Articles & Editorials: The Future of the Command & Conquer Franchise

  • Date: 17/04/2014 | Author: Sonic

It’s time for us as a community and as fans to gaze into our crystal ball and look at the currently clouded future of the Command & Conquer franchise. First things first though, we have absolutely no idea when EA will restart the franchise. The only solid lead we have is that it will be under a new studio, a new team and possibly a new direction. But for now let’s explore some of the possible directions. Everyone has their own opinions on this subject.  Moving forward, what is the ideal direction for the franchise?

Restart the Command & Conquer Free to Play Project

A new studio could, in theory, take the assets that Victory Games were working on and simply pick up where they left off when the game was cancelled and Victory Games was closed back in October 2013. This is probably the least likely scenario because Victory Games’ Command & Conquer game was axed for a specific reason… it wasn’t good enough, and that’s a hard thing for me to say because I always felt they were heading in the right direction. The elements were there to make a great game, but it just wasn’t coming together. Given more time, Victory Games probably could have got it sorted and we would all be enjoying the open beta testing right now, or better yet, the game would have been officially launched and we could have been anticipating the much welcomed single player content that was announced around the same time as CommandCOM/Gamescom last August.

CnC_Intro_LoadingScreenSo could a new studio pick up the still smouldering ashes of this cancelled project? By all means yes. But would the fan-base accept it? Probably not. As disappointing as the cancellation of the last game was and the closure of Victory Games was a crushing blow, the general consensus among many fans was it might have been a blessing in disguise for the franchise. The community never really accepted the whole “Free to Play” concept, in fear of the whole “Pay to Win” part  that seemed to inherently follow it. When we talked to the Victory Games development team during the C&C Community Summit way back in December 2012, they did a great job explaining their ideas even though they hadn’t actually fleshed out the monetary side of things at the time. If a new team continues this game, they will be fighting the same uphill battle again.

Return to Command & Conquer: Generals 2

Technically speaking, the cancelled Command & Conquer was Generals 2. But then again it wasn’t. I know lots of people were calling it Generals 2, but it really wasn’t anything of the sort. It was the new live platform and the Generals universe was the first universe to be part of it because that’s the direction Victory Games decided to take. But wouldn’t it be great for a new team to go back to what was originally revealed to us in the latter part of 2011?
Returning to Command & Conquer: Generals 2 wouldn’t be a bad thing and would probably be universally accepted by the fans. We would get the long overdue sequel to C&C Generals that we should have gotten. An actual boxed product with a shiny DVD inside that has full campaigns for the EU, GLA and APA. As well as a polished and balanced multiplayer so the game has its much needed longevity. The basis of the game is there because, before the change to the free to play Command & Conquer platform, Victory Games had completed a lot of design work on what was still Command & Conquer: Generals 2. They had concept art, story boards for the plot of the game, even some short live action video was completed, featuring actors portraying Generals for the EU, GLA and APA. These were never shown publicly, but I’ve seen them. They were cool too!

Generals 2 Logo

If EA were to restart with Command & Conquer: Generals 2, it would help smooth over the damage EA has done with last year’s cancellation. But you know there would be immense pressure on this new team to deliver the goods. The likelihood of this happening is probably around the 60/40 mark by my estimation. But this is EA we’re talking about, who knows what they have planned.

Reboot Command & Conquer

This most likely won’t happen, but it would be fun to explore. A new development team could possibly go back to the start of the original GDI/Nod/Kane storyline and do it all again from a fresh perspective. Rebooting a franchise is nothing new in the gaming industry, successful reboots were Medal of Honor in 2010, and more recently, Tomb Raider made a triumphant return with a new look. But rebooting something like Command & Conquer won’t come easy. Would the fans simply want an “HD remake” of the original game? Or a new storyline altogether. If this were to happen, the best solution would be the new storyline direction. As a comparison, it could be done like J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies. The same key characters, but set a slightly different or alternate universe. They wouldn’t dare make Kane different would they?

cnc

The whole alternate universe idea gives this new team some freedom and flexibility in terms of not staying canon. This has been a problem since development of the Command & Conquer franchise shifted from Westwood Studios to EALA. Some would say as far back as Red Alert 2. New developers, with new fresh ideas, that is a good thing. But the games broke away from what was considered “Command & Conquer canon”. For example, Tiberium Wars was full of plot holes and dates that contradicted other events in the time-line. Kane’s Wrath kind of plugged the gaps, but made the whole story more complex than it should have been. This was a result of the amount time between Tiberian Sun in 1999 and Tiberium Wars in 2007, plus a new group working on the game.

So when you take all that into account, you can see rebooting has its pitfalls, but if done right, like the modern Star Trek movies, it can work out well and be successful. Personally, I’d rather see the Tiberium universe left where it ended in Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight, despite it being a weak finale for what was an epic saga, well, up to that point anyway.

A New Command & Conquer – A New Universe

What about something entirely new? Wipe the slate clean and start with a blank canvas. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea. The new team, whoever it shall be, will have the same freedom and flexibility I discussed earlier. Even more so if a completely new universe and storyline were to be created. Just imagine a fresh new story that has meaningful characters. Rich deep factions with vast armies to command. Don’t forget, Command & Conquer is about controlling large scale battles, this is something a new universe would need to emphasize.

cnc_newGoing in this direction raises many questions. Is the new universe a Sci-Fi one, modern warfare, set in the past or the future? What type of factions and how many? Well those are all good questions, but really the subject of another article. Remember we’re just exploring ideas for the future of the franchise here. Of course these are the questions the new developers and designers will have to answer. But what the new game will have to embrace is the focus on the return to Command & Conquer’s roots. The base building, the resource collecting and most importantly, the unique strategy.

Another reason that I feel is the strongest reason to support the idea of brand new universe is the fact it gets away from the somewhat tarnished Tiberium and Red Alert names. Let’s face it, the last entries in each respective universe haven’t done the franchise any justice. Red Alert 3 in 2008 was a solid RTS, a true Red Alert that is fun to play, but it was extremely disappointing in the sales department. And of course we had to endure the massive failure that was Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight. Four years later and people still hate the game as much as they did when it was released in 2010. You can see why a brand new universe would be the best way to go.

What About Another Command & Conquer FPS?

What if EA decided to take a big risk, throw some caution to the wind as the old saying goes, and revisit the idea of a Command & Conquer First Person Shooter. Command & Conquer’s history in this genre is not so great. On the official side of things, Command & Conquer Renegade in 2002 was Westwood’s first foray in the 3D First Person Shooter market. The idea was cool but poorly executed in terms of the single player, but thankfully the brilliant multiplayer saved the game from being a total flop. Fast forward to 2014, we can now enjoy the fantastic Renegade multiplayer mayhem all over again thanks to Totem Arts delivering Renegade X to the community.

tiberium-fps-concept29In 2008, EA did attempt to develop and ultimately fail with their Tiberium FPS game. This game had some cool concepts but it was cancelled due to what EA called quality concerns. Fair enough, if the overall game is rubbish, no one will buy it.

I know I said it would be a risk for EA to test Command & Conquer in the overcrowded ocean that is the First Person Shooter market. But it’s a risk that could work and pay off. They have a development studio who specialise in these types of games, that being DICE. They have what is arguably the best 3D engine in the industry, the Frostbite engine, developed by DICE. It also opens up developing for Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4. Because we all know an RTS game doesn’t translate to consoles all too well. And standalone PC games are declining.

If EA don’t reboot Command & Conquer or start again with a new universe, an FPS is probably more a safe bet rather than a risk. Better yet, why can’t we have both? Create the new universe, one studio develops the new Command & Conquer RTS and have another studio create the FPS set in this new universe. Perhaps I’m over reaching here, but it would be great to see.

The Conclusion

Well the final conclusion is a hard one to pin down. As you can tell, I’m very much in favour of the new universe idea. I’m sure many will think the same way, many will also disagree. But one thing is for certain, Command & Conquer has a future, it will return. EA knows it is still a profitable name in the gaming industry. The return of the franchise just has to be done right.

Oh yeah, there is poll for this article, so vote on what you think is best way to go for the future of Command & Conquer.

What is the Future of the Command & Conquer Franchise?

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