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Josh Look and the Overwhelming Power of Evil
November 10, 2014
[quote="Josh Look" post=190333]
I'm a devout ST:AW fan, and the balance of the game was completely thrown out the window with Borg, so yeah, I'd have some reservations about D&D.[/quote]
I'd like to start off with a mention that Josh Look has been the Distinct Voice of Clarity on F:At for the past few weeks. On the money, insightful, loving his shit right now. This quote is lifted out of the Attack Wing/Dice Masters thread in Trash Talk, which in spite of the name is wandering into Star Trek Attack Wing territory. That quote up there looks like something thrown up in about ten seconds, but goes to an issue in basic game design that manages to keep popping up in licensed products.
The Borg balance thing Josh is referring to is a clear example of the difference between gaming and storytelling. In storytelling there is a compelling reason to have one big-ass powerful antagonist in the picture, because it creates powerful drama, and it creates a reason for disparate characters to come together and cooperate for the common good. That's good entertainment. It applies to gaming as well, but only if the players are working in concert as in the story. Once you give that monster antagonist to a specific player everything breaks down. That's because gaming has different goals than storytelling.
Now, Evil that is stronger than Good is a foundational concept in virtually every culture on Earth. In stories from across the globe Good triumphs only by teaming up. It's the foundational principle of every crime drama on TV. Many Goods are strong enough to defeat the single Evil, and let's face it, Evil is almost always on its own. Evils don't work well together for long. This is burned into our cultural genetic heritage, something we took out of Africa with us a couple of hundred thousand years ago that permeates the entire species.
So in Star Trek Attack Wing the designers looked at the television episodes and movies and said, "gosh, the Borg are lean and mean and big and bad, we should make them that way in the game too." That would be fine, as long as the fundamental concept of the game plays out the same way as the storytelling does -- many playing against one. But Star Trek Attack Wing doesn't lend itself to that concept. They want "Organized Play" and mix-and-match head-on competition, so the team concept is thrown out the window in spite of it being foundational to the show they're emulating. In short, the storytelling and the gaming have two fundamentally different sets of requirements.
You could manage this is Star Trek Attack Wing by pussing out the Borg but that would kind of suck and piss off the Trekkers of the world. You could accommodate the big-Evil as some games (like O.G.R.E.) do by teeing up one monster baddie on one side against dozens of smaller opponents on the other, but that isn't going to fit very well in Star Trek Attack Wing's business model. One might argue they should have left the Borg out entirely, or excluded them from tournaments so that they could continue to fulfill the Death Star role they have in the shows and movies. But all of those run into issues regarding sales, and quite frankly there's a breed of player out there that just has a compelling internal need to have the biggest of everything.
The result is that the game kind of sucks because of the Borg's stats, but the designers weren't in a particularly enviable position. They need to make sales, they need to keep people happy from a thematic point of view, and through all of that they need to keep the game interesting. At times those three goals are just not compatible, and something has to give.