Oh Man...

No so sure how I feel about this game.

I'm a huge fan of strategy games, but Defcon it a little over the top for me. I might be able to play this game if the objective was to avoid the use of nuclear weapons or, if it came down to pushing the button, points were subtracted for the loss of human life, but as far as I can tell the primary goal of a game is to target your enemies population centers and wipe out as many innocent civilians as possible. Is that true? Are there other game modes or a way to make civilian casualties a detriment to your score? As it stands right now, the only reason I could see for destroying military targets was that it made it that much easier to start the genocide.

I'm not here to judge and I of course realize this is “just a game”, but I would like to here what other players have to say with regards to the scoring system and the over-all "objective" and feel of the game. I remember a very old mac game called (I think) Global Thermonuclear War. The premise was very similar, but you weren’t rewarded for killing civilians. If I recall correctly, the more people you killed, the worse off you did.

What are people’s thoughts?

This post has been edited by CrescentEdge : 23 April 2007 - 11:54 AM

First off, I think that your unease about the game means that it has met its goal. While it may not have been intended as such, Defcon is, in part, a "serious" game. If it makes you think, then it has done its job. Honestly, I think that Defcon, by being so blatant and up-front about the violence that is perpetrated in a standard game, is much better than, say, StarCraft. In StarCraft, you have the ability to wield nukes, and kill thousands of people, but they are represented by cartoon avatars in the game world, and it is hard to grow attached to them. By distancing itself from the destruction, I think that, perversely enough, Defcon has greater impact.

Second, there is a "Survivor" scoring mode, where the goal is to preserve as many lives as you can within your own borders. I am not entirely sure that this is what you are looking for, but it does exist in the full version of the game.

xander

Yeah, it's a very tense game in my mind because I know if I screw up, I could lose millions of my people.

@darwinian, on Apr 23 2007, 01:17 PM, said in Oh Man...:

First off, I think that your unease about the game means that it has met its goal. While it may not have been intended as such, Defcon is, in part, a "serious" game. If it makes you think, then it has done its job. Honestly, I think that Defcon, by being so blatant and up-front about the violence that is perpetrated in a standard game, is much better than, say, StarCraft. In StarCraft, you have the ability to wield nukes, and kill thousands of people, but they are represented by cartoon avatars in the game world, and it is hard to grow attached to them. By distancing itself from the destruction, I think that, perversely enough, Defcon has greater impact.

Second, there is a "Survivor" scoring mode, where the goal is to preserve as many lives as you can within your own borders. I am not entirely sure that this is what you are looking for, but it does exist in the full version of the game.

You raise some very interesting points. A few thoughts. It’s true that in a game like Starcraft you wield nuclear weapons with absolutely no regard to the consequences such weapons have and, as you said, quite a few people die as a result. Interestingly enough, I have no problem with a game like Starcraft, but I do not think I could play Defcon. Here are a few thoughts as to why this may be.

Starcraft is a futuristic fantasy game, whereas Defcon uses the real world as a basis for its gameplay and in doing so, hits much closer to home than a pure fantasy game. As you said, this can be a very powerful tool for provoking thought, but I am not sure Defcon was created with that in mind.

Perhaps what makes me uneasy is the fact that the game uses a real world as a basis for play and also champions the annihilation of civilians with no option for diplomacy, de-escalation, or avoidance.

In a game like Starcraft, you do indeed kill with nukes. However, you strike only military targets and while you could argue that there are civilian deaths you don’t see, the game doesn’t award victory points based on the wanton destruction of innocents. Because the premise of the game is Military vs. Military, I enjoy playing it as a game.

Again, I’m not entirely sure why I am okay playing startcraft but just can’t bring myself to play something like Defcon.

I think I would enjoy Defcon as a game if there were a few core changes.

Some ideas.

- The movement towards Defcon 1 should not be inevitable. I was a bit surprised when I realized that there is no Strategic Escalation whatsoever. It’s like all parties involved have already decided on Nuclear War and the only thing stopping them is a timer. Once that timer hits Zero, the nukes fly every single time. It would be neat if the threat level could only be lowered if you caught your opponent doing something suspicious. (Flying a spy plane over your silos, moving fleets out of international waters, etc.) Obviously this would changes the games dynamics quite a bit, but I think it would round out the picture a bit more.

- As I have said before, the fact that the game is scored based on how many millions of people you have wiped out just doesn’t sit well with me. Not only would a more involved scoring system that penalized for massive civilian casualties seem a bit more principled, I think it would lead to some pretty decent strategical situations as well.

Obviously no one here needs to be told that “Nuclear War is Bad.” We all know that. But I feel that in creating a simulation that explores the act of waging nuclear war, it is a bit short sited to leave out some of the most important facets of moving from Defcon 5 to Defcon 1. This game seems to “dumb down” the weight of pushing the button a bit much for my tatstes.

@mrxak, on Apr 23 2007, 01:31 PM, said in Oh Man...:

Yeah, it's a very tense game in my mind because I know if I screw up, I could lose millions of my people.

This gets the the heart of the issue for me. “Millions of my people.” What about the millions or people are you are actively trying to obliterate?

Thanks for your input so far. This is a very interesting topic to discuss regardless of how you feel.

@crescentedge, on Apr 23 2007, 02:32 PM, said in Oh Man...:

This gets the the heart of the issue for me. “Millions of my people.” What about the millions or people are you are actively trying to obliterate?

I tend to be more of a survivor player, even when not playing survivor. I'm happy enough wiping out their silos with bombers and subs and weathering their missiles with minimal consequences. Of course in every nuclear war, everybody loses. But I do like losing by less ;).

In any case, I'm far more convinced this is a simulation inside WOPR than an actual nuclear fight. If you haven't seen WarGames I suggest you do.

@crescentedge, on Apr 23 2007, 06:32 PM, said in Oh Man...:

As you said, this can be a very powerful tool for provoking thought, but I am not sure Defcon was created with that in mind.

I wouldn't be too sure about that. IV have a penchant for creating games that require thought. Honestly, I think that is what they do best. While Defcon is very tongue-in-cheek, the tag line is something to the effect of, "It's Global Thermonuclear War, and nobody wins. But maybe you can lose the least." It think it is very clear that no one wins, and that war is bad, m'kay? I think that IV were very conscious of this when they made the game.

@crescentedge, on Apr 23 2007, 06:32 PM, said in Oh Man...:

Perhaps what makes me uneasy is the fact that the game uses a real world as a basis for play and also champions the annihilation of civilians with no option for diplomacy, de-escalation, or avoidance.

Maybe, but that wouldn't be much of a game, now would it? I have seen games where people try to negotiate for peace. Often, those people end up winning (especially in survivor scoring), because they are not seen as a threat, or people don't attack them for some reason. That being said, the mechanic for an arcade-style multiplayer RTS doesn't really allow for diplomacy. And, when you get down to it, Defcon is an RTS, not an RPG, which might allow for a peaceful outcome.

@crescentedge, on Apr 23 2007, 06:32 PM, said in Oh Man...:

In a game like Starcraft, you do indeed kill with nukes. However, you strike only military targets and while you could argue that there are civilian deaths you don’t see, the game doesn’t award victory points based on the wanton destruction of innocents. Because the premise of the game is Military vs. Military, I enjoy playing it as a game.

I wasn't trying to imply that StarCraft should inspire the same feelings. Again, I think that the cartoonish quality of StarCraft distances the player from the consequences of their actions. Furthermore, civilian deaths are few and far between (the Zerg take out quite a few, but they are all "bad" civilians, and they aren't nuked). StarCraft isn't meant to make you think about the consequences of the war that is being waged. Defcon is.

@crescentedge, on Apr 23 2007, 06:32 PM, said in Oh Man...:

- The movement towards Defcon 1 should not be inevitable. I was a bit surprised when I realized that there is no Strategic Escalation whatsoever. It’s like all parties involved have already decided on Nuclear War and the only thing stopping them is a timer. Once that timer hits Zero, the nukes fly every single time. It would be neat if the threat level could only be lowered if you caught your opponent doing something suspicious. (Flying a spy plane over your silos, moving fleets out of international waters, etc.) Obviously this would changes the games dynamics quite a bit, but I think it would round out the picture a bit more.

That is an interesting concept for a game. I would probably play such a game, were it to be created. However, it wouldn't be Defcon. The basic premise of Defcon is that the world already has reached that point-of-no-return, and all you can do is sit back and try not to die.

@crescentedge, on Apr 23 2007, 06:32 PM, said in Oh Man...:

- As I have said before, the fact that the game is scored based on how many millions of people you have wiped out just doesn’t sit well with me. Not only would a more involved scoring system that penalized for massive civilian casualties seem a bit more principled, I think it would lead to some pretty decent strategical situations as well.

Indeed. What do you have in mind? Currently, there is survivor mode, in which you get no points for killing, and lose points for allowing your civilian population to die. Is there something you would add to that?

@crescentedge, on Apr 23 2007, 06:32 PM, said in Oh Man...:

Obviously no one here needs to be told that “Nuclear War is Bad.” We all know that. But I feel that in creating a simulation that explores the act of waging nuclear war, it is a bit short sited to leave out some of the most important facets of moving from Defcon 5 to Defcon 1. This game seems to “dumb down” the weight of pushing the button a bit much for my tatstes.

Perhaps. Personally, I don't think that it really dumbs it down. Rather, it puts you in a situation where you have no choice, and forces you to come to terms with that. You aren't the President. You don't get to make the decision about whether or not nukes are used. You are the General, who has been told to launch nukes. Your job is to minimize your own losses, in the face of a nuclear exchange that has already begun.

xander

I'll have to read over the rules for survivor mode since I am not sure how one gets points. Or do you start with zero and go negative if you lose people? Do you lose points for killing "their" civilians?

My whole point in posting here isn't to judge anyone or call Defcon a bad game, and I hope I havent given that impression. I'm really just trying to figure out why I don't feel comfortable playing it. An excellent point you raise is that Defcon, regardless of its intentions, certianly does force the player to think about nuclear war and it's consequences.

As always, thanks for your thoughtful responces.

This game has some real power... affective to be sure. The music contributes to the mood of the game... a combination of fear and mourning. The graphics also are so stark just the right tone.

You feel this game in your gut... its not a cartoon (OK it is a game) but you can suspend disbelief for a bit.

In truth I would welcome mods that are really 21st century... Iran, NK and so forth... or perhaps Pakistan and India.

Defcon is where all the other steps have already been taken, and nuclear war is inevitable. Start there, rather then starting from before, and you might have an easier time playing. It's a simulator, not reality, and I'm sure the vast majority of people here (there are always nutjobs) do not want a real nuclear war. 🙂

@crescentedge, on Apr 23 2007, 09:24 PM, said in Oh Man...:

--==<snip>==--

In survivor scoring, you start with 1 point for every million civilians you have. In a standard game, that means that you start with 100 points. You lose 1 point for every million people that die. You get no points for nuking your enemies, and lose 2 points for every death you inflict upon an ally or yourself. Your score at the end, basically, is the number of people in your territory that survive.

xander

@darwinian, on Apr 23 2007, 07:33 PM, said in Oh Man...:

In survivor scoring, you start with 1 point for every million civilians you have. In a standard game, that means that you start with 100 points. You lose 1 point for every million people that die. You get no points for nuking your enemies, and lose 2 points for every death you inflict upon an ally or yourself. Your score at the end, basically, is the number of people in your territory that survive.

Correct me if I'm wrong. While you get no points for nuking an enemies' civilians, you do take away his/her points in doing so right? So to win, you need to have lost fewer civilians at the end than your enemies have lost? In other words, you still have to kill his/her population to win? Or am I missing something?

I'm another one who swore I'd never play the game. There I was, looking for some innocuous SketchFighter add-ons, coincidentally within hours of Defcon being posted... I didn't even notice at first, because I've been paying virtually no attention to it. But given how impressed I was with Darwinia, I thought I'd just take a quick look at the demo to check out the quality of the programming.

The first couple of nights I found it to be pretty disturbing - the concept, not the programming (except for the menus, of course), but at this point I seem to be seriously hooked. It is, after all, just a game. It occurred to me that I might find it somewhat more palatable if it were based on "Ender's Game", for instance, but at least it is not filled with graphic violence and gore, which I simply will not tolerate.

I'm willing to give the creator(s) credit for being sensitive enough to keep the mood somber and disturbing (although that is somewhat in contrast to how I read much of the filler material in the manual). To the extent it makes people think a little, however briefly, that's good, and I really don't see it doing much to de-sensitize people to mindless violence. But I also can't take it seriously as an attempt to raise awareness or make the world a better place. And to be fair, to the extent I'm sitting here playing it, I'm not doing much in that regard myself.

Enough on that. What would make the game considerably more satisfying to me, and I sense at least a few others, would be an alternate scoring method that goes well beyond Survivor. It seems obvious to me that a challenging and tasteful alternative would reward elimination of enemy military capability, especially "nucular", with minimum civilian losses on either side. I'm willing to accept the premise that the countdown has started to an inevitable nuclear exchange, and the objective is to make sure the presumed bad guy will not be able to do that again, without destroying civilization as we know it.

There are some sticky bits to work out, and if there's enough interest perhaps that should be explored in a separate topic. The general idea is that you lose points for any civilian casualties (-1 for theirs, -2 for your own), and gain points for destroying enemy military objectives.

This is in fact how I've generally been playing so far (only against the AI), and it seems I can pretty consistently wipe out all (or very nearly) military objectives, and still be sitting on a huge arsenal of my own nukes. But I tend to be down a few points, and have no alternative but to destroy some cities. I have achieved a decisive military victory, with very low losses on both sides, but get zero credit for that. Very unsatisfying.

Unfortunately, it's not obvious to me how to go about scoring the military hits. You can't just count up how many nukes each side has at the end, because that might encourage someone to take a fully-loaded fleet of subs on a world cruise... At the same time, I think you should get credit for taking out a silo, air base, or carrier, even if they've already exhausted their delivery capability. Somehow, what's left at the end probably still matters, I'm just now sure how to count it.

Still, I'm inclined to believe something reasonably simple could be done, that would give the game a much different flavor. While I admit I haven't really thought about how Survivor mode would play out, it seems rather odd to me - maybe slightly more defensive, but you still win by killing more, and that's all that matters.

As long as I play against an AI (or a few), I can do my own subjective scoring along the lines I prefer. However, I have virtually zero interest in playing against a human with any of the existing scoring modes.

-Bob

Incidentally, the information in the manual is all factual information or based on propaganda/PSAs of the time period. A great example is the Duck and Cover video (link in the Nuclear History topic).

@bobn, on Apr 24 2007, 01:46 PM, said in Oh Man...:

It seems obvious to me that a challenging and tasteful alternative would reward elimination of enemy military capability, especially "nucular", with minimum civilian losses on either side. I'm willing to accept the premise that the countdown has started to an inevitable nuclear exchange, and the objective is to make sure the presumed bad guy will not be able to do that again, without destroying civilization as we know it.

If I were playing, I would put all my silos ontop of cities, so you were forced to kill civilians.

That said, I enjoy the game precisely because you are awarded for killing civilians. This is nuclear war. It's not about preventing retaliation, it's an ideological confrontation between nations. I'm not about to let an entire generation of enemy civilians grow to hate my victorious nation. As far as I am concerned, I want to be the only one left alive. History is written by the victors, after all.

Quote

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Bad people deserve dying, right?

No. However, I'm still one of the people who have similar thoughts about this issue and this game really gets me to think about it. Don't understand me wrong, I'm think that this game trivialises a nuclear war, too, but it's not as bad as games which massively glorify violence like Counterstrike. For example because it's not trying to make the killing as realistic as possible and because the music underlines the bad mood of such a war.

But I'm always having qualms after playing a round of DEFCON, though. Because of that I think a game mode like the one mentioned above would be really, really add to the game. Solely the existance of it would make DEFCON more serious for me and would allow it to warn you a lot more of the consequences of the use of nuclear warheads.

This is ridiculous, it's a game, for crying out loud. I don't think anyone is supporting nuclear warfare here. You blow stuff up and bits and numbers "die." Seriously.

@mrxak, on Apr 23 2007, 10:12 PM, said in Oh Man...:

Incidentally, the information in the manual is all factual information or based on propaganda/PSAs of the time period. A great example is the Duck and Cover video (link in the Nuclear History topic).

My mistake. I'm pretty sure I would have realized this had I read it again, rather than relying on memory of a few days earlier and making a flip remark. Sorry.

@dusk, on Apr 24 2007, 04:59 AM, said in Oh Man...:

If I were playing, I would put all my silos ontop of cities, so you were forced to kill civilians.

Fine - since it is just a game. Under the suggested scoring mode, I get positive points for taking out your silo, and whatever casualties happen to result cost you twice as much as me. Regardless of how we might weight the military vs. civilian scoring, this would be a losing proposition for you.

@kyros, on Apr 24 2007, 03:39 PM, said in Oh Man...:

This is ridiculous, it's a game, for crying out loud. I don't think anyone is supporting nuclear warfare here. You blow stuff up and bits and numbers "die." Seriously.

Agreed. I just happen to think it would be more interesting to have a scoring mode that distinguished between blowing up military and civilian targets. If you just want to blow stuff up, especially in speed mode or something, then it wouldn't be an improvement. On the other hand, if you like to think about strategy, timing, etc, I find it to be much more challenging to play this way, until I get to the part where I've effectively won but have no choice but to target cities to get the score to reflect that.

@bobn, on Apr 25 2007, 01:04 AM, said in Oh Man...:

My mistake. I'm pretty sure I would have realized this had I read it again, rather than relying on memory of a few days earlier and making a flip remark. Sorry.

No worries, I was just pointing out the dark humor elements. The game is very much in the spirit of Dr. Strangelove. Serious, definitely, but poking fun at the madness of the cold war, because it was definitely a time of insanity (though thankfully, people were sane enough to not actually do what we do in the game).

Ditto what Kyros said.

I can't believe you guys are overanalyzing a game. :blink: It is an excellent game, but I can tell the difference between a computer simulation and real nuclear war, I think...

Is the implication that nuclear violence in video games changes us somehow, when shooter violence doesn't? (IMHO)

That's an absurd leap.

I've got to admit, DEFCON totally creeps me out each and every time I play it. Everything from the realization of what you are watching, to the slow movement of your units and missiles, to the eerie music and sound effects, this is one of the tensest games I've ever played. And I love every minute of it.

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