Come now, O ghost of Ensemble Studios. Why so serious? Sure, Microsoft might have nailed you into an early coffin mere hours after your last game left the press, but Halo Wars is proving quite the source of inspiration among RTS developers with one eye on the console market.
Take Raj Joshi, producer on EA’s Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight. Chewing the fat with VideoGamesDaily in a soon-to-be-published interview, Joshi expressed admiration for Ensemble’s “digestible”, pad-friendly design.
“I think some of their mission design was interesting – it did lend to not having to jump too far around the map. We haven’t had the opportunity to develop a console-specific RTS, and I think that would definitely change up our mission design.
“Other than that,” he went on, “their stuff was big. That was one thing we liked. Their stuff was big and simple. And that’s something where being able to design specifically for console you limit your design a bit to make everything a little more digestible. So I appreciated that.”
In Joshi’s view, Halo Wars took a few tips from EA’s own Command & Conquer 3 in bringing the Age of Empires template to Xbox 360.
“One thing that we actually liked was that they did borrow some stuff from us, originally, even though they were in development for a long time. So it was nice to see that they had adopted some of the stuff that we had proven out.”
Ensemble’s management of view areas and unit selection was singled out for particular praise.
“One of the things that we in looking at Halo Wars really liked was that you had a constant view of who was selected in your army, and were able to ‘drill into’ them. That was something we thought was really interesting – OK, I have a selection set, it may not be control-grouped, you immediately are able to see everybody who’s on the map who’s selected and what’s going on with them. So that was something we really liked.”
Joshi did, however, find the top-down take on the Halo universe a little over-forgiving.
“We did find that Halo Wars was somewhat simplistic, kind of an easy play, but that may have been part of their overall strategy of getting people hooked into it, people who were originally Halo fans.”
Command & Conquer 4 is out for PC on 16th March in North America and 19th March in Europe. The full text of our interview with Joshi will be live later today. He compares the game to an FPS, you know.