Showing posts with label starcraft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label starcraft. Show all posts

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Deceptive epistemologies in strategy game interfaces, and a theory of strong vs. weak fallibility.

When you play Command and Conquer or Starcraft, you're supposedly some anonymous commander at a console who can see everything and command everyone via some combination of technology and/or space magic. When you play Warcraft, maybe you're looking into a magic mirror. When you play Company of Heroes, uh, you're... uh... a plane is flying above and radioing battlefield recon back to HQ, and some lovely women in neat khaki caps slide pieces around on a map?...

As far as user interface framing goes, there's very little metaphor outside of fantasy magic and holographic virtual magic. Of course, none of these are "problems" in these games, because everyone knows it's a trick -- that is, we all know it's just some stupid bullshit that doesn't matter, and that's okay. ("Tetris doesn't need a plot!!!")

But the only way to coherently read this kind of fiction is to disembody it, to assume you're more like some abstract "force" -- maybe you're the collective human will to survive or collective unconscious manifestation of nationalism, some system of belief guiding all these people and resources toward some grand purpose that few of them can imagine. (Frozen Synapse imagines that you are literally "Tactics," the player character is the squad's abstract ability to think, perceive, and act.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Introduction to Starcraft and Heidegger (Part 2)

(This is a two-part essay on Starcraft II and its relation to Heidegger's writing using Sirlin's excellent write-ups, for relative novices who don't play Starcraft multiplayer.)

Last time...
  • I was about to lose a game of Starcraft II -- the guy had micromanaged his forces, with one army slowly but surely killing mine and another army about to attack my now defenseless base.
  • I talked about Heidegger and his ideas about technology: We can't manufacture raw resources; they are created by the earth, as with coal being formed from fossils over many years, etc. However, modern technology makes us think we control these resources, through a mental construct called enframing -- the process of re-orienting ourselves to these raw resources to give the illusion of control. When we mine / store / "control" coal, it's actually just a different state of mind.
So, first, since Heidegger's all about these raw resources -- what are the raw resources of Starcraft? Minerals, gas and time? Maybe even "map territory" I guess?

Wrong. You're thinking too narrowly. Yes, those are the raw resources within the construct of the game, discrete variables tracked by the computer -- but what about the raw resources of your opponent?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Introduction to Starcraft and Heidegger (Part 1)

(This is a two-part essay on Starcraft II, why it is great, and its relation to Heidegger's writings on technology using Sirlin's excellent write-ups for a Starcraft class. It is aimed towards relative novices who don't really play Starcraft multiplayer.)

So one day, I was playing Starcraft II against some dude. We were both Protoss... and it wasn't going well for me.

He had all these "Stalker" spider-robot-things that shoot ranged lasers / can teleport short distances instantaneously. It was kind of hopeless for me: he shoots lasers at me, I run towards, he "blinks" away -- repeat.

This is micromanagement -- high-frequency, repetitive actions that require a high APM (actions per minute) to maximize a unit's flux, or ability to inflict damage.

He had to teleport away carefully, at just the right time, to maximize the laser-shooting while staying out of range of my units. If he teleported too late, my units would catch-up and kill his units. If he teleported away too soon, his units would barely have any time to acquire a target and fire.

In doing so, he was also kiting (as in, a kite) my units away from my base, as his Stalkers teleport further and further away and my army chases after them. It leaves my base utterly defenseless. He has a second army waiting. They charge up the ramp to my base...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mod Auteurs: Razorclaw X

First a brief history: like many modding communities, the Starcraft modding community was fragmented across several sites -- Infoceptor,, the Star Alliance, etc. -- but perhaps the most prominent / controversial site (though certainly the most productive) was Campaign Creations.

There at CC, Razorclaw X came to Starcraft modding from a "fan fiction" perspective -- which would explain why his characters and universe were such an utterly impenetrable fog unless you played all four campaigns in order -- and went out of his way to create an epic mythology involving the cast of the anime Ranma 1/2. The "Vision of the Future" series was four huge campaigns, spread across 84+ maps, with a new playable race called the "Zeji Armada," all done by one man.