Sunday, July 29, 2018

Games as a Service

Keep on burning things.
Inspirobot will die in hot pursuit while sifting through my ashes.
Somewhere along the line, someone got the bright idea that tabletop games should also be like video games.  While this has allowed for new mechanics to develop out from under traditional systems, it has, to quote a famous author, been widely regarded as a bad move.  Despite this, soon after this was in fashion it was decided by someone somewhere that not only should tabletop games expand to include such mechanics based on popular MMO's such as World of Warcraft and CCG's such as Magic: The Gathering, but should also mimic the business model of those types of games.

Namely, one that requires continual payment on the part of the customer, if that customer wants to be an active part of the 'community'.

I've spoken on this topic at length so I will be brief and to the point this time.

I don't mind MMO mechanics in a game (4th Edition, we're looking at you).

I don't mind cards in a game but it's a turn off and I don't want to have to chase them.  Cards as an expansion such as the excellent Frostgrave: Ulterior Motives is how to do this: an optional, self-contained expansion to the game.  The CCG aspect of collectibility, however, should be right OUT.  Where this was tried, it didn't last long.

The most egregious, however, is the constant tinkering with units and rules as we're seeing emerge in the industry today.  While all the time and effort goes into artwork and presentation, all we are getting is a glitzy product that doesn't stand up once it's deployed.  Rules exploits, power creep and all sorts of other things immediately mar the playability of the game...and some of this stuff is pretty obvious.  Unless the designers are completely out of touch with the player base...

All of this means that designers must constantly tinker with their original design on the fly, which leads to some unhealthy development issues right off the bat.  Change the original design too much, and upcoming designs will interact strangely in the environment.  For as much as tabletop designers want the cash flow of the MMO model, they aren't adopting the habits of video game designers.

Most notably, checking for bugs.

Admittedly that doesn't matter when your bottom line is moving units, and I don't mean 'on the table'...and that's what we're always going to see in large corporations.  New unit this month?  You can bet the next ruleset will have 'updated' rules in which it costs less game resources or is in some other manner a no-brainer.  Of course this sells models...and that's what it's all about.

Of course, microtransactions were tested a few years ago.  You know, get a PDF for your phone for a few bucks that allows you to use models you bought the rules for LAST EDITION...or just gives you an advantage for some reason that isn't well thought out or tested for interaction.  We'll see if they yet make a comeback.

The endless treadmill of edition grinds is still here, it's just evening out to monthly updates instead of huge edition changes.  I want EXPANSIONS to games, not new versions every few years...right after I completed my rules collection for the last edition that was literally sold to me one month before the new edition comes out.  EVERY TIME.

Tabletop games are not a "SERVICE" in the same way that EA's Battlefront 2 is a "service".  It's not, it shouldn't be.  FAQ's on publication of new material is commendable.  Randomly updating rules and units every few weeks based on "player feedback" is not.  Look, sometimes, you shouldn't listen to the players...especially when they talk about "balance".  And if the players have to tell you after publication that something is obviously imbalanced...well I'm just not sure that something put through the paces with a minimal crew of cutthroat wargamers would be missed like that.

Is this what we have to look forward to from "AAA" companies who should be designing "state-of-the-art" games?  It shouldn't be, especially if the rules for my tabletop game cost as much as a subscription to an MMO for a year, and that's no hyperbole.  Take a look at how much GW wants for the updated edition of the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game and remember there are two books to buy.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think about that?