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Krishmaj Blog

Are EA overworking a Franchise?

So - with me being a die-hard fan of Command & Conquer, you might expect me to be completely pumped up with excitement over the fact that there are 3 C&C games in development for release within the next year right now. But then again, maybe you've already realised what this blog's about and think the exact opposite.

I dunno, I just can't help wondering if EA are perhaps overworking the C&C franchise a little. Okay - with Tiberium Wars the fans were clammering for a continuation to the Tiberium Universe, and they got it - kinda. Sure it wasn't what some of us were expecting ... but the basics were there at least. It ended up being a sort of average - but admittedly brave - stab at reinvigorating the series ... which was nice to be sure. But then - the inevitable expansion was announced ... AND a new game in the FPS section of the series ... AND a new continuation to the second universe of the franchise. Am I the only one who thinks that EA are very soon going to run out of ideas and the series will become stale?

Don't get me wrong - this could be just what the series needs - giving ALL the fans something to cheer about ... those of us who wanted to see where the Tiberium plague goes from here ... those of us with the tongue-in-cheek Red Alert series as our favourites, and those of us who want a different take on the whole thing. But then again - I get the feeling that EA are still working for the money, and not for the fans as much. There are still problems with Tiberium Wars - problems that the community are trying desperately to sort out, with very little help from EA. The 1.10 patch has taken many months to sort out, and though it isn't as important as some of the earlier, quicker patches, the fact that we know there IS a patch around waiting to come means that, I'm sure, many people aren't comfortable settling down into a particular strategy, for fear of having to change it once the patch eventually comes through.

Now, I myself never really thought that a Red Alert 3 would work, considering the whole point of it would be that the Allies and Soviets fought a world war ... AGAIN. That story just gets old after two times, ya know? Fortunately, EA seems to have some brains behind them, and have made a spectacularly brave attempt to take us back there anyway - however, some of the community seem to have misinterpreted it still. As far as I can tell, EA's story for RA3 means that RA2 never takes place - not, as some people think, that RA1 never happens. But then again, the way it looks, it seems that RA3 is going to be just as out-there as RA2, which I personally never cared much for myself. Could it just be a nicely-wrapped up way of making us play the same game just with better graphics ...

As for "Tiberium" ... well I'm sorry but I refuse to play a game with such a crap title to it. It sounds interesting story-wise ... it appears to open up the next chapter in the C&C universe - the Scrin Invasion. But since there is little info on this at the moment, we'll have to wait and see.

I just hope EA aren't expending all their energy and ideas right now, in order to win the fans back in the short-term, only to run completely dry in a couple of years time - thus losing all those fans all over again. I do agree - the series needed a shot in the arm to reintroduce it back to the gaming community, but hopefully that shot won't kill it all over again.

Universe at War - Earth Assault (DEMO)

Well, I had some time to play this demo this week - it's the only game I've played in the last 7 weeks (!!) and I have to say, it fulfilled all my pent-up gaming needs!

First of all, the first thing that I noticed that it actually ran completely fine on my not-built-for-gaming laptop - the graphics at "low" setting were still sharp and crisp (can't wait to see it on max settings on my PC!), and apart from some slightly choppy frames in the large battles (most certainly due to my poor processing power rather than the demo build itself), the game performed perfectly. So well done there - some demos I've played come out and feel like they're alpha builds - but this one seems to give a nice indication of the final product.

Next, wellI'll go through it point by point. The graphics are great - okay so it's not a Supreme Commander or a World in Conflict, but considering the type of game this is, I'd have to say the graphics are top-notch. Now I'm not one for supremely advanced graphics anyway, but sure I have standards still - and they were completely fulfilled. The environments on the map were nice - very natural where it was needed, and equally "urban" as required. The only problem I found was some of the background stuff - like cliffs, electricity pylons - were a bit lost and bland ... they were REALLY background, they were lost in the map. The models, however, were certainly not - conveying the scale of the Hierarchy Habitat Walkers is done really well, and aside from some slightly similar models (I kept on getting confused between the Reaper drones and the radar ones), the Hierarchy side seems very well done. Of course, there were only 2 levels and hardly any of the options available, but they were enough to convey the way that side plays.

(As it happens, the Hierarchy plays like I do - with the brute force approach!).

The general gameplay is good - nice and familiar for RTS players, with some nice additions to the standards. I really loved the hardpoint systems in Petroglyph's previous game Empire at War, and it was good to see a whole side dedicated to this form of play in the new game ... it was really good to be able to equip different walkers with different hardpoints so they served different functions on the field. Obviously having only played one side, I can't compare the Hierarchy to the others, but from what I've read, Petro have done a superb job balancing the differences to create unique sides in the same game.

Now, I come to the greatest part of the game for me - the sound and the music. I'm just going to say two words to sum up my feelings for this, so you can just stop reading after them ... FRANK KLEPACKI!!! Okay, now to elaborate - Frank Klepacki is the greatest game soundtrack composer ever!! Okay, now to elaborate further ... the music fits so perfectly it's unbelievable. Okay, so it may be music that changes depending on the situation (or it may not be, I didn't really experiment too much), but the tracks themselves are absolutely fantastic! Hard-rock and techno were the mainstay of the old Command & Conquer games by Westwood, and it's great to hear the same kind of stuff all over again in a new setting.

Overall, I honestly can say that I haven't been so content with a single game since I played Rise of Nations for the first time years ago ... and that ended up winning the hearts of many RTS gamersacross the world. I can easily see Universe at War doing same, and in the hands of the veterans of the RTS industry - Petroglyph - I reckon it'll be the first step to one of greatest franchises in the genre. All this, based on just the demo ...

Leaving for a While

Well, the time has come- I'm all grown up and I'm going to Uni tomorrow! Not that I'm leaving GS, no - certainly not! Nope, this is just a TEMPORARY leave of absence ... just for a couple of weeks max, until I get my life organised, and more importantly, get my internet connection all set up!

So, at the union - I leave it in the very capable hands of the officers and the recruits - a nice lot of people, all of them! And I trust that any news I'm unfortunate enough to miss will be posted as quickly as possible by one of the officers. Hopefully by the time I get back things will have picked up again there!

See you all in 2 weeks!

"RTS" Games = "S" Games?

It being the holidays, I've been playing a lot of games recently, and I've come to notice that a lot of my Real Time Strategy games are not so much Real Time as more joint-efforts of Real Time and Turn-based. For example, in RISE OF NATIONS, the campaign takes you across the world, fighting in each country to claim it as your own. Each actual battle is fought in real-time, fair enough, but once you're done, you proceed to the next "turn" in order to start another battle. Not very Real Time ...

... and this goes for virtually all my RTS games, with one exception that I can think of off the top of my head - Star Wars: Empire at War ... and even in that, the Galactic Map pauses during each planet-based battle. Of course, with many games being "mission" or "scenario" orientated, there is often no choice but to have "turns" of some kind, in order to preserve the sense that it's a series of missions, one after the other.

But take this as an example ...

... okay - in a game, your campaign is to fight through Europe, starting with a naval landing and then fighting inland to your objective (doesn't matter what it is). The situation is that, to start with, you have 4 separate, independent missions to accomplish:

  1. 1) Establish and holda beachhead base, and then destroy the nearby enemy forward base threatening your position.
  2. 2) Secure a nearbysupply depotof resources for yourself, so that you can push forward to the main enemy base.
  3. 3) Infiltrate the main enemy base with a Commando unit and take out their own economic capability.
  4. 4) Destroy the weakened base.

Now - I've actually taken these from the game Command & Conquer, where these were 4 completely separate missions. But, what if they were all done with one "ingame" session, without need for "Mission Accomplished" screens in between?

Imagine if you will, you start with your landing force. You clear a coast and establish your first base, and then using your starting resources you quickly finish off the nearby enemy base directly threatening your position (so Mission 1 complete). Then, while still ingame, you get word that scouts have located the main enemy base, as well as a nearby resource cache that you can use to fund your operations. Now, in C&C, this would be another 2 missions' work, but what if you were able to do these next 2 at the same time? In real life, this is what would happen ... while one was going on, the other would be too - if only to save time, but also to have the element of surprise.

So then, you take what forces you have from the previous battle (note that you DO NOT have to start over like in most games), and go to secure the resources. Meanwhile, AT THE SAME TIME, your Commando unit can be used to sneak into the much more heavily fortified and far-away main enemy base and disrupt its workings, allowing you precious time to build up your forces to hit the enemy hard. Note now that you've finished Missions 2 and 3, and already started on Mission 4, without ever leaving the game.

This is of course very basic, and straightforward. My personal ideal RTS game would be where EVERYTHING is done in real-time ... ranging from battles to base-building and even diplomacy (with times of course scaled down to fit the game!). But again, for example - Diplomacy.

Now, in most games, any diplomacy takes place off-screen, or in a separate window from the main view. In either case, once diplomacy starts, the main game stops. But sometimes there are situations where I would want the action to keep going, if, for example I'm "negotiating" to cease a war. If in the background the battle is still raging, then the diplomacy would have to adapt to fit the circumstance. So, for example, if in the background my army starts losing badly, then I would have to adapt my negotiations to end it quickly so I'd be left with something afterwards, while my enemy might try to stall proceedings to give himself chance to wipe me out completely.

It's small things like that that I feel would give a lot more impact to the name "REAL TIME Strategy", because as I see it at the moment, there are very few games that have the scope to really live up to that name. A few I can name are Supreme Commander, because it comes closest to my vision of having multiple things going on at the same time, but again it's sort of restricted in that it's wholy mission-based - you move from one to the next and you can really notice that transition. Another game is the aforementioned Empire at War, which has virtually everything in real-time, except again there is a transition from high-level galactic strategy to lower-level planetwide stuff.

What I would be looking for in a Real Time game is one that combines all levels of strategy into one flowing situation, where the only thing that changes are "objectives". It would be up to the player to decide how many objectives to take on at a time, instead of having the computer give you them one after the other.

Age of Empires III: The Warchiefs

My latest game ... and I have to say one of the best games I've played in a long while. It has almost everything:

  • - A fantastic storyline that kept me interested right until the end, with humour, action, and quiet bits in between! And considering that this game covers my least favourite bit of history - American Civil War stuff (no offense to anyone), the fact that I was still interested at the end I guess makes it all the more better.
  • - The tried and tested economy and gameplay elements have been given a revamp for AoEIII, and I have to say I love the new style - with no resource gather points, but that doesn't mean that it's easier to use - it's more streamlined certainly, but still keeps it challenging.
  • - Great graphics and sound quality - sure the game is a couple of years old now but it still works for me. Gotta love the way the buildings break apart as they get destroyed, and the way the dead guys fly through the air when being hit by artillery and powder shots - those small details make it so much better than if it didn't have them - sure they're not essential to the game, but it makes it more complete.
  • - The Home City - now that is brilliant. All I can say really - it is a brilliant touch.

On the whole - 8.5 out of 10 - the campaign was a little too short for me - only 8 scenarios per campaign, I would have liked to go for a little longer. And admittedly once the "Home City" has gotten to some of the higher levels, it gets a little tedious trying to level up further since it takes too long.

Can't wait for the Asian Dynasties expansion to come out!

Major Internet Problems

I can only apologise to all the guys at the C&C Union for my major absence recently, and unfortunately it's going to continue for a while yet - the recent floods here in Yorkshire have completely wiped out my intenet connection - and all Virgin Media ones across the county. No fix in sight either ... I'm having to use a friend's dial-up connection to write this!

I will get back as soon as possible of course, but right now it's totally out of my hands. Just needed to let you know what was going on.

EDIT: FINALLY!! After a week of using dial-ups and/or no internet at all, my broadband is back! Have you ever tried to download 37MB of stuff using a 5b/s dial-up modem?! Never again ... never again! Still - the downtime gave me a chance to get off my lazy backside and get some new games - Supreme Commander, the AoEIII expansion, and the EaW expansion. Maybe some reviews forthcoming ...

Review the Third ...

Well finally I've had some time to do another review ... been nearly 5 months since I last did one ... anyway - this one's on my latest game - COMMAND & CONQUER 3 - TIBERIUM WARS.

 

I gave it an 8.5/10 - please check out my review either at the Command and Conquer Union or here at Gamespot (they're both the same).

Command & Conquer 3 Demo

Okay, so the second demo in as many weeks, and admittedly the one that I was more looking forward to.

And to be honest I was slightly disappointed.  But I had prepared for it from the beginning.


The Good: the graphics are spectacular, and the attention to details are exquisite - bins, cars, the markings on the roads.

The FMVs are fantastic to watch - high definition and I have to admit the acting is almost all top-notch and true to their characters (glad to be able to write that after recently playing RA2!).

Also the storyline is shaping up to be brilliant - mysterious to the end but not so much that you give up halfway through.


The Bad: I'm sorry to say this, but more often than not, it just doesn't play like a C&C should.

Out of all the games that I played using both sides and 3 of the AI types, in the end I used the same strategy every single time, regardless of anything that the AI did - the promised "adaptive AI" hasn't arrived.

Although this game was touted as being for everyone to play, it actually appears to cater only for, for want of a better word, Rushers.  Myself as a "turtler", I noticed this very quickly - there is simply too much pressure on the gameplay for players to expand across the map.  Previous games allowed a turtler to play their own game, albeit at a slower pace than a rusher.  But this game rewards turtlers with a quick defeat and nothing more.  This is for a few simple reasons - most notable of which is the fact that base defences are simply not adequate for defending.

I'm sorry - but the music is 100% crap.  There is nothing in it whatsoever - nothing would change at all if I were to turn the music volume down to zero.


As an RTS player in general, I am certainly more than happy with the game at the moment.  But as a C&C player, no.

Supreme Commander Demo

Well I guess I'm a little late with this, seeing that it's been out for a week or so but nevertheless ... something about being better than late and never ... or whatever.

Anyway - yeah - okay, so the demo throws you in at the deep end - moreso than some demos I've played - seeing as though there is no real tutorial ingame, only a link to a website, but having played the Beta a few months back at least I knew what I was doing roughly ... and I'll admit I was fretting a little about the state of my rig - particularly the NVidia 7600GS and the RAM requirements (I heard somewhere that 4GB was recommended - I'm going to shoot whoever said that!).

But - all is good - the demo is sweet and smooth!  Had a fantastic set of games on the skirmish - having been utterly outfoxed by the computer due to the scale at first.  Seriously - I was so used to seeing an attack and being able to send covering troops there almost instantly ... not so on SupCom!  Things actually take time!

Oh - and the Cybran Experimental Artillery Unit is the best!  I was just trying it out on the last game I had, built it in a good place and just let it do its work - 30,000 energy per shot, I figured it would be worth it.  HELL YEAH!!  The game was over in about 5 minutes after that ...

The full game will be mine in a week at most hopefully!

The Universe of Command & Conquer

Well you all know me - tell me to name a game and I will name Command & Conquer. 

So to show my appreciation for this fantastic game and its epic storyline, spanning 8 (9) games at least, join me at the Command and Conquer Union as I take you on a journey through the history of the C&C Universe, from 1946 and the greatest mistake in the history of Science, to 2047 and beyond as the world changes and shifts to prepare for the coming of a greater power.

This is not just for those already familiar with C&C - I wrote it originally to bring one of my close friends into the C&C Universe - it worked as well!  So please - take a look and tell me what you think!

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