“You picked the wrong diplomats”

That’s a line from Ambassador James Jeffrey from the most recent Irregular Warfare Initiative podcast.

There’s a lot in this episode. What I found particularly interesting was a light dissection of the culture at the State Department from a seasoned diplomat. It’s one thing for a defense official to bemoan peculiar aspects of another agency, but another when it comes from someone who has spent much more time within it.

Worth the listen for that alone.

Episode 60 of the Irregular Warfare Podcast explores both the recent history and the future character of insurgency. Our guests begin by arguing that insurgency will play an important role in great power competition, although states’ objectives will change from the transformational nation-building goals of the post-9/11 era to more hard-nosed security and political objectives. They then argue that despite perceived recent failures in counterinsurgency in cases such as the US intervention in Afghanistan, insurgencies rarely win—this has led insurgent groups to adopt new theories of victory. Lastly, our guests discuss policy implications, especially how to balance military and civilian means to counter insurgency.

INSURGENTS RARELY WIN: ADAPTATION IN THE FACE OF FAILURE

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Sing to me of a time long past

There was the leak, then the hint, and now the announcement.

There are some games that I play simply because I enjoy them, and there are others that teach lessons.

This is one of them. This is Game of Thrones.

I’ll be playing when it comes out and I’m looking forward to going through it for a third time, this time, teasing out whatever I can.

I’ve referenced Tactics Ogre in the past on topics ranging from military deception (2013), war advice (2014), the permanence of death (2014), and proxy wars (2021).

Off the top of my head, there’s room to explore irregular warfare, great power competition, propaganda, rumors, loyalty, military careerism, and more.

This one goes deep.

There’s so much more to pull – and I’m excited to get the chance. Look for more this November.


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I Want Konami for Christmas

konami logo from the nes era

When I was a kid, I thought “Konami” was some kind of video game system, like the original NES. I didn’t realize it was a video game company. I told my parents that “I want Konami for Christmas,” which probably made things very difficult for them when they went to Toys ‘R’ Us and started asking around.

One of my friends in the neighborhood had a Konami game called Rush’N Attack – which I always thought was “Russian Attack.”

I remember seeing the Konami logo – were there commercials for video games back then? – and knowing that I wanted whatever it is that Konami was.

Episode 63 of the Kojima Frequency Podcast (Hideosyncrasies) discusses the preservation of old games, streaming, dying consoles, the stealth similarities between Metal Gear and The Last of Us 2, and more.

Right after I bought a PS4, I went out to the local pawn shops in Killeen, Texas looking for one of the original PS3s that had backwards compatibility. I wanted to make sure I’d be able to play some of my old games (which I never do, by the way). I managed to find one and I still have it – and it still works.

After listening to this episode, I’m starting to get worried I might lose that capability.

I’m still not even sure what the changes to the Playstation Network mean. I am getting the sense that even if I physically own a copy of a game, I might not be able to play it.

Huh?

As I mentioned in the last post on the Kojima Frequency, the Lunar series is one of my favorites – and I have the discs (original PS1) and a PS3 to play it.

Whenever I decide to go back to it, will it work?

I relaunched CTG when I was wrapping up my playthrough of The Last of Us 2, and there is so much more I could have written about it if I was in the groove. I think I just have this one post on Isaac and the burden of leadership.

I know that game took a lot of flack for a lot of dumb reasons – but I loved it. And I think they got it right (in the episode). The stealth mechanics made the game. There is real terror when navigating the terrain and avoiding both zombies and human enemies. And I remember getting into set battles where I had to set traps and think hard about how to win and move forward – often just avoiding battles altogether.

What a great game. Would love to go back to it.

But I probably won’t.


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The Return of Tactics Ogre?

square enix tactics ogre catiua and denam

I felt genuine joy when I saw this late last week.

Square Enix has applied for a trademark, in Japan, for Tactics Ogre: Reborn, ramping up speculation that the 20-year-old Ogre Battle strategy RPG series is due for some kind of re-release.

The trademark application was filed March 31 and published on Thursday. Square Enix has made no official announcement of a new game in the Ogre Battle series, whose last original release was Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis for Game Boy Advance in June 2001. 1995’s Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together was re-released on PlayStation Portable in 2010.

New Tactics Ogre trademark signals a revival of Square Enix’s great tactical RPG, Polygon

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is one of my favorite games of all time. I played the original on Playstation when I was a teenager and was completely sucked into its complicated political intrigue.

For those who have no idea, think Game of Thrones. A huge cast of characters, complex narrative, and brutal permadeath.

One of the things I loved about the game is that your characters – even main characters – could die. And those deaths have repercussions.

The other thing that made this game great is choice. You make lots of choices that affect the direction of the story. These choices are real and consequential – and incredibly difficult to make.

Tactics Ogre has appeared on the blog a bunch over the years. Way back in 2013, I used Tactics Ogre as a way to discuss deception operations. There is a pivotal, early event in the game that dramatically affects its direction. You – the player – get to make that choice.

There were two posts in 2014 as I was grinding through a 3rd playthrough of the game. The first is a reflection on another critical game event, the importance of choice, and the pain in dealing with the repercussions.

The second was on mentorship and some of the best wartime advice I’ve ever heard:

“Above all else, stay alive.”

Tell me that’s not true.

I even made a reference in a more recent write-up of an Irregular Warfare Podcast episode on foreign fighters. One of the things you learn in Tactics Ogre is that much of the conflict is spurred on by foreign powers with their own designs for how the conflict should play out.

So, I hope this news is pointing at something real. A remake? A new chapter?

I’m there for it.


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“Above all else, stay alive.”

the best way to aid your people is to stay alive tactics orgre lanselot
Lans Staying Alive

In my limited free time, I’ve been replaying Tactics Ogre for the PSP. This is one of my favorite games of all time, if not the number one. I originally played it when I was a teenager for Playstation and then years later when I was in college and working as an intern in Washington D.C., playing it on the Bolt Bus between DC and New York.

I’ve been playing this game on and off for over fifteen years, and I’ve never finished it. The game is non-linear, which I love, and from what I understand, it has multiple endings – none of which I’ve seen. It’s an adult game, with ethical dilemmas that rival modern games like Mass Effect.

One of the things I’ve found intriguing is the character Lanselot’s mentorship to the main character, Denam. On two separate occasions he lectures Denam on the importance of staying alive above all other things. In one of his first meetings with the main character, he says:

“So you’re off to aid one of the Duke’s men. I regret we cannot join you. Above all else, stay alive. Win or lose, while there’s life, there’s hope.”

And then later on, in a quiet moment before one of the game’s pivotal scenes he again advises Denam to stay alive:

“Risking your life is one thing. Losing it is another. The best way to aid your people is to stay alive. See the battle through to the end. And there’s your sister to think of.”

It’s a curious piece of advice in a video game, from a famous warrior. You would expect advice of honor on the battlefield, bravery, or skill. There’s a part of me that thinks the advice might have served as kind of early tutorial in the game. The original Tactics Ogre for Playstation was much more unforgiving when it came to death – if a character was slain in battle he/she was perma-deathed. Lanselot’s advice might have been there to warn the player to protect life, as training a new character was a long and arduous process. The updated version for PSP/Vita still has perma-death, but there’s a timer on the character as in Final Fantasy Tactics.

Still, whether it served as a tutorial for the player or actual advice, it is refreshing to see it.

Is it not true?


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