Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 is out on PC now. But that doesn't mean that we've forgotten about the venerable RTS series. At EA's launch event in Trafalgar Square last week, we caught up with producer and C&C TV presenter David Silverman and lead balance designer Greg Black to discuss piracy, console controls and what's going on with the PS3 version.
VideoGamer.com: The game is out now. How do you feel?
Greg Black: Very excited. Very happy to see it out. Waiting to see what the fans think.
David Silverman: It's kind of like giving birth. Having no experience in the matter! You know you put so much time and effort into creating this. We're creating an experience and hopefully it's something the fans will enjoy. We don't want to have that ugly baby that everyone kind of mocks. We hope this is one of the hot babies and grows up to be someone like a Gemma where everyone's admiring for the rest of their life.
GB: Red Alert is so huge, people love it. We don't want to disappoint and that's really the big thing.
VideoGamer.com: Given the time since the last one, how much pressure have you felt making this game?
GB: A ton of pressure. I mean the fans are absolutely rabid. Every C&C fan has a different idea of what Red Alert 3 should be and there's a really high quality bar to meet so it's definitely a challenge.
DS: Every year that there's been without a Red Alert is more and more anticipation. So it's been seven years of anticipation built up. We announced C&C3: Tiberium Wars two years ago and people were like, 'yeah that's great, where's Red Alert? Where's Red Alert?'. This is the fan favourite franchise. This is the Mac Daddy. We got to make sure that we really deliver on the expectations. And to Greg's point, it's a lot of pressure and I really feel that the team did a phenomenal job listening to the fans, taking their input. We actually changed a lot of things mid-project because of what the fans had to say.
VideoGamer.com: Like what?
GB: Well, for one thing we had a relatively long beta and we did quite a few significant balance changes and as much as we could try to get the game to a competitive level for shipping. That was extremely helpful to us.
VideoGamer.com: You mentioned that everyone has their own idea about what the game should be like. What are some of the more stupid and ridiculous ideas you heard?
DS: I don't know, what was my idea? (laughs).
GB: Just internally we had a million different ideas. At one point one of our producers pitched an Atlantis faction, one of them pitched a fish faction. We were talking about having the Swiss and their Swiss Army Tanks and the Canadians. We went everywhere with it.
With the fans they're are two schools of thought. Some of the fans were really into Red Alert 1 and were looking for a more gritty, serious Red Alert 3. A lot of the fans were into Red Alert 2, and the dev team included wanted to go more in that direction because we felt it was really something fresh and different.
DS: It's a refreshing change from the other C&C games. So I think that's one of the most important things that people really need to look at. C&C has been around for 13 years and there's really a wide variety and a lot of different offerings for different kinds of RTS gamers. On the one hand you've got the serious sci-fi, the whole world is coming to an end, post-apocalyptic land, the aliens have finally invaded, tiberium has infested the planet, ecological disaster, just talks about all these different themes you even see today, energy crisis, corroding the planet, all these kinds of themes, that's Tiberium.
Then you've got Red Alert where you have psychedelic schoolgirls with telekinetic powers, you have bears shooting out of man cannons, you know it's completely over the top and fun. And then you've got Generals which apparently was a little too close to home in that it's modern military, and a pretty accurate representation.
VideoGamer.com: C&C is an RTS and a PC game. You hear all this stuff about the PC gaming industry dying. Not for you guys though, right?
DS: A lot of people say that about the PC, 'oh PC's dead, no-one's buying PC games'. You know they may not be buying PC games, but they're certainly playing them! (laughs).
DS: You hear this every sort of five years or so, that oh the new generation of consoles comes out, PC's dead. But you look at digital distribution, you look at indie games, I mean look at Europe, PC gaming is still huge. I really don't think it's dying but we'll see.
VideoGamer.com: How much of a worry is piracy for you guys with this title?
DS: In all honesty piracy is a huge concern. We joke about it here but it's a big problem. Luckily people haven't figured out an easy way to pirate on consoles, otherwise you'd be telling me, 'oh, the console market's dying!'. It's a big problem and it's hard because you've got people like Greg and a lot of guys on the development team who have been spending countless hours and someone just goes to download on a torrent site and they get the game. It's an unfortunate likelihood and it's one of the penalties that came about when broadband came out. But unlike the music industry which went about it in an interesting way, we're trying some new things and I think we'll be productive in the years to come.
Things like digital distribution, things like doing micro-transactions, things like that really find a way to get people involved and then also keep them interested. It's also a challenging thing on our end to make the game more engaging to people. If you give people a reason to buy the game they'll buy it. It's what happens. I use the music analogy again. If I'm an artist and I have an album with 14 songs and only two of them are good, then my album is probably getting stolen, but if every one of the 14 songs is awesome and you keep releasing maybe a new song or what not for people who bought it, I guarantee people will be buying my album. So it's just a different approach and a different way in how we have to look at it in the future.
VideoGamer.com: We've seen some expansions for C&C 3. What's in the pipe for Red Alert 3?
DS: Right now we're really just focussing on making Red Alert 3 as great as it can be. The game just came out, it's our job really to be on the front lines with post-launch support, making sure that we keep updating content. We have a big patch coming out in November that's really going to be adding a ton of new content to the game and a lot of balance fixes and what not... probably shouldn't have announced it, but you know!
It's an exciting time and again, we need to be committed and really make it more than you bought the game and now we're going to forget about you, making it more about ways to embrace you as part of the C&C community. That's also where things like our C&C TV initiative come into play.
GB: We were talking about piracy a moment ago. I think one of the best ways to fight piracy is really to have a compelling online experience because you have to authenticate your copy to get online, and that's something we've tried to do with say the cooperative campaign. If you really want to fully experience Red Alert 3, you want to jump online and play the campaign with a friend, and you're going to need a legit copy of the game to do that. So I really feel on the creative side that the future for PC gaming is online and that's how we're going deal with the piracy problem.