Monday, August 9, 2010

Future Fighters


I've often spoken of the technological plateau of Star Wars- about how the technology seems to remain 'basically' the same even thousands of years into the past. Even so, it makes sense to me that new designs for things would continue to be introduced, even if the performance between models wasn't a huge leap forward technologically. This is how I envision (or rather, am re-envisioning) the Fighters of the Expanded Universe. In the post Thrawn Era (after the Heir to the Empire novels), a few new fighters were introduced by the New Republic and Empire alike. In true West End Games style, the stats for these fighters weren't particularly consistent. And in some cases they were such huge leaps in technology as to be 'world changing'. My own versions of these are a bit less dramatic, but make sense (at least to me) when viewed with an eye to Star Wars history and its relatively slow changes.

I'll begin with the TIE Scimitar. As I recall, this was introduced in the Thrawn novels. All in all, I find the design to 'make sense' in a lot of different ways. It is essentially to the old TIE Bomber what the TIE Interceptor was to the TIE Fighter- an improvement in performance based upon trial by combat of previous designs. In this case, combat with the Rebellion had shown the empire the need for a faster bomber- one that could function as a fighter as well. In a nice nod to West End Games writing, the 'Scimitar' name actually comes from an elite TIE Bomber squadron. It makes sense to me that they would name this craft after a unit that probably first test flew the thing and also exemplified the attitude that the new craft was built for- fast, hard-hitting and deadly. However, aesthetically I'm not particularly keen on the design. There is something just... wrong about the way the solar panels look to me. Maybe someday I'll try my hand at re-designing it. But all in all, a logical design and not statted too outrageously, either.

The Heir to the Empire also gave us the concept of TIE Interceptors that had been modified to use shield generators. Again, this seems like a logical evolution of the design- reflecting the change in Imperial doctrine in the post Palpatine era. You don't have the resources to throw waves of fighters at your enemy, so you take the best you have and try to give it more survivability. As I recall, however, the added shields had no detriment to the performance of the Interceptor. I would (and am) going to change this a little. The power for the shields has to come from somewhere. I'd bet the Interceptor's speed would have to take a knock.

The TIE Fighter flight-simulator game gave us the TIE Avenger and TIE Defender. I have already spoken about the latter. And overall I tend to dislike both designs, aesthetically and performance-wise. The Defender is so incredibly bogus as to defy belief. I prefer to think of the Avenger looking more like Darth Vader's TIE fighter from the first movie, rather than the kind of 'squished' looking one it turned into.

The next Fighter, the I7 Howlrunner, was introduced in the Dark Empire Series. This is one of the designs I just do not understand. It isn't much better than the TIE Interceptor (if at all). Why in the heck would the Empire adopt an entirely new design if it didn't have some advantage. Considering how so much of the Empire's hardware and personnel is geared towards working with TIEs, there would be all kinds of re-training necessary just to field these craft. To me it just makes no sense. Aesthetically, the Howlrunner is fine, I suppose- depending on which image of it you go by (there are various different artistic representations). Hell, I'm shallow enough that if a design just looked 'cool', I'd give it a pass. I don't think the howlrunner quite qualifies in that regard.

The E-Wing was another Dark Empire brainchild. Initially I wasn't a big fan. I'm still not. Stat-wise it is just too bogus- representing the kind of huge leap forward that I don't subscribe to. Logically I can see the New Republic coming up with a new design to replace the X-Wing, sure. So logically it has my vote. Aesthetically I have to say I do NOT like the initial design of the ship (as shown in the comics or most of the artwork thereafter). Recently, however, I found a great little interpretation of it on the web that looks less sucky. I guess my main reasons for dislike are the fact that the engines look just way too small compared to the size of the ship as a whole- that and it has a laser cannon mounted directly OVER the cockpit. Would make ejecting a bit difficult, I'd think- not to mention the fact that it just looks 'wrong' to me. Overall, I'm just kind of "Meh" on the concept. In my campaign, the E-Wing was just a stop-gap measure, a design introduced to hold the line until a new version of the X-wing came out.

The A9 Vigilance Interceptor was yet another Dark Empire design, and yet another I didn't like. It's role was to be something as fast (or faster) than a New Republic A-Wing. That seems to make sense, logically. But again, I don't see why the Empire would totally abandon its TIE Technology, considering the fact that the TIE Interceptor was already almost as fast as the A-Wing. Why not continue modifying/refining that design? Aesthetically, I really dislike the A-9. It essentially looks almost like an E-Wing, only with a snub fuselage. It's subjective, yes. Stat Wise ,I don't think the A9 was too bogus- but the other aspects of it leave me cold. In my campaign this was just a limited prototype that never saw real production in the Empire or NR.

I actually don't know when the K-Wing bomber was introduced. I think it was during the 'Dark Fleet Crisis' (or whatever the name was of a trilogy of books where an alien race (the Yevethan) attacked the New Republic). In any case, I really loved the concept of the craft- designed to replace aging Y-Wings and temperamental B-Wings. Initial concept art that I found online had a blocky kind of y-wing-esque look. I liked it. But then the 'official' image came out in the New Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels. Ugh. I don't know where to begin with this. Lets start with the fact it looks all gangly and like it would fall apart if someone gave it a harsh stare. Secondly, it has this ridiculous side-by side cockpits configuration. Not two people side by side in the same cockpit, but two cockpits sitting side by side. How freaking stupid is that- especially in something that is supposed to be a fighter-bomber. Side-by-side seating is bad enough from a visibility standpoint, but when you're not even in the same cockpit, it just makes the other one even more of an obstruction. And then there are these spindly looking laser-turret bubbles behind and below the nose of the craft. Gah. The early K-Wing design looked like a flying bunker. This thing looks like its held together by spit and bailing-wire. Needless to say? Not going with the 'official' art in my own campaign- but otherwise? Nice concept. Nice design- and no 'official' D6 stats to muck things up.

And all of this finally brings us back around to the XJ X-Wing. Again. I love the concept of this- an updated version of the X-Wing- just incrementally better than the old design. I've seen lots of different concept art for what this would look like. A lot of them were crappy, but I've found one in particular that I like (and will include in this post). It shows a sleeker more modern layout for the classic frame. It suggests a logical evolution of the design rather than a 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater' approach that many of the new fighters have. I do not suggest that Star Wars is 'realistic' in any sense of the word, but it is nice to see something that seems to build off of existing canon. Technology in Star Wars (for the most part) has a very grounded and gritty feel to it (witness the battle scarred fighters of the Rebellion)- so anything that grows out of that should at least give the illusion of making sense and being functional.

Anyway. That's just my opinion on the matter. Clear skies!

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