WC3: what if you could win with Behemoth?

Kaunisto

Rear Admiral
Thinking of game design and storytelling, I've wondered would it have been better if there was a path that Behemoth succeeds. So that you'd have Ending A (Behemoth), Ending B (T-bomb) and C/lose ending. (Or rather you'd have to have beside the main losing ending two variants, failing last Behemoth/T-bomb missions - but we already have the latter and those could've even been one and same.)

The most obvious problem with this is that Behemoth ending would cut the game much shorter. But you could fix that by rearranging some of the missions. You could have the scientist rescue before Behemoth, only revealing he was actually related to the T-bomb project if you fail Behemoth path (before final mission), moving to T-bomb path. And for this storyline you'd anyway need few additional "Behemoth goes to Kilrah" missions. (Perhaps altered from final missions, like player scouting ahead?)

However one thing about such best ending/good ending game design that I don't like is that it puts pressure on player to make the best ending, to win completely. While the same goes for having just one good end, it does leave you much more room to fail. And that's one of the things I've always loved most in WC, that you don't have to always succeed, to play each and every mission till you win it to move on to next (like most games still work).
So on game design perspective, I'm not sure I would've wanted this kind of branching for the end. But thinking of storyline... I think it would've been cool (if leaving bit of question of which is the canonical ending, but that'd be small difference since we blow up Kilrah either way).
 

Oceankhayne

Commodore
I never liked the ending either to be honest. Both superweapons felt too much like star wars for me. I would've loved a desperate push to Kilrah with an assault fleet where you released one of any number of attacks on it as they were gearing up towards earth. I would've loved more ambiguous choices like a bioweapon or a device that had to be mounted on a carrier that would create an artificial jump point on top of Kilrah. I liked the story with the Behemoth and Hobbes and was happy when they didn't Alderaan the planet, but was then crushed when they decided to go with what they did.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
I would've loved more ambiguous choices like a bioweapon or a device that had to be mounted on a carrier that would create an artificial jump point on top of Kilrah.
I think this is a bit of a modern superstition on our part. We're used to thinking of bioweapons and chemical weapons as being especially controversial because their use is outlawed by modern conventions. We know that the temblor is supposed to be the equivalent of the atom bomb, but we still don't see the issue, because we're used to thinking of the atom bomb as being less controversial than bioweapons or chemical weapons. I mean, the facts speak for themselves, right? During WWII, both sides absolutely refused to use chemical weapons (bioweapons were less of an issue, I don't think either side had anything useable in this regard) due to earlier conventions, whereas the atom bomb was used, and by the good guys, no less.

But shaping our moral views of the temblor based on this analogy is just habitual thinking. Fact is, if you dig deeper, you will find there is a lot of historical debate and controversy over even the ordinary bombing and fire-bombing of German and Japanese cities (how is it we regard German bombing of Coventry as being extremely immoral, yet Hamburg, Dresden...?). There is certainly also a lot of controversy over Hiroshima and Nagasaki - such discussions never get anywhere, because sooner or later the moral questioning is cut off by "yeah, well, it won us the war, and the Japs were bad, so there!". Yet, without wanting to open that discussion, we must agree that it is at least a reasonable, and certainly not one-sided discussion to have: is it actually justifiable to knowingly target and destroy a civilian population purely to reduce military casualties? Considering it wasn't the people themselves that were the target, that it was basically supposed to be a technological demonstration - should warning have been given? And so on. Lots of questions that can be asked there, and each can be debated for hours with solid arguments from both sides.

Once you take that into consideration, you can look at the temblor in a new light. It certainly is ambiguous, and certainly as ambiguous as bioweapons. Because either the temblor is entirely as immoral as bioweapons - or, if we're willing to justify the atom bomb as being moral at that time and place in 1945, then we must conclude both the temblor and bioweapons would be entirely and equally moral at that time and place in 2669. And again, the morality of that particular action can be discussed extensively, and there are arguments to be had on both sides (even if the game already fudged the analogy enough to ensure the action at least seemed obviously acceptable - after all, back in 1945, the Japanese weren't about to win the war and wipe out all Americans, and Hiroshima wasn't Tokyo in any case).

I've talked enough that I think I need a tl;dr here :). So, tl; dr: it's great you admit not liking these weapons because they feel like Star Wars. I agree! But that's the end of your argument. There would be nothing more ambiguous about bioweapons, and there's no need to go there. "It feels too much like Star Wars" is already plenty :).
 

Kaunisto

Rear Admiral
Maybe the T-bomb would've been better, more realistic(?) and morally acceptable, if it had just created a planet-wide quake. Imagine that, a quake shaking all continents so that there's not a house standing anywhere on the planet. This would've killed at least half the population, maybe even 90%, especially with resulting disasters - floods, famine, diseases - but that would still be significantly different from wiping out the whole planet and every single person on it. (Brings to my mind question: has there been any reference of slaves having been taken to Kilrah from other worlds, in significant numbers?)
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
In most systems of moral thought, moral acceptability does not hinge on the number of innocent victims. It's a qualitative, not a quantitative concept.

Interestingly, though, WCP did backtrack a little bit towards the damage model you suggest for the temblor bomb. While in WC3 we see Kilrah explode to tiny pieces, in WCP we can see the planet is still there, albeit with large parts of the crust missing and the rest clearly uninhabitable.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
The biggest problem with ending on the Behemoth would be that the story would be shorted all around... 'Admiral Tolwyn was right the whole time' wouldn't be a particularly satisfying conclusion for your character and much of it would also be unnecessary: you wouldn't need any of the whodunnit over the traitor or the setup for the romance because none of that would impact the end of the game... and Angel's death would have nothing to do with the win, making it seem like sort of a mean aside.

The thing that never felt right to me about the story wasn't that it was immoral (I don't see any automatic assumption that the Confederation is good or right and I don't believe having it as part of the story is some particular endorsement of genocide)... it was that the game had the characters raise the question of whether or not it was immoral and then essentially decide it was fine because the Kilrathi killed your girlfriend (and/or that it was no longer going to reward the guy you didn't like). That's the element that falls down a little to me and makes me wish there'd been a slightly more interesting ending than a *different* way to destroy Kilrah. (One thing we've been talking about in book club the past few weeks is how the novel rejiggers the story slightly in pursuit of making it work better... you find out about Angel's death before the Behemoth and the various invasions and attacks in the first half of the game are treated as a much more cohesive Kilrathi plan to start wiping out entire planets...)

And while I'm not so interested in the morality of including the t-bomb in the game I am interested in how it comes to be seen in the Wing Commander universe decades on; are we going to see attitudes towards it changing as the living memory of the war fades, the same way as we're starting to with the atomic bombings?
 

L.I.F.

Vice Admiral
And while I'm not so interested in the morality of including the t-bomb in the game I am interested in how it comes to be seen in the Wing Commander universe decades on; are we going to see attitudes towards it changing as the living memory of the war fades, the same way as we're starting to with the atomic bombings?
That's one of the points the Ender series of books manages pretty well, with the main character being considered a hero of humankind for leading the war-ending action while he himself is horrified with what he's been led to do, and over decades then centuries, he becomes considered as one of humankind's worst monsters ever.
 

Star Rider

Rear Admiral
The Atomic Bombs at that point in the war didn't need to be used. The US and her Allies had the Home Islands in a stranglehold. One of the main justifications for their use however was the casualty estimates from the proposed Operation Downfall invasion of Japan. The US had other plans it could of fell back on instead of using the Fat Man and Little Boy.

The Temblor Bomb was a Desperation Move. With the Events of Fleet Action, and Operation Unseen Death it had been demonstrated that the Kilrathi were no longer content to enslave Humanity. The Confederation Fleet had been smashed and what remained had been losing the war that year. It was projected that the Kilrathi would be landing troops on Earth in six months or less.

Confed had to use the T-Bomb to survive. They had to knock out The Emperor, Thrakath, and the Orbital Shipyards where the Invasion Armada was being outfitted to win.

Even if the Kilrathi had wanted to continue fighting they wouldn't have been able to avoid the Fracturing of the Empire as the various surviving Clan Leaders would start fighting each other for control.
 

Star Rider

Rear Admiral
In both cases in the WC3 cut scenes when the T-Bomb is deployed in Hyperion, and Kilrah both Planets went kaboom. Prophecy seemed to retcon the damage to Kilrah by having the planet split open but still physically there in some form.
 

L.I.F.

Vice Admiral
In both cases in the WC3 cut scenes when the T-Bomb is deployed in Hyperion, and Kilrah both Planets went kaboom. Prophecy seemed to retcon the damage to Kilrah by having the planet split open but still physically there in some form.
Not necessarly a retcon, simply gravity winning back over the debris cloud. Turning a planet into gravel is very different from getting the gravel to disperse all over the stellar system. For example, with 2.9 E31 Joule, you get Earth to turn into a cloud of debris occupying its current position in orbit around the Sun, while you'd need 5.9 E31 Joule to get the debris to fly all over the place and 2.9 E32 Joule to get the debris to leave the solar system.

If the T-bomb was between the first two values (for Kilrah, that is), then the debris would very slowly re-aggregate into a planetoid.
 
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