Blue draws my attention to a blogpost over at the Command & Conquer website. The game, which is free to play and seemingly distanced from the Generals 2 subtitle, is set to have "the longest running beta phase in franchise history", beginning in the first half of 2013. I don't think that "longest running" C&C beta means a great deal, it'd be surprising if the first free to play release didn't have a lengthy beta. The post doesn't contain much information about how the free to play model will be implemented, but it does come right out and admit the problems of previous games and then says it'll all be 'different' this time
[The C&C franchise has been] more about fun to play, engaging, and high quality RTS experiences. And that’s what we’re aiming to deliver, just in a different way.
The full text is worth a read, but there's no real suggestion of what the 'different way' might be. Unless...
Yes, the direction is new and many probably would say that this is not a “true” C&C, just as many did when the original Generals came out. For me, Command & Conquer isn’t just about Tiberium, Kane and the crazy Yuri.
All that really does is suggest that the most excessively pulpy aspects of the series will be absent and that the game, tonally, will be a sequel to Generals rather than a part of Command & Conquer's wider, weirder world. We sort of already knew that though, when the announcement mentioned an "intense, gritty, modern war experience". I don't think cyborgs, weaponised dolphins, mad cabals and alien invasions are very 'gritty', although I could be wrong. I'm quite happy to admit I don't know where the lines of grit are drawn.
Maybe all RTS games should be called Command & Conquer: Subtitle, just to make things easier. This could be the start of that. Similarly, perhaps all new EA studios should be called Bioware: Subtitle.
I wonder how closely this new C&C will resemble End of Nations, particularly in terms of the meta-game and persistent player-general. The team at Petroglyph actually contains some of the Westwood veterans who worked on the original Command & Conquer and what I've played of End of Nations was very solid.
You can apply to join the C&C beta right now.