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The Ellimist
The Ellimist
Level Five
Level Five

A short note on medium scaling/foggy mirror Empty A short note on medium scaling/foggy mirror

August 15th 2021, 2:18 pm
I'm just writing this up quickly out of boredom - I'm sure at some point it could be better fleshed out, or DarthAnt66 may have plans to write something more thorough.

There is the famous "foggy mirror" quote that says EU sources are "distorted" versions of the "real" course of events, with the films/g-canon being the only "true" versions. I'd argue that the latter are distorted as well (and I think LFL using "films = literal" is an example of a claim that is approximately true but with enough meta-allowance for LFL not having 100% precision in every rough approximation they give, can be adjusted), though they are probably very close to being the "true" version of events. We also have multiple statements, albeit AFAIK more informal ones, acknowledging the differences in depictions of Force abilities depending on medium (e.g. OCW being exaggerated).

Are mediums 100% literal?

For non-film visual mediums, this obviously can't be the case. Simple examples: characters in TCW literally have different voice actors and facial structures than they do in the films, the universe is like an animated one, etc. There are clear elements inherent to a given medium that aren't to be taken literally, like the fact that comic books don't suggest the characters are in some 2D-still universe, or that even for the films, there is like lighting on characters during scenes as is common in movie cinematography when no lighting source IU existed, or like there are moving opening credits texts seemingly in space.

These might seem like silly examples, but they establish that there is some adjustment for medium, and then it becomes a difference in degree, not kind. So there's a spectrum and you have more moderate examples like whether we should take literally the fact that there is no blood in TCW, or the game mechanics in video games (which is already a well accepted example), etc.

For non-visual mediums this is a little less obvious, though once the cat is out of the bag for visual mediums, it would be a stretch to think that visual mediums are the only ones that have this sort of distortion. A Junior novel is going to have simpler dialogue than an adult novel, for example.

Does this extend to environmental feats?

Well once the cat is out of the bag, why would environmental feats be exempt? We've seen examples of this general scaling applying to facial structures, voices, levels of blood, dialogue, etc. - so it would be strange that the underlying cause about mediums having different artistic vehicles wouldn't apply to environmental feats. It seems clear that The Force Unleash and the Original Clone Wars cartoon show more powerful depictions of the Force than The Clone Wars or the films.

Does this extend to relative power levels? Scaling chains? Facts of the narrative?

Same argument. You can't inherently separate these variables from the other variables that have already been granted this scaling effect. For example, environmental feats already imply relative power levels in that they indicate what one's power levels are relative to soldiers, armies, ships, natural rock formations, etc., and what the absolute scale is would influence e.g. Force user vs. non-Force user fights, or whether one strong Force user could defeat a larger group of weaker ones by area of effect attacks. And if you're scaling feats, feats are a part of the narrative, so you'd have to alter narratives as well, which could alter dialogues, etc. You can't just say they scale absolute magnitudes but not relative ones because a verse where everyone is like Superman would inherently have different dynamics in judging battles/tactics/etc than one in which everyone is just the movie characters (and because it would be arbitrary for it to just apply to absolute magnitudes).

Does this just apply to "mediums" as in "broad artistic mediums"?

Why should it? The same fundamental reasons for mediums scaling things would also apply, to a spectrum of degrees, to for example some novels having different writing styles from others, some animated series having different general art styles from others, etc.

It would also vary by author, publication date, maturity rating, etc.

Can't we rationalize this in-universe?

To some extent we can, and I do prefer to be able to do that, but there are cases where it becomes a bit absurd. The different facial structures and voice actors are a clear example of an absurdity to rationalize in-universe (except in a super-meta way like "TCW is an in-universe recreation of events for the Whills via some sort of Force illusion"). Something like OCW vs. TCW power is a bit difficult to rationalize as well, like going from seeing Jedi oneshotting armies to seeing Dooku get captured by 30 pirates. Even if you can try to come up with rationalizations for these specific examples, they're obviously completely ad hoc, and so we could easily keep looking to find increasingly absurd contradictions. We can talk later about how to figure out what can be rationalized in-universe, and to what degree.

In a sense you could say that you don't care about narrative cohesion even to the most fundamental moment-by-moment degree, and so are willing to paste together the film and comic book of an event second-by-second and say that the universe was spontaneously transforming everything on a drastic level, but that is likely a very unusual (axiomatic) preference.

Then how can we determine anything?

OK, so this is going to sound like a backtrack, but not really - all things may be foggy, but some things are less foggy than others.

We can look at a few metrics:

- what LFL seems to determine as more hard-binding
- what varies less by medium (by "medium" I'm talking about visual medium, author, etc.)
- what has less fundamental room for variance (e.g. character names wouldn't vary much while exact feats would)
- how reliable and well thought-out the medium/specific variable to scale tends to be
- how close the medium is to live-action/the films
- etc.

With the base metric being something like:

(0. Look towards explicit LFL policy)
1. Take some version of the films, adjusted for the inherent unreliability of the film medium.
2. Look at common "anchors" where you don't expect things to change much (e.g. assuming super battle droids in OCW and TCW are somewhat comparable, etc.) for different variables to see how much scaling there is for a given medium vs. the "true" one.
3. Also look towards how resistant the overall narrative is to such scaling, so you scale less in areas that would impact the important parts of the story more.
4. Try to estimate how much scaling there is for whatever you are looking for.

One key to note is that as shown above, this scaling factor applies to basically everything, including the general size of relative gaps, aka some mediums are more likely to have massive scaling chains, etc.

Then let's say you think some of these larger gaps, higher power levels, etc. are more the in-universe product of the era/characters/etc., well then look to #2 where you can try to look for common anchoring points similar to the variable to test it, e.g. if TFU characters are just inherently stronger than PT characters you'd perhaps expect this to be reflected in the storyline and how say Bail Organa implies that Galen is the strongest he's seen since the PT Jedi, which suggests not, etc.

Just to skip a few steps because I'm just writing this up quickly and am getting lazy, here are a few heuristics IMHO:

- less precise factors are actually less foggy/more clear. For example, "Anakin beat Dooku" is pretty consistent across mediums, but if you zoom in enough, then say the fight choreography and exact dynamics get foggier. Calcs are an example of something that is generally pretty foggy even for the film medium.
- novels tend to be less foggy than non-film visual mediums since they don't have as many inherent needs to fit a certain art style/animation budget/etc. There are other ordering mechanisms, like say comic books are among the least precise.
- events and facts that have more inherent implications on the story are going to be less foggy, e.g. Plagueis's midichlorian manipulation or Valkorion's Ziost feat, though in those cases specific details can change (e.g. a more grounded medium may say that Valkorion's feat was a chain reaction + ritual, while a less grounded medium may say it was a casual flick of his wrist).
- etc.

One possible specific argument is that SWTOR can have exaggerated scaling chains due to RPG mechanics, while say LotF has closer gaps between characters. Of course, someone who wants to highball SWTOR's characters may instead argue that the massive scaling chains are in-universe justified, and so that may be up to debate.

So an example argument that might be used often under this paradigm is: "character X did Y feat, which per the medium and the author is clearly relatively insanely potent, while character A did a comparable feat, but under an exaggerated medium, so character X's feat is more impressive".

An important caveat

OK so this isn't a super precise write-up and one thing I want to say is that one meta-variable to optimize for is how much room for engaging and interesting debate a given paradigm leaves - indeed, that may be (close to) the fundamental variable. So it is possible that adjusting too much for medium/author/etc., while in a very first-order way the correct thing to do, would 1) leave things too messy/ambiguous and 2) make otherwise fun scaling chain arguments/feats analyses nihilistic.

It's possible then that we should also consider whether we should focus on trying to work with feats and scaling chains at more face value than what we would if we weren't optimizing for vs. debates, and that this can be a soft scaling factor to the above. There would still probably be some scaling by medium though (as we already do).

Thanks for reading - maybe this can eventually be fleshed out more.
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