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    Apr 8th, 2015 at 12:27:27     -    Defcon (PC)

    I decided to spend my research time today as a spectator of online matches.

    As far as gameplay, I've apparently only scratched the surface of the complexity. There were several 2v2 and 3v3 games that lasted over an hour or two of in-game time (which is not the same as actual time, as the clock can be accelerated if all players agree). Even in such tense, crowded battles, the fact that practically all nukes can be destroyed in mid-air if anti-air turrets were well-placed can lead to a standstill. Unlike an actual "Cold War", it's simply a matter of each side having more than enough defense to thwart attacks from the other. At that point, I realized I might have to stop looking at the game model as an accurate representation of either reality or history.

    Later, I spectated a smaller 1v1 match. Player 1 complained about being assigned to small Europe while Player 2 had all of south Asia, and said "I've already lost; I'm just here for kicks and giggles." Europe then proceeded to defy expectation, shooting down every nuke launched at it due to its high density of defense units, and destroying several cities before Player 2 decided to quit.

    Before the match ended, I overheard this in the chat window:

    Player 1: Damn, I wanted to do what said and bomb Mumbai. He'll be disappointed :(
    Player 2: It will look better if you did.

    I think I'm done watching for today.

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    Apr 7th, 2015 at 18:30:33     -    Defcon (PC)

    I tried a game against two computer opponents this time. Europe dominated the Atlantic. By maintaining a central position, and focusing on clearing out the North Atlantic sea, I was able to claim a crucial location for launching nukes from submarines, while also having destroyed most of the opponents' submarines. Europe survived with about half of its population untouched.

    It's clear that, if this game is trying to evoke any sort of pathos, it regards the sheer scale of nuclear warfare. Even though I won, 50 million of my citizens died, and on the losing end, entire nations were all but destroyed.

    Other touches include the menu screen, which displays facts about the effects of radiation on humans, historical miltary data such as "US Air Force Projected Losses", and info about the US's stockpile of nuclear weapons. It also shows the list of "Available Simulations" as printed by the mainframe from the movie Wargames, the message "How about a nice game of chess?" and a "Rolling Demo" mode, in which the game pits AI players against each other and runs the simulation on its own.

    At this point, I'm not sure how much of the game's ethos can be said to come from its own merits, and not the movie's. I'd very much like to play against human opponents in order to reflect on the personal and social outcomes.

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    Apr 7th, 2015 at 00:24:37     -    Defcon (PC)

    (This was posted 11:25 PM April 6.)

    I've played this game before, but only briefly, and long ago...

    I completed the tutorial, and obliterated Asia 73 to -3. The points are directly related to civilian deaths: 2 points per million killed, -1 point per million lost. This is a game about killing on a genocidal scale.

    Unlike a typical real-time strategy game, all of your units are available from the beginning. It's therefore usually beneficial to deploy all units as quickly as possible, although it's possible that a higher-level strategy might dictate reserving some. DEFCON levels escalate from 5 to 1 automatically as time progresses, unlocking radar coverage, weaponry and aggressive actions. For example, DEFCON 3 allows air and naval combat, while DEFCON 1 allows nuclear launches.

    On a tactical level, it is not clear whether the game actually encourages the doctrine or practice of "Mutually Assured Destruction" (MAD). It's theoretically possible to defend your territory well enough to protect the majority of your citizens, then launch a counterattack once the enemy is depleted of weaponry. This is somewhat different than the actual state of nuclear stockades, in which multiple countries possess enough weaponry to
    render the human race extinct multiple times.

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    Feb 25th, 2015 at 14:40:07     -    The Walking Dead: Season Two (PC)

    What I'm finding more and more is that many of the choices have to do with managing what information each character knows. This includes Clementine herself: for example, your choices can give the impression to others that she was alone, and at certain points, it seems that she believes the fact that Christa died. In other words, aside from the usual choices of telling the truth, withholding it, or lying, the player also sometimes has the option of creating a new truth, at least, as far as Clementine believes.

    Related to truth and information are the choices that involve making promises, such promising to look after Nick. In some cases, what that means isn't well defined, and whether your actions live up to that is up to interpretation. For example, when Nick shoots the man on the bridge, you can give your own account of the events, which might incriminate Nick. The situation is ambiguous: the man's intentions at that moment were never truly known. I answered that the man wasn't going to shoot, since that's what I believed, before I realized that saying so would put Nick in a bad light. Does relating my believed account count as betraying Nick? Would I have had to say something I didn't believe in order to truly keep my promise to Pete? In such a case, the game can't really answer that question objectively, since it has no knowledge of the player's view of the events.

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