Among the announcements rolling out of Gamescom is Electronic Arts’ promise that the upcoming Command and Conquer, a free-to-play real time strategy game that doesn’t need a number or subtitle after its name, is totally going to tell a story. Eventually. Like, next year. Several months after it’s out.
Electronic Arts announced that episodic, story-driven Campaign Missions are in development for Command & Conquer and will be available early next year. The next installment of the award-winning real-time strategy franchise from Victory Games will launch in 2013 as a free live service, with an emphasis on continually adding new content to the game, such as Campaign Missions, based on fan feedback.
In the quote written for him in the press release, veteran developer and EA general manager Jon Van Caneghem says the number one feature requested by the fans is new story content. Really, fans? You guys couldn’t come up with anything else? Really? Thanks.
Real time strategy games are horrible at telling stories, unless the story is about how you told these dudes to go over there to fight those dudes. Although some real time strategy games also tell the story about how your dudes built up defense against those dudes who came over here to fight your dudes. Command & Conquer was a pioneer in telling the story about how one super-powerful dude (or chick named Tanya) moved through a maze populated with weaker dudes that obligingly hung fire until they were killed. I love the genre, and I’m excited to see where EA is taking the Command and Conquer franchise. But the potential for meaningful narrative in RTS gameplay is effectively zero, which is why the stories are always shoehorned into cutscenes between the actual game parts, or yammering heads in a tiny box shoved to one corner of the screen. These are toyboxes, not story delivery devices.