FEATURES: Roundtable Discussion #34 – September 2012 (Tiberium Alliances Special Edition – Alliance Leaders Discussion)

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It’s another special edition of our regular Roundtable Discussion. This one is a Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances edition featuring a detailed discussion with leaders from some of the top alliances. Special thanks to gben from the CNCNZ.com staff for coordinating and organising this edition of the Roundtable.

  • Cherry Kid – Nightfire
  • Methuselah – GameReplays
  • Freezy – United Forums
  • MILLE395 – F7Lans
  • Zephyr – CNCSAGA

Question 1) Introduce yourself and the name of your alliance. Describe some stats of your alliance (location, number of POI’s held currently, member numbers, alliance rank etc).

Cherry Kid: I am Cherry_Kid. I am current CIC for Nightfire, formerly SLAllegiance. Nightfire is located in the NW area of the world Closed Beta 1. Currently ranked 13th we hold 59 POIs with 47 members. Not sure when the alliance actually started. I have been on the server since December and joined this alliance shortly after beginning.

Methuselah: My name is Larry LaBate. My gaming nickname is methuselah. I’m a global admin on gamereplays.org, a moderator on commandandconquer.com, GameSpy Ladder Admin for Red Alert 3, Kane’s Wrath and Tiberium Wars and some other stuff I think: p GameReplays is currently the 8th ranked alliance in CB1 and we have recently opened a second alliance to help handle newer and more casual players. We are in the northern sector and have reached the middle, I laughed when they put the Forgotten Fortress in I’m literally on top of it. We currently hold 80 poi’s which is not nearly enough. Mid December when it first went open to non Phenomic folks.

Freezy: Hello, my name is freezy. I am one of the leaders of the alliance “United Forum”, which is split into the two wings. I am also one of the administrators of www.united-forum.de and www.cnc-inside.de, which are the biggest German C&C community sites. Our alliance in TA started as community project for every user of our site who wanted to participate and try out the game. Since we are a big C&C community our alliance grew rapidly, and since many of its players are very experienced with strategy games (some have competitive background) we were able to prevail against many other alliances. But our knowledge about the game no secret, we created lots of strategy topics in our strategy section on united-forum.de, visible for everyone. While our community site basically consists of German members our alliance in TA became international very fast. Today we are a united family of players from around the world who enjoy the game and who of course want to win it 😉 location – everywhere: P but basically in the centre. POIs – so many that I am too lazy to count them, we gotta catch ’em all :D. members – ~50 for every of our 2 wings. Alliance rank – #1 and #2. Right after the beta started in early December 2011, but not all of our site users where in at that time, many had to wait for beta keys as well.

MILLE395: My CNC handle is MILLE395 and I am a commander of F7Lans. I mostly handle diplomacy efforts but I also work directly with our other commanders to develop strategies and goals. F7Lans is located in the South sector and control 62 POI at this time and rank in the top 8 in all POI categories. Our alliance is currently at the maximum of 50/50 members with 49 of those ranked in the top 1000 and 31 ranked in the top 500. We have 10 players with a “Commander (lvl 13)” rank (over 1,150,000 player score), placing each of our top 10 in the top 250 on the server. Our original commander started the alliance in November or December of 2011. All other members started in January 2012 or later. The original commander stepped down and quit playing in February 2012 and is no longer on our roster.

Zephyr: I’m Zephyr, Commander in Chief of the alliance “CnCSaga Time of War” on the Closed server beta 1 and Administrator of CnCSaga.com. The alliance is a fusion of the two alliances of the French web sites CnCSaga.com and Timeofwar.com. On the French World 1, we are only “CnCSaga”. The alliance is here because we speak French and it’s better to have a good game in the French community. 10th of the Closed Beta 1, and 2nd or 3rd on the French World 1. 29 on the Closed Beta 1, and 100 on the French World 1 (split in two alliances: CnCSaga and CnCSaga II) Location: On the middle of the map. The two alliances CnCSaga and Time of War start with the starting server. So…

Question 2) What is the appeal of this browser game?

Cherry Kid: I enjoy this game because I am a long-time C&C fan. I played when computers ran MS-DOS. I like being able to be as active as you want.

Methuselah: I can get my C&C fix at work and I enjoy the alliance implications. I love team play in traditional C&C’s and this fills that niche a bit for me during the dry spell we are in C&C wise.

Freezy: For me the fun of the game isn’t the gameplay itself (I always criticize that the PvP system should have a more central role and needs to be rebalanced), so the most fun is all the drama and diplomatic stuff between multiple alliances :P. And of course talking and playing together with good buddies, accomplishing common goals. But the gameplay itself (raiding, attacking) lost its charm after some months.

MILLE395: For me, I enjoy strategy games and have been a long fan of CNC games. This browser version adds the complexity of PvP and brings the concept of alliance to the forefront — making it a social project as much as a game. Many of our members have enjoyed chatting and working together socially. It has also united people from many countries and has been interesting to learn how to communicate within several different languages.

Zephyr: It’s free and fun.

Question 3) Why should someone start to play this game?

Cherry Kid: If you enjoy C&C and want to work with others this is a fun game to play.

Methuselah: Tough question. 8 months ago it was a blast to play and under construction. Now it is gold and gets worse with each patch.

Freezy: Because he loves C&C or because he loves browser games or because he loves drama or because he has too much time.

MILLE395: Easy and fun to play and time investment requirements are low but players have options to improve at a quicker rate.

Zephyr: Of course yes. But don’t forget, you will not become a good player in 2 weeks. So keep cool and respect each other.

Question 4) Does the game feel balanced?

Cherry Kid: : Not sure how balanced the game is. If you spend a lot of money to build things up you can dominate. However, if you do not spend money, as I do, you can still enjoy the experience.

Methuselah: Not even maybe. Nod defence busting is terrible. My Nod plays several levels below its GDI counterpart.

Freezy: No. Regarding the factions: Nod is underpowered, all the GDI counterparts are better (some patches ago Nod was overpowered, I think it’s the typical EA phenomenon of “over patching”). Regarding funds: Players who spend funds have a significant advantage. With enough CP and repair time everyone is able to bring down a well-guarded base, there is no more coordination needed. And then there are bugs which make the game imbalanced to those who don’t use them, for example the alert trick, base milking or the ruin exploit to name a few.

MILLE395: Balance has been an issue with Beta1 since inception. POI bonuses unbalanced the game even further and control of high-level POI can make or break advancement. It was obvious within months of playing that the top 2-3 ranked alliances would crush anyone else on the server. F7Lans is ranked 8th of more than 2500 alliances with a score of about 34 million. The top alliance on this server has a score of 149 million. In theory, this means that the top alliance is 4.5 times stronger than F7Lans, making it impossible for an 8th ranked alliance to overcome such a power. In fact, the top alliance is nearly twice as strong as the 3th ranked alliance. Considering that the top 2 alliances are actually 1 alliance, it is impossible for any alliance to overcome the dominate alliance on the server. As mentioned before, F7Lans has 10 players in the top 250 on the server, but the difference of a player ranked 250 and the top player on the server is over 6 million points. This means the 1st ranked player has more than 6 times the strength of the 250th ranked player. That is unbalanced if you ask me. It is my opinion that no single player should be able to be greater than 3 times stronger than the average active player on the server.

Zephyr: Yes in the theory. Because we can see some good alliance and it’s impossible to beat them. The strategy to beat someone is the communication with other alliances.

Question 5) How do the factions handle now that Nod is available?

Cherry Kid: I have not run into many Nod teams so far. Factions operate differently, however they seem balanced. I have always liked GDI more than Nod.

Methuselah: See above. I love the iconic reminder of the greatness of the Brotherhood…. but if I could abandon Nod at this point for GDI in the one server I play Nod as I would do it in a heartbeat.

Freezy: As explained above, Nod feels a bit useless in attacks, at least their defence is pretty decent.

MILLE395: Nod faction seemed to advance much quicker than GDI. Many players caught up and passed top GDI players within a matter of a few months.

Zephyr: We recruited some people in Nod on the Closed Beta 1, and for the French World 1, we play together. No problem with that.

Question 6) How does the PvP experience differ from PvE?

Cherry Kid: PvP is much different than PvE. In PvP, the bonus protection bases can have can make it difficult to win against otherwise even level bases. With PvE it is much easier to take down even level bases.

Methuselah: PvP sucks. Thank goodness for POI’s or there would be zero reason to engage in it beyond boredom. PvE is pretty well done. It is hard, varied and rewarding from a progression standpoint.

Freezy: PvP is what the game should be about, as that is C&C. Battling human players is more thrilling. You face smart defences, you face counterattacks, and you have social interaction before/after the attack. It is more entertaining than to battle mutants all day long. Unfortunately currently PvP is always a loss for the attacker, because he has to spend more CP, repair time and resources than in PvE, but he gets less for it (far less loot, the only reason is to get enemy territory for 24h). Additionally the defender has no real disadvantage for losing a base and it takes too long to conquer enemy territory, which makes the whole PvP experience undynamic.

MILLE395: A mix of the two seems to be the best strategy. PvP does not offer enough resources to advance and will harm your alliance more than help. However, most people tend to find PvP more fun than PvE.

Zephyr: A lot of things. The PvP is more longer than a PvE experience. If you attack someone, you should stay on the game to avoid some attacks.

Question 7) How easy it for a new player to compete on an established server – how can they catch up?

Cherry Kid: It is hard to catch up unless you are willing to spend money. You also would need to join an established alliance that can help you along.

Methuselah: I can’t really answer that because I don’t know I’ve never joined an established server. My guess? They can’t unless they know someone that allows them into an established (and large) alliance.

Freezy: It’s impossible to catch up to the top ranked, but it’s possible to outgrow at least the medium players, provided the player’s alliance holds enough POIs. It would be possible to catch up even to the top ranked if players could lose progress, for example by losing base levels if your base gets destroyed or losing the base as a whole if it gets destroyed multiple times (of course there have to be mechanics that protect weaker players then). That would make the ranking and progress more dynamic.

MILLE395: You can’t unless you can get into a top alliance with a lot of POI.

Zephyr: It’s not easy. Sorry guys. You can regain your delay with funds but it’s quite complicated. But every game is complicated in multiplayer when you arrive in the middle of the game. So wait a new open server to start with the same level.

Question 8) Describe the team play aspect – how easy/difficult is the co-ordination?

Cherry Kid: Team play is a lot of fun. The most difficult aspect is coordinating a time to be on the game at the same time. However, using the chat and the messaging seems to work well for our alliance.

Methuselah: Difficult. Most of the servers are set up in a way that should encourage people of similar time zones to join a particular server but I don’t find that to be the case for the most part and certainly not in CB1. It is however glorious when it does work out though 🙂

Freezy: Coordination becomes difficult if you got a huge alliance as it is hard to guide so many players. The in game forums are not that good, the message system is bugged (creates game freezes all the time) and not comfortable (you have to type in single players and can’t select them out of a list), the chat could be improved as well (saving alliance chat logs if you are not online for example). But still coordination is working somehow.

MILLE395: It would be a lot easier if the messaging system didn’t give you a script error nearly every other message you check. The messaging system is terrible and many alliances have resorted to using 3rd party systems to communicate. The chat feature was a huge improvement.

Zephyr: The coordination is complicated and time-consuming. I can give an advice to the new player : Share your power. Or you will become insane.

Question 9) Describe the global domination dynamic of gaining and losing territory?

Cherry Kid: The amount of territory does not seem to matter as much as what POIs you control. Early on in the game as we began to move toward the centre, territory was important for movement purposes. Now, late in the game there is a lot of room to move when you are not near the centre.

Methuselah:I like it for the most part. I think the territory constraints once you get far into Forgotten territory might be a tad restrictive especially when you factor in the new 3 square rule around poi’s. I just had to relocate 8 bases in CB2 simply because I could not respawn.

Freezy: As explained in 6) there is not enough dynamic in losing/gaining territory, as it takes forever to drive an enemy out of a certain location, he is able to come back too fast. You have to kill him over and over again which leads to less income and frustration for both sides.

MILLE395: I’m not sure how to answer this question.

Zephyr: It’s kind of classic game. You lose, you win, but TA is quite disappointing me because you can have a war for the eternity. Nothing to show where the war is automatically win or lose (like a capture a flag with time limited).

Question 10) Describe your impressions now the “end-game” has been revealed?

Cherry Kid: I noticed that the top alliances are moving even more toward the centre, I assume in preparation for the end game. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Methuselah: “meh” to be totally honest but I admit it is early. Calling it an end game when it is clearly not makes very little sense to me.

Freezy: It’s good that there is more endgame content. But I would prefer the server ending if an alliance coalition achieves victory, because at that point other alliance have no chances catching up anymore anyway. Now the server does not end if you are “victorious”, means it is no endgame at all, because what comes after that? The end-endgame? Server resets are common in other browser games, but I guess it won’t work here because of all the funds lovers who cry when they lose their stats (I buy funds as well and I have no problem losing my progress, playing multiple times from the beginning is more entertaining than playing an endless and boring grind). I would prefer my progress and stats saved in a hall of fame after the server ended rather than an account that is not used anymore because the server became inactive after some years.

MILLE395: I’m not sure how I feel yet. It seems unattainable for our alliance to defeat an lvl 50 base at this time. While we have a few members in position to take a crack at these mega-bases, their army strength is only about lvl 30. It seems inevitable that the top 2 alliances on the server will win the game. So, the game will end but it does nothing to create a more balanced game. Once the game ends, I think a large number of members will quit and not start a new game. For this reason, I think the end-game idea is a bad idea. I think balancing the game would offer more longevity for people that have invested a lot of time in the game.

Zephyr: That’s be cool. New experience and collaboration between alliances.

Question 11) What is your experience with third-party tools like the attack simulators?

Cherry Kid: I have had no experience with any third-party tools.

Methuselah: It’s a mess. Every patch breaks the sim and Phenomic can’t seem to decide if it is okay or not okay.

Freezy: I never liked the combat simulator, as it eradicates the difference between noobs and pros. With the simulator every player is able to achieve the best result, given he has enough time. What makes this game so special is the combat system that is not present in other browser games. This combat system is a natural skill differentiator which is important in every competitive game. It involves risk and skill, but not anymore if you are able to simulate everything. Back then when there was no simulator the players learned it the hard way and they became good enough without the simulator. Disable it nowadays and many players wouldn’t know how to attack anymore as they became to dependant on that stuff… The combat optimizer (enhanced version of the simulator) is clearly a cheat and I am happy it was forbidden. There are more third party scripts that I consider cheating as well (those that unlock certain things that are not possible without scripts). It would be the best if Phenomic implements the best fair scripts and make them available for everyone and then block the rest so that everyone plays under the same conditions (and is not forced to use Firefox :p)

MILLE395:Little. I have not used simulators and consider them cheating. It does not seem like fun to use such tools because it takes the strategy out of the game. Why play if you are going to have a computer play for you? I do however use some third-party tools that give base statics, improve zooming and map navigation, etc. These tools are terrific and the game developers should adopt them.

Zephyr: I personally don’t use third-party tools. But some people use it, ok that’s not my problem.

Question 12) What is your experience with the pay-to-play system?

Cherry Kid: It can be as expensive as you want it to be.

Methuselah: I don’t mind the system they have to make a profit on this thing otherwise why bother but they’ve made it so restrictive for players at a high level that I’m losing mates right and left because you get to a point where if you don’t pay you almost can’t play and it should not be like that.

Freezy: Pay-to-play means you have to pay in order to play. I would not describe TA as pay-to-play, because you can still achieve a quite good ranking without the usage of funds. But you can’t achieve top rankings without funds, so I would definitely describe it as pay-2-win. And I don’t like pay2win…

MILLE395: I spent the first 6 months on the server without paying and did ok. Once PvP became more important to our alliance I was ‘forced’ to pay for additional command points and repair points. Without additional repair and command points, you could only attack someone about 4 times. It can sometimes take 10 attacks or more to take out a good defence.

Zephyr: I don’t pay for funds by the way. I have funds but I don’t pay for it. (secret secret)

Question 13) What new features would you like to see added?

Cherry Kid: A global map with locations of everyone would be helpful.

Methuselah: I’d like to see PvP fixed. I realize that might not be a feature but it certainly needs fixing.

Freezy: The ability to win the game (to really win it). A much better PvP system. Better forums, better message system, better chat, better minimap. Anti-cheat/exploit/multi-account systems. Because there is still so much to improve there are no total unique ideas for new features in my mind, sorry :P.

MILLE395: 3rd Party tools that I use that I think should be added: Tiberium Alliances Zoom 1.0.0, Tiberium Alliances Map 1.8, C&C Tiberium Alliances Maelstrom Tools 0.1.1.4, C&C Tiberium Alliances Wrapper 0.9b11.

Zephyr: Haha. Secret too. I have communicated with the community manager about my ideas, so I will not reveal my ideas for the moment.

Question 14) Give us a plug for people to join your team. Why should they join your alliance?

Cherry Kid: Our alliance has a lot of good gamers that are polite and work together very well. We welcome active mature players.

Methuselah: We’ve created a second alliance to allow people to join as the main one is full. We have fun, you can PvP or PvE whatever lights your fire and we’re still alive and kicking after almost 9 months on the server.

Freezy: If you are experienced, got a good ranking and want to play in a friendly atmosphere with clear goals, good organization and lots of POI you may want to join us. You have to assure us that you are playing fair (no usage of cheats, exploits or multi accounts) and that you are an active player willing to help his buddies and his alliance. If you are not interested in joining you are still welcome to participate on our sites www.united-forum.de and www.cnc-inside.de. We are also playing in “Welt 1” (German server), so if you are playing there you may join us as well. Just drop a message to UFfreezy ingame.

MILLE395: F7Lans is fair, diverse, and a good group of guys. We’re full, so no need to plug more than that.

Zephyr: If you speak French you can come to our alliance and if you don’t we can accept you too. We are old fans of CnC since 1995 so we are cool

Question 15) Any final comments?

Cherry Kid: C&C Alliances is a lot of fun with a lot of game dynamics to learn and experience. You can play for hours a day or just a few minutes. Thanks EA.

Methuselah: Please stop throttling non payers. If you run people off because they can’t play due to repair time you are certainly not going to convert them into paying customers. Maybe using rt to manage activity works at lower levels but once people progress it fails terribly. Also fix the base repair rate Phenomic it is really stupid. Forgotten bases repair so fast you can’t even think when attacking them which is just silly. Also please stop throttling non payers.

Freezy: First of all, thanks for giving me the chance to say some words. I also want to say hello to my “friends” from the other alliances participating here 😀
But the more important stuff: If you read my comments you will see that I really don’t like many aspects of this game. In fact I am only playing it because of the reasons I described in 3) (the drama and the friends I got to know via this game) and to do our alliance and community a favour by leading it to victory. I often said to myself “wouldn’t it be better to stop playing this?” Maybe… But I still have hopes that this game will be transformed into something enjoyable some day 😛 So back to work, Phenomic! 😉

MILLE395: None.

Zephyr: Thanks for asking!

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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