This all thanks to a video game that I enjoy playing. I'm something of a gamer - I don't like every game that comes out, and that includes RPGs. I'm very selective that way. I will be mentioning Star Ocean again in tomorrow's entry on themecraft. I do love the Star Ocean series, and I can point out everything each game has in common, including the "final" game in the series, Till the End of Time.
This is something that actually occurred to me when I was dissecting the character, Reimi Saionji, a character I'm not overly fond of, and realized that her training for the situations she found herself in to be somewhat inadequate and downright dangerous. I don't like Reimi, but it comes down to more of writer treatment than anything else. That will be a discussion for next week's Words of Wisdom Wednesday. It was in writing about Reimi and the poor treatment of her character, based on everything that she was trained for, that made me realize this was poor writing. Yes, there is a story to tell in The Last Hope. It's a wonderful story, but it is as they say. Hindsight is 20/20, and the only thing that can save this particular botched story is for original sci-fi writers to learn what the mistakes made here are and for fanficition writers to at least consider that a rewrite might very well be in order, at least if they want to get the character of Reimi into a better light. So please bear with me and hopefully understand where it is I'm coming from when it comes to writing about space exploration.
To start here, I love Star Ocean: The Last Hope. The Last Hope, which is the fourth game in the series (but is set a few hundred years ahead of the first game) has a running theme that's very concurrent with the basis of Star Trek and what we're actually facing in our current economic, social, and political climates. As an author, I find the themecraft of the fallout of World War III to be fascinating in what life can be like. How far south can we go, right?
I'm not going to discuss what could have led up to World War III in the Star Ocean universe. I'd rather save it for another time and a different blog entry. For this journal, that's part of tomorrow's themecraft. Instead, I want to talk about how totally screwed up the SRF was the moment it was implemented.
Here is the basic rundown of the SRF mission and status.
There are five ships total for space exploration. We know from character conversations that they're heading to worlds that are human friendly. This is not a reference to indigenous life.
I repeat, this is not a reference to indigenous life.
For terms of gameplay, human friendly simply means the gravity tolerable, the air breathable, and the environment hospitable. That's it. On Aeos, they get lucky in that there are no humanoid settlements that they can completely muck up with their technology. Lemuris and Roak? Yeah, not so much.
Okay, so the goal of the super secret SRF that very few people on Earth know about is to explore planets that can host humans. Five ships with a crew of five. Seriously. Five people per ship, that's twenty-five people who have been trained not just as astronauts but as anthropologists, botanists, and whatever else they think they're going to need in order to establish a colony or at least contact with whatever local civilization. That's four crew members and one captain per ship.
No medical officers, no medical bays to treat the injured because somehow we . . . overlooked that when we were establishing the USTA and the SRF. No biologists, no physiologists, no zoologists, nothing else of great importance here. For entymology, we have Faize and eventually Arumat. For engineering and robotics and mining, we have Bacchus. For compounding/medicines, we have Myuria. Our ornithologist is Meracle, and our zoologist is Sarah.
Does anyone see the resulting issue here? We have two humans who have studied anthropology (Edge) and Reimi (botany), but everything else is going to the alien races that we're befriending. While there is nothing wrong with the game's diversity, it makes me feel like the game's writers were more interested in creating eye candy in Reimi, Meracle, and Myuria than actually applying what an actual space exploration team would need.
Let me break it down as to what every space exploration team is going to need. I base all of this on watching reruns of the original Star Trek series, the Star Trek movies, and the highly beloved Star Trek: The Next Generation.
To begin with, we have our intrepid leader, the captain of the ship. Everyone knows what his job is - delegate responsibilities to those who are most suited for the task at hand. Very self-explanatory at this point.
Second-in-command: The person who can take over in the event the captain is incapacitated or killed.
Medical officer: The person who puts the band-aids on the scrapes and basically keeps everyone alive.
Communications/Linguistic - Not only are we sending out more than one ship on this space exploration mission, we run into the possibility of encountering an alien species, one that's either equally intelligent or more intelligent than our own. Keeping in contact with our sister ships is important. So is making sure that the aliens we've just met are friendly and not about to shoot us.
Botany - Studying the indigenous life on another planet is a bonus and comparing it to known Earth samples so we can determine what's safe and what isn't is a major bonus here
Anthropology - Studying humanoid creatures in the event they're going to attack us is a bonus because we're on a mission of, not only exploration, but survival.
Mineralogy - Yes, this is an actual word. I googled it. Having someone who knows the chemical structure of minerals like iron and silver is a very valuable asset.
Engineering - We need someone to keep the ship from breaking apart. Otherwise, we can't do it, Captain. We just dun have the power! (Gotta love Star Trek)
Biology - And here I'm going to break it down simply because there are many aspects to biology to be covered. There are the following sub-categories: Environmental, physiology, zoology, herpatology, microbiology, evolutionary biology, marine biology, the aforementioned anthropology, entymology, and I'm sure there's a few other things I've missed in this vast field of biology. Some people could probably cross-train, after all, because all we really need is notice similarities and do the required studying of the new life flourishing on the planet stretching out before us.
Compounding/Pharmaceutical Technology - We're aboard ships with a limited amount of resources. Eventually, we're going to run out of what we have onboard our ship in order to tend to the sick so knowing how to actually compound medicines from local resources is a MUST. Absolute MUST.
Geologists/Seismologists - We need to determine if the land we're thinking of inhabiting is not only stable for the construction of homes and eventual businesses but for the eventual mining that we're going to need to do. We are coming from a resource-strapped planet. Having ships ferry resources to us is completely out of the realm of possibility. We'll have better luck taking everything back to Earth than we would to the new home.
Now, mind you, the SRF is just an exploration group. They're eventually going to pave way for more people to come once it's been determined that the planet is safe for us to inhabit. That's the whole point of the exploration group in the first place, and, like I said, some people could possibly cross-train in order to save on the numbers being sent out into deep space. Still, the lack of a decent medical bay and having a doctor onboard each ship is very disturbing. I may have to blame this one on Deputy Director Shimada being one cheap S.O.B. because the ships were ridiculously small and really could only hold upto eight people.
A quick rundown of the SRF ships - there's the bridge/command center, the local lounging around area, a conference area with two storage rooms to either side and upper portion to the ship with a battle simulator, two bathrooms (one for guys, one for gals), and four bedrooms with two beds to each room.
When the ships crash, all of the injured are taken into the bedrooms while someone tries to work on the injuries, someone who, upon talking to him/her, doesn't seem to be trained for such an event. This is bad planning on the part of the SRF.
Also, all five ships are heading for the same planet. I'm going to try and break it down on the logic on this.
Aeos is our first planetary stop on our adventure. Our command people at home have sent out unmanned drones throughout the vastness of space and have reported back on Aeos. We have the life-friendly atmosphere that we need - breathable air, tolerable gravity, temps and plantlife reminiscent of the Jurassic area, and, most importantly, no large scale life forms. We have chosen this planet as our first stop so we're sending all five ships to this planet.
One way to justify this is we have small crews to start with - 25 minimum, 40 max. They're not going to be remaining in orbit over the planet upon arrival, they're going to be landing and exploring immediately before moving on to the next planet. Thank goodness we're not reliant on fossil fuels for this endeavor.
Five ships to one planet tells me that they're trying to cover as much ground in as little time as possible because we have other planets we want to explore. And if one ship gets in trouble, the crews from the other four can immediately lend a hand.
This is both wise and foolish. This is putting all of your eggs into one basket and hoping none of them crack. This is counting your chickens before they've hatched. You're just not going to know what you're going to get by sending that many people to one location and by having them land immediately when there may not actually be a suitable landing place.
It's also clear at this point that the crews are meant to live on the ships while they're on the planet. They have no means of constructing any type of shelters nor is there anyone aboard that has knowledge of how to construct a shelter. It's like the excitement of the exploration project overrode the basic necessities of what the crew would need.
Again, there is a logical way to look at this - they're not meant to be there that long, but they also were not meant to crash land due to some unforeseen circumstance. Three shipps slagged, one immobilized but completely repairable, and one lost to the vastness of space. Yes. One huge muck up of a mess.
Now, I will give the SRF this - they did train the crews on defense. They have weapons in the event they do find unfriendlies, and that obviously happens when the crew is attacked by insects taller than they are.
They just didn't train them enough. It's like no one truly expected to encounter hostiles along the way. Reimi's capture on the alternate Earth clearly tells me they didn't expect their crews to be caught and interrogated. It's a sad thing when we look at it this way: Fayt Leingod is a college student. He and Reimi, if we put them in the same timeline, are the same age. He has no military training whatsoever, but he holds up better under torture than what Reimi did upon her capture. As he told Cliff in their cell, "What could I say? It's not like they'd believe I'm from outer space" (or something to that effect).
By contrast here, due to her training with the SRF for space exploration, Reimi should be the more calm and collected out of this particular comparison. Yeah, we can say it's apples and oranges, we can also say Reimi doesn't have the UP3 guiding her, either, but she's touted as being an intelligent woman and a "level-headed navigator" (guidebook that comes with the game). She has more training and more education than Fayt for this exploration mission. She truly needs to be on par with someone like Maria Traydor, but she's not, and that's because the SRF training program has ultimately failed her. At the beginning, one of her favorite things to do is to tell Edge "don't do anything stupid".
Now, honestly, I don't know how long the training program for the SRF is. Edge Maverick (MMC) is 20, and Reimi (FMC) is 19. The guidebook says she was chosen at a young age, so that could put either of them anwhere from 13-14 to 15-16 to begin their intense training and education.
The only ones who know about the fact that there are aliens in this game are the captains. The crews are told nothing until the friendly alien race, the Eldarians, show up. There is a complete lack of trust going on here. Yes, we humans are trying to do this on our own, but, hey, we're on Aeos. Giant insects who are immune to laser blasts! We need help, and we have no medical facilities.
Once more, in the defense of the SRF, things on planet Earth are not so great. We all know the atmosphere is compromised. We're in the aftermath of World War III and the massive fallout from the nuclear weapons. Our planet is dying, and we have got to do something. NOW. The fact that we've taken steps to build ships and train young people to head into the stars should be more than sufficient because we have millions of people who can't even live on the planet's surface anymore.
The rush to get into space, while doing so in secret, is the SRF's biggest downfall. No medical teams, no eventualities in place for encountering alien species, and then, the biggest thing of all is the three genetically modified humans they've sent into space.
I don't know what Crowe's genetic modifications are. He isn't a playable character for any of us so, at best, we're just speculating. Maybe he was given the same properties as Edge - superior speed and strength in a combat situation - but I highly doubt it. The ones involved - Reimi's parents and Edge's father - didn't see fit to do the same thing with Reimi, and, as an archer, being gifted with speed and the ability to calculate where an enemy is going to move to and still hitting the mark is a vastly useful trait. Of course, what they gave her is vastly useful, too, but only to Reimi herself. She's also the actual loose cannon.
At this point, I'm going to mention I have cross-posted this to a Star Ocean fan blog that I maintain so I'm going to sound redundant to all fans who have played the game. For this, I apologize, but a bit of a refresher might help. For those who have not played the game, two of the five games (the ones I've played), genetic modification of humans in order to survive or overcome a threat is a prevailing theme.
Reimi's genetic modification is that she will never die of any type of sickness. She has a super-enhanced immune system, one that led to her survival from radiation poisoning while the same thing cost her the lives of some friends. This, in and of itself, is not a horrible thing in that, should she encounter some type of alien sickness, she won't die from it, and she'll recover faster upon given the cure (providing there is one).
What makes this the bonehead move? No doctor to study the disease and the cure and how they interact within a human body and the great, great, GREAT potential for the disease to mutate and infect someone else, be it a member of her own crew or a member of the alien population they happen to be visiting.
The basic story behind The Last Hope is one of very hopeful adventure and survival so it doesn't really differ from any other epic fantasy adenture out there. It capitalizes on the human spirit for survival, but doesn't take into account some of the very real things that an exploration crew faces. It isn't a horrible game to play. Not in the very least. Hey, I have my favorites, and I utilize them almost all the time when I get the chance to sit down and play. It also explains how we got the UP3 and why we're not supposed to a) engage with less technologically advanced species and b) what should happen in the event we accidentally time travel. As a writer, though, and one of science fiction and fantasy, it's a cautionary tale of what to keep in mind when writing about space exploration and what a crew is actually going to need in order to survive.