“Big and simple” Halo Wars learned from C&C3 – EA

EA producer feels Ensemble Studios worked well within the limitations of console play.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, February 18, 2010


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.

4 Responses to ““Big and simple” Halo Wars learned from C&C3 – EA”

  1. Spybreak says:

    One thing I really enjoyed with Halo Wars was that I could easily cycle through my groups, which I never had to manually create myself, just like Universe at War (an underrated RTS imo). Not once did I have to do cntrl 1, cntrl 2 haha. This also helped managing special abilities like throwing grenades or using the explosive shell for the tank. Something I wish Warcraft 3 had implemented in its design.

  2. LocoPuyo says:

    I’m working on an Xbox 360 Indie Game RTS. Halo Wars is really good but I don’t really like the economy system.

    • As a developer, Loco, what do you think of the idea that RTS needs to be less about resources, bases and total user control and more about tactics, unit progression, online and streamlining the user’s options?


      • LocoPuyo says:

        I think resource control and management should be a major part of an RTS game. It is what initiates the battles in most RTS games. You have to expand yourself or stop the enemy from expanding because it is how you get an advantage in the game. Without that the most defensive player has the advantage because he can just react and counter to whatever the enemy does without taking any risks. The tactics in great RTS games like StarCraft are based on resource control.

        I don’t like the new unit progression thing. It encourages you to care more about individual units but does too little to make a difference in Halo Wars. In WarCraft 3 often the whole game revolves around it and it becomes more of an RPG than an RTS.



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