Verdu:Well I think that one lesson learned was that we changed maybe too much in Generals with a builder-based system and a command bar along the bottom, as well as making the leap into 3D. It's a wonderful game - still one of my favourites - but if we're going to go back to the tiberium universe we really do need to bring back the sidebar which has amazing power and flexibility associated with it because you can control your production queue from anywhere on the battlefield.
And we've certainly learned a lot of things from the last six or seven years of RTS games that we've also put into the build system and the sidebar control system that I think really brings the best of both worlds - so contextual units, structural control and a way to manage what you're building anywhere on the map.
So obviously the traditional rock-paper-scissors-style C&C gameplay has been around for over 10 years now. How are you mixing it up in C&C 3 with new units and such?
Verdu: So we have an entire new third faction that plays radically different from GDI and Nod and also lets us change up the fiction. In terms of C&C where GDI and Nod both have very distinct identities both in terms of the fiction and the way that you play them, the way to add innovation to the game mechanics and to take the fiction to the next level is really adding a new faction. So that's a big place that we're concentrating in terms of changing things up.
In terms of units, Nod has the Avatar Warmech which is a really cool base unit because it comes with a big beam weapon. But what's cool is that you can smash up a Flame Tank and pull out the flamethrower or smash up a Stealth Tank and take out the stealth generator to add to the Avatar - you're investing a lot but you're creating something that's really unique. That's new but it still fits neatly into the combat chain and the counter mechanics that are traditional to C&C.
So there's room in classic C&C to innovate and bring new mechanics to bear and the Avatar is one way we're doing that.
Can you explain how the single-player campaign and branching storyline works?
Verdu: We started by thinking we were going to have a map-based metagame and that we were going to weave story into that, but really delivering a great story required us to thank a bit differently about how we organised the campaign.
So we created what we're calling theatres of war which are geographical zones - for instance Germany is a theatre of war. Within the theatre of war you get essentially the ability to make a call about which strategic objective you're going to go after, with consequences that ripple into other missions. So if you get a choice between taking out a port or an airfield, taking out the port could deprive your enemy of the ability to bombard you from the sea in future missions, and if you take out the airfield you knock out the enemy's air power.
You make the call and then those choices have consequences moving forward, but ultimately the missions do serve the story and everything you do advances it; the theatres of war come to a nice conclusion as they're essentially the end of one of the acts in the story. And the story is cannon for C&C - we have three campaigns and each one gives you a different window. So as you're playing the different campaigns you're really peeling back the different layers of the onion and getting a new perspective on what's going on - each campaign should give you a unique and interesting reveal on the events you've played regardless of which order that you play them in - although it's worth saying that the third faction campaign gets unlocked by the first two.
And it looks like a lot of effort is being put into the story this time around?
Verdu: We're still editing but there's still well over an hour of FMV in the game. I find the story interesting because it has a number of different layers to it and for each of the campaigns the characters are very well developed; they change and grow as the story progresses which I think is a really important thing for a story.