Real-time strategy games began as an attempt to turn the deliberate pace of the classic turn-based strategy game into a quicker, more urgent experience that let you harvest resources, build a base of operations from scratch, and churn out an army as quickly as possible to crush your foes. They've become even faster and more action-packed over the years, thanks to contributions from the long-lived Command & Conquer series, which has always been about fast-paced matches between players sparring with the largest and most powerful armies they can muster. The next game in the Command & Conquer line, Red Alert 3, will continue the tradition of action-packed gameplay, but will have a slightly more methodical pace, since it will include both ground-based and naval action that will require players to scout intelligently or risk getting shut out by an opponent who decided to take to the water instead. It'll also continue the Red Alert series' tradition of unorthodox units, over-the-top weapons, and tongue-in-cheek humor. This time around, we sat down with producer Greg Kasavin to discuss the game's Allied faction.
GameSpot: We've seen the Soviets, we've seen the Japanese. Now tell us what the Allied faction brings to Red Alert 3, besides unrivaled courage, patriotism, and dashing good looks.
Greg Kasavin: The Allies lend the world of Red Alert 3 a bit of sanity and balance, since they represent the forces of the world trying to avoid getting consumed by the Soviet war machine and now, the Empire of the Rising Sun as well. On top of that, they give the game a bit of international flair. The Allies aren't just a bunch of dudes from North America--they're a truly global faction, united by the need to fight for their freedom against the Soviet onslaught. This comes across in the personalities of some of the units, who add up to make the Allies feel really different from the Soviets or the Rising Sun, while at the same time avoiding a lot of typical cliches of being the "good guy" faction.
Since they're an international coalition, the Allies have some pretty sophisticated, well-crafted technology to help keep them alive. They have some of the trickiest, most open-ended combat tactics of all three factions, and some of the most powerful and unique support powers and special abilities. Players who prefer a defensive approach or to win by outsmarting their opponents will probably like controlling the Allies quite a bit. Then again, so will anyone who likes the idea of massive amphibious warships, orbital satellite defense networks, or smooth-talking spies who can bribe their enemies into turning coats.
GS: When the Soviets sent time-traveling assassins to the past to take out Einstein, what effect does this have on the Allies, besides nullifying the victory over the Soviets as detailed in the first two Red Alert games?
GK: We don't want to spoil too much, but in effect, this change put the Allies on the defensive against the Soviets rather than the other way around. This manifests itself in some new and different Allied technologies as compared with previous games, although strangely enough, the Soviets' time-traveling shenanigans didn't completely eliminate all of the Allies' best weapons... Returning Red Alert fans should find that the Allies have a rather convenient mix of old and new weapons to work with, ranging from classics like Attack Dogs and Aircraft Carriers to powerful new units like Athena Cannons and Century Bombers.
GS: Command & Conquer titles have a long history of enlisting Hollywood talent to star in the many between-mission cutscenes. Tell us about former Playboy playmate Jenny McCarthy and her role as Tanya the commando. Will she have a propaganda attack in which she drops centerfolds on enemy headquarters, diverting attention from production? Please say yes.
OK, no. But seriously, Jenny McCarthy made a great choice for Tanya because of her looks and her personality, as well as her acting experience. She was a natural fit for the particular tone and style of Red Alert 3, and I think you'll find that she nails the performance for this character. She also makes for a great counterpart to Gemma Atkinson's much more straightlaced Lieutenant Eva McKenna. Notwithstanding her defiantly blonde hair, I think fans of Red Alert will find that Ms. McCarthy's Tanya is a more than worthy successor to the character's legacy. I mean, she's unbelievable looking and has plenty of clever things to say. What's not to like?
GS: Since Einstein isn't around to lend his inventions to the Allied cause, what are some of the new units and vehicles the Allies have at their disposal?
GK: The Allies have a lot of great new units at their disposal, no thanks to Einstein. Their Assault Destroyers are massive warships that can drive up on land and lay waste to most enemies on the ground with their main guns, or they can switch on their black-hole armor to automatically absorb enemy fire in vicinity. This lets them protect more lightly armored forces like the Hydrofoils, fast-moving ships with devastating antiaircraft weapons and a special weapon-jammer device that prevents foes from firing. The Allies also have some of the best aircraft in the game, ranging from their Vindicator precision bombers to their experimental Cryocopters. Cryocopters can freeze enemies to the point where they can be shattered by even the lightest hit, and their special ability shrinks foes down to a ridiculous, easily crushable size.
Naturally, shrunken foes all speak in high-pitched voices. Wait'll you hear a shrunken Apocalypse Tank.
GS: Red Alert 3 is being designed with cooperative play in mind. What are some challenges for designing a strategy game with two commanders in mind? Can you give us an example of a mission with some co-op objectives?
GK: One of the most exciting aspects of making Red Alert 3 was coming up with mission designs revolving around cooperative play. This unlocked a lot of new opportunities for us, and made us check a whole bunch of tired assumptions at the door. What we ended up with is a series of campaigns that feel livelier, more exciting, and less overwhelming than what you typically get trying to save the world in a real-time strategy game. You'll always have someone fighting at your side, backing you up. If you've ever played RTS games online, then you probably already have an impression of why two-on-two matches feel better than one-on-one battles. Not only does playing with an ally give you a little more margin for error, it unlocks a ton of new strategic opportunities that are fun to explore.
Of course, Red Alert 3 is fully playable in single-player mode. When playing the campaigns solo, you'll fight alongside one of nine different co-Commander characters; depending on the campaign, some of them will be your friends while others will be your foes. This supporting cast is really strong overall, and I think Command & Conquer fans will come away with some favorite new characters from this lot.
As for examples of our co-op objectives, many of them involve splitting the players' attention across multiple fronts. You get to naturally divide up the responsibilities, decide which objectives you want to focus on, split your forces or work together, and much more. While some objectives limit the types of resources available to each player, for the most part our co-op experience is open-ended and flexible, and should reward players' creativity while offering a lot of replayability.
GS: Who would win in a fight? Jenny McCarthy or George Takei?
GK: You'll have to watch the making-of DVD in the Premier edition of Red Alert 3 to find out.
OK, no. I don't know.
GS: RTS games like Dawn of War II and Company of Heroes adopted some role-playing elements like persistent upgrades to your units. How are you planning to get players more emotionally invested in their squads and units?
GK: As mentioned, in the solo campaign we'll have you working with a variety of interesting co-Commander characters, who'll be experiencing the events of the story alongside you. I think players will get pretty attached to some of these guys, and it'll be interesting to have to fight against them as well as alongside them depending on which campaign you're playing. Better yet, these co-Commander characters extend into the skirmish experience of the game, making your standard battle against the computer feel much more personal than you might expect.
Beyond that, we've put a lot of effort into making our core faction units interesting and memorable each in their own right. Have a look at the unit profiles on our official Web site for examples of this. Members of each unit in Red Alert 3 have dozens of unique lines of dialogue and their own unique voices and personalities that represents a facet of the three factions in the game. We think players will find our units to be memorable, quotable, and just a lot of fun to play with.
Plus, if you kill enough stuff, they get a little star next to their health bars, which causes them to deal more damage and regenerate their health. This helps make you more attached to them, too.
GS: There's more of an emphasis on naval combat in Red Alert 3. Tell us about some of the unique amphibious units such as aquatic tanks and hybrid jets/submarines. Don't forget about rocket-launcher-equipped dolphins.
GK: You have been grossly misinformed, my good man: The dolphins in Red Alert 3 have sonic disruptors, not rocket launchers.
Some of the coolest units in Red Alert 3 are the navy units, if only because they're some of the biggest and most powerful fighting forces in the game. Some of the most impressive ones include the Soviet Dreadnought, armed with three massive rocket launchers, and the Empire of the Rising Sun's Shogun Battleship, which has six main guns that pack so much punch, they make the ship rock back and forth as it fires. The Shogun's special ability lets it barrel straight through enemy vessels, crashing into them and destroying them. These are some of the most colorful characters in the game, too. Since very few RTS games even bother with navy, and fewer still bother giving their naval units actual human voices, I think you'll find a lot of rich personalities in here. My favorite is probably the Soviet Akula Sub, whose captain sounds like he's starting to wig out from having been down underwater for so long...
GS: Is the co-op mode a separate mode from the single-player campaign, or is the entire campaign designed with a second commander in mind, be it AI or user controlled?
GK: All three campaigns can be played through alone or with another human player, and you're free to switch it up in between missions if you like. The computer-controlled characters are designed to support you without forcing you to micromanage them, yet you still have a fine level of control over them if you want it. And when playing with a friend, there are even more ways to tackle any of the interesting problems the game throws at you. With three campaigns' worth of missions like this, plus multiple difficulty levels, there should be plenty here to keep you busy for a good while. And of course, there are skirmish and multiplayer modes on top of that.
GS: Thanks for the time.
GK: My pleasure!