It's been a while since the Red Alert side of EA's Command & Conquer series made an appearance, and many of the game's fans were probably despairing that the game would never rear its over-the-top RTS head ever again. Those fears were allayed last month when EALA announced that Red Alert 3 was most definitely in the pipeline. We spoke to the game's executive producer, Chris Corry, about all things Red Alert 3, and while he didn't spill too much information, he did have some interesting things to say about Xbox 360 and PC cross-functionality, moving traditional PC games to consoles, and their plans for naval combat in the new game.
GameSpot AU: Command & Conquer 3: Red Alert 3 will appear on the PC, Xbox 360, and the PS3. The series is best known for its PC roots--why focus so strongly on consoles now?
Chris Corry: The development of Red Alert 3 is being led on the PC, as all of our RTS projects are out of EALA. The RTS genre, and Command & Conquer in particular, was born on the PC, and that's where you'll find the full expression of the genre's potential. The team is focused on making a great PC RTS as its foremost goal.
That said, we've had some real success on the console with The Battle for Middle-earth II and Command & Conquer 3, and we're continually improving that experience (check out the new radial controls in the Xbox 360 version of Kane's Wrath this summer). We passionately believe that the core compulsions of RTS can work in console games, and we're convinced that as an industry we're evolving toward something wholly unique, something that is likely to eventually look and feel like something quite different from the PC experience. Of course this will take some time and we won't fully get there with Red Alert 3. But it is coming someday.
GS AU: Will the three versions be different from one another in any way? Are you planning any exclusive features for the three versions?
CC: We aren't getting into too many specifics about the console version of Red Alert 3 right now, other than to say we are continuing to work on improving the RTS interface. Stay tuned for more information soon.
GS AU: You seem to have some more time-travel shenanigans in the game. Thematically, how does this game fit into the Red Alert universe?
CC: Red Alert 3 is no different from all of our Red Alert games; time travel and the unintended consequences that always seem to arise from it is the central theme throughout the entire series. As a developer, this licence to create alternate histories and universes gives us an incredible amount of freedom. We love letting our imaginations run wild and it helps us bring distinct, fun worlds to life.
GS AU: What can you tell us about the strengths and weaknesses for each faction? Will there be significant differences from previous games?
CC: The Allies and Soviets are back and while they have each gone through some changes and have a lot of great new units and superpowers, they're still similar to Red Alert 2--and that's completely deliberate. We want them to feel familiar but we also know players are going to want a lot of new toys to play with.
Where we have a little more freedom for new, drastic changes is with The Empire of the Rising Sun. Japan was a terrific choice for us because of the country's deep wealth of cultural and historical touchstones which we can build off of. They are going to be a technologically advanced faction that will pose a lot of problems for the Soviets and Allies. A lot of the new mechanics in Red Alert 3 (like transforming units) will be found on the third side.
GS AU: How important is the single-player campaign to the Red Alert 3 mix? Will this game primarily be a multiplayer experience?
CC: Like all C & C games, the story-driven campaign for Red Alert 3 is going to be a key part of the experience, featuring over an hour of HD, live-action cutscenes. Each faction will have its own campaign with 8 to 10 missions each. And best of all you'll be able to play through the story-driven campaign with a friend.
All of our missions are being designed around the idea that you’ll have a cocommander at your side, giving us a tremendous opportunity to introduce some great new elements to your typical RTS campaign. And since you won't always have to have a friend available online, each faction will have three artificial intelligence generals that you can employ in lieu of a human partner. These generals have different play styles and personality, keeping the experience fresh and interesting even when playing alone. We're not talking a lot about multiplayer right now as we're still locking down exactly what our final feature set will be. Expect to hear more soon.
GS AU: You've named some pretty wacky units so far. What other highlights can we expect to see in the final game?
CC: Our goal with Red Alert 3 is to delight players new to the Red Alert 3 universe, while providing a familiar, comfortable update for those fans who have stuck with us through the years. Five minutes into firing up the game, there will be no doubt that this is a Red Alert game through and through. Our units are going to be as fun and creative as possible as that's always been one of the key parts of the series. And that's a critically important goal for the game--to stay true to the game's fun, lighthearted tone, while bringing new features to the genre like story-driven campaign co-op, a third faction (for the first time in Red Alert history), and an increased emphasis on naval warfare.
GS AU: Tell us about naval action in the game. How has it changed from previous RAs?
CC: We've never gotten navy exactly right in a game before--I don't know that any RTS really has. In the past, most RTS games have kept naval game play at arm's length and treated it as a minor, purely peripheral experience. This time around we're bringing naval game play into the heart of the game design, making it a first-class partner with the land and air game. The player that can master the seas will master the world of Red Alert 3.
GS AU: Why is humour so important to the series?
CC: When you look at the Command & Conquer universe, we clearly have three separate fictions with Red Alert, Tiberium, and Generals. Red Alert has always had that Bruckheimer-esque, popcorn-movie feel--it's something the fans really clasped onto, something that we love doing and something that is innate to Red Alert.
As designers, it gives us a lot of creativity. This is a world where a single phone call can lead to the loss of your free will, where war zeppelins rule the sky and armoured Tesla Troopers annihilate their foes with blasts of electricity. Its fun, it's lighthearted and yes, on occasion it's even a little goofy. With the time travel mechanic we definitely take continuity less seriously and we're willing to take chances with ideas that, even when they're offered up seriously, skew a bit ridiculous if you think about them too long--the armoured bear in the Soviet faction, for example.
GS AU: Have you considered using Live Anywhere functionality (PC versus 360)?
CC: We're doing some exciting new things in the area of console controls that are really improving RTS gameplay with a controller. However, you still can't match the efficiency a PC player will have, and it would very likely be an unfair fight. While the PC and console games will have the same content, the same missions and so forth, the user interface differences make them feel like two very distinct experiences. We believe that any attempt to cross-pollinate them would end up diluting them both.
GS AU: You've announced that those who buy the limited edition of Tiberium Wars or its Kane's Wrath expansion pack will get access to the beta later this year. When is that planned? What will the beta encompass?
CC: The beta is coming out this summer and while I can't share any specifics yet, you can be sure there will be a lot for everyone to get their hands on. We really value our community's feedback and are looking forward to giving them a glimpse of the game.
GS AU: And finally, one cheeky question. Is former GameSpot editor Greg Kasavin working on this?
CC: He is indeed and doing a terrific job as one of the game's producers. It's hardly surprising, but he's a natural. Of course Greg is just one of many dozens of heroes that we have on this team, extraordinarily creative and gifted gamemakers who have vast reservoirs of passion and enthusiasm for Command & Conquer and RTS.
GS AU: Chris Corry, thanks for your time.