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» Generals: Console Perspective

Aaron, the brother of Moses, was a prominent figure in Exodus. (That's the bible book, not the jammin' Bob Marley Tune). More recently however, Aaron has been a staffer here at CNCSeries.Com, and is now a fully established webmaster over at our affiliate, the Westwood Experience. In a recent question and answer with resident Westwood/EA community fiend Chris Rubyor, a short, sweet and to the point question was given.
Aaron: Is Generals going to be released on the PS2 or XBOX at all?
Our PR guru was vague in that way we love so much:
Delphi: Possibly! =)
Possibly. With a word choice like that, we do wonder why Chris Rubyor hasn't been recruited into the murky underworld of our political system. Actually it's fairly obvious he is happy in his job of looking after us Command and Conquer geeks, but still, "Possibly" remains a phrase that annoys me. And I tell you solemnly, It should annoy you too.

From the deep depths of Rob's cupboards, comes Red Alert and C&C for the Playstation.
Putting this aside, It will be very interesting to see if EA Pacific does port Generals to one or more of the latest generation of consoles. And before we play the classic PC card of "They'd never do it, it just wouldn't be the same", let's just keep in mind that Plastation owners, yes, that smelly lot, could play both the original Gold C&C, as well the fondly remembered Red Alert too.

Despite their habitual protests that Command and Conquer was great on Playstation, ultimately, many came around to the fact that their format, and the way it is structured, simply didn't suit Strategy gaming. An analog joypad is great for knocking virtual lumps out of your opponent in Street Fighter or Tekken, but it's weedy and imprecise movements simply don't rival a mouse when executing a tank rush. A mouse really is the only option, and while to PC users this comes as standard, for the Playstation C&C fans, an over priced Sony-made mouse was a luxury few took the option of buying.

But, EA are no fools. The console market is huge, being the closest many people get to organised religion, and this represents only one thing: Big Bucks. The PS2 is becoming the house-hold item, and while the X-Box has burnt a pretty neat little black hole in the pockets of Microsoft, it too can draw in the crowds. This represents tremendous potential to EA Pacific, the ability to push their market further a field, and make a few dollars into the bargain is something I expect will be too irresistable to stay away from.

Could you be playing C&C Generals on one of these?
But while the economic benefits to EA Pacific are clearly visible, there are other problems, as well as benefits, that can be considered. The major players on the console market just now are the Playstation 2 (PS2), Microsoft's living room invader, The X-Box, and Nitendo's Game Cube. All of these are fine systems in their own right, but a major problem remains, they are all dependant on Televisions. The problem with TV is that it has a slower refresh rate than a computer's monitor. In effect, no matter what amount of Graphics processing power or tweaks you put in, it cannot display as many frames per second as a monitor. In most games, including the excellent console titles of say, Halo and GTA III, there really is no problem, as both of these games were designed specifically for that format. C&C Generals is being built on a PC foundation, and despite Chris Rubyor's delibrate vagueness, if it were to be ported to a console, quality would be inevitably lost. The PS2's closest thing to Generals has been, in my view, the Samurai-em-up, Kessen, but this lacked the depth and details that we hope will be in Generals; will this probable loss in quality deter EA Pacific from releasing the game? Or could they tweak it sufficiently to avoid such losses? This decision lies beyond what Chris Rubyor knows, or is letting us know.

What consoles lack however, is expandability of their games. For every Command and Conquer RTS title released, there has been at least one expansion pack. From the Covert Operations right through until Yuri's Revenge, every game has been expanded and improved. On a console, such a release would be impossible. The X-Box's hard disk might seem a brilliant idea, but it's fanciful implementation doesn't allow the installation of an expansion pack. With the PS2 and Gamecube you can just forget about it. Again, we have to ask if EA Pacific would be willing to sacrafice the potential expansions just to get a console release.

One thing the consoles may have in their favour however, is that the latest editions support internet connections. We're not talking about downloading mods or patches, far from it, but the connectability would give rise to something Westwood have always been fond of: Online gaming. Whether this would be any good is still up for debate, with most of the console mulit-player software still in the beta stage. There's been no revolution of online gaming on consoles, they're yet to have a Quake or Everquest, but the potential remains there, adn maybe EA Pacific will capatalise on that.

Physical difficulties, economic conditions, as well as the views of the game designers will all merge to decide on whether or not Generals comes to the living rooms of console gamers. Personally, I see no reason why, if Generals ran well on one or more of the formats disscussed, that EA Pacific shouldn't release it. While I don't like RTS games on consoles, branching out successfully could open up new ground for our internet community, as well as for EA. I don't like the idea of being sidestepped in favour of console developments however, and if the porting of Generals could risk patches or support, then I could see no reason why I would support it.

The fate of this hangs in the arms of the developers, and like everything in life, only time will tell.

» Jim

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