Letters to the Editor

Massively Casual


In response to “How I Gained and Lost an Empire” from The Escapist Forum: I loved Master of Orion–must have played dozens of games in both original and MoO2 versions. Usually my fledgling empire was crushed way too early, but occasionally I would find the right combination of research and diplomacy to bring victory. One time I filled a notebook with a year by year, turn by turn account of the rise and fall of the Terran Empire. Great article, Alex!


Nice article. I was even younger when I first played MoO 2, so I didn’t grasp too many of the complexities of the game at the time (such as using spies, being proactive with treaty making and like you, how invading rather than just nuking from orbit is a really good idea) but it’s been a favourite of mine for a long time.

I recently re-bought MoO 2 through GoG.com, along with MoO 1 which I’ve never played. I love MoO 2 so much, and I think it’s a game that’s aged incredibly well. The interface is fairly straight forward for a game with MoO 2’s depth and the graphics and art look fine, since it mainly consists of gorgeous 2D artwork and some pretty nice pre-rendered cinematics (such as when you blow up a planet with a Stellar Converter *insert cackling*)

Also, you’re totally right about Creative being broken… I never make a race without it.

Rogue 9


In response to “Schizophrenic Storytelling” from The Escapist Forum: This article presents a fascinating way to view the handling of narratives in games. Games’ are inherently a second person medium, though the stories they tell are almost exclusively third and/or first person stories strung together with gameplay. This contradiction is how we end up with many of the challenges to developing a sophisticated narrative in a game. Look at the Metal Gear Solid games, which tell most of their stories through third person cinematics, limiting the degree to which they utilize the unique perspective of games. Even though MGS uses those cinematics well, it is stuck with the stigma of being more an interactive movie than a game because it’s so tightly bound to third person storytelling. Despite how well some games may use these tools to tell their stories, they are at odds with games’ inherent strengths, and will struggle to mature as their own medium the way films and novels have.

This disconnect between essentially linear first and third person stories and the more variable second person medium seems to be source of common criticisms (think Ebert). Games are often criticized for focusing on power fantasies because the player controls the central character who generally “wins” the story’s conflict when the player “wins” the game. Since no player wants to “lose” the game, a game designer or writer will have difficulty telling a story in which the protagonist is not ultimately the “winner” and still produce a compelling gameplay experience.

Heavy Rain attempted to solve this problem by redefining “win” as the more open-ended “complete.” In order for the player to be placed inside the narrative, the story must react to the player’s decisions, which are different for every player and every playthrough. The result is a choose-your-own-adventure story that develops according to how the player solves (or fails to solve) problems in the game. This model introduces some problems, including that some players may end up with a narrative arc that is much “weaker” than others by traditional metrics, but it makes an important step in the right direction. In a game structured this way, the player may fail and the story goes on, avoiding the need for the player, and thus the character he is playing, to win every conflict. This disconnect of perspectives is one of the most important issues for narratives in gaming, and it’s good to see some games trying new ways to address the problem. It’s a sign that the industry is maturing in a very meaningful way



In response to “Multiple Roleplaying Disorder” from The Escapist Forum: Sims is ambitious for many reasons, but one thing just scared the living Hell outta me a few months back. As it is said in the article, the roleplaying aspect is massive in the game, and I would imagine, at first many people try to recreate themselves, or an idealized version of themselves in Sims. With the earlier Sims games, there was only so much you could do to make your Sim resemble you, but with The Sims 3, it’s the wrong end of Uncanny Valley. Of course the graphics are not photo-realistic, but you can create a surrogate character that at least people can recognize “it’s you”. That raises lots of interesting, fun, and utterly terrifying possibilities.

Ever since the last game, I had aging turned off via cheat, I always stayed in the Adult stage. There was just so little time to accomplish anything in the game before the character got too old and died, and I wanted to explore every nook and cranny of the game with my character in it’s full glory, max out all skills, jobs etc. Then a few months back, I decided to play the game as it was intended to be played, no cheats or tricks. I turned on aging and created my character as usual, who I fine-tuned to the point he looked and behaved like me as closely as the game would allow. I played like any other Sims game, got a nice house, got a job, girl, the life of my character was on track, and was getting close to reaching his lifetime goal. Then a small tip box popped up, saying that my Sim is aging and will become Old soon. Then in a blaze of stars and whatnot, my Sim turned into the last stage of Sim life, being and elder. And that terrified me to no end. Grey hair, crooked posture, trembling voice… and that’s when I realized: he will never reach his lifetime goal now, there is no time.

I looked at the character, looking almost exactly like me, turning into a grey, crooked, wrinkled old man, and then something broke inside me. My own mortality, embodied by a bunch of colored pixels on a screen. That’s when I realized, there is no cheat that can make me any younger. My character never reached his lifetime goal, he died trying desperately to reach it. I decided I cannot let that happen to me, I only live once…

So The Sims can do much more than just allow roleplaying, it can even carry on to the real life, and that scares the cr*p outta me…



In response to “The Regiment” from The Escapist Forum: As someone who has both spent time with realism units (Though mine were in Call of Duty) and served a year as a conscript in an actual army, I think it is fair to say that the comparsion is somewhat flawed. What Mr. Branch is describing in his article is really what every teenager at some point learns (some learn it way later than other though).

The Army was a whole other deal. Sure, it thaught me responsibility in the quickest way possible (“Didn’t pack your storm kitchen? Seems like you’ll be eating cold chow the rest of the week”) but the camaraderie with some of the men and women I served with can never be emulated. Being on a sports team or in a competitive clan/unit instills a certain friendship, but it is not the same sense of belonging that military service instills. If you have a really bad day, you just don’t log onto ventrilo or the server. But in the military, if I have a bad day in the field, if I feel the entire world is stacked against me and I can’t take anymore of the stuff the officers are making us do in the exercise I can’t just decide not to show up. I will have to break down in front of these people that rely on me to do my part. Likewise, they will have to break down in front of me if they get the same feeling. In the end, we will come out as a stronger unity (hopefully) because we know each others strengths and weaknesses and we know that we can rely on each other to cover each others’ backs and support each other in times of need.

Letting someone ventilate over ventrilo or teaching them how to behave like a grown up doesn’t compare to that. Because online you’ll never see the highest peaks of someone’s personality nor will you see their deepest valleys. In a sense, realism units are more like really serious hobby-sports teams, which is rather fascinating in itself.



In response to the Editor regarding “Issue 263: Playing a Role” of The Escapist Magazine: “Most importantly, role playing teaches us that it’s OK to try, fail and try again. It gives us a comfort zone between our fragile selves and an unforgiving world. It allows us to experiment in ways that we might not otherwise. It allows us to have fun, which, frankly, is a worthy enough goal all on its own.”

Hey there, famed Escapist Editor,

I first heard your name on the title animation for ZP.

Anyway, this quote from your Editor’s Note on Issue 263 really inspired me and made my day. Quite frankly, I was having a gloom and ominous day today and was just looking for a bit of distraction, a little wandering, when I clicked on the “Editor’s Note” link I’ve always ignored. Within it I found a spark of joy, a reminder of the happiness I’m used to, but have forgotten recently. This reminded me of the happiness that openness and an adventurous spirit rewards. It’s a note that reminds you that life does go on, and we should with it, just by trying again.


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