EA recently announced that Command & Conquer: Generals 2 is going to be free to play under the umbrella of an online series known simply as "Command & Conquer." Bioware Victory general manager John Van Caneghem told me last week that Generals 2 will ship without a single player mode. Instead, "co-operative and competitive" skirmishes will serve as the core, with more modes to be added later based on community feedback. A story mode could be added later, but "it is something we haven't announced yet how we're going to do it."
Van Caneghem said that the studio "really want to get back to the roots of what made Command & Conquer great." Generals 2 will let us harvest and throw up bases in order to "build a zillion units" and "go out and kill all the bad guys." Despite the familiar RTS trappings, Generals 2 will be a dedicated online experience at launch.
"As a live service I think the exciting part is you can try things," said Van Caneghem. "You can see what the community wants, you can give it a shot, you can put it up for a weekend and see how it goes, develop towards what the fans like."
Generals 2 will the first in a series of online, high fidelity C&C games that will span all iterations of the series' long history. "We decided to choose Generals as the first set of games we build under the universe, but we'll be expanding after that, like Tiberium and Red Alert as well as some others as well. But Generals 2 was the first one, and it was one of the biggest sellers, as well as the fanbase has been asking for it for some time."
Generals 2 will be tied to an online account that can be levelled up with new matches. Regular DLC, both free and paid-for, will add new maps and modes as time goes on. Will the Red Alert and Tiberium entries in the series share that same account?
"We're obviously open to the concept," said Van Caneghem. "I know another person asked me the other day if they'd be able to fight games between factions. I guess that's something we can look at at some point."
As well as multiplayer deathmatch and co-operative modes, Van Caneghem mentioned that the team are integrating e-sports features. "We're really going to run the gambit of what people enjoy in a multiplayer environment," he said.
"I don't think we're making a list of the features yet, but I think you can basically make a list of the assumed ones that you'd need to be an e-sports game, and it's definitely part of the plan."
So, a spectator mode with a free camera mode, shoutcast support, tournament support? We'll have to wait and see.
An online RTS powered by Frostbite 2 does sound tempting, and the Gamescom trailer below contains shows some bombastic tank-death potential, but it's sure to be a tough sell to dedicated C&C players. Will you play Generals 2?