Sunday, 1 April 2012

Time Commander and general rambling

British readers may well be aware of Time Commanders, a short-lived programme on BBC2 some years ago. It preceded the release of Rome: Total War, and used the same engine. I shall break off at this point, and quote Wikipedia, which evidently revels in sounding like a schizophrenic - the perils of allowing anyone to edit it?

Contrary to popular belief, this engine was in fact not the games engine of the real-time strategy game Rome: Total War, since the game was only released a year later. Nonetheless, Rome: Total War designer and writer Mike Brunton said, "Time Commanders did use Rome code pretty much 'as is', with tweaks for different troop types and camera controls".[1]

After that comic interlude, let us resume. So the show used a video game (I'm thirty-one - anything past Alex Kidd in Kenobi World is impossibly advanced to my eyes) engine to depict the action, which is, you will surely agree, more viewer-friendly than Channel Four's attempt to showcase wargaming some years earlier in Game of War, or as renamed by a wag on TMP, Game of Bore, with Angela Rippon. In short, animated chaps hacking at one another are more visually arresting than rolling dice and gently pushing plastic blocks together.

"Pete, you haven't said what you're on about yet." Well, it's a couple of things, really. First (and probably more important to the majority of my readers) is that many people don't believe that wargaming is a great subject for TV. I don't yet agree with this. Maybe I will. When I saw Nathan the other day, he mentioned that when they record the TV quiz show Pointless, on which he appeared (cue cheers and applause), they record three shows every day. It was his and Berni's bad luck to appear first on the third show, and thereby discover that the next day there was no recording, and they could wander about the capital. What do you make of this? Well, if you're recording three shows in a day, you're going to have surplus footage. There will be dead air, jokes that need repeating and so forth.

In short, you need to cut out a load of stuff which won't appeal to the audience. So if you record a three-hour-long wargame, why not cut that out as well? Many of you are probably fans of some sporting events. Do you need to see every single second when the English team are preparing for a throw-in from the other fellas, or would you miss a few seconds quite happily? I'm not saying you should just watch the highlights on Match of the Day, but just that there are a lot of moments of dead air, that an edited broadcast would remove. Unless the editors of Family Guy get control of sporting telly, in which case every time some bloke falls over, there will be two minutes of him groaning, and then a fight between him and a chicken. So there'll be a load of space that just gets dumped, right? So if you record a TV show which sees a few blokes moving stands of figures for five minutes, you'll cut that out, if you're a sensible director, right? You'll leave in stuff where there's some banter that viewers will like, sure.

The second thing that struck me as I looked into Time Commanders was something that almost none of my readers will be interested in. If this includes you, then you get to skip to the end in a moment, you lucky person! Aryeh Nusbacher (of RMA Sandhurst) was involved in the show. My memory is of him and Mike Loades (probably because I only recorded one episode, fool that I was!) shoving bits of plastic at one another to demonstrate why the Saxons had won at Stamford Bridge. Aryeh Nusbacher is no more. Lynette Nusbacher is in his place. I did think - as I watched the single recording that I have of the show - that he looked somewhat feminine, but put it down to my own odd brain! Still, having learned of this change some years late, I wish Lynette Nusbacher good luck, albeit very belatedly, I admit!

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