Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen

•April 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Such hype.  Much real robot.  Very KOTOKO.  Wow.

What I would have done with Medal of Honor: Warfighter

•May 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment

A long time ago, I purchased a copy of Medal of Honor: Warfighter, having been stoked for its release by the fine folks at SOFREP who apparently had contact with the developers, Danger Close, and were impressed with the level of respect shown to the guy on the ground, the warfighter if you will.  Recently, I started thinking about the game again.  From memory, the game was very buggy, the campaign was rather short, the storyline was disjointed and somewhat confusing, and the game overall did not really live up to its advertised hype.  Seeing as how one of my pet peeves is when people criticize and criticize without offering anything constructive, I thought about how I would do things differently, if I were in charge.

I would start by rebuilding the story from the ground up.  A lot of the promotional material I saw emphasized the fact that the game was about Tier One special operations forces (SOF) from across the globe, tracking down a worldwide terrorist network involved in the distribution of a military-grade explosive compound, PETN.  Unfortunately, this concept seems to have been lost somewhere along the way with the story becoming entirely Navy SEAL-centric with special operations units from other countries occasionally guest starring for a mission and never being mentioned again.  This is the textbook definition of untapped potential.  When I think of Warfighter these days, I imagine a story where the guys from AFO Neptune and AFO Wolfpack (the two teams from the previous Medal of Honor game, of which Warfighter is a sequel) are assigned to a multinational task force of so-called Tier One SOFs in order to dismantle the international terror network.  At a bare minimum, I would have liked at least half the nations featured in multiplayer to have been featured in the campaign, promoting a little more integration between the single player and multiplayer experience.  Better yet, have them all.

Thematically, I would have dropped the angle about Preacher’s family altogether.  The emotional hardship faced by a military family is an incredibly powerful theme and worthy of its own game altogether, but here it felt tacked on and barely explored at all in between the running and gunning.  As a compromise, perhaps it could be shifted to the background, alluded to in cutscenes between characters taking place throughout the entire campaign as opposed to full-on cutscenes featuring the wife and daughter in a few missions here and there, where it doesn’t create a whiplash between the quiet family scenes and the noise and explosions of battle.  This could also create contrast between Preacher’s family life and those of his teammates, who might have different relationships with their families (there is a scene with Stump and another SEAL implying that the unnamed SEAL does not get along with his ex-wife).  Oh and, speaking of Stump, he could have been removed from the campaign without detracting from it.  I would have substituted a different character in his place but that goes into the “joint task force” aspect of the modified game that I will elaborate on later.

The other thing I would have cut out is the whole gimmick of having the missions “based on actual events”.  Some of these missions were well-integrated into the story; in particular, I can think of the mission in the Philippines against Abu Sayyaf where it was both relevant to the plot (members of Abu Sayyaf were aiding the main network in smuggling the PETN and at least one high ranking member of the network was present at the time) and also happened to be based on actual events.  By contrast you have a 5-minute sniper sequence that parallels the (at the time) recent hostage situation with the Maersk Alabama in which SEAL snipers took three simultaneous shots and killed the hostage takers without injuring the ship’s captain.  It added nothing to the plot, was never mentioned again throughout the whole game, and was barely memorable.  The whole gimmick also generated a lot more controversy than it was worth, since some of the game’s technical advisors got in a lot of trouble over their participation and contributed to the growing debate over whether SEALs still deserve to bear the title of “Quiet Professional”.  This could have been partially avoided by simply not including the words “based on actual events” anywhere.  It’s not that hard.  Keep the content.  Heck, keep the absolutely pointless Maersk Alabama sniping mission if you want, just don’t compromise your sources by implying that you have access to information that The Public Was Not Meant To Know.

Now, the fact that I am critical of that particular mission notwithstanding, there is a way that it could have been integrated into the plot of the game and this touches again on the meat of the story.  One of the big themes of the previous game was the extent to which politicians and generals who are far removed from the battlefield can endanger a mission by not listening to the guys on the ground, and it lead to the poignant climax of the game where one of the main characters, Rabbit, bleeds out in the mountains of Afghanistan.  The impact of Rabbit’s death is conspicuously absent from the plot of Warfighter and provided a great opportunity to continue exploring this theme with tailor-made scenarios.  I point to the two scenarios mentioned above – in the Philippines, the efforts of the SEALs and their Light Reaction Battalion allies are hampered by an inept general who tries to micromanage the situation while on the Maersk Alabama sniping mission, the killing shots that decisively ended the hostage situation were delayed by several hours because of (the game implies) indecision on the part of the White House, which was also trying to micromanage the situation instead of leaving it to the Navy.  This is the kind of drama that I would have incorporated in place of Preacher’s family life.  You can’t have an international task force of SOFs without supporting elements like intelligence assets, and this is alluded to by Preacher’s communiques with Dusty, the character that was on all the promotional materials for the previous game.  I wasn’t happy that a somewhat iconic character in the new Medal of Honor series was given such a minor role but it could have worked under an expanded storyline.  It would be interesting seeing him try to balance his role as a go-between for the CIA and SOFs with his desire to get back in the fight, which he obviously can’t do with his unspecified injury.  Why not touch on the rivalry between the CIA and the military for control over covert operations?

The final aspect of the storyline I want to touch on was the terrorist network itself, which was woefully underdeveloped, aside from a few key players.  If there is one thing the general public should have learned by now, it is that arresting a few individuals rarely changes anything in these kinds of organizations.  A few random snatches here and there did not feel at all like they were winding up a multinational group with operatives in every country and links to some of the most well-known groups in the world.  Why were they smuggling the PETN?  Simple – it could be used to make even more deadly suicide vests and bombs, but this was taken as a given and not mentioned at all.  For that matter, we only ever see one attack attributed to the unnamed group, the attack in Spain that seemingly killed Preacher’s family.  Who were their financiers?  Field commanders?  Suppliers?  Technical experts?  Propaganda producers?  Handlers for their non-combat agents?  Trainers?  All these things are just off the top of my head and I have no special access to counter-terrorism materials.  These are just things I figured would be important to running a terrorist group.

Next time, I’ll take a look at some of the gameplay elements used in the campaign and some ideas I had about them.

Retrospective: Wonderbolts Academy

•December 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday I was able to catch the new episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on the Hub and- oh yeah, I became a brony in the intervening two months since I last posted.  Anywho, the episode in question was Wonderbolts Academy, in which daredevil pegasus Rainbow Dash finally gets the opportunity to attend a selection course, of sorts, for the elite demonstration flying team of the same name.  I had the privilege to discuss some of the finer points of the episode and its boot camp-like treatment of the young pegasi with the lovely mares and gentlestallions on TV Tropes.  Apparently this episode caused some rumblings about, among other things, Spitfire’s treatment of the pegasi in general, the Wonderbolts seemingly forgetting about Rainbow even though she’s a national hero, and the treatment of new character Lightning Dust at the end of the episode.  Since I’m about to go into the active duty Army in a few weeks, that got me thinking.

Assumptions

  • Wonderbolts Academy is a selection course more than a training course.  This is because the pegasi seem to have a pretty militaristic society in general and everyone attends flight camp, which looks more like an analogue for basic training to me, at a young age.  The evolutions depicted in-show appear to be testing rather than conditioning or teaching.  The Wonderbolts are also held up as an elite unit akin to our special operations guys or their inspiration, the Navy’s Blue Angels.  You must already be a flier of proven ability to join.
  • I am not in the military as of this writing and my experience with selection and training courses comes from documentaries.  I also draw upon the writings of Dick Couch about the selection courses of our elite units (The Warrior Elite, Chosen Soldier, Sua Sponte) and conversations with my recruiters who shared their experiences when they could.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about Spitfire’s characterization in this episode.  As many tropers pointed out in the discussion thread on this episode, she is acting as any other member of a training cadre would in her situation.  This is how the recruiters talk to us recruits when we form up for physical training every week.  The purpose is not to degrade, it is to motivate.  Every military memoir I have read, every soldier I have talked to, who has encountered their former instructors in another duty station has been able to approach them and have normal discussions.  There is nothing strange about Spitfire being cool while off duty and being a hardass while on the training ground and that is because nothing she does is personal.

This also ties in to the second point that people apparently asked about.  Favoritism should not be tolerated in this sort of environment.  Yes, Rainbow has met the Wonderbolts several times and proven herself to be an amazing flyer by performing a Sonic Rainboom but it takes more to join an elite outfit than just skill.  Take a look at snipers, for example.  A sniper is not just a skilled marksman.  Anyone can be a skilled marksman with practice.  A sniper must be meticulous because his camouflage and stalking techniques must be perfect.  A sniper must be observant because he is as much a scout and forward observer for artillery/aircraft as he is a marksman.  A sniper must be mature, because it involves spending lots of time in a single position staring out at nothing.  When you think about it that way, Rainbow still had a lot to learn before becoming a Wonderbolt.  I can see a couple of reasons why she might have been put in the wingpony position: Spitfire might already have known that Rainbow knows how to lead (she’s seen it before in Hurricane Fluttershy) but how well does she work as a team?

Elite units are small by definition, and part of a selection process involves seeing who you can count on to have your back in a dangerous and austere environment.  In the kind of precision flying that the Wonderbolts do, there is no room for egos.  If you look at them in any episode they always seem to fly as one, perfectly coordinated.  If one of them started flying outside his appointed role, the whole thing would be ruined.  Another reason I can think of is that she wants to motivate Rainbow to do just a little bit better, hence her comment that Lightning Dust “pushes herself just a bit more” than Rainbow does.

Then there’s the idea that Lightning Dust was punished for one mistake, and I’ve seen the first of what I’m sure are several comics and dark fics to come about how her dream has died and she becomes depressed/suicidal about not being able to join the Wonderbolts.  Let’s be clear here, the episode never said whether Lightning Dust was dropped from the selection or not.  All we saw was that she was stripped of her gold wings and lead away by the other cadre members.  That said, if this was a real life selection course I think she would have been dropped.  She came across as arrogant from the very beginning and I feel that her actions throughout the episode were reckless showboating, even her incident with the Dizzitron.  Others may disagree and Spitfire certainly did, considering that she let it slide.  That’s her call to make.

I recognize that she was desperate to prove herself and hugely competitive, but she was pulling stunts that endangered her wingpony and the other members of her flight.  She roped Rainbow into a stunt that caused her to injure her wing in spite of recommendations to the contrary.  She put half the class into serious tailspins on the obstacle course where they could have been hurt and/or killed.  She put the mane cast in danger with the tornado stunt.  If it were me, I could probably overlook the first one but the other two are serious safety violations, and there are two things that will always get you dropped from a selection course instantly, never to return: safety and honor violations.  Something as simple as pointing a rifle, loaded or not, at another trainee or an instructor will bring the wrath of God down upon you in the military (a rifle is always loaded, especially when it’s not).  So yeah, she’d get dropped for one mistake.  It was one hell of a mistake to make.

Regardless of what I think, we must also consider that this is a kids’ show meant to teach them lessons about the magic of friendship.  For this reason, I doubt that Lightning Dust will be marked “never to return”, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  This isn’t the military, it just has a lot in common with it, and I looked at the episode through that lense only.  I’d like to see an older, more mature Lightning Dust appear in another episode, having hopefully learned her lesson about not putting one over on her battle buddies.

An interesting business idea

•October 23, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I don’t know what the nature of the apps market is like but after watching the first episode of Robotics;Notes, I think they might be on to something with that app that allows you to dress people up in fetish outfits fabulous-looking outfits for fun and profit.  If marketed to the right kinds of people (i.e. anime fans), I think that it could be an immensely profitable app with updates released periodically to add more outfits and stuff.  I imagine there are some technical challenges with making the outfits, fit as perfectly as they do in the anime, but after talking a bit with my more technologically savvy brother, I’m inclined to believe that the technology to accomplish this is not far off.

In other news, training for the Army is really kicking my ass.  I tell you, you do not know how physically unfit you are until you truly start straining yourself.  My current routine revolves around the basics – push-ups, sit-ups, and running, with the addition of more exotic exercises as needed to keep things fresh and interesting.  I’ve taken quite a liking to 8-count body builders, although I find it difficult to do very many of them.

Fall Anime 2012

•August 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I just got the chance to look at the chart for the upcoming anime.  Jormungand Season 2 is an automatic pick so I won’t go into that too much.  What’s really important is selecting the animes I will give one shot.  Basically, I make a point of picking a few new anime from every season and giving them one episode to impress me.  Now, I know that there is a school of thought that says you should give an anime at least three episodes before deciding whether you like it or not but in my case, I have two reasons for not waiting that long.

First, I am not a hard person to impress.  At least at first.  A bad anime is still a bad anime and I could even drop it later on if I decide I don’t like it.  Second, a trend has been going on for the past couple of years where I look at each chart and decide that everything is crap except for one series that I may decide to pick up later.  The purpose of this exercise is to grab some things that I normally wouldn’t be interested in and give them a shot at surprising me.  Since I generally don’t like the premise of most of these animes, I feel as though I am giving them more than enough of a shot without sitting through three episodes.

Nobody pays me to do this.

So, the chart seems to be composed of mostly romantic comedies, shonen action shows, slice of life, and the occasional surprise; a sort of “odd one out”.  These are genres I’m not so hot on.  I don’t hate them, but it makes it hard for me to pick stuff out that might be promising.  On the bright side, the lineup for the fall seems to be better than normal, with some mysterious Urobuchi Gen project (maximum trolling, since I suspect he hates his fans in a humorous sort of way) and a JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure adaptation.  Believe it or not, I’m not a huge fan of that either so don’t expect any fanboying over its badassery or hotbloodedness here.  I make no promises.

Then there’s Girls und Panzer.  Ah, now this is interesting.  I can’t help but suspect that the anime industry was trying to capitalise on whatever success Upotte had with a new military moe series.  I’m ambivalent about it.  One one hand, I love military stuff and it’s cool but I thought the premise of Upotte was so overwhelmingly stupid that I didn’t bother to pick it up.  Having a “serious” alternative in Jormungand also helped.  Will military moe become just another trend with an obligatory entry in every season from here to eternity?  Well it didn’t really catch on with Strike Witches so it’s hard to say.  I think that ship sailed awhile ago.

As a final note, Kamisama Kiss sounds rather interesting if a little shoujo-ish.  I think I just found entry 1 on my list.

I would not do it for TOR, so I will not do it for Rebecca Black

•August 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I was in one of my more introspective moods and I sat back and started a train of thought that mysteriously lead to Rebecca Black and her infamous song Friday.  Now, just so we’re clear, I thought that it was a terrible piece of tripe; I could not think of a single positive thing to say about that song, except that I have to give Black credit for daring to try.  To be willing to throw yourself out there is one of the first risks you take when you decide that you want to do creative output as a hobby, whether it’s writing or singing or art.  If you never show your craft to anyone, you’ll never get criticism and never advance.

Anyway, I was thinking about the fact that people seem to apply such vitriol to things they hate.  Rebecca Black is just an example but far from the only example.  I find it difficult to understand how something like Naruto or Twilight could elicit such a visceral reaction from people, that anger which drives some pretty eloquent rants occasionally.  I mean, I have as little interest in these franchises as the next person but I don’t feel that these things offend me personally, which seems to be how some people view them.  Then I came face to face with the way people talk about Star Wars: The Old Republic and I understood what that hostility felt like.

At least, from the receiving end.

You see, I liked The Old Republic and was excited when I saw the rumours about what was going to be in it.  I came across the rather vocal part of the hatedom a few months before the actual launch date and I was astonished when I actually found people flaming others for wanting to talk about TOR.  It essentially amounted to “stop enjoying and being excited for this game I think is going to be bad”.  I even went and checked out the 29:30 video and could not, for the life of me, understand what the joke was.  I had to have it explained to me.  Twice.

Flash forward half a year and I’ve been playing TOR for awhile and having a lot of fun with it.  I didn’t manage to get to the endgame content before I got bored and left, but hey, I enjoyed my time in the world and thought that Bioware had done a reasonable job, albeit with a project that was overly ambitious from conception.  I came back to find that these same people who had been flaming people and calling them Biodrones just for being different were now scrutinizing TOR for any flaws whatsoever for the sole purpose of gloating.  I asked why they even bothered to follow a game they hated so much and the answer I got was essentially that they were enjoying the spectacle of watching it fail.

Watching it fail?  I can’t really understand that either.  To me it seems like an overwhelmingly unpleasant mindset to have, born of spite.

This brings us back to the subject of Rebecca Black, and those like her.  I’m unable to reconcile an overwhelmingly negative and spiteful attitude like wanting to watch her fail, with my commitment to being a nice person.  I may indulge in the occasional ribbing at her expense, and describe her second single, My Moment, as “Butthurt: the Musical”, but I don’t feel any real need to wish cancer or eating disorders upon the poor girl.  No one deserves that, not even the worst singer in the world.  I didn’t like it when it was said about TOR, so why would I want to then turn around and do it to something that I don’t like?

I can’t.

As an afterthought, I am reminded of a book review on SOFREP, a wonderful site that you should definitely visit if you have any interest in the military and special operations in particular, where the author stated that the site generally reviews things that they enjoy and give positive reviews to.  Their rationale for this was that they did not see any reason to waste time talking with their fans about books and gear that they didn’t like, and that if you wanted a critical review you could go to any other publication.  Heaven knows there are plenty of people willing to criticize.  I agree with that philosophy and it matches up with what I try to do here on my blog.  I can talk about what I liked and what I didn’t like in a work, but I don’t feel the need to waste my time or yours writing about something I hated.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you prove someone wrong

•August 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I don’t normally check out Youtube comments but I just happened to glance down at the section for this video and saw a rather impressive takedown of a guy who was erroneously stating that the Marine Corps had it harder in World War II than the Army.  Now, the guy’s comment was actually pretty innocuous so whether he deserved to be taken down like that is a different question altogether, but I’m all for the use of more facts and explanation to tell someone they are wrong.  I mean, it would have been more awesome if the guy was mouthing off, as is distressingly common whenever us mere civilians talk about the Marine Corps.  Also, the commenter doesn’t come across as being condescending, in my opinion, which is totally cool.

If anyone ever comes across Ravenguard1000, our resident YouTube World War II historian, somebody buy him a beer.  Until then, enjoy this detailed essay on why the Marines did not “have it harder” than the Army:

The marines had it harder than the Army in WW2? Really? Seventeen US Army Infantry Divisions that saw combat in Europe saw more than 200 days in combat and saw casualty rates of OVER 200%. One, the 4th Division, had 299 combat days and 240% casualties. This means that a rifleman arriving in Europe with one of these divisions had a zero statistical chance of seeing the end of the war alive or unmaimed. The marines in the Pacific don’t even come close to this.

The sick joke about the commanding general of the 1st Division (Big Red One) was that he was actually a Corps commander because he had THREE divisions – one in combat, one in the hospital, and one in the graveyard. To counter this, the marines often lie that they had higher casualties than the Army, but this is a statistical trick – the marines got almost all of their logistical support from the Army and Navy, so they can claim a much smaller force and higher casualties.

When the numbers are adjusted for actual fighting strength, the Army in Europe suffered far more casualties than the marines. The fact is that the Germans were a vastly more dangerous enemy than the Japanese (they rarely did us the favor of charging stupidly into our heavy weapons fire). The Japanese never launched a major ground offensive after New Guinea (no marines there) but the Germans were counterattacking almost to the end of the war.

In reality, the European Theater was an Armageddon simply too large, complex, and horrible for the human mind to comprehend. The single Battle of the Ardennes generated more deaths in a few days than the marines have suffered in their entire history and was fought in the worst Arctic weather Europe had seen in generations. If one wants to talk about who suffered in the Pacific, I suggest a look at the New Guinea campaign, where no marines were involved.

New Guinea was fought at about the same time as Guadalcanal, but in conditions far, FAR worse – from stinking disease-ridden jungles up near vertical slopes to freezing, mile-high mountain tops and back down again, poorly-supplied by a single one-mule-wide trail. Few know about New Guinea because marine press agents, as usual, were making sure that the marines got front-page press coverage back home. THIS is the ONLY reason for “marines had it harder” myth.

So, the only thing that the marines have EVER had a harder time of than the Army is telling the truth about their own history. This is only one of numerous examples of where the marines create myth out of truth. The marines are a fine organization for what they do, but their myth is only believed by civilians – the rest of the services regard them with the same kind of amused contempt that the NFL holds for a good High School football team. Be careful when they speak – it may be BS.

Well, I don’t think this gentleman quite speaks for me, as I would not dream of speaking ill of a brother service.  My nose curls a bit whenever I hear someone mouthing off about the Chair Force or telling me that with my ASVAB scores I should’ve joined the Navy.  That said, I’m not above the usual banter between the services.  Also, I’m still in the DEP so I will move back in my lane for the moment.

 
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