Thursday, October 15, 2009

Intel gathering

ver-uh-si-mil-i-tood, -tyood
1. The appearance or semblance of truth; likelihood; probability: The play lacked verisimilitude.
2. Something, as an assertion, having merely the appearance of truth.
[Origin: 1595–1605; < L vérīsimilitūdō, equiv. to vérī (gen. sing. of vérum truth) + similitūdō similitude]

Verisimilitude, and its internet-age cousin "truthiness" (thanks Stephen Colbert), is just like it says above, the appearance of truth. When you read something in fiction and you say to yourself "Yeah, that sounds about right", that's verisimilitude at work. Now, me? I love me some verisimilitude. I love it in what I read, I love it in what I play, and I do my best to put a double handful in everything I write. Now, in an RPG, I have to balance realism with playability. I have to ask myself, "Does this make sense, is it playable and is it cool?" If the answer is yes, I continue. If it's not, I go back to the drawing board. Since I do love me some verisimilitude and, sadly, I don't know everything, I do a ton of research. I do two kinds of research when I'm working on a project; I consult with people who know a lot about the subject I'm researching (we'll call this HUMINT or Human Intelligence) and I constantly read relevant books, scientific journals and websites (we'll call this SIGINT or Signals Intelligence). Right now I'll talk a little about my HUMINT, and later I'll talk about my SIGINT.

HUMINT: Now, as much as I want to, I can't know everything. I want to, but there's only so much room up there. What I do know is the value of friends who have different jobs/interests than me. For example, when I was writing Robotech I was dealing with a lot of things outside of my basic knowledge. The first and most obvious being aerospace technology. When we're talking about spaceships and aerospace propulsion technology and general space things, well, that sounds a lot like maths and/or science, neither of which I'm any good at. To help me out with the highly technical subject of aerospace engineering, I relied on my good friend Justin Kugler. Since Justin works for NASA and is a bona-fide rocket scientist, I was constantly bothering him on the ins and outs of, say, single stage to orbit engines or lifting bodies or the weight of a gallon of stabilized liquid metallic hydrogen. Since he's both gracious and a huge Robotech fan, he was more than willing to help me out and took the time to explain things to me in easily understood layman's terms. His technical know-how and advice allowed me to sprinkle my manuscript with technical and scientific terms, giving a game that deals with F-14s or F-22s or Apache Helicopters that turn into giant robots a respectable amount of verisimilitude.

The second issue I studied with Robotech was military life, technology and warfare. Personally, I've always seen Macross and Shadow Chronicles as the U.S. Navy and Southern Cross/Masters as the U.S. space...with lasers. Since I've never actually been in the service, I had to get all my info from outside sources and that's where my buddies Lloyd from Explorers Unlimited and Captain Eric USMC came in. Lloyd served in the U.S. Navy aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln where he did surface battlespace management, and right before he mustered out he dragooned eligible men of seafaring habits between the ages of 18 and 45 years into impressment worked as a Navy recruiter. I relied on Lloyd for his knowledge of Naval tactics, history and the day to day minutiae of life aboard ship. He helped me understand who does what aboard ship, how they get it done and who gets in trouble when it's done wrong. He gave me a personal point of view that I couldn't get in a thousand books. The same goes for Captain Eric Knapp, USMC. Eric was a Public Affairs Officer, or a “propaganda officer” as he likes to put it, with the 1st Marine Division. He was pretty instrumental in helping me get the tone just right for my Robotech Marine book, and gave me lots of good advice on how to really make these imaginary space Marines as real as I could make them. Last but not least, I got a lot of HUMINT from the commentariat at Palladium's Robotech forum, who were more than willing to give me lots of detailed information specific to the Robotech setting.

That's about it for my HUMINT. Stay tuned for my next installment where I'll talk about my Robotech SIGINT and how I've become very familiar with


CommonDialog said...

Yay lasers!

Phalanx said...


Mr Nexx said...

Makes me happy to see people using the word "verisimilitude". I always feel a bit of pride at it.