Realism - One word which Command & Conquer has often struggled to look straight in the eye. It's the word which makes the producers shuffle their feet and look at the floor in a sheepish manner. Some games strive to achieve the highest degree of realism, such as Medal Of Honour: Allied Assault, while others such as ones in the C&C series like to make the player experience things which they will never experience in real life. While admittedly few of us will ever storm an occupied Europe in search of liberation for the masses, I would think that even fewer of us will ever command a battalion of Prism Tanks.
Now with the approach of Generals, C&C fans will have the chance to experience something a little more realistic in their mock battles. Generals is not going to offer a strictly modern warfare simulation, but it will bring a C&C game that people can understand with references to real life a little more: e.g. 3 men firing machine guns from the back of a truck (the idea of the GLA's Technical unit), is far more realistic than a bald man riding a chariot and mind-controlling almost anything that crosses his path.
The main idea of this article is to point out how far EA Pacific will take realism and to give a few ideas as to where modders could subsequently take it with the new modding capabilities that have been promised to accompany Generals with its release. Perhaps certain tanks or units could perform better in temperate conditions than what they would do when put into combat in a desert? Could 'dust in the engine' ever be a problem for Command and Conquer players around the world? I think not, but the possibilities for the expansion of EAP's choice to incorporate a degree of realism into Generals has endless boundaries.
I think something that would be a little more practical would be the choice to, for example, buy 'realism upgrades' for certain units. For arguments sake, say the standard American Tank costs $800: you could be given the option, for $50 per tank, to buy camouflage netting for these tanks - the likes of which have been seen everywhere in recent military conflicts. These additions could prove to be decisive when combined with the cover of a forest for example, enabling a player to take out an opponent's force before he knows whats coming through the use of stealth, all because of a small tactical upgrade which that player chose.
Generals: More real than the 'cartoony' voxels of Red Alert 2
Or perhaps the 'crafty' GLA could employ the use of such items as Police Stinger units: extendable pieces of metal with spikes on, which police forces across the world use to stop dangerous drivers. This would be in keeping with the GLA's unorthodox style (at least that's what we're lead to to believe it will be). The realism would play its part whereas the stingers would not hinder the progress of heavy units such as tanks, but they would immobilise such units as a 'humvee style' scout unit, which is bound to make an appearance, for these units would have standard tyres. This could be extended in all kinds of ways; the vehicles which are immobilised by the stingers would still obviously have use of their turret or gun, but they would be unable to retreat from advancing forces, unless say a 'repair vehicle' (the likes of which have been used in C&C games before - e.g. Tiberian Sun), had arrived at the scene for a quick fix/tyre change for the damaged vehicle.
All of this may seem very 'up in the clouds', but ideas like this surely must be considered if Generals is to make the best use of it's supposed unrivalled modding capabilities within the Real Time Strategy genre. Perhaps we could not only make alterations to in-game units, but to the cosmetic appearance of the game? For example: having custom skins for the interface bar, which which allow sites like ourselves to provide fresh designs for any Commander's game. Other possibilities include creating skins for vehicles and infantry, the like of which we have seen in Renegade.. I mean surely the prospect of squishing endless 'Hitler' infantry under one's tank treads is irresistible, right?
To conclude, I believe that if Generals does have the amazing modification capabilities that have been promised, then EA Pacific will have done their part to make Generals a major success within the modding community. It would then be down to the community, through both fans and fansites, to make sure that the game's life is prolonged by worthy additions, which as we all know help to inject new life into games which would otherwise be cast to the back of one's CD rack without a second thought. So, I now address the community as a whole, in a desire to make Generals realise it's potential of setting new standards to which other strategy games must look upto. I think an old adage best sums up my thoughts: 'The possibilities are endless.'