Command & Conquer remains to be one of the greatest kings of strategy gaming, and it was all thanks to Westwood Studios. Now, over 20 years later, the ex-devs talks about their experiences.
The Game Developers Conference 2019 held a panel titled “Classic Game Postmortem: Command & Conquer.” In it, Westwood co-founder Louis Castle, composer Frank Klepacki, lead designer Erik Yeo, and technical director Steve Wetherill were accompanied by a collection of pre-recorded video logs. The historic team reminisced about their time making the game.
“Like most great games, ‘Command and Conquer’ was really not made by any one person. So many people put their heart and soul into this product. It’s when all that stuff comes together that it really works.”
Executive producer Brett Sperry called the game a product of an overactive imagination. He also cited part of the game’s motivation as a bet he made with another game designer.
“He said ‘nobody wants to play strategy games,’ and I said ‘well, nobody wants to play your strategy games.’”
After that, Klepacki spoke about the game’s soundtrack. He explained that digital audio was undergoing some dramatic changes at the time, transitioning from MIDI to streamed audio. This allowed Klepacki to use things like live guitar and synthesizers on a soundtrack for the first time. It also allowed greater freedom to the sound and styles they could present in the game.
“We shared different music influences that we thought would be fun to include in the game. The only problem with that was it was all over the board. It was everything from movie soundtracks to orchestral stuff, heavy metal, techno music, hip hop…The takeaway from the meeting was we figured out we like elements from all these different things. Why not try to put them together?”
The panel would go on, talking about how the multiplayer system had started with nothing but rocket soldiers and how the installation client had tremendous production value for its time. Maria del Mar McCready Legg described that as her proudest achievement after hearing a gaming magazine give Command & Conquer a faux award for the best installation process.
“That just made me feel so good. because somebody appreciated all the work that went into that.”
Nearly everyone was in agreement about one thing, however: Command & Conquer was nothing short of a group effort.
“For me, it was one most collaborative games I had ever worked on. The tech team was really approachable, so you could walk into [director] Joe [Bostic’s] office and ask for something…and you’d get it real quick and it would be like 90 percent right.”
What a better way to end the panel than with one final guitar performance by Klepacki.
Unfortunately, video footage of the panel has not appeared online at this time. Our sympathies to everyone who missed out.