This March, Electronic Arts' Los Angeles studios brings the classic Command and Conquer franchise back to the PC with Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars. This third game in the baseline C&C franchise adds a new alien threat to the conflict between the GDI and Nod factions as well as some new and innovative pro gaming features. It will also be the first C&C game that will be ported to the Xbox 360 console. FiringSquad got a chance to chat with EALA's Vice President Mike Verdu (the executive producer of the PC version) along with Michael Glosecki, the senior producer of the Xbox 360 port, to find out more about their plans for Command and Conquer 3.
FiringSquad: First, why did EALA decide to return to the classic C&C universe for its next game, rather than a new Red Alert game as was previously announced?
Mike Verdu and Michael Glosecki: Even though it’s been years since the release of Command & Conquer Tiberian Sun, we’ve never really left the Tiberium universe – we’ve been working on the next chapter in the Tiberium series in one form or another for a very long time. We’re very excited to revisit this popular Command & Conquer universe and it is my personal favorite. A great many people on the team are passionate about Command & Conquer – we have three generations of Command & Conquer fans working on this next game.
For those who aren’t familiar with Command & Conquer, I thought it might be helpful to provide a little background on the story in Command & Conquer 3. The game takes place in a dark future where Tiberium – a toxic self-replicating crystal of alien origin - is slowing taking over the Earth. Tiberium is both a gift and a curse. It is the ultimate resource, solving all of humanity’s energy problems. But it is also the worst ecological catastrophe in history. Tiberium has been the catalyst for a series of devastating world wars that split the human race into two powerful factions: The Global Defense Initiative (GDI) and the Brotherhood of Nod (Nod). GDI is an alliance of advanced nations similar to the UN of today, while Nod is a virulent new form of superpower – a stateless hybrid of terrorist organization, religion, and corporation.
The game opens with the start of the Third Tiberium War, the most violent and nasty conflict in the long twilight struggle between GDI and Nod over Tiberium and the fate of the human race. During this global firestorm the stakes will get even higher: Humanity will learn that it is not alone in the universe and that it is not the only race fighting for Tiberium.
New to Command & Conquer 3 is a third faction - an alien race called the Scrin introduced in the middle of our single player campaign. The arrival of the Scrin opens up the C&C universe and provides a tremendous third act reversal in the game story.
FiringSquad: What's the toughest thing about bringing back the classic C&C setting after several years and making it fresh for both fans of the series and new players?
Mike Verdu and Michael Glosecki: You’ve put the finger on the most difficult challenge we’ve faced: Making a game that is fresh but familiar, that has the innovation and new features you’d expect from a state-of-the-art 2007 RTS game but is also a Command & Conquer game at heart. I think we’ve found the right balance. Command & Conquer 3 is built on fast, fluid, and fun RTS game play, a terrific single player experience with 38 missions and a rich story told through the FMV cutscenes (will be familiar to fans of the series), and innovative new multiplayer modes that turn RTS into a spectator sport. People who have never played a Command & Conquer game will get a chance to experience the fast and furious gameplay and the deep story that have inspired millions of fans throughout the years. Those who love Command & Conquer will feel like they are coming home.
For the Xbox 360 specifically, we also found ways to make the game more accessible. We’ve introduced a streamlined interface that allows you to control the various parts of your army in the heat of battle even while your units or structures are not on the screen. For example, as the GDI player you can select and control your base’s War Factory from any part of the map, tell it to build some Predator tanks, and then send those tanks to your current location all from within the same interface.
FiringSquad: The GDI and Nod conflict is of course the centerpoint of the C&C universe but you are also bringing in a new alien threat as a third playable faction. Why was this decision made?
Mike Verdu and Michael Glosecki: The foundation for the alien presence was put into place during Tiberian Sun – we got a definite clue in that game that the universe was bigger than just GDI and Nod. And it feels good to be finally opening up the fiction and taking the storyline to the next level. There are also game reasons to introduce a new faction.
GDI and Nod have very well-defined identities and associated gameplay styles. At a basic level, the GDI player will rely on massive firepower to win games, building tanks and aircraft that are heavily armed and armored and engaging opponents directly with a frontal assault. Nod players rely on speed and stealth, controlling maneuverable and somewhat exotic units that tend to be smaller and faster - and are better suited to guerrilla tactics. Both of these are the classic strategies in the Command & Conquer universe.
The Scrin faction introduces a new play style. The alien player will use both finesse and brute force at different times during a game. Alien early game units are weaker than their GDI and Nod counterparts and the Scrin player must be fast on his feet to stay alive, but if you let the Scrin player climb the tech tree, you’ll face the most powerful units in the game: Huge tripod walkers with three independently targeted beam weapons, vast flying artillery platforms, carriers with swarms of fighters, and the ultimate mobile superweapon: A Scrin mothership that flies majestically across the battlefield until it reaches an enemy base. Then watch out.