"It's an interesting time to be an RTS developer," says Command & Conquer 4
lead designer Sam Bass.
The upcoming release of StarCraft II
will be a boon to the genre overall, he says, expecting it to "help the market" -- support he says RTS gaming needs right now.
"I think we're a little bit in danger of becoming like the flight sim market, where you're catering to an increasingly small but hardcore audience," Bass tells Gamasutra as part of a new, in-depth feature
on the development of C&C4
is an attempt to grow that audience a little bit -- to open the doors and say, 'Hey, people who are interested but terrified because every time they play an RTS they go online and just eaten by an eleven-year-old Korean kid, here are some different ways to play,'" he says, explaining how the team worked in the opportunity for a wide variety of gameplay strategies for players of all kinds.
"If you like, you can go in and still participate and still enjoy yourself without being on the front line and getting killed," Bass adds. "Then you also allow the hardcore to do what they do."
The effort to salvage the RTS genre by aiming beyond a niche audience is bigger than C&C4
, Bass says. "We're definitely moving in some interesting directions after this game," he says.
"Obviously, I can't really talk about what they are, but we're evaluating ways to, again, cater to both markets and grow RTS again, to bring it back to the forefront," he continues.
"This is a genre I love, and I'd hate to see it go the way of the flight sim, where it's one development team in Russia doing something really incredible, but that takes eight years to do."
When Gamasutra spoke late last year to Might and Magic
Jon Van Caneghem on his joining EALA to lead the Command & Conquer brand
, he talked about how the concept of software-as-service and socially-oriented online environments were a major part of "taking a franchise like Command and Conquer
and expanding it to a wider audience."