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Command & Conquer vet launches new mobile RTS today

Louis Castle on the massively multiplayer RTS called War Commander: Rogue Assault

Hero image of the Western forces faction in War Commander: Rogue Assault Kixeye
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Veteran real-time strategy developer Louis Castle has been working at Kixeye for the last two years creating a next-generation, free-to-play RTS game. Castle poured everything he’s learned about the genre, which he helped to pioneer in the ‘90s, into War Commander: Rogue Assault. The game launches today for iOS and Android.

Fans of the Command & Conquer series should know Castle well. From 1992 to 2009, he helped popularize the real-time strategy genre on the PC. He’s had a hand in games like Dune 2 as well as the original Command & Conquer. That franchise went on to sell more than 30 million units worldwide.

There’s a number of features that make Rogue Assault stand out from the pack on mobile, Castle said. The game is launching with two single-player campaigns, as well as asynchronous multiplayer. Perhaps the most important feature is the ability to take direct control of units on the battlefield.

PC players will be familiar with the unit queue along the bottom of the screen, and be able to coordinate flanking maneuvers and other advanced tactics with ease.

Kixeye has also worked hard to allows players to build units and structures instantly once they’re unlocked. There’s no annoying timers, as with other mobile games, once the right resources have been collected.

A night battle showing off explosions in War Commander: Rogue Assault
A desert battle scene in War Commander: Rogue Assault
A view of the game on a mobile device, showing the heads-up display and buttons Kixeye

Castle emphasized how Rogue Assault is a chance to bring the style of gameplay he enjoys the most to a wider audience.

“I love PC games, don't get me wrong,” Castle told Polygon. “But it is a challenge. It's not like I can tell my mom, ‘Here's how you play a PC game.’ She's never going to do that. She's never going to have the time, she's never going to go get the gear, set it up, get this or that thing installed and get a Steam account. The amount of friction is just terrible.

“Whereas, I go and tell my dad who’s 88, ‘Here, dad. Here's this game. Your son made it.’ And he plays it in 10 seconds and it's just amazing.”

Since Rogue Assault has the potential to reach more players than a PC game might, that’s allowed Castle and the team at Kixeye to do things with the meta-game that they might not otherwise be able to do.

That’s why they’ve built Rogue Assault to be a massively multiplayer online game, where players will fight in real time over territory and resources.

A movie poster treatment for War Commander: Rogue Assault Kixeye

“We have one [world] map right now, and we don't intend it to shard the game,” Castle said. “If you go to the area of Normandy, where Omaha Beach is, that is the only one in the game. So if ... somebody sends me a chat message and says, ‘Meet me at Normandy,’ I can easily find it.

“These maps are truly massively multiplayer maps. You are working and real time against many, many dozens if not hundreds or thousands of players at once. And, of course, the world holds many, many times that.”

While the game works well on phones, Castle says the graphical fidelity and the touch controls are superior on tablets.

“What I love about the pad,” Castle said, “is that the actual interaction with the device is so natural. When interfaces are done well on a touch display, it's really weird. You just touch it and it does what you expect and as you swipe and drag and pinch and pull. It's the same thing you do with your phone every day so you don't have to learn very much.”