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"ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

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  • "ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

    Today I had the pleasure of taking part in a test mission by Ghost, called ConvoyCommando. It was the first time to my knowledge the public got a chance to play it, and the term "train wreck" comes to mind when recalling the aftermath, I think it's also a valuable lesson that I'd like to examine and discuss with the ArmA mission-making community.

    For the uninitiated, ConvoyCommando is a mission in which no enemy is ever present. It is designed, per the author, to simulate conditions that real troops experience: boredom, inactivity, and seldom any real action. In this regard, Ghost called it "the most realistic mission [Tactical Gamer has ever hosted]". At the end of the mission, when it was discovered no serious action was ever meant to take place, more than a few players labeled the mission a "failure" and "complete waste of time", which I think is a seriously interesting notion. Let me elaborate.

    For the greater half of ArmA2's stay at TG I've noticed an increasing propensity towards extreme realism on the server -- be it mission design, radio procedure, etc. -- that has fostered an increasingly-divided community. I have seen missions whose primary or sole design principle was to make an enjoyable video game experience, and I have seen others whose goals were to create a true-to-life military simulation. I'd like to take a look at both of these philosophies with regards to not only the community, but the core with which it revolves around.

    Let me make a very clear statement: Armed Assault is a very realistic video game. A game is "[an] activity engaged in for diversion or amusement". Thus we can surmise that the principle goal of Armed Assault is to provide enjoyment. Virtual Battle Space, as an example, is a simulator. It is "a device that enables the operator to reproduce or represent under test conditions phenomena likely to occur in actual performance", and is a program designed to be accurate to the point that it is useful as a training and educational tool. It is not designed to be fun.

    Why, then, if Armed Assault is a game and not a simulator is it so realistic? The answer is that the two are not mutually exclusive terms; it is quite possible to have both a realistic and enjoyable product, and for many players the inherent realism of such a game adds to how enjoyable it is to play. However, we must take this with a grain of salt: it is entirely possible to make games that are fun to play without being realistic to their source, and vice versa.

    What Ghost has done is a prime example of the latter, is an extremely good case study for mission development in Armed Assault: ConvoyCommando is an extremely realistic mission with absolutely zero enjoyment value which, for reasons of brevity and to keep this on-topic, will not be discussed. What amazed me particularly about this mission, and what has inspired me to write such a lengthy essay about it, is that neither the players I would consider hardcore mil-sim advocates, nor the players that simply prefer a fun game or two, considered the mission to be at all entertaining.

    I was talking earlier with a friend about how to improve their (unrelated) mission, and in doing so suggested several changes that were refused outright for being unfaithful to the source material. Whether for historical accuracy or realism reasons, my suggestions were overlooked. Ghost's mission is a testament that realism alone does not provide a suitably satisfactory experience, given the platform, to any masses. Any number of missions -- Deathmatch, for instance -- also prove that given the realistic nature of the platform, it is impossible to concentrate solely on gameplay "fun" and come out with a winning product. I submit that realism and entertainment must be balanced, with serious thought given to any changes that significantly alter the justification between the two. Never should "it's not realistic enough" be a reason to scrap a fun, inventive, or entertaining design decision; neither should a gameplay mechanic be implemented without considering both the market and platform that it is catering to.

    In closing, let's take "ConvoyCommando" as a token of warning, and reason enough to shape up the design ethics that are present within the TG community. Cheers.

  • #2
    Re: "ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

    To be honest, I only wanted it played once, kinda of like a joke. Scope you are seeing the point of why I made it, I knew it sucked, the mission is absolute garbage. But, I wanted to see how the player base would respond to a mission with no shooting, but fear of targets. Obviously it went badly, and you speak the truth, Realism does not equal fun.
    |TG|Ghost02
    TG Pathfinder



    "I travel alone through the valley of the shadow of death, yet in my heart I carry no fear, for Gods hands will guide me to Truth and Honor."

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    • #3
      Re: "ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

      Ghost, it seems interesting. Are you willing to release it?

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      • #4
        Re: "ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

        Maybe it was just me, but that was a joke in VERY poor taste.

        First time in at least a month there was over 40 players on the server. Played this mission, down to 23. That is bound to make for some unhappy people.

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        • #5
          Re: "ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

          To be honest I wouldn't have minded playing this mission before I knew about the lack of enemies, and I still think this was a good "social experiment". The discussion between "realism vs. gameplay" reminds me of a similar experiment done in GURPS, a tabletop role-playing game: the adventure was a simple example of why obsessing over "realism" (what is real anyway) a fun game does not always make, since the players were playing british soldiers during WW1 during one of the bloodiest action the english forces ever did in the entire war (can't remember the name atm); the idea was showing that there is such a thing as "too-much realism", since everything was stacked so hard against the players (like it happened almost every time a push was to be made) that the only way to survive without being court-martialled for cowardice (and then sent to the wall) was to hope to 1) get shot enough to be incapacitaded but not enough to die (likelyhood of success = same as in real life during WW1); 2) survive I don't remember how many hours without dieing of bloodloss or infection waiting for the medics to arrive and 3) survive surgery afterwards.
          As such I find that Ghost's idea is pretty brilliant and you should remake the mission under a different name and maybe adding a few things (like having a few civilians moving and suspiciously abandoned vehicles, with reports of IEDs and ambushes in the Notes) and then keep it in reserve, ready to play it when people start complaining about "wanting more realism" in the game. ;)

          By the way, this reminds me also of that spoof about the ultra-realistic Modern Warfare 3 :D
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          Now with 200% more content!

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          • #6
            Re: "ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

            Originally posted by Mikee View Post
            Ghost, it seems interesting. Are you willing to release it?
            PM Sent.
            |TG|Ghost02
            TG Pathfinder



            "I travel alone through the valley of the shadow of death, yet in my heart I carry no fear, for Gods hands will guide me to Truth and Honor."

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: "ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

              Originally posted by Ghost02 View Post
              To be honest, I only wanted it played once, kinda of like a joke. Scope you are seeing the point of why I made it, I knew it sucked, the mission is absolute garbage. But, I wanted to see how the player base would respond to a mission with no shooting, but fear of targets. Obviously it went badly, and you speak the truth, Realism does not equal fun.
              It's one thing to pull this joke on your IHS or on the server with ten friends or so on, but was was the first time in a long while we had such a large server population on. This in my mind is completely unacceptable - especially considering there were other maps appropriate for that player count WAITING TO BE PLAYED, and ones which weren't a waste of time.

              As beta said, it was a joke in poor taste. CO10 or CO20, late at night, might be excused (Although not really), CO60 during primetime at a time in which the server is finally being populated again is out of the question. Missions like this should not be uploaded.

              And realism does equal fun - but you have to keep in mind there is a large array of operations going down during real wars. 75% of them are boring, but modeling the remaining 25% it is possible to be FUN and be realistic. Realism lends an important quality in enhancing gameplay/immersion, and thats verisimilitude. If you don't know that word look it up, because it's the most important thing a storyteller must accomplish, or else his story/creation/mission will not engage players.

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              • #8
                Re: "ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

                Respectfully gents, this thread isn't about Ghost's mission. Post an AAR if you want to vent.

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                • #9
                  Re: "ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

                  I personally thought that the sheep roadblack was pure awesomeness!!! AMBUSH AMBUSH!!! I remember screaming. lol
                  "LETS ROLL GROUNDHOGS!!!" -Supreme Bashar Miles Teg (Heretics of Dune)

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                  • #10
                    Re: "ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

                    Originally posted by Ghost02 View Post
                    But, I wanted to see how the player base would respond to a mission with no shooting, but fear of targets. Obviously it went badly, and you speak the truth, Realism does not equal fun.
                    Being one of three people in the lead vehicle, I would say that the fear of targets was definitely there. Especially considering the driver of the lead vehicle heard phantom gunfire at one point. I was constantly sure that sudden death was right around the corner.

                    On one hand, this tension was good. It also only works once; this mission can never be played again and achieve anything worthwhile. On the other hand, it left me wanting some actual combat, and as it was my last mission for the night, that was never actuated. Although, this happens in normal missions for various reasons too (maintaining a critical defense point that never gets attacked, for example).

                    Also, would a mission be more acceptable if there were a chance of no combat? Say 25% you could make it without an ambush happening?
                    Last edited by cheesenoggin; 02-16-2010, 03:48 PM.

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                    • #11
                      Re: "ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

                      You read my mind!
                      |TG|Ghost02
                      TG Pathfinder



                      "I travel alone through the valley of the shadow of death, yet in my heart I carry no fear, for Gods hands will guide me to Truth and Honor."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: "ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

                        Agreed. Realism does not always equal fun. Realism can be fun, but when it leads a player to experiencing waiting, boredom, and frustration while playing a mission, whatever it is the mission designer has created is a failure to entertain. That's the whole point of this game.

                        You think that's real? ...
                        Also, I would like to add that what some people consider realism isn't in my opinion. For example, eliminating the HUD in game. yes, in real life you do not have a HUD. However, in real life you can move more freely, use your body language to direct people, and recognize people from a distance by looking at their body. You cannot do those things in game. THAT'S why we have a HUD. And I wish TG would start leaving it on. Same goes for 3rd person perspective on coop. games. Its necessary, especially when driving certain vehicles. You can't see while backing up currently in many of the vehicles.

                        Realism in game:
                        I think when people want "realism" they are usually referring to the limits of the human body (carrying a realistic amount of gear) or moving in realistic speeds. Also equipment and its operation is another area. For example, I hate the fake civil war cannon aiming style that ArmA 2 uses for mounted vehicle weapons systems. I want my M1 abrams to have a fire control computer with a laser target range finder and thermal scope just like real life. There, realism. BUT.. I don't want to drive for 20 minutes in a mission to get to a battle. another example would be adding adjustable sights to the game. I want that level of realism. It would enhance the combat in game, helping me to zero and hit targets better.

                        And Lastly:
                        And one final note, for those of you reading this who are still wanting the die hard realism stuff. Almost every mission we have is totally fake.. in that usually the enemy out numbers you by 300% or more sometimes. Current western military doctrine does not attack with inferior force sizes. So, you want a real mission with 50 players, then make only 20 or 25 enemies. Boom. Now that's realism.
                        Last edited by GeneralCarver; 02-16-2010, 07:36 PM. Reason: more to say
                        Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. - General George S. Patton.

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                        • #13
                          Re: "ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

                          I have heard it that said that war is 99% boredom and 1% terror.
                          Personally speaking, when I play Arma 2 I want to get some trigger time in.
                          While it is important to me to have some realistic aspects in the game when I am playing, I definitely want action.
                          That is why I don't do things like leader's recon.
                          If we really wanted to do things by the book, we could recon objectives with key leaders and a few people to back them up.
                          However, we would have 90% of the force pulling security, not fun.
                          So as other people have said, we need to try to find some balance between fun and realism.
                          The convoy mission would be fun if it was like the old operation flashpoint 1 mission.
                          Have like 3 or 4 routes the force can select and then have a different outcome for each.
                          One route is a death-trap, one is medium, one is little to no enemy contact.
                          I absolutely loved that mission.
                          "Never forget that you are there to SERVE the soldiers. Listen to your NCOs and always do the right thing." -My Father
                          "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGNxHMFjigA"
                          "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ce0c6qVnJE4"
                          "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2Lpc9vTnqU"
                          "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEzc9fB8xPo"
                          "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tdCTP_ae_8"
                          "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrmoSZgYaFw"

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                          • #14
                            Re: "ConvoyCommando" or, A Realism v. Design Footnote

                            I think it can be summed up to:
                            Arma is a military combat simulator not a military life simulator.

                            The hungry, ignorant man immediately grasps that he is handed a fish, but is bewildered when handed a net. The man who shivers in the cold thinks happily of the man who invites him to sit by his fire, and somewhat poorly of the man who loans him an axe, flint and steel.

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