C&C3: Kane's Wrath 360 Producer Talks Console Controls, Exclusive Content, Future Games

Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath marks the third real-time strategy game EA Los Angeles has brought to Xbox 360. One of the major claims this time around is that the studio has, at long last, resolved the controls it says were "lauded by critics."

But is this the control scheme for real-time strategy efforts on consoles? Lead producer Jim Vessella thinks so. Well, as far as next week's one-two punch of Kane's Wrath and Supreme Commander on Xbox 360 is concerned.

"We think that this is certainly going to be the best control scheme for RTS games coming out next week," he told Shacknews. "[With] the Radial Interface, we really think that we've hit the chord for the console audience."

"That's not to say that we're going to stop there, we are going to continue developing this control scheme," he continued. "We're actually already iterating on it for [Command & Conquer] Red Alert 3's development, and we have some new, really cool features."

But why did it take three games to reach that point in the first place? Furthermore, why do PC gamers need C&C3 to run the expansion while Xbox 360 gamers don't?

Just what does EA LA have up its sleeve for the future of Command and Conquer? And will the Xbox 360 games be able to partake in a multiplayer beta for Command & Conquer Red Alert 3?

Jim Vessella: This is a time in the RTS genre for consoles where we're all just learning. It's a big experimentation process that we're going through, everyone is trying new things to see what works best for the console audience.

With Battle for Middle-earth II and Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars, we tried a few control schemes of our own. While they were successful and were the best things out there at the time, we knew that we could do better and continued refining.

For Kane's Wrath [with] the Radial Interface, we really think that we've hit the chord for the console audience. It's very intuitive to use, it's very natural, using the analog sticks instead of the d-pad.

It really was just an experimentation process. We had a prototype, coming out of Tiberium Wars, of this working, and then we were really able to develop that for Kane's Wrath.

We think we have the foundation really correct now, with the whole radial system. We're going to keep building up on that for future console games. We're real excited for both Kane's Wrath and future titles.

Shack: Will the Xbox 360-exclusive Kane's Challenge missions ever make their way to PC users?

Jim Vessella: We kinda want to keep Kane's Challenge exclusive to the 360. It was really made with that audience in mind, of giving them a way to learn about everything in Command & Conquer 3, especially since it's a standalone title. They may not have even encountered the core factions before.

This is essentially a gauntlet of skirmish matches where you take on the role of one of our nine factions--we have six new sub-factions in the game--and fight through a ladder gauntlet against AI-controlled opponents of all the other factions. The really cool thing about this is it's a great way for new players to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of each faction.

Right now, we don't have any plans to bring that feature to the PC. We're gonna keep it on 360 for now.

Shack: What else is new in the Xbox 360 version?

Jim Vessella: We have some really cool features for Xbox Live. We're gonna have over 50 multiplayer maps available, two dozen of those are completely new for Kane's Wrath. We also have a bunch that were brought over that the PC patches got on Command & Conquer 3 that Xbox 360 players have never seen before.

Those are combined with all the maps from Tiberium Wars, so we're actually going to have over 50 multiplayer maps to really vary up the battlefield that players can play upon.

The 360 actually has five different multiplayer modes, the PC only has one. PC only has the standard Deathmatch, but on console you'll also get modes like Capture the Flag, King of the Hill, and a really cool mode called Siege, which allows you to put up barriers to protect your bases for a set amount of time. You can build up your base and not have the fear of someone rushing you and taking you out of the game immediately, so it's a great way for beginners to feel safe and try out some new strategies.

Those modes are all exclusive to the 360. Tiberium Wars was a big hit on Xbox Live and we are expecting the same for Kane's Wrath.

Shack: The fact that Kane's Wrath does not require the original C&C3 is featured quite prominently on the box art for the Xbox 360 edition. What are some of the challenges behind turning a dedicated PC expansion into a standalone console release?

Jim Vessella: It really does come down to that difficulty, that accessibility, and really making it user-friendly for a new RTS player to potentially jump into it.

With the Kane's Challenge, we think that's a great way for players to jump in. We've also done a lot of tuning in the difficulty of the campaign, for instance, to make sure that it's not too overwhelming for console players.

The PC [version], because it was attached to the base game, we could assume that players may have gone through C&C3 before, so we were able to make the campaign a little more challenging. We've tried to pull that back for the console version, so that these new players don't feel overwhelmed and can get into it and have fun and learn about the story.

It really was a matter of doing that, that tuning on both the difficulty and also providing some of these new features, like Kane's Challenge, to really welcome in new players and make them feel at home.

Turn the page to learn why the PC edition of Kane's Wrath required the original C&C3, as well as hints towards the future of the C&C franchise. _PAGE_BREAK_

Shack: Why was the PC version not standalone as well?

Jim Vessella: The whole attachment to the base game is a formula that we've used for over a decade now with expansion packs. It was something that we were really comfortable with, we wanted to keep it that way for the PC.

It also allowed us to make some assumptions that these players would have played C&C3, so we could develop the campaign that way and tune some of that difficulty in that sense.

That's not to say--We're going to test the waters here with the Xbox 360 version as a standalone version. If the fans and the audience like that formula, then perhaps we'll investigate the standalone on PC in the future.

Shack: Is there a particular achievement the team is quite proud of?

Jim Vessella: One of our favorite achievements is one that none of us on the development team have ever got. That's the one we call "Oh, You're Good," which is to defeat a brutal AI in a one-on-one skirmish game.

The reason for it is because the brutal AI is really, really hard to beat. It actually kinda cheats a little bit, it has some extra money bonuses, resource bonuses that it gets.

It's just really tough, and none of us on the dev team are actually good enough to get that achievement. We're hoping that there's some community people out there who will be able to get that achievement and be able to brag about that.

Shack: Do you think there's anything that could make RTS games more accessible on consoles, such as some type of peripheral?

Jim Vessella: Right now, our goal is really to make it the best for the Xbox 360 controller. We don't want to spend a lot of time developing a system that so few people would be able to use with some kind of peripheral. We really want to master the control scheme on that Xbox 360 controller so we have confidence there's something everyone can use and have a good time with.

There are some accessories out there, like the Xbox 360 keyboard and of course there's also the voice headset, that some other developers are utilizing in games like [Ubisoft Shanghai's] EndWar.

I think there is an option to give more, to build upon the controller with some of those accessories, but I don't think that it's--we don't want to sacrifice development of using the controller as the main control device to cater towards one of those accessories.

We're going to continue trying to optimize for the controller and then we'll see what happens, especially when some of these other RTS games come out that are experimenting with control schemes like that.

Shack: And what about the future of the C&C franchise?

Jim Vessella: We have a few different universes in C&C, obviously Tiberium and Red Alert is under development right now. Of course, we have also the Generals universe, which we haven't touched in a while.

In terms of the Tiberium universe, Kane's Wrath is really setting the stage for something we might do in the future. As you play through Kane's Wrath and learn about the story, you can get some hints as to where we might be going.

Nothing to announce just yet, but I think there's a really bright future for Command & Conquer, especially the Tiberium universe.

Shack: One last question. Will there be a Red Alert 3 multiplayer beta for those that buy the Xbox 360 edition of Kane's Wrath?

Jim Vessella: That's not on the table right now. We don't have plans for a 360 version of the beta right now for RA3. We're looking forward to launching [the PC beta] soon.

Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath arrives on Xbox 360 next Tuesday, June 23. Command & Conquer 3 Red Alert follows on PC and Xbox 360 this fall.