Like many users on this forum and in the C&C Fanbase, I was introduced to C&C at a very young age. I was introduced to it by way of a neighbor playing C&C Red Alert. The love affair grew from that point onward. I remember at one point playing C&C all day and getting in trouble with my parents for neglecting responsibilities. Fast forward into the early stages of my adult life. Although StarCraft II is an amazing game and well worth my attention, it doesn't hold the same place in my heart as C&C does. It sadden me to see C&C 4 as a send off to the Tiberium universe as it threw the baby of the bathwater out in the process of changing the water and perhaps the tub. At the same time, truly great games innovate while others are popular for a while then fall to the wayside. EA and Westwood don't share complete blame for the trouble of the series, nor do they each have complete credit for it's continued success. How much is owed to each is a debatable point, but that is beside the issue of my post.
Here are some of my suggestions on what I think would be worthwhile reboot to the C&C franchise: Some of you may ask or snidely comment "why should I care about what some random dude on the internet thinks about C&C?" At some point or another, we are all random behind our screen names.Please address these on the merit of the idea, not through snide cynicism.
The criticism of C&C stagnating over the past few years has merit. While the idea of innovation with C&C 4 was appreciated, the end result was not. The core mechanics of C&C itself are strong, while needing a few minor adjustments, can stand on their own. What should be implemented are different styles of game modes for something like Skirmish. Standard Seek and Destroy should always remain a staple of the C&C franchise, other game types should be implemented. King of the Hill, territorial control,VIP etc. are all possible ideas. Careful attention should be made to insure that certain core gameplay mechanics are kept in order to allow familiarity but not seem as if the mode was something foreign. This is what I felt was the problem with C&C 4. While differing game modes were a step in the right direction, throwing out a staple such as base building was too much of a shock.
Leveling and progressing was something C&C 4 tried and other C&C's implemented to a much minor scale (every so many missions, a new unit was unlocked for the player to control and use as a tool for their arsenal). That has a place in C&C, but I don't think in Multiplayer. It would be awesome for that to have a place in a Single Player, or heck even a Multi Person Co-Op Campaign, but not for Competitive multiplayer. I often reflect on being able to chose different missions or different paths for the mission as being a marginal difference at best. Uprising had a decent, but flawed implementation of "leveling".
This was true of earlier C&C titles, event the earliest ones. For example, if I hold Libya, I should be granted a perk relating to oil, which benefits producing vehicles at a lower cost or reduced build times. If I am conquering territory, I want to feel like my choices matter and holding territory has a significant value aside from a win or loss for that particular battle. While some may counter and claim that was in the battlefield itself (Oil Derricks', etc.) They would be correct in stating that, but it would be hard pressed to say this would affect production on a global level. Geography should matter in the game, as well as the distribution of resources through out it.
2. Roles and Character development.
RA 2, ZH and KW made a decent decision for allowing the player to have access to a specific sub-faction of their respective faction. While the amount of difference the sub-faction made on overall tactics can be debated, allowing different factions to have different tactics, but all being effective would be consistent with a core philosophy of C&C. Make certain sub-factions feel as if they aren't compromising anything to perform tactics, but are powerful in their own right to perform a task.
As far as characters, while they may depend on the context and universe on the story, should generally be compelling. If the guy I am attacking is a genuine slime bag, he could be seen as treating his men poorly, ruthless on the battlefield, etc. Conversely, if I have an ally, I should feel compelled to defend him apart from the promise of military support. All of us can remember when Crazy Ivan blew away General Carville. I made it my personal mission upon entering Moscow to raze it to the ground. When Kane returned in TS, a shiver went down my back as I finally thought to myself :"with the infighting done, we can finally proceed with handing GDI their behinds".Having the world in black and white would not be fun, as characters could be grey and that would add complexity and variation to the game. The game should be emotionally engaging as well as mentally engaging. Which leads into my next point:
To deny that music had an influence on C&C would be a mistake. Artists like Frank Klepacki and Jarred Mendelson were influential in establishing the atmosphere of the game. Is that to say that new artists shouldn't be brought in? nope, if anything I think a few should be considered (Jack Wall, Michael McCann. Hans Zimmer, Inon Zur just to name a few). While I personally would like to see Frank Klepacki in the next C&C project, music should not be treated as secondary in the next C&C. Please bring back the Jukebox. A good compromise would allow the user to select music driven by the circumstances of the battle, or let users select the jukebox option. Allowing gamers to have options in playing the game is crucial in creating a successful C&C game.
4. User generated content.
In the past, much like other PC games, Modding and user created content was considered a staple. As humans, it is when we interact with others and learn from others that we grow and improve. Art and Technology is no different. While it may be convenient to push DLC over user generated content, particularly to the stock holders, the two can co exist. While there can be DLC created by the development studio themselves, encouraging users to create their own content is considered essential. If the modding project is good enough, take it up under your wing, assist the creator and offer them a cut of whatever money is made. When users feel like they can participate in the system as opposed to being processed as consumers, trust in your product will increase. Within our economic system, competition has a place and it allows people to improve ideas. Collaboration should be considered as well. Taking a look at Valve in this respect could be a decent idea. Which leads me to my next consideration.
5. Lead platform, DRM, distribution.
Although many console users would love to have C&C on their consoles, the current generation is not equipped to handle the demands of what should be (atleast in my judgement) the next installment of the C&C franchise. While it may seem popular and may appear to make the most sense to many shareholders and officers of EA, consider the following. With consoles having limited hardware that cannot be upgraded, by creating a high quality product, then having to remove features would seem like a slap in the face. Even though if those features were implemented, it cause instability within the console (untolerable fps, huge install footprint,etc). Creating a product that contains minimal improvements but can run on a wide variety of systems, although may have the potential for having a wide audience, may not catch on.
It would be better to create a worthwhile product on one platform that can be the best it can be than to have a mediocre to horrible product across all platforms. While the next C&C game could be multi platform, careful consideration would have to be given to what was considered "Lead" with other factors such as what is put in vs taken out. The PC would be the best because it has a wide array of hardware that is more advanced (within the PC gaming community atleast) than what consoles currently have. It also has the open nature which would provide C&C the lifeblood it would need to produce a great game. With that being said:
Drop intrusive DRM or don't even consider at all. Ubisoft thought by enacting it's DRM, it would curb piracy. It only reduced sales of their games on PC and possibly even increased piracy. Listen to the pirating and hacker community. It may look good to shareholders, but if shareholders took a closer look, it would fall apart. Make the game itself and help the gamers feel that the game is great and should be purchased. Not by way of coercion, but by voluntary action. Put out Betas periodically, put out a demo BEFORE launch, patch games quickly, provide great connection services. Care about the game, not just a haphazardly put together game for the sake of profit. People liked that about Westwood, as C&C was their baby and not another game in list of game portfolios. No one will care about this game and treat it with respect until you guys do. Make piracy the uncool thing to do because people will be missing out. People have a need for a sense of community, play that up.
These are some of my thoughts, and if you read this, thank you. I know it was rather lengthy and isn't easy to read, nor is it a simple to do list of how to make the next C&C game great. This is simply the reflection of 21 year old C&C lover who wants to see C&C back in it's glory.