C&C Labs News Wire

— Monday, April 28, 2008 —

Posted By: Mike at 12:38:27 PM ET

Lessons Learned: A Review of Kane's Wrath

Senior staff member Blbpaws has written an article reviewing Kane's Wrath, with an eye toward taking the developer's perspective. What went right with the game? What went wrong? What lessons can EA learn from the release of this expansion pack?
Simply put, more time needs to put into developing and testing the game. C&C 3 lacked a proper beta version and Kane’s Wrath, though there has been no official word, seems to be following in this tradition. In short, the development cycle is being consistently rushed.

A bit of digging seems to reveal that the reason for this is purely financial: EA has timed the releases of both C&C 3 and Kane’s Wrath to occur just before the end of their fiscal year (both games released in the last week of March, and EA’s fiscal year ends March 31st), providing a last boost of revenue. For C&C 3, the company proceeded to use the release as a highlight of their earnings discussions with investors[pdf]. In short, pushing the game back even a month would have financial implications for the company (or so their analysts seem to believe—I contend otherwise), as the game is already pushed to the very edge of the quarter. This strategy is acceptable from a developer’s standpoint if the financial benefits outweigh the costs of rushing the game. For the last two games, it’s failed, as the products have been obviously rushed and shipped with a number of issues. This ties in to the critical reception of the game.
I think many in the community would prefer to have future C&C games have a bit of polish added to them before release.  The fans can certainly wait the extra month or two.

Still, there is much to like about Kane's Wrath, as Blbpaws points out in regards to the singleplayer campaign and live-action cut-scenes:
This is a bright spot for Kane’s Wrath and the lessons are generally positive. The end product is much improved over the version shipped in C&C 3. The missions are generally well-designed and creative. Designer Sam Bass’s notion of “the sweep of history” is well-received; there is a lot of explanatory power in the campaign and overall the missions themselves deserve a B+ or A-. Also well done is the integration of the subfactions and missions, for GDI and Nod—the Scrin aren’t really present. The Steel Talons, ZOCOM, the Black Hand, and the Marked of Kane all have more depth as a result of this.


Lessons Learned:
  • Moving away from the type of missions in C&C 3 was a good improvement.
  • Integrate the story and the subfactions to contribute to Sam Bass’s idea of the sweep of history. Try to find ways to include this in future C&Cs.
  • Don’t radically change the course of the AI development, as it’s very good, though occasionally unrealistic.
  • Campaigns need to advance the story more, not just fill in holes in the narrative. In short, compared with the level of information added from past C&C expansions such as Firestorm, the information added in Kane’s Wrath seems just a bit lacking.
Blbpaws goes on to tackle issues including the "RTS as a Sport" concept, the new sub-factions and epic units in Kane's Wrath, and the Global Conquest mode.

The article is, in my opinion, a fair and well-presented assessment of Kane's Wrath.  I encourage you to read the article in full by following the link below.  Perhaps decision-makers at EA will take a look at it as well.
Last edited by Mike on Monday, April 28, 2008 at 4:44:39 PM.

— Sunday, April 20, 2008 —

Posted By: Blbpaws at 8:09:51 PM ET

Luck in C&C

I think this is an interesting story for those of you interested in the game design part of things. A top C&C 3 and Kane's Wrath player, Apollo, posted a short piece on the GameReplays.org forums about the role of "luck" in C&C 3. He says, essentially, that there are too many parts of C&C 3 that are beyond a player's control for the game to be a true matchup of skill.
There are far too many "luck" moves and incidents in the game that drop the skill level, things like the unit AI, engineers, scouting and most of all balance. How easy is it too snipe a top 10rank player? Drastically easy. You can snipe them even if you are rank 5000 on the ladder because of the list above.
I think he makes a fair point. Certainly, C&C 3 has many flaws in this regard, and he points out a few of them. Engineer micromanagement is notoriously luck-based. Buzzers are even worse (good luck predicating who will win a Buzzer battle regardless of the micromanagement of the two players). Pathfinding can be bad at times as well, and units often make mistakes when they're on their own. So, certainly, these parts of C&C 3 and Kane's Wrath can have a particularly high impact on the game and should be corrected. Anything else is poor development.

But I'm not sure that these alone are the parts of game design that accounts for much of the volatility online. First, remember that some volatility is a good thing. Second, the broader problem is that too many of the tactics are too tightly-drawn and can only be countered with prior knowledge, yet spending time and resources scouting isn't sufficiently rewarded because of the propensity for unit spam. Build orders that involve off-beat tactics like Shadow Team rushes are deadly unless one's opponent knows that they are coming--and if he knows that they are coming because he spent his early game scouting and exploring, he's open to the typical C&C 3 storm of Black Hand units. Basically, there are problems in C&C 3 and Kane's Wrath that create too much randomness in games, but it's not merely limited to the glitches in the game, though those are present as well.

This might raise some interesting questions for those who play online, who seek to mod games, or who are interested in the game theory present in C&C.

— Saturday, April 19, 2008 —

Posted By: Blbpaws at 2:12:26 PM ET

News from Apoc

Two new items from our community manager:
  • Apoc has posted a very long piece on an upcoming patch for Kane's Wrath. It lacks any specifics, but he does say that they hope to address the desync issues which plague the online experience, while also fixing some of the more obvious balancing errors such as the overpowering of Mechapedes. He says that it won't be a large balance patch, but rather a smaller one. You can read the full piece here.
  • Apoc has a new blog up, recapping some of the recent happenings in the community.
Last edited by Blbpaws on Saturday, April 19, 2008 at 6:22:20 PM.

— Monday, April 14, 2008 —

Posted By: Blbpaws at 1:57:53 PM ET

New Poll and Poll Results

I updated the poll today. It seems many of you were excited about the return of Red Alert, either because it is Red Alert, or because it is another C&C. Here are the results from the last poll:
How excited are you about the Red Alert 3 announcement?
Very. Red Alert is the best universe
I'm just happy to see another C&C, of any type
Meh, three C&Cs at once is too much
I never really liked Red Alert (or never played it), so not really
What announcement?
Total Votes: 342

The new poll asks about your reaction to Kane's Wrath: how was it? Thanks to all 342 of you that voted in the last one.

— Saturday, April 5, 2008 —

Posted By: Mike at 8:27:01 PM ET

C&C 3 Map Manager - Now Supports Kane's Wrath

C&C 3 Map Manager We've just released an updated version of our Map Manager for C&C 3, which now includes support for Kane's Wrath maps.

Other notable improvements include:
  • Drag and drop support for importing maps
  • Added the ability to filter by game (allowing you to show just Kane's Wrath maps, for example)
  • Now properly displays the names of official pre-order bonus maps (such as Gunship Gauntlet for Kane's Wrath)
  • Minimap rendering fixes
The full changelog is also available.

Download Links:
Note that C&C 3 Map Manager requires the Microsoft .NET Framework in order to run.  If you do not have the .NET Framework, the installation program will prompt you to install it.

If you have any questions about or suggestions for the program, feel free to post them in our forums or email them to me.

— Wednesday, April 2, 2008 —

Posted By: Phe0n1x at 4:58:14 PM ET


There have been a three new interviews with the Kane's Wrath actors Joe Kucan, Kane, and Carl Lumbly, Brother Marcius. While not surprising that two of the interviews were with "Kane" himself, all three seemed to be an intriguing read.

Over at VideoGamer.com, Kucan revealed that he does not play video games and that he "was
bored of Halo in the first 15 minutes". Yet he and his friends were captivated by Wii "tennis for literally six hours".

GameInformer contains the remaining two articles one of Kucan and one of Lumbly. While Kucan's interview did not appear to have anything breathtaking such as him being bored with Halo or enjoying the Wii, it was a good read. On the other hand, Lumbly's interview was quite interesting. As GameInformer states "Between his roles on Alias, Justice League, Battlestar Galactica, M.A.N.T.I.S. and more, actor Carl Lumbly is practically a walking sci-fi convention." And now, of course, Kane's Wrath.

This is the part I enjoyed the most, it details his encounter with the Command and Conquer Series and his family's reaction.

I was approached about the role in the conventional way—it was brought to my attention by my agent. I didn’t really know anything about the game or anything, and I said it would probably be fine, but give me a day to think about it, which is always what I do if I need to weasel. [laughs] I came home and mentioned the game at the dinner table, and my son—who is quite a gamer—was very impressed and proceeded to reel off some of the history of it. He was especially impressed because he said it was live action and that it had kind of gone away for a while and that this was a big deal. He’s 19 now, but at the time he was 18. As a father, any time I have a chance, I want to impress him—or at least not be lame—so I jumped on it. Then I had a lot of fun.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed these three articles. While I could not glean any information regarding another sequel in these interviews, there could be a good chance for a second expansion.