Point 0 - Introduction
CM can be defined as a hybrid game, one that attempts to mix the TDM with the Story-Generator.
Yet now, instead of some sort of middle ground, we have such a great imbalance in favour of TDM you can call CM “the TDM SS13” and not be too far off the truth: our mechanics are decided by balance, and mechanics that help give the game interesting scenarios have been given secondary importance and often are stripped to assist the TDM.
This post is not to say TDM is evil, or “back in my day” TDM was never apart of it - TDM has always been apart of why CM is so compelling, yet it is only a part and is not the complete picture. Perhaps this post is biased nostalgia, a longing for a time that never really existed outside of my time-warped perspective: Perhaps. But, if this post makes sense to you I hope we can talk about fixing things.
Point 1 - Old CM vs New CM
If any of you remember, a while ago now devs ran the old versions of CM for April Fools: I mean 2016-2018. It sparked quite the debate, a lot of people seemed genuinely to have a preference to the old version, minus it’s ancient QoL. This, I think, confused quite a lot of people as to why on earth anyone would like such a jank thing, the mechanics were basically unfair, so some blamed the ever-present “nostalgia” for such an anomalous result. I don’t think that’s the case.
Yes, it wasn’t fun for a xeno to have to keep a management of the nest captures because it essentially amounted to a video game night security guard , it wasn’t fun for marines to have to go back to the ship to receive a new limb, it wasn’t fun for a SADAR to blow a man to pieces, was it?
Well, yes and no. By our modern perspective, yes obviously these all seem like such unfun things because they disrupt the supposed meat of the game: combat. But by the old perspective, it was alluring. It offered stories: you aren’t going to remember your SL getting captured by the xenos for the 100th time and being perma but, by the slim chance it happens, you are going to remember your SL busting his ass out with but a knife and acting like the biggest commando hero you’ve ever seen. It works for xenos too: say they experience something similar, they run into this really lucky person who somehow escaped capture and you go toe-to-toe with this integral capture you need. From the TDM perspective, this is annoying because it is simple busy work for the xenos and not interesting combat - but when surrounded by context, by relationships, by the desires of each faction (not simply victory) it is compelling story.
Point 2 - But TDM is also still important
Because of Point 1 I used to think, and probably some subconscious part of me still does, “GREAT - Why do we have any sort of focus on TDM!? Make story telling the single important thing and CM would be fixed, Finally!” But obviously things aren’t so simple.
TDM is the constant whilst story-telling is far more varied. You can do many-a-round of CM without a good story, but you can most of the time walk away with at least pleasing combat. So a mix has to be reached, you have to enable CM to stretch its legs and generate stories of a compelling nature often but you also have to ensure that the TDM continues to bridge a person’s interest between stories - whilst also serving as a backdrop for those stories: it’s a mix.
Point 3 - A mix that modern CM has not gotten right
In modern CM we have removed a majority of the story-telling side in aide of the TDM side: There used to be, as said before, many-a-mechanic that encouraged you to have a good story: SD, for that last-stand story; Non-perma-nest, for that lucky to-hive-and-back story; True DEFCON, for that story of sacrifice for victory; Shipside-only-surgery, for that story of recovery and return; FOB sieges, for that story of grit and blood to hold out, or push; and no-surge hijack, for that story of holding out, hoping to whittle down the invading xenos so you may live tomorrow.
Perhaps some of these mechanics, as stated, had good reason to be given over in aide of the TDM. But far too many have been given over, and there are far too few stories you can generate now. The list of things that give you these stories have been whittled down to only those that do not conflict with TDM (which isn’t much) and so we all have fewer stories now: and our community only cares, mostly, for the TDM.
Point 4 - How To fix it
I don’t really know.
Maybe back when I was more foolhardy, more open to annoying a lot of people if it meant the older generation had fun the simple solution would be strict RP rules and enforcement, a strict development roadmap that brings about my every wish, an attempt to force the community to conform to story-telling and not TDM and an end to balance discussion - but I simply can’t advocate for that.
Ultimately a lot still have fun with TDM, probably even the majority, and perhaps development really should just focus on perfecting the TDM, and I am of a dying mentality for what I think CM should be - I don’t know.
But if people want it, if we can bring those people who play for the TDM around to the story and the relationship aspect, if we can achieve it with enthusiastic development, if my points aren’t just mad ramblings of a 2am post, if you’ve read all of this - somehow if all of this is feasible: please tell me: I want it to be so.