At the Spike TV Video Game Awards tonight, BioWare followed through with its weeks-long tease of a new project in development, announcing Command & Conquer: Generals 2. In development at the rebranded BioWare Victory, the PC-exclusive strategy title posits a world in which all of civilization's leaders and diplomats have been assassinated by terrorists, leaving only military heads to rule.
To find out what BioWare Victory has in store, GameSpot spoke with EA BioWare label head Dr. Ray Muzyka and Generals 2 executive producer Jon Van Caneghem.
GameSpot: Unlike other games in the series, the original Generals had little story to speak of. BioWare is known for its attention to story. Will story be a significant part of Generals 2, and if so, will it be as over-the-top as other C&C games?
Ray Muzyka: One of the things we're most excited about in adding strategy to our portfolio is finding a way to incorporate BioWare's vision of genuine emotional engagement and quality, including the attention to story and narrative, in a way that is fresh, new, and additive to the genre. I think story has always played an important role in the C&C franchise, more overtly in the Tiberium and Red Alert universes with the FMV cutscenes than in Generals, which takes place in a more modern, serious setting. We are definitely keeping to that tone in Generals 2, delivering over-the-top action, but also incorporating a more intense, gritty story. The key is that we’re thinking about story as an additive element, rather than something that replaces what fans loved in the original Generals game.
GS: Fans are still smarting over Command & Conquer 4 and its perceived missteps. What would you say to anyone concerned that Generals 2 might stray too far from what made its predecessor so good?
Jon Van Caneghem: Generals 2 is a return to the roots of core C&C gameplay, balancing fast-paced action with strategic decision-making. The best C&C games are known for being accessible but also challenging to master, and we are embracing that at the heart of the game design. Most importantly, we've heard the fans and we're bringing back the elements of C&C they love--bases, resources, and giant armies.
GS: This is the first strategy game using the Frostbite engine. What does the technology allow you to do that you might not have been able to do with another engine?
JVC: Frostbite 2 is an amazing, cutting-edge piece of technology which allows us to produce a level of detail in the units and environments and destruction on a scale that really hasn't been done in the genre before. We can make incredibly visceral experiences thanks to the robust physics and particle systems in Frostbite 2. Additionally, the engine allows us to create high-detail cinematics that are all in-game, which will keep the level of immersion we want to achieve with Generals.
GS: Fans expect over-the-top explosions and attitude in a C&C game. How will you build on the explosiveness and craziness of past installments?
JVC: I think fans of C&C and Generals will be happy to know that we are fully embracing the tone, attitude, and style of the first Generals in Generals 2. At the same time, there's plenty of room to spice up the action and intensity and to personalize the storytelling through better character development.
GS: How much concern was there about making this game exclusively for the PC? Are we finally satisfied that these types of strategy games don't work well (or maybe just don't sell well) on consoles?
JVC: There have been a lot of great strides made over the past few years in terms of creating an audience for strategy games on the consoles. But for this project, our goal is to really bring C&C back to its roots. We want to really reestablish the franchise as one of the key players in the strategy genre, and the best way for us to do that is on PC.
That said, there are certainly interesting new developments in interface across a number of platforms, and we're always interested in exploring new ways to surprise and delight our fans.
GS: BioWare has been branching out from its traditional RPG niche to MMORPGs, Facebook games, and now the strategy genre with Generals. Is there a trade-off you have to make in losing some of the specific brand identity in order to expand your offerings like this?
RM: We have always viewed the BioWare brand as one that isn't tied to a specific genre, but rather to our core vision, which is to deliver powerful, immersive experiences that engage our players emotionally. This can be achieved in many genres, whether they be RPGs, MMOs, social games, strategy, play-for-free "light" MMOs or RPGs, and more. How we do that definitely will vary from genre to genre, game to game, and from team to team, but that's a key part of the value we strive to deliver to our fans in every game from BioWare, regardless of genre.
GS: The studio was originally announced as Victory Games back in February. Why rebrand it as a BioWare studio at this point?
RM: When BioWare became its own label within EA, one of the biggest opportunities we had was to carefully consider ways to expand our portfolio. We (and I) have always been huge fans of the strategy genre--I met with Jon and his team and found we shared a lot of the same core values and commitment to quality. I am thrilled to have Jon and his team on board in the BioWare label.
JVC: For our team, joining BioWare has been a tremendous opportunity for us to join a studio we've long admired. I've always respected the studio's commitment to quality and dedication to their fans. We are all excited to be part of the BioWare family.