Skirmishes; building units in RTS matches

16 Feb

There is a problem with introducing people to Real Time Strategy games, they tend to find them baffling  and weird due to many of the mechanics, such as having units be “build” and only starting with one builder unit and an HQ building.  I believe that reframing RTS matches can help shorten the ‘leap of logic’ people must make when first encountering them. In game, Matches are often referred to as Skirmishes, and I think that framing Matches as that type of battle will provide a reference model for the genre.

A skirmish is a type of battle where detachments from larger armies fight for a non-critical advantage, like say, in a theater level conflict, the two sides simultaneously realize a small village is unoccupied by the other and send in small units to set up defenses in the village. The two sides encounter each other and start asking for help  from other units in the area. The two try to either drive each other out of the area or take control of the key defensive position that was the objective of the skirmish long enough to make it too difficult to take. Both sides are only interested in victory if it’s cheap enough, being willing to commit units that are extremely advanced but only in limited numbers, decisive in the small battle but hopefully getting those advanced units back.

Research could be thought of as the player justifing the request of more powerful units and ‘building’ it could be waiting for it to reach the front. Behaviors that break the illusion the players are a commander of a small, informal unit, like skipping light tanks and going for heavy ones, would cause the player to fail. The goal would be to create a mindset that would be familiar with a new audience, but still allow room for high amounts of skill growth by modelling it on something real.

Some quick thoughts on the second amendment.

27 Jan

Individuals with firearms did not win the American Revolutionary War. The patriots were  organized into  actual military units and were well trained to the standard of the British regulars.

That’s why the second talks about a militia, because without training, organization and some kind of logistical capability it would be impossible to carry out the intended purpose of the second amendment. Which I believe was not to violently overthrow the government when it became tyrannical, but prevent some other group from overthrowing the government.

State or local governments could supply the logistics, the first amendment right to free association allowed for organization, and free speech meant that people could distribute training manuals and instruct people.

However without being able to use firearms to train with, the militia wouldn’t actually be that effective. So that’s where the second amendment comes in.

Now, of course nobody is organized into a militia, so the second amendment is pointless. It’s just people think individuals with guns can stand up to real armies, possibly because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a well organized militia is losing to a proper military.


Gamefly #3

23 Sep

Today, I’m reviewing two games, Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops, is a game that has two flaws: One, is that it’s only an okay game, and the other is that it’s trying to be Narrative Art, not Game Art.

Spec Ops is based on the short story, Heart of Darkness, the same story that Apocalypse Now was based. I say based on Heart of Darkness and not Apocalypse Now, because both derivatives attempt the same thing with different media. Apocalypse Now satirizes Vietnam movies and Spec Ops attempts to satirizes shooter games. In Spec Ops the main Character’s idea is the same one in every game. Go find the main bad guy by shooting through everybody else in his army, kill the bad guy after listening to his rant about how he’s only doing what had to be done and everything will be fine.

The setup is that Dubai is ravaged by a series of sandstorms so fierce that the outside world writes off the inhabitants, including the 33rd Battalion, an American unit under the command of Konrad. After several weeks a grim message is broadcasted on a loop, suggesting that, while things are bad, there might be a few survivors left. A small expedition is sent in under the command of the main character, who worked with Konrad.

You take over at this point. Heart of Darkness is about humans slowly losing their humanity under the stress and mental trauma of a horrible situation. In, Dubai, it’s a violent conflict that erupts because of your actions. As it turns out, several thousand people are still alive and an uneasy truce has settled in between the 33rd, now called the Damned and local insurgents backed by the CIA. You accidentally break the truce by firing on some locals and that touches off the struggle again. The insurgents are quickly destroyed but because of the CIA, the Damned think you’re with the insurgents and start attacking you. The main character wants to reach Konrad and believe the 33rd to have gone completely mad, setting up the classic shooter plot.

But unlike the normal plot, these people aren’t servants of the evil empire, they’re just Americans who tried to heroically save civilians, did some horrible things but did save many of them and then made the “mistake” of attacking you. Quickly, the main character’s actions surpass the brutality of the Damned until after dooming the entire city, setting innocent women and children on fire with white phosphorous and murdering countless 33rd soldiers, he, the last survivor climbs the tower to find that Konrad died when the original message was set out. There was no villain for him to destroy and in doing so redeem him from the violence he committed. The story ends there, except for a stupid, tacked-on ending scene where there was some other people were sent in and meets the main character and then he either goes with them, kills them all or dies trying.

The problem with the game is that the player is just a passive observer to the actions of the main character. In a tragedy, the idea is the tragic hero damns himself by his own choices and flaws, he could walk away or any number of actions, but pride or anger compel him  to keep going onward. While again, a game is not narrative art, the basic principle remains. The player should be the one who makes the mistakes and ruins everything. Take the infamous White Phosphorous attack. You stumble over a mortar loaded with WP rounds and only WP rounds right next to a big cluster of enemies to blow up. You do so but then afterwards you have to walk through the destruction you caused, including many civilians. You don’t get a  choice, the characters know they’re using it, comment on it and the game never gives you the option to refuse. The only thing you can do is turn the game off and walk away. It’s extremely poorly handled, as you don’t even really know why you can’t just take them all head on, like you’ve done before.


What needs to happen is that things need to be put in your hands. You need to be the one that makes the choice to kill the civilians or avoid killing them. You need freedom, to damn yourself or succeed in somehow fixing everything and magically save the day.

But it didn’t, and as it stands it’s just an average TPS with some interesting mechanics. The one that’s most interesting in terms of the game’s themes is the execution mechanic. When you knock an enemy down, by either shooting them non fatally or melee attacks, you have the options of finishing them off with a short cutscene. The methods used get increasing sadistic as the game goes on and your character suffers more and more. I think it’s clever and a great way of having game play build on story.



Gamefly review #1

29 Aug

GameFly review number 1

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier  is not good but fun, I’ll call it a 7.

The game feels a lot like Splinter Cell: Conviction. The snap shot mechanism feels a lot like the Mark & Execute system and the active camo acts a lot like the shadow stealth mechanism in any stealth game. The sync shot is less over powered than the M&E system and the active camo makes a lot more intuitive sense than any shadow hiding element.

(In most of these games, especially splinter cell being three feet from a light source will make you completely undetectable, very unlike real life. With active camo it’s easier to understand what a real guard would be thinking. You’re invisible but blurry, so getting close to someone who make them take a closer look and notice you.)

The game breaks down when you get caught. All the cool mechanics break and you’re left with a standard third person shooter with no interesting features. It’s a less harsh penalty than forcing you to restart the checkpoint.
I think the game is almost like a “fancy” version of bejeweled, where the goal is to eliminate a bunch of guys in groups of three or four without getting caught. Each area is like one of the bejeweled puzzles. And even on elite difficult, the solution is usually to wait a couple of seconds for a few of them to move out of sight, sneak up and kill them, then kill their friends. Or pick off the most important targets armed with the heavy weapons and finish the rest off in the action part.

The customization mechanism is broad but shallow, you can change a lot of parts but not enough to truly effect anything. Most of them only effect “control” and maneuverability and you can’t really increase or decrease them enough to noticeably alter either. If you really tried to decrease control you be able to make it so a smg couldn’t snipe people at extremely long ranges, but that’s about it. In this kind of arcade-like shooter, guns aren’t a complex enough element to really change a lot of things about them. They have to all do roughly the same damage in the a small timeframe, and be laser accurate at all the time. Seriously a SMG can use a 4x ACOG with no problems. Sure, maybe you’ll want a sniper rifle for sniping missions, but in any other environment a smg will kill just as easily, just as quickly.

The Graphics have some issues, The colors are all very faded and light, without even dark brown it feels like. the camouflages are very faded light colors and while they’re supposed to be real ones it makes for an ugly looking game. The uniforms and equipment have some interesting bits, with the cowboy like face cover being interesting but over all there’s no feeling of being an elite ghost operative with super active camo systems and fancy computer software. And there only five takedown animations of which the coolest is the in combat behind takedown where you punch them over and break their neck by casually kicking them.

There is no feeling of being an elite ghost operative, I feel. What I could tell they were going for was the idea of you being this “Ghost” sneaking behind enemy lines and causing so much chaos a weaker friendly force could destroy them, but there’s no feeling of doing that. You just kill a bunch of people and are told you did something super important.

The why or story just sucks, there’s no point to it all and it’s as stupid as hell. You’re tracking down these people who killed some other ghosts with some booby trap. And I thought this was just an extra precaution on part of the convoy that the other ghosts ambushed, but no apparently the booby trap was important part of the plan or something because a random russian prisoner brag about how awesome they are for doing it. I have no idea where that prisoner came from. I’ve played that level twice, and keep thinking I skipped a cutscene, do you have to play on the hardest difficulty setting? The last mission is where the ghosts kill all the leaders of this organization which was responsible for a coup attempt in Russia is framed in terms of avenging those other ghosts and the game plays up how lone wolf they’re supposed to be doing it. Like the radio people sever communications with you and everybody makes a big deal about how the russia government that you saved would be pissed off at you for getting caught killing the people that attacked them.

Also this “Raven Rock” launches a nuclear missile at the US, which is taken out by an American missile defense system that is never talked about or explained. So the radio people send the ghosts to near a Russian Missile base, which you never go to because they sent in a Georgian special Forces unit in already. So the set up is extremely confusing and also involves a “Davis family Vacation” level for no real reason.

Honestly they do seem to ripping off the Call of duty story telling model but very, very badly. If the plot is just an excuse to connect different environments together, please make the cutscenes skippable.

Over all the game makes my head hurt if i think about it too long, and if I tried to replay it, I’d have to sit through more stuff that I’d have to think about because the game was taking too long to get to the fun stuff.

Leaving behind Space battles

12 Aug

I haven’t posted anything on this blog, but I had some problems, I had to download and install a bunch of games I bought during the big steam summer sale. I could still use the computer, but the wordpress writing tool is oddly laggy. It’s very annoying and I’m writing this in windows notepad.

Well, today I leave behind a childish thing from my early years by declaring that a Star Destroyer would beat the Enterprise-D in a fight.
Wondering which would win in a fight was a very fun game, but it’s time to explore why those two ships existed.

The Star Destroyer is designed to be something that cannot be defeated by raw power alone and must be overcome by returning to the spirtual Force. Like a stormtrooper, it lacks humanity and even the individual ablitity to defeat one is meaningless. There are simply so many of them that a Star destroyer is merely part of a force of nature.

The Enterprise-D is almost the exact opposite.It’s a redshirt, designed to last just long enough to show that the threat is something that cannont be solved merely by raw power or brute force. That while if there was three hundred Enterprises it could overcome the danger, the heroes don’t have that and must use human ingenuity to overcome it.

Games have some level of artistic merit, but they are not Narrative Art. Star Wars and Star Trek are controlled experiences where everything serves the story. There’s no point to daydreaming about what an element of a narrative work would do outside the context of the story, because it only matters in that context.


22 Jul

A small notch is the dictionary definition of a nick. And that’s my name, Nick.

I’m a 22 year old male and I think that covers most of the details that matter. Oh, wait I’m white too, but you probably guessed that, since I didn’t mention that I wasn’t.

I have a very morbid yet juvenile perspective, but one that I like to think is tempered by a high degree of self awareness and above intelligence and knowledge.

This blog is designed to be a space where I can put the ideas that I come up with permanently.  And maybe receive a little feedback and start a small discussion.

If my ideas aren’t as magical as I like to think they are, well, that’s okay. Try to look at it, not as a something brilliant but as sort of the views of someone who frankly didn’t win much at the game of life. I do have a lot in common with some very damaged people and my writings should, if nothing else serve as a cooperative case study for the reasons behind that.

Hello world!

21 Jul

Welcome to! This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

Happy blogging!