Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath Q&A - Consoles vs. PC

EALA's Louis Castle discusses the strengths and weaknesses of console real-time strategy games and how they apply to the upcoming Xbox 360 version of Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath.

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Real-time strategy (RTS) games arguably began their lives on consoles in the obscure Sega Genesis game Herzog Zwei, but they became what they are today on the PC. The keyboard-and-mouse interface was perfect for accurately selecting buildings and groups of units as you gathered resources, constructed a base, and churned out an army to crush your opponents before they could do the same. However, real-time strategy games have begun to pop up on consoles, and the next game to do so will be Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath, an updated version of Command & Conquer 3 that will offer new control improvements and new content. EALA's Louis Castle, cofounder of Westwood Studios and one of the original minds behind the Command & Conquer series, sat down with us to go over these improvements and discuss the evolution of console strategy games.

GameSpot: Give us an update on the development of Kane's Wrath for consoles. How are things going? How is the game working in practice, and how is it stacking up against the PC version of the game, in terms of both performance and head-to-head competition?

Louis Castle: In terms of console RTS games, Kane's Wrath is tracking to be a strong improvement over Command & Conquer 3. This is the third console RTS in a row that the team here in LA has developed, and it shows. The continual improvements in interface design, performance, and suitable mission design for console gaming is evident from the moment you pick up the controller. The CommandStick controls make even traditionally challenging PC commands lightning-fast and intuitive. The full integration of the PC and console teams allows for great sharing and game design that maximizes all platforms, from concept to final.

GS: Give us an overview of the CommandStick control. What does it add to the experience of a real-time strategy game on a console?

LC: The CommandStick allows for rapid command selection from a radial user interface which appears on the screen with the press of a button. This gives players the ability to build units in resource queues anywhere on the map without switching their visual context. This latest improvement in the console UI gives console players the rapid controls associated with dozens of hotkeys on the PC, all at the flick of a button.

GS: How will Kane's Wrath go beyond what we've already seen from Command & Conquer 3 on consoles? How will it evolve the control scheme and pacing that was developed specifically for consoles with C&C3?

LC: The CommandStick alone is a great innovation and large evolutionary step in console RTS design. The mission design and performance improvements help to drive full-featured RTS gaming into the hands of millions of console gamers. The PC guys have had the rich experience of RTS gaming to themselves for over 10 years, and it's great to see a whole new breed of console RTS gamers who are passionate and as capable as any PC player at executing their personal strategy nearly instantly.

GS: In a larger sense, in what direction do you feel Kane's Wrath will push real-time strategy on consoles? Going back to Battle for Middle-earth II (EALA's console real-time strategy debut), in what direction is the studio trying to push console real-time strategy?

The console versions of the game will have new interface features.
The console versions of the game will have new interface features.

LC: Our team has the single-minded goal of unlocking the amazing gaming experience of full-featured RTS games on consoles. With each console RTS we complete, we learn more about what excites and empowers console gamers, and that learning drives improvements, not only on console RTS games but also on their PC RTS peers. I have found that one of the best ways to make better games is to try new ideas, test them in the marketplace, listen to consumers, and improve the experience. With each new product, our team evolves and improves an already outstanding experience.

GS: In the eyes of some skeptics, consoles may not offer as strong a real-time strategy experience as PCs--after all, there's no traditional mouse-and-keyboard control setup, more-restrictive online options, and little to no room for user-generated content and mods to keep games fresh and vibrant for months or even years. In your opinion, what unique advantages does a console real-time strategy experience offer, aside from letting people play them on the couch?

LC: One of the best advantages for console RTS gamers is the absolute certainty that you are playing against another player who has the same machine spec as you do. The PC market has the complication of so many hardware configurations and connection issues that a multiplayer gaming session is often compromised by a player with a less capable system.

The winners of console RTS matches are, more often, simply the better player. I wouldn't so quickly dismiss the value of playing on the couch. Most gamers with console systems have their gaming system where the bulk of their entertainment dollars have been spent. Sitting on a comfortable couch with a large, high-definition screen and surround sound simply amplifies the great RTS experiences we seek to create.

GS: Would you say that console real-time strategy has truly hit its stride at this point? It's easy to see that first-person shooters, traditionally a game genre that was associated with the PC, have come into their own on consoles. What will it take for real-time strategy games to really take off in the living room?

LC: I think console RTS games will continue to grow in popularity as console gamers seek richer strategic gaming experiences. We have far from hit the stride in my opinion. The continued growth of the console installed bases ensures many players with the same equipment can enjoy the gaming experience we have enjoyed making for over a decade.

But the console versions of the game will still have all the lasers and explosions that C&C fans expect.
But the console versions of the game will still have all the lasers and explosions that C&C fans expect.

This continued market growth and the continued growth of existing gamers' depth and complexity expectations will almost certainly result in more and more RTS fans that play in their living rooms.

GS: We understand that the recently announced Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 is scheduled to ship on both the PC and consoles. Has EALA resolved to put all its new real-time strategy games out for both PC and consoles from here on out? Any possibility that future projects might be exclusive, either to the PC or to consoles?

LC: I can't comment on what we might do in the future, but I would expect us to continue to try and deliver the best full-featured RTS gaming experience we can for all the audiences we have the pleasure of attracting.

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