The Centrenauts: The Choices We Make

As our group progresses with our videogame and I continue working on our narrative and story, it is becoming more and more clear how important choices are in history. History isn’t simply a collection of names, dates, and places; rather, it is a series or a process that involves the subjective decisions of a human being. For example, Alexander the Great didn’t conquer Persia simply because he conquered Persia—instead, he conquered the empire because he made a series of choices within the context of the period that would lead to success in that specific conquest. The choices that this specific conqueror made were made without the knowledge of what exactly would come next; his choices were subjective to him.

This subjectivity is extremely important when thinking history, and it is especially important to our group as we craft the decision-making process within our game. As Jordan mentioned in his last blog post, our videogame will contain player choices that will change the outcome of the videogame: a series of poor choices will result in a Nazi victory during D-Day and a series of good choices will result in an Allied victory during D-Day. It is up to the player to make these decisions based on the context that they are given. Rather than letting a player make decisions based on prior knowledge of what will happen, we would rather have the player immerse themselves properly in the game and make subjective decisions.

The best example of this so far in the narrative of our game is the series choices that a player makes regarding sending stolen German information back to the Allies. For this situation, a player must take into consideration the weather, volume of ingoing and outgoing mail, and the busyness of radio channels. There is no clear answer in this prompted choice. It is up to the player to weigh their options and think ahead of what might happen if they make a certain choice, as there is no specific historical precedent for them to rely on during this encounter. The player must immerse themselves, recognize established patterns, and make a choice based entirely on context.

These subjective choices are how we plan to keep the game immersive and replayable, but it is also important for the historical authenticity of our game. We’d like the choices that players make during gameplay to matter in the course of the game’s history, so we aim to add weight to nearly everything the player does. When a player makes a choice, it will alter history (even if it’s only the history within the game) in the way that any choice in an RPG should.

As we ourselves continue to make choices during the production of our videogame, we will keep you updated and informed! For now, we are focusing on research, narrative, and map building. By the end of this week, we hope to have our plotline drafted and our game on its way to being properly produced!

Drafts of Choices

 

The Centrenauts: A Dive

Hello all,

Today was day two for the Centrenaut’s project, and it felt like a dive into a pool of information. Time was dedicated to the search of books that relate to the area of history our group wishes to convey. That area being World War II, specifically spies in the war. The first concern of our group, was if the library would even have enough resources for our subject matter. To our surprise though, we ended up finding seven books about spies, espionage, and secret wars. Now, it was time for the dive.

There was one book that I found particularly interesting, The Double Cross System In The War of 1939 to 1945, by J.C. Masterman.  In this book, I was drawn to the chapter 11, Deception For France. This chapter focuses on the work that spies did to cover up the plans for the Normandy invasion. At first, the spies did their jobs so well that the Germans considered attacks coming from Northwest Africa or in the Mediterranean. Eventually though, it became impossible to disguise that the assault would be somewhere in between the Cherbourg peninsula and Dunkirk. With this, the spies developed a deception policy that consisted of three points: postpone the believed date of the attack, indicate that the attack would come in the east rather than in the west, and to suggest that another assault even stronger would occur after the first. Just this morsel of information offers up so many potential ideas and concepts that can be implemented into our game. The deception policy specifically establishes goals of the spies, which is extremely valuable information. The goal of our group now, is to keep researching and pulling information from our books that will add to the historical accuracy of our game.

With a typical dive into a pool, one feels shock as the cool water hits, but then it is exhilarating. The dive that my fellow group members and I took today yielded the same results. Shock, exhilarating potential, and finally excitement to dive further in.

Historical Accuracy

As we look for sources on Billy the Kid, we found many primary sources on his life. Most of the sources on Billy the Kid are found in the newspaper, one exception is the book written about him by the man that killed him. Although some historians said there were some minor discrepancies in Garret’s book.

We noticed some differences in the primary sources, especially in the number of people Billy killed. One of the newspaper said he killed nineteen people, another said twenty-one people, and another said he killed eight people. What does a video game producer, who wants to be historically accurate, do when the research is conflicting?

The same can be said for the video game producers that want to do a historically accurate video game on other events that weren’t recorded well. For instance, like we talked about in class, during the French Revolution, only the elites were written about and wrote in their journals. The lower class did not keep a record of what was going on. This causes limitations for video game producers who would want to produce a video game that was historically accurate about the lower class pre-French Revolution.

I think the reason a lot of video games focus on the world wars is because there are a lot of primary and secondary sources on the wars. This gives the producer the tools to make the game historically accurate or lack accuracy depending on their objective for the game. However, I think producers are trying to diversify games with the inclusion of less documented history and alternate history.

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.