FEATURES: Roundtable Discussion #20 – May 2009 (Fan Input Edition)

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This is the 20th edition of the CNCNZ.com Roundtable, and for the first time ever all the questions have been submitted by the fans. Listed below are the people participating on the panel for this month.

Question 1) How do you think the post release support of EA’s recent C&C games has been? What can they improve on? [Submitted by recover]

Sonic: I think its been great. They have been quick to get emergency patches out at the release of a game, and then when it comes to balance patches how can you complain. When you break it all down its been 9 patches for Tiberium Wars, 2 for Kane’s Wrath, 10 for Red Alert 3 with patch 1.11 on the way. I really don’t know what they can do improve post release support because I feel they are doing an outstanding job based on the resources they have.

Luk3us: I think that EA have come a long way when you consider previous attempts. They are also more actively supporting the games from a “community” perspective as well as technical support in the forms of patches. What can they improve on, well I think if they just keep things up that will be improvement enough for EA.

Lion: It’s been good in my opinion, although after a certain period of time EA does tend to slack a little with updates and fixes for games. But for the most part they do try and fix any major glitches and balance gameplay. They could improve in the area of continued support for older games. Blizzard is a good example of a gaming company that continues to support their games that have been on the market for years.

Banshee: They work well for about an year or an year and a half. Then they seem to forget that they’ve made that game. It used to be worse before. At least now the official site still cover Generals news once in a while (once or twice in a year) and it has a forum to discuss it. C&C3 and even Kane’s Wrath has already reached the level of Generals. Everything else older than Generals is placed in the same dustbin called ‘The First Decade’ and if it ever gets any news, it is thanks to the hard efforts of Nyerguds and Nathan from Command & Patch, although I have to thank EA for keeping XWIS financially alive. So, yea, I do give some good credit for Aaron Kaufman for keeping that minimum support, which is much better than the nothing that we had before him. Also, it’s good to see world builder being updated once in a while.

Regarding Kane’s Wrath, I’m disappointed. We had two patches only and the first one broke the AI from the Global Conquest mode, which was based on the old price of the refinery. Unfortunately, AI is something that EALA never fix in patches and the fun factor of that feature has seriously dropped because of the broken AI. It’s a pitty because it is the best single-player feature of that game (better than the campaign, in my opinion). Unlike all previous expansions, we do not have a mod SDK for it or a way to mod it. So, Global Conquest AI will be broken forever.

By the way, lack of mod SDK for the newest expansion packs is also something that I dislike at EA’s post release support. OK, Uprising did not bring many new features to the table, but Kane’s Wrath did. And we know that the fault of whole problem of lack of mod SDK for the expansions is planning. They only add mod support for these games some months after its release, which gives them time to work on the mod SDK tool. If they added the -modconfig and related support before releasing the game, the expansion would also support mods even if they did not create any mod SDK for it and fans could use the mod SDK for the original game to add or remove units from the expansion, although they would have several limitations on many areas, if it works.

Chickendippers: I think post-release support has been improving in leaps and bounds; patch 11 for Red Alert 3 is on its way (admittedly some of the quick fixes shouldn’t have been necessary) which is the most patches the C&C series has seen. Public beta testing of patches is the most recent development that has impressed me, whilst C&CTV and the ladders seasons continue post-launch which proves they aren’t just part of the EA press machine. I also happen to know that KW and C&C3 haven’t been forgotten, hopefully it’s something the live team are looking at.

Blbpaws: I think it’s gotten a lot better, first of all. I’ve been critical in the past of EA’s performance in this area, but patching has substantially improved. Compare the patch efforts nowadays to the patch efforts from 2003 or 2004, and it’s obvious to see that EA is making strides. That said, I think mod support still lacks, mostly because it’s viewed as a “post-release” effort, meaning the SDK shows up months after the game. I’d like to see the live team integrated earlier in the development cycle, and tasked with handling these support functions, as well as after-release patch functions.

JohnWE: EA has done a fine job on Red Alert 3. They had the balance for that game pretty much figured out from stage one. We have seen around 10 patches in half a year to keep the game balanced. The real question is, will EA keep supporting it throughout the coming years like Blizzard has done for Starcraft? I think long term support is beneficial for keeping people interested in the game and getting the new installments. As far as C&C3 and Kane’s Wrath? They had about 3 major balance changes to try to fix the balance they had not created well before. I stopped playing those games online because I came back to them and found the game had changed so much I didn’t want to relearn it.

Assassin: I think the support on the game patch’s/updates have been very good C&C3 had about 9 patches and RA3 has gone a similar route so in this regard EA has been taking feedback from the fans/community as well as taking data from multiplayer match’s analysing them and adjusting the game to suite. In terms of Mod support I think this is the area EA could improve the most on, it took nearly a year to get the C&C3 Mod SDK out to the public, and the RA3 Mod SDK also took a long time to make it out the door, and Kane’s Wraith didn’t even get a Mod SDK. Given the modding communities always been strong and quite dedicated in the C&C Community its defiantly of EA’s best interest to get Mod SDK’s to the modders ASAP because then they can get to work quicker and get something out the door which Mods not only offer a new experience to gamers but also extend the lifetime of a game on the market and can increase its sales too. So I think EA should defiantly look into getting a team together with the sole purpose of developing Mod SDKs, tutorials, support, tools to the modders and empower them.

Question 2) Is EA putting too much focus on hiring celebrities and famous names in the latest games? [Submitted by Nmenth]

Sonic: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Big name celebrities and famous names are not required, just good actors who can play their parts. Tiberium Wars only needed Joe Kucan to return as Kane, some of the other actors were awful. As for Red Alert 3 and its massive cast, this were I completly change my answer, it works for that game and not the other way round.

Luk3us: Whilst a bit of eye candy isn’t a bad thing, I think they are going overboard sometimes. I’d like to see them refocusing their resources away from their “celebrity casts” and more towards the actual game.

Lion: If it helps to sell a game, then no. It’s EA’s attempt to draw in the non-hardcore crowd that don’t play online, and it does seem to work for them. In Red Alert 3 it was obvious EA was playing to the male gender with those scantily clad women with cleavage showing. Sex sells, but EA has to be careful not to turn Command & Conquer into a bordello.

Banshee: I don’t see anything wrong with it, as long as they act well. Of course it increases the production prices, which affects our (customer’s) pocket in the end. But we expect quality from the movie of these games, don’t we?

Chickendippers: I think the hiring of celebrities really started in Red Alert 2, but EA has definitely run with that idea. I haven’t recognised many of the celebs they’ve hired thus far as I don’t really watch sci-fi, but if it gives C&C more news coverage and gets more people into the game then I’m happy with it. The only caveat being that the money spent on hiring these famous faces doesn’t have an adverse impact on the actual game itself.

Blbpaws: I’m not a fan of it, but it’s certainly neither a negative or required. In 1995, no one knew who Joseph D. Kucan was, yet he’s the most iconic C&C actor (and possibly the most iconic video-game actor ever). The idea that you need a big name to have a great product or great FMV doesn’t hold water with me; perhaps you need one to sell a product, but even then, I don’t think that’s the case. I would bet it’s possible to create an engaging C&C campaign without Hollywood actors that is popular and does well.

JohnWE: EA has always had some B-movie actors in their games, but more recently, they’ve been promoting the people they got as a way to sell the game. Do I personally like it? I don’t really care, but I admit it was cool to see Billy Dee Williams in C&C3. I think it’ll be good for the series because it has and will bring more people into the franchise because they know that actor and like them. Good marketing move.

Assassin: I think this is more of just a trend in game’s today it’s just Command & Conquers is the most transparent and has seemed to make use of them more than other games. I argue is this really an issue? Generally famous names or celebrities are good at what they do and thus bring some inspiring talent to the game that makes it that just more enjoyable then if an unknown did it. However both Red Alert 1 and C&C1 prove the point that the campy footage with not-so-well known people can be spectacularly popular eg Kane aka Joe Kucan was made famous by Command & Conquer one could argue. So my 2 cents on this is, if it improves the game/immersion/emotion adds to the game experience then go for the big names, if it doesn’t do anything for that then… must be hiring the wrong talent for the particular role.

Question 3) Do you see any potential for a C&C game on the Nintendo Wii? [Submitted by gben]

Sonic: Anything is possible when it comes to EA. If EA feel they could make it work just good as they can on Xbox 360 and PS3, why the hell not.

Luk3us: I guess, I mean they did make that random Tiberium Wars cellphone game.

Lion: I suppose anything is possible, and if EA figures sales to be high enough to justify a C&C game for the Nintendo wii, we may see one in the future.

Banshee: Playing a C&C game with a Wii mote sounds much more viable than using a Xbox 360 controller or PS3 controller, in my opinion. Also, Wii has more users. The problem lies on the hardware, which is weaker than other consoles, although it is perfectly viable to port RA3 or TW to Wii, even if the graphics quality has to be dropped a bit.

Chickendippers: Not really. Developers like adding movement related gimmicks into their games which I wouldn’t like to see. Furthermore I don’t think the Wiimote provides the necessary accuracy for an RTS game.

Blbpaws: Do I think it could happen? Yeah, I suppose, given that EA is focusing on developing games for that console. Do I think it will? Probably not, as the games EA develops for the Wii target a much different market segment, and the Wii might not have the sheer processing power that the PS3 or Xbox 360 has. I don’t think it’d be a great improvement over the PC games, though, as the mouse and keyboard interface is about as good as it gets for RTS gameplay.

JohnWE: No, there is no potential for a C&C game on the Wii. EA has made valiant attempts to port RTS to a console, but there is really no replacement for a good old mouse and keyboard. The Wii’s control scheme is too distant from the PC’s to create anything resembling C&C gameplay on it.

Assassin: A C&C Game on the Nintendo Wii, that’s an interesting game design challenge and I can think of a few control allocation’s that could potentially work very well however an RTS just won’t take full advantage of the Wii’s different motion’s for different actions without getting annoyingly frustrating for the player. RTS is defiantly a success on PC, on console Xbox/Playstation it manage’s to work but more so in the case of Halo Wars which was dumbed down allot of the console and works brilliantly because of it, while C&C3 or RA3 on the Xbox while it works it still plays better on the PC overall. Thou id say RA3 is more console friendly the other consideration is Wii would be a step down in graphics as the Wii is defiantly the least graphically powered consoles of the 3 on the market but that’s not a big deal. Overall I’d say a Wii version of C&C is more trouble than it’s worth.

Question 4) If Generals 2 is the next C&C and it uses the classic C&C MCV/Conyard, sidebar system. Would it be more acccepted by the hardcore fans? [Submitted by Silverthorn]

Sonic: Adding the MCV/Conyard/sidebar system to a potential Generals 2 game is one thing, but pleasing the high and mighty hardcare fans is another thing all together. If Generals 2 is indeed next in line I feel they should carry over the dozer system from Generals but go with a side bar instead of the bar at the bottom. Oh and come up with an actual storyline this time.

Luk3us: I think that depends on which hardcore fans you are talking about, as I see it there are two very distinct camps. You have the “classic” C&C fans who are all about the lore, story and the entire SP experience. Then you have the multiplayer fanatics for whom it’s all about the best BOs, balance and tournaments. So do I think it will be accepted by hardcore fans? Not likely, but hey, you can’t please everyone.

Lion: I can’t speak for the hardcore crowd, but I do know the ‘dozer system’ for the original Generals was widely accepted and favored by hardcore players, and it’s the dozers that sets Generals apart from the other Command & Conquer games. I would say pattern Generals 2 after the original, but with improvements such as graphics, new factions, improved AI pathfinding, etc. Don’t mess with a formula that has already been proven to work. As far as the sidebar goes, I would prefer that over the bottom bar, or you could have a mixture of both. Although that may take up too much of the playing screen. More peeps are using ‘widescreen’ monitors nowadays, so the sidebar would be better in my opinion.

Banshee: The MCV system is better than having dozers if your focus is on the battle rather than on base construction, since it is easier to manage the base with the MCV system. Dozers allows quicker base constructions, expansion constructions and more strategy on that area, however, it motivates the player to attack much more than keeping their own base. This is why I think that the MCV system does a better job, because it adds that ‘chess’ factor to the game, making the act of expand or protecting your base more valuable and adding more value for each building you own. For this same reason, I’m against structures like cranes, specially in a game where your objective is to destroy the enemy’s buildings. If buildings are the key objects of your base, then it must be treated as key objects. Dozers and cranes decrease the value of the building in-game.

Regarding side bar, bottom bar, top bar, left bar…honestly, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. When you have screens with aspect ratio of 4:3 or 16:9, it’s easy to conclude that it has more width than height. So, if you add a bar in the sides, you keep a better view of the battlefield to the commander and uses less space in the screen. So, sidebars are better.

Generals and Zero Hour’s main problem was the boring storyline behind it, which made a pathetic campaign. The multi-player/skirmish was fun.

Chickendippers: I think the setup used in Red Alert 3 of providing different construction techniques for each faction will probably become the template for future games and as far as I can tell it has appeased both camps.

Blbpaws: I thought the problems with Generals were far far deeper than the dozer system. Changing just that element wouldn’t make me think the game is much more of a true C&C if the other flaws–a poor campaign, no story whatsoever, no characters, no depth to the sides–persisted. Change all of those, and you’d have a C&C, but it wouldn’t exactly be Generals anymore.(Oh, and I’ll add for the record: I think the next RTS C&C is C&C 4, not Generals 2).

JohnWE: If by Hardcore fan, you’re talking about somebody who played the Tiberian Dawn through Red Alert 2 and thinks there is nothing better, I don’t think the MCV build system would make much of a difference. They’d hate Generals 2 regardless. Generals was a well done RTS game, but it lacked the qualities that C&C games had; in brief: FMVs, a coherent story, MCV build system and most importantly Engineers. I had fun with Generals, but an MCV would not be enough to appease the hardcore fans.

Assassin: I think this would be a bad move actually, allot of people may throw up in disgust over this but you know what I really liked about Generals? That it dared to try some new things, it really mixed up some standard C&C game play traits we’d come to know in the Franchise and introduced some new game play elements to C&C (while they were not new to RTS they were new to C&C). I personally found the Dozer system added allot of strategic depth allowing players to establish smaller outposts wither Dozers or focus on their main base. I believe this was the entire reason EA introduced Surveyors in C&C3 to try and hold onto the building of Outposts. Now Generals proved that some things work and other things don’t for C&C. However the other question you got to ask yourself is, is the only reason you don’t like the Dozer system is because it’s not the Conyard system and that’s the only thing you’ll accept from a C&C ever? Then my response to that would be that’s exactly whats wrong with game franchises these days they get too locked into doing the same thing again and again. I suppose that’s what franchise do. But honestly if Generals 2 is next, I hope they try some new things again mix things up I wouldn’t mind the return of the Dozer system because it worked for Generals it worked brilliantly for Generals, it wouldn’t work for the other C&C Universes. But if EA succumbs to fan boy pressure and makes it MCV/Conyard based I can hardly blame them.

Question 5) Do you think there is a market for an “Art of Command & Conquer” book full of concept art and/or CG renders? [Submitted by Mighty BOB!)]

Sonic: It would have to be something really special for me to even consider paying for something like that. I don’t think there would be much interest in such a product at all.

Luk3us: Sure, some of the little CGI events in previous games are rather impressive, and some of the game renders and such are excellent. But I’m unsure if people would actually buy something like that separately. I could see a booklet like that being part of a special collectors edition or something along those lines, but not separately. But who knows.

Lion: If you mean a ‘booklet’ to sell, I would say no, as most people can obtain concept art and CG renders for free from many sources on the net.

Banshee: are many artists that would certainly enjoy this kind of work, but the market for it is not that big. I’ve seen a booklet of this kind related to Blizzard games being sold on book stores here, but it doesn’t sell much.

Chickendippers: Judging by the short-lived C&C merchandise store, I don’t think there is. Perhaps it would be something included in a special edition release?

Blbpaws: Probably not. I’m a very engaged C&C person, and have always loved the series, the story, and the setting, but I’m not sure I’d buy that. Plenty of it is available online for free, and I don’t really have a ton of interest in just seeing the art. If I wouldn’t buy it, I can’t imagine many would.

JohnWE: I don’t think that there is a big enough market for a C&C artwork book. C&C hasn’t achieved the widespread popularity of games such as the Zelda series or even Starcraft. Once you can mention the name of the game at a party and people know what you’re talking about, then there will be enough people into it to make a nice coffee table C&C art book. However, I would like to get my hands on a concept art book because I would personally like that.

Assassin: Hell Yes! I’ve been running the CnC Source gallery for quite some time collecting, collating and arching all C&C art I can find in there, while I still have plenty in my archive that has yet to be added it’s a never ending task especially since new C&C art is always appearing from NDA’s that are expiring from dead C&C projects OR new art from the new C&C’s appears all the time as well. It amazes me the sheer amount of art that has accumulated for every C&C. There’s allot of really awesome artwork being done and I defiantly think there’s a market to sell this stuff. Its worked for Halo series and other games that sell their concept art/CG renders in books why not C&C. Or because of the sheer volume of art between all the C&C’s a DVD might even be a way to go. Thou what I really want to see made public is all the awesome C&C art I saw at the C&C3 Community Summit which STILL isn’t public!! Surely the NDA on these is over come on EA release them! *hint* me wants the C&C3 Summit Beta’s Temple of Nod Concept Design *hint* that thing was best Temple of Nod EVER! can’t believe that didn’t make the final game.

Question 6) What would you like to see included in the special editions of future C&C games (EG the RA3 Premier or C&C 3 Kane Edition)? [Submitted by Silverthorn]

Sonic: I know a lot of fans loved the pewter figurines Westwood did for Tiberian Sun and Red Alert 2, they were great. So something along those lines. They should continue with soundtrack CDs but also look at things like T-Shirts, posters, key chains and mouse pads. One of the newer ideas is customised USB flash drives. Please no more bonus maps or skins

Luk3us: A pewter figurine! Like the ones they had for RA2 and TS. A soundtrack CD for the game. And of course a beta key to the next C&C related game!

Lion: Bring back those nice pewter figurines they use to give out in previous C&C games.

Banshee: I miss the Pewter figurines that came in TS and RA2 collectors edition. They were the coolest thing I’ve seen in a collectors edition ever. I also enjoy when they add the soundtrack CD, making of, poster, wallpaper, booklets, outtakes, episodes of Battlecast Primetime and Command & Conquer School. I’m not fan of maps exclusive for collectors because it is harder to play them online. And regarding beta spots in future games, it is good as marketing strategy only. Custom unit skins are useless. What else could be added? Exclusive development concept arts, perhaps one new game mode and a special online multi player room for those who own collectors to play this new game type.

Chickendippers: As I mentioned above, I think the “Art of C&C” booklet would be a nice addition to a special edition. I’d like to see something more substantial, like the little models that came with Red Alert 2 or the faction badges that I believe the Tiberian Sun included. I think an in-game differentiation would be good, something you can use to show off to follow players, like the Kane Edition skins.

Blbpaws: Good question. I don’t know. I haven’t bought either the Kane Edition or the Premier Edition of C&C 3 or RA3. What would have made me buy them? The only thing I can really think of is some sort of fuller documentary on the behind the scenes aspect of game development and the people involved, as that’s something I find very interesting. I know one or both of the editions had some such footage, but I guess I didn’t think it was substantial enough to merit the additional cost.

JohnWE: The RA3 Premier edition had a good amount of extras. I liked the metal case and the soundtrack and behind the scenes footage. What I’d like to see EA add in future versions is a figure like the Tesla Trooper and Chrono Legionnaire figures who were in the RA2 Collector’s Edition boxes. Either that or bump up the price another $10 and give us a nice book of concept art.

Assassin: More artwork for one, most the bonus artwork released on the DVD’s isn’t that exclusive at all I want to see allot more of the stuff that didn’t make the final game but still looked awesome I obviously understand EA wouldn’t want to show their bad concepts/designs but there’s still plenty of great ones that don’t see the light of day sadly. Secondly the return of the Pewter figures! would be fantastic I’m the proud owner of all 4 from the TS and RA2 Collectors 🙂 and they are just great. Or alternatively figurines seem to be the rave these days eg Tomb raider special edition, Prototype Preorder or even the new Red Faction Preorder figure/model. Imagine a Figurine of a Zone Trooper or a Annihilator Tripod could be pretty cool. Bonus skins are nice but getting old, bonus models that replace standard ones for one or two special units would be particularly interesting perhaps and more distinct. The Metal boxes are always nice. I can’t think of much new for a Collector’s edition however I did have a new idea for a new Edition type all together, something like Epic’s Editors Choice edition of games would be really cool. Eg mods for C&C that win on ModDB or are just regarded some of the best in the community are all included on a special edition DVD version and sold with the game + like 6 complete mod’s or so. This would naturally be for older games eg C&C3 and RA3 probably more C&C3 as its had more time for mods to develop. Thou the trouble with RTS games is the Mods take so long to complete especially if their total conversions so I’m not surprised we haven’t seen this type of edition done before for RTS games.

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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