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Interview

Command & Conquer 4 Interview

We’d seen Command & Conquer 4, but we needed more information; we needed to know what was really going on. Our elite IncGamers commando was tasked with getting us a chance to interrogate EA producer Jim Vessella, and – naturally – he succeeded. With Vessella in the IncGamers cells, Tim McDonald turned on the tape recorder and began the questions.So first things first, what’s new? What’re the really big new things about Command & Conquer 4?C&C 4’s top cool feature is the player progression. Player progression is the idea that, no matter what mode you play, be it campaign or skirmish or multiplayer, you’re going to gain experience towards this overarching progression tree. As you gain experience you’ll unlock new toys, meaning new units, powers and upgrades, and you’ll be able to do that for many hours as you go through the game, unlocking these units and our different classes.We have three classes in the game for each one one of our factions – Offence, Defence and Support – and each one of those classes plays in its own very unique way. Defence will be building up bases, firebases and turrets; Offence will be very brute, building up tanks and rushing your enemies like you’d normally do in an RTS game; and Support will be more healing, casting player powers – kind of a behind-the-lines kind of player who likes to support their allies.Also on the story side we’re trying to conclude the Tiberium saga. These 15 years that C&C has been around have been building up to this climax. Kane has had this agenda the whole time with the Brotherhood of Nod and that’s finally going to come to a close. We’re going to answer all those questions, reveal what Kane’s been up to, and finalise the C&C saga.We’re also trying to make C&C 4 a bit more of a social experience. What that means is that for online play we’re focusing on 5 on 5 gameplay. It’s going to allow the game to be a bit more accessible, so that you’re not just going to get rushed in the first five minutes and kicked out of the game. We’ve got respawning mechanics, so that when you lose your Crawler – which is our front-line builder unit – you can just respawn that Crawler if it happens to get destroyed, and when you respawn you can also spawn as any of those classes so it plays in there in terms of evolving on the battlefield. We’re also going to have a cool party system where you can join up with a group of friends and play multiple games in succession with the same group.We’re doing a lot of things with C&C4, and we hope that the fans respond well to it.So why have you decided to do these massive changes? There have been a lot of games that changed the way people look at RTS. Looking at Dawn of War 2, for instance – have these games influenced you much?They have. We’ve been doing the classic RTS formula for the past seven or eight years, and it’s really worked to cater to our more hardcore, classic audience that like that kind of base-on-base gameplay. We’ve really hit that home, and I think Red Alert 3 is a great example of achieving that type of gameplay. But there’ve been some other great players in the RTS genre, like Relic with Dawn of War 2 and Company of Heroes, and then there have been games like World in Conflict where they’ve tried a different approach to RTS. Those have been really cool too, so we’ve tried to take the best of both worlds that we’ve seen from our classic C&C experience, and also some of the cool things that those other companies are doing with their games, and trying to merge those together.The reason for that is that we’ve seen that with that classic RTS formula, the audience has kinda stagnated. We felt like we were only catering to that audience and it wasn’t bringing in a lot of new players. We think that with this formula we’re going a bit more casual, a bit more accessible, a bit more social, we can bring in some new players to the strategy genre and allow a new generation to experience these games as well.{PAGE TITLE=Vessella On C&C 4 Page 2}Are you worried about what the old players are going to think of it?Ever since we’ve announced the game a few weeks ago we certainly got feedback from our veteran players! Some people are really excited about the changes, others are definitely wary about what it means for C&C. We’re certainly listening to that feedback and we’re trying to see where we can find the right balance between trying something a bit new but also keeping that kind of flavour of classic C&C.What I want to encourage is that just because we’re changing up the formula a bit, it doesn’t mean that we’re removing strategic depth. We’ve just taking it in a different area. What used to be finding the perfect build order and then executing that at the fastest APM possible, we’re transitioning into “Okay, you’ve got this big toy chest of stuff.” Customise what you want to have, and then how you’re going to react to that on the battlefield and how you’re going to incorporate that with the team-based atmosphere.And at the end of the day, there may be some people who are a bit turned off by the changes that we’re doing. We encourage people to try it and give it a shot, because it’s really fun, but we also hope that it’s going to allow us to bring in a lot of new audiences into C&C, and so it’s evolving with the times.Speaking of the balance between old and new, are you going to have a co-op campaign, like in Red Alert 3?You will be able to play the campaign via co-op. We’re not going to have the co-op AI feature that we had in Red Alert 3, so if you want to play the game solo, you’re playing the campaign solo like you would most RTS games. If you want to bring in another player, you can go ahead and do that, and then there’ll be two of you playing through the campaign.So will the campaign automatically balance for the second player?We’re still working on how the difficulty will work when you bring in extra players – whether we just increase the difficulty of the opponents versus changing the amount of respawns you have with the Crawler… I think there’s a few different levers we can pull in terms of adjusting the difficulty when we do the co-op but we certainly want to make sure it’s balanced for both experiences.Speaking of the Crawlers, then, just how different are they? You’ve got three – Offence, Defence, and Support – but do they share units, for instance?Nope. There’s only one shared unit between all classes, and that’s the engineer. All of the other units for each class are unique, and play into the gameplay of that class. The Crawlers themselves all have similarities in that they can all build the units, they all have a repair radius right now although that might change – but most importantly they all have unique upgrades.Every Crawler has a different weapon set, which is also based on your faction, so all six Crawlers (if you add them all up) have a different weapon set and they all have unique upgrades as well, so when you get to Tier 2 and Tier 3 which unlocks the different levels of units you can field, there are also additional upgrades you can purchase for your Crawler. One might give you stealth on Nod, whereas one might give you extra armour and speed on GDI. Lots of different things that we’re playing with in terms of making those Crawlers asymmetric.Is the Defence Crawler the only one that’s actually going to be able to construct any buildings like turrets and so on, or are there some for the others as well?No, Defence is the one class that can build turrets. There are a few support powers for the Support class that can spawn a defensive structure in a certain area, and the other thing we’ve done with those is have them tie into the Defence class as well. If you use that power near a Defence player, they’ll act in synergy. There are a few ways to get structures out there, but 95% of the time they’ll be from the Defence class.{PAGE TITLE=Vessella On C&C 4 Page 3}Why have you chosen to only have the two factions? Much as you’ve got six different Crawlers, is there a reason you decided not to have the Scrin in there?The reason we focused on the two factions is that we really wanted to double-down on that fiction between GDI and Nod. That’s how the series started, and that’s what the conflict has always been between those two factions, and via the story – I can’t reveal too much in detail but it’s really where the story felt like it should be right now in terms of having GDI versus Nod in that conflict.The very cool thing we can do there is we can really play those two factions off each other. Nod has stuff like stealth and burrowing, and GDI doesn’t get those advantages, so it’s kind of a cool place. It’s kind of like when you have Horde versus Alliance in WoW – we really hope that players rally behind factions: “I’m Nod,” “I’m GDI.” We’ve seen that in the past, when C&C3 was released.Plot-wise then, have you been thinking of this plot all the way? Has the reveal we’ll see here been Kane’s master plan from the very first games, as far as you know, or have you not had access to the original thoughts?Well our team didn’t work on the very first games back in the 90s – we inherited the franchise with C&C3. Ever since then, we’ve had an idea of where we wanted Kane’s arc to go in terms of what he wanted for his plan of ascension and what that meant, so we’ve been able to tease and slowly reveal some things about that plan throughout our games. If you play close attention to games like Kane’s Wrath, he starts to reveal a bit about what he wants to do there. So there are certain things that we have tried to plan ahead for. With other things, we react to what the feedback is. Players want to hear more about the Forgotten, which was a side faction that was heavy in Tiberian Sun but we ignored a little bit in C&C3, so we’re going to try and get some of those side stories back in there so that we can try to answer as much as possible.So you’ll be revisiting a lot of the elements that were in Tiberian Sun? The Forgotten, CABAL, and a lot of units that appeared in TibSun and then weren’t seen again in C&C3, for instance.We’ve taken elements from Tiberian Sun in a few of our games. The character LEGION in Kane’s Wrath was very much CABAL 2.0, if you remember that story arc. We’ve taken some of the gameplay elements like burrowing and tried to bring that back into C&C4. So there are elements that we’re trying to take from those previous games, and again, the Forgotten are something that we also want to explore. So yeah, we’re trying to take as much legacy stuff and bring it to the forefront as much as possible.Time for one last question, then: are you going to have any form of superweapons in the game?Yes. The Ion Cannon will make a return, as will the Temple of Nod. Those are both structures that can be built by the Defence class –Not the others?No, not the others. Again, we’re trying to make asymmetry in our classes, so as a Defence player that’s kind of your reward for building up a base and defending your base over time. You can charge up that Ion Cannon and use that to your advantage. So yeah, in terms of superweapons, those are our superweapon structures classic to C&C. The other classes will have superweapons mainly in terms of units. Really powerful units, like the Mastodon. Really powerful units that are unmatched among their classes. So there are a few different ways you can define superweapon, but in terms of the classic Ion Cannon, that’ll be exclusive to the Defence class.Thank you very much!


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