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

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
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 :p.

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 :p). 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 :).
 

mustanger

Rear Admiral
Interesting post Quarto,

I think some of the difference with WC:Saga and how it approaches the story as compared to the production WC games is part of the problem. While Wing Commander always had the broad epic story, the missions never really reflected that in my eyes. It was usually the exposition between the missions that created a lot of the tension and drama that we felt as players, and the missions were pretty standard in the sense that you flew to a waypoint, wasted some Dralthi, and flew home.

Saga, on the other hand, is also aiming for the epic story, but is held back by the fact that the story must be told during the missions, rather than between them. The 90 seconds that you spent listening to communications in the Fort Crockett mission would have been better suited to a cutscene after the mission was over, but that wasn't an option, so instead the developers are delivering the story in mission.

With regard to breaking formation... I did this as well, but once I realized how far it was, I turned back to join the group. I agree that there probably could have been a little more warning before you were abandoned, but it seemed clear to me that the place was going down no matter what. I suppose I disagree that this isn't similar to Behemoth, because there is ultimately no saving Behemoth in WC3, either. Yes, you don't actively participate in it's defense (until the mission where it is blown to bits) but you are spending your time escorting it and doing missions based on it's presence.

I think your point about being able to park in the station and let things play out is more valid, though, and it is one of the most difficult things to achieve, which is making the player relevant. I think there were probably some things that could have been done to help this (for example, orders giving you personally an objective to destroy a specific capital ship component, or engage a specific group of fighters while the others are tied up elsewhere, etc.) but it is ultimately a balance between the overall story that is trying to be told and the feeling of being part of a massive conflict.

In fact, in context you can compare Saga to a typical WWII furball, where you may have 50+ aircraft duking it out at one time. The presence (or lack thereof) of a single aircraft really wouldn't change the outcome of these things, and it is the same in Saga. Yes, you can hang out, away from the fight, but the fighter in you wants to go mix it up and get some kills.

Last thing I will respond to on the Fort Crockett mission is the distance. Again, for me I simply realized that once it was that far, there was no going back. Had you been 30,000K away, you are instinctively going to assume that you need to defend the place, and that wasn't what the developers wanted you to do, so I understand the positioning.

I remember one of the earlier missions where a large fleet starts to come through the jump point, and you are supposed to retreat. I was playing around and didn't, and I wasn't killed immediately, I was allowed to be slaughtered by never ending waves of Dralthi. Perhaps they should have had 30 Strakha decloak and waste you instead of taking you out via remote detonator, but to me it is all the same, you are dead either way.

Interesting discussion!
 

Iceblade

Admiral
This isn't the only time you are forced into dialogue like this....just a warning....and it is by far worse than this was one is from a gameplay perspective. Maybe it won't piss you off from a story/dialogue perspective, but it was poorly implemented I have to say. They really needed to use in-game cutscene where you can't control the ship like in Secret Ops. I can't believe that there aren't any kind of controls to remove player input let along use special cameras. It really shouldn't be much different from the autopilot sequence just with more precise camera work.

I wish there was a spoiler tag with this board.

FYI Standoff never got me pissed off at the designers...cats, friendly AI maybe
 

Iceblade

Admiral
Ah missed the "subtitle", well okay.

The mission is Nifielheim 2, you tasked with saving the Kinney, only you can't. Immediately after you start the mission, you are supposed to afterburn for the carrier, but it destroyed shortly before YOU get there. Not just your flight, just you. First time I played it, afterburned the whole, ended up losing the mission due to lack of AB fuel later on. Never saw a message about autosliding, which I now see on the video in Tolwyn's youtube channel.

So as you can imagine, I repeat the mission and have to sit through the damn ridiculously too long scene yet again. Since I know it is pointless to use the afterburn, I just let my speed move at regular speed and let the rest of my flight go on ahead. Most of the scene plays out as before. Except the Kinney doesn't blow and my guys get there minutes or more ahead of me. They attack the enemy, but can't do any damage because all of the cats are invulnerable. Thank god all of your wingmen are invulnerable too otherwise they would all be dead. So this very immersion breaking situation occurs and I decide to just leave and let my ship get to the location at full cruising speed. I finally get near there, and the rest plays out as normal, Kinney goes boom, cats become killable, and I go off to complete the rest of the mission. Thank God, I was playing on very easy, otherwise I would have rage quit upon failing it a second time and deleted Saga off the harddrive. Worst designed mission in Wing Commander (fan mods and main series...I can't say anything about the side games having never been able to play them).

Too often, events in Saga missions feel to contrived and forced down player's necks. For all Saga did right, they did somethings very wrong.... some avoidable, some not.
 
I just finished the Fort Crockett mission yesterday and I have to respectfully disagree. I thought the fact that you could control your ship, that you had to just sit there and watch, that there was nothing you could do, was much more powerful than if it were presented in a cut-scene. I felt helpless. I didn't need a cut-scene to show me it was a helpless situation, the feelings were put onto me as a player directly. It made me feel negative emotions personally because it was supposed to. Whether this effect was intentional or not it was how I felt. It's been a pretty defining moment in the game for me so far.

I do understand your feelings though since the series is famous for giving you choices, though I think the "ISS guy dying is played for laughs" is reading too deeply. It was damn tragic. Unless you want to complain about Shadow in Wing Commander 2, an ISS pilot who got too cocky and ahead of herself so she bit it without giving you the opportunity to save her, not being in the spirit of Wing Commander either (though there is a wingmate death in the game that references Shadow's demise more directly and I thought that was a little campy).

I haven't gotten to the Mission Iceblade described yet, but that one sounds like it could've been better thought out. Regardless of the hiccups I'm really happy to have both Standoff and Saga. They're both labors of love and fantastic pieces of work.
 

Iceblade

Admiral
Maybe on one playthrough...but Wing Commander often requires the player to repeat missions because of death or signficiant mission failure. With Saga, this is made much worse when certain objectives have to be completed otherwise you have to repeat the mission. As a result, shit like this only serves to piss players off. A cut-scene you can at least leave to let run without worrying about player input or even better skip if it set up properly.

And I'm just going to let my part in the discussion rest there because this just making me pissed at the designers all over again for that mission.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
So... I was very much hoping that the Saga staff, especially Tolwyn, would step in and express their opinion. Would have been nice to hear at least something like "sorry, but we see this differently, because <insert arguments here>". Oh well, I guess only twenty-four hours have passed for now, there's still time.

Saga, on the other hand, is also aiming for the epic story, but is held back by the fact that the story must be told during the missions, rather than between them. The 90 seconds that you spent listening to communications in the Fort Crockett mission would have been better suited to a cutscene after the mission was over, but that wasn't an option, so instead the developers are delivering the story in mission.
Well now, my point here isn't about Saga's storytelling methods. Admittedly, I do feel Saga often overuses in-flight dialogues, but that's really not the point. A good, convincing dialogue can be absolutely gripping - but for reasons stated above, I find the dialogue between Ft. Crockett and everyone else to be extremely lacking in plausibility. I don't want to mince words here - that dialogue completely destroys suspension of disbelief, because I cannot believe a single word of it can be taken seriously. And this is not something that's always the case in Saga - in my experience (so far), this situation stands out. So, this isn't about Saga in general, it's about this event.

I suppose I disagree that this isn't similar to Behemoth, because there is ultimately no saving Behemoth in WC3, either. Yes, you don't actively participate in it's defense (until the mission where it is blown to bits) but you are spending your time escorting it and doing missions based on it's presence.
There is a difference. You must understand, it's not the fact that it gets destroyed that makes this mission questionable. It's the fact that you can fail during this mission by losing Fort Crockett, in spite of the fact that the mission ends with the loss of Fort Crockett. That's the crucial difference between this and the Behemoth - try as hard as you like, you cannot lose the Behemoth earlier in that mission. How would you feel about the Behemoth mission if you could fail the mission by losing the Behemoth during some first wave of the attack? Wouldn't you be asking why keeping the ship alive five minutes longer makes a difference?

I think your point about being able to park in the station and let things play out is more valid, though, and it is one of the most difficult things to achieve, which is making the player relevant.
Again, that's not my point. I do not know what will happen if I park myself in the station. I do not know if doing so will result in the station being destroyed, or if the rest of the wing will win. My point is that, in light of the fact that the station gets destroyed anyway, it feels like I should be able to do that without suffering any consequences - and I'm afraid that, in all likelihood, losing the station by not trying to defend it will result in a mission failed screen. This is unfair from the player's perspective - he is punished for something inevitable, with no reason given why those five minutes made a difference. Imagine a different situation - suppose we know those capships are incoming, the station is doomed, and there is an evacuation in progress. Suddenly, it would make sense for the player to fail by not keeping the station alive until the end, simply because he sees he is making a difference, the longer he saves the station, the more people are saved. I'm not saying this particular mission needs such an event, though - I'm just using such a possibility as an example to explain why the mission is flawed in its current form.

Last thing I will respond to on the Fort Crockett mission is the distance. Again, for me I simply realized that once it was that far, there was no going back. Had you been 30,000K away, you are instinctively going to assume that you need to defend the place, and that wasn't what the developers wanted you to do, so I understand the positioning.
Yes, I understand the intention. I understood also there was no going back. This is exactly why my experience in this mission was destroyed by 90 seconds of dialogues that seemed to constantly imply that I could go back and make a difference, but was being ordered not to. It's fake drama.

I just finished the Fort Crockett mission yesterday and I have to respectfully disagree. I thought the fact that you could control your ship, that you had to just sit there and watch, that there was nothing you could do, was much more powerful than if it were presented in a cut-scene.
See, this is the thing - I knew I was helpless, but somehow, my character seemed to think otherwise. And so did everyone else around me. Which made the whole thing ridiculous - it's like seeing a bunch of sweaty people boiling in the sun in the Sahara desert, but hearing dialogues about how freezing cold they are. The dialogues are at odds with reality and spoil everything.

I do understand your feelings though since the series is famous for giving you choices, though I think the "ISS guy dying is played for laughs" is reading too deeply. It was damn tragic. Unless you want to complain about Shadow in Wing Commander 2, an ISS pilot who got too cocky and ahead of herself so she bit it without giving you the opportunity to save her, not being in the spirit of Wing Commander either (though there is a wingmate death in the game that references Shadow's demise more directly and I thought that was a little campy).
I think if you go back and actually have a look at WC2 again, you will understand how huge a difference there is. Shadow's death was tragic, because she was doing something she shouldn't have to be doing, something she didn't believe she could do (she was not cocky! She made it clear that fighting the Kilrathi horrified her). Her death was respectful, and elevated her as a character - all things considered, you wouldn't think worse of her if she tried to run from the fight. Instead, you see her rising above her limitations and giving up her life, possibly achieving nothing with her sacrifice, but winning respect for trying all the way to the end. Lightspeed, meanwhile, does not die to show this kind of tragedy. His death is actually the punchline of a joke. The writer thought it would be funny to have someone naively "negotiating" with the Kilrathi and getting killed for it. It is absolutely awful and makes a mockery of human sacrifice, something that the Wing Commander series has always treated with the utmost respect.
 

Aginor

Vice Admiral
Well, despite being a Saga team member I'm neither a story guy nor a missions guy.
Still, here's my view on it:

Concerning Lightspeed and the ISS:
Yes, this it is over the top and I personally didn't like it that much either, but I am still very very sure that what you interpreted here is not actually what the writer wanted to say. Lightspeed is not a joke. His warning may be a filler, ok, and maybe not the best one either. His death is supposed to be tragic, but I admit it is really not quite among the scenes that I consider the best.
But as you can see in other missions (for example in Torgo and the mission with the Sabres on your wing) the ISS guys are not supposed to be worth less than the guys you fly with. Ok, they may have older ships, but they're not just cannon fodder guys. There are even cameos of people everyone likes within the ISS troops (Wedge flying a Sabre for example). So if you follow your interpretation of what you saw you get to the conclusion that the Saga team hates Wedge which is not the case since Wedge is a nice guy and everybody likes him. :) Actually I replayed the mission I mentioned because I lost Wedge on the first try. This is the first time I hear that "ISS are supposed to be morons" argument so I guess most people interpreted the scene differently. I think you interpret too much into it.

Concerning Crocket:
Actually the same that happened to you happened to me as well. While I like the dramatic tension (compare Kinney mission which I also like, at least until the last two nav points but that's because I am not a good pilot) I don't like the dialogue at that nav point all that much, especially the "women and children" part which sound really cheesy for my taste. Others I talked to liked that, though.
But I agree absolutely on one point: The distance between you and your wingmen that is allowed should be bigger or something, I failed the first time because I was staring at the station when it exploded, not noticing everybody except me had stopped...
So if you dislike this mission I think your way of thinking may be a bit similar to mine, I hereby predict you will have at least one more such moment during the campaign, maybe two. I don't want to spoil them, but I felt like that twice IIRC. Keep in mind that AFAIK most people didn't mind those scenes because of the story but because in one case you need to "know the trick" that was mentioned earlier and they didn't, while in the other (Crocket mission) the dialogue is too long for them.

Overall a problem many people seem to have is the story. Some people like it when there is a lot of dialogue in flight, some people hate it. The dialogues not being skippable is an engine limitation I think, and I agree that it can be irritating when you have to listen to it more than twice.
The team decided to put the story into the missions instead of fiction viewer entries, since those were criticized by many people after the Prologue release because they didn't want to read the story.
So the question was leave big parts of the story out completely (which would have been a shame) or use on or the other not quite optimal method of implementing it. I think the one that was chosen is the best one of those which were possible.

Also you are a developer yourself, so you have a view that is quite different from that most people have. I think that's the reason why you analyze everything a bit more, and maybe also a bit too much. I also recommend to apply Hanlon's razor a bit more often: It is flattering that you assume Saga is so good that anything strange must be intended and thus deliberately malicios, but like in every other product there are things which after all may be just... poorly done. Those are not numerous, but they exist. (I, for example, totally screwed up one of the squad logos and I am a bit ashamed that it was used anyway.)

I wanted to write some more but I guess I forgot what... I'll edit my post if I remember it.
 

Tolwyn

Vice Admiral
Can i enjoy coctails and white sandy beaches please? It is my first vacation in two years so I will be very brief. ;)

I believe I said it again and again that we are listening to feedback and are evaluating our options. It does not mean that we have to implement it. The key word here (which is highly popular these days) is artistic integrity - you have the uncontested right to provide constructive criticism. At the same time, I also believe in the artistic and design choices made during the entire development process. Let's not forget that we made Saga because we wanted to play it ourselves. In a time when it is getting increasingly difficult to find pure gaming experience as more and more games, such as Mass Effect 3, try to emulate the look and feel of Hollywood blockbusters, Wing Commander Saga offers gameplay that is engaging and extremely challenging at the same time.

The key theme in writing missions for Saga was the idea of triumph. We give the player a unique experience of failure and success: some will love it and others will hate it. Some missions may be a bit frustraiting forcing a player to pull out his hair only to be celebrating minutes later when he finally overcomes the challenge.

It is funny, how different our perception is - I myself had a lot of trouble playing UE and Standoff and I still have to beat both games. It does not mean that I think these games are too difficult - maybe I just need to practice more even though I may not agree with some of the design decisions you guys made. ;)
 

Aginor

Vice Admiral
Tolwyn, you really have to put that smartphone away, it is doing you no good. :D
Enjoy your holiday!
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
it is getting increasingly difficult to find pure gaming experience as more and more games, such as Mass Effect 3, try to emulate the look and feel of Hollywood blockbusters
Err, isn't this exactly the thing Wing Commander is famous for having started in the first place? From day one, Wing Commander has been supposed to be a Hollywood movie that you play. Even before they started throwing around "interactive movie" as the description for Wing Commander II, that was the point of the game. Pick up the original Wing Commander box: all the screenshots are displayed in a film reel and the description is about how it's like a movie where "you're the star!"
 

Aginor

Vice Admiral
From the storytelling perspective (especially in the cutscenes) I agree, but IMO the missions were more pure gameplay. It was an action game, where you did what you had to do, once you were in space there were no rails or such things to make gameplay "cinematic". (compare rebel assault for example), it was just pure gameplay. without much scripting.
So actually Saga is still more scripted than the original games, but the main aspect is that the mission and the experience of beating the missions is more important. Modern games tend to be too simply structured for my taste. (because the "cinematic feel" is more in the foreground than the gameplay).
 

Dyret

Super Carrot!
Mass Effect 3 isn't really a good example, though. Sure it's cinematic as hell, but you spend half your time fighting actually tactical, visceral battles against razor sharp opponents in a world that actually rewards you for exploring outside the given path... Modern walk through a scripted corridor style fps like modern warfare, battlefield and Duke Nukem Forever are far better examples of games compromising gameplay for supposedly cinematic stories.

Mass Effect's gameplay is actually pretty damned awesome.
 

Tolwyn

Vice Admiral
That is not entirely true - ME3 gameplay was highly scripted, Kai Leng boss fights being just one example. In this regard, earlier ME iterations were better.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Just a quick note, guys - good to see a response, I'll try to reply tomorrow during the day :).
 

Dyret

Super Carrot!
That is not entirely true - ME3 gameplay was highly scripted, Kai Leng boss fights being just one example. In this regard, earlier ME iterations were better.
Kai Leng fight wasn't great, neither was the rest of Thessia. The scene with the Cerberus sex-robot was also obviously scripted, but not really that obnoxious unless you replay the game with the Revenant V or somehing. Claiming Mass Effect 3 compromises gameplay in general is something of an exaggeration... not to mention the original Wing Commander games were even worse with this. Multiple defend objectives and Dallas blowing up randomly for no reason comes to mind.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
And I am back. For the record - yesterday, I played through this mission again. Today, I completed the one afterwards, and am now onto the next one. I just quit the game in frustration again, but this time it's a more positive frustration - I died, and while I don't much appreciate for the moment the thought of shooting down twenty capship missiles again to get to the point where I died, I know at least that I've only got myself to blame for sticking on a landing craft's tail while the missile lock alarm was going crazy. Still, this is a good point to take a break and reply to this thread ;).

Can i enjoy coctails and white sandy beaches please? It is my first vacation in two years so I will be very brief.
Tsk, tsk, didn't you know that post-release is the worst time to take a holiday? Mid-project, man - that's the only time a producer can afford to go away :p.

I believe I said it again and again that we are listening to feedback and are evaluating our options. It does not mean that we have to implement it. The key word here (which is highly popular these days) is artistic integrity - you have the uncontested right to provide constructive criticism.
Of course. It's your undeniable right to keep the game exactly as released, and it's really quite admirable that you want to do so - but it won't stop me from trying to persuade you that you made some wrong choices :).

At the same time, I also believe in the artistic and design choices made during the entire development process. Let's not forget that we made Saga because we wanted to play it ourselves. In a time when it is getting increasingly difficult to find pure gaming experience as more and more games, such as Mass Effect 3, try to emulate the look and feel of Hollywood blockbusters, Wing Commander Saga offers gameplay that is engaging and extremely challenging at the same time.
Well, wait a minute. From your subsequent comments, I understand that when you talk about Mass Effect 3 trying to emulate the look and feel of a blockbuster, you mean its tendency to present the player with highly scripted events. You also add that Saga is trying to be different - but most of my complaints in this thread have been about scripting. And in general, Saga seems to have a lot of heavy scripting. I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but it seems a bit at odds with what you say was the idea behind the game.

The key theme in writing missions for Saga was the idea of triumph. We give the player a unique experience of failure and success: some will love it and others will hate it. Some missions may be a bit frustraiting forcing a player to pull out his hair only to be celebrating minutes later when he finally overcomes the challenge.
Well, again, that's fair enough, but it doesn't seem too related to what I've been complaining about :). My experience with the Crockett mission in particular was the exact opposite, I achieved victory only to see it undone by a scripted event.

It is funny, how different our perception is - I myself had a lot of trouble playing UE and Standoff and I still have to beat both games. It does not mean that I think these games are too difficult - maybe I just need to practice more even though I may not agree with some of the design decisions you guys made.
Oh yeah, no denying that. I think Standoff was more or less at the difficulty we wanted (i.e., hard to win, but not so difficult to survive), but UE was definitely excessive.

Concerning Lightspeed and the ISS:
Yes, this it is over the top and I personally didn't like it that much either, but I am still very very sure that what you interpreted here is not actually what the writer wanted to say. Lightspeed is not a joke. His warning may be a filler, ok, and maybe not the best one either. His death is supposed to be tragic, but I admit it is really not quite among the scenes that I consider the best.
The thing is, if I saw this kind of event once, I would assume that it's just flawed writing. But the problem is that in the missions I've played so far, it's a definite, discernible tendency. Champ in the Prologue, a Thunderbolt pilot (whose callsign I don't remember) that demands everyone else ignores the capship he's attacking, Lightspeed here, and then Dawn in the next mission (by the way: if you're going to script-kill a character, you should give him time to get into combat, it's just bizarre when people explode miles away from the enemy) - in three of these cases, it is made clear to us by other characters that these guys died due to stupidity. In Lightspeed's case, we're not told he died because he was stupid, but the line he speaks makes it very clear that the writer wants us to think this. The message I'm getting from Saga so far is that pilots die because they are stupid. There is even a dialogue line (that I don't remember) about war being great for killing off stupid people or something along those lines.

When you analyse a work of art, it doesn't actually matter one bit what the creator's stated intention is - in fact, very often, the work is contradictory to the stated intention, because we do not always know what is going on inside our own minds, and it is not unusual for someone to subconsciously intend something different than his conscious intention. And in a team, things get even more complicated, because your intention may be one thing, the writer's may be entirely another. For this reason, it's not the intention that matters - it's what comes across in the work.

Now, maybe I am reading too much from the fact that Lightspeed is an ISS pilot. Maybe it's not a general attack on ISS pilots - though the impression does come across, because this guy (through the fact that he's the first thing you hear in this mission) is very symbollic and representative. But, whatever the case may be, it is clear that the writer(s) behind Saga have a very, very callous attitude. Almost every scripted death I've seen so far, there was someone telling me a second later that the guy who died was an idiot. How can I, as a player, go through situation after situation like this, and not come off thinking that when someone dies a scripted death, the writers want me to know that he's an idiot?

Actually the same that happened to you happened to me as well. While I like the dramatic tension (compare Kinney mission which I also like, at least until the last two nav points but that's because I am not a good pilot) I don't like the dialogue at that nav point all that much, especially the "women and children" part which sound really cheesy for my taste. Others I talked to liked that, though.
But that's the thing - there is no dramatic tension here at all, it's all phony. Tension is when you are uncertain what will happen. Will they make it in time? Will they save little Jimmy? That's tension. This is fake - you are presented with a situation where all the data indicates that there is only one possible outcome, and you are presented with dialogue that suggests everyone else doesn't understand this. Hearing about capship missiles with 90 seconds to impact, it took me roughly five seconds to look at my own distance, do the math, and conclude that interception is 100% impossible. When the whole thing started, before the capmisses were launched, I was flying on afterburners towards the base - when I heard the 90 seconds line, I let go of the burners. Again, it took me five seconds to understand the situation. How can I take seriously pilots on my wing who spend the next 90 seconds talking about whether they should intercept or not? How can I take seriously the comm officer who in this situation yammers about us being his only hope instead of just starting "abandon ship" procedures? This situation is so utterly phony that all tension evaporates, and those dramatic lines, the begging and the praying, they are upstaged and made utterly ridiculous.

By the way, on my other complaint - it turns out that no, as a matter of fact, it is not possible to fail the actual defense. I did in fact spend the whole mission doing the one thing I always enjoyed most in WC3/4 - flying through the hangar on full afterburners, and the station didn't take even one point of damage. That's fine, at least it evaporates the chances of being presented with "mission failed" for losing a station that cannot be saved.

But I agree absolutely on one point: The distance between you and your wingmen that is allowed should be bigger or something, I failed the first time because I was staring at the station when it exploded, not noticing everybody except me had stopped...
You know, the first time round, when I realised that I was all alone, I figured that they just continued flying on their way. The second time round, I was rather surprised to see that in fact, they spent most of the time standing still. That's a small issue, but well worth fixing as well - shouldn't they be afterburning towards the station, at least until the point when they are told not to?

Overall a problem many people seem to have is the story. Some people like it when there is a lot of dialogue in flight, some people hate it. The dialogues not being skippable is an engine limitation I think, and I agree that it can be irritating when you have to listen to it more than twice.
The team decided to put the story into the missions instead of fiction viewer entries, since those were criticized by many people after the Prologue release because they didn't want to read the story.
So the question was leave big parts of the story out completely (which would have been a shame) or use on or the other not quite optimal method of implementing it. I think the one that was chosen is the best one of those which were possible.
One of the most horrible lessons you learn as a game developer or film maker is that it is never a shame to cut things out of the game. In Standoff, time and again, I'd present Eder with dialogues for a new cutscene, and the bastard would just callously wipe out 60% of what I wrote. The best damn lines, too. We ran the project together, but ultimately he was the one with the vision, so what could I do? I'd accept all the cuts - and then, after seeing the finished cutscene, I'd thank him, because his cuts made the scene good. There is nothing, nothing more shitty than a good line in a bad place. It's like when you tell a great joke and screw up the punch-line, it makes the whole joke awful.

The second horrible lesson you learn as a game developer, by the way, is that NOBODY gives a damn about story when playing a game! Not even the people who say they're playing for the story! :) People love stories, as long as they fit with the game. But the bastards have some sixth sense about story interfering with the gameplay, and the moment that happens, people just groan and shut their minds off. This is why story is usually presented in skippable cutscenes, why in-game story dialogues are usually limited to just the most important events. There's a reason why, for the past decade, university scholars have been debating whether gameplay is opposed to narrative :).

...Because that's another thing you learn: if you want people to pay attention to you talking, then shut up :). Be like Iceman in WC1 - Angel said everyone listens to every word Iceman says, because while everyone else is yelling, he keeps quiet and whispers. If you have lots and lots of written fiction, lots of in-flight dialogues, and so on, the result will be that people will shut most of it out. The less you have, the more people will pay attention.

I also recommend to apply Hanlon's razor a bit more often: It is flattering that you assume Saga is so good that anything strange must be intended and thus deliberately malicios, but like in every other product there are things which after all may be just... poorly done.
Oh, I know things aren't deliberately maliciously done (the only thing I've seen that I would assume is deliberately malicious is the aforementioned callous treatment of death). I mean, take the Crockett dialogue - I don't think anybody intended it to be terrible, but it just turned out that way :). Heck, we are often at our worst when we think we're at our best - some of the worst moments in UE, Standoff, and my professional projects are situations where I was certain I'd written something really cool and memorable...
 

gevatter Lars

Vice Admiral
Oh yeah, no denying that. I think Standoff was more or less at the difficulty we wanted (i.e., hard to win, but not so difficult to survive), but UE was definitely excessive.
Funny thing is that I had little problems with UE but I never finished Standoff. Just got too frustrated....and I die in Saga also quite a lot. At least more then I remeber back in the glorious days...must be my age ^_^

As for the mission you mentioned in the very first post. About the "idiot pilot".
I didn't even took that much of a notice of this guy. Just thought "What is he talking...never mind lets shoot the cats" at the moment. So for me...I don't quite care.

"Children on board" Yah that one also came across a bit strange to me. A bit overdramatic. Could have been left out.

Break of jump.
Thats something I personaly liked and wouldn't put it into a cutscene as someone suggested. I was flying a bit back and forth during the talk. One part knowing I could properly make it in time and the other part that knows that Saga dosn't like people who are disobaing orders.
That was quite an experiance I don't rember of haveing in other games.
Still I agree that there are some problems to this. One might be that it was a bit to close to the starbase but else you might not be tempted to fly back. The other problem is the "out of nowhere" thing and that realy is a problem in the mission.
I am not quite familiar with FRED so I do not know if there was an engine limit that makes them appear out of nowhere.
Maybe a solution oculd have been to have them slowly appear in the background or something.

Station that can't be saved
The problem you have is, from what I understand, that you don't want to save the station because you know from the first time that it can't be saved.
I think there are two things that are going against each other. One thing is that you as the player know that it can't be saved but from the story point of view Sandman wouldn't know (he dosn't respawn ^_^ )
So yes it can be annoying to know it can't be changed but thats the story. I think its okay to have to do it again.

One of the most horrible lessons you learn as a game developer or film maker is that it is never a shame to cut things out of the game. In Standoff, time and again, I'd present Eder with dialogues for a new cutscene, and the bastard would just callously wipe out 60% of what I wrote. The best damn lines, too. We ran the project together, but ultimately he was the one with the vision, so what could I do? I'd accept all the cuts - and then, after seeing the finished cutscene, I'd thank him, because his cuts made the scene good. There is nothing, nothing more shitty than a good line in a bad place. It's like when you tell a great joke and screw up the punch-line, it makes the whole joke awful.

The second horrible lesson you learn as a game developer, by the way, is that NOBODY gives a damn about story when playing a game! Not even the people who say they're playing for the story! :) People love stories, as long as they fit with the game. But the bastards have some sixth sense about story interfering with the gameplay, and the moment that happens, people just groan and shut their minds off. This is why story is usually presented in skippable cutscenes, why in-game story dialogues are usually limited to just the most important events. There's a reason why, for the past decade, university scholars have been debating whether gameplay is opposed to narrative :).

...Because that's another thing you learn: if you want people to pay attention to you talking, then shut up :). Be like Iceman in WC1 - Angel said everyone listens to every word Iceman says, because while everyone else is yelling, he keeps quiet and whispers. If you have lots and lots of written fiction, lots of in-flight dialogues, and so on, the result will be that people will shut most of it out. The less you have, the more people will pay attention.
I do somewhat agree to that. The lack of cutscenes, with people, is a problem and they would have been a good place to drive the story forward.
Thing was that when we where finaly able to do the cutscenes (technicly) our CGI "department" was down to...well Tolwyn. He put a lot of work into getting at least the briefinggs done.

I know its kinda like a bad exause but thats the way it is.
 

Red Baron

Rear Admiral
I don't remember the dialogue that well, but i thought the woman and children mentioned were on the colonies that station was guarding. One of the ISS pilots said their families were doomed without Fort Crocket i think, that's why they decided to stay.
Which, in defense of the ISS, i actually thought was quite brave. Stupid, but brave.
 
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