Poll

What do you think about the subject?

I wholeheartedly agree. More Terran factions would have ensured a deeper and meaningful plot.
I agree, but only partially. At least one alien species is necessary to consider FreeSpace a true space shooter
I don't agree. I think more Terran opponents, however, may have raised the overall quality of FreeSpace.
I don't agree. Things are fine as they are, and I can't think of any Terran faction which may have replaced the Vasudans and/or the Shivans.
I don't agree. More Alien species would have been a great idea.
Snuffleupagus. Sincerely indifferent to the topic, as I put hostile Terran factions and alien species to the same level.

Author Topic: Vasudans and Shivans: Responsible for limiting the depth of FreeSpace's plot?  (Read 8697 times)

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Offline Snail

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Re: Vasudans and Shivans: Responsible for limiting the depth of FreeSpace's plot?
I kind of don't like you.

 

Offline Dilmah G

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Re: Vasudans and Shivans: Responsible for limiting the depth of FreeSpace's plot?
Hey, I like his post. :)
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Offline Snail

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Re: Vasudans and Shivans: Responsible for limiting the depth of FreeSpace's plot?
Well I don't.

 

Offline Ravenholme

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Re: Vasudans and Shivans: Responsible for limiting the depth of FreeSpace's plot?
Well I don't.

I'm with Snail

And I also don't agree with 90% of Gregster's post.

But hey, agreeing to differ and all that, his opinion and mine don't have to sync up.
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Offline General Battuta

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Re: Vasudans and Shivans: Responsible for limiting the depth of FreeSpace's plot?
It's not about the nature of enemies - alien or human.  It's not about how many Terran factions there are.  It's not even about whether you can empathize with your foe or not.  It's about the quantity, detail, and quality of information about the game universe, and how the plot takes advantage of it.

FreeSpace has plot, but very little lore.  If you compare the amount of lore provided as backing material to FreeSpace with that of Wing Commander, Wing Commander wins by a landslide (it provides massive star maps, historical time lines from the start of the Human-Kilrathi War to the end of it, dates and times, important political characters and their motivations and personalities).  Volition barely bothered by comparison.

Volition skipped the entire Terran-Vasudan War to get straight to the Shivan aspect of things.  Vasudans are people too -- :v: could have spent an entire game fleshing out the Terrans and Vasudans, providing backstories, factions, politics, leaders, peoples, their hearts, minds and (very differing) philosophies.  After playing that game, the player might object to the alliance with the Vasudans just like other pilots by the time the Shivans showed up - or even empathize with the Vasudans.  Volition didn't bother.

Volition focused on a very simple plot - two sworn enemies unite against a common, completely unreasonable foe, vanquish it, think they're awesome, and get humbled by that same common foe later.  Unreasonable foes like Shivans do make easy to write plots, but mainly because when the plot is "for humanity's survival," it's easy to dodge the question "Why am I fighting? What am I fighting for?" with the answer "To save mankind," rather than "for moral value X or moral value Y."

"Aliens are attacking, go save Earth" stories are easy to write.  You don't necessarily need a whole lot of lore or backstory for this to be exciting, and it's difficult to cram lore into a mission based format without having too much exposition.  The fact that Wing Commander bothered to provide the informational lore that it did (via game manuals, tech databases, cutscenes, etc.) is admirable; it went above and beyond the call of duty required to keep a player mindlessly fighting towards the next mission.  It gave them a universe.

It was Volition's choice to make their universe so simplistic.  Don't blame the Shivans - blame Volition.  Volition still could have provided information about the Terrans during the war against the Shivans which would have made the player wonder who they are fighting for.  They sort of touched upon this in FreeSpace 2, but never got much further than a single pilot complaining about the Iceni.  

I do believe that the Terrans could have been explored a little more.  Some of the biggest depth we got was knowing that corporations still exist in the GTA / GTVA, the GTI Rebellion, and the motivations of Admiral Aken Bosch and the NTF.  I spent a lot of time poring over the Tech Database's descriptions of Earth and Humans, wanting far more than it gave.  What about how planets are governed?  What are the people's rights?  Are people happy in the GTVA?  What about civilians?

The lack of information like this tends to force us to make up our own.  And that's what we do with our user-made campaigns...

The thing is, though, that worldbuilding and exposition can be a sandpit. After a decade of contemplation and discussion it's easy for us to say that :V: didn't provide much in the way of canon background, but upon first play (or hell upon just about any play) I think FreeSpace is ultimately more immersive and narratively successful than Wing Commander ever was specifically because it only provides the information required to tell the story. (You can also glean a vast amount of information simply by raking through the intelligence they provided, which was beautifully efficient in sketching the setting.)

It's like the difference between a great novel (Valente's Palimpsest) and one of those fantasy tomes with a map inside the cover and a lot of names that sound like someone with a cold trying to pronounce Tolkien (or, to extend the metaphor, a map of Palimpsest with all the districts and weird species detailed, plus rules on how to immigrate to the city and a history of the war about immigration). All the added cruft that's been shoved into worldbuilding the latter doesn't do much to make it better.

 

Offline Dilmah G

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Re: Vasudans and Shivans: Responsible for limiting the depth of FreeSpace's plot?
Well I don't.
Bah, it was my way of saying 'Be Nice'. :P

EDIT: TBH, I've never even played wing commander and didn't know what on Earth he was going on about for most of it.
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The word 'Yo' is only ever to be used as a singular greeting.
It is considered an insult to destroy a perfectly acceptable greeting by misuse. A 'Yo-Yo' is a toy spun from the index finger by small children and enthusiasts,
any such use as a greeting will result in prompt reprimand by any member of the 'African-American' or 'Sri-Lankans-who-think-they're-black' community

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Offline Snail

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Re: Vasudans and Shivans: Responsible for limiting the depth of FreeSpace's plot?
Most of that post said to me "Gregster2k thinks WCS > FS2".

 

Offline The E

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Re: Vasudans and Shivans: Responsible for limiting the depth of FreeSpace's plot?
Simple question, really. Does WCS have a more elaborate story? Yes. Because they had 4+ games and several novels to fill it out. The FS Universe, on the other hand, is totally defined by 2 Games. And that is it.

Now, as Battuta said, it's a testament to Volitions' writing that those two games provide a fertile enough ground that we are still here 10 years after FS2, still making additions to the plot, still discussing the mysteries of its story.
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Offline headdie

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Re: Vasudans and Shivans: Responsible for limiting the depth of FreeSpace's plot?
Most of that post said to me "Gregster2k thinks WCS > FS2".

please no to a fs - wc debate I happen to hold both series in high regard.

as to Gregster2k's post there is stuff in there which makes me think 'yer I'll go with that' but when I think about it some more I'm not sure, I mean like General Battuta says we are now analysing the background story with 14 years of hindsight (back to fs1) with analysis (posted or not) by countless people.  Also I wonder how much time the team had to spend on the games.

Also as General Battuta says when playing both games for the first few times the game and the story is very immersive and does make you feel part of the events told.

Here is another thing the holes in cannon knowledge is only a PITA or even seriously noticed because of the community's desire to take the story to places never imagined by the devs.  Community interest in a game like has been seen in FS is fairly rare in that 12 years after the final game has been released the community is still going strong and possibly still growing and not something :v: could be reasonably expected to plan for especially with commercial pressures involved.

I suppose it comes down to once you have looked at the blue print of the Raptor heavy fighter and flicked through Claw Marks while installing the game how much does that help immerse you in the game when your wingman has been shot down and you are dancing with 3 Jalthi.
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Offline Gregster2k

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Re: Vasudans and Shivans: Responsible for limiting the depth of FreeSpace's plot?
Clarification
  • Volition not bothering to provide lore / worldbuilding information is not necessarily a bad thing
  • FS was successful without it
  • FS is enjoyable and immersive without it
  • WCS and FS are both great games in their own right
  • WCS went above and beyond by providing background info they didn't have to provide

  • I am not arguing in favor of including an encyclopedia with every game/campaign/mod
  • I am not arguing in favor of Sync-style expository missions
  • I am not arguing in favor of Derelict-style expository mission briefings

@Battuta: Even novels occasionally have expository segments, but expository segments are difficult to pull off in mission-based games like FreeSpace with constant action.  As we know, attempts to place exposition within missions are sometimes controversial, such as when Sync had missions made entirely of dialogue.  Many people don't like it when a game stops itself to show a 5 minute cutscene (see Metal Gear series).

The community has done other things in user made campaigns that subvert this problem.  Pilots are given names and personalities.  Areas are made familiar through repetitive visitation.  The universe and its people feels comfortable, familiar, known -- making it all the more poignant when Shivans come and blow it to pieces, or when your entire beloved squad gets killed/zombified and you're the only one left.

Where the game cannot provide without breaking its own fun, campaigns include external lore segments (Blue Planet does this).  However, they are not required to do so, and the game can usually stand on its own with the assumption that the people did not read those external lore segments.

There are two ways to give people a large amount of lore - stretch small tidbits over a long expanse of many battles and provide it subtly, or go the brute force route and provide it in huge doses in novel form to get it all out as quickly as possible.

I personally prefer the former option, as mentioned by @The_E how WCS managed to get most of its stuff out over the expanse of 4 games.

The question is, how much lore is necessary?  For a space game like FreeSpace, not much -- especially for the storyline that we were handed.  I realize I was not clear with my point before.

It's not the fact we're fighting Vasudans and Shivans that is why there is a lack of detailed universe background information - it's the type of game we're playing.  You can't spend your day scanning things all the time like in Metroid Prime (which pauses that game, by the way).  You have bombs heading towards your carrier and you'd better go intercept them.  This is a mission based game.  As Battuta said, you only need as much lore as is necessary to immerse.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2010, 05:46:05 am by Gregster2k »

 

Offline Tantalus53

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Re: Vasudans and Shivans: Responsible for limiting the depth of FreeSpace's plot?
I tend to think one of the finer points of FS was that they didn't set in stone how the lower down elements of the GTVA worked. It allows for more variation when it comes to Mods. Hell, entire story's could be told about a single planet, and the writer could run wild because the basis of the planetary government is not very descriptive, thus he doesn't have to confine himself on continuity issues. Same goes for Pre FS1 era campaigns like Cardinal Spear. Don't know if that is FS Cannon, but I didn't care much. It showed me what it might have been like at the height of the fourteen year war. Another campaign may come out and put that era in an entirely new light. Dunno if I'm making sense or not, but Volition gave us plenty to work with, and left us with plenty of Freedom. Also, Freespace as a Story isn't done, so one could expect that details about who/what the Shivans really are, and more about the Vasudan culture as yet another crisis drew our people closer together, could have been on the Horizon. However, we can make plenty of story's/mods with what we have.