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» C&C: What's Next?


Westwood - arguably made famous by the Command & Conquer series alone; the Real Time Strategy Games of the genre that is. Building upon Dune 2000, Westwood created the original Command & Conquer - it was met with acclaim world-wide. Several years on, they have continued to release highly successful RTS games (one could exclude Emperor: Battle For Dune from this group however). The recent release of Renegade has shown that they are prepared to take C&C into different genres - the step into the FPS (First Person Shooter) genre was indeed a brave one, and one taken with mild success (although the massive marketing campaign behind Renegade was doubtless detriment to this fact). However, hands down, for a first attempt at an FPS, it wasn't bad - and Westwood can only improve on their achievements as of yet.

The fact that the C&C Universe has several separate 'storylines' (particularly now with the upcoming release of C&C Generals), means that it isn't hard to find the right 'slot' in which to set a game - such as Renegade being set in the Tiberian Universe. There are several genres that Westwood or EA Pacific (though more likely the former in my opinion - as I see EA Pacific more as 'RTS specialists') could venture into. The fact that any game with the C&C tag on it will sell should be 'insurance' enough to venture out into these unchartered lands. So, what genres could another C&C game be set in? There are several:

RPG (Role Playing Game)


Westwood's Lands Of Lore 2


A very popular genre indeed - attracting millions of fans world-wide. Series such as the Final Fantasy one have become ones that will always be set in 'computer-gaming history'. The vast difference in size between the C&C community and the FF community is evidence enough of the number of fans that a high quality RPG series attracts. Surely Westwood will not, one day, forego the chance to make a C&C game set in the RPG genre?

Besides, it's not as if it would be Westwood's first ever crack at an RPG. Lands of Lore, Lands of Lore 2 and NOX sold moderately well, and while undoubtedly were not as successful as any games in the C&C series, were 'decent'. Surely the experience that Westwood gained from developing and releasing these RPGs would only serve to benefit them if they were to make a C&C RPG? Admittedly a lot of the members behind the aforementioned games no longer work at Westwood; but some still will - and the company as a whole will have learned from the experience of producing the RPG titles.

Obviously the 'bridge of difference' in the RPG genre is quite a long one - compare Diablo 2 and Final Fantasy 9 for example. Both very successful games; but with key differences: the most notable one being that Diablo 2 could be played online whereas Final Fantasy 9 couldn't. I have both of the aforementioned games, and played the former far more than the latter - the fact that I could play it online added to the degree of 'longevity' in the game.

If a C&C RPG game were to be made, I am quite sure that it would be one playable both online and offline (or perhaps solely online?). However, most RPG games seem to be based upon more 'mythological' storylines and universes. As for how the C&C universe would be 'ported' into an RPG setting, I have few ideas - it wouldn't be easy. There are a host of advantages in making an RPG game though - it would help to attract a new breed of fans to the C&C community and would add a considerable amount of diversity.

Adventure


Westwood's Bladerunner
Again, another popular genre. Classifying 'adventure games' can sometimes be difficult - seeming as how they often lapse into several other genres. An excellent example of this is the Tomb Raider series; to quote the back of the Tomb Raider 1 case - ".. the most breath-taking 3D worlds yet seen - where exploration, puzzle and platform elements blend in a seamless real-time environment". Hopefully you can now better realise the audience that adventure games appeal to - a very wide one. Personally, I've never been a great fan of puzzle elements in computer games - if I want to be puzzled then I'll pick up a crossword puzzle (disclaimer: I am not a crossword fan). However, all of these "elements" can be the recipe for a great game - adventure games such as ones in he Tomb Raider series and Deus Ex have become popular indeed.

As with RPGs, Westwood already have experience in this genre. "With what games?" you may ask.. the answer is that of the recently released Pirates and a slightly older game, Bladerunner - the conversion of the blockbuster starring Harrison Ford onto the screens of computer gamers worldwide. So now we know that Westwood do have the experience in this genre - but what about the legibility of an adventure game? Would it sell? How difficult would it be to create a good one? An adventure game with the C&C tag on would sell - I don't think that it would be to hard to implement in terms of plot either. However, the gap between some FPS games and some adventure games is a very small one indeed. For example, the difference between Renegade and Tomb Raider isn't that great, in my opinion - the former concentrates more on the combat aspect of the game whilst the other tackles a broader environment of aspects - yet there are many similarities; such as the progression of plot, tasks and the use of various items. Creating an adventure game wouldn't be too difficult - but is it really Westwoods thing? Pirates hasn't received many good reviews - it's a failure to put it bluntly. Perhaps the time isn't quite right for a C&C adventure game. I don't think that one would have much more to offer than Renegade did.

Racing
The first word that springs to mind is 'unlikely'. But you never know - just as the English triumphed in the Battle of Agincourt, so might a C&C racing game be made.


Gran Turismo 3 - The 'Big Daddy' of Racing Games
Renegade has given us a taste of what it's like to drive around in those old favourites; tanks such as the mammoth tank, bikes such as the recon bike and many others. Obviously the 'driving' aspect of Renegade isn't one anywhere near worthy of being classed as a game in it's own right. Racing NOD Buggys and GDI Humvees around a race track at neck-breaking speeds could indeed appeal to a large spectrum of people - but would that appeal be great enough?

However, successful racing games are few and far between. Only a 'select few' have achieved what would be deemed as a 'well known' status. Series such as the Gran Turismo and Need For Speed ones are good examples of some of the more popular and successful racing games. I doubt that this genre would be a viable one for a C&C game. The best racing games sell because of the detail and options that are put into them - the Gran Turismo series has become acclaimed for it's in depth detail and real-life likeness; not forgetting its stunning graphics and the sheer playability factor of it.

A C&C racing game would be fun, at first. The fact that it wouldn't attract many racing enthusiasts due to the fact that the vehicles in it wouldn't be ones seen in real life would be a major downfall. Very few people care what calibrators a GDI Humvee uses or whether a Stealth tank is using diesel propulsion or old-fashioned petrol. I think that this genre is best left alone to racing experts and the real-life simulations such as Gran Turismo.

Turn Based Strategy


Civilization III - You tell 'em Liz!
The genre of strategy is a broad one; spawning several 'sub-genres'. Two examples of these sub-genres are Real Time Strategy and Turn Based Strategy. There are many games in both of these sub-genres - Command & Conquer games are Real Time as opposed to games such as Civilization which are turn based. Just in case you don't know what RTS and TBS are, here are the explanations in laymans terms; in RTS you both control your units at the same time, whilst in TBS you control them one after another, in turns.

Turn based strategy games tend to involve a lot more 'fine detail' as opposed to RTS games. You, for example, may have to manage a city's economy, transportation systems and make sure that your countries denizens are all happy - and that there is no danger of a revolt. This seems a far-fling away from the fast, adrenaline-rushing backbone of Real Time Strategy - but does attract countless fans. I would venture that Turn Based Strategy games are more so for those who like to 'think a little bit more' about what they want to do - as opposed to having to make several vital decisions in very little time (as is the case with Real Time Strategy).

A C&C Turn Based game could indeed be fun - but it would require a lot of work and research. The depth of Turn Based games is quite astounding in many cases (e.g. Civilization III) - for example, units and buildings have many statistics which you must evaluate before purchasing them. The one disadvantage of this genre, as any fan of the Civilization series will know, is that it sucks away time at a frightening rate - you spend so much time enraptured in the idyllic empire that you are masterminding, that you lose all track of time. Ultimately, I would much rather play a C&C RTS than a C&C TBS - but you never know; there is the audience for such a title and a lot of the skills that lie in making a good Real Time Strategy game can also be found in Turn Based games.

Conclusion


C&C Rugby - Coming Soon? I doubt it.
Obviously there are one or two more genres that I've left out - example being that of puzzle and sport, mainly due to the fact that C&C wouldn't tie in with them at all (although many fans would smile gleefully at the sight of Tanya in a swimming suit I'm sure!). However, the fact that EA now owns the C&C franchise, will, in my humble opinion, result in the franchise being marketed (perhaps the word 'exploited' could be used to a certain extent?) to a far greater level than it has in the past. Hopefully it won't be exploited to the same level as franchises such as Mario and Sonic - for they have both lost quite a lot of respectability due to the many cheap games that they spawned under their labels.

Other well known series are currently expanding their horizons, so to speak. The upcoming release of World of Warcraft (an adventure game set in the Warcraft universe) is example enough of this. I am quite sure that we shall, in the fairly near future, see C&C step further into the 'unchartered territories' of the genres that it has not yet touched upon. As I have already mentioned, the release of Renegade is proof enough that C&C is moving away from just being an RTS series.

To some extent I am excited about the fact that C&C could branch out into several different genres - but I am also concerned. Concerned that those three words (Command & Conquer) could be over-marketed, and lose a lot of the respect and honour that they have gained since the serie's incarnation all those years ago. If I had to stake a guess at what the next genre C&C will 'visit', I would be tempted to choose the option of RPG. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

» Rob

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