Here are some ways that a "realistic" war in space in the 27th century might look: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...
- Spacecraft will not have windows - everyone will see the battlefield as a visualisation.
- Decisions like targetting and firing will be automated.
- Most vehicles will be fully-automated drones.
- If humans have any role, it will be in issuing complex strategic directives.
- The human controllers will still need to be a few light-seconds away, unless they have superscience faster-than-light communication.
- The controllers will probably have intravenous drips feeding a mixture of mood-altering drugs to keep them operating at peak efficiency without suffering heart failure.
- It's popular to picture the future warrior as being an emotionless killing machine. In fact, without emotions, humans become incapable of prioritizing. (About the closest most humans can come to being emotionless is being clinically depressed. We are not efficient while in this state.) However, information flow to the combatants will be carefully controlled, once again to try and keep them motivated without being paralysed by uncertainty.
- Given the mechanics of Delta V, most drones will be hurled into battle on one-way trips. It's likely that the drone controllers will have no return ticket either.
- If there are no superscience shields, any even match-up will start with both sides firing every available weapon, and end with their total destruction.
- Sustained battle over a planet will fill its orbit with so many fragments that no one will be able to land there.
- If you're on a planet and lose your oribtal defences, your choices are surrender or annihilation by orbital bombardment.
Some science fiction writers intentionally populate their universe with an unprofessional military by filling its backstory with a sustained state of peace. Then war breaks out, and everyone has to make up the rules as they go along. (Wing Commander can't use this explanation - the war with the Kilrathi has been running for decades, and other wars have happened in living memory. Also, written history and even film recordings from the 20th century onwards appear to have been preserved, so they can research our wars before conducting theirs.)
Another option is to have the characters be mercenaries. This can explain the quirkier personalities - the early games in the Jagged Alliance series gleefully exploited this excuse. Since Strike Commander went this route, I'm sorry that they didn't keep the ludicrous-but-cool P-38. Of course, mercenaries who want to survive usually adopt military-style organisation and discipline anyway.
Anyway, I'm still happy that Wing Commander chose fun gameplay instead of real-world physics, and entertaining drama instead of realism for its story.
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