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Posted on Nov 7, 2005 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features, TIAOW

The Incorrect Art of War [Episode 12] – Mind Games

By A J Summersgill and Jim H Moreno

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Starring:

Doctor Sinister

Doctor Sinister. An evil Supervillain with an insane lust for power. From his secret island base, the Doctor plans to become future Emperor and Warlord of the planet Earth. Enjoys the company of cats and cloned genetically modified Dinosaurs.

And featuring:

General Menace. Graduated from West Point Military Academy with honours, served for twenty-five years in the US Army, reaching level of 2-star General in command of training facilities before being recruited by Doctor Sinister to command his New Model Army of World Domination. Has a penchant for cigars.

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EPISODE 12 – “Mind-Games”

It is a quiet night on Sinister Island as General Menace warily explores the corridors and stairwells of the Imperial Command Complex.

As he enters a portion of the base he has never seen before, he suddenly notices the complete absence of activity. There are no guards, no functionaries and no flustered Scientists running around tearing their hair out. Even the cries of the Dinosaurs thirty-five levels down in their pens seem strangely muted. The entire area smells of new paint and polish and, amazingly, the drinks dispensers are clean and free of gunk (although the cigar machines are empty). It is clear that the General is deep within the base now, a totally secure and newly built area.

After a while, signs pointing to the "Virtual Battlefield Command Centre" begin to appear on the walls. Curious, the General decides to follow them.

Five minutes later, in a darkened, echoey conference hall…

General: Hello? Anyone home?

(There is a clicking noise from the corner of the room, and without warning, a massive screen display springs into life – thirty feet high, filling one entire wall with a lurid moving sequence of men and machines in battle. Pictured from above, the scene is one of utter carnage as the camera rotates around the fighting, the ground ripped apart with shellfire)

Oh my!

(There is a second click and the room is filled with the sound of combat – some of the men on the screen begin to die horribly as the battle ramps up a notch)

Doctor Sinister: What do you think General?

(Doctor Sinister is sat on a gigantic central podium in the centre of the room, illuminated by spotlights which slowly grow in intensity)

Oh my Sir, you startled me there for a moment!

Sorry about that, I was just tinkering with some of the equipment here, I didn’t know you knew about this place. Great eh?

(The lights in the room come up to reveal an enormous bank of computer screens and workstations on the gleaming floor, with observation platforms suspended half-way up the walls. More screens flicker all around the room, but the entire hall is however dominated by the massive main screen. Doctor Sinister turns down the volume slightly)

This is very impressive your Excellence. I’m really gobsmacked.

(Massive explosions fill the screen as a squadron of attack helicopters swings over the battlefield, strafing a column of Tanks who try to fire back into the air)

This is my Virtual Battlefield Command Centre – from here we can control the entire activity of all of my armies with just a few mouse clicks.

(Chuckles) So I can see my Lord. I imagine you could have quite a party in here.

Just take a look at this General…

(The overhead view on the screen moves away from the battle scene to depict a military base complete with Helicopter landing pads and barracks)

With just a few clicks I can build some Tanks and whoosh…away they go!

Oh bravo your Magnificence, I’ve always liked this sort of thing.

You see General? Using this Centre, I can create armies instantaneously and send them into battle to win the day for me! I can view any part of the battlefield at a moment’s notice – ships, planes, tanks, men, all at my instant command!!

Absolutely Sir, the designers of this software really knew how to put a good game together – how many people can play on the network all at once?

(Looks askance at the General) Play? Well, we can cope with up to three hundred simultaneous users to coordinate our forces if that’s what you mean.

Wow, you must have one hell of a server – can people dial in remotely?

Of course not! This is my Command Centre!

(Laughs) Well yes Sir, of course it is, but I imagine you must have friends abroad who might want to play with you?

What the hell are you talking about? This is WAR man! I’d expect you to see a WAR when one is presented to you!

Oh indeed. Can it cope with FPS as well as RTS? Does it do TBS? What about TCP/IP – can it cope with PBEM?

Erm, I expect so, all of those protocols, if you want them, after all – it’s a state-of-the-art system General.

Cool. When you put your mind to something Sir, you really go for it!

Why didn’t you tell me this kind of thing was available? We could have built it months ago!

Well Sir, I kind of assumed we wouldn’t have time to be playing computer games, what with building a real Army and all that…

What are you blithering about? This thing DOES build an Army for you – didn’t you see the Tanks I just built? Seconds it took me to build them – SECONDS! And look, (screen flashes) I just got an upgrade, none of this R&D rubbish, I can upgrade my Army instantly! And there’s more…

More your Excellency?

Yes indeed. (the Doctor presses a few keys and an automated menu appears on the screen) Take a look at the options open to us, we don’t have to limit ourselves to conventional warfare, you see? There’s even an option for commencing Global Thermonuclear War!!

Yes my Lord, I just wish we could do this in real life…

General, I’m perplexed by your attitude – don’t you know a state-of-the-art Virtual Battlefield Command system when you see one?

Well, yes Sir, but I also know a copy of Command And Conquer: Generals when I see it.

(Long silence)

How did you know the name of the program? Have you got spies in my computer department?

Well, no Sir, but I have got a copy of it myself, I bought it when it came out. It’s a fantastic game.

(The penny drops)

This…is a GAME?

Oh yes Sir, and a very good one, fantastic choice. Can I have a go?

Excuse me for a moment…

(Doctor Sinister climbs down from the podium, walks past the General and then steps outside into the hall. The door closes behind him. There is a long and anguished scream of despair from outside. He comes back in)

Sorry about that.

No problem.

I think the IT department has a lot to answer for.

Shall I send in The Imperial Guard?

Not yet – perhaps we can salvage something from this. Or am I wrong in assuming that real Virtual Battlefields exist?

Oh no Sir, they do exist. Nowadays it’s possible for a modern military commander to control all of his forces from his CP, be it onboard a ship, in a tent or back at home in his office. Weapons systems can be fully integrated to make use of what they call the "Digital Battlefield".

Go on.

Well, let’s say that a patrolling fighter plane sees a target, say, a bunker, but it doesn’t have the weaponry capable of taking it out.

Right.

It can transmit the coordinates to a satellite, which then relays the information to the command centre, and then the commanders can calculate what other military assets are in the area with the firepower to eliminate the target, and whether or not they are themselves in range.

OK.

So, in theory, a ship just off the coast could remotely fire a missile at the bunker without having ever seen it, but using targeting information from the plane – all fully integrated.

Fantastic. And we could do that? From here?

If we had the cash yes, this centre would be perfect, it’s certainly a great start.

Right then, we’ll do it – but first…

First?

Do you fancy a game?

I thought you’d never ask my Lord. Shall I be the Chinese?

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A J Summersgill and Jim H. Moreno

andrew@armchairgeneral.com

jim@armchairgeneral.com

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