Friday, 24 September 2010

FASAnomics


Good old FASA economics lies at the heart of BattleTech, though some of you who might be reading this will probably go huh? FASAnomics describes the phenomena in the BattleTech game where the economic implications of game background decisions really don't make a lot of sense. However, I would have to say that since the game is based on giant battling stompy robots that make no real world sense, it is really the equivalent of quibbling over how many angels can stand on the head of a pin.

So why even talk about such a pointless thing?

First to kind of tell everyone that it is pointless, because believe you me, on the CBT forum these issues are discussed all the time. Mind you everything is repeatedly discussed to the point that one begins to lose the will to live. Furthermore, people never hesitate to tell you everything they believe with the full force of righteous belief delivered from high. I wonder how the CGL crew really stop themselves from screaming sometimes? There again what is the bottom line here? Money. You can only make money by selling product, and to do that you have to keep and expand your customer base. Want to know how to make a small fortune in gaming? Start with a large one. So perhaps the screaming is all about the horror of losing money?

All joking aside, we also have the dual problem of CGL trying to square the circle. In this case reconcile the contradictions implicit within the universe, while at the same time not adding things to the BattleTech universe that is seen to be a retcon (retroactive continuity). Retcons really annoys the fan base, but it does look like the tail is wagging the dog at times, as can be seen in these threads.

Amount of Churn & Burn among mech Designs?

Master Unit List.

Does this all sounds a bit like tilting at windmills? One of my contributions to these threads was that of all things the Jihad provides the best agent for an invisible retcon. Saves a lot of work really. Standard answer, it got nuked. The end.

However, I'm reminded about the time when the story "Crisis on Infinite Earths" by DC was released. It was a multiple issue comic book plot-line that attempted to reconcile the timeline and alternate Earth stories, while at the same time removing inconsistencies and confusion. I understand from my friend Rob Hansen that since Crisis on Infinite Earths was published that DC have needed to repeat the process over again on two further occasions. Only going to show the futility of such an exercise in the first place; something largely driven by the fact that it is a shared universe with lots of different writers all contributing their unique vision to it. OTOH it sold a lot of comics, which makes money for everyone. Well everyone apart from the readers, but their contract is to pay for stuff and be entertained.

Sounds a bit like BattleTech, but instead of various versions of the Flash, Green Lantern, Superman et al, we have various novels with different authors who stress different aspects of the giant stompy robot action.

This started from the time the very first novels were published. IMHO William Keith's version of the Inner Sphere is notably darker than Michael Stackpole's. The current Dark Age line has the further problem of different writers writing about the same character in a follow-on novel. For example, the first time we meets Anastasia Kerensky she is a sexy high maintenance risk taker and excellent mech pilot. Several novels down the line she now is portrayed sans-sexuality as a harridan, who is frustrated at every point either by the men around her, or by one of the two blond protagonists both called Tara that thwart her "evil" plans. Link.

Another name given to the phenomenon of story discontinuity on the CBT forums "is that the character took the stupid pills". It is what you get when you have writers who are interested in their own vision, and their own character archetype having to write about established characters written by other writers. So in one book the leader of one house is shown to be a genius, yet the story unfolds to show that he or she has got it so wrong that they are really more stupid than a very stupid thing. Making a character look stupid is a bad thing to do to another authors creation. Got to have a common vision of the universe for this to work, and that means people do things because they believe it is the right thing to do. IMNSHO best to leave the other writers character alone, or only obliquely mention them in passing, rather than showing the reader your version. YMMV on that opinion.

Coming back to the whole future history of the BattleTech Universe, the thing is that I can go and read a history book and get one perspective and some data. Later on another history book will come along and give another perspective and perhaps new data. Afterwards there is a synthesis of both perspectives that shows error in both the data sets. This is fine with historical facts. However, the BattleTech universe is fictional, and there are no historical facts, just fiction. While we live in a world where the last major world war had villains who wore black, and who did monstrous things, but if you are writing a story as fiction people are going to say that this is a tired old trope. Link here.

So on one hand you can retcon anything, just because you can, but OTOH why even bother? I mean, at the end of the day BattleTech is just a game. The simplest non-retcon retcon that can be done is to just say that the figures are wrong, because the in character source got them wrong. Have source books with facts as seen from one perspective, but the novels should not be seen as reliable canon, as they are they are character points-of-view. At the moment novels are a canon source of data, whereas I would see them as "in-universe" self serving hagiographies.

Take the problem that the population numbers too high. Simple answer, ComStar made a computational error in their census. Still too high? The House Lords were subject to errors from poor accounting practices. The real figures? No one knows since all the computer records have been lost in the wars.

Perhaps it's time for a post Jihad census story? It would make the basis for a good novel. No really. The plot would be about the characters finding out that population levels have been falling for centuries, but everyone high up has just assumed that the figures they were working with were right, and that evidence to the contrary was a glitch. People on the ground never had the time to worry about the consequences due to having to face the fact that property values dropping from mech invasions, and the Jihad. It would be a dark tale that would put the consequences of three centuries of war at the heart of the story again.

I can dream...
   

6 comments:

  1. Damn, that is one meaty post, young lady.

    I copied it to Word, printed it and read it over a fat stogie and a cuppa. The ultimate compliment, at least coming from my house.

    Nice work, Pink. Very good.

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  2. I'm very flattered too. Lost for words as well.

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  3. Eh, you used them all up in the original post anyway ;)

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  4. A bit late in finding this article but this was wonderful to read. Took the wind out of a developing rant to see it said elsewhere.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the feedback. Most appreciated.

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