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

Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
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...
Here are some ways that a "realistic" war in space in the 27th century might look:
  1. Spacecraft will not have windows - everyone will see the battlefield as a visualisation.
  2. Decisions like targetting and firing will be automated.
  3. Most vehicles will be fully-automated drones.
  4. If humans have any role, it will be in issuing complex strategic directives.
  5. The human controllers will still need to be a few light-seconds away, unless they have superscience faster-than-light communication.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Sustained battle over a planet will fill its orbit with so many fragments that no one will be able to land there.
  11. If you're on a planet and lose your oribtal defences, your choices are surrender or annihilation by orbital bombardment.
I don't think any of this would make for fun gameplay or dramatic narratives. (Professional military units do their best to avoid dramatic narratives. They're bad for long-term operational efficiency.)

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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Ilanin

Captain
Dondragmer said:
Most vehicles will be fully-automated drones
I have occasionally argued tongue-in-cheek that "Christopher Blair" is actually an artificial intelligence which operates drones and has merely been programmed to think it is part of a wing of human pilots.

Quarto said:
Well, that's an interesting example, isn't it? Hands up who actually finished that mission while drunk.
*raises hand* Though only for a Let's Play, and it's still about the only WC3 mission I've not beaten on Nightmare. Not for want of trying, but with the controls reversing themselves on a fairly regular basis I tend to find I can't keep up evasion long enough to dodge all of the missiles the Dralthi will fire at you (it's somewhere around 75 over the full mission, not surprising you can't dodge all of them while drunk).

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.
A design decision which I personally am entirely in favour of, as it turns a lot of Rapier missions into really high-tension shooting galleries which are fantastic fun. Standoff's Rapier missions are amongst my favourites in any starfighter game I've played. Saga couldn't have done that, though; the WC3 ratio of weapon damage to hull strength means you'd never be able to shoot down the Kilrathi fast enough in anything other than an Excalibur (and even then it'd be a bit dubious). Also, I may not be typical in terms of your average action game player.

With regards to the whole issue of the extent to which the war comes down to the player, I tend to think Saga goes too far one way (there's an awful lot of missions where your wingmen would probably be able to win without you) and I tended to think standard WC and the early X-Wing series games went too far the other (particularly TIE Fighter's later missions, where with the resources of the Empire at your command you were always ridiculously outnumbered) in making entire campaigns come down to the actions of a single pilot and having you wonder why anybody bothered with capital ships. The later X-Wing games, Freespace, Secret Ops and Standoff all got the balance more or less right I think - the challenge is to shift the balance of an encounter you will be default lose into one your are going to win.
 

Thunderbolt

Rear Admiral
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.
I think this is actually deserving of a thread on its own in the General Forum. Hmmm I never used to have a joystick for WC3 - I had keyboard. If it got too hard I would usually end up cheating & turning the difficulty down to Rookie. Though if I was going through it now I wouldn't do that again. My memory fails me but I think if you lose the escort ship 'Sheffield' early it does make it even harder. I remembered if you keep Sheffield alive you do have more firepower to take down those Kilrathi fighter wings. Otherwise in an Arrow its painful.
That said what is the "standard" difficulty rating that people play on? I would go Veteran & occasionally Ace.

Dondragmer I understand what you mean about realism, obviously the physics in the Wing Commander universe seem closer to WW2 dogfights than anything else (and even that is a big stretch) but my point was that in the canon we are presented with, things are pretty desperate on the Terran side so pilots & spacecraft cannot be easily replaced so my point was that if a Wing on a routine patrol had intercepted a dangerously excessive number of Kilrathi early in a sweep they would probably be ordered to return to base soon after & replaced by a alternating Wing (unless the circumstances absolutely necessitated all the objectives being accomplished by that Wing).
 

Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
I have occasionally argued tongue-in-cheek that "Christopher Blair" is actually an artificial intelligence which operates drones and has merely been programmed to think it is part of a wing of human pilots.
Neat explanation. How many copies of "Christopher Blair" took part in the war? Did most of the "winning path" and "losing path" missions happen simultaneously?

Dondragmer I understand what you mean about realism, obviously the physics in the Wing Commander universe seem closer to WW2 dogfights than anything else (and even that is a big stretch) but my point was that in the canon we are presented with, things are pretty desperate on the Terran side so pilots & spacecraft cannot be easily replaced so my point was that if a Wing on a routine patrol had intercepted a dangerously excessive number of Kilrathi early in a sweep they would probably be ordered to return to base soon after & replaced by a alternating Wing (unless the circumstances absolutely necessitated all the objectives being accomplished by that Wing).
Definitely true. If building a fighter and training its pilot is expensive - not to mention the cost of shipping them out to the front lines - a damaged or exhausted wing will be ordered home, even if they want to engage in desperate heroics. Even if the price is lost territory, destroyed ships and dead people, if the stuff lost is cheaper than ((cost_of_fighter + cost_of_pilot) * risk_of_losing_fighter), the mission will be cut short.

This bean-counting will also limit the drama. The narrative in WC2 peaks with Heaven's Gate 4. In a "realistic" universe, Blair would have been court-martialed for failing to report his conversation with Spirit before the mission. Spirit was probably already lost as a functional pilot, but the Confederation lost a Sabre, and that means selling a whole pile of war bonds to replace it.
 
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Thunderbolt

Rear Admiral
  1. 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.
Sorry to bump this thread and going off topic a bit but I reread this post and this intrigued me - do we actually know what clinical depression is? I thought the whole chemical imbalance/low serotonin theory was never really proven?
 

Luke

Captain
...But then the game went and did it for me. "They killed the Kinney! You monsters!"

Seriously, that's just such a horribly bad idea, it's absolutely unique. A pun like that might be funny in a forum post, but it's utterly unfunny in the game. I just can't fathom the thoughts that led someone to write these lines. I mean, the mission is all about huge, inevitable losses - it's about the drama, the fact that sometimes, no matter how you try, you just can't win. Why ruin all that drama by making a South Park reference? You just don't crack jokes in the middle of a battle - especially jokes that are between the writer and the audience.
I agree with you at this point. I removed (changed) this bullshit in our german WCS version and this will also be removed in the "WCS Plus Pack" for the original englisch game i will publish parallel to our "WCS German-Mod".
 
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