Victory Games' Command & Conquer, built on EA and DICE's Frostbite engine, is launching as a free-to-play game later this year through Origin. Tim Morten, development director, says that while Command & Conquer will require an internet connection, it makes for a more nimble game that can be updated far more frequently than a traditional retail product.
With SimCity still fresh on everyone's mind, I asked Morten about the choice to take the online path. "First thing to know is this is not only a multiplayer game – we do offer skirmish so that people can practice up. I think with SimCity, a lot of people had an expectation to play solo. Many people are going to come to us to play multiplayer so we came from the mentality of, 'How do we the make multiplayer experience as good as we can make it?' The answer to that question is: we try to get rid of as much cheating as we can, and we try to get rid of as many problems with other peoples' lag impacting your own game." Morten explains that the client-server model afforded by the Frostbite engine will be a big boon in combating these issues. "When you're peer-to-peer, inherently somebody else can hack their own peer, inherently you have to wait for their packets to get to you. Client-server, the only place the server code lives is on the server, and the server has an authoritative world state so there's no wait for the other player's actions to get to you. That way we have the best multiplayer experience we can provide. It's not living on some person's machine; it's protected out in the cloud, so that nobody can cheat."
The benefits of a live service are pretty evident, but Morten also added that the underlying Frostbite tech powering the game offers its own unique benefits. "The toolset lets us create content in a much cleaner way than the old engine. That has real impact in terms of how the map looks, in terms of the technologies we get to use. The player-facing stuff are Direct X11 graphics – the fidelity is so much higher than what we've had before – and physics with dynamic destruction, where every building destroys dynamically depending on where you hit it and that does have impact because if you lose a garrisonable structure, that changes the face of the map."
Of course, those without reliable internet connections will be unable to play. "It's unfortunate, I think, that there really is a heightened sensitivity, obviously, and it's caught on a lot with the Xbox One announce as well. We designed this as a live service – at the end of the day, if people want to play offline, we have a bunch of other great Command & Conquer games that we still offer in the Ultimate Collection. Some people live in parts of the world where they just don't have internet and we want them to still be able to play C&C, that's the Ultimate Collection – for them."
With Command & Conquer's shift to free-to-play, it raises the question over whether people will be able to pay for perks and skills to dominate the competition. Morten assures the game is not "pay-to-win" and that everything in the game can be unlocked through play. "It's fully free. You can earn anything that has gameplay impact just by playing, because we want to make sure we're not pay-to-win – but if you want to accelerate, you can outright purchase generals and other things like that."
Command & Conquer is currently in closed beta, with an open beta planned later this year. If you want to get into the beta, you can sign up here.