FEATURES: Roundtable Discussion #8 – May 2008

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It’s Roundtable time again. This is the edition number 8 of our Roundtable Discussion here on CNCNZ.com. Listed below are the people participating on the panel for this month.

Question 1) So it has been confirmed that C&C 3 will not be getting another expansion. What are your thoughts on this?

Sonic: I never expected EA to do another expansion for C&C 3 anyway so its no big deal. The final chapter of Kane’s Wrath sets up the events to unfold in next C&C set in the Tiberium universe. From a man-power viewpoint, EALA would be pushing it if they were to do another expansion pack on the scale of Kane’s Wrath while still working on Red Alert 3.

Saracen: In a way, I’m glad there isn’t going to be another expansion. As much as I enjoyed Kane’s Wrath, the ending to it had very little to be desired. I think the most ideal scenario would be to continue the storyline in the Tiberium FPS. This way it’d be an ideal selling point in my opinion. The current story is somewhat cut to pieces with too many poorly placed holes in the plot, another expansion would probably make things worse rather than patch things up. So with the C&C 3 era ending here, we can all look forward to what Red Alert 3 and Tiberium brings us, which in my mind is more important than milking things further.

Lion: I don’t have any problem with that as it’s the norm for most C&C games.

Chickendippers: Was anyone expecting a second expansion? I’d be more surprised if one was announced. C&C games have always had one expansion with the exception of RA1, but they were little more than map packs so I don’t see why C&C3 should break the trend.

Banshee: I am not surprised that there will be no other expansion for C&C3. I think they placed all their bets on Kane’s Wrath with the subfactions, global conquest mode, all these new units and epic units, etc. They wouldn’t have anything really attractive other than a GDI perspective of the story to add in a second expansion.

HeXetic: No surprise, really. EA’s only got the one RTS team at EALA, so it’s hard to imagine them working on two games full-bore. Of course, they could have out sourced the development like they did with BFMEII’s expansion pack, Rise of the Lich-King. Personally, while I’m sure many people would be happy to get another C&C3 pack, I think that RA3 will be more popular, and I’m looking forward to a game whose cinematics are *deliberately* silly.

Gben: I’m disappointed. I still think there are enough characters, ideas and sidetracks which could have been fleshed out an expansion to the current C&C3 universe/engine. I have more or less enjoyed this incarnation of the C&C universe under EA. So I liked the possibility of another expansion set – so I was genuinely disappointed to hear that possibility squashed.

However, as we’ve been discussing this here at CNCNZ it’s perhaps only a reasonable decision… with Tiberium and RA3 already announced, and a suggestion that perhaps another LOTR game could be in the works as a tie-in with the upcoming movie version of the HOBBIT… Well I wouldn’t need to build a time machine to go back and ask Einstein to make senses of that decision!

So I turn to the mod community to help me out and satisfy that gnawing hunger. Probably still no luck there with Total Conversions seeming to be in fashion at the moment! But I would be greatly cheered by the news that the mod community were working on a new SP campaigns that filled in these gaps. More likely I guess, is a better bridge of Tiberian Sun to Tiberium Wars… But this is getting off topic.

Question 2) APOC’s daily blog has been added to the Official C&C Site, what do think about this new addition?

Sonic: APOC has posted some interesting oddities in his new blog, plus he has given CNCNZ.com a plug as well so he won me over right there. As long has he finds the time to keep it updated and fresh then its a fine addition to the Official C&C Site. Would be good if he could improve user interaction so we can directly comment on what he posts, plus I’ve heard people ask for an RSS feed as well.

Saracen: I personally think it’s a great addition. Let’s face it Apoc gets so little time in Battlecast Primetime to do community news and such that all the extra surplus has gotta go somewhere. And best of all it’s stuff that’s actually interesting. Each blog post has a good amount of substance, and says what needs to be said. This is unlike other blogs where you have huge essays all trying to say one thing, but never really getting to the point. From a webmaster perspective also, Apoc does a good job avoiding taking away the content of the fansites, which is spot on!

Lion: I think it’s a great addition. Anything that keeps us abreast of the latest for Command & Conquer games and the community is good news, and it’s nice to get some exclusive info occasionally. APOC really does go out of his way to give fans what they want. I can’t speak for everyone, but as for myself, he is without a doubt the BEST Community manager we’ve had period.

Chickendippers: I was dubious when he claimed it would be a daily blog knowing how busy Apoc is, but it’s always interesting to hear the goings on at our favourite game studio. He’s blogged on and off before, I’m not quite sure how it differs, but hey.

Banshee: I like APOC’s Corner Blogs. He brings ups new content for the site and some curiosities made by fans and devs. The main difference between his blog and other fan sites is that he will only bring up positive things for C&C there. For an average joe, this is more content in the main site and the place there which is updated more often.

HeXetic: He’s definitely updating it so far, which is nice, but I would prefer to see more news about him crashing his scooter into walls at EALA.. I was there once when it happened, I know it’s still happening, and damnit, I want pictures and videos.

Gben: Apparently not much because I haven’t been reading it. Sorry APOC-DUDE! After a quick review, I like the light-hearted, casual, improv approach. I think it should continue, although obviously this is more about APOC than about C&C. I just worry about who’s going to write these up if he ever gets kidnapped again!

Question 3) Two of EA’s new PC games, namely Mass Effect and Spore, will include this new DRM copy protection method as explained in this Bit-Tech article. How would you feel if it was used in Red Alert 3 or TIBERIUM and would it influence your decision to purchase the games if it does.

Sonic: I’m all for fighting the software pirates but this new copy protection method is taking it to another extreme. No matter what fancy copy protection schemes they can come up with the pirates, crackers and thieves will find away around it. The news is good now though, since the story originally broke, EA have backed off and won’t be using this over the top method. And no it wouldn’t influence my decision to buy Red Alert 3 or TIBERIUM if it were used.

Saracen: From what I’ve seen so far, this has consumers in an absolute uproar. These are the same consumers that will probably never consider pirating a single title in their life. No real surprise really, I mean every 10 days is absolutely pathetic! What if someone wishes to install it on a machine not connected to the internet? Are EA going to release their own worldwide ISP service so people can connect their machines? Then again, stop there forget I said that! It doesn’t matter anyway, Copy protection does not work, no matter how hard publishers try, or how much money they pour into it, it will always be cracked in no time at all. Plus the issue of piracy is only going to get worse the more companies try and prevent it. As for it going on RA3 and Tiberium? It will not influence my decision to purchase the game. I will buy the game, then find a crack or protection hack, cos then if I’m cut from the net, at least I can still play my damn game after 10 days!

EA should look to Stardock for inspiration. They use no copy protection whatsoever, as a result the brilliant RTS ‘Sins of a Solar Empire’ is cheaper to buy online or offline, and has hardly any torrents for download (I’ve checked) in comparison to Kane’s Wrath which has absolutely huge amounts of torrents. What’s also ironic is that SoaSE has sold millions of copies as well. What spurs the pirates and those who download it, are the prices, and the thrill of cracking such systems. I can guarantee by the time Red Alert 3 and Tiberium come out the protection will be cracked to perfection, and we will see hundreds of perfectly working torrents for both games by the time the games hit the shelves. In this respect, EA have already lost!

Lion: I suppose publishers have to do what they thinks best to protect themselves, but having read about the DRM protection method where it will require online authentication once every ten days, you just know something is gonna go wrong. I’m against them using it, as I’m sure many fans will be, but it won’t stop me from buying RA3 or TIBERIUM.

Chickendippers: I’ve never had any problems with SecureROM so it wouldn’t bother me. Half Life and all my other Steam games authenticate themselves online, I have an always on broadband connection so I don’t see it having any effect. However, as a mod on the US and UK forums I know there are a number of people who have problems with SecureROM already, presumably this new version won’t create a higher failure rate then current technology.

I can see a potential issue if there’s a problem with the authentication servers which could shut down everyone’s games, or if the service is discontinued in the future what happens to everyone’s games? I still enjoy playing some very old-school games occasionally, I’d certainly be annoyed if I found myself unable to play a C&C game in another decade! However, these issues also surround Steam, so concerns for SecureROM are also valid for Valve.

Banshee: EA announced this new version of SecuROM’s software on two of their games, with the possibility of including them on other games, including Red Alert 3 and Tiberium. This is the reason why an announcement for Mass Effects and Spore called attention from C&C websites and attracted the wrath of its visitors. This DRM would contact a server to revalidate the game of those who bought it legitimately every 10 days and, if the game wasn’t validated, all its functions would be blocked until it gets validated. This is terrible for those who doesn’t have a fixed internet connection (laptop users), or gaming rigs with internet, etc… and also the moment this validation would happen is not clear. Imagine Mass Effect validating when you are playing another game online and getting you booted from it because you lagged? Also, it is not clear if the server that would be used for validation is from EA or SecuROM. On both cases, there is a chance of the server being cut down to cut costs and nobody would be able to play the game after that. Such system actually motivates legitimate users to try to break this protection. I’ve placed my answer in a news at PPM, which was very simple: if RA3 or Tiberium uses this system, my site will boycott these games and cut any mention to it, since it is a completely disrespect to those who buy the game legitimately.

Apparently, there were some new announcements saying that they’ve changed their mind about this new DRM system and they’ll use a modified version of SecuROM’s protection with a one time validation only and no-cd requirement to play the game, which is more acceptable, but doesn’t prevent issues with the day they cut the validation server.

HeXetic:In my newspost on PCNC I presented my opinion which was that although I would *probably* buy the games, the idea upset me greatly and I would resort to cracking my copy. I think constant online authentication for an offline singleplayer game is completely ridiculous and I sincerely hope that whatever suit at EA thought this was a good idea gets reprimanded for earning their company some well-deserved public backlash. Of course, the issue is now moot, seeing as how they backpedalled in the face of said well-deserved public backlash, although I would have preferred a promise to not try this again.

Gben: It won’t affect my purchase of RA3 & Tiberium.

I personally don’t have any issues with companies trying to copyright their software, and taking steps to protect it. In my case 100% of my games are legally bought and owned. I don’t even think it’s that great a hindrance in today’s gaming world. After all, most gamers have some sort of high-speed, always-on connection. So it’s down to a perceived hassle, or infringement of privacy. Perhaps there are other greater issues at stake – which in that case I defer to the quorum established here today.

But Yes I do have issues with games that *require* an internet connection just to play SP. That’s an issue for me. It’s a matter of privacy. I don’t need them too or want them to know how many hours I log playing their game – and besides who knows what other back-door information I can be opening myself up too. What precedents are we setting here?

HL2’s steam/internet component is a hassle for me, but IMO it’s worth the hassle because it’s a quality product, and I’m therefore willing to support the quality of their work. But ‘Yes’ this creates a barrier in the decision making process – but only for games that aren’t in the MUST-HAVE category. And if I had a practical choice I would tend for a product that doesn’t require internet access unless I want it.

Question 4) In the Main Event match up on last edition of BattleCast Primetime both Dave and Raj went head to head, do think they were playing to make the match more interesting for entertainment value or did they really play like “noobs”?

Sonic: I don’t care if they deliberately played like “noobs” or dare I say scripted the entire match like something from WWE. I was entertained by it and thats what the idea is to begin with. With that said I hope the Main Event match up for the next BattleCast Primetime is a more classic C&C slog-fest between Greg Black and Jason Bender, assuming thats what everyone voted for.

Saracen: Entertainment value in any game is done by pulling off some absolutely brilliant strategic moves. Turtling and massing units is something any of us can do in a comp stomp, so without a doubt, they played like n00bs. The whole match to me was an absolute disappointment. We got the vibe that the developers are hardcore gamers like the rest of us, but really that only applies to the development testers. Now if they were to chuck in a little known EALA employee known as “Ender” in a 3 way against Raj and David, that would have been entertaining. Ender is not called Ender for the fun of it, I have personally seen the guy in action, and he is a great C&C 3 player in the ranks of EALA. But this guy would have mopped up both men in around 15 minutes, and probably could of done it with with a sole commando and a escort protection force!

Lion: I think it was obvious they were playing to the audience…but hey, maybe they are a pair of noobs!

Chickendippers: I think they were both playing for entertainment value, although I was rooting for Raj! Actually I was surprised he didn’t choose Scrin and dominate with Foundries!

Banshee: Raj and Dave did not scout in early game, specially Raj. And considering most of the moves from both players, for me it is very clear that the whole game was scripted before it happened and wasn’t played in a competitive way and, of course, the outcome was already determined as well.

HeXetic: I have a little trouble believing the little Redeemer -vs- Redeemer apocalypse scene wasn’t staged, but otherwise, no, I think they really are that bad. Stick to Barbie Horse Adventures, guys.

Gben: It did look a little staged, perhaps they set some ‘house’ rules of engagement for the match to create that impression. I’ve never thought of them as gamers, they’re in suits after all. My vote is for noobs! After all it takes one to know one. 😉

Question 5) EA have been asking for a lot of consumer feedback regarding their official sites lately. If you were given the job of redesigning the Official C&C Site at www.commandandconquer.com how would like to see it?

Sonic: While I appreciate the overall presentation and theme of the Official C&C Site there is still room for improvement. Navigation should be improved, and better ways to look up older articles is a must, and lets not forget the over use of flash animation, simple HTML and clean/sharp images can still look impressive these days. And then there is the load times. Some days the Official C&C Site, and all of EA’s sites, are so slow. Oh yeah, the forums, how could I forget them. Why must they insist on using those horrible forums, features less and slow loading, sometimes they load strange in Firefox. I’m sure EA can afford to fork out for an Invision Power Board or vBulletin licence.

Saracen: I don’t visit the site very often. But I would change a few lines of code just so the site accomodates for all resolutions. I personally have a resolution of 1440 x 900 which is the max res I can get for my monitor. However the site looks extremely small, and everything feels crushed up. At the very least though, I’d make sure the site is centred to the screen, even that would give a feeling of more space. I could go on about improving loading times, further optimization of some images, and further comments on the layout and interface. But I really don’t fancy typing up something that makes my answer to question 3, pale in comparison of length.

Lion: Personally I think the official site is fine the way it is… although sometimes the server it’s on is a tad slow at loading.

Chickendippers: For a start I’d get rid of the flash navigation at the top, it always loads after the rest of the website and is a pain if you want to navigate somewhere quickly. I’d also get rid of the “Community” link, it seems as if it’s being used as an “everything else” category. To be honest, as long as it doesn’t end up like the current Tiberium website I don’t mind.

Banshee: I’m not fan of the times they revamp their C&C sites, because they naturally tend to cut interesting things such as the news, articles and downloads made to the games before and after their release. The content of these games usually get simplified into a simple game description. So, it usually doesn’t benefit us, users, since it is the first steps to ‘trash the support’ for the game. So, to be very honest, I don’t care about the site redesign and I am glad I didn’t get the job to redesign it. Sorry, APOC.

HeXetic: Three words: Trash the Flash. And I don’t know what kind of love affair GameSpy has with the 1000-pixel wide page layouts (Dario and I aren’t responsible for PCNC’s “thin” page layout) but it really needs to end [Note: GameSpy designed the official C&C website]. I know EA is aware of how mind-numbing it is to read their quashed 5-posts-per page” forums, and I hope they act on that, too.

Gben: Faster!

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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