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CnC: Final War Developer Blog #1
July 08, 2018 - 05:42

Welcome to the first Development Post about CnC: Final War, an up-and-coming total conversion project for Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge! For those not familiar, this project aims to totally rewrite the Red Alert time line with a much darker storyline and overhauls both the atmosphere and the gameplay of the original game. CnC: Final War delivers on this promise of an overhauled atmosphere by adding in the gruesome deaths and violent explosions of vehicles with darker artwork and new theaters of war, while expanding gameplay with features such as the new "king of the hill" garrison-capture of tech structures and the in-game sub faction selection system. The three major factions have been completely revamped and renamed to draw importance to their history, each with their own campaigns of benevolence and acts of atrocity.

CnC: Final War's biggest departure from traditional Command and Conquer titles is the new ingame sub-faction selection system. Each sub faction is accessed via the "War Contracts" and named after each of the major military powers available in the world at the time of the events of the mod. These War Contracts can be purchased once a game at any point in the battle, and are 'constructed' from the Combat sidebar tab. Instead of a stylized cameo containing the artwork of the structure, instead the sub-faction logo will be presented as a cameo with a special indication that they are a War Contract as opposed to a traditional structure. After a player has finished 'constructing' their War Contract, they must click on the cameo and 'place' the Contract on the map. (These Contracts are specially coded to be placable on any visible point of the map, so you do not need to keep them inside your base.)

An example displaying the successful placement of a War Contract.

After being 'placed' on the map, players will notice all War Contract options will disappear from the sidebar. Once built, a War Contract selection cannot be changed and all other War Contract selections are disabled for the rest of the game. Players will also notice drastic changes in their available buildable forces once a Contract has been placed, with the Contract trading many features of a faction for their own variants. Contracts are powerful upgrades to any military force, each filled with their own strengths and weaknesses. Contracts grant access to several new infantry, vehicles, or aircraft as well as a support power themed to the playstyle of the sub-faction and a powerful Hero unit capable of becoming the centerpiece of any tactics. Contracts differ in their tactics, and their tactics require different changes within the armories of the main factions. The gunline-oriented slow yet
powerful playstyle of the faction-neutral AcheronTech War Contract replaces your main battle tank but does not affect your aircraft options, while the deathball playstyle of the Eastern Empire Okhrana War contract replaces your artillery and heavy tank. These dynamic choices offer more to gameplay and can be used to shift your combat style or ambush your opponent with specialized hybrid-faction tactics, but more importantly expand upon the core experience
offered by CnC: Final War.

The Remnant Legion does not have their own unique sub factions due to their role as outliers in this conflict.

Currently the project is expanding towards completing the core ingame experience, with only the European Coalition missing their sub factions. The two European Coalition sub factions each fit to the theme of the European Coaltion, which utilize many different types of units and non-lethal support units in direct combat to win engagements. However, not all combat situations are not the same and the European Coalition have two War Contracts they can request to solve more complex or non-traditional threats facing their forces. The elite and experimental military force deployed on high-risk engagements by the European Coalition are known as the ATOMOS Project, who use incredibly advanced autonomous
weapons platforms and miniaturized variants of powerful active-duty weaponry to completely outgun their adversaries. And when lighting-fast precision strikes are need the Coalition Crusaders are at the tip of the spear, utilizing high speed platforms and heavy air superiority to overwhelm their targets.

In addition, units are receiving updated graphics such as the Pantheon Mirage Tank by World Domination author Zero18.

The sub factions are not the only large-scale project currently in the work for the project. The focus on maps, mapping, and the theaters of war themselves have yielded new content as well. Shown before were the Node system structures, which have now started to appear on remastered maps featured in the project. New maps are being added to the project, with the first set of fifteen new multiplayer maps being added in the last balance patch. Each theater is being added onto, with Temperate being the first theater to receive Urban Expansions and an Interior Sub-Theater that Snow, Tundra and Desert will also feature. OmegaBolt's Lunar Terrain Expansion is also featured in the project now, although the
intended purpose of it's inclusion is being hidden for a special feature to be revealed at a later date.

We've even got a 7 player map coming!

The future of the project is bright, and filled with many intended features to be added to the project as time passes. Scripts are currently being discussed for an entirely new set of voiceovers. Assets are receiving reworks to keep the established quality bar incredibly high. Balance changes and reworks of units occur frequently, keeping the focus on obtaining a solid multiplayer experience that's true to the design goals of the project. The launcher's got a new set of selectable combat mutators and game variants, such as Unlimited Ore Storage or Apocalypse AI, respectively. Game modes that focus on specific battle types or add new battle experiences will be added in the future as well, such as the flag-oriented Assault game mode made famous by Cannis in the earlier years of Red Alert 2 mods. The only thing stopping Final War is time, my friends. Until next time...

The new faction flags, as designed by Kerbiter of the CnC: Mod Haven discord.

Posted by m7
Comment (1)

C&C Mod Haven - a Discord PPM companion
June 12, 2018 - 16:01


C&C Mod Haven is a Discord server that's made by me and it's intended for modders to communicate, discuss, share their creations, sneak-peeks and opinions on others' work. Fans and testers are also welcome!

But hey, Kerbiter, this sounds like PPM, isn't it? Of course it does, but there are some key differences:
- PPM is a site + forums, and Discord is an instant messaging and voice chat service, so PPM is good for things like serious discussions with long posts and walls of text, and talks and chatter suit Discord more.
- Discord is a different ecosystem compared to the forums - as an example, we got links with many good mods' Discord servers, so it can be considered a Discord mod hub.

So Mod Haven is more of a companion to PPM and nothing like a rival or a competitor, don't get me wrong Rolling Eyes Server has game roles set up, so you can see who's modding what. If you don't want to make your own server, you can get your own channel(s) on Mod Haven, just like you do with forums on a PPM. There are already some mod channels and some people, many of which are from here. We also got some custom C&C-themed emotes Very Happy

Link to the server in case you're interested:
For those not familiar with Discord - you can use it in browser and via mobile/PC clients. If you're not sure - you can try it even without registering - just click at the link, enter desired nickname - and voila, you're in!

I also got some crappy userbars in case you want to use them in your signature:

Have fun communicating Wink

Posted by Kerbiter
Comments (2)

A few OpenRA development topics
June 10, 2018 - 18:09

Development has slowed down a lot recently, but OpenRA is far from dead. I wanted to write something to bridge the news gap until our next official news post, so here’s a brief update on a couple of recent projects. We hope to ship these plus many other changes in a new playtest series starting in a few weeks.

One big change affects how we package and distribute our "official" OpenRA builds on Linux. For many years we have automatically generated a deb package, but then relied on downstream packages for other distributions. This has worked well in most respects, but sometimes delays in updates would strand players on older versions, stopping them from playing online. Another long-standing issue on many distros is the (lack of) support for installing playtests and releases at the same time, as players are able to on Windows and macOS.

Our solution to these problems is to adopt the AppImage packaging format, which allows us to distribute a portable version of OpenRA that should work on most modern Linux distributions. AppImages can exist alongside normal distro packages and even other versions of OpenRA, which makes it perfect for trying out playtest versions without overwriting the stable release. We will be retiring our deb packages and OBS repository as part of this change, but fear not because stable OpenRA releases are also available on Flathub if you prefer a "proper" installation that integrates more closely with your system.

A sneak-preview of the new download page featuring Linux AppImages.

Our modding community has continued to be a major focus, driven in a large part by active discussions with and Pull Requests from the modders themselves. We have recently achieved two major modding milestones which we are looking forward to support from the next playtest:
  • Feature parity between the Mod SDK and the main OpenRA mods: the Mod SDK can now package Linux AppImages alongside the existing macOS .apps and Windows installers. Mods now also integrate properly with the online and in-game server lists (no more "Unknown Mod (id)"), and modders can define their own acknowledgements text to be displayed in the in-game Credits dialog.
  • Improved tools and documentation for mod updates: Updating mods to a newer OpenRA engine has historically been difficult and prone to errors. We have developed a completely new OpenRA.Utility command that significantly improves on the old command for semi-automating the update procedure. More information about this tool and how to use it can be found on the Mod SDK Wiki.

Another major project over the last few months has been identifying and eliminating performance bottlenecks in the graphics renderer. These changes have roughly doubled the FPS that can be achieved on many systems, which is great news for for Tiberian Sun and some of the ambitious community mods where modest systems previously struggled to achieve a stable 60 FPS. It is useful for our default mods too, because less time spent rendering the game means more time is available to smooth over other performance hiccups that can occur during large battles, resulting in a smoother play experience.

The main driver for this work has been a project to improve OpenRA’s performance on the latest Raspberry Pi devices. These changes have improved performance from a painful 10 FPS during large battles (using the Red Alert main menu as a test case) to a more tolerable 20 FPS. We are still not happy with performance on the Pi, and have identified several areas in the game code that could be targeted to improve performance further. We hope to be able to officially support a Raspbian release in the future once performance has improved to an acceptable level.

Renderer improvements (red and orange lines) significantly improve performance on a Raspberry Pi 3B+.
The next target for optimisation will be the tick_time (light blue line).

The upcoming playtest includes several other great features that I haven’t covered above as well as the usual set of iterative balance tweaks and bug fixes. Keep an eye on the development changelog and release milestone over the next few weeks if you are curious about the full feature set and progress towards a release.

At the end of May we made the jump to a new forum, splitting away from the old Sleipnir’s Stuff content. See this thread for more details. This move opens up a number of opportunities, such as resurrecting our plans (which were prototyped and then shelved in 2016 due to lack of web developers) to include an in-game authentication system that can be used to securely identify yourself to game servers and other players, instead of relying on insecure passwords or IP addresses. This may not be completed in time for the next release, but if it isn’t then we plan to make it a priority for the following one.

We still receive a lot of questions about a release date for the Tiberian Sun mod, and unfortunately the answer has not changed in the last year: we don’t know, but it won’t be soon unless we can attract new developers with the right skills to help. Progress is still being made on gameplay features (e.g. we recently merged support for placing gates on top of walls, and the special logic for tiberium critters), but a release is blocked by a handful of critical bugs and missing features that cut deep into some of the oldest and ugliest parts of OpenRA’s code. Resolving these issues takes a significant amount of work, and we currently only have one person (with very limited time) with the knowledge required to tackle them.

Tiberian Sun progress has all but stalled due to lack of manpower.

While the mod is broadly playable, it is still missing some important features (e.g. super weapons) and other important features contain game-breaking bugs (e.g. subterranean units, cloak generators). We would have to disable these features if we wanted to release a public build now (like we did in the early days of Red Alert, Tiberian Dawn, and Dune 2000), and try to rebalance the rest of the game around their absense. This is not a path we want to repeat after our experiences with Red Alert.

OpenRA’s Red Alert mod is well known in the C&C community for including a collection of arbitrary gameplay changes that were not in the original game or series. Many of these changes were introduced in the early days of OpenRA to help balance the game and make it play well despite missing core gameplay features (back then these were things like like 5 infantry sharing the same cell or a proper implementation of the “classic” engineer behaviour). Over time, these changes became entrenched, for better or worse, as part of OpenRA’s identity. Many of these changes are considered almost universally positively (e.g. the fog of war, unit veterancy, Flak Trucks), but others have been much more controversial (e.g. Hinds on the Allies, Kill Bounties, re-usable engineers).

This dichotomy between "Original Red Alert" and "Original OpenRA" has caused significant conflict among our players and contributors on the forum and the community Discord channels. These discussions were reignited last year by the change to building auto-targeting, and have increased in passion with recent discussions about finding a way to move Hinds back to Soviets and removing Kill Bounties as a default feature. On one side of the issue are thoughts that the RA mod should abandon some of the changes that don’t make sense in the world of Red Alert 1 (e.g. Kill Bounties, but not the Flak Truck) and instead double down on the things that made the Command and Conquer series memorable. On the other side are thoughts that it is exactly these changes that made OpenRA great, and that it is an insult to our community to discard these features motivated by misplaced nostalgia.

The Allied Hind. Hero, or heresy? Let us know what you think about OpenRA’s gameplay changes below!

We would greatly value input from the wider OpenRA community on the topic, so leave your thoughts in the comments below or on our new forum. The results of this discussion will steer the future direction of OpenRA’s Red Alert mod. Please aim to be polite and constructive; comments that insult or abuse others will be moderated.

Posted by pchote
Comments (39)

What EA needs to do to make C&C Rivals become a good game.
June 10, 2018 - 09:16

Since the announcement of Command & Conquer: Rivals, the next mobile game for Android with the Command and Conquer brand placed on it, the community reception was bad. And it isn't just here. You can see similar reactions at, Twitter, Reddit and so many other sites that allowed users to post comments.

As a site whose majority of the visitors are fans of the Command & Conquer franchise, or at least some of its games, such bad reputation also affect us negatively, since the upcoming public interest on sites that cover Command & Conquer tends to reduce as time passes.

So, from a Command & Conquer fan perspective, I'll post here some of the critical matters of this game and what could be improved. Honestly, I doubt that anyone who is working on this game will ever read it or take it into consideration. But I guess that's a way to start this kind of discussion and make it louder.

Anyway, the problems that I'll list are not in a priority list, since it is hard to know which of them is the most important problem, but they are all certainly critical here:

Incoherence with other games:

The Command & Conquer franchise holds a storyline (or would be 3?). Characters like Kane, James Solomon or Seth only makes sense or get some charisma due to their story or participation on the past games. Tiberium is something that only makes sense if you look back at its definition on the first Command & Conquer game and its interaction with everything that happens in the franchise. And this is something fans care a lot.

Even if you create a game with no storyline, the designers and artists must set it at some point of the storyline, so that the units, characters, gameplay mechanisms and graphics could actually make sense in that story. At least, this is what is expected, although we have seen some previous plot holes on Command & Conquer 3, 4 and Tiberian Alliances.

Command & Conquer Rivals's position at the storyline at all is not clearly defined. By the look of the units, it seems to holds somewhere between Tiberian Dawn and Tiberian Sun, closer to Tiberian Sun. Most of the units are from Tiberian Dawn and some are from Tiberian Sun, such as the Wolverine and the laser cycles.

The first problem is that Seth is alive... In Tiberian Dawn, he was killed by Kane back in the 90's. Worse than that, in this game he can fight alongside with Oxanna (who was young in 2030 and not a 60+ years old woman). James Solomon did not lead GDI (or was that old) when Seth was alive, although he did lead it in Tiberian Sun's second Tiberium War.

But that's just the start. The other Nod general is no one else than Kane. Kane is the messiah. He is not simply a general. He is the God of the Brotherhood of Nod and whoever is against him is simply not Nod. Kane lives in death. Not Seth, nor Oxanna and neither Solomon lives in death. You can't place Kane side by side with other Nod characters. It is heresy! He is special.

So, the main problem here is Seth and Kane as generals. Seth shouldn't be in this game at all. In GDI, Solomon is the leader, ok... but placing him in the same level as the other two is also as bad as what is being done with Kane.

There is also an art style incoherence, if the game is set anywhere near Tiberian Sun. The pictures below show Kane and a GDI Light Infantry, which is grotesquely different than any infantry shown above.

Another important art style matter is how the map is bright and colorful for a game set near the second tiberium war. There are too much light green grass if you compare it with Tiberian Sun maps, like in the picture below.

Mobile phone user interface for real time strategy games

There are at least two main problem when we create games for mobile phones: Small screen and touchscreen interface. Big screen size is something crucial for a proper RTS experience. You need a proper view of your battlefield and some space for accessing build options. And, with the touchscreen, you also need your selectable units and icons to have a bigger size... or at least enough big to prevent you from selecting the wrong unit or option by mistake.

It is a hard problem to deal with and one of the most expected solutions is to prevent scrolling, since a minimap would also take too much space and scrolling the map would be a tremendous trouble for the user. If that isn't enough, it could also make the user issue undesired commands for units when its purpose is simply to scroll the map. Also, if you need to scroll to issue orders, that would be even more problematic. However, if you cut map scrolling, you'll have terrible small maps with few or almost no strategic features. That has made the game looks very, very poor strategy wise and also helps the game to become repetitive, boring and have a low replayability.

The best solution for RTS games on mobile games would be a virtual reality (VR) approach and a joystick to issue commands, even if that may reduce the public of the game in a lower term, since VR kits aren't popular yet. Using the eye to issue commands instead of a joystick could add delays when the user issue orders or force false positives, which could be irritating for the user. Scrolling becomes something very intuitive in this case. The mobile phone gyroscope in this case works well for scrolling and the center of the view works as the mouse pointer.

If VR is not an option, things get far more complicated and even if scrolling is not cut from the game, maps will have to be smaller than in a VR counterpart. The most intuitive solution is a specific button where the user would press to scroll that doesn't unselect the currently selected unit. The other alternatives would be gyroscope (which would be annoying sometimes and limited, since you don't want the user looking at the back of the phone) and eye tracking with the front camera (expensive computationally speaking and problematic if an external event distracts the user or if a unit is in the border of the screen). If that isn't enough, as I said before touchscreen forces selectable units and icons to be big, which reduces the amount of buildable units from the game, making its experience poorer as well.

Weak RTS mechanisms

While the small screen of the mobile phone and touchscreen may force the RTS mechanisms of the game to be much weaker than a counter part PC game or even a VR game, Command & Conquer Rivals seems to pass the impression that it could be a little bit more elaborated in some perspectives.

1) Economy:  The game has harvesters that explores a single tiberium field for a long time before moving to the next one. It doesn't return to the main base or a refinery to unload it. And that's all the economy of the game as both players receive a steady and very similar flow of money. The game offers the option of the player to buy more harvesters. Honestly... this is not enough. There is a space for tech buildings that could be controlled by the closest military unit around. One single oil derrick around the center of the map would add much more depth to the game... if the harvesters require to unload its harvested tiberium back in the base. So, that would give the players a reason to fight for the oil derrick and manage forces between the oil derrick and the missile launcher, although it is obvious that the missile launcher is still more important. Also, there could be explosive blue tiberium near the middle of the map as well.

2) Lack of Map Details: If the map of Command & Conquer Rivals seen in the matchup from E3 was submitted to any of our map competitions, it would certainly get one of the worse ratings there. The reason is that the floor is the same and there are just few stones and random tiberium patches in it. The developers could add more ground types with different effects for infantry and units as well as other smudges, terrain objects, overlays, fences... More dynamic objects that could favor certain unit types over others, specially if the game reaches the mammoth tank spamming spree mode.

3) Traditional Command & Conquer mechanisms such as building garrisoning and infantry crushing: And talking about map details, what about a garrisonable building at the center of the map and some civilian details? That and the typical Command & Conquer infantry crushing, at least for bigger vehicles like Mammoth Tank? Some mechanisms are too good to be dropped and C&C fans feel identified with them. It is a pitty that newer C&C games tends to drop them.

4) Potential Dynamic Events: Has anyone thought about Ion Storms? Or other events that may cause distractions for the battle? Those things allow the game to be less repetitive and less predictable.

Progression System or Microtransactions that affects game ballance

A match must be won exclusively by merit. Nobody enjoys a pay to win game. And no one enjoys a game that, if you start playing it late, you would be under a great disadvantage against another player. While we understand that developers want to earn money with microtransactions, DLCs and related things, games must be designed to make sure these things won't ruin them. Unfortunately, it seems that Command & Conquer: Rivals is marked to commit some critical mistakes with microtransactions.

The main thing to pay attention when designing microtransactions, paid DLCs and even a player progression system is the balance. If these things affect balance, the game life span will be very weak and its tendency is to fade away and shut down. In short: it kills the games and burns its remains with fire. Does anyone think that Command & Conquer 4 was ever popular? Definitely one of the things that ruined it was an unbalanced progression system. If you start the game from scratch now and play against other players, you'll be playing against players whose MCV is able to obliterate you alone at the start of the game and this is not fair, of course.

So, bad items for microtransactions/paid DLCs/progression bonus are items that affect ballance such as units, factions, exclusive buildings, weapons and boosters for units/buildings and items to prevent other items from expiring, since items shouldn't expire under any circumstances.

Good items for microtransactions/paid DLCs/progression bonus are game content that unlocks new experiences such as new game modes, maps, challenges, single player campaign, etc.

If the game has microtransactions, it is extremely important to allow the players to choose which ones they want to acquire. So, users must not solely rely on loot boxes under any circumstances.

Single Player and Multiplayer Experience

Both single player and multiplayer experience are important in different ways. Single player campaigns helps the user to immerse in the universe of the game. Skirmish games allows users to train their skills or learn more about the game before facing bigger challenges such as the online multiplayer.

So far, it looks like there will be no campaigns in Rivals, while the single player and multiplayer have a strong tendency to have a repetitive experience that may lead most users to boredom in a low term. The best way to prevent it from happening is to develop different maps, new game modes with objectives that may vary and constantly supply new content for the users.

And finally, near the end of the following video, there is a message from Kane showing how displeased he is with the developers:

And that's it. If you managed to read everything, congratulations. I hope that it covers most of the complaints I've seen in the community. If there is something that I forgot to talk about, please, post in the replies, so I can update this post as soon as possible.

Posted by Banshee
Comments (8)

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