Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When Prior Knowledge Hurts

I've been playing Command and Conquer 3 on the Xbox 360 over the past week and a half. My SO and his buddies had spent many hours playing earlier versions of this in their youth. In this case - the advice didn't help.

OK, Wendy - you have to build Power Plants, Reactors and a Science and Technology building first.

Um... I don't have a Science and Technology building to build. I have Power Plants and Reactors. And it keeps telling me to build Tiberium Silos.

You should build a tank here.

I don't have a tank to build....and I still can't figure out how to build a Tiberium Silo.

Wendy trains an engineer from the Barracks.

You know, we don't play with engineers. Alex used to wipe us out with his engineers so we put a rule that you couldn't use engineers.

But engineers are the only way to take over the buildings the computer wants me to take over. I can't do it with Rifle Squads and Missle Squads.

Wendy builds another engineer. Because the people are so small - she promptly loses the engineer among the rest of the images in the game. Zooming the camera in doesn't help much.

You really need to build a science and technology building.

I don't have a science and technology building to build!!!! I have power plants, reactors, barracks and, somewhere in this blasted thing, a Tiberium Silo!!!!!

The computer reminds her that she needs to build a Tiberium Silo. The SO begins another piece of advice that, at this particular moment, would not be listened to even if it was useful. Wendy lets out a string of unprintable utterances that chases the SO out of the room.

In the quiet, she finally figures out how to build the Tiberium Silo.

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During this episode - which, thankfully ended without too much damage to our relationship - I realized that he had played a very different game from the one I was playing at that moment.

His game was more freeform and he was playing online with his buddies.

This game was more structured, with very detailed assignments, limited options, and things that had to happen in a particular order. I wasn't going to get a science and technology building until I needed one according to the gameplay. That was that.

The items you have access to in Command and Conquer 3 - Tiberium Wars vary based on the assignment - so in the next assignment, I couldn't build and train folks if I needed them. If I killed them all off - I had to wait (and attempt to find) more troops. There was also no obvious way to get out of the mission if you completely messed up. Grrrrr.......

Sometimes, we need to stop and evaluate what we are actually seeing. A situation may have the same name, even roughly the same function. But the rules may be entirely different. In this case, prior knowledge may serve more to aggravate than ameliorate.

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