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

Aries

Vice Admiral
I can only guess that the intention is to show that this isn't Freespace. Not having played Freespace, I don't know how this in-flight re-arming would have worked, but the only time in Wing Commander that we get in-flight re-arming (from what I recall) is from the shuttles in Prophecy. I'm pretty sure the tankers in WC2 only refuels the Broadsword, not re-arms.
Yeah, in WC2 you only got fuel, not missles. The Freespace inflight flight rearm was basically a shuttle that would dock with you when you called it to. It would resupply you with missles and countermeasures. It wouldn't refuel you cause your afterburner would recharge on its own. I'm not sure how many times it would be available after the first rearm, but in the training mission it says the supply is limited. It was nice, and since the capability was with the original game and we see something similar in both WC2 and WCP I was curious why it wasn't in Saga.

As for the Excalibur, having gotten to those later missions, I can assure you that it doesn't feel like I'm just sitting back smiting the cats with Zeus's thunderbolt anymore. I have had more than one "thank god I'm in an Excal, not something else" moment in the past few missions.

Edit: Just saw your comment Aginor, thanks for the reasoning.
 

Wedge009

Rogue Leader
In addition to WC3 not having in-flight re-arming, Prophecy only included it sparingly and at a specific point in the mission. It was part of the mission design and not something you could call at will, otherwise it would allow you to be more generous with your missile use in all missions. That's a big difference from the way it sounds like it's implemented in Freespace and probably yet another reason why it wasn't included in Saga.
 

FekLeyrTarg

Rear Admiral
The Star Wars: X-Wing games, especially Star Wars: TIE Fighter, also have that re-arming feature with transports docking at your fighter craft. But they aren't in every mission and can't reload you forever.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Sooooo... the last time I posted here was, apparently, September 29th last year. I hadn't touched Saga since then, mostly because I'd been keeping busy with other things. Will I now be able to complete the game, or will I get interrupted again? No one knows! In any case, tonight I played through the first Excalibur mission again - the one that got me killed the last time.

Just to recap, then, here's what I had to say previously...

So... it's been a while. I finally tried the first Excalibur mission today.

Oh, the irony. I thought I would be complaining about how much of a superfighter the Exalibur is - but I ended up getting killed, which hardly ever happens in Saga. Ah, well, it was my own fault :). I flew into that orbital defence platform station thing, and when it started exploding... well, I hit the afterburners, and then I hit the wall. And then I started bouncing around, and couldn't escape the blast in time. So, ultimately, I ended up having to fly the rest of the mission with a mere 1% of health. I did just fine, until an accidental collision with Deathfang finished me off.

What an ignominous end.

I can't bring myself to play the mission again today, but I will comment on what I saw thus far.

The Excalibur: crazily-overpowered. Now, of course, that's exactly how the Excalibur had been in WC3. But in Saga, this becomes much more of an issue. Up until this point, shooting down even a Dralthi took a long time, because of the collision system that made it much harder than in WC3. With the Excalibur, things suddenly go from difficult to point-and-click. There's no challenge whatsoever in shooting down enemy fighters in an Excalibur. That's exactly the way it was in WC3, but in WC3, shooting down enemies with any other fighter was significantly easier, so the difference was not so pronounced.

The mission itself - well, it's all about showing off the power of the Excalibur, and in that regard, it works fine. You fight a bunch of fighters, tearing through them with ease. You blow up a bunch of turret mines, and then you blow up half a dozen capships, with your guns. About the only thing safe from you is that orbital station, whose shields are impervious to fighter guns (I wish that would happen more often - but recreating WC3 is an obligation :p).

After clearing the navpoint, you go on patrol, and this is where things get a bit boring. There's four of you, so you meet four Dralthi, four Darkets, four Vaktoths... a bit repetitious. Afterwards, you meet five Vaktoths with Deathfang, and that's much more interesting, obviously. It even got me killed :). But now I'm going to have to go through the entire mission again to get up to that point, and the thought is frustrating. Ah, well.
Playing through the mission tonight, I really don't have much to add to what I wrote previously. Yeah, it's the Excalibur, it's crazy-powerful and rips through enemies like a hurricane. Just like in WC3. This time everything went fine, I didn't bother flying inside the station, so I also didn't end up losing too much health.

Ultimately, it's a perfectly ok mission, even if for most of the patrol, you fight at almost 1:1 odds (very un-WC3-like). Anyway, I'm sure that if I had never played WC3 before, and this was my first contact with the Excalibur, I'd be extatic to get such a machine.

The only thing that bothered me, even though it's more or less excusable, is Deathfang's immortality. I blast away at him, hit him with two or three missiles, and still he's at 100% - until suddenly he declares he's had enough and cloaks (no small achievement, in a Vaktoth!). I don't have a problem with aces using immortality - we'd done that a couple of times in Standoff as well. But it's always better to enable immortality only after the enemy's health has dropped below a given threshold - this makes the encounter more natural, because you can see that you are dealing damage up until that point. With his health at 100% all the way, you're far too aware of the fact that it's a scripted encounter.
 

Mancubus

Rear Admiral
The only thing that bothered me, even though it's more or less excusable, is Deathfang's immortality. I blast away at him, hit him with two or three missiles, and still he's at 100% - until suddenly he declares he's had enough and cloaks (no small achievement, in a Vaktoth!). I don't have a problem with aces using immortality - we'd done that a couple of times in Standoff as well. But it's always better to enable immortality only after the enemy's health has dropped below a given threshold - this makes the encounter more natural, because you can see that you are dealing damage up until that point. With his health at 100% all the way, you're far too aware of the fact that it's a scripted encounter.
Yes to be honest it bothered me to, especialy as fred has special function to make this happen automaticly, without overkill risk, and with reallylittle effort you could actually make the % at witch he pulls back randomized
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
So... once again, it's been quite a while. Out of the blue, I decided to play a little bit of Saga tonight, and I completed two whole missions. I think I have something like 11 missions left now - there's about 50 altogether, right?

Anyway, today's missions were Hyperion 2 and Hyperion 3.

Hyperion 2 was... tiresome. One of the issues I've complained about time and again is the repetitive mission design in Saga. There are so many missions designed to surprise the player with a last-minute new objective, it has long ago ceased to be surprising. In fact, in a typical Saga mission, I'm generally surprised when I find myself returning to the Hermes with no sudden change of plans, no mess of red dots on the radar at the Hermes, et cetera.

The trouble with making this kind of design so persistent - apart from the obvious fact that surprises are only surprising if they're rare enough to be unexpected - is that the player is constantly forced to play with the assumption that there will be more. On most Saga missions, I find myself husbanding my missiles and fuel until what appears to be the last navpoint. There are three possibilities for how this can turn out - one, I can predict correctly what the last navpoint will be, spend all my missiles at the critical moment, and be satisfied. The second option - and let's face it, this is the one that the mission designers are counting on - is that I don't expect the very final battle, and wind up using all my ordnance on the second-last one. When this happens, the mission designers are happy because they managed to surprise the player and forced him to fight the big final fight with no missiles. If done just rarely enough, the player will take this good-naturedly - he'll be excited at the extra challenge. If it happens too often, as it does in Saga, the player gets fed up with it. Which, ultimately, leads to the third possibility - not knowing when the last battle will be, I save all my ordnance all through the mission, and land on the Hermes with a full stock of missiles. Yes, this has happened to me, and this is nothing for the designers to be proud of - if you've managed to persuade the player to reject half of his gameplay options for most of the game, all you're doing is impoverishing your gameplay overall.

So, constant surprises are bad, m'kay? I wonder how many more I will go through before the game is done ;).

Hyperion 3 was all right - a typical strike mission, lots of combat, lots of big targets, et cetera. Psychopath shows up, which invariably means bad dialogues, but I won't bother complaining - frankly, by this point, I've learned not to give a shit about the dialogues, I let them go in one ear and out the other. This is not a good thing from the game designers' point of view, but it happens. Oh, if it makes you feel better, judging from the reviews, my last game (Dogfight 1942) had a similar problem. And I wrote most of the dialogues there, so don't think for a moment that I'm picking on you :). In retrospect, I find that I made three mistakes on Dogfight - I wonder if any of these will ring a bell for Saga's writers:
1. I did not interfere too much in the dialogues the mission designers put into the game. I always polished them, sometimes rewrote them extensively, but most of the time, I let the general sense of the dialogue remain unchanged. This resulted in a lot of idiotic dialogues, pilots talking shit and the like. Hey, it worked ten years ago in the Wing Commander series, right? Well, guess what, tastes change, people grow up, and it ain't ten years ago any more. Lesson: if something feels silly to you, don't polish it, dump it.
2. I did not get anyone to give me critical feedback on the dialogues during the production. Being the creative director, I was at the top of the food chain. Well, either I should have gotten another writer to look at them, or I simply should not have written any dialogues myself, so that I could retain a critical perspective when polishing dialogues written by other people. Lesson: always second-guess your own work.
3. I ignored the feedback from the focus tests, because I thought the feedback was ridiculous. Ok, it is ridiculous when people complain about racism in a WWII air combat game (oh, the Americans keep calling the Japanese "Japs"! Oh, how horribly racist!), but guess what - that's your audience, like it or leave it. You won't be able to talk to them to explain how wrong they are. Lesson: get a focus group to look at your game, and then try to address their complaints even if you don't agree (unless it would compromise the product).

The above is something of a tangent, it relates to my experience with Dogfight 1942 - but I suspect that Tolwyn, looking at those three points, may be thinking "uhm, yeah, that's kind of true..." ;).

But, getting back to Hyperion 3. I do have an issue with the dreadnought: really, it seems to be very underplayed in Saga. Remember how the Nephilim dreadnought was introduced in WCP? That was pretty intimidating. Freespace, of course, did an equally great (sometimes better) job introducing the Shivans' biggest ships. Well, the first time we see the Kilrathi dreadnought in Saga is almost anti-climactic. No dialogues about its size, no terrible slaughter of Confed pilots to show how powerful it is. Yes, the Armageddon pilots failed their strike, but that happens offscreen, and is described in such a way as to imply that it's got nothing to do with the dreadought - they simply "screwed the pooch". This is one major missed opportunity, because as we all know, you only ever get one first introduction :).

Oh, and by the way - I suppose, had I been working on Saga at the same time as Standoff, my instinct would have been to treat the dreadnought with kid gloves, keep it exactly canonical, exactly as seen in WC3. Then, when people would have complained that it wasn't impressive enough, I would have said - hey, blame WC3. So, I'm not surprised by your approach. But thinking about it now, I can see lots of good reasons why the dreadnought needed to be revamped. All WC3 capships share one trait - the easiest way to destroy them is to get into the hangar. Once you do that, the rest is no trouble, it just takes time. What I would have done with the dreadnought, therefore, is either provide additional, physical barriers to the hangars (huge hangar doors that you have to blast open, something like that), or simply put a bunch of turrets INSIDE the hangar. You know, something was simply needed to make the dreadnought more challenging than the average carrier. But as I said, I can understand why you didn't try to do this - without the hindsight I gained by completing Standoff and listening to the feedback, it wouldn't have occured to me, either.

So, that's about it for today's missions. Not sure when the next one will be. In all honesty, I'm having trouble motivating myself to play more Saga, and the more I think about it, the more I conclude that it's simply a general problem I have with games that don't put any emphasis on character development. I have yet to complete X-Wing or TIE Fighter, for instance - which probably means I never will. Gameplay, after a while, invariably gets repetitive. When I fly another Saga mission, what could I possibly encounter that I haven't seen before? That's normal, and that's why it's so good to have character development to keep the player motivated. In this aspect, I know Saga was limited by technology/economy issues - you simply did not have the resources to implement more cutscenes with pilots. But you could have done more with the dialogues. A while ago, I pointed out that I'm deep into the game, and my character is still being treated as though he's fresh from the Academy. That's lack of character development. Seeing other pilots increasingly respect me would have been at least some small motivation...
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
First, and unsuccessful, attempt at Hyperion 4 today, and the keyword for this mission is: excess.

Why did I die? Well, first I ran out of countermeasures. Then I ran out of afterburner fuel. Because at that point the area was still filled with fighters, I then got missile-spammed.

This mission was really quite fun for the first couple of navpoints, but the number of ships the game keeps throwing at you is just horrid. There is too much going on, and when you realise that you're going to run out of everything, it ceases to be fun.

Hopefully I'll get through it the next time, whenever that might be.

Oh, yeah, one other thing - the Dr. House reference? No, just no. No, no, and no. Who could possibly have thought that was a good idea?
 

wcnut

Rear Admiral
Hey Quarto, it looks like you have a kindrid spirit amongst the Freespace community. I'm sure you would find the op an interesting read. He is looking to outline the possibilty of recuting of Saga to make it better. He is a rather experienced voice, and is one of the lead designers behind the Battle Star Galactica mod Disaspora.

http://www.hard-light.net/forums/index.php?topic=85505.0
 

Ilanin

Captain
wcnut said:
Hey Quarto, it looks like you have a kindrid spirit amongst the Freespace community. I'm sure you would find the op an interesting read. He is looking to outline the possibilty of recuting of Saga to make it better. He is a rather experienced voice, and is one of the lead designers behind the Battle Star Galactica mod Disaspora.
Eh, you can't really "fix" Saga. Saga's problems stem from the fact that it's a mix of WC3 (which isn't very good - I mean, it's a great story experience, but there's not much to be said for the flight engine) and FS2 (which isn't very good), with an added dash of terrible writing (which you can't really fix at this point without re-recording an awful lot of stuff). It's mostly successful at being what it was intended to be. The fact that people like me and Quarto aren't very impressed with that is kind of our problem.
 

wcnut

Rear Admiral
WC3's flight engine has nothing to do with Saga, its a completely different engine. As for FS2 being not very good, that's a rather biased opinion that isn't shared by a whole lot of people outside this board. Say what you will about it's story lacking, which is the main complaint here, it's space flight engine is superb and is widely regarded as among the best in the genre.

Saga's problems run very different from faults in either game which has been the basis for this entire thread.
 

Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
Saga has some irritating aspects (unlikeable characters, repetitive waves, few enemy fighter types). However, all of those could have been minor.

As others have said, the lack of player agency is a problem, and I would say it's the big one. Lack of agency is generally bad design, and it makes all those other irritants worse than they had to be.

This operates on at least three different scales. All of these are hard to implement, and hard to test, but without them you're playing Dragon's Lair. I've seen some FS2 modders say that these would be difficult or impossible; the thread wcnut links to suggests otherwise. I'd welcome any answers from FS2 modders reading this thread. I'm not out to further dogpile on the Saga team, but with other FS2/Saga based fangames in progress, we really need to know how to best give the player agency within the limits of the FS2 engine.

1. Mission branching within the campaign
Can you create a mission tree? Failing that, can you have persistent information about capital ships and pilots (both friendly and enemy)? The Wing Commander series are famous for their mission trees (well, technically they were mission graphs). Starlancer didn't go that far, but did have some persistent ships and aces on both sides - saving development time and resources, while still allowing the player to affect the world.

2. Waypoint branching within the mission
Can you choose to go through your patrol in reverse order? After taking heavy damage, can you elect to go home, failing the mission but surviving? As I understand it, FS2 didn't have waypoints, just a single huge combat sphere per mission. The Saga autopilot system does its best, but it doesn't feel quite right, and several missions reveal oddities in their scripting if you fly to a waypoint without autopilot.
While waypoints are a staple of the Wing Commander series, I don't believe they're essential. If they're hard to implement in your mod, I'd be happy to see each mission take place in a single combat sphere, if it allows you to better implement levels 1 and 3.

3. Tactical choice at a waypoint
Can the mission designer set up a bunch of capital ships and fighters, and have them engage each other until one side is victorious? When I enter the waypoint, do I have a meaningful choice between the fighters (greatest threat to me) and the bombers/capital ships (greatest threat to my side)? Can I choose between shooting out a capital ship's engines before it enters torpedo range, or going straight for its torpedo launcher?
Saga had some wonderfully complex capital ship designs and subsystems, but it often felt as though every action they took was baked into the mission script. How much of can the capital ship AI do without manual mission scripting? Can it steer towards an enemy capital ship and attack, or retreat if its heavy weapons are destroyed?
It would also be nice if the fighter AI showed some awareness of turrets, and did its best to evade turrets, destroy turrets, and to launch torpedoes on aspects that are poorly defended. I'm not aware of any existing game or mod that is this smart, but it would certainly be nice to see.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Hey Quarto, it looks like you have a kindrid spirit amongst the Freespace community. I'm sure you would find the op an interesting read. He is looking to outline the possibilty of recuting of Saga to make it better. He is a rather experienced voice, and is one of the lead designers behind the Battle Star Galactica mod Disaspora.
I read it, and certainly we can agree on his feedback, but I don't much like the idea of recutting Saga.

I agree with Ilanin - the fact that I am finding so many things wrong with Saga is ultimately my problem, not Saga's, in the sense that the Saga team is under no obligation to do anything about it, or, crucially, to let anyone else do anything about it. Would I like the Saga team to release a patch that fixes a bunch of gameplay issues based on feedback from people like me? Yes, I would love that. Would I like to play Saga remade by someone else? No, I would not, just as I would hate someone to take UE or Standoff and add their own arbitrary improvements to these games. If someone believes they can do better than Saga, they're more than welcome to produce their own brand-new mod...
 

Mancubus

Rear Admiral
Hey, I've got a few answeres for you

Can you create a mission tree?
Yes, you can. the mission tree is a basic characteristic of Fs2 campaign editor it's been there from the beginning. Only thing that is not doable is a "dead end" loosing branch, like wc3 proxima ->sol (you can do it technically, but with no manual saving people who went on such branch would have to replay the entire campaign)

Failing that, can you have persistent information about capital ships and pilots
once again, Yes, Fsopen editor had for some time an option to carry numerical variables between missions. this allows to store data such as hull strength between missions, and you can use 0-1 for logical purposes

Can you choose to go through your patrol in reverse order? After taking heavy damage, can you elect to go home, failing the mission but surviving? As I understand it, FS2 didn't have waypoints, just a single huge combat sphere per mission. The Saga autopilot system does its best, but it doesn't feel quite right, and several missions reveal oddities in their scripting if you fly to a waypoint without autopilot.
I belive so, if you use the hard coded autopilot version, like they did originally in prologue (note: since the release of the prolouge, the ap script was changed to allow short "flyby" sequence instead of long time-compression sequence originally used). Unfortunately Saga team chose different approach, using complex scripting instead(note: ap code might not be functioning the way it should, it's open source and many things don't work in some releases). Also, manually flying to navpoints can be scripted to achieve same effect as autopiloting there, even though it requires mor work


Can the mission designer set up a bunch of capital ships and fighters, and have them engage each other until one side is victorious? When I enter the waypoint, do I have a meaningful choice between the fighters (greatest threat to me) and the bombers/capital ships (greatest threat to my side)? Can I choose between shooting out a capital ship's engines before it enters torpedo range, or going straight for its torpedo launcher?
this is mostly a mission design question
not related to engine limitation. but, if you have a mission where shooting fighters and not bombers/capships is viable choice, it means probably that it has a battle of Endor syndrom (a battle where player invovement is not meaningful, i.e. you can afterburn away from the action and the effect will be all the same)

Saga had some wonderfully complex capital ship designs and subsystems, but it often felt as though every action they took was baked into the mission script. How much of can the capital ship AI do without manual mission scripting? Can it steer towards an enemy capital ship and attack, or retreat if its heavy weapons are destroyed?
no. every good and good looking capship battle in fs2 equires some
manual scripting, otherwise the ships will end up flying in circles, sometimes even beyond thair main weapon range. But with clever, well tested scripting, you can achieve a good amount of unpredictibility (is there such a word in english?)

It would also be nice if the fighter AI showed some awareness of turrets, and did its best to evade turrets, destroy turrets, and to launch torpedoes on aspects that are poorly defended. I'm not aware of any existing game or mod that is this smart, but it would certainly be nice to see.
This amount of AI awerness is beyond what fsopen AI can do AFAIK, and I don't think saga team had time or manpower to program the AI, i'ts much more complex than making a mod

Hope you found some answers to your questions here
edit: massive edits, as I got some quote markings wrong
 

Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
Hey, I've got a few answeres for you
Thank you very much.

this is mostly a mission design question not related to engine limitation. but, if you have a mission where shooting fighters and not bombers/capships is viable choice, it means probably that it has a battle of Endor syndrom (a battle where player invovement is not meaningful, i.e. you can afterburn away from the action and the effect will be all the same)
Attacking the fighters doesn't have to be a "correct" choice - I'm happy if, while I'm doing this, the simulation leads to its logical conclusion as the enemy bombers hammer the frigates on picket duty, allowing the enemy frigates to destroy my carrier.

I'm not happy if:
  1. I get dropped to a "game over" message before any of the above events play out.
  2. No capships get destroyed because I need to be close to something to trigger a conversation before the shooting starts.
  3. The fighter I attacked has scripted invincibility.
  4. The friendly frigates have scripted invincibility.
  5. The enemy frigates halt or spontaneously explode before they reach my carrier, because the mission designer never thought they could get that far.
no. every good and good looking capship battle in fs2 equires some manual scripting, otherwise the ships will end up flying in circles, sometimes even beyond thair main weapon range. But with clever, well tested scripting, you can achieve a good amount of unpredictibility (is there such a word in english?)
Yes, "unpredictibility" is a valid English word.

Thank you especially for clarifying this point. I'd suspected it was the case, and it does seem a shame. All those fancy capship components - like torpedo launchers, turrets and engines - seem useless if the game can't simulate them in a consistent and meaningful way, and if the AI can't react on its own initiative. If the script encourages me to immobilise a capship by shooting out its engines in one mission, I'm going to try that every time I see an enemy capship on the move. If even one mission resorts to making the engines invincible, it tells me that I'm not playing a game, I'm riding a roller-coaster.

This is not new to either Saga or FS2 - I remember cycling through capital ship components in Starlancer, looking for the shield generator. Then I realised that the ship only had an identifiable shield generator if the screenplay permitted me to destroy that particular ship in that particular mission.

(Games can still have shield generators protecting the engines that must be destroyed first, or masses of turrets, so approaching them treats you to a fireworks display of lasters. It's the consistent rules that matter.)
 

Mancubus

Rear Admiral
Thank you very much.

Thank you especially for clarifying this point. I'd suspected it was the case, and it does seem a shame. All those fancy capship components - like torpedo launchers, turrets and engines - seem useless if the game can't simulate them in a consistent and meaningful way, and if the AI can't react on its own initiative. If the script encourages me to immobilise a capship by shooting out its engines in one mission, I'm going to try that every time I see an enemy capship on the move. If even one mission resorts to making the engines invincible, it tells me that I'm not playing a game, I'm riding a roller-coaster.
Again, clever scripting can help. you can order a capship to pull of after loosing specific component. you can make engines undestructible after taking randomized amount of punishment and then destructible again as soon as ship is in range - if getting in rangelasts less than 1 minute, and game keeps throwing fighters at you, I'll bet you won't notice untill at least 3d playthrough. IIRC you can even make a component tougher for one mission (not sure - i know it works with ships). you can make a few different scripts for a ship, the scripting is hard to notice. Ironically, keeping it with WC universe rules is a bit tougher - in fs if you wanted a ship to survive you could just order it to jump out - and only make it invulnerable for a second to pull of the manouver. so obvious scripting is bad scripting IMO. and even though I had lots of fun playing Saga, there were a few missions where scripting got to obvious.
 

Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
Again, clever scripting can help. you can order a capship to pull of after loosing specific component. you can make engines undestructible after taking randomized amount of punishment and then destructible again as soon as ship is in range - if getting in rangelasts less than 1 minute, and game keeps throwing fighters at you, I'll bet you won't notice untill at least 3d playthrough.
Mission scripters, please never do this. If I've bought into your plot, I'll understand that the plot-critical capship is important and scary, and I'll attack it. If my guns do some damage but not enough, I'll start using missiles - and if I find that they aren't working because I've reached the damage threshold, I'll get angry. This is a matter of personal opinion, but I'm much happier if you make plot-critical things invincible at 100%. Make it so I can't get missile lock either. Yes, I'll notice the railroading, and then I'll start following the railway tracks to your intended destination. When you let me do partial damage, you start wasting my time. As a game designer, that is possibly the ultimate crime.

If I had plot-critical recurring capships, I'd use the Wing Commander II damage model. There, phase shields that are impenetrable to all weapons except torpedoes and capship guns. Standoff used this to good effect. So far as I can remember, if they give you enough torpedoes, they'll let you destroy any enemy capship in the mission with them. If guns do even 0.001% damage, horrible people like me will sit our fighter in a hangar with the fire button taped down, ending when (1) the capship explodes, breaking the mission, or (2) it reaches the invulnerability threshold, revealing the script. Also see the Lord British Postulate.

Ironically, keeping it with WC universe rules is a bit tougher - in fs if you wanted a ship to survive you could just order it to jump out - and only make it invulnerable for a second to pull of the manouver. so obvious scripting is bad scripting IMO. and even though I had lots of fun playing Saga, there were a few missions where scripting got to obvious.
I'm not so concerned with ships that turn invincible and jump out. At least you have cause and effect: do enough damage, and the ship stops bothering you for this mission. Enemy aces in Starlancer did this a lot, always at the same damage level. It was annoying the first few times (once again, I did waste some missiles), but I soon learnt when to stop shooting and move onto a different target while they screamed a few threats before jumping.

Also, if the enemies can escape in this way, I should sometimes see my side do it too. They don't have to get away with it every time, just with the same frequency as the opposition does.
 

Thunderbolt

Rear Admiral
Just thought I'd let you know Quarto that some of us out here are still waiting for you to finish your review :).

My $0.02 on Saga
Negatives: You've covered them pretty well but yes excessive dialogue in the wrong places (i.e. at the start of really challenging missions...). They could have moved this content to the end of missions or at least used it missions or Nav Points that are just intended for storytelling rather than a challenge (Like your mission in the Losing tree in Standoff's "Backdoor to Sirius" where you escort the Firekka through an asteroid field... That was a Great Mission for dialogue & storytelling, even though there's no enemies to fight, its memorable because it is different.

Personally I don't have too much issue with the content of the dialogues because it is probably close to reality - Most of the people I've worked for in my 10 year career have been aggressive arrogant alpha personalities and the business/corporate world of today is full of these arseholes - I don't see why people would be any different after a 40 year long war.
Secondly I agree that many missions are too drawn out - It's ok on one or two occasions & lets remember that WC3 did it too!(The worst I can think of is that Mission after the Behemoth falls where Colonel Blair gets drunk & you're flying intoxicated in an Arrow against 4-1 odds, I think more than 1 wave too - that mission was just brutally punishing)....
The trouble is Saga does tend to overly draw missions out and often for no real purpose.
This leads to a logical question - is that how the military would function in reality? The longer a mission is drawn out the more tired the pilot gets & risk of fatigue etc increases which obviously is going to contribute to unnecessary loss of pilots & equipment., the same things may cause in-game player-fatigue & make the player bored or uninterested...
They could have had you return to base after an unexpectedly difficult nav point simply because the pilots would be exhausted & the aircraft damaged or low on missiles/decoys etc.

In contrast I do feel that this is one area where Standoff really excelled in that each mission was unique in it's own way & most are quite memorable for offering something different. That said I do think Saga handles the general mechanics of the larger battles better then Standoff. I did notice that the system of having to destroy cap ships in Standoff by torpedoing separate subsections unfairly crippled friendly AI - my poor wingmen in their Gladii/Broadswords would almost never survive long enough to travel around to the rear end of a cap ship (with no afterburners) to get their torpedoes off...)

On the positive side I do think the bigger battles and skirmishes that we see in Saga is truly what Chris Roberts would have aspired to if we had the PCs of today 20 years ago when WC3 was produced. Thus Saga gets a big tick from me in recreating a true Wing Commander Experience. It's just a shame that the team obviously wasn't able to produce scripted scenes with actors in a movie studio to build a proper interactive movie & mission branching. Obviously this sort of thing takes millions of dollars to do but I did miss not having the interactive-movie component (after all this is the most memorable part of Wing Commander - the flight sim side was always the weaker side imho).
Regardless you should continue & get to the Battle of Freya Missions. Freya 1 and Freya 2 were my favourite missions & definitely most memorable due to the big skirmishes at the Jump Points. These missions suffer from being too drawn-out with extra unnecessary Nav Points that don't really do anything to enhance the experience of the mission but they I would rate them as being the best 2 missions in the game.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Just thought I'd let you know Quarto that some of us out here are still waiting for you to finish your review :).
Oh! Sorry. Yeah, I haven't played the game again since my last failure described above. I think I may have mentioned this before, but failed missions in Saga really turn me off - the notion of replaying all those navpoints again just kinda churns the stomach, given that I'm not exactly enamoured with the FS2 combat model. At the very least, I can easily think of a dozen more valuable things to do with my time right now - and that's just thinking of the games I could play, books I could read, and films I could watch :).

My $0.02 on Saga
Negatives: You've covered them pretty well but yes excessive dialogue in the wrong places (i.e. at the start of really challenging missions...). They could have moved this content to the end of missions or at least used it missions or Nav Points that are just intended for storytelling rather than a challenge (Like your mission in the Losing tree in Standoff's "Backdoor to Sirius" where you escort the Firekka through an asteroid field... That was a Great Mission for dialogue & storytelling, even though there's no enemies to fight, its memorable because it is different.

Secondly I agree that many missions are too drawn out - It's ok on one or two occasions & lets remember that WC3 did it too!(The worst I can think of is that Mission after the Behemoth falls where Colonel Blair gets drunk & you're flying intoxicated in an Arrow against 4-1 odds, I think more than 1 wave too - that mission was just brutally punishing)....
Well, that's an interesting example, isn't it? Hands up who actually finished that mission while drunk. I'm sure a couple of people have, but for me personally, the effect of the mission's brutal punishment was that after a few ultra-frustrating tries, I went back and made the non-drinking choice, even though I did not feel this is in line with what Blair would have done at this point. It was an awful design on their part, because the excessive difficulty prevented people from going with what was otherwise a fantastically interesting choice for the character.

In contrast I do feel that this is one area where Standoff really excelled in that each mission was unique in it's own way & most are quite memorable for offering something different. That said I do think Saga handles the general mechanics of the larger battles better then Standoff. I did notice that the system of having to destroy cap ships in Standoff by torpedoing separate subsections unfairly crippled friendly AI - my poor wingmen in their Gladii/Broadswords would almost never survive long enough to travel around to the rear end of a cap ship (with no afterburners) to get their torpedoes off...)
Well, for the record, we are partially responsible for that :). Any time you choose to fly a Rapier and escort the bombers, we channel all the Kilrathi rage onto the bombers, so that you really have to struggle to keep enough of them alive.

On the positive side I do think the bigger battles and skirmishes that we see in Saga is truly what Chris Roberts would have aspired to if we had the PCs of today 20 years ago when WC3 was produced. Thus Saga gets a big tick from me in recreating a true Wing Commander Experience.
I don't think I agree on that. I don't know what Chris Roberts' aspirations were, but certainly one of the core concepts of the Wing Commander experience was that the player matters, that he can make the difference. Whether it's indirect (like in WC1, where you don't win by turning the tide at the last moment, but by winning repeatedly) or direct (like in WC2, where even the winning path can turn into defeat if the player fails in the final mission), it's all about the player. No one else but Blair could destroy K'tithrak Mang. no one else but Blair could drop the Temblor bomb, or win a showdown with Tolwyn. No one else but Casey can ensure the final destruction of the wormhole. These are not merely gameplay issues (in the sense that obviously, the player must win in order to win the game), these are narrative issues. The games never stop hammering across that your character is special. This is not the case in Saga. The narrative actually keeps beating you down (you must be the only pilot in the universe to have 100+ kills and still be regarded as a rookie), your victories are never acknowledged, and the odd thing is that your role in missions often actually seems pretty insignificant - it's the team that ultimately wins, you just try to survive...
 

Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
I don't know what Chris Roberts' aspirations were, but certainly one of the core concepts of the Wing Commander experience was that the player matters, that he can make the difference. Whether it's indirect (like in WC1, where you don't win by turning the tide at the last moment, but by winning repeatedly) or direct (like in WC2, where even the winning path can turn into defeat if the player fails in the final mission), it's all about the player. No one else but Blair could destroy K'tithrak Mang. no one else but Blair could drop the Temblor bomb, or win a showdown with Tolwyn. No one else but Casey can ensure the final destruction of the wormhole. These are not merely gameplay issues (in the sense that obviously, the player must win in order to win the game), these are narrative issues. The games never stop hammering across that your character is special.
I agree with all of this. (Not that all games should work this way - you could make a functional space simulator with survival horror design choices - but that these are essential to the atmosphere of a Wing Commander game.)

In addition to that, I think that the implementation of wingmen is essential to that Wing Commander atmosphere. It's right there in the original "Wingleader" title.


Give me no wingman and I'll wonder what I'm supposed to be doing, hurled into the middle of nowhere and surrounded by red thingies.

Give me one wingman and I'll learn to know their personality and flying style, and associate their pixellated in-engine sprite with the colorful character I meet in cutscenes. I'll keep track of where they are in combat. If we're getting overwhelmed, I'll protect them. If we're mauling the enemy, I'll compete for kills.

Give me two (or more) wingmen and I'll rapidly lose track of where they are and what they're doing... until they blow me away through careless targetting.


In the wake of Wing Commander's success, plenty of games tried to be "the same but more", and one of the obvious ways to be "more" was to add more wingmen. Star Crusader made plenty of bad design choices, but one of the first was putting three wingmen (and a corresponding number of enemies) in most missions. They gave you a mode where you could pause and check the action sphere (like Standoff) and even issue orders, but that ruined the pacing.
 
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