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Thread: Reverting the Cyclone back to drone (It's now a mecha)

  1. #1

    Default Reverting the Cyclone back to drone (It's now a mecha)

    Hey guys, I made this post on the official SC2 forums:

    This one as well, but it's less professional:

    This is the post:
    I am a fan of StarCraft since its release in 1998. The fictional universe of StarCraft is one I hold dear and close to my heart. I am just as much a fan as I am a skeptical, level-headed individual who likes adding a little hard science of logic to his games.

    Now, from a glimpse that was given of the upcoming StarCraft Tech Manual at San Diego Comic-Con 2015, we saw that the description for the Cyclone mentions that the unit is now a mech that's driven by a pilot, whom resides within the vehicle.

    It is my opinion that this is a terrible decision, for reasons I will explain in this post. I feel this is not the right direction for the unit.

    1. Always scrapping cool unit designs, sometimes for the tired mech design.
    Every time Terrans get a cool, new and unique unit, it always ends up scrapped, mostly because the fans do not like the design. In 2 cases, the scrapped vehicles even got turned into mechs:
    1. Diamondback -> Hellion (Hellbat) & Warhound (Anti-Armor Factory role)
    2. Cyclone (Drone) -> Cyclone (Mech)

    The Warhound's (visual) design was liked by many, citing the fact that it is a mech as the reason why. One could comprehend that mech designs are liked. One could also imagine that these few vocal StarCraft fans might also be MechWarrior fans.

    So, instead of an original, new, fresh design, the new unit becomes the old tired mecha design - a common, boring, unoriginal and uninspired trope in science fiction, one already milked severely in StarCraft 2.

    2. Sacrificing diversity for that "coolness" factor
    I guess this point follows the last one. The Terran have too many gruff male units. What happened to "We aim for diversity in our games at Blizzard"? The original Cyclone's voice was female and she sounded like a southerner. She had plenty of character. In fact, she was a call girl. How is this new "angry white male" voice superior to that? How does it achieve that goal (of diversity)? Terrans are no longer criminals and prisoners under Valerian's new Dominion. We even got a glimpse that says it's now the most "free and equal" of all Terran governments.

    3. Just like in Real-Life
    The interesting robotic wheeled design, looks like a modern-day American drone project called the XM1219 Armed Robotic Vehicle, or MULE, which makes a lot more sense than the mech design. The project was cancelled, but many other nations are still developing vehicles that fill a similar, if not the exact same role as the missile-laden USA MULE did. The reason for cancellation of the US project was cited as being mobility related. Notably, The US Army argued that "the system's Counter-Improvised Explosive Device focus and weight limited the platform's mobility". The game is set 500 years in the future, a time when such designs will have already existed for ages. The technology will have gotten far cheaper and far better, allowing for extensive production and deployment of unmanned ground vehicles like this one. The use of nanomaterials or other advanced materials (StarCraft uses Neosteel, for example) could allow for improved mobility. The Cyclone's focus is not in Counter-IED, either, so that issue should be of no concern. Any IED tech-related issues could be fixed by the time StarCraft 1's story even begins.

    We already have more unmanned ground vehicles today, than we did in the past, be it the MULE (Pretty much what the Cyclone in the beta is, right now), the Black Knight (a small tank that's unmanned, produced by BAE Systems), or the panoply of other ground (and aerial drones) that we all know of. The game does not even have close to as many unmanned vehicles. The US Army once had a project in the past, which was cancelled for monetary reasons, called the Future Combat Systems, or FCS, which was cancelled due to a shift towards counter-terrorism instead of large-scale warfare (StarCraft is the latter, not the former), and due to monetary issues (technology would have gotten cheaper by 2500). It was restructured to instead include a wider scale of smaller programs all across the board. The FCS program included a military modernization that would have pushed for extensive usage of unmanned vehicles, notably of the ground variety, for large-scale military warfare, replacing many costlier manned vehicles, like the Abrams Tank or the Paladin Howitzer.

    4. Illogical reasoning behind the design change
    a) Unpredictable Behavior = Potentially Dangerous =/= Superior
    The reason given for the change is "Human unpredictability". Well, the Humans controlling the drones are the players anyways. In the military, you wouldn't really want an unpredictable, mentally damaged individual to drive military vehicles. This individual might not follow orders, so ideally, you'd even want better, you'd want something that will do as it is told, IE a drone.

    b) Human Ingenuity still present
    Human ingenuity in combat still exists, because the drone is remote-controlled by a Human. In the far future, such as we can see in StarCraft, a direct neural link (A great example of this technology or trope is seen in the film "Avatar" and even in other RTS games, such as Command & Conquer 3 its sequel, Tiberian Twilight) that uses quantum entanglement and works instantaneously would still permit the driver to interface with the environment of the Cyclone and act in an original, unexpected manner, which would cause the enemy to react incorrectly, giving the driver an edge.

    c) AI Intelligence in 500 years
    StarCraft is set nearly 500 years in the future. Who wouldn't think to imagine or say that robots and drones won't be as intelligent as, if not more intelligent than regular Humans, perhaps even just as creative if not more, as well? For all we know, they'll be even faster in terms of reaction time than Humans. Given current technological standards and looking towards what many military projects and companies foraying into robotics, such as Google, are achieving today, I find it plain ridiculous to assume human ingenuity, creativity and originality will not be reached or surpassed by AI within the next 500 years. The Griffon and Valkyrie in Heart of the Swarm, additionally, seem to be controlled by an adjutant or at least, an AI intelligence of sorts, as clicking on them will display the portrait of an adjutant AI.

    5. Impracticality in design
    How is this bipedal mech supposed to go fast? Walkers are usually slow and they can easily be targeted, meaning the vehicle can easily toppled. It doesn't even communicate well what the vehicle does, which is a fast support unit that can lock onto a target and pursue it - from a game design perspective, that's bad. The small drone design easily implied it was a support unit and the wheels correctly gave away the unit's role - it is fast and is meant to be used to pursue other units. Now, it'll be even more difficult to tell it apart from all the other different mechs the Terrans have in the game - It's bad for readability. Additionally, it seems many units with legs in StarCraft 2 have issues with pathing, as well. That's not the case with the Hellion, which is wheeled, like the Cyclone. Currently, in the beta, the Cyclone does not have any such issues, either. But most importantly, as I've mentioned, the wheeled drone design communicated perfectly what the unit's role is - a support vehicle that pursues targets and mows them down.

    6. Drones are not exclusively Protoss
    Terrans do have drones other than the Cyclone, so it's not a Protoss trait. The Raven, the Widow Mine and the Mule (SC2 Unit) are all drones. The Spider Mine is, as well, and is present in both StarCraft 1 and 2. The Liberator might be a drone, as well, as implied by the lack of a visible cockpit.

    7. Drones are the perfect soldier, especially for an RTS player and large-scale Commander like the player in StarCraft
    From a military command & control perspective, like in an RTS game, like StarCraft, having drones even makes more sense, because you're a Commander. You control units to move to a spot, fire, ignore fire and so on. Humans are given orders and they follow them, but may take cover by their own initiative and not get in the line of fire or take reckless risks and, as such, can refuse to obey the Commander's orders, communicate back and ask the Commander that they can't move forward because they've run into an enemy. However, drones do not follow that logic - they just do as they're told anytime they're told to do something. It makes sense for an RTS to have drones.

    8. Too many mech designs
    Anyone know how many mechs Terrans have in the game? A plethora. Whenever a new Terran unit is not a mecha, it seems many community members on the forums get angry and demand for it to become a mecha, citing the design as "ugly". Case in point: The Cobra, which became the Campaign Diamondback, was removed because people didn't like the fact it was a futuristic Hover tank (mind you, we're talking about a sci-fi video game set 500 years in the future) instead of a mech.

    Terrans currently have the following mechs:
    - Siege Tank (Which looks like a mech once deployed)
    - Thor
    - Viking (Ground Mode)
    - Hellbat (Which makes the Hellion, a non-mecha, into a mecha)
    - Widow Mine
    - SCV (Which looks like a Mecha, with 2 legs)

    That's 6 units (out of 15 total) which are either mechs or look like mechs. The infantry, naturally, are all bipedal as well.

    In the campaign, there are many more mechs:
    - Goliath
    - Predator
    - Warhound
    - Spartan Company Goliath
    - Blackhammer Thor
    - Odin

    That's another 6 mechs to count. In Heart of the Swarm, you face all of these. This means most of the Terran vehicles you fight are bipedal mechs. In StarCraft 1, the Terran vehicles you fought were a good mix between the bipedal Goliath, the hovering Vulture and the more classical, treaded Siege Tank. StarCraft 1 had precisely 2 mechs (one of which is arguable): The Goliath and the SCV. One could certainly not argue nostalgia is a valid defense for including more mechs.

    9. The massive advantages of robotic combatants in warfare
    Citing Major Kenneth Rose of the US Army's Training and Doctrine Command: "Machines don't get tired. They don't close their eyes. They don't hide under trees when it rains and they don't talk to their friends ... A human's attention to detail on guard duty drops dramatically in the first 30 minutes ... Machines know no fear."

    Drones can operate in the field of battle continuously, to pursue targets relentlessly, crawl back to safety and engage again. As Cyclones are harassment units, their being a drone serves to characterize perfectly their role, going back to points 4 and 5.

    10. Adaptation is necessary
    The Terrans didn't have drones in StarCraft 1 because in 1997-1998, military drones didn't really exist. Technology evolves. As such, the fiction, be it video games or film, have to adapt. This is why Terrans used CRT monitors in StarCraft 1 and BW, which was still set 500 years from now and why now those CRT monitors have been replaced by flat screens and holograms in StarCraft 2, instead. Technology and culture change, and the games have to adapt. This is no different. These technologies were not present in the games at first not because of design issues, but because they were either never invented, not widespread, or their creation or takeover never seemed possible. For immersion and a to give a sense of realism and grittiness, so that players can feel that the world of StarCraft can be real, we NEED to have the game be grounded somewhat. Drones are a thing and there is nothing wrong with having a drone vehicle instead of having a pilot driving a vehicle. It is just a unit in the game, and instead of a small canopy and legs, it bears a camera and wheels, which minimally affects the unit's visual design. This does not need to detract from the unit's personality/character, as the unit can driven remotely by a pilot, thus, not sacrificing the unit's personality/character, allowing fans to enjoy an original unit with an original personality, which, it would seem from previous Blizzard panels at BlizzCon, is what the goal for a unit's design is.

    I think the Blizzard developers are right on this and I will say that sometimes, the fans are wrong, too. I find that this is that case. Diversity is important and with the amount of new technologies we can see today, it is important to take notice and implement as much of these as possible, to create a believable fictional experience, that takes from the real world to augment itself and to better immerse the player in the experience and the fictional world. StarCraft 2 has already too many mech designs and the current Cyclone design in the beta has many points defending its existence, which feels both appropriate and logical, whether it is from a fictional and scientific point of view, or from a purely game design perspective.

    Kudos to Arkceangel for the Terran avatar and sig!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Reverting the Cyclone back to drone (It's now a mecha)

    He makes some good points. I'm not particularly concerned with the number of females in the game (guys are fun to watch), so I was kinda hoping his statement about diversity would apply more to the Protoss -- they all look the same these days, besides Zeratul. I miss the days when some were blue, or brown, or pale purple. Now it feels like they're being generated randomly from a computer program with few variables.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Reverting the Cyclone back to drone (It's now a mecha)

    Team colors in SC2 also suck for avariety of reasons, but largely in diversity there as well.

    Get's ridiculous when you're fuckin' blue in every campaign.

    When I record the campaigns myself, I will be changing the team colors :/

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