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Command & Conquer SAGA

Interview développeurs


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Le site actiontrip.com a publié une interview des développeurs d'Alerte Rouge 3.


C&C has been around for some time and EA continues to invest into the popular franchise. After excellent games such as Command & Conquer: Generals and Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, as well as the recent add-on C&C 3: Kane's Wrath, EA started developing C&C: Red Alert 3. The game is now very close to release. Before it hits stores though, we took the opportunity to chat a bit with the development team to learn more about the project and what makes it unique on the crowded scene of real-time strategies.

Thanks to producers Amer Ajami and Greg Kasavin (that's right, former GameSpot Editor-in-Chief) we were able to get lowdown on RA 3, covering topics such as development history, community, the game's engine, AI, co-op play, specific factions and more.

ActionTrip: When did you guys first decide you were going to make Red Alert 3?

Amer Ajami: It all depends on who you ask, really. A good number of people on our team worked on Red Alert 2 and Yuri's Revenge, so those guys were clamoring to do the sequel for a number of years. Likewise, many other of our team members consider the Red Alert games as one of their favorite RTS franchises of all time, so the excitement around a potential third game in the series has been brewing for a long time. A core group of guys split off from our team and started working on Red Alert 3 as an exploratory exercise at the tail end of The Battle for Middle-earth's development cycle back during the start of 2005. Not a lot came out of that initial push, since we all had to jump on The Battle for Middle-earth II, and then were presented with a chance to develop Command & Conquer III: Tiberium Wars. As development on C&C3 began winding down early last year, the team eagerly started pitching ideas for the next Red Alert 3 - some of those ideas having been based on the 2005 experiment - and the project began in earnest shortly thereafter.

AT: Sure, Red Alert 3 has a strong fan base, but real-time strategies are becoming increasingly overshadowed by modern-day action games and casual games. How do you see this one appealing to casual gamers?

AA: Command & Conquer games have millions upon millions of fans worldwide. The series has done a lot to gain the attention (and affection) of mainstream gamers in the last decade or so, and that's no small feat considering the somewhat hardcore nature of the RTS genre. Of the three distinct universes that fall underneath the Command & Conquer umbrella, Red Alert has always had the most mainstream appeal due to its light-hearted tone, unique style, and relative accessibility when compared to other RTS games. Certainly, Red Alert 3 continues that tradition on all three fronts. Just look at our cinematics, for instance. The Red Alert 3 cast is arguably the greatest collection of Hollywood talent in any game to date - that'll make anyone sit up and take notice. And yet the game still has the competitive and fast-paced gameplay that our more competitive members of the community demand, while still introducing new and exciting concepts like the cooperative campaign to keep things fresh.

AT: RA 3 looks great right now, as revealed in the recently released trailers. Are you using an improved version of the Sage engine?

AA: Sort of. You probably know by now that Sage was originally developed concurrently for Command & Conquer Generals, and then updated with incremental improvements for several of the RTS games that our team has released since. While Red Alert 3 is no exception, the changes that Sage has undergone in service of this project are pretty extensive. We adopted a brand new rendering engine that can take advantage of the current consoles' architecture in a much more efficient manner than our previous renderer could, and it enabled us to implement the new water technology that is such an important part of Red Alert 3's gameplay. There were also a number of other significant changes that happened under the hood to keep our engine competitive with other RTS games during the course of development. So, yes, while the game is driven by many of the underlying components of the Sage that we know and love, there have also been a lot of changes to that engine.

AT: What is the best aspect of having to play Red Alert 3 in co-op? Tell us a bit about how it works.

Greg Kasavin: Knowing you can experience every mission of all three campaigns in Red Alert 3 alongside another player is pretty exciting all on its own, though the moment-to-moment gameplay tends to be the best part. The way it works is, prior to any campaign mission, you have a choice of whether to play solo or cooperatively with a friend. In either case, the content of the mission is similar, but the experience will be quite different depending on that choice. You can play through all the missions by yourself, with the help of one of our nine co-commander characters. These guys should help make the solo experience very interesting for those who prefer a traditional single-player campaign or don't always have a friend ready to play at every waking moment.

As for co-op, while some missions require players to collaborate in specific ways, in other cases players are free to combine their starting resources and favorite tactics as they see fit. Players' starting locations and preferred units naturally factor into their co-op tactics quite a bit, and we often find players gravitating toward certain roles or objectives even when a mission doesn't strictly require them to split their attention in any particular way. Seeing all these types of tactics emerge during co-op play was rewarding during the game's development, so we think players will get really creative when playing in co-op. The best part may be that co-op play adds a completely new dimension to the campaigns, making for a lot of added replay value on top of a lengthy single-player experience.

AT: Apart from the co-op, what's the biggest improvement in the game since Red Alert 2?

AA: There are a lot of significant improvements in the core design of the game that we're proud of and are excited to see what fans of the series think of them - too many to list out in a format like this. Obviously though, the addition of a third faction, especially one as outlandish as the Empire of the Rising Sun, is probably the biggest addition to the franchise. They compliment the Allies and Soviets nicely, while still being incredibly unique in terms of visual- and play-style... but more on them later.

We also reemphasize the important of naval gameplay in the Red Alert franchise. We did that by doing more than just giving each faction a naval yard and a couple of token naval units. We introduce amphibious units whose behaviors change whether they're on land or on water, amphibious structures, and resources located out on the water, away from the reach of land-based units. Naval gameplay is integrated deeply into the design of Red Alert 3 as a whole, and players who hope to be competitive with the game will have to take into account possible offensive and defensive naval tactics just as they would employ ground- and air-based strategies in previous games.

AT: There was also an impressive variety of units shown in the footage. Just how many types of units are there in the game?

AA: Well, there are about 62 units in Red Alert 3, roughly 20 or so per faction, not counting a couple of campaign-only units that we through in for yucks. That might sound a lot, but the unit roles in this game are a lot more specific than they were in other games that we've worked on. Take the mammoth tank from C&C3 for example. There was a unit that was not only good against armored vehicles (practically any armored vehicles), but it also had no problems crushing infantry, and it had anti-air missiles that made it deadly against aircraft as well. There really aren't any units that are good against everything in Red Alert 3. In fact, most units are only really effective against a very specific unit type. This system of hard counters puts the onus on players to scout out each other's bases in order to discern what kind of units the other might be building, and build units that can counter them. Of course, skill also comes into play, and in the hands of a player that knows what they're doing, units at an apparent disadvantage can often times be "deployed" into the secondary mode to counter a certain tactic or attack. That's a long way of saying there will be 62 units in the game.

AT: What is the greatest advantage of the Empire of the Rising Sun, when compared to other factions?

Greg Kasavin: The Empire of the Rising Sun is the most unique and technologically advanced faction in the game. They are incredibly fun to use, and in the hands of a skilled RTS player, they can be a constant nuisance early on and quite deadly in late game situations.

The Empire's main difference between the Soviets and the Allies is in the way that they build structures and tech up their base. Specifically, the Empire isn't limited to a traditional build radius around their construction yard. Instead, the conyard spits out small, portable structures that we call nano cores. These cores hover towards their intended destinations, so they can traverse both land and water equally with ease. Only once they've reached wherever you've told them to go do they actually unfurl into specific structures. Because of this unique advantage, the Empire of the Rising Sun can quickly expand to parts of the map that Soviet or Allied players would take longer to reach, and employ somewhat underhanded tactics like, oh I don't know, placing a dojo directly in front of their enemies' base.

The Empire is also the only faction to make use of transforming units whose behaviors change completely depending on what mode they're in. Take the tengu, for instance. When built, this unit emerges as a hovering harassment vehicle good for killing infantry and lightly-armored ground vehicles. But transform it into its secondary mode, and the tengu all of a sudden becomes a fast-attack jet that can intercept and shoot down airborne enemies.

AT: One of the most difficult aspects of creating an engaging real-time strategy is making sure the AI work properly, not to mention having decent unit path-finding (which continues to be a problem in most RTS's). What's your team doing to ensure convincing behavior of enemy and friendly units?

AA: As you suggested, good pathfinding is essential for any good RTS game, and our approach to that particular issue was to get our most experienced, most freakishly smart engineers looking at it all throughout the development of Red Alert 3. As a result of their months of ingenious effort, we think you'll find that units in this game generally go where you tell them to.

As for the artificial intelligence in Red Alert 3, there was at least as much effort put in behind the scenes and the results are a lot more dramatic. During the solo campaign missions, you can expect for your co-commander to do a smart job of keeping pace with you, covering your back and helping you with objectives, and generally not getting in your way while being a helpful and friendly force on the battlefield. Enemy commanders are even better. You'll notice they use distinctly different tactics and will make smart, tactical decisions regularly, such as retreating their forces when they know they're outnumbered or trying to bait you into traps. At higher difficulty levels, the enemy AI gets really devious, though at the normal setting, it should behave in a very lifelike way. Maybe the best thing to be said about our AI is that it has real personality to it. You'll feel more like you're fighting with friend and foe characters rather than against the computer, both in the campaign and in skirmish mode.

AT: Could you reveal certain unique special abilities of some of the characters (besides Tanya)?

AA: Absolutely. Though since you apparently hate Tanya and don't want to hear about her special abilities, then I won't tell you anything about her. :)

Natasha, the brash commando on the Soviet side, has an ability that Generals fans might remember from Jarmen Kell, who was the GLA's iconic sniper. Using precision aiming with surprising ease, Natasha can pick off the driver of any vehicle that she encounters on the battlefield, leaving that vehicle empty and exposed for any infantry unit to walk up to it and assume control of it. Her counterpart on the Empire of the Rising Sun is a psionic schoolgirl known only by the codename of Yuriko Omega. While her abilities to pick up hapless soldiers and vehicles and crush them in midair are spectacular to behold in their own right, her special ability is utterly devastating to unprotected infantry - using nothing other than her mind, she can expel a powerful psychokinetic burst that sends nearby units flying through the air to their deaths.

AT: Any chance we'll see more characters from some of the previous games?

AA: Tanya is the only character from previous games that plays a prominent role in Red Alert 3. You're probably aware that she is played by Jenny McCarthy, who pulled off her role as a tough yet sexy commando remarkably well. At any rate, you might catch a glimpse of Dr. Albert Einstein as well, who, of course, played a huge part in the Allies' successive victories in previous Red Alert games, thanks to his experimentation with weaponizing weird and wacky technologies.

AT: From what we've heard, the game is slated for an October 2008 release. Are you sticking with that particular timeframe?

AA: Yes, unless you know something we don't... you don't, do you? Just kidding. No one could possibly know more than we do. Red Alert 3 will start hitting stores in late October.

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Il y'aura donc deux unités spéciales pour la campagne, le char tesla et ??? (le char a prisme, le char a prisme, le char a prisme...).

Sinon, que Tanya comme ancien personnage moi qui secrètement, espérait un retour de Carville, c'est dommage, a moins que EA nous réserve une grosse surprise :D

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