EA have announced they plan on remastering Command & Conquer games. I have some thoughts on this and will be having a rant. Firstly, “remaster” is a very vague term and can mean anything from a lazy “You can now play in wide screen!” which you can already do easily with community tools. Or, ‘remaster’ can mean an overall restoration of the product. I want a restoration of the C&C products.
By modern standards, the gameplay of the classic C&C games is not good and doesn’t hold up any more than the nostalgia allows. For Red Alert 1 to be fun in 2018, the gameplay needs reworks, rebalancing and modernizations like veterancy and replays. Open RA is a perfect showcase that makes Red Alert 1 approachable and substantive by implementing these sort of changes on a whole new platform with multiplayer online functionality. Blizzard have said they have no plans of remastering WarCraft 1 and 2 because those games simply aren’t good in 2018. Though, classic C&C games are a lot more salvageable, and they have more of a nostalgia factor because of the cutscenes, iconic units, goofy sound effects and cool music.
I’m less interested in remastering the originals than I am seeing the incredible 2000’s C&C games get the support they need to preserve their passionate fanbases and allow new players to enter. Zero Hour, Kane’s Wrath and Red Alert 3 are utter masterpieces and some of my favourite games of all time, but they’re in dire need of balance and bug fixes with servers restored. Despite the collapse of the servers, C&C communities still play online multiplayer through third party servers or services like gameranger.
The passionate, dedicated C&C communities are engaged and have already done the work to nurture these games. All the way from Open RA to the Red Alert 3 1.13 unofficial patch, the games live up to their potential. All EA has to do to really embrace and restore these fantastic products is to integrate the existing community work, and invest in servers. They could do much more make these products shine such as rebindable hotkey support, but I doubt we’ll see that level of investment.
As someone who built an audience around Command & Conquer which kickstarted my RTS career, there’s nothing that I want more than to see Zero Hour live up to its potential and shine for many more decades to come. But that isn’t the same as slapping on HD; we already have Gentool. So before we get too keen, let’s see how ambitious and genuine these Command & Conquer remasters are. Will these be the next Heroes of Might and Magic 3: HD, or will they be the next Age of Empires Definitive Edition?
I also wish these remasters were announced before Rivals to generate hype and good will from the community. C&C fans would have been so ecstatic about the remasters that maybe Rivals wouldn’t have been an utterly toxic swamp to try and enter from the perspective of a content producer.
Either way, I’m excited for these C&C remasters. There is no possible downsides to this, if they are lacklustre and don’t offer anything new than just go play OpenRA or download Gentool instead. But it could be something more, and hopefully it is.