Ok. I have to say, I have not been entirely happy with the mission design in Saga so far. There's a lot of great stuff in there, but sometimes (from what I've seen so far - and I'm not too deep into the game, I think), there are also badly conceived events and downright offensively irritating dialogues that detract from the whole, and make Saga overall a mixed bag. So far - I hope things get better in time. I think I've said this before, let me say this again - I apologise for being critical. I'm not sure if I should be posting this at all, I'm worried that someone will take this the wrong way - e.g., "oh, the Standoff guys are jealous so they're shitting on Saga". To avoid any such impressions, I will keep repeating ad nauseum - if I'm being critical, it's because Saga is drawing me in enough to want to point out the flaws. If I hated Saga, I wouldn't speak about it at all - and I would never, ever consider being negative about Saga to make Standoff seem better in comparison. Not only would that be pointless, but it would also be just plain wrong. And I may be an asshole occasionally, but I try hard to be a morally upstanding asshole. Keep in mind also, this is what I do for a living - one, I make games, predominantly air combat games, and two, I've been a creative director on the last couple of projects, so it's my job to tell more junior designers what they're doing wrong and what they can do better. Being a critical asshole is in my blood, but it's all good-intentioned . With that caveat aside, let's get to the anger management. I'm not going to discuss tonight all the missions I've played so far. That would be a lot of talking. The only thing I will say about earlier missions is a word of praise, just to start on a positive angle - the mission where we scramble to defend our carrier, but only actually fight against those few cats that get past the outer defence lines? Brilliant. That absolutely hammered across the notion that I'm flying in a big task force. The radio chatter in that mission is great. The only thing that would make me enjoy that mission more is if the outer defence force was completely successful, and no enemies would get across at all. Obviously, not much replay value in a mission like that, but the tension and suspense on the first playthrough, that would be fantastically awesome. Still, even with a few cats getting past, it's a fantastic idea for a mission, and very well executed. ...But today, after an Easter-related week's break from Saga, I played one of the next missions: the Fort Crockett defense mission. I played it once, and I quit the game, because I'm damn, damn angry as a player, and damn critical as a designer and writer. Lightspeed Good bloody grief, I've seen arrogantly-written dialogues a couple of times in Saga before, but this one-line character just takes the cake. Whoever wrote this dialogue is a smug, arrogant asshole with a moronic sense of humour - and I derived all that from one bloody line of dialogue! Lightspeed is an ISS reservist who... warns the Kilrathi (an enemy we've been at war with for three decades, and who must have raided this area a dozen times before), that they should back off or... face the consequences (what the f...?). This is written by someone convinced that only career officers are Real Men, that reservists are basically morons too incompetent to serve with Real Men. So, Lightspeed says his line, and to force this point across, dies immediately afterwards. With my mind's eye, I can see the writer laughing as he planned this event - only, it's bad, callous, and not in the least funny. Worse still, it's exactly the sort of attitude Wing Commander has never put up with. Any time you saw someone being smug, arrogant and acting superior to everyone else in Wing Commander, you knew he's got a put-down coming up. Here, however, it's not a character that's acting this way, it's the writer - so he's pretty immune to any kind of put-down. Wing Commander has always been about inclusive camaraderie - brotherhood-in-arms is a theme that comes across in every single game in the series. Every time there was a problem between characters, it was a problem that would somehow be resolved. If you see a young, arrogant recruit who thinks he can outdo everyone else, he'll probably have a chance to die - but you'll also have a chance to save him, and then it'll inevitably turn out he's not as obnoxious as you thought. If you see a stuck-up veteran who refuses to talk to new pilots, you'll soon get a chance to get closer to him, understand him, and like him. So far, while trying to stick to this Wing Commander standard, Saga has also, through its writing demonstrated a different spirit several times. And let's be clear: I'm pretty sure I could name the one guy responsible for this attitude in the writing, but I'm not going to do it, and I ask everyone else to avoid this either (Dund, I'm looking at you here ). I don't want to be sidetracked into a counter-productive bashing session, and Saga is created by a team anyway, so the team as a whole takes responsibility. So, however tempted you are, do not mention his name. Anyway - Lightspeed's death, with its horrible one-line joke, epitomises this different spirit (but it's something that came through in several earlier missions as well, I'm not deriving all this from one incident), which I've basically summarised before: career officers are Real Men, anyone who is not a career officer is inferior, probably downright stupid, and deserves to be laughed at (of course, even amongst career officers, some are inexplicably stupid - we'll get to that some other time). Ask yourselves, Saga team - what is the intention of presenting Lightspeed's dialogue and the death that follows? Can any other intention be read from it, except the intention to show how stupid and deserving-of-death all those ISS pilots are, and how infinitely superior real Space Force pilots are? I certainly can't see this as a dramatic "poor newbies are getting killed" kind of event, because that line of dialogue just makes it so clear how the writer feels and how he wants me to feel about this guy. If it was a character, inside Saga, who was presenting an attitude like this, I wouldn't mind. I would assume that a couple of missions later, something will happen to make him change his ways. But it's the team - it's the game - that presents this attitude. The game tells me, using Lightspeed as an example, that reservist pilots are idiots and I need not worry about them getting killed. That's as anti-Wing Commander in spirit as you can get. The destruction of Fort Crockett drama So then, I fend off a bunch of waves of Kilrathi fighters, we win, we go home, and suddenly autopilot breaks off for a dramatic event showing Fort Crockett being destroyed. It's very dramatic, certainly - but where in previous missions, Saga has a couple of times shown similarly dramatic events in a good way, here the dialogues, the situation, and the outcomes all add up to something obnoxious and unbelievable. I cannot take this event seriously, guys, because everything about it is wrong: 1. We see Kilrathi capships on radar, 320,000 km behind us. Previously, we couldn't even get in touch with Fort Crockett until we arrived, because of the jamming. Did the Kilrathi break off the jamming just for this occasion? Why can I see them approaching? Why is it that normally, my radar cannot detect anything more than 50,000 or 100,000 km at best, but now suddenly I see them clear as day, and my pilots can even detect capship missile launches? 2. So, there I am, 320,000 km away from the action. We detect capship missile launches. The missiles are 90 seconds away from impact. And now, off we go with utterly bullshit, phony drama - this stuff is pure shit, guys, I'm sorry! In 90 seconds, my fighter, at full afterburners, can travel around 100,000 km. All of us Bloodhound pilots could shit ourselves trying, and we'd [/i]never get anywhere close to the station in time to help[/i]. Yet, what we hear is all these dramatic dialogues, with the station comm officer begging for help, with our pilots wanting to help, but receiving orders to the contrary, and with our wing commander telling everyone to get in line because orders are orders - he even points out that if we try to help, we'll arrive with no fuel and missiles and get creamed. Except that we cannot get there anyway! The station is already beyond all rescue! Why are people wringing their hands iand uttering all this nonsensical dialogue instead of just pointing out the blindingly obvious? 3. The station's comm officer goes on to really drive the fakeness of this situation across. He doesn't inform us that the evacuation has begun. He doesn't mention lifepods being launched. He doesn't break off in a dramatic "I'm heading for the lifeboats, pray for us" line, he sits there like a damn idiot right until the last second, moronically begging for a rescue that cannot possibly arrive. Is there nobody with a brain onboard that station? 4. 10,000 people? Men, women and children? Seriously? Oh, how dramatic... except this is a bloody naval station in a bloody conflict zone! Women and children? Well, now I know that comm officer is just trying to make me feel bad, because I know there is not a single child onboard a military station in a conflict zone, and the only women there are female military personnel. Fake, fake, fake. The destruction of the player We're getting to the part that really made me furious. There I was, watching the station getting destroyed - wasn't that the reason we broke out of afterburner? Wasn't that the reason I had to suffer through 90 seconds of increasingly inane, fake dialogues? So that I could witness a great big explosion at the end? Well... no. I was, apparently, supposed to stick with my wing, never turn around, never twitch - because when the dust cleared, my wing commander told me I'm on my own and disappeared off my scope. I could still see enemy capships 300,000 km away (in spite of the jamming), but I couldn't see my wingmen 50,000 km away, and my pilot certainly could never be smart enough to... you know, just plot his own course back to the Hermes and activate autopilot. Go figure. And so, after about twenty seconds of nothing happening, me trying to frantically figure out how to get my wingmen back on radar, how to activate autopilot, anything - I suddenly exploded (nearest enemy: 310,000 km away). Mission failed, not because I was in a failed situation, but because the mission designers had arbitrarily decided that any pilot who doesn't follow orders to the letter must die. I cannot emphasise enough how angry this makes me feel as a player. I can put up with death during a mission a hundred times, it will only make me go back for more. But I cannot put up with an inexplicable, fake death at the end of a mission that happened just because some designer wanted to punish me for disregarding his (not my wing commander's - the designer's) orders. I quit the game there and then, and started writing this post. Don't worry, I'm sure I will go back to Saga and play again, and get past this mission. But I'm really, really not looking forward to it, because I will have to spend ten minutes on something utterly pointless - saving a station that cannot be saved, watching ninety seconds of bad dialogue that cannot be skipped, and I cannot even go away to grab a drink during those ninety seconds, because I just might drift away from the wing far enough to fail again. The destruction of Fort Crockett gameplay consequences Finally - I've already touched upon this a bit at the end of the previous point, but it bears clarifying. The cutscene at the end of the mission carries with it specific consequences for the rest of the mission. Namely, it makes the entire defense of Fort Crockett utterly pointless. Think about it: what happens if, this time round, I decide not to bother defending the station? I could easily fly inside one of those hangars and hide away from the battle - while my fighter is safely tucked away, I'll grab lunch or something. After all, why should I care if the station is destroyed? It will be anyway. I get this sneaky feeling, however, that I will be punished for this. If the Paktahns destroy the station, surely I will be presented with a mission failed screen? It would make good sense to allow the player to carry on in spite of this loss, to acknowledge the fact that the station is doomed - and maybe that's exactly what you guys did, that would be great! But from what I've seen so far in previous missions, I suspect that no, I will be told to try again, to save the station doomed to be destroyed. As a consequence, I'm also deprived of my reward. There's no satisfaction in saving Fort Crockett, because it's pointless. You might point out that this is exactly how it was with the Behemoth. No, it wasn't. You cannot fail with the Behemoth - it cannot be destroyed outside of that cutscene, and you never get the feeling that you've actually saved the Behemoth only to have it unfairly destroyed by magic. This is what happens here, though. I saved Fort Crockett, damn it, I really did - and then it was destroyed. If this destruction at least happened at the start of the next mission, or between missions, I would at least have had the satisfaction of looking at the mission summary screen with a feeling of success. All this was taken from me. This, of course, wouldn't matter if I didn't fail after the mission. If I witnessed the post-mission destruction of Fort Crockett and finished the mission, I would have been left with a feeling of disappointment, but ultimately I would have shrugged it off: it's somewhat clumsy, but I've certainly seen (and made! I've done much worse than you guys! ) many far clumsier scripted events. Instead, however, I was allowed to fail the mission at a point where no failure should be possible, and will now have to play it again with the full knowledge that it's an exercise in pointlessness. Conclusions Concluding this anger management session, a few recommendations if you're up for making any changes in a patch: 1. Get rid of Lightspeed. Just cut out that dialogue, cut out that scripted death - you lose nothing from the game, except for some very harmful obnoxiousness. 2. Change those dialogues during the destruction of Fort Crockett. You probably don't need to record any new lines, just get rid of the most implausible lines, the ones where he begs for assistance, where he talks about women and children, where our pilots talk about trying to help. And let the player autopilot away from this event if he wants to, thus skipping the final explosion: in fact, allowing him to press autopilot will actually make things feel far more dramatic. Rather than merely watching an unstoppable event, he'll feel guilty that by pressing ALT+A, he's actually abandoning those people to their deaths. 3. Fix that "you're on your own, Sandman" script. If the player does go after the Kilrathi capships, acknowledge it, by having the rest of the wing disappear, but don't just kill him for it. If he reaches the capships, you can swarm him and kill him. But until he reaches them, until he's surrounded by enemy fighters, he should always be able to just hit autopilot and go back home - and maybe get chewed out by his commander for being foolhardy. 4. You probably don't need to worry about letting the player win the mission in spite of failing Fort Crockett. As long as you don't let the player fail after winning, as long as he doesn't have to go through 90 seconds of scripted dialogues a second time on a designer's whim, it's gonna be all right. Again, my apologies for spewing so much negativity, especially when it's all dealing with just one mission. I really, really wish I had nothing but praise for you guys. We all make mistakes, though - and if we're all allowed to rant about design flaws in official Wing Commander games, if I'm happy to read people's complaints about the many design flaws in Standoff, I can only hope that you guys will not mind my complaints here, and you'll be willing to discuss them as well .