Letters to the Editor

In Too Deep


To the Editor: I was surprised by some statements in the recent article by Allen Varney entitled “Wing Leader”. I was the producer on Battlehawks 1942 and worked closely with its main creator, Larry Holland, who was responsible not only for the line of WW2 flight simulators but also the X-Wing line of games at LucasArts.

It’s true that there was rivalry between Lucasfilm Games/LucasArts and Origin, but it was friendly and full of mutual admiration. We would go to the June and January Consumer Electronics Shows and happily show each other our latest advances – in fact, often discussing technical aspects that weren’t even public, as there was a strong respect and healthy rivalry between developers at both companies at all levels. In fact there were several discussions about direct collaboration, including a Star Wars RPG from Richard Garriott, and the possibility of Chris Roberts doing an X-Wing game. So when Allen Varney describes the “fear in the eyes” of the Lucasfilm staff, it is specious speculation. I remember a lot of cross-fertilization of ideas and inspiration, but not fear.

– Noah Falstein

To the Editor: I wasn’t at CES in 1990, but I have to question the veracity of some of the statements in Allen Varney’s article on Wing Leader. I entered the industry as a tester at Lucasfilm Games in 1991 and at that time Larry Holland was working non-stop on completing Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe (which shipped that year). Work on X-Wing did not begin until December 1991. I left Lucasarts and joined Larry’s team in August of 1992 when X-Wing was still pre-Alpha.

Now the story I’ve heard from a few different sources is that Chris Roberts pitched a Star Wars flight combat game to Lucasfilm and was turned down. It’s not surprising – he had no experience with flight combat games, while Lucasfilm already had a partnership with Larry Holland that resulted in 3 very successful World War II flight combat games.

As for the technology in Wing Commander, Chris Roberts openly boasted to Larry that he had reverse-engineered the code from Battlehawks 1942. I’ve heard from former Origin coders that this was not actually true, that the engine code was original – just that Chris didn’t write any of it. Either way, it’s not a terribly flattering picture of Mr. Roberts.

X-Wing owes nothing to Wing Commander. We were building on a successful engine that predated Chris Roberts’ efforts by 3 years. I think it is pretty clear who influenced who.

– David Wessman

Author’s Reply: In my article “Wing Leader,” I mistakenly described Lucasfilm Games as showing X-Wing at the 1990 Consumer Electronics Show, when the record shows it was Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe. I regret that error. With that correction, the CES anecdote happened as I related it in my article.

– Allen Varney

In Response to “You Got Your Race in My Video Game” from The Escapist Forum: I don’t claim to be a sociology expert or anything, but I do have a minor in the field. I don’t think race is the most important divider among the real world or a videogame world. Class is way more important in today’s society than race, although we hear about race-related incidents happening in the United States and around the world. It isn’t that nothing is racially charged, but that class stratification should be what people focus more on.

– Yadam Siegfried

In Response to “You Got Your Race in My Video Game” from The Escapist Forum: I’m glad the Escapist published this article, as racial issues in video games is an important topic to discuss and has for far too long been buried. I think we need more talk about how political messages are in our games.

My first take on the topic is that this is just how capitalism works. If people are racist, it is inevitable that consumer-driven media will be racist as well. And if a richer group of people are racist, then it’s inevitable that more racist media will be produced for them than for poorer groups. There’s simply more money to be made.

What most people want is to be constantly patted on the back. To be cheered on, and to not be criticised in any way. It’s the nature of the entertainment industry. Games may be “interactive”, but few are interactive in a way that, say, a political science classroom might be at a university. But games aren’t there to make people better citizens, more moral or ethical. They’re there to entertain you. In a way, games are similar to prostitutes. You pay it money, it pleases you without question.

– shihku7

In Response to “You Got Your Race in My Video Game” from The Escapist Forum: Ignorance is bliss and we – as gamers – like to ignore issues of race in games so that we might blissfully enjoy the game itself, free of such concerns.

– theCardinal

In Response to “iMob” from The Escapist Forum: My big worry is that people will start forming iMobs for offenses not done. This kind of vigilantism is all very empowering, but it’s problematic when innocents are being harassed because some 12 year old is good at feigning crying foul to the right people.

– geldonyetich

In Response to “Live Disruption” from The Escapist Forum: I have a relevant, but totally anecdotal observation to add to this, Dean. I noticed it immediately upon picking up the Xbox 360 on launch day and logging on to Xbox live. Perhaps it was the pure joy of unleashing the power of a new system, or some kind of honeymoon period of Xbox Live Love, but whatever the cause, the effect was a kind of eerie calm. Players were actually nice to each other. Common practice in Project Gotham Racing was to warn your opponents if you were pulling out of a draft maneuver to pass them or (gasp) even apologize if you bumped their car into a spin on the way by. On two occasions I even got into real conversations with other players I’d never met before.

When did this strange calm period end? When did Project Gotham players start slamming you into a wall and cursing your mother on the way by? Why December 25th of course, when hundreds of thousands of pounds of teenagers ripped the wrappings off their shiny new 360’s and joined the fray. Perhaps the solution is as simple as requiring a mandatory verified birthday entry somewhere in the signup process, and allowing players the option to filter out their matchmaking by age. I know I yearn for those days of the 360 launch when, “hey, passing on your left, man” was much more common than, “bleep your bleeping mom on the wall bleep!”

– Jacob.pederson

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