covered wherever possible and sites need to once again link to each other like in the CnCcommunity.net days.

gben: Certainly the recent W3DHub/BHP brouhaha certainly boosts the ‘activity’ in the communities but that’s not the sort of activity anybody really wants happening. However, unfinished mods remain one of the most interesting and reliable sources of news and activity for the community. So get on your bikes and ride – get them finished chaps!

I do like the recent spate of fan-fiction that recently arisen… comics, lego and the like.

Every now and again someone unearths a cache of lost concepts or blackmails a former actor, write, director into an interview but these sort of things are pretty rare.

Maybe it’s just ‘time to play the game’.

dbjs2009: The best thing that is happening right now, in my opinion, are C&C projects, although I did notice that some modders and projects have disappeared recently but modders have always been the huge part of the community that has always enhanced the franchise by offering players new options and experiences. And until this moment there are so many ambitious modders out there in the field working hard and keeping the community alive, so, thank you modders and keep up the great work!

DVD Player: I think the top 3 things that are pretty big right now (in my opinion) are Mental Omega, CnCnet, and Renegade X. It really feels like the community has taken ownership of the series and are doing their darnedest to make things better. Really excited to see what happens with all three projects!

Tore: Like it has been for many years now I think the creative community takes the spotlight with mods like Rise of the Reds for Generals, standalone mods like Twisted Insurrection and Dawn of the Tiberium Age for TS and games like Renegade X and OpenRA all putting in big efforts in improving and expanding their work.

And community projects like C&C: Online being a growing home for games EA has stopped supporting (or rather Glu Mobile shutting down Gamespy in the case of C&C: Online). I also have to mention that I’m very happy about the efforts of CnCNet and related people that makes it possible for people to rediscover the series classic games on modern systems easily and there is always a game to be had online.

One Winged Angel: There’s a lot of great stuff happening in the community right now despite their being no word from EA on where the franchise is going (apart from Tiberium Alliances, which is pretty much a generic pay to win parading around in C&C’s pyjamas). I’m anxious to see what Renegade X are doing with their new release. Under and Complex are two of my favourite maps, so I hope the gameplay will be just as great as the screenshots that they have posted! I’m really anxious to see what they do in terms of custom map and mod support in the future.

OpenRA is looking stronger than ever with the promise of Tiberian Sun and Red Alert 2 implementation. I’m really excited to see those games finally being accessible again. One of my gripes with C&C currently is that it’s really hard to actually setup an online game and play with other people compared to games like Age of Empires II HD.

This brings me to my next point about how good it is to see Yuri’s Revenge on CnC Net! I’ve had a lot of trouble trying to get Yuri’s revenge working these past couple of years (partly thanks to my migration to Windows 8.1) but I can honestly say that CnC Net just works without any hassle; which is fantastic. Hopefully EA make Red Alert 2 and Yuri’s Revenge free so we can all reap the benefits of having all of the games readily accessible and easily playable.

Back over on our side of the fence, we’re doing some interesting stuff with Renegade’s W3D Engine currently. We’ve recently got the normal map implementation fixed up and there are plans for adding specular and maybe even gloss mapping, which is pretty exciting. We’ve also got some fairly lofty plans to create a new modding and tutorial base for Renegade and get people interest in developing for it again. Hopefully we’ll have more information to share pretty soon!

So yeah, there’s a lot of great things happening in the community right now, which is testament to everyone’s resolve and determination to keep the C&C community alive.

ToxicShock: The most interesting thing probably has to be the new automatic ladders in Generals and Zero Hour for C&C:Online. Those games have never had ladders before and it’s been a novelty for everyone. Watching how they have driven activity and competition in the games, particularly Zero Hour, has been a lot of fun.

Right now, we have a bunch of new tournament maps for Kane’s Wrath, which we are about to introduce into the ladder map pool, provided the playing community approves them. Alongside that, there’s a new community patch for Red Alert 3 in the course of development. A new patch doesn’t sound like much but this one is going to be good. That and my own personal bias aside, the continuing development of the C&C:Online service has to be the most exciting going on at the moment. We’ve already added some features that these games never had before and so long as the players want them, we can keep doing that to our hearts’ content.

Sybert: I would say mods since there are some cool mods in the works right now, but I haven’t played any of them enough. However, a couple of projects that are really cool are CnCNet, XWIS, and C&C: Online. Community projects that are providing more ways for people around the world to connect and play C&C are some of the best projects.

Question #4: Hypothetically speaking, what does EA need to do to bring Command & Conquer back and when should they do it?

Sonic: What EA need to do is something I basically covered in my April 2014 article called The Future of the Command & Conquer Franchise. So if you want my views on what should be done, that’s what you should be reading, plus it would be pointless to cover exactly the same thing here. As for when they should do it. August 2015 is the 20th anniversary of Command & Conquer and I can’t think of a better a time to make a huge announcement of a new game. A game that hopefully does the franchise proud.

Nmenth: EA needs to stop treating C&C like a guinea pig. While innovations are good, EA can’t just experiment with whatever crazy idea or gimmick seems interesting at the time and then call it “innovation”. C&C needs to stick to its roots with only minor changes that do not attempt to rearrange its foundation. When? As soon as possible. The passage of time with no new titles does not serve to increase the fan base.

Doctor Destiny: EA needs to bring back Command & Conquer, either with a completely new IP or a reboot of the classic storylines we’ve had. I’m more of a Red Alert guy and I would really like to see that get a classy, up to date reboot. And, as much as I love the campy style of RA2 and RA3, I would rather it be serious like the original. With a proper reboot with a serious tone, but not shying away from some humor, C&C could come back to the top. However, it would need a solid focus on both aspects of the game: singleplayer and multiplayer. Satisfy both sides and you’d have a complete package worthy of heavy interest. But… that’s just my opinion and I could be wrong.

Plokite_Wolf: What EA needs to do is to ditch their poor way of developing games, first and foremost. You cannot whip your developers to make a raging-graphics 3D game within a few months, rip certain parts of the core game and offer them for individual sale and expect people to like it. I wonder if anyone who isn’t a 12-year old kid or a hardcore fanboy even considers touching such titles. Everyone knows what made each game and series successful and special, and if that formula is not compatible with EA’s current direction, they cannot force on-a-whim ideas on franchises with such a history! If they need money-grabbing games for whatever reason, nobody is preventing them from creating them, but they need to keep away from existing franchises that do not support that kind of mechanics. That’s what ruined the future of Command & Conquer, Dungeon Keeper and maybe even SimCity and more former fan-favourites.

The studio that would develop a new C&C game should be comprised of RTS veterans who know and love C&C, as only such developers can form a solid core of an excellent Command & Conquer title. You can make a combination of world’s greatest programmers, but if they do not understand what made C&C what it was, we can’t actually expect something familiar.

I’m divided on when EA has to announce a (good!) C&C title. If they do it now, people may still come back to the community, but unless a game has been in development all this time (and from what I’ve heard, it hasn’t), the development time will once again be rather short. However, if they take their time, the chances are greater we may see something of higher quality (hypothetically), but it’s also riskier concerning the community’s size.

gben: I’m not in favour of rushing a new C&C. It needs to be fresh but authentic, it’s atmosphere needs to match it’s mechanics. It’s game play needs asymmetrical balance. Think RA2 Rocketeers v Kirovs… not red tank v blue tank.

Since it’s the memories and the atmosphere that are the most strongest memories for me – I would welcome some official efforts to develop the canon of the universe. Short stories. Animated vignettes. Even a dedicated effort to build a coherent C&C Bible for public use.
I really loved the idea of that animated comic that preceded Tiberian Twilight. That would be a cheap and effective way to keep the community going.
Don’t start me on patches and downloadable maps…

Of course the no brainer is that EA needs to make money – and the obvious space right now is somehow to break into the mobile-gaming space.

  • Finally converting TA from a browser to a mobile game
  • rehashing the old generals browser games (tank and chopper)
  • converting the C&C3 global conquest mode
  • clash-of-clans-clone
  • random Joe Kucan quote of the day app… “how did I win the role of Kane today?”

There are so many easy cash-cows to convert and exploit to get some cashflow happening to enable EA to support websites with a promotional budget to keep the community alive.

dbjs2009: I personally feel that EA needs to make up for these recent events, perhaps through a new and polished project, they can take their time, not too long though, and we can’t predict anything right now given EA’s utter silence over the subject so far but the results should hopefully be great, satisfying and to everybody’s liking.

DVD Player: I think they need to sell the IP to either Gearbox or Petroglyph or SOMEONE that will do the series justice. Preferably Petroglyph. To make things clear, I haven’t been an EA-hater in regards to CnC; I know that Westwood was poorly managing their time and budget with Tib Sun and if it weren’t for EA chances are Westwood would have filed bankruptcy and Tib Sun wouldn’t have even happened. I really enjoyed their new games for what they were; but CnC4 was the first time they REALLY burnt me off. After that, I saw what they were doing with the new Generals and I really liked what I saw. Tried it out and felt they were redeeming themselves. But when they cancelled the new CnC, I felt that was the final (of 2 big ones) nail in the coffin. After trying out Gray Goo, I think EA just needs to put CnC back where it rightfully belongs.

Tore: I’m not sure. I think that EA needs to take a hard look at the series origins: “What made C&C games so popular?”. The classic games were easy to learn, but hard to master. They might seem simplistic on the surface, but once you play them for a time you gain a grasp of their deeper mechanics and quirks. If else they should make a fun game at least.

I think the time is about right for a new C&C game as the RTS genre seems to be picking up a bit of steam with the recent release of Grey Goo and Homeworld Remastered Collection and the upcoming releases of Etherium, Blitzkreig 3 and Act of Aggression.

One Winged Angel: This year we’ll all be celebrating the 20th anniversary of C&C, however I doubt that EA will throw much (if any) weight behind it. EA are sitting on a gold mine with the C&C series, but they keep messing up their re-release strategy. Both The First Decade and the Ultimate Collection were poorly released and didn’t work particular well on modern machines without community patches.

What I think that EA needs to do is follow Microsoft’s example with their re-release of Age of Empires II in HD. A properly re-implemented C&C Classic (Tiberian Dawn – Yuri’s Revenge) HD collection sold on Steam with 1080p support, HD cutscenes (re-rendered from source files that EA presumably have), full screen-windowed mode, Steam servers and workshop support would be popular with all fans of the franchise and also earn EA a lot of money in the process. Red Alert 2 in particular holds a place in many a PC gamer’s heart and would be fully deserving of a full HD port to re-invigorate the competitive scene that surrounded it, as well as allow gamers to take a nostalgia trip with the campaign.

I think that’s what EA needs to do before they think about making a new C&C game because not only would it be an easy buck for them, but it would also help boost the fans confidence over their handling of the series.

ToxicShock: It won’t do the franchise any favours to knock out a half finished, pay to win game designed to be played on a phone and then withdraw it after a year or so. We just don’t need another C&C game until somebody makes a really good one and then sells it in a box.

Sybert: Hypothetically speaking, what does EA need to do to bring Command & Conquer back and when should they do it?
I’ll answer the second part first: they should be working on it now. Ideally, a theoretical good game would have released in 2014 and we’d all be playing that, but now would be a good time. As for what they need to do: assemble a team that understands the basics of making a good C&C RTS game. The story, cut-scenes, theme, and setting are only part of the equation, but really solid C&C style gameplay is what makes it work. That and an unimaginable amount of money.

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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