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Alt 19-04-2017, 23:02
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Chrissyx Chrissyx ist offline

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Zitat von AGMLauncher
The biggest problem was tension between free to play, and monetization. There's really no good way to find a happy medium. Either you incentivize people with persistent upgrades like levels, or new unit loadouts, or you have fair, competitive play. There's just not a good happy medium. Naturally, money talks and bull**** walks, so the game was leaning towards monetization and away from competitive play (except it's the competitive play that really keeps things interesting over the long term, so....)

The second biggest problem was also a result of the need to monetize: content sprawl. We were adding two new Generals every month or so, so that there would be lots of unlockable content. 2 weeks per General is not even remotely close to enough time to fully develop each General. Like... not even close. You need distinct units, generals powers, upgrades etc. 2 weeks is probably 1/10th the time necessary to even get the assets built, let alone tuned, polished, and balanced. So what was the solution to this break-neck cadance? Strip down the Generals so they only had a subset of units, and go for MOBA style 3v3 gameplay where you had to pick complementary Generals to form a team. SNORE. We were trying to clone LoL in a fundamentally different genre. Also, I hate being dependent on 2 other randos, or spending time trying to coordinate with 2 other players I trust. I just want to hop into a 1v1 ladder and start playing. But this game was not built for that, at all.

Next was the siloed development. Art was doing its thing. Engineering was doing its thing. Design was doing its thing. There was no vision holder creating a cohesive product. Art was laser focused on realistic visuals, which actually HURT game readability substantially. You could hide a terrorist in the shadow of a palm tree, and he would just blow up half your tanks. When you're playing a game competitively, you're spending literally fractions of a second on a given screen, and need to be able to assess conditions instantly. This can't happen when the map is full of visual clutter (burning piles of trash, crumbled walls, shrubs everywhere...). Zero Hour's simple graphics actually enhanced the gameplay. Generals 2's hurt it. I actually created a test presentation for the dev team called "Count the terrorist" where I'd show them a screen, give them 5 seconds (an eternity) to count how many terrorists were hiding on the screen. I did this for both Gens 2 and ZH. Nobody got the number right on Gens 2, but ZH was more accurate. Why? Better overall readability.

Moreover, we wanted to do things like make Technicals transports. Art was against this because they didn't have time to model the dudes sitting in the back of the technical, and the load/unload animations. Like.. who gives a ****? It's a game, not Saving Private Ryan FFS.

The third biggest issue was I was hired as the CNC expert to move the game more towards a CNC direction. The lead gameplay designer at the time was a huge StarCraft fan, and the gameplay he had designed reflected that. Units didn't have mass, and all behaved in very homogenous ways. No variety in turn rates, no acceleration, nothing. All of that nuanced micro that made CCG/ZH so special? 100% non-existent in Gens 2. I was hired to fix this. Except right up until we were cancelled, I was never really given that authority. I was told to create special community builds in secret rather than just getting to work making the game feel more like CNC. Of course, a big part of that is requesting engineering features to make that happen, but that's not possible when you have one designer requesting StarCraft-like features, and another requesting CNC-like features. Other things like the maps themselves were designed like SC2 maps - large platforms and huge maps, with narrow entrances that newbies could use to wall off. The goal was to make it easier for players to avoid being "rushed", but several design elements contradicted this goal. Unit build times were too slow, and movement speeds too fast. It would take a tank 35 seconds to cross a map, but a tank would take 35 seconds to build. This means you could at most, have 2 tanks built by the time one of your opponent's tanks arrived. Even on small maps in ZH, you could often have 3 or 4 tanks ready by the time one arrived. Why? ZH had short build times. Short build times and somewhat slower movement speeds actually create a natural defender's advantage that actually helps people repel "rushes".

Speaking of engineering. God damn. The game was an authoritative client-server model, where the server would model the game, and broadcast game state to the clients, which merely rendered it. Great for stopping cheating, but due to performance issues, the game's logical frame rate was 4FPS (literally 250ms per tick). And that didn't really account for latency. So you'd order a tank to go in one direction, and then very noticeably later, it would finally obey that order. This slow gameplay frame rate also made things like accurate crushing, and other effects (like high rate-of-fire weapons like gatts and quads) almost impossible. Also, apparently Frostbite 2 (the engine it was built on) is really not well suited for RTS gameplay according to the engineers I talked to. Things (like range detection) that would have been cheap and simple in an RTS-dedicated engine, were not so straight-forward or cheap in Frostbite.

And things like crushing wasn't just a technical hurdle - it was a political hurdle as well. Crushing is kind of a signature part of CNC gameplay, but there were lots of people on the dev team who thought that crushing would just make infantry useless, so they didn't want it. Except there are myriad ways to design infantry to retain a core role, while also allowing crushing...

Other issues like the Generals powers were just lame. They were point and click instant effects. Totally uninteresting, lacked nuance, and lacked depth. My voice of concern over the existing powers and suggestions to effectively scrub them and start from scratch, was not strong enough. Further, the manner in which you earned those powers was incredibly bad. In Generals/ZH, you earned your generals points by destroying enemy units and structures. In Generals 2, they were unlocked as a function of time or tech level (or something else, I forget which now!). No earning them, just suddenly became available to you even if you camped in your base and did nothing all game.

At the time we were cancelled, the game was about 2 months away from open beta. As a massive fan of the franchise, and RTS snob/connoisseur, to me it should have been 2 more years away from open beta. There was so much work that had to be done just to make it feel like a CNC game, let alone balance it and polish it. Honestly, even if that game had been released, fans would have hated it and would have been really disappointed in it. I personally would not have played it, for what it's worth.
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