Does Generals deserve that respected and famed Command & Conquer tag in front of its name? Is it even the right type of game to be part of the Command & Conquer Series? These are two questions that some members of the community have voiced in recent days. This article delves right into the aforementioned questions and discusses virtues of both having and not having that Command & Conquer tag.
The Command & Conquer tag is, without doubt, one of the most respected tags in the gaming industry. If a mention of a new C&C game is made, attention is attracted instantly. The series has been earning its reputation for several years now - and all of the games in the series have been of a marked quality; whilst some may have been more successful than others, none of them can be labelled as 'crap'. Any game that is awarded the accolade of the C&C tag will sell. The name not only commands respect, but also financial strength. It is guaranteed to push copies of the games; although the actual quality of the game does obviously also have a major bearing on the number of copies of a game sold.
Some feel that Generals should not be part of the Command & Conquer Universe as it does not fit into any of the current storylines; the Red Alert Timeline and the Tiberium Timeline. To be frank, I find this view quite stupid. It's the equivalent of putting a veto on any new storylines for C&C; a new universe means originality. It means a change; something fresh. What further makes me find this view unfounded, is the fact that the Red Alert timeline was introduced after the original Tiberium timeline. So people saying that this new universe doesn't fit in are actually citing hypocritical views: Red Alert was introduced into the C&C universe and proved to be a great success, as I'm sure Generals will be. Saying that a Command & Conquer game should only be based around the Red Alert or Tiberium Universes is tying the knot on originality and extension; making numerous games set in two universes would, after time, not only become repetitive - but difficult. I think this new universe is being introduced at just the correct time; whilst I would have preferred another Red Alert game to be released over a Tiberium one, I now believe that this exciting change holds even more possibilities. Some new life is being breathed into the C&C series by this new universe; I don't see how anyone could say that it isn't for the better.
Another major issue that seems to crop up in this debate is the issue of changes; to be precise, the change to the style of the game. There are a few major changes to the style. One such example is the introduction of the in-game bottom bar as opposed to the in-game sidebar. Another example is the use of vehicles to construct and collect resources rather than an MCV placing buildings down in its vicinity instantly. Many fans label these introductions as 'Blizzardesque' (Blizzard being the creators of Starcraft & Warcraft). Admittedly, they are quite 'Blizzardesque' - but is that necessarily a bad thing? Blizzard games are of the highest quality - 'borrowing' some ideas will have an interesting, and, I believe, positive effect. Besides, it's not as if Blizzard are the only ones to make use of the bottom bar - Age of Empires is another excellent example of use of a bottom-bar. Without starting to drone on about the bottom-bar, it will allow for more information to be displayed, and should provide an interesting change.
Now, onto possibly the most heated point of discussion in this argument: the use of the tag by EA Pacific as opposed to Westwood. In case any of you reading this article do not yet know, EA Pacific was previously Westwood Pacific - they have broken away from Westwood Vegas. The main opinion behind the split is that the team at EA Pacific are more talented than the team at Vegas, and hence no longer needed their support - so they broke away. EA Pacific are creating Command & Conquer: Generals - not Westwood. This is, indeed, quite a historic landmark in the history of the C&C series - it is the first time that a C&C game has not been made by Westwood, persé. I don't work for Westwood or EA Pacific, so I don't know what the relationship now is between the two separate entities. However, I can make assumptions - the fact that EA Pacific gave Westwood the "Sage Engine" that Generals is based upon for Westwood's next RTS does indeed show co-operation. Also of note is the fact that Chris Rubyor, also known as Delphi (employee of Westwood Vegas), is the Online Community Manager of C&C Generals - this shows that there still is, most certainly, good co-ordination between the two companies.
Opinions have been voiced that EA Pacific shouldn't use the tag - that it should be solely reserved for Westwood. Well, there are a few points to be made in regard to this opinion. The first point being that, at the end of the day, the two companies are companies - and hence are based upon making money. Ever since EA bought out Westwood, something like this has been on the cards. Use of the C&C tag does allow for a more successful game (sales wise), as mentioned earlier in this article. Perhaps the guys at EA Pacific still feel like part of Westwood? Perhaps the guys at Westwood Vegas still treat them like part of Westwood? At the end of the day, I feel the guys at EA Pacific do have the right to use the C&C tag for Generals; this isn't a legal issue - it's a moral one. The team at EA Pacific spent many long hours furthering the reputation of Command & Conquer by releasing Red Alert 2 & Yuri's Revenge. They have an excellent understanding of what it takes to make a C&C game; hence they will make good use of that tag.
Also relevant to the issue of the 'tag morality' debate is whether or not the guys at EA Pacific want to carry on with the established series or try to make a "name for themselves" by releasing Generals without the tag, or even a new one. That decision, I feel, would be unsound both financially and technically. I wouldn't imagine that the guys at Westwood are concerned about someone else making a C&C game (technically). EA Pacific is host to a team of proven quality; the probability of Generals being a flop, or even just moderately successful, is extremely thin.
By making Generals part of the C&C Universe, EA Pacific are extending the life of the C&C series and also creating inroads to the possibility of further titles in the future. A lot rests on this title, it's the first time C&C has gone 3D after all. This game will refine the series; it will refine the gameplay yet not replace it totally. Elements of classic Command & Conquer will be found with new, interesting changes.
In conclusion, I believe it all boils down to how much of a conformist you are: do you want to see the same, tested and successful formula used over and over again? Or do you want a game that attempts to further enhance C&Cs reputation by way of introducing some exciting changes, whilst building upon the elements that have made Command & Conquer games so popular?