Team Senseless Violence

As we finish our last full week of Centreterm, I pause to reflect on how great it was working with this group of students. Prior to this project, I have had mixed feelings about group projects. Most good, but a few bad reservations. Working with this group was a great experience that I will cherish for my duration at Centre. On the first day of meeting with our group, we were struggling to find commonalities. One thing we had in common was that we like video games. We even didn’t share any favorite video games. This is what made the chemistry of Team Senseless Violence so good. Every member in Team Senseless Violence had a different specialty. Due to our diverse backgrounds and our different likes, we were able to be a multifaceted and dynamic group. On the second day of class, we added Mackenzie to Team Senseless Violence. She helped to further diversify the group, and support our team-like mentality.

At the beginning of the term, it felt like we discussed every group of people to do for our project. We discussed everything from the ancient Greeks to the Cold War Americans. It was only a few days into research when we decided to do a project on the ‘Wild West.’ Retrospectively this was the best possible option for the group. We were able to brainstorm for a day or two before we made any major decisions. Our first major decision for the video game was to make one of our main characters the notorious Billy the Kid. We thought that this would help us best convey a historical video game, because there were so many primary and secondary sources on Billy the Kid. After we decided on Billy the Kid, we believed that it would be interesting to entertain the possibility of more than one main character. This led us to discussions about how it could help us to portray a more comprehensive landscape of the ‘Wild West.’

After we were married to the idea of having multiple characters, we decided to include two more characters in addition to Billy the Kid. To create a deeper plot, we decided to add a lawman. This lawman is a manifestation of secondary sources on Pat Garrett. We wanted to take a few artistic liberties with the creation of Pat Garrett, so we decided to rename him Jameson. Throughout our video game, we portray actual stories about both Garett and Billy the Kid. These stories are from primary sources like wanted posters, but mostly from secondary sources. Our final character is the glue for our story. We decided to make the last character a saloon ‘dance worker.’ This character is completely fabricated.She was a creation of our group. We tried to use different stories about dance workers in the ‘Wild West’ to influence her. Once we decided to use these three characters, the rest was easy.

The most difficult part of the project, so far, has been deciding our characters and our setting. Once we decided those parts of the video game, the dialogue was easy to write. Mackenzie and I focused on the writing aspect of the project. We would bounce ideas off one another and writing for these characters became effortless, it never felt like homework to me. We could sit down and type dialogue for hours and it would feel like minutes. Tori is currently implementing our dialogue into the video game, with some help from Evan when needed. Evan and Clay focused on primary and secondary sources for the game.

Team Senseless Violence was able to come together with the shared goal of creating a fun, historically accurate video game. It was a pleasure working with these great men and women, and I will truly miss the camaraderie our group shared.

All the best,

Z. Leland Gray

War Thunder and the Realism vs. Gameplay Dilemma

Howdy Y’all,

Our group made a solid amount of progress today. We decided upon the Wild West as our setting and Twine as our software. Overall, the project outlook is bright. However, I wanted to use this blog post to speak on something near and dear to my heart, the free-to-play online multiplayer game War Thunder.

In many ways, Russian developer Gaijin’s War Thunder was the game that shifted the flight simulation genre from aviation enthusiasts to more general gamers. Straying away from their niche and highly realistic Il-2 Sturmovik series, Gaijin sought to broaden their player base.¬† War Thunder employs intuitive, easy to learn, hard to master, controls that take advantage of the mouse and keyboard instead of the fabled and largely dead flight-stick peripheral. This control decision, as well as the monetary decision to make it free-to-play, nets War Thunder eleven thousand monthly players on steam. By comparison, the newest Il-2 simulator nets only one hundred and fifty players a month on steam. Therefore, it can be drawn from numbers that stylistic decisions benefit War Thunder as it offers a more fun gameplay experience for more people than the realistic offerings.

Multiplayer is at the core of all the gameplay decisions in War Thunder. Everyone who has seen Top Gun knows that air combat (stylized as “dogfighting”) is an extremely intense and high-adrenaline experience. Coupled with the World War Two setting, which many believe was a golden age (for lack of a better term) for air combat, War Thunder allows players to take part in the high-octane dogfights above the Pacific and Europe with little entrance requirement. Being able to choose from the five major powers, with France and Italy having been recently added, gives players a true sense of freedom and creates interesting multiplayer matches. However, this freedom has been a pervasive, core issue that a community that I have been apart of for almost four years has dealt with.

War is never meant to be symmetrical and balanced. Every day, contractors are hard at work designing weapons that are not only better than their opponents but capable of countering them at every turn. This was on display in WW2 as much as any other war. This creates an interesting issue for a multiplayer game which stresses accessibility. For example, German aircraft in the early-war were far superior to their Russian opponents. Another example, Japan was not the production behemoth that the U.S. was and therefore had to stretch early-war fighters into the late war. This is all rectified in the name of balance. German early-war fighters will often face Russian fighters that did not see service until years later. In the case of the Japanese American late-war fighters face aircraft that never left the prototype phase. This allows games to be interesting and for players to feel like they have a chance to affect the outcome of a match regardless of the plane they choose. Obviously, this is not historically accurate and there have been many heated forum debates on the place of historical accuracy in this game. Personally, I am in the camp that historical accuracy can suffer a bit for the overall balance of the game, but there are hardliners that think the game show maintain historical integrity even if balance suffers in the process. It has been a debate for War Thunder players for as long as I can remember playing the game. Gaijin has protected game balance by continuously updating the game and fixing issues that the community raises. Accuracy is also a major part of these updates, they often change aircraft and weapon characteristics so that they better resemble their real-life counterparts. This continued support means that the developers are concerned about not only delivering a fun game but also the burden that they bare as a historical medium.

War Thunder is not the only game that suffers from the historical accuracy dilemma. In fact, most multiplayer war games will struggle with this in some way, shape, or form during development and post-release. What separates games that survive and games that fail is how well they are able to balance this dichotomy. War Thunder is a perfect example of a game that has been able to balance accuracy and fun, and it has been rewarded with a loyal playerbase.