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Command & Conquer 3 - December Community Summit
--DAY TWO-- Page 2
Dawn of the Summit

Waking up at 07:30 me and Trojan went down to the Lobby to meet up with the other Community Members and waited for our contact. The taxi arrived to take us to EA Studios but I and Trojan were lucky enough to get a ride in one of the Ritz Carlton’s cars which was very luxurious.



Arriving at Electronic Arts was quite a sight, two large buildings standing side by side and the towering Electronic Arts on the entry gate. Entering EA we went over to the Canteen which they have their own team of Chefs it was very impressive. I took the Chef’s special Blue Berry Pancakes but some others opted for the Breakfast Burrito’s. For choice of drink one stood out to me Lenonade “Soviet Style Soda!” I found amusing and has a Red Alert theme to it and was surprisingly a good drink. Well that was the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time after getting through the meal it was time to draw the lines in the sand.

The soldiers of GDI and Nod lined up to get some new threads the Summit T-shirts. I proudly wore my Brotherhood of Nod T-shirt “In the Name of Kane!” yes the soldiers of the Brotherhood stood strong. Surprisingly there were an equal number of supporters for GDI and Nod which worked out well for the summit.

After choosing our allegiance we made our way to the Presentation Room which what I saw I was in awe and a bit homesick for the first time since leaving Australia. Wallpaper of a Tiberium Infested Australia which just looked awesome and made me proud to be an Aussie. Well we were welcomed in by Mike Verdu who introduced us to the world of C&C 3 Tiberium Wars. What’s changed for the Global Defence Initiative, Brotherhood of Nod and of course the information we were all dieing to hear about the Aliens!



Global Defence Initiative

The Global Defence Initiative are still the good guys but like any real military they do have a dark side “they aren’t pure white” said Mike Verdu. They have reclaimed some areas from Tiberium infestation using their sonic resonator technology to shatter the crystals and hence created the Blue Zones. Which GDI has become quite exclusive in the sense it focus’s its attention towards the Blue Zones of the planet which only cover 20% of the planet. Instead of focusing on those in need of assistance in the Yellow Zones which is the majority of the Earths population. GDI has become quite arrogant with their vast orbital power with the new and improved Philadelphia Space Station and the upgraded Ion Cannon orbital weapon.

Michael Ironside's character Jack Granger, does things by the book he’s in to save lives and defeat Nod and the Aliens when they arrive there is a limit to what Ironside considers acceptable casualties so collateral damage is to be kept to a minimum. Director Boyle, Billy Dee Williams’s character on the other hand is a civilian who has been appointed Director of GDI. Directory Boyle has a darker side seems to have his own agenda he’s interested in winning the war no matter what the cost as long as it saves humanity. Collateral Damage is of little concern to Director Boyle he wants this war won quickly no matter what the cost.

Brotherhood of Nod

The Brotherhood of Nod is a faction of fanatics who follow the charismatic leader Kane, believing Tiberium to be the catalyst for the next stage of human evolution. They focus their attention on Yellow Zones which is the majority of the world’s population. Because of this Nod has superior support and numbers then GDI but Nod has done a very good job at concealing there accumulated power waiting for the right time to strike. GDI has become quite arrogant and complacent and has predicted another decade of peace; Nod sees an opportunity to strike. Killian Qatar comes up with the plan to strike on the Philadelphia Space Station the first and biggest blow to GDI’s Operations on Earth. Their timing is perfectly executed as the Energy Summit on the Philadelphia was taking place with all of GDI’s leaders on board the space station at the time of its destruction.

Killian Qatar is the greatest military asset to the Brotherhood she is Kane’s right hand. However loyal Killian may be she later discovers that Kane’s plans aren’t in the best interest of the Brotherhood as an organisation and she makes a move on her own with a branch of Nod.

Kane appears to know a lot about the Aliens which he calls them the Visitors, no doubt this knowledge is derived from the Tacitus Data Matrix. Kane has plans for the Visitors but it is uncertain what they are, what is clear that Kane is not at all surprised by the arrival of the Visitors but infact predicted their arrival. Perhaps he is responsible for their arrival on Earth but this is left as a mystery.

The Scrin

Next he talked about what we had all been waiting to hear about, the Aliens. The Aliens have been watching Earth for a very long time waiting for something. They have been hiding in the edges of our Solar System behind Neptune watching and waiting they lie dormant in stasis. They have been in our Solar System for a long time perhaps even thousands of years upon there arrival they watched a primitive human empire civilisations rising and falling, wars occurring. They really weren’t interested and expected our race primitive and would most likely die out. If anyone looked for the Aliens we probably would have found them but all eyes have been on Earth with all the wars going on the planet. The Aliens have a very specific purpose they are here for Tiberium that is their key interest and in 2047 they receive a wake up signal which sends them to Earth to begin the Harvesting. However the Aliens were surprised to see human life not only alive but thriving upon Tiberium and the Aliens were not at all expecting to fight a war. But as they have begun harvesting they are committed so they attack both GDI and Nod showing no favour to ether side and not showing any recognition that they are separate factions. The Aliens key targets are GDI’s Blue Zones as they are the greatest affront to Tiberium infestation for their harvesting needs. They will harvest the planets entire supply of Tiberium and take it back to their home planet it appears their race is dependant on the mineral Tiberium for reasons unknown. GDI calls the Aliens the Invaders while Nod calls them the Visitors. And EA confirmed later on as we know that there name was the Scrin which Mike had originally told us this was something we’d discover in the Alien Campaign which is about half the length of GDI’s and Nods, there are 38 (15 GDI, 15 Nod and 8 Scrin) missions all up between the three campaigns.



Presentation Video

Next we were shown a video from the Kane Edition of Tiberium Wars which we were the first lucky C&C fans to see. This video we see the Philadelphia get struck down by a Nod Missile. Then Kane appeared before us!

“Go ahead my son, push the button! Inscribe your place in history with the blood of GDI!”

We see clips of General Jack Granger (Michael Ironside), Kane introducing Killian Qatar (played by Trisha Helfer), Director Boyle (Billy Dee Williams. We see Kane get frustrated and very angry which is a first he’s normally quite calm and in control of things. If you have the Kane Edition of C&C3 then watch it already!!!

“if you use that bomb were setting in motion a very dangerous precident we will become dependant on Tiberium weapons and Tiberium itself and that’s not who we are, that’s not GDI” = General Jack Granger

“Do the right thing Commander… That’s all I can ask, just do the right thing...” – Director Boyle

The clip ends with a Scrin Shock Trooper appear in a Blue Zone and starts attacking Civilians terrorizing the city. It ended with the old C&C3 logo which Hexetic screamed out Yay the Good Logo!!! Which was funny as no one seemed to like the new logo, Mike Verdu pointed out they weren’t changing the logo by the way the new one is the final.

First Impressions – Brotherhood of Nod Gameplay

I heard someone rummaging around the back of the room before and I was wondering what that was all about. I was about to find out, all of sudden they asked people to check there chairs me and Hypnotist both stood up holding sticky notes. What did this mean? They we were the first two lucky people to play C&C 3 Tiberium Wars at the Summit!!!

Hypnotist generously allowed me to play Nod, as we were both followers of the Brotherhood. I was very excited, I jumped in front of my Computer and got setup this was a GDI vs. Nod match so Hypnotist naturally went GDI here. People watching the main projection screen saw what Hypnotist was doing, while my screen was my own business. Well I quickly went around exploring what Nod had to offer in C&C3. First I undeployed my Construction Yard to see what Nod’s MCV looked like. It’s a Crab Mech! It’s a 4 legged Mechanised MCV that walks around the battlefield which I got to say it just looks so damn cool! I quickly redeployed it and got to business building my base. Established power we have all seen the Power plants in screenshots before so that was no mystery, it has a Power upgrade which so does GDI’s and Scrin Powerplants. Next I built up my Hand of Nod and started training troops I built a bunch of Rifle Troopers and Rocket Troopers and sent them out to explore. I then built some basic defences, what I found weird was the placement of the defences… but then I noticed that Nods defences are Defence Arrays. You place the Array and then the direction of the defences, which you get three defences towers per array which is awesome. The downside to this is if your array gets destroyed you loose all three towers. But anyway I continued building, I built the Drop Zone which I thought was a Service Depot but it turned out to be an Underground War Factory. A life pops up over the Service Depot and drops out your unit onto the battlefield. Which I liked it was a nice idea to make Nod more unique from GDI. I continued building, I built up some Scorpion Tanks and Raider’s and sent them out to Hypnotists base which my infantry squads had discovered while I was building. Next I established Radar for Nod and noticed a bunch of special abilities. The one that caught my eye was Burrow Mines which are basically just hidden mines from the enemy and you can place them anywhere on the battlefield you want. The Nod EVA sounds sort of like Cabal but has a deeper voice I imagine it’s an AI built off similar technology which I was pleased to see Nod still using super AI’s let’s just hope this one doesn’t turn renegade but I’m sure Nod learnt from its mistake.

One very cool thing I quickly noticed is the interface supports multiple buildings. If you build more then one hand of nod, war factory etc it shows up on your sidebar so you can control what every factory is doing from just your side which is awesome! Next I came across the Crane which this allows you to build more structures at the same time instead of making multiple construction yards and it is cheaper too but also weaker and doesn’t replace your Construction Yard ether.

Then there are the Surveyors the mini MCV’s which spread your build distance over a small area wherever you deploy them. But they do take quite a while to deploy before you can do anything with them all three sides have Surveyors.



Anyway I built up my Nod Technology Centre and deployed a Nod Disruption Web which I had hoped was Nods Stealth Generator and it was. My base was completely stealthed but unfortunately for me GDI has a Scanning Ability which neutralises my stealth which Hypnotist promptly did and nullified my stealth advantage. I built up a couple of Obelisks of Light after I got my Technology Centre setup, I continued pumping out troops and vehicles. By this stage I had access to flame tanks so I built a bunch of them. I started building the Temple of Nod so I could get access to the Nod Avatar. Which I got to say the Temple of Nod at the Summit was incredible. My favourite Temple was Tiberian Sun’s until I saw this which was way cooler looking and more high tech then Tiberian Sun’s Temple of Nod. Unfortunately this has since been replaced by a more temple style closer to the original. Also the Temple of Nod allowed construction of advanced technology and also nullified EMP effects. The Nuke Silo was a separate structure at the summit but has since been merged into the Temple of Nod as we’ve seen. Other cool things Nod has is a Stealth Harvester by default no upgrades which is really nice for sneaky harvesting, the Vertigo bomber is also stealth so this allows for all sorts of fun and damage.

Anyway I started building my first Nod Avatar I couldn’t wait to see it in action. I sent out my tanks and soldiers to Hypnotists base which I noticed a HUGE army of Juggernauts, Mammoth Tanks, Pit bulls, Rifle Squads just a massive army. While I had been wasting my time sending in endless hordes of units he was amassing one huge army to wipe me off the face of the Earth.

Which he came over to my base and my Obelisks didn’t stand up for long until he had destroyed most of my base. I undeployed my MCV and my Crablike MCV managed to scuttle away and I setup a new base quickly built a Disruption Web before my Technology Centre was destroyed and setup operations and started building a new army. Unfortunately Hypnotist simple used that GDI Detect ability and destroyed my new base once he had finished destroying my first base.

That was the end of the match, I had disgraced the Brotherhood but I did have a lot of fun checking out what Nod had to offer. I thanked Hypnotist for a good match, I’m a more of a modder these days then a gamer anyway but I had a lot of fun and was satisfied I put on a good show for the viewers. But I did get my vengeance upon Hypnotist later in a rematch and did the Brotherhood proud.

From just this first match I was very impressed with the new Brotherhood of Nod but I was very interested to have a closer look at the more advanced technologies of Nod and have a play around with them. Nod is correct to its themes stealth, hit and run, technology of peace and a sense of brotherhood. GDI also appeared to be correct to its themes heavy armour, streamlined military, orbital weapons and air superiority.

First GDI Mission, Scrin Invade Blue Zone

While this mission was being played me and Hypnotist were lucky enough to be sitting at the front with the rest of the developers giving me a chance to ask Jason Bender and Greg Black a few questions when they weren’t presenting. I asked Jason Bender about the new XML format which he said was very cool in the sense you could modify entire groups of units properties now quickly instead of repeating the same dull coding on every object in your INIs like in Zero Hour. This sounds like a lot less coding and a lot more optimised for us modders so this was exciting to hear.

I asked Greg Black if the Mechs used any logic system for their movement like anything coded into the engine or IK bones. He said IK bones would cause too much of a performance drains on the engine and there was no coded logic for their movement. They are merely just animated which is just the same way we’ve done Mechs in Tiberian Sun Rising so I was well happy but also annoyed to still be having to do Mech animations manually as they are a pain to get looking right.

Anyway the first GDI Mission, in this mission the Scrin have just appeared for the first time GDI has no idea who or what they are but they have invaded a Blue Zone and just been culling civilian populations in the area and terrorizing them. You get a GDI Commando and a squad of Zone Troopers and a couple of vehicles. You see Scrin Fighters flying around the city blasting up buildings which you need to shoot down. There’s all sorts of Scrin creatures (infantry) rummaging around the city which your Commando just chews through. Then you come up upon the Portals which are the Scrin production structures which give the appearance units are being teleported in and I originally thought they were teleportation structures but no this is just their build animation and it is a cool one. Jim Vessela was playing and he made a good point to show off the objective pointers which different colours point to different types of objectives. Clicking on them will also remind you of that objective, another cool feature he showed off was not only do you have the standard box selection in all C&C’s but if you hold down a certain key you can draw your own selection any shape you want which is a nice nifty feature. Its a pen selection feature its awesome to use it you can play around with it in the demo right now just hold CTRL and hold down left mouse click and volla! Greg Black mentioned to me that such a feature has been available since Zero Hour but it was not including that game. Hopefully it’s included in the final Tiberium Wars it’s a nice novelty feature. Greg also pointed out that on the campaign units and structures had different strengths on particular missions, so the single player and multiplayer experience is very different. One some missions they want to give you the impression of kicking butt while other missions they want to seem much harder then normal. For example this mission they made the Scrin units weaker then normal being the first mission. They wanted to give you the feeling that your GDI Commando really kicked serious ass and it certainly did he was chewing through the Alien Scum with his Zone Trooper buddies. Jim also demonstrated the jump jet abilities of the Zone Troopers and Commando and how they can hop around areas like this, and also that you can send in your Commando ahead of your Zone Troopers etc. All very nice stuff indeed, then we had a very interesting video show up with a GDI Soldier talking about a strange looking Scrin structure he’s seen which Eva highlights as a possible Command Centre *which it is*. The funny part was the temporary movie clip in the radar screen was played by Jim Vessela wearing the GDI helmet. I could tell looking at Jim he just wanted to die right there from embarrassment but I actually thought he did the acting quite well but it was still funny.

Next we saw for the very first time the Annihilator Tripod!!! Now this thing is the coolest thing since sliced bread! It is a walking tree like thing with long legs, it has three stalks with weapons. One with a pulse laser, and two secondary pulse blaster weapons making it the walker of destruction! This is where Jim demonstrated that when you destroy an enemy Mech. Be it a Juggernaut, Annihilator Tripod or an Avatar its hulk will remain around for about 30 seconds giving you time to put an Engineer inside and capture the unit. Which Jim captured the Annihilator Tripod then and there to demonstrate which is when we learned the units name looking at the side bar. Everyone was quite impressed I certainly was this mission was an awesome demonstration.

Well Jim completed some secondary objectives and then completed off the primary mission I won’t say anymore about that mission. We’ve covered some nice features here moving on!



Upstairs – The Vault

Upstairs of EA on the development floor is guarded like a Vault, Security was following us around and making sure we didn’t have camera’s etc. I was told several times by the guard behind me to hurry up and keep up with the group. I wasn’t trying to sidetrack the guy I was just appreciating the C&C Concept Art plastered everywhere in the room and I wanted to see as much of it as I could. It was remarkable there were so many concepts very detailed, printouts of skin maps and textures making sure everything matched up and all perfectly fitted in. I saw tons and tons of concepts for the Temple of Nod which I saw the concept of the one I saw in game earlier which in my impression was the best one and I’m annoyed it was cut from the game but oh well. There were master lists, progress sheets and plans also put up all around the room, the Developers cubicles spread all over the place. As a collector of C&C Artwork I was in heaven looking at all the C&C art it was great I was just in awe. But as I was told to hurry up I started buzzing around asking the Development team members what they were working on and asked questions about the new file formats and what not. The Artwork of the Scrin was particularly fantastic and thankfully a lot of it has been made public which I’ve put into our galleries for you to have a look at.

Our contact lead the tour and talked about each persons jobs as he went around first we saw a lot of mission/level editors working on finalising the rest of the C&C3 campaign. The first guy I talked to was graphically beatifying a map for C&C3 he explained to me. There are three stages of map Development here the first is the level designer will place all the strategic objects like tech buildings sets up the terrain and map shape etc, next the scripter creates all the mission objectives, AI and any scripting that needs to be done and then finally the graphic artist goes through and beatifies the map by creating models, adding in models around the map and making it look as visually pleasing as possible without hindering too much on performance.

The next guy I spoke too was working on a Nod Mission, he was working on the scripting side of the map, which I asked him about the new script editor in World Builder which he demonstrated to me. Not a lot of major improvements but the new script editor is easier to use, better organised and quite a bit cleaner so that was nice to see. Unfortunately the World builder is still in beta but this doesn’t hinder its effectiveness it has improved a lot since Zero Hour that’s for sure. Next we walked past the AI teams cubicle who were busy working away this room was packed with people so I quickly moved ahead. There was a guy working on a Civilian structure model for C&C3 me and the Revora head honcho asked about the modelling format in C&C3. The BFME2 SDK wont work with C&C3 as it is using a completely new modelling format called W3X. W3X is the next evolution of W3D allowing for all the new shaders brought in for C&C3 and better shading and I think Specular maps (bump mapping is already brought in by BFME2 so yes bump mapping is in). The major advantage is all the shaders however which as seen in game are really cool and I was very excited about the visual possibilities with them in game.

Walked by a lot more people working on maps the major focus at this point appeared to be on map development.

We went by a lot more cubicles like Our contacts, Mike Verdu's which I popped in and said hi but he looked pretty busy, Jason Benders etc everyone working away hard which was good to see!

Next we went to see the two Visual Effects guys working on the Cinematic for C&C3 this was our last stop on this floor. We all sat down and first we had the first editor talking to us about Nods Cinematic. He was using Digital Fusion to do all the effects for the movie clips, they keep all their images in a high res MD4 format which allows them to dynamically adjust lighting, textures a lot of rendered details for the Rendered FMV’s with total ease. He showed us a briefing with Killian Qatar and Kane showing where the Green Screen and Blue Screens where. Removing Green and Blue Screen reflections/lighting off props and characters which was amazing how cleanly the software did this. The other editor was using Final Cut Pro he is responsible for all Editing, putting the scenes together from recorded footage and also designing all the terminals the actors use. Example Michael Ironside uses a Monitor and points to parts of the screen in the briefing. Which is totally blank and in the actors head, he has to figure out what the actor is pointing too and make the screen work perfect for the scene not the easiest job. But the graphic design behind that isn’t too difficult he said and he enjoys putting it all together. Next the other editor brought up a render of a Juggernaut CG movie and demonstrated how dynamically the lighting and even textures of a already fully rendered scene could be changed in Digital Fusion via the MD4 format which I was inspired this kind of technology really amazing and must save renderers a lot of time indeed. Both the editors showed us a couple of briefings without any effects added, then slowly added in the layers showing the different stages of video development which was all very interesting.



Lunch

We went back downstairs for Lunch, we had a good feed I talked with Greg Black a bit and Jim Vessella about the visual effects quite amazing stuff. We talked about the Tiberium code in C&C3 which is all based off one variable the growth speed, then how much each piece is worth is another variable etc. But the core of the system is very similar to Tiberian Sun Rising’s which I’m developing for Zero Hour. Greg Black was happy to see I had gotten such a feature working in the old Zero Hour engine and asked me quite a few questions about TSR which I was happy to answer. But the Tiberium coding in C&C3 is very easy to modify and play around with which is nice. The coding in TSR is a lot more difficult to work with and there’s not much I can do about that without the source code hehe.

Pod cast Interview

This is the point where I got my chance to interview Mike Verdu and Jason Bender for a pod cast.

We talked about the Aliens, Side Design Aspects, Alien Sides Name and Cabal.

DOWNLOAD IT NOW!

Hollywood Director – Richard Taylor

Next we had a presentation from Richard Taylor a Hollywood Director, who directed all the cinematic scenes in C&C3. First he talked a little about himself, he supervised many projects including Tron so he is quite familiar with working with special effects and he found it funny to compare what took a computer the size of an entire room to the graphics in Tron, we can now far surpass with today’s computers which of course are much smaller and totally outclass those machines. He first showed us some photo’s of the cast working on the set’s which had a lot of Green Screen and blue screen elements around them, as well as markers on the screens. The Blue Screens were used for animated CG Backgrounds which noticeably stand out from the main green background. While the markers on the green screen pointed out where things like television screens where and elements like this, so that the actors knew where they where and how to interact with them and also so the special effects guys know exactly what size they are, where they are placed etc. He showed us an up close detailed clip of the new advanced Philadelphia space station in C&C3. He talked about paying a real attention to detail was added in all elements of C&C3’s CG effects. For example the Philadelphia is split into many modules and extensions since Tiberian Sun if you look closely you can see people at work on the station, you can see shuttles and ships flying backwards and forwards by the Philadelphia and there are tons of new sections.

He showed a movie clip of the Nod missile impacting with GDI’s Philadelphia space station which went up in a fiery blaze of glory which looked most fantastic to me. But Richard Taylor didn’t look too impressed and mentioned that the final explosion would be far better so I’m curious to see how it turns out in the final game. Hen then showed us a movie clip of Michael Ironside aka Jack Granger giving us a briefing. Which he mentioned the actors had to imagine the screens and objects that were all marked in the room and react in the way they imagine them to be, then the special effects artist needs to interpret the actors actions and match the object to him as well. So there is room for some creativity here on both the actor and the artist.

Next he showed us a movie clip of the Ion Cannon striking the Earth which looks like its doing the damage over quite a large area over the planet. It seems the Ion Cannon has undergone a large upgrade since Tiberian Sun and is now a weapon of mass destruction. As we know from the Demo Trailer, the reaction of Director Boyles order to use the Ion Cannon from Granger indicates that it is indeed a weapon of last resort.

Then he showed us a CG movie clip without sound of the Alien Home ship their MCV landing in the middle of a Tiberium Field, deploying and sending out a group of Scrin harvesters which hover over the Tiberium fields gathering Tiberium. Although it had no sound the Visual effects were just absolutely stunning! I was impressed. It was at this point he indicated the importance of audio with CG that the two together complete the illusion without the sound CG just doesn’t give off that illusion of realism.

He also pointed out the importance of actors in a movie and how they are a great investment, they can remember lines accordingly and they bring the character to life. As a writer makes words sound good on paper but actors often change a lot of lines to better suit the character which is what good actors do. He made a good point that Trisha Helfer could memorise tons of lines effortlessly and she was great to work with in that regard.

“Joe Kucan was very friendly and eager to do the role which surprised me” said Richard Taylor when they first met. He thought Joe Kucan would be harbouring some resentment towards EA but no he went out for a drink with Joe. He said he’s a really down to Earth nice guy not that evil Kane you see in the games at all hehe. Not only that but Joe’s acting has really improved a lot since his last role in C&C said Richard Taylor he’s really put a lot of work in over the years it seems which really shines through in the character he plays best Kane.

Then he showed another scene with a Reporter on a green screen background, lighting had been digitally added already and there was going to be a city backdrop to be added later as she is reporting live on the field talking bout the alien invasion. This was the end of Richards’s presentation for us, half the group was out upstairs while he was presenting. Now it was his turn to present to them while we went upstairs to see the Dev Team working on the project.



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