Electronic Arts’ web-based game Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliances is heading to mobile, featuring cross-platform play between the web-based and mobile versions. Senior producer Martin Löhlein of EA Phenomic filled us in on the massively-multiplayer strategy title’s gameplay, cross-platform capability and monetization hooks.
“Right from the start, Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliances was designed to work on both platforms,” he says. “The size of the bases, the amount of building that you have in bases, the size of the defense and of the attacks that you’re making were designed for the mobile screen.”
Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliances, which has more than three million registered users on the web-based version (Click here to read our review of that version), is free-to-play and based loosely on the long-standing Command and Conquer franchise.
Löhlein, who’s been with the studio since 2003, has worked on other titles for the Ingelheim, Germany-based developer including the real-time strategy and role-playing game hybrid SpellForce franchise before the studio was acquired by EA in 2006, BattleForge, which mixes RTS gameplay with trading cards and web-based MMO strategy game Lord of Ultima.
Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliances isn’t reinventing the wheel for the more than decade-old free-to-play MMO strategy genre on PC, which includes the likes of Travian (2004), Evony (2009), OGame (2002) and Tribal Wars (2003). What separates Tiberium Alliances from the MMO strategy games of yesteryear is its design, which focuses on the mobile platform. Older free-to-play MMO strategy games for PC were focused on lengthy queues, which lasted for hours, even days, to complete a building or to attack an opponent and report back. In Tiberium Alliances, users can build, attack and upgrade instantly. Also, the game is more about thoughtfully setting up defenses and troops rather than click skills, which a game like Blizzard’s StarCraft II relies upon, Löhlein says.
“We think that HTML5 is the technology of the future,” Löhlein believes.
Playing for the greater good
The core gameplay revolves around constructing a base, harvesting resources and building up an army to capture territory from AI-controlled enemies known as the The Forgotten, and other players. One core gameplay loop is all about a user optimizing their base for the maximum amount of resource output. The other core gameplay loop is combat. The game is set in a large, persistent world map in the shape of a circle, where random camps with NPC-controlled baddies spawn. Players then choose the optimal target to attack and set up an army using the least amount of resources. Combat is handled asynchronously. A player can’t change their base around during an attack by an opponent, but they can spectate the attack. Spectating a battle can be helpful, for example, if the player being attacked by an opponent has a second base, that player can counter-attack by sending troops to the opponent’s base. When a user defeats an enemy — either The Forgotten or a real player — the user is rewarded with resources used to level up or unlock new units.
Individual victories contribute to a player’s alliance, the game’s big multiplayer selling point. Basically, players join an alliance, which consist of up to 50 people, and compete with other alliances on a given server. Alliances battle each other for strategic positions, which give the alliance a bonus of some sort. Since the game world is a huge circle, every alliance is aimed at moving toward the center over time, where there’s an end-game challenge. The further alliances get to the center, the stronger enemies get, meaning strategic positions become more valuable. If an alliance defeats the end-game at the center of the map, that alliance wins the server, but other alliances can still continue playing to reach second place, third place and so on.
Striking a balance between players who monetize and don’t monetize
Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliance’s monetizes in two way. First, players can increase their resource cap, which is helpful since the game limits the amount of resource packages that are produced by buildings. Users can also increase the cap to store Command Points, which are spent for attacking. Second, users can purchase extra supply crates that give them direct resources or Command Points, which allow the user to execute more attacks. The game utilizes EA’s premium currency known as Play4Free Funds for in-game purchasing. Löhlein tells us that EA Phenomic are trying to make sure that players can’t pay to win. The developer set a limit on the number of crates a player can use per session, so users can’t spend an infinite amount of money or time into the game to infinitely boost their army.
“If you’re willing to invest more time and be a little less flexible in when and how often you do your sessions, you are actually able to grind for those supply crates instead of buying them and still be able to keep up,” Löhlein says.
Currently, the game has soft-launched on the Canadian Apple App Store and it will release for iOS worldwide sometime in March. The game will also release for Android in the coming months.