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KickStarter Telepath Tactics - deterministic tactical RPG inspired by Fire Emblem

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by ColCol, May 14, 2014.

  1. Mustawd Arcane

    Mustawd
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    Craig Stern
     
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  2. Craig Stern Sinister Design Developer

    Craig Stern
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    That's the plan! I've been reworking the way the game stores data with this feature in mind. :)

    There is a bit of fuzziness in the AI to help keep the enemy from being too predictable with its moves.

    I hope to do something like that, yeah! For Kickstarter backers or people who bought the game direct from me, I can definitely make that happen; for other post-KS purchasers, though, I'm not 100% sure if there's a way for me to just send out keys to existing owners through Steam or GOG. I know that Steam will let me verify keys, but ideally I'd like a distribution method that doesn't involve hand-checking hundreds or thousands of people individually. We'll see what I can make happen!
     
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  3. Abu Antar Prestigious Gentleman Tweet, tweet Patron

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    I feel a bit cheeky. I had a gut feeling that that was one of the changes.
     
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  4. Craig Stern Sinister Design Developer

    Craig Stern
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    Today in Telepath Tactics news, there's been a new update posted summarizing progress on the new engine (including a couple of screenshots showing off aspects of the new-and-improved UI!)

    Among the other highlights:

     
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  5. vazha Liturgist

    vazha
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    My main gripe with this game is the incredibly silly & childish femmie storyline, which is surprising considering I loved the story in earlier Telepath game.
     
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  6. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    This was a core principle of the game's marketing (the fourth of six reasons "to pay attention to Telepath Tactics" was "it actively takes gender-related tropes and flips them around") and design, so I doubt you'll see any changes in that. From the design post, it sounds like watching Anita Sarkeesian's videos were a watershed moment for Craig, which probably explains why the difference between the games.
     
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  7. Craig Stern Sinister Design Developer

    Craig Stern
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    It's...just a straightforward revenge story that happens to have largely female protagonists. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    I'll grant you, it's hardly the most complex narrative I've produced--I mainly just opted to focus my development efforts on introducing large, elaborate battles and massively expanding the series' tactical complexity with TT. I do hope to get back into more complex narrative fare in future titles, though, once I'm satisfied with the systems side of things! I have some fun ideas rattling around. :)
     
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  8. Cross Magister

    Cross
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    I'm sorry, but this comes across as unbearably pretentious. Especially in light of things like this: http://telepath.wikia.com/wiki/Skills_(Telepath_Tactics)

    "I deliberately omitted magic from my fantasy setting, instead I have psionics that are totally unique and can somehow be used to heal and buff allies or deal fire/ice/holy/dark elemental damage. Original creation, do not steal."
     
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  9. vazha Liturgist

    vazha
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    Huh... I see. Well, for me it failed to flip anything around, being incredibly simplistic and kinda crude. Taking textbook animu schoolgirl characters and putting them into a fairly complex and punishing tactics game kinda ruins the atmosphere altogether. (Not saying animu schoolboy plot would fare much better, mind you.)
     
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  10. Craig Stern Sinister Design Developer

    Craig Stern
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    Okay, look: there's no such thing as "holy" damage in the Telepath universe. The "Light" skills you're talking about are effectively a combination of gamma radiation, pressure, and radiation in the visible wavelength produced from psychokinetic particle manipulation. "Shadow" skills, by contrast, manipulate the structure of molecules in the air to produce a form of corrosive miasma. (See: http://telepath.wikia.com/wiki/Element). So yeah, skills are indeed divided into familiar-sounding elements, but you're missing the stuff that makes it a unique part of the setting. And really, that's such a tiny part of the game world! Perhaps you should considering playing these games instead of citing random Wiki articles out of context?
     
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  11. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    Every artist builds his values (including his politics) into his art, and some artists do so deliberately (certainly I have done so with every game I've worked on). And I think Telepath Tactics is great, and it's great that Craig's advocated for the issues he cares about. Also, the Internet is a bad medium for communication. With those caveats, I find Craig's last two posts a little frustrating.

    First
    No, it doesn't just "happen" to be that way. As you wrote previously, "[t]he bottom line is, it t[ook] work–actual conscious effort–" for you to write the gender politics in to Telepath Tactics. Undertaking that hard work was important to you because:
    You then added:
    To the extent the Codex falls within the culture you're trying to adjust, it is probably better to meet the arguments head on. Telepath Tactics makes a conscious decision to tell a story where men are weak and in need of saving by strong women, and it does so because you wanted to counterbalance "insidious" tropes that made present women as always being on the receiving, and never the giving, end of heroic intervention. Hard to object to your decision to make the game that way, but I don't think you should back away from it as a decision when someone says he didn't like it.

    Second
    Your description of both gender norms and magic repeatedly accuses other writers of being lazy while complimenting your own hard work and originality. You can be deservedly proud of your own work without belittling others'. And I'm not sure that there's a categorical difference between a hodgepodge of anime golems, gargoyles, and lizardmen and a hodgepodge of Tolkienian dwarves, elves, and goblins. For instance, TTON takes place in an eccentric setting without dwarves, elves, or magic; Arcanum takes place in a Tolkienian setting with dwarves, elves, and magic (and with that Victorian steampunk you complain about to boot!). But I don't think that makes Arcanum's setting weaker than TTON's, let alone Arcanum's story weaker. Nor do I think it makes the writers on one lazier than the writers on the other. Both reflect work, creativity, and values -- they are just directed differently.

    But I also think Cross's response underscores why the "everyone else is lame, I'm great" approach is a risky one to take. I think Telepath Tactics presents itself as a pretty familiar console tactical RPG in terms of its flavor -- the fact that people ride giant insects rather than horses doesn't scream creativity to me so much as conventional Japanese delightfulness. People have been riding goofy things in Japanese games since at least Golden Axe. And Shining Force's eccentric races (like centaurs and werewolves) seem to be the mold TPT is in -- not an original mold, just a different mold. Maybe that impression of the game is wrong, and unfair, but by presenting your game as a refutation of other people's work (and other people's tastes), you're inviting tu quoque rather than encouraging people to expand their horizons.

    Lastly, that your magic involves midichlorians psychicically giving "physical form to negative emotions, breaking apart water vapor in the air and forming a highly corrosive miasma" rather than "casting a spell" doesn't mean that "everything must make sense in itself" or that there won't be magical MacGuffins. In fact, my two cents is that it's usually better just to say that the Force is "an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together" rather than giving it a pseudoscientific explanation.

    ***

    Anyway, moving past this light criticism, the new engine looks great! There are few solo developers out there who have been as committed to making great, original games for as long as you have, and I hope that the new year brings us more from Sinister Designs! And you shouldn't flinch from advancing your values in future games!
     
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  12. mindx2 Codex Roaming East Coast Reporter Patron

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    Craig Stern as you know I love the game and enjoyed it immensely..... however, this line of thinking always gets under my skin. Let me explain why without the first thought being "Well, here goes another Codexer who hates woman".

    We met at PAX East a number of years ago when I did that quick Codex interview of you before TT was released. You've seen me and my, let's just say, "shortcomings" ;). Those of left-leanings ideology would categorize me as a "differently abled" whatever type underrepresented minority (that was a mouthful!). Yet I have never once thought that someone without arms and legs should be the "hero" in any game, movie, book, etc. I don't feel slighted in the least nor feel all :outrage: not seeing someone "like me" hobbling around like a penguin slashing a sword. It's called FANTASY for a reason and I want to play as an '80s Schwarzenegger/Conan. I don't, for one second, feel oppressed or discriminated against because I don't see my "kind" digitized on the screen be it computer or theater. To think one has to "see themselves" in any form of entertainment is ridiculous. If someone does feel that way then it speaks more about them and their fragile egos than the game, movie, book, etc.

    Now I have to go start up that Patreon page and generate an irate YouTube video complaining how Craig Stern hates the disabled since I don't see "ME" in his Able Privilaged videa gaem!!! :P
     
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  13. Craig Stern Sinister Design Developer

    Craig Stern
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    I really appreciate this! Thank you. :)

    Your other thoughts are appreciated as well, though I think you've misunderstood my remarks. My post about the nature of the game's plot was in response to vazha, not to you! Simply put, I don't think there's anything inherently silly or childish about a straightforward revenge plot merely because it happens to focus on characters who are women--that is what I was saying. By contrast, my intent was not to say that I feel the use of female protagonists in the game (or the subversion of gender cliches in general) was unimportant or unintended; I apologize if I was unclear about that.

    I do think the interpretation you've supplied vis-a-vis my comments about Tolkien-alikes is a touch uncharitable, however. I never once called other game writers lazy or claimed that the stories of these games were weaker, let alone stated that "everyone else is lame"! What I did say is that I find the settings of games which borrow liberally from Tolkien over-familiar, and that I am personally bored to death of them. Which, look, that's just my honest opinion--yours may differ, and that is fine.

    That "6 reasons" article was, as I wrote in its very first paragraph, "aimed at the media" as part of a marketing push, and it's important to understand it in that context. Do me a quick favor and look at Steam. As of this moment, there are 194 RPGs in "New and Trending"; in the "Top Sellers" category, there are 2,224 RPGs spanning 149 freakin' pages of results. There are thousands of RPGs on Steam jockeying for attention. Put simply, there is a good reason why indie devs have been freaking out about discoverability these past few years. Now, I don't know how extensive your marketing experience is, but media outlets generally want an "angle" before they'll cover a game--something that makes it unique or special. So naturally, I looked for things that make Telepath Tactics stand out from this sea of other titles, and I did my best to call media attention to them as potential angles for coverage. That's all.

    But forget the marketing angle for a moment. Speaking more broadly, there's a history and a context in which RPGs exist--as a developer, knowing that history and that context is important! That's what lets you experiment with (and break) "rules" of the genre. By way of analogy: Unforgiven works so brilliantly as a Western because it's very aware of the tropes and cliches that govern Westerns, and it subverts them to create something that (in my view) feels very fresh and real. You can't get results like that if you're not willing to understand your work in the context of a vast constellation of related works. And this, too, is not a refutation (except in the very mild way that any creative work may respond critically to the works that came before it). In short: I want other people to be able to contextualize Telepath Tactics in the universe of RPGs, and to understand what it's doing in that context.

    This, I would assume, is what you yourself do on the official page for Primordia when you call out other games in the point-and-click adventure genre for "trial and error or endless backtracking," and intimate that they feature clunky interfaces and player-unfriendly design. Are you refuting "the classics"? Are you arrogantly implying that your game is better than they are? Of course not! It would be quite uncharitable of me to interpret your remarks that way. The much more likely explanation is that you simply understand your game as part of a lineage of similar titles, that you recognize your game's strengths within that context, and that you want others to understand those strengths as well.

    As for the stuff about midichlorians...come on. The thing that made midichlorians lame in Star Wars is that the Force was an incredibly significant and long-established quasi-religious phenomenon in the setting with Manichean dynamics, and midichlorians came in out of nowhere and reduced it all to something very prosaic and materialist post hoc. It sucks because it's inconsistent--it kneecaps its own internal logic. By contrast, the Telepath setting leans into the pseudoscience angle from the word go; it has its own set of internally consistent rules that govern how its fantasy elements operate. And to the original point: those rules are not the typical ones. Whether you like those rules or not is up to your personal taste, but whether they're the same thing as the rules governing magic in a standard fantasy universe is not up for debate. They simply aren't.

    Ha ha, thanks mindX2! I absolutely remember meeting you. :) To be clear, I don't just run around presuming offense on the part of every last minority group that isn't represented in every game I make--that would, of course, be pretty silly. My decision to do a better job of representing women in TT was, in part, a response to negative feelings that were actually expressed by numerous women (and not just internet randos, but quite a few women I know personally as well) at hardly ever seeing themselves represented as heroes in games. Like, I'm not an idiot--I'm not going to include people in a game in a way that makes no sense in the established universe. However, if I can make it happen in a way that feels natural, and it makes a subset of my audience happy...why the hell not?
     
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  14. ERYFKRAD Barbarian Patron

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    Honest question, wouldn't the ability to create a custom protagonist solve this feeling of representation for everyone?
     
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  15. Craig Stern Sinister Design Developer

    Craig Stern
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    Maybe! I'm not the one with the problem, tbh, so it's kinda hard for me to say. I wouldn't want to presume.
     
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  16. vonAchdorf Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Great to hear about the progress on the new engine.
     
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  17. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    Look, bottom line is that I think your games are great (I've been playing them from Flash days of yore), I think it's great that you made a game with lots of female protagonists, and I think it's great that you describe your design and marketing approaches so publicly because I'm certain that encourages other indie developers and helps them succeed. All of your games have shown deep generosity (whether you gave them away for free, provided all sorts of modding/development tools and tutorials, or continued providing support for years) and a commitment to substance over gloss. So it's a little silly to carry on this debate, which is turning a response to a response to a response to your game into the focus of discussion, which has the effect of making my overall very favorable impression of you and your games seem like a negative impression.

    That said, I think your recent response does require a reply, so in the spirit of endless Internet feuding:
    Looking at the post again, perhaps I misread it. My impression was probably colored by the preceding portions regarding other aspects of writing (in which you explicitly called other writers "lazy" and other games "insidious", etc.), but even the portion about Tolkien does seem to suggest that other writers are lazier, and their stories weaker, because they "plagiarize" and "rehash" settings so as to avoid "challenge" in favor of "nonsensical" solutions and "hand-waving":
    Next:
    Well, here is the blurb in full -- I'm not sure it quite constitutes "call[ing] out other games":
    I certainly think Primordia has a "streamlined interface" (for better and worse) and "player-friendly design" when compared to the classics -- it has only two verbs (use/look) mapped onto the two mouse buttons (the Revolution interface), it has fast-travel between locations (an uncommon feature), it has an integrated hint system and automatic note-taking, and the player can't die or get dead-ended. Of course, describing Primordia's puzzles as "logical" invites (and rightly so) criticisms, sometimes harsh but almost always fair, of the many places where its puzzles aren't logical. In hindsight, I would avoid using that kind of self-congratulation even in marketing because I think it tends to backfire. Also, as I've indicated in recent posts, I think the self-flagellation (often in fact flagellation of others) by adventure developers about illogical puzzles is somewhat misplaced.

    I also think Primordia is quite a bit better than a certain era of adventure games (not the classics, actually, but games like The Longest Journey or Syberia) with respect to the use of backtracking to pad the gameplay or nonsensical puzzle design. And I have specifically criticized those games and that defect, for example here:
    So if you wanted to suggest I was hypocritical for "calling out" other games, you could probably do better than the Primordia feature list! (Of course, in that same interview I say that Primordia is poorly designed and has terrible puzzles compared to the classics.) You could also look at the reviews I've posted on Steam, which tend to include criticism as well as praise, and sometimes that criticism is even framed in unfavorable comparison to Primordia (for example, with respect to the voice acting in Heroine's Quest). Or you could look at my criticism of Kickstarter fundraising tactics (for instance: http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/inde...ickstarters-dos-and-donts.97780/#post-3804145) and F2P monetization (for instance: https://twitter.com/WWSGames/status/928864111407939585). I certainly didn't mean to suggest that one should never criticize the flaws he sees in other games -- being a developer doesn't mean forfeiting your right your to express an opinion.

    As for marketing, I'm the last person to opine on the subject. I have no education on the subject and likely no skill at it. Whatever success Primordia has had was due to the last days of the Steam indie cartel, the WEG brand, Vic's art, and dumb luck -- certainly not because I tweet stuff that get two likes or write walls of text on seedy RPG sites. To me, the opportunity to market Primordia is mostly an opportunity to push the things I care about that are embodied in Primordia (whether that's keeping puzzles in adventure games or promoting humanistic values) rather than an opportunity to sell more copies; that's why I think it's great that you promoted your own values in Telepath Tactics and in the design posts about it.

    I'm a little less crazy about the tenor of how you respond to people's reactions to how you're promoting TT and its themes. For instance, when
    vazha says he doesn't like the game's gender values, you suggest he's seeing something that's not there -- it's just a "story that happens to have largely female protagonists." But there was something there, something you deliberately put there: the story "takes the now-standard damseling plot about fathers going to rescue their wives/girlfriends/daughters and turns it on its head" by making the father the "damsel" in distress," "averts the age-old tendency to make male protagonists the front-line fighters while relegating women to support roles" by making "the main front-line fighters ... almost entirely women" and relegating the men to support roles, etc., etc. When Cross suggests that Telepath Tactics' psionics system looks very similar to a standard jRPG magic skillset, such that your criticism of other games for having magic seemed unconvincing, you paraphrase the post as "yadda yadda" reliant on "citing random Wiki articles out of context."

    I think you could profitably debate vazha about gender norms (honing your arguments, and perhaps nudging folks toward a better acceptable of your views, which are similar to ones I've talked about in Primordia marketing!). I think you could profitably debate Cross about why pseudoscientific psionics are meaningfully different from fantastical magic, and how that makes a difference in the context of Telepath Tactics.

    You have certainly done away with my points decisvely, so there's no much left for you to debate there (though I will give the last word to you, and promise not to reply again), but I think you should be a little less quick to dismiss others' challenges to TT, just as I think you should be less quick to dismiss writers who don't share your approach to gender inclusion as being lazy or part of an "insidious" culture. Very few people who make games are lazy (as you know, it's incredibly hard work), and very few people who tell stories do so without trying to promote what they think is valuable for others to understand. The Shivah and Gemini Rue feature male protagonists facing male antagonists, typically using powers of mind and body that the female characters don't exhibit in the game. But that's not because Josh and Dave were being lazy or because the games were amoral or immoral -- both games are obviously the product of young men wrestling with aspects of their own identity and using a game to explore (and praise and sometimes rebuke) male heroism. Shining Force 2 is a a goofy cartoon story about noble mighty men fighting ignoble mighty men, but even its storyline had its memorable and even thought-provoking moments -- at least for me as a kid playing it (for instance, the "traitors die by fire" moment). Young men as well as young women need heroes. So while I think what you're doing is great, I don't think it's productive to couple it with the suggestion that others' decision not to write the same kind of stories is wrongful, or that men who dislike stories relegating them to support roles and damsels in distress are jerks.

    Anyway, no more from me. Godspeed with the new engine and new games. I hope they are full of strong women and perhaps also strong men.
     
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  18. Lhynn Arcane

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    Im just glad that thanks to Craig Stern billion of young ladies will have strong role models to inspire them. It is simply not the kind of story i am or will ever be interested in tho.
     
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  19. Gunnar Savant

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    I really liked this game (and previous telepath games actually) but the writing / story sandwiched in between the missions was an absolute cringe-fest and easily the worst part of the whole effort. The inclusion of women as front-line fighters is not 'natural', any more so than including cripples with missing limbs as front line fighters would be (especially when its ALL front line fighters in the game!). I don't believe that a large portion of the audience for this game, or any sword and sorcery tactics type game is women, regardless of how many women there are out there playing farmville and candy crush in the 'gaming ecosystem' and whining that games that mostly men are interested in have stories targeted towards men. The forced diversity where every team member has to be a different race was also silly and detrimental to the story, like the forced feminism. I doubt very much that your story inspired anyone to buy the game when they were previously on the fence, regardless of gender. Much more likely is that you turned off a bunch of customers to your future games in an attempt to pander to an audience that isn't even interested in your games in the first place.
     
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  20. Gobblecock Arcane Zionist Agent

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    Wrong move. You aren't giving girls a chance to be the hero when you do that. The proper move is to get a job stocking shelves somewhere and send your money to the patreon of a female developer who gets to be the programming hero for millions of young girls who have internalised: Girls don't get to program strategy games, boys get to be the code-slinging heroes.

    It gives me a sick feeling in my stomach when misogynists like you think you can mandesign videogames to superficially "empower" girls, instead of being allies to real women programmers.
     
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  21. Craig Stern Sinister Design Developer

    Craig Stern
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    First of all, I'm very glad you enjoyed the game! Good stuff. :)

    I'm curious to know why you think it's unnatural for women to be front-line fighters, though? In my view, "natural" just isn't a meaningful standard for people running around in man-made armor, holding man-made swords, axes, and spears, and battling one another using man-made martial techniques (not even in real life, let alone in a fantasy universe). It doesn't occur in nature, so it's meaningless to opine on how "natural" it is. The better question is probably, "is it realistic"? Just for my own amusement, I'm going to answer that question!

    If by "realistic" we mean "depicting things that can actually reasonably happen," I think the answer has to be yes. Women fought in pitched battles throughout history, and feature in the mythology of nearly every culture. Even unarmed, women have been known to kill men in melee combat. Here's a recent story of an overweight old nurse, of all people, killing a hired hitman with nothing more than her own arms! Here's one of an unarmed 5'2" woman, 130 pounds, taking out a 6'2", knife-wielding, steroid-abusing gym rat who had the element of surprise on his side. (That second one is a really fascinating story, by the way--if you have the time, totally go back and read all of it from Part 1!)

    But just listing off examples from both ancient and recent history is boring, so let's talk about the mechanics of medieval-style weaponry that make female front-line fighters realistic. A good quality two-handed long sword weighs about 2.5 pounds. That's really light for something held with two hands, especially when you consider that the weight is distributed with the balance point near the top of the grip. It's barely more than holding a stick of butter in each hand. This low weight and convenient balance point permits a sword to be easily manipulated by any human adult with even the slightest degree of upper-body strength. (I say this with confidence because I've personally taken historical swordfighting classes with numerous women who have no problem whatsoever using historically accurate blades of this sort!)

    And it doesn't take much strength to do serious damage with a sword like this: any blade that hasn't been blunted to hell can easily pierce human skin with remarkably little force. You won't be relying primarily upon your arms to generate this force, either. All decent sword strikes--whether lunges or cuts--depend upon the weight of the whole body, using momentum originating from the attacker's legs. The role of the arms is almost entirely in maintaining proper structure (such that all that bodily momentum is channeled into the blade) and proper blade alignment (such that the sword cuts properly). It genuinely doesn't require all that much upper body strength. Nor do most defensive moves, for that matter: a proper parry involves striking the opponent's sword closer to its tip using your own sword closer to its guard (see all the photos here for an illustration), providing you with an immense leverage advantage that permits you to control your opponent's blade even if they're way stronger than you. In short: upper body strength helps, but it's not anywhere near as important as some folks seem to think it is. Proper form, speed, and good blade alignment matter much, much more.

    What about other melee weapons? I'm not as personally experienced with spear and axe fighting as I am with swords, admittedly, but I can confirm that most historically accurate spears are about 3 pounds, with the average battle axe weighing something similar. (It just wasn't advantageous for melee weapons of this era to get much heavier--more weight meant slower strikes, and limiting oneself to slow strikes in melee combat was not exactly great for one's life expectancy.)


    I do have some reason to suspect that this might be true--but that just means that there's a huge untapped market out there! I doubt I'm going to be the one to capitalize on it, tbh, but I do hope that Fire Emblem Heroes successfully turns a chunk of the mobile gaming demographic on to the glory of turn-based tactics. Time will tell!
     
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  22. Gobblecock Arcane Zionist Agent

    Gobblecock
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    Here are a few literary and folktale examples of women fighting.

    There. No need for archaeological evidence of women with battle-scarred bones, like are common on exhumed men. We have folktale evidence!

    Until recently, wife-beating was practically a sport among western men, because it is so easy. Only in this cerebral and bloodless age could men theorize how women ruled the battlefield in a swirling swathe of man-shredding death... because folktales and theories based on tenuous physics assumptions that upperbody mass and strength was actually useless.
     
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  23. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    Truly, this "profitable debate" is exactly what I foretold. Anyway, I, for one, demand an explanation of how people riding giant mantises and scorpions is consistent with the square-cube law. NB: This cannot "be explained away by magic." :)
     
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  24. Ninjerk Arcane

    Ninjerk
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    We all have to learn about arguing with cuckface the hard way at least once.
     
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  25. anvi Cipher Village Idiot

    anvi
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    Doesn't 'deterministic' in gaming terms mean that it is basically 100% linear?
     
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