I’m faintly surprised to discover that the recent Command & Conquer 3 expansion, Kane’s Wrath, was not developed by the folks behind the love-it-or-meh-it parent game. KW was definitely a lesser product than its surprisingly splendid daddy, most especially in its humdrum campaign, plus I hear it was fairly heavy on bugs and imbalances (the latter being the reddest of rags to RTS Angries). But as it chronicled Kane’s most recent resurrection and continued the tale beyond C&C3, it was an important chapter in C&C’s convoluted, comical lore – so surely it needed Tiberium old-hands at the till? Apparently not.
Fansite CNCGeneralsworld (via Blues) has taken a thorough look at the team behind Kane’s Wrath, and it turns out most of the key names from C&C3 only appeared in the game’s credits when attached to a “Special Thanks To” note. Instead, most of the development was apparently farmed out to one Breakaway Games, who usually specialise in the likes of military simulations (as in, for the military), but turn out to have a bunch of strategy game expansion packs under their belt. Notably, they’d never been near a C&C game before.
The piece goes on to surmise that Kane’s Wrath’s generally lower scores and bugginess were a direct result of this outsourcing, pointing out other EA RTS expansions that have suffered similarly. It doesn’t directly blame Breakaway for this, and nor should it – there’s a long-standing tradition of RTS expansion packs apparently existing solely to milk a few extra quids out of an existing fanbase, and that’s usually a publisher decision.
Kane’s Wrath’s a prime example – its many cutscenes are effectively gibberish if you’re not frighteningly au fait with a decade plus of C&C lore. When the expansion’s entire existence overlooks the possibility of attracting new players in favour of insane focus on the most ardent fans, it’s hardly a surprise that it’d be offloaded to a less experienced team lumbered with a tight deadline.
Worth a read, anyway. Much of it’s disappointed griping about Kane’s Wrath, but it provides a whiff of how tokenistic expansions can be. It also nods to EA recently claiming Metacritic scores play a massive part in whether retailers buy up their games, which could mean we might see a little more love poured into expansions in the not too distant.