Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 was already replete with ludicrous units, pantomime drama and poster-girl commanders, but new expansion Uprising intends to take it all a step further. We exchanged a few volleys of interview fire with assistant producer Matt Ott to get an idea of what to expect from the PC-only expandalone.
Eurogamer: What can you tell us about the four new mini campaigns?
Matt Ott: The Uprising campaigns pick up where the Allies left off in Red Alert 3. The war is over, but the defeated Empire of the Rising Sun and Soviets are under Allied occupation, something they're none too happy about. While the Allies fight to contain a Japanese uprising, a small Soviet recon team uncovers a top secret research facility in Romania. Before you know it, the three world powers are at it again.
The first three mini-campaigns are done in the style of Red Alert 3 - one per faction. But we've thrown in a dozen new units and some really cool mission designs, so they definitely present a new Red Alert 3 experience. We've also added a few new locales like rural Japan and an eerie night-time Transylvania-style map in Romania.
We decided to take a very different approach with our fourth campaign, the story of Yuriko Omega. Yuriko is the Empire's commando unit, and this campaign takes you to the underground lab where she developed her psionic powers. Here, the player controls just Yuriko against an entire army, but she has a host of powers and upgrades that can be developed along the way. We brought the camera in close and locked it to Yuriko, and adjusted our controls so the missions play more like a dungeon crawler than an RTS. You can level up your character and gain new abilities and powers, so it's a cool hybrid that we think the fans will really appreciate.
Eurogamer: What sort of experience is the Commander's Challenge mode? How does it work?
Matt Ott: Late in the Red Alert 3 campaign, we introduced Future Tech, the company contracted by the Allies to develop new defence weapons and technology. In the Commander's Challenge, the player is contracted by Future Tech to engage the three world powers and steal their technology. You'll start with just the most basic, essential units at your disposal. Every challenge you complete unlocks new technology and one or more new challenges. Before long the world map is covered with unbeaten challenges, each one unlocking a new unit or super weapon.
The player can also choose which faction to bring to a particular challenge. Knowing what units are in your arsenal for each faction, and knowing what units you can soon unlock, makes plotting a course through the 50 challenges a core part of the experience. There is no difficulty setting for this mode, so it's important to know which challenges you can handle, and which ones you should put off until you have the right technology unlocked.
The challenges themselves are very quirky and unlike campaign or skirmish mode. We'll throw all sorts of hurdles your way, including perpetual satellite debris, a clone army of Yurikos, and giant Kodiak bears just to name a few. For the die-hard competitive players, we've also listed par times for each mission. These times were set by the best players we have on our team, and it'll take a true RTS veteran to beat them. In all, there are about 30 hours of gameplay in this mode!
Eurogamer: Why make a PC-only expansion? And why digital distribution?
Matt Ott: We chose to make a PC-only, digital distribution expansion because it was the fastest way to get Uprising into the hands of our community which has been asking for more stories and campaigns. We're passing those savings on, too
Eurogamer: Are there any major shifts in tactics and strategy between RA3 and Uprising?
Matt Ott: We introduced twelve new units that each have a different spot in the combat chain, so Uprising tactics are quite a bit different than Red Alert 3. It's still the fast, fun, and fluid gameplay the Command & Conquer franchise was built on, but don't think you can rely on your old Red Alert 3 strategies.
One of the most devastating new units is the Empire's Giga Fortress. This beast takes a full 30 seconds to build, during which time it's completely vulnerable. But once deployed, its naval form is able to take out entire armadas and flight groups. When the Giga Fortress' secondary mode is activated, it transforms into a floating head with a powerful base-killing laser. Terrifying!
Eurogamer: Does Ric Flair actually refer to himself as 'Space Mountain'?
Matt Ott: You'll have to ask Ric himself, but from what I've been told, "It's the oldest ride in the park, but it still has the longest line." Space Mountain is quite popular, apparently. He doesn't mention it in the game since he's Allied Commander Hill, but in one of our Flair vs. Bear videos Space Mountain comes up... Wooo!
Eurogamer: Red Alert 3 was one of the most celebrity-heavy games we've ever seen, and has a bit of a thing for the ladies, which isn't to everyone's taste. Isn't that just attention-grabbing, and doesn't it risk overshadowing the gameplay?
Matt Ott: Tell us how you really feel! Live-action cinematics are a cornerstone of Command & Conquer, and we definitely do have a thing for the ladies. But when the cut-scene ends and you're actually in control, gameplay is king. So we don't feel that casting the likes of Gemma Atkinson, Jamie Chung, or Holly Valance overshadows our gameplay. It's all part of the C&C experience.
Eurogamer: On the other hand, C&C games have always been aware of their silly stories, when other games generally aren't. How do you maintain that sense of levity without slipping into self-parody? (Assuming you do - I mean, consider the dolphins.)
Matt Ott: It's easy to maintain levity in a game where armoured warbears can parachute behind enemy lines from an amphibious man-cannon. The Red Alert franchise is all about the "what-ifs" of mad science military technology like time travel and Tesla weaponry, and that wackiness carries over into our cinematics. We don't consider that self-parody. It's just life in this crazy alternate reality we've created in the Red Alert part of the franchise.
Eurogamer: Speaking of the cast, how on earth are these people actually selected and recruited? Do you sit around going "Who was that one off Hollyoaks?" and then cold-call them?
Matt Ott: No, in fact our process is much more scientific than that. We think about the characters and brainstorm potential actors or actresses, then score each of them against four benchmarks. First we look for star power; that Hollywood draw you can plainly see with a lot of our cast. Then we look for "geek cred", the sort of person our core players idolise. Malcolm McDowell fits in here from his work on Star Trek, Wing Commander and Heroes. Next we look for the kind of person that just makes you smile. Think of JK Simmons, Peter Stormare, or Ric Flair... Wooo! Finally, since we know our audience, our fourth benchmark is being an extremely hot chick. Gemma Atkinson, anyone?
As the cast starts to come together, we're always thinking back to these four criteria and trying to make sure we strike a good balance.
Eurogamer: Will you be producing any Red Alert 3 DLC for console?
Matt Ott: We have no plans to release Red Alert 3 DLC for console at this time.
Eurogamer: Finally, what happens when this is out? Was the response to Red Alert 3 strong enough to warrant another sequel, or has Red Alert run its course now?
Matt Ott: I'd hardly say Red Alert has run its course. We've surveyed our fans and Red Alert is consistently the most beloved Command & Conquer universe. Since Red Alert games are all about over the top alternate-realities and time travel gone wrong, the possibilities are really limitless. We've gotten a great response to Red Alert 3, it has a very strong community, and the dev team loves the Red Alert franchise.
But, with that being said, we aren't secretly working on a new Red Alert behind closed doors. Remember, more than seven years passed between Red Alert 2 and Red Alert 3.
Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3: Uprising will be available on PC on the 12th March.