Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

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Ogo3142
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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by Ogo3142 » Tue Dec 15, 2015 4:54 pm

TSC wrote:Well if you're writing the story you think about it.
Not necessarily. If it's not a particularly important thing, or if it's something most people won't understand anyway, you might just go with some smart-sounding nonsense.
TSC wrote:How could an exploration probe build by an advanced race malfunction?

If it was a dodgy probe.
It's not just "malfunctioning", though. The whole structure of the program, as described, simply cannot work in any meaningful way.

Take the default configuration. The top priority target is ships, and the top priority behavior is communication. So by default, the probe would constantly scan systems until a target is found, preferring ships. Then, it would either attempt to talk to the target, or record data about the target. Nothing in the program would ever cause it to replicate, because the top priorities are always communication followed by recording data, data can be recorded on anything, and the top priority behavior is (as has been clearly established) always performed.

I can't see any way that the way the probes work as described can be reasonably justified by Melnorme incompetence or malice. But it makes perfect sense as sloppy writing.

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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by TSC » Tue Dec 15, 2015 7:38 pm

Well my reason for thinking the way I do about it involved the following quote from the Slylandro;

The Melnorme traded it to us for data on the life in Source.
They said the information was unique, and was worth
oh, I don't really understand their units of exchange
somthing like 10,000 Gree-dots... or something like that.
Fortunately, that was EXACTLY the price of their
catalog item 2418-B... Remote Self-Replicating Robot Explorer Probe.


Suggesting very strongly that the Melnorme aren't above cheating a particularly naive customer a little.


As well as the quote of the Slylandro I mentioned about the recall signal (Which WAS a feature on an upgraded probe.)

As well as occasional quotes from the Melnorme about how if they wired your lander wrong (Which I also quoted) it wouldn't fire or be able to take off. (Showing the Melnorme are not omni-competent.)


I felt with the combination of all those quotes, it wasn't that odd to assume that the Slylandro where sold a defective product. (Also with definite lack of customer service installing it.)


The motivation the Melnorme would have for these could either be to fob off a piece of junk to a naive customer (And the fact they had the Slylandro sign that waiver is ANOTHER strong indication they figured it might come back to haunt them!)

Or they did so because they WANTED the probe thing to happen (And hamper the Quans.)


Is there a key flaw in that reasoning?

Also for all the relevant quotes;

http://www.sa-matra.net/quotes/slyhome/

and

http://www.sa-matra.net/quotes/melnorme/

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Ogo3142
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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by Ogo3142 » Wed Dec 16, 2015 1:17 pm

Suggesting very strongly that the Melnorme aren't above cheating a particularly naive customer a little.
I seriously doubt that was FF&PR's intention. The Melnorme are a representation of the good side of capitalism. Swindling is what the Druuge are supposed to do. Realistically, if the Melnorme were real, there would be swindlers among them, but why would that be written into the story?

Besides, there's another perfectly good explanation for that: simple coincidence.
As well as the quote of the Slylandro I mentioned about the recall signal (Which WAS a feature on an upgraded probe.)
Again, there's a perfectly good explanation for this which doesn't conflict with everything else about the Melnorme: the upgraded probe had extra hardware built in to be able to detect such a recall signal. Also, if the Melnorme were intending to swindle the Slylandro, why would they even admit to the existence of the superior probe?

This particular quote always struck me as a simple gag.
As well as occasional quotes from the Melnorme about how if they wired your lander wrong (Which I also quoted) it wouldn't fire or be able to take off. (Showing the Melnorme are not omni-competent.)
These, as well, have always struck me as simple gags. Of course the Melnorme aren't perfect. But think about it from a writing perspective. If the Slylandro probes were supposed to be a representation of the Melnorme's imperfection, the writing would have been pointed in that direction. It wasn't. Instead, the strong implication is that the Slylandro are entirely to blame for badly programming the probes, despite the fact that the "programming" mentioned is nothing more than adjusting a setting.

It's pretty clear to me that the script counts on shocking players with the huge number assigned to gathering raw materials, and causing them to assume that if it's a huge number, it must make the probe go berserk on that task, or something. It's nothing more glamorous than that. Sloppy writing like this abounds in science fiction: remember how the Millennium Falcon "made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs"?

If you want to come up with an explanation after-the-fact for the sloppy writing, you could explain it as the Slylandro's recollections being faulty or over-simplified. That's much more fitting than the probes actually being ridiculously faulty (to the point where even the most basic testing would reveal the fault), or the Melnorme trader in question behaving like a Druuge.

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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by TSC » Wed Dec 16, 2015 1:36 pm

I think the main problem you have with my idea is that you think the Melnorme are 'the good side of capitalism.' (I'm not sure myself what that would even BE, since I'd have to know your definition and take on capitalism. Given such definitions define wildly and your definition is probably not mine. (Me being a non-Capitalist.) Suffice to say, that for me Capitalism is NOT a synonym for trade or economy as it is for many people, but a specific economic system. Non-capitalist systems can and do trade and have economies, as do partially capitalist systems.

In fact the Melnorme's ideal of completely balanced exchange is closer to barter then capitalism actually!

And either way it's not how *I* see the Melnorme anyway.

I see the Melnorme myself more as tit for tat types for the most part. And as a generally nice race. They're not violent, they usually give good deals. And much as they claim to dislike altruism they're able to show it with the excuse that 'Eh it's for future trade relations'. Which shows that they're also ultimately compassionate. (The latter not often a quality I find in rabid advocates of capitalism by the way. They often have more of a streak of social darwinism.)

So whilst the Melnorme aren't allies (And don't claim to be.) They're generally 'face' characters sure. I don't deny that. (If there's any race where I'd really question THAT it's the Arilou, not the Melnorme.)

But I don't see them as being above a little 'taking a bigger tit then a tat' when it's particularly easy, or occassional incompetence and less then ethical behaviour.

It doesn't make them a race of idiots, nor does it make them the Druuge.

But could the Melnorme build a faulty probe? Sure. Might they still sell it... Seems so!

They're imperfect to me, so they would.

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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by Ogo3142 » Wed Dec 16, 2015 3:33 pm

TSC wrote:I think the main problem you have with my idea is that you think the Melnorme are 'the good side of capitalism.'
No. The problem I see in your idea is you're assuming that everything the writers did must have a purpose. I'm looking at this from the perspective of what the writers must have been thinking, and it doesn't make sense for any meaning to be intended here.

Capitalism is an economic system which champions greed. Star Control II includes the Druuge to represent the bad side of this, but it also includes the Melnorme, which represents the good side of this.

You seem to be grasping at straws to say that the Melnorme are altruistic. But in doing so, I think you are missing the point. The Melnorme have selfishness ingrained into their ethics. Any sort of gift is "considered vulgar and inappropriate", and the Melnorme will not help you at all without an exchange. The only exception to this rule is when you absolutely need fuel to survive and you have absolutely nothing to give them. But they are honest, and from their greed comes some of the greatest assistance you can get. It serves to show that greed is not always bad.

Now, if some hidden message about the Melnorme being dishonest in a trade were added, this would completely contradict everything established about them. Realistic? Sure. But it just wouldn't make any sense from a writing perspective.

The stupidity angle doesn't make sense from a writing perspective, either, because the Melnorme are presented as incredibly advanced. Why subvert that presentation with an example of stupidity?

But what does make sense from a writing perspective is simply the writers being lazy when it comes to describing how the probe's program works.

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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by TSC » Wed Dec 16, 2015 3:45 pm

Ogo3142 wrote:
TSC wrote:I think the main problem you have with my idea is that you think the Melnorme are 'the good side of capitalism.'
No. The problem I see in your idea is you're assuming that everything the writers did must have a purpose. I'm looking at this from the perspective of what the writers must have been thinking, and it doesn't make sense for any meaning to be intended here.

Capitalism is an economic system which champions greed. Star Control II includes the Druuge to represent the bad side of this, but it also includes the Melnorme, which represents the good side of this.

You seem to be grasping at straws to say that the Melnorme are altruistic. But in doing so, I think you are missing the point. The Melnorme have selfishness ingrained into their ethics. Any sort of gift is "considered vulgar and inappropriate", and the Melnorme will not help you at all without an exchange. The only exception to this rule is when you absolutely need fuel to survive and you have absolutely nothing to give them. But they are honest, and from their greed comes some of the greatest assistance you can get. It serves to show that greed is not always bad.

Now, if some hidden message about the Melnorme being dishonest in a trade were added, this would completely contradict everything established about them. Realistic? Sure. But it just wouldn't make any sense from a writing perspective.

The stupidity angle doesn't make sense from a writing perspective, either, because the Melnorme are presented as incredibly advanced. Why subvert that presentation with an example of stupidity?

But what does make sense from a writing perspective is simply the writers being lazy when it comes to describing how the probe's program works.

Okay, I'll dissect this point by point then.

First of all, YOU assume the writers did NOT have a purpose. So that you can stick to the interpretation YOU want. Which is no more valid or invalid then what I assume. Just I have reasons for it based on SC2's quotes, and you have reasons based on it based on your personal preference of interpretation. (Which I think gives my interpretation a stronger standing then yours, since it's based on stuff from the game. And yours is "Well I don't like those lines, so they where lazy writing.")

Second, the Melnorme actually are NOT capitalistic. Because an equal exchange of goods and services means no profit. A trade for a trade. This makes the Melnorme by their own statement barterer-traders, not capitalists (Which'd have a profit motive.)

Third, the Melnorme DO give you fuel if you have nothing to offer them, and say it's because you're a future trading partner. Which is altruistic. Though if they REJECT altruism entirely then how could they show the GOOD side of capitalism (supposedly) They'd just show the NEUTRAL side. (And Capitalism is inherently AMORAL (And thus whilst depending on how society uses it, it can be beneficial or detrimental, it cannot be good or evil, because it has only one, morally neutral motivation. (Making profit.)

Fourth, how can you NOT think that whole line of "Oh that's exactly what the probe costs' is dodgy? Seems you are grasping at straws more then me.

Fifth, technologically advanced races can be stupid. I already gave the example of how humans can build a SSD right now, which is something developped by very smart people. Yet individual humans can be idiots. So the Melnorme could have advanced tech, and have both genius and moron members of their race. (And the way they talk very much suggests they do.)

Sixth, as for the probe's program. It's ultimately not that relevant. A probe that so easily can be turned into a Von Neumann machine is a bad product. And why else would the Melnorme have insisted on that waiver? (They don't with anything they sell YOU.)


I think my point stands better then yours "Well I say the writers are lazy, because I don't like where it goes otherwise."

You're free to disagree and have your own interpretation. But I think mine is more backed up by the game text, and yours more by your personal preference. As such I consider mine more likely.

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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by Draxas » Wed Dec 16, 2015 6:01 pm

You guys are really going to town on a very minor point in a universe that is well understood to run on the Rule of Funny (to use another trope term) most of the time. I think you're both missing the bigger picture: Both the Melnorme and Slylandro are written as "lighter" races to provide a bit of comic relief in most of their dialog. You're both really getting fixated on seriously interpreting lines that are supposed to make the player laugh more than anything else.

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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by TSC » Thu Dec 17, 2015 3:13 pm

Draxas wrote:You guys are really going to town on a very minor point in a universe that is well understood to run on the Rule of Funny (to use another trope term) most of the time. I think you're both missing the bigger picture: Both the Melnorme and Slylandro are written as "lighter" races to provide a bit of comic relief in most of their dialog. You're both really getting fixated on seriously interpreting lines that are supposed to make the player laugh more than anything else.

I acknowlegde that a lot of the lines are funny. But that doesn't mean they're meaningless

The idea that 'My interpretation is right, and if the text of the game disagrees with me, I chalk it up as lazy/bad writing or just a joke'. Is not an idea I take seriously.

Also if the Melnorme are morally neutral they clearly cannot show any good side of capitalism. (Which I also don't think they do, because I see them as barterers rather then capitalists. They trade goods or information for goods and information of comparable valuable. (Such as info on aliens for info on rainbow worlds.)

Also the Melnorme DO show traits that show they are not omnicompetent. That Probe, because of the way it acted DID malfunction due to it's poor design (Allowing it to so easily be set in a way that it'd malfunction.)

Also the Melnorme, though they want their tat for their tit, CAN be compassionate such as this quote shows;

Since you have no useful, easily removeable equipment on your vessel
we have decided to provide you with fuel at no cost.
Please do not make the mistake of thinking of this as a `gift' or act of altruism
we are merely investing in our relationship with you, the customer.
We are certain that in the long run, this will prove to be a most profitable investment.


This shows they are willing to give to someone who cannot give them anything back, provided the long term benefits outweigh the costs. (Which is a smart strategy.) And it shows they're not ruthless Ayn Randian social darwinists types or anything like that. (In fact though I often got the feeling that people with libertarian sympathies (sure as hell not ME, I have NO such sympathies) particularly like the Melnorme they show no particular interest in individuality uber allesch. (Thus such an interpretation of the Melnorme is demonstrably incorrect.)

I think the Melnorme are generally serious about wanting to exchange things. But this shows they're not utterly rigid about it. (And also puts them closer to the 'face' catagory as characters, rather then neutrals.)

Look, people can believe what they want, but at least I can back up what I believe about it by my interpretation of the game text. A different interpretation that dismisses the game text is as such inherently less valid. Because mine is based on the game, and theirs is based on personal preferences, dismissing parts of the game as insignificant when it suits them.

This doesn't mean they're not entitled to that view. Just that if they where reasonable they'd have to admit, I got a stronger base for it. Because I go WITH the text, and they DISMISS the text if they like it.

Also another quote that the Melnorme aren't 100% angelic;

We regret to say that you have exhausted our supply of genuinely valuable information.
However, we DO have many thousands of useless facts that we will gladly sell you
at a substantial discount. Are you interested?
We thought not.


Sure, they know they can't sell YOU crap (And thus never give you a waiver like they did the Slylandro (Which means they KNEW it could go wrong, and hence they needed the waiver.)

Look, I dunno how people interpret the Melnorme, but I interpret them the way they are PRESENTED in the game.

Affable, friendly enough, valuing their neutrality, barterers who want tit for tat, but who are not completely above a little cheating if it suits them and who CAN be incompetent, even if as a whole they're a competent and advanced species.

I think that's exactly how the Melnorme act, based on their quotes, other quotes about them and the way the game flows. Even a joke says something about a species, it is part of their character. A joke that fits their personality, and that makes the joke work. Jokes are not JUST jokes. SC2 humour fits each race, not 'rule of funny' alone. Like the Ilwrath have a very dark brutal sort of humour. Which says something about their species.

If someone has a real argument to dispute any of that, please make it. (preferably without being smug and condescending to me.) But let this argument be based on game text. Because I don't give a wet slap about someone's personal preference.

I also already acknowledged in another discussion about the Mycon that I thought one of my opponents made good points. I just still thought mine where better and backed up why I thought so.

But if your argument is 'I'm right, if the game says something else I dismiss it'. There's no point for me to talking to you and I can't really put any value on your opinion, because you don't back it up.

You can also elect NOT to talk with me if you don't want this. That's fine. Just ignore me then.

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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by Ogo3142 » Thu Dec 17, 2015 8:20 pm

I think you're taking this discussion a bit too seriously. I don't know if it's the case, but the way you're writing, you look as though you're offended. It's just a game. A very fun game, but still just a game.
TSC wrote:(Which I also don't think they do, because I see them as barterers rather then capitalists. They trade goods or information for goods and information of comparable valuable. (Such as info on aliens for info on rainbow worlds.)
"Capitalism" doesn't mean "extortion". There is nothing about capitalism that demands that goods being traded are of different values. Quite the contrary, they're supposed to be equal value, in theory. It's practice that causes trades to be unfair.
TSC wrote:Also the Melnorme DO show traits that show they are not omnicompetent. That Probe, because of the way it acted DID malfunction due to it's poor design (Allowing it to so easily be set in a way that it'd malfunction.)
I don't know why you seem to think the Melnorme have to be "omnicompetent" if the probes were not intended to be a demonstration of their imperfection. Neutral parties in stories often don't make any mistakes, because they're only side characters. Take the bartender in Star Wars. Is he perfect? Probably not, but the writers didn't feel the need to show that he isn't perfect.
TSC wrote:This shows they are willing to give to someone who cannot give them anything back, provided the long term benefits outweigh the costs. (Which is a smart strategy.)
So, it's a completely selfish motive. As in, not altruistic.

In truth, the reason this is in the game is to prevent the game from becoming literally unwinnable. But as you say, the explanation given is an entirely selfish one: the Melnorme don't want to lose you as a customer.
TSC wrote:And it shows they're not ruthless Ayn Randian social darwinists types or anything like that. (In fact though I often got the feeling that people with libertarian sympathies (sure as hell not ME, I have NO such sympathies) particularly like the Melnorme they show no particular interest in individuality uber allesch. (Thus such an interpretation of the Melnorme is demonstrably incorrect.)
I get the impression that you have a very dogmatic anti-capitalist viewpoint. That's fine, and I'm generally opposed to capitalism too, but you might want to consider that people who support capitalism are not monsters. In fact, most of them are probably not all that different from you.

The Melnorme do not have to be portrayed as "ruthless... social darwinists" to be an example of capitalism. Capitalism is not about ruthlessness or social Darwinism.
TSC wrote:Look, people can believe what they want, but at least I can back up what I believe about it by my interpretation of the game text. A different interpretation that dismisses the game text is as such inherently less valid. Because mine is based on the game, and theirs is based on personal preferences, dismissing parts of the game as insignificant when it suits them.
Star Control II isn't a holy book.

Also, I haven't been dismissive of the game's text. I don't feel a need to quote it because I assume you're more or less familiar with it, and we don't have a disagreement with regard to what the characters actually say. Our only disagreement is in our interpretations; you interpret the way the probe is programmed as some sort of sign of either the Melnorme's malice or the Melnorme's incompetence, and I interpret it as simply lazy writing. I can back up my point by the lack of any likely reason FF&PR could have had to want to portray the Melnorme's malice or incompetence in it, and the fact that it was constantly mentioned to be caused by the Slylandro's actions. Considering that it's just a game, I don't see any reason to argue further than that. I really couldn't care less how you interpret Star Control II.

By the way... why are you using the third person? I'm having a strange sense of deja vu here.
TSC wrote:Also another quote that the Melnorme aren't 100% angelic;

We regret to say that you have exhausted our supply of genuinely valuable information.
However, we DO have many thousands of useless facts that we will gladly sell you
at a substantial discount. Are you interested?
We thought not.


Sure, they know they can't sell YOU crap (And thus never give you a waiver like they did the Slylandro (Which means they KNEW it could go wrong, and hence they needed the waiver.)
"Useless facts" doesn't mean "crap". Here's a website full of useless facts; you may have heard of it:

http://tvtropes.org

Also, this entire topic is discussing useless information. Even if it's useless, it can be entertaining.

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Re: Funny thing about the Melnorme Probe...

Post by Tiberian » Thu Dec 17, 2015 8:49 pm

Let's not forget: If a character says something in SC2, that does not mean it must portray facts about the Star Control universe. All characters are free to say whatever they feel like. Everything should not be taken literally at face value. The Slylandro speaker tells you his view on the programming of the probe, but that does not make it a fact that the probe was programmed exactly like that.

An even more important point: Even if Fred and Paul had some master plan in mind and made some character give hints towards that master plan, it does not mean that the master plan must be true in the universe you are playing. Even if you make an assumption about something in the Star Control universe and then Fred and Paul say that they had though about that thing differently, there is no reason for you to discard that assumption.
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