Q's anger management thread (chock-full of spoilers!)

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Late last night, I was able to play the second Torgo mission...

Nice to finally see (heh) Strakha. The way the story built up towards the Strakha encounter was pretty nice as well, although I got the impression that the briefing was a little too coy - no one knows what's going on out there, black hole, yadayadayada. Those were the facts, of course - but I would expect the briefing to also tell me that it's likely stealth fighters are at the heart of the problem. I mean, this is hardly the first time we see stealth fighters in a Wing Commander game - so it seems pretty fake that nobody tells you what to expect. Especially since later during the mission, they have no trouble figuring out what's going on.

Similarly, I like the *idea* of making so much of a fuss about Stalker. I like the fact that he gets beaten off, only to try to ambush you again when you're all alone. The whole dogfight with him is pretty cool - sure, you quickly notice that his Strakha can sustain a lot more damage than anyone else's, but you don't really mind it. I even like the notion that you have to goad him into decloaking in the first place, except for one detail: having to taunt him in Kilrathi doesn't fit in with the rest of the encounter. Think about it - when Avatarr taunts him in Kilrathi, Stalker... responds in English. This would have worked just fine, had you recorded a complete new set of Kilrathi-only taunts for Stalker (and maybe called him something else, so as not to have to deal with people saying "I heard Stalker in WC3, and that ain't him!"). But under these circumstances, it would have been better to drop the Kilrathi language thing, and just have Avatarr come up with a more insulting insult than what Sandman says.

There is, by the way, an odd kind of inconsistency, generated by the fact that you first take out the Kilrathi strike force, and only then do you go on to fight the stealth fighters: at the rate they're shooting down the Hellcats, it seems like they spend 95% of their time watching and, well, stalking, and only 5% of their time actually shooting. Anywhere else, this would be fine... but when two capships are about to be torpedoed into oblivion, it seems odd that the Strakha wouldn't intervene more directly in the battle, even at the risk of being exposed. Unless the Kilrathi consider a stealth fighter to be more precious than a destroyer - which is, of course, possible, given how few Strakha we see out there. But if that's the case, it probably would have been better for someone to point it out during the mission, rather than leaving the player to wonder about it (not that most players would, of course ;) ).

And finally, the obvious complaint: so, we encounter four pilots from another squadron and... they're all jerks. Does Confed actually have any non-asshole squadrons in Saga? I'd sure love to see one...
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
And on this quiet Saturday morning, it seems I can play another mission or two... before I get into the commentary on Torgo 3, after looking through the intel file on Stalker, I have to revise what I said about the taunting thing in the previous mission: even had there been no inconsistency language-wise, the whole thing would actually still make no sense. We are told that Stalker never reacts to taunts... of course, I'm not sure if this is something that Saga has invented, or if it was in the Victory Streak manual: I've only got the KSaga version, so I can't tell.

Now then, Torgo 3. I'm pretty relieved this was an easy mission - after enduring what felt like hours of dialogue after takeoff and at the first navpoint, I really wouldn't have been happy had I died out there. Incidentally, this spoiled the mission a bit for me: I only got two kills, both being destroyers. Not a single fighter, because at Nav 2, I was saving my fuel for the real show, and with the Kilrathi once again being outnumbered by Confed fighters, my efforts were doomed. You can imagine my surprise when it turned out that I was saving myself for nothing, because those destroyers had no escort and were just dead easy. But then again, I was also kinda expecting another target to show up afterwards, and I wasn't disappointed.

Nav 4. This time, the disappointment was in the fact that I didn't have to really do anything. A heavy carrier and a heavy cruiser - and I'd spent my torpedo already. Initially, I charged the carrier and, using my remaining missiles plus a lot of guns, I set about wiping out its engines to prevent it from escaping. Good thinking, but unnecessary, what with the arrival of the TCS Centurion (by the way... just how exactly was this Kilrathi strike force planning to make a getaway by charging deeper into Confed territory?). Still, given all that talking at the start of the mission, I wasn't too upset about the final battle not being too dangerous.

Since the rest of the mission is really just narrative, all that remains is for me to point out a few story-related questions and issues.

The first is the minefield at Nav 2. We're told we'd skirt the edge of a minefield, but when we arrive, we find an asteroid field instead. What's up with that? Were minefields one of those features that you hoped to implement, and finally found impossible to do?

Then there's the Centurion. When we last saw the TCS Centurion, she was a Waterloo-class cruiser. Or at least, she looked exactly like a Waterloo-class cruiser, because while we aren't told what class she is, we see the ship itself in the Special Ops 2 intro. She may have been a Jutland, but if she was, she would have been the kind of Jutland described in the WC bible - a Waterloo converted into a carrier. Given that Jutlands in Saga (and Standoff, of course) are something different entirely, you would have been bettter off keeping the Centurion as a Waterloo. If you couldn't do a Waterloo (another model to make, after all), then you should've just used a different capship. There's plenty of other carrier names you could have used.

And finally, the Behemoth. I was somewhat bemused when, after being told that my flight recorder is being wiped, and that no one on the Hermes needs to know about the Behemoth... we immediately hear the Hermes' captain announce and explain the Behemoth to the entire crew, in far more detail than they should ever have known. We're even told (or at least shown) that the target planet will be in Loki. So what happens now? Aren't we worried that if one of the pilots from the Hermes bails out and gets captured in Nephele, the Kilrathi won't even need to get any information from Ralgha nar Hhallas? Clearly, this is one of those visible "seams", points in the game where one author wrote everything for one mission, and then someone else wrote the captain's update and the texts for the next mission. I wouldn't even be pointing out that the Hermes crew knows far, far more than they need to, if it wasn't for the fact that the previous debriefing had just told us that we already know too much, and we'd better not tell anyone. On the other hand, though, it would have been interesting to have played this out without telling the player at all what's going on: to keep the information on the Behemoth as restricted as it would have been, and relying on players' memories of WC3 to fill in the gaps. That's the way Saga had maintained its relationship with WC3 up to this point, and it seemed to be working pretty well...
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
of course, I'm not sure if this is something that Saga has invented, or if it was in the Victory Streak manual: I've only got the KSaga version, so I can't tell.

It's not in Victory Streak.

... but come on, buy the GOG version. It's worth it for the copy of Victory Streak and the origin's Official Guide re-rendered from the source files alone. :)
 

Wedge009

Rogue Leader
...we encounter four pilots from another squadron and... they're all jerks.
That's all right. It's a requirement that they be jerks so the player doesn't mind when they get killed by Stalker without so much as a peep from them...

...just how exactly was this Kilrathi strike force planning to make a getaway by charging deeper into Confed territory?
I suspect they didn't intend to. Would be great honour and all that Kilrathi-blah-blah for them to die on a glorious suicide charge rather than turn tail and retreat afterwards. We already have a precedent for this in Proxima - I can't imagine raiders getting that far into Confederation space with the intention of running home once they're done. It also explains why the light carrier we see in Proxima went on a suicide charge once all the capital ship missiles were used up.

Then there's the Centurion. When we last saw the TCS Centurion, she was a Waterloo-class cruiser.
I forgot about that... could be that the cruiser got itself all blown up and this Centurion is a new ship.

And finally, the Behemoth...
The whole presentation was a bit odd. But I find this is one of those things that's tricky to do just right. I liked, from a player's point-of-view, that we see and hear so much of the Behemoth even if it doesn't make sense from an in-universe perspective.
 

mustanger

Rear Admiral
Yeah, I think the Behemoth thing is a double edged sword. On the one hand, if you don't say enough about it, the new players who didn't play WC3 (there are more than you probably think, sadly, as the game is nearing 20 years old now) would be totally lost and in the dark. Quarto, you are right that for the hardcore Wing players like us that frequent this board, we find it strange to have so much information.

Realistically, I think Saga made the right choice by giving more info on the Behemoth. Saga isn't a sequel or expansion to WC3, it is a stand alone game. While it does pay a lot of tribute to WC3, and you certainly get more out of the experience if you have played that title, you can happily play Saga and enjoy the story without WC3. Ideally, if people played Saga and liked it, they may decide to pick up a copy of WC3 and play it, too! I think everyone on the board can recommend that :)
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
... but come on, buy the GOG version. It's worth it for the copy of Victory Streak and the origin's Official Guide re-rendered from the source files alone. :)
As laughable as it may sound, given the pricetag... I'm afraid I'm on a pretty tight budget at the moment. I don't even wanna risk signing up to GOG - I could certainly get away with buying WC3, but it wouldn't end with just one buy. So - in a couple of months, definitely, but not yet.

Yeah, I think the Behemoth thing is a double edged sword. On the one hand, if you don't say enough about it, the new players who didn't play WC3 (there are more than you probably think, sadly, as the game is nearing 20 years old now) would be totally lost and in the dark. Quarto, you are right that for the hardcore Wing players like us that frequent this board, we find it strange to have so much information.
Well, as I said - not revealing much about the Behemoth would have been more interesting (...to hardcore fans), but it's not the only way to go. The only reason I even noticed this flood of Behemoth information was because I'd just been told that it's a big secret that no one must know about. If the previous mission hadn't ended with the "it's a secret" thing, I wouldn't have cared about getting all this information. It's just the glaring inconsistency that brings attention to it.

Realistically, I think Saga made the right choice by giving more info on the Behemoth. Saga isn't a sequel or expansion to WC3, it is a stand alone game. While it does pay a lot of tribute to WC3, and you certainly get more out of the experience if you have played that title, you can happily play Saga and enjoy the story without WC3. Ideally, if people played Saga and liked it, they may decide to pick up a copy of WC3 and play it, too! I think everyone on the board can recommend that :)
You know, I'm kinda split on that. Obviously, if you've seen Standoff, you'll know that we went the opposite way. We're so inward-looking, you can't even understand the story without picking up Fleet Action first. And certainly this reduced Standoff's accessibility, but was it a bad choice? I appreciate the fact that Saga brought quite a bit of publicity for Wing Commander, but I also can't help thinking that opening the franchise up to new fans is something that official releases should be responsible for. It just seems better to me to if a fan project only aims for the fans. We're supposed to be doing this because we love the game, not because we want to get attention.
 

mustanger

Rear Admiral
You know, I'm kinda split on that. Obviously, if you've seen Standoff, you'll know that we went the opposite way. We're so inward-looking, you can't even understand the story without picking up Fleet Action first. And certainly this reduced Standoff's accessibility, but was it a bad choice? I appreciate the fact that Saga brought quite a bit of publicity for Wing Commander, but I also can't help thinking that opening the franchise up to new fans is something that official releases should be responsible for. It just seems better to me to if a fan project only aims for the fans. We're supposed to be doing this because we love the game, not because we want to get attention.

Well, I don't think I would say there is a wrong choice. I think Standoff does a really great job, I certainly found it entertaining and the story was compelling. I think there were a lot of things that tip the hat to the hard core fans, which is fun for all of us who have been playing WC since we were kids. The story is far enhanced by having read Fleet Action, but I wonder what percentage of original fans ever read the novels? That being said, I don't think that Standoff made the wrong choice, just a different one.

I also don't want to go so far as to say Saga was "aimed" at the new fans, either, or that their goal was ever to make a new Wing Commander for the masses. Every time I have heard a Saga team member explain why they made Saga, they have said something along the lines of, "we made the game because we love Wing Commander, and we want to play it, too!

I don't want to go to far speaking for the writers or anything, but the way that it is written lends itself to a stand alone game that gives nods to the original. I guess the best analogy would be how Hollywood remakes classic movies. The new Total Recall that is coming out won't be exactly like the original, but it will give nods to it by including some of the original content, like the three boobed hooker for example. A person who has never seen Total Recall could walk in and enjoy the new movie without ever having seen the old one.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Ok... I just tried and failed the first Nephele mission. Technically, I could have just continued through to the end and gone on to the next one, but this one made me angry, so I'll play it again. Not before I yell at you guys, though.

The design of this mission is irritatingly punitive, to the point where I'd like to call people all kinds of nasty names. A transport docks, and that's it? Nothing more you can do about it? Really? Wow! The Kilrathi are able to unload all the cargo within a split second? No wonder we're losing the war, if their logistics are that good.

Of course, time gets compressed for gameplay's sake. Giving the player thirty seconds to destroy a docked transport before it completed its mission, that would be fair. But this is just utterly stupid. It stretches credibility to the breaking point just to make sure that the player can indeed fail this objective. What the hell is the point of that? This is *not* good mission design. Especially since now, wanting to replay the encounter, I'm going to have to go through what - four, five navpoints, each with combat? Or is the mission designed this way specifically to discourage players from replaying, so they shrug and move on to the next mission to face the consequences?

On the note of combat, somehow the kill attribution served to irritate me more on this mission than anywhere else before. That's just me being greedy for kills, of course - it's not your fault :). But it's just unfair that I shoot down about ten fighters, and walk away with three kills. In most Saga missions so far, you might run into thirty-forty Kilrathi during a mission, but they're split into such small waves that the friendlies almost always outnumber them. In this mission, on top of that, at every navpoint the enemy starts off 30,000 metres away. Your wingmen go charging in, but the player doesn't necessarily keep up, since he'll usually want to save fuel. By the time I got within action, I was usually flailing about wildly trying to find a target worth shooting at - that is, one who had taken less than 40% damage, so that I could have some hope of getting a kill. It's just sooooo unfair. This time round, I'm gonna take my precious time, save my fuel for the transports, and just shoot whatever comes along - probably the only kills I'll have will be transports, but that's better than chasing fighters and still not getting a kill :(.
 

Aginor

Vice Admiral
The kill stuff has to do a bit with luck. Sometimes you just have bad timing, sometimes you don't. That can happen in almost every mission.

About the mission itself: I actually liked that one, because it is... well... not a standard thing to do. Killing the engines, judging which transports to kill first and then moving to the next ones felt different and fun to me. I agree that it is strange that they seem to unload the transports that quickly, it does feel a bit artificial and I probably would have done it a bit differently. But for me that mission is not in the "10 most annoying missions" list. I also found it was pretty easy to stop the transports before they dock, so the mission would have been even easier if you had more time. Such things happen when beta testers complain that missions are too easy, you change something about the timingh or distance and the mission becomes harder. The disadvantage is that it becomes more unrealistic. It is like the other thing we mentioned on the last page: The player always arrives to just make it if he hurries up. And it doesn't matter how fast he is, he arrives precisely then. Most people don't even notice such things (or just don't care because it is what they expect from a game anyway.)

But if you want a cool explanation, here is one: The moment the transports dock the stations big phase shield surround them, making it impossible for you to kill them. :D
 

Tolwyn

Vice Admiral
But if you want a cool explanation, here is one: The moment the transports dock the stations big phase shield surround them, making it impossible for you to kill them. :D

I have a better one: transports carry weapons for the Kilrathi forces in this system. You do not want to inflict serious damage on the installation you are trying to recapture, do you? :)
 

Wedge009

Rogue Leader
When I played this mission I only heard once from my wingmen that the transport had docked with the station and that I should ignore it. Disobedient sod that Sandman is, I had him attack and blow it up anyway - I'm pretty sure it just sits there, it doesn't become invulnerable or disappear from the area. And I didn't fail the mission - I don't think I even got any 'recommendations' in the debriefing. But Q is right about the multiple nav points beforehand - because there were so many, I didn't feel inclined to restart just to be sure I didn't have any transports dock.

Edit: Having a brief window in which to destroy the transports before it was deemed 'too late' is a good idea, I think, if it was possible to implement.

There is one thing that bothered me about the mission though: if I recall correctly, one of the wingmen suggest scanning the cargo before blowing up the transports. There's no trigger for scanning, right? You just fly near the transport and hold there long enough? I don't think my 'scanner' activated until the last few transports. Again, I wasn't inclined to restart the mission just to be sure, but there didn't seem to be any bonus for completing that sub-objective anyway, nor any penalty for failing to do so.

Side note: Nice to have the reference to WC4 with Bluepoint Station. Depending on your point-of-view, it could be a good or bad thing that you know you'll ultimately succeed in the mission because we see the same station in that game.
 

Aginor

Vice Admiral
There is one thing that bothered me about the mission though: if I recall correctly, one of the wingmen suggest scanning the cargo before blowing up the transports. There's no trigger for scanning, right? You just fly near the transport and hold there long enough? I don't think my 'scanner' activated until the last few transports. Again, I wasn't inclined to restart the mission just to be sure, but there didn't seem to be any bonus for completing that sub-objective anyway, nor any penalty for failing to do so.
You just have to fly close enough, keep the transport in your sight and wait until the scan is complete, there is no key or something to trigger it.

I have a better one: transports carry weapons for the Kilrathi forces in this system. You do not want to inflict serious damage on the installation you are trying to recapture, do you? :)
Haha, I never thought about that, but yeah, I like that explanation even more than mine. :)
 

Sphynx

Commodore
I am sorry of this comment derails the flow of this discussion, but there was something I wanted to clarify based on a conversation I recently had. Earlier in this thread, I posted about how Saga was written by multiple authors and how the process of trying to work together and reconcile our different visions for characters, dialog, missions, etc. proceeded.

It has come to my attention that a part of what I said probably came across in a way that is not accurate. I wrote the following:

Over time, several other writers were brought in to help (myself included), and at the end of the project I was the one doing most of the writing.
Part of what has made this complicated is that the various authors did not always see eye to eye.

I realize that this could sound like I was the one doing all of the writing as the project came to its close. At the end, I was doing a lot of work on the manual (not on writing it from scratch, but in working on various revisions), but I was not the only one working on the manual (the original Saga author was also working on the manual, as well as other projects, and we had other help, as well). I was also writing the closing set of missions, but these were based on a lot of old ideas from other authors that I tried to pull together into a cohesive whole.

What I was trying to say in my previous post- and which I clearly did not do a good job of saying- was that I did not find myself having to do as much of the give and take process on the final few missions as I found myself doing with all of the missions I had worked on up until that time. For the most part, my experience with those last missions was that I was given a specific direction the missions should go, and I had to try to stay true to what each of the characters had become. I had a few specific elements I was supposed to fit in each mission, and there were old vestiges of previously conceived dialog that they wanted me to work in. So, there were a lot of ideas and pieces that were not mine in those final missions. However, when I brought those together to write those missions, I did not have to go through the process of discussing, compromising, etc. with other authors the way I had in previous missions. That is what I was trying to say, and I did not mean it to sound like I deserve all the credit (or blame, depending on you point of view) for the writing at the end of the project.

I also wanted to reiterate a point I made in my original post; although the original author and I had many disagreements (some of them quite severe, in fact), and although my vision for a lot of Saga was quite different from his, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the sheer amount of work and dedication that he has shown to the project. No matter how much work I put in to this over the years (and it was not a small amount), my work is dwarfed by his contributions, and the characters, story, and tone of Saga should all be rightfully attributed to him. I just wanted to make sure that was clear, in light of how my previous comment could have been taken.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
When I played this mission I only heard once from my wingmen that the transport had docked with the station and that I should ignore it. Disobedient sod that Sandman is, I had him attack and blow it up anyway - I'm pretty sure it just sits there, it doesn't become invulnerable or disappear from the area. And I didn't fail the mission - I don't think I even got any 'recommendations' in the debriefing. But Q is right about the multiple nav points beforehand - because there were so many, I didn't feel inclined to restart just to be sure I didn't have any transports dock.
You only fail the transports objective if two transports get through. One is ok, two are bad.

I have a better one: transports carry weapons for the Kilrathi forces in this system. You do not want to inflict serious damage on the installation you are trying to recapture, do you? :)
Why not? In truth, trying to recapture Bluepoint Station doesn't actually make much sense at this stage in the war - just like the Kilrathi are spending tons of equipment trying to protect the station, so will Confed. But where the Kilrathi have plenty of ships to spare, Confed has none. I'm not sure what the point of trying to capture the station is, but in all likelihood - it's only being done in order to make sure that the Nephele System gets all the attention it can muster. Damaging the station wouldn't affect things at all.

(also, I can blow up the transports when they're docked, and they don't seem to do much damage to the station :p )


Anyway, I played through this mission today again. I think that first time not only made me angry, but also a bit careless - this time I died three (or was it four?) times before I finally completed the mission. But, having rearmed my Thunderbolt with dumbfires and behaving in a counter-intuitive way (rather than destroying transports, just flying around like crazy disabling them), I was able to complete the mission. I don't know if I completed the scanning objective - if you only need to scan some of the transports, then yeah. Otherwise, no.

Things did get very intense out there - on the last, victorious run, my hands were shaking most of the time. That's good, right? I mean, it's great when a game builds up such emotional intensity, right? Well... no. The stakes are indeed high in this mission, but they're high for all the wrong reasons - my top fear is that if I get killed, I'm gonna have to slog through five earlier battles with Kilrathi fighters, as well as listening to the same dialogues all over again. That's a lot of fighting and dialogues to deal with.

(incidentally, this has also made me realise one of the big strengths of Wing Commander compared to X-Wing & Freespace - most of the time, you were free to choose your own path through the mission, so if you preferred, you could often handle the toughest navpoint of the mission first, and only then move on to the less important stuff)

The final battle at Bluepoint is pretty exciting, because you're taking an awful lot of fire. It's great in that regard. It's just rather annoying because the margin for error is so narrow - essentially, unless you're playing this mission through a second or third time, you have no chance of getting all transports out of action. It's impossible, because it's counter-intuitive - you really want to kill blasting away at a transport until it dies, but if you do that at the start of the mission, there's a second transport on the other side of the base that has a similarly small distance to run - so, destroy one, the other will get through. Only if you disable the first one and fly immediately to the second will you succeed. That is absolutely bad mission design - a mission should always rely only on the player's wits for success. If a mission requires prior knowledge for complete success, it's a bad mission.

But again - in other aspects, the combat at Bluepoint was great. I'd gotten so badly pummeled, I'd ran out of countermeasures. When all was said and done, I looked around, and saw that there were still two corvettes around. I went after the first one, all the while looking over my shoulder to see if more red dots would appear. Since they didn't, I destroyed it... but at that point, I ran out of bravado. I saw that my wingmen were all already far away, and not knowing if another wave of Kilrathi fighters would appear or not, I decided not to go after the second corvette. And that's great - when you have the player making decisions like this, that's good tension. So, this mission is an odd mix, it combines some of the worst in mission design with some of the best.

The only other thing I can't understand is why was my autopilot lamp lit up all the time after the last of the fighters was killed... but autopilot itself didn't work until I was 50k away from the base?

Oh, wait, there's one last question. Why exactly was Alpha 2 scripted to die? It happens every time at Nav 3, and it happens regardless of whether he's in good health or not. But it seems to have no impact on the mission. Nobody comments on it. It's a weirdly generic scripted death - couldn't you just have made him not invulnerable and let him live or die on his own merit?
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Ok, that's really weird then - because, as you can see from above, I played this mission a number of times, and he died every time. Same place, roughly the same time in the mission (second wave at Nav 3). The first time it happened, I saw that his status icon was down to red just a moment earlier, so I figured he simply died the old-fashioned way. But then the remaining four times, he would be blue - and then gone. Not once did he survive the mission.
 

Wedge009

Rogue Leader
Could be a very, very strange coincidence? The way I check to see if something is scripted is to look at the Events log (F4) - usually it will say something like 'Alpha II destroyed', but have no kill credit attributed to the event. Which I take to mean that it was a scripted death, not from someone present in the battle.

(What's really amusing is seeing Kilrathi fighters being killed by their capital ships - whether through friendly fire or by being in a blast zone, I don't know, but it's funny all the same.)
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Well, I'm sure I could find out that way - but I'm sorry, there's no way I'm going back to play through that mission again, even if I wouldn't need to finish it this time round :).
 
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