Any Shooters Offering a Credible Military?

 

As a former enlisted soldier, I have first-hand experience with how dialogue is exchanged within a squad, a platoon, or even a battalion setting. I know how modern soldiers communicate, both in uniform and out. Some are deep and spiritual warriors, others are shallow killing machines, and a select few are “war is a necessary evil” peace advocates, but none of them are one-line robots.

What amazes me is the amount of video games that miss the mark of creating credible dialogue, especially considering the “Michael Bay”- sized budget that goes into their production.

Whether it’s hearing “We’re Oscar-Mike” a million times a level, referring to non-commissioned officers (sergeants) as “Sir”, or sounding off “over-and-out” on a radio, these moments in my games make me cringe.

The worst I have seen this generation, in regards to creating caricature-puppet soldiers was Haze by Crytek UK, formally Free Radical. But don’t think for a moment that this curse only applies to failed games; this afflicts top-tier shooter franchises like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Tom Clancy titles. 

It causes me to wonder: how much do certain developers pay military advisers for professional input, then choose to ignore them completely? This is especially frustrating considering the wealth of Hollywood productions that provide authentic military portrayal; my favorites being The Hurt Locker, and HBO’s Generation Kill.

Due to mediocre critic reviews, I’ve yet to play Spec Ops: The Line [pictured above] past the demo, but my brief time spent in this world impressed me, simply because of the dialogue between the characters. As I played the introduction, I said to myself: “This feels like a conversation I would have with my fellow teammates.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love over-the-top action in my shooters, military or otherwise. I’m not looking for more America’s Army simulators. I just want the gaming experience without these glaring errors that stick out like a sore thumb.

Are there any other soldiers, marines, or airmen that feel the same way? Are there any games out there that are your favorites for their military authenticity?

Nadia’s Tale

The chains clasped to the cuff around Nadia’s ankle snagged on a rock, and the fell in the mire for the second time that day.

A voice called playfully behind her, “Watch your step, Nadia. The rocks are slick.”

“My chain was caught, you bully. You would think that after fifteen seasons I would be used to these blasted tools of imprisonment.” She shook the water off her body and pulled pieces of moss out of her hair. She turned around and watched her best friend in her whole world, Damien, work to loosen her chain from under the rock that had caused her to stumble.

“Oh Nadia,” Damien exclaimed, his tone suddenly switching to sympathy, “you’ve torn your wings again.”

Nadia looked over her shoulder and saw a twig had run straight through her left insect-like wing. She tenderly pulled it out; tender not because it was painful but because she didn’t want to do anymore damage to the wing. She had no feeling in the thin membrane portion of the wing, only in the stalks.

“Well,” Damien said, “at least it will mend quickly enough. But it will be a chore to fly for a while, especially if you’re carrying anything heavier than a grape.”

Damien and Nadia were faeries, although if you mentioned the word faery to any of their kind, they would have absolutely no idea what you were talking about. Born into slavery, the only word they knew to describe themselves was “slave.” Sometimes they would say “our kind” or “our people” but they certainly had no idea of the meaning of faery.

These faeries were probably a little different from the ones you’ve heard about before. An adult is about the length of a human hand, and they all have wings, but because of the harsh rules of their captivity, it was very rare to see one flying. They were all naked, which you might think is silly and embarrassing, but an animal doesn’t realize its nakedness. The concept is similar with the faeries: if you have done it your whole life, and everybody else does it, they find it no more strange or shameful than we do taking our shirt off before we have a swim.

There wasn’t a single faery in the entire village that wasn’t a slave. They assumed this was true for the entire swamp in which the village was located, but none had ever left the village, therefore there wasn’t a single faery that was absolutely certain anything existed outside the village. Most of their kind believed there were other villages, but they also believed the entire world was made of swamp.

The slaves only knew of two kinds of creatures in their world, besides the unintelligent beasts of the swamp. The faeries were the slaves, and the Nadu were their masters.

The Nadu were a race of toad-like creatures that walked on two legs and stood 1.5 to 2 meters tall. They wore clothes made from fish skin and algae tied together with bits of twine. For weapons, they fashioned spears from reeds and sharpened fish bones. A few of the Nadu who played the role of slave driver also carried nets shaped like badminton racquets, only the netting was woven spider web, with razor sharp barbs of poison that instantly paralyzed anything it touched.

Nadia, Damien, and the rest of their kind had always served the Nadu. From the time they were born, a silver chain was attached to their wrist or ankle, and was never removed. The chains were enchanted in many mysterious ways, but one such way was that they were impossible to break.

Or so the slaves were raised to believe.

Though Nadia and Damien could not see their master through the bog, they knew he wasn’t far away. Their chain’s were always connected directly to their masters, like thin silver leashes. The only way a chain was ever removed was death, either the master’s death or the slave’s.

Nadia and Damien had been best friends their entire lives. Both were born into the service of the King, and therefore they were afforded the most luxury a faery of their kind could have. Everyone in the King’s court had a bed of moss to sleep on and with all the leftover scraps after a royal banquet, they ate pretty decently as well.

Damien was a general manservant, though he would acquire the position of cupbearer once his mother died. Nadia, on the other hand, hand-fed the queen. This may sound demeaning if I describe it to you, but it was one of the very few jobs where a slave could use his or her wings. For almost every other slave, including Damien, the punishment for flying was death, because it was perceived as an attempt to escape.

Nadia loved being able to stretch out her wings, even if it meant flying bits of food back and forth from the royal plate to the royal mouth.

The servants of King Doku, the king of the Nadu, were afforded luxuries, but this wasn’t to say he was a kind king, or even a just slaver owner. In fact, he was quite the opposite: viscous and malevolent. Despite this, even an evil master knows that slaves will do more work if they are well fed and will do less work if they have crushed wings and crippled limbs. Even the cruelest master avoided killing any of his slaves; the village was completely cut off from the world by the cruel swamp, so there was no slave trade. If a Nadu lost a slave, he or she would have to wait until another was born, then try to buy it from the owners before the enchanted chain sealed its fate.

That afternoon, Damien and Nadia were gathering fruit for the night’s feast. There were other slaves harvesting grapes and mushrooms as well, but they worked solemnly and silently, moving from one crop to the next. Both the friends knew that if they didn’t have each other, they too would have been miserable that afternoon.

As it was, though, Nadia was quite in love with Damien. There was no such thing as marriage among their kind, and even having a child was considered an act of slavery instead of an act of love. Bearing a child was only done under the permission, or rather orders, of the master, and it was only done if it seemed economically viable. A child would just be another mouth to feed for three seasons before it was ready for even the smallest of tasks.

As the two faeries gathered dreasae seeds (these were fruity seeds that grew like an inside-out pomegranate), Nadia longed to be out with the hunting party. It was the one thing she was never allowed to do, because it required the master to travel along with the hunters, and her master, the King Doku, never left his throne. The only time she could gather food was when procuring produce from the garden that grew right outside the royal chamber.

“Nadia?” Damien asked. “Do you think there are other villages like ours?”

“I think so,” she replied, uncertain of his train of thought. They wouldn’t dare talk about this near the Nadu, and probably not within hearing range of the other slaves. Most were loyal to their own kind, but it was known for faeries to suddenly disappear if they said something risky to the wrong person. Damien and Nadia had a feeling that one of their own was working for the Nadu, but they had no idea who it was, and therefore kept all their conversations between the two of them. “Why do you ask?”

“It seems strange, almost unlikely even, that we are all that’s left of this world. That the village of Nor’doku, in the middle of a swamp, is all that’s left of this entire world. Do you remember Jason?”

“Isn’t he owned by a royal guard?”

“That’s him. He told me the craziest story, and I’m still wondering if I believe it.”

“What did he tell you?” Nadia had stopped gathering the seeds for a moment, and was incredibly interested.

“He said that his master lets them fly.”

“Well, that isn’t very unbelievable-”

“Just let me finish, Nadia. Jason said that when they hunt, they leave the rest of the Nadu. His master, the one called Parsh, would tell all his slaves stories about the Nadu; these are stories that would endanger Parsh if the King ever learned. He claims, you know Jason claims that Parsh claims, that the reason we aren’t allowed to fly isn’t because they are worried about escaping. He gave a different reason, that the Nadu have always been jealous of our wings.”

“That can’t be true,” Nadia disputed.

Before Damien could reply, another slave called from across the swamp-garden, “Hey you two, get back to work. We need to start preparing this food before sunset.”

They walked and whispered, still collecting food for the evening meal. “Think about it Nadia, if these chains are unbreakable, why would flying look like escaping? Well, Parsh may still be jealous of our wings, but he figured out a way to fly.”

“What!” Nadia whispered, excitedly, “how?”

“The way Jason describes it, Parsh has built a contraption made from sticks and enormous leaves that he puts his feet into. He ties all the slaves’ chains into a knot, and grabs on to the knot. They fly as hard as they can, and eventually he begins to soar. You remember how much Paragon we’ve been having this season? It’s one of the hardest birds to trap, especially from the ground, but it seems we have it every ten days. Well, it’s a lot easier to hunt if you’re flying after it. Can you imagine Parish gliding after the bird on his flying machine, and spear in hand, soaring through the treetops?”

“You’re right, that is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“And there’s more. Jason said that yesterday they were chasing a dragonfly, the largest one you could possibly imagine, but he said they flew too high, higher than they had ever gone before. He said that the trees rise higher and higher, but they end, and his hunting party flew above the tops of the trees. Everyone was shocked, especially Parish. Jason says that above the trees, you can actually see our day, and it shines like a giant flame in the sky. And above the trees, there is another canopy, but it hangs like a blanket, and is bright blue. He says that there are giant fogs, white instead of grey, that float under the blanket, or in the blanket, he wasn’t sure. The trees stretched all around him, and he said the world is larger than anyone could have ever imagined.”

“I don’t believe it,” whispered Nadia. She had stopped picking fruit and thought in the back of her mind that someone was about to yell at her for that, but couldn’t help herself despite it.

“Jason told me two things that I haven’t been able to shake from my mind. These two things scared Parsh so terribly that after falling back to the ground, he smashed up his glider and swore to never fly up again. Jason thinks that Parsh was afraid for his life, and forced his slaves to never speak of what they saw.”

“What on earth did they see?” Nadia’s wings fluttered, and she almost took off, she was so enraptured by Damien’s story.

“Two things he saw and he will remember until he dies. One was that the trees end. They go on and on and on, but there is a point where they thin out, then end altogether. Do you see what this means? The swamp is enormous, but it ends, and there is a whole other world out there. The second thing he saw was smoke. Not just any smoke, but way out in the distance was an enormous pillar of smoke, like a camp fire, but way too big for being so far away.”

“What do you think it means?”

“I think there are other creatures in this world, capable of building fires with trees instead of sticks and moss. Perhaps there are giant Nadu that live on the outskirts of the swamp, five times larger than the ones we have here, or maybe,” and at this point his voice dropped to a whisper of a whisper, “there are enormous beings that are like us, flying around. Maybe they are like us, but free.”

Nadia shivered; the idea was just so amazing she couldn’t quite wrap her mind around it. She caught the eye of another gatherer, and quickly returned to work, this time in silence. Still, she thought about it all day, and into the night.

As Nadia lay, trying to sleep, a feeling washed over her. It was a mixed feeling of dread and wonder. She had no idea why, but she was absolutely certain that something large and incredible was about to happen. Something wonderful and terrible at the same time. It would have been impossible to predict the future, and she couldn’t have known the rise that the slaves had begun to feel as this story was spread.

Little did she know, other slaves of Parsh’s had told the same stories to the other faeries, and the same feeling Nadia had was being shared by their entire tribe.

Little did she know, the revolution was about to begin.

New Beginning

On any other day, the forest shadows would contain a serenity unlike this world has ever felt. The trees would be still, and the ground would not speak. You cannot find insects, or birds, or any forest creatures. The only movement comes from shallow pools rippling underneath the softly pattering rainfall.

On this day, though, the forest is disturbed. There is a man lying in a forest glade, eyes closed but not asleep. The man is dressed in a business suit, with a white shirt and maroon necktie. It hasn’t fallen from the sky, and it did not travel from a different part of the woods. It just… simply… is.

There were no creatures, aside from the flowers, grass, and trees, to witness the man’s arrival. If in fact it had actually arrived from anywhere. It may have always been; lying in a field, unmoving yet alive.

Beyond the man, in the darkness beneath an unyielding tree canopy, a shape pulses rhythmically. The shape is more than black– it is the absence of light. The shadows surrounding it look gray in comparison.

Two emeralds appear in the abyss. They disappear quickly, then reappear. The green gems seem to be completely still, but they are in fact moving gently and subtly up and down in time with the surrounding pulse.

The emeralds stare over the man in the field. They watch for five minutes, seconds, or maybe eternity.

Finally the abyss takes form. The emeralds position themselves to either side of a long and cruel snout. Short fuzzy ears appear. A spine, crooked like that of a jackal, covered in the blackest of wiry fur, ends in a long dark tail. The void in the shadows becomes a wolf of nightmares.

She is a beautiful, terrible beast.

The wolf places a gigantic paw in the light of the meadow, and pauses. The forest is known to hold much that even she must fear.

She runs her tongue over her fangs, tasting the air blowing gently in her face. There is rain. There is a hint of pollen. There is man sweat.

There is nothing else.

Cautiously another paw enters the light, and then another.

The growing anticipation of the kill only heightens her awareness, but like a true professional, she hides her excitement well. This man is her hunt. It is why she is, and why she was sent.

The last beast sent was careless. She rushed in, then became ensnared, butchered, and skinned.

This one is not so hasty.

Like a phantom, she glides over to the motionless human. Though it looks dead she smells that it is very much alive. She places a paw in the middle of its chest, and it begins to stir restlessly.

Outside of space and time, he is sitting at his kitchen table, reading a newspaper article; fourteen more killed in Ciudad-Juarez, all beheaded. He watches a documentary on the sex trafficking of ten year girls in India. He reads an email about a four year old girl in Kenya with HIV, a virus the girl contracted when raped by her grandfather. He hears the screams of thousands of dolphins slaughtered off the coast of Japan, to be sliced into lunch meat for school children, all of whom test positive for hazardous concentrations of mercury. The news reports an Afghani teenager, falsely accused of working for the Taliban by greedy neighbors that were easily persuaded by the fifty dollar reward; he is kept in Guantanamo Bay prison, released years later, smuggles himself into America using Mexican coyotes to cross the border, then kills himself and four others with a bomb on the steps of the US capitol building. A woman living four blocks away from the man drowns her three infant sons in the bathtub and then goes to waitress at her diner as if nothing happened.

Outside of space and time, the man becomes aware of the massive tragedies in his world. He becomes lost in his depression as he realizes everyone can’t be saved. He can’t even save enough to make a difference.

Outside of space and time, the man lays awake at night, and unknown to his wife sleeping soundly beside him, the man has visions of an enormous wolf, with black bristled fur that smells of sage, cloves, and rotting flesh. In the vision, the wolf breathes on him, its breath like the sweet and sour stink of sex. He envisions its green eyes watching him hungrily. He imagines the razor sharp fangs tearing him apart.

In the forest, beneath closed lids, the man’s eyes run with tears. The wolf feels the man’s heartbeat rise in its chest, and the body under the grace of her paw begins to convulse. She removes the paw, and the body becomes still once again. She watches for any more movement, fully aware that she can end its life at her whim. She imagines closing her jaw around its weak throat, and tearing it out with a snap of her neck– the warm and salty blood running over her teeth, and she’s swallowing it thirstily.

But she does not kill him. She was sent by one more powerful than herself for a purpose, and though she isn’t conscious of the purpose, her instincts tell her that it is not yet time.

In the blink of an eye, she turns and vanishes in the embrace of the forest.

On the wet grass, in the meadow of a strange wood, the man begins to stir.

Download China White by Michaiah Vosberg

Click here to download the first part of China White in the ongoing short story series: Thrills and Shivers 2010

China White- Michaiah Vosberg

or read the posted story here.

China White

I.

Dakota stared lazily out the back seat window; the constant scrolling of pine trees put her in a half sleep stupor. Unlike her mother, Dakota never became car sick, which helped her deal with the six-hour drive through the Colorado Mountains.

The rental truck carrying all of their belongings was a full day ahead of them, and had probably already arrived at the family’s new estate.

Her father, a former real estate agent from Arizona, was considering the move away from his home town of Phoenix ever since Dakota had been born. He found their new property through professional connections; the asking price dropped considerably with the failing economy, and her father jumped at the opportunity. The brochure and web-ad really presented the house (a small mansion) amazingly, and Dakota would have been more excited if she didn’t have to give up all of her school and neighborhood friends. Where they were moving, there wasn’t even a neighborhood.

The house, according to the brochure, was built in 1947 for the poet Robert Banes and his secret male lover. The estate sat on three acres (one acre grass, two acres woodland) and was located about ten minutes away from the nearest town of Monte Sombra. It was three stories, not including a basement, with a giant wrought iron spiral staircase in the atrium that led all the way to the attic bedroom, which Dakota had already claimed in her mind. Her mind ran wild with all of the adventurous possibilities of living in such a bedroom.

The previous owner had been a metal-smith artist, designing statues for city parks all over the United States. He died without an heir, leaving the property and surrounding gardens filled with all his creations: lawn ornaments, patio furniture, garden gates, and fountains. Her father, a man of practicality, wanted to get rid of all the works of art, in an effort to enhance a more post-modern professional appearance; he intended on turning the former workshop into a home office. Luckily, Dakota’s mother, Mrs. Catherine Blake, had sided with her on the protest, and the art pieces stayed.

Dakota loved one aspect of the new house more than any of the rest, and that was the graveyard. The property line ran adjacent to the town’s original graveyard from the 1800’s. As far as she could tell from the website’s virtual tour, the only way to access the abandoned graveyard was a small footpath that ran from the base of the driveway into the woods. A plot of land filled with dead people wasn’t as appealing to her as everything above ground. She loved the cracked marble angels, the vines, iron fence posts, and the blanket of leaves. Rather than getting the creeps from standing above a bunch of dead people, Dakota found beauty in the peace of rest. Fond of games, she would try and find as many gravestones as she could that shared her name, or she would try and find the oldest marked grave.

(more…)