C&C Labs News Wire

— Saturday, July 19, 2008 —

Posted By: Mike at 10:29:26 AM ET

Pop Quiz: Who developed C&C 3: Kane's Wrath?

Answer: Breakaway Games. Not EALA.

In truth, that's a bit of an oversimplification. EA's Los Angeles studio certainly had oversight over the development process and provided guidance, but it seems the majority of the work was actually outsourced to a company called BreakAway Games. We are not the first ones to observe this, but in light of the Kane's Wrath 3+ month lack-of-patch debacle, we felt that it warranted additional investigation.

Generals World staff member Blbpaws has thus written an article investigating the effects of outsourced game development at EALA:

Looking in general across the board, RTS games that are outsourced by EA generally score in the 70s—that's 6 to 7 points lower than their counterparts developed at EALA. Looking in specific at two of the biggest game review sites, GameSpot and IGN, we can see that the effect still exists, with the average drop-off between an in-house game and its outsourced expansion almost nine points. Nor are these rankings easily dismissed. In a meeting with Wall Street analysts in February, Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello is quoted as saying, "our core game titles are accurately measured and summarized by these assessments [metacritic scores], and that is a very big deal." Obviously, the head decision makers at Electronic Arts find there to be some legitimacy to these scores.

Indeed, a simple glance at the games' MetaCritic scores highlights the curious pattern.

Game In-House? MetaCritic Score
Command and Conquer: Generals Yes 84
Command and Conquer: Generals: Zero Hour Yes 83
The First Decade Outsourced 71
Battle for Middle Earth II Yes 84
Battle for Middle Earth II: Rise of the Witch King Outsourced 78
Command and Conquer 3 Yes 85
Command and Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath Outsourced 77

These statistics aren't perfect (they're averages of various reviewers' scores, compared across games developed at different times by a varying group of individuals), but they do seem to reflect the general anecdotal consensus that I've found around the community. (Namely, that the development of The First Decade, the Rise of the Witch King expansion, and Kane's Wrath were all sub-par.)

Blbpaws' article delves into further detail, taking a look at the roles key Tiberium Wars developers had in Kane's Wrath's development (hint: little-to-none) and providing additional analysis.  I encourage you all to read through it.

To what extent does the outsourcing of Kane's Wrath explain the numerous desync bugs the game shipped with?  To what extent does it explain the balance issues?  And to what extent did it contribute to EA's inability to release a patch in a timely fashion?  These are the questions that you, concerned C&C fan, should ask.

Last edited by Mike on Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 2:38:19 PM.